YES, I SURVIVED, AND NOW I’M READY TO THRIVE!!!

Three years ago today my life change in ways I could never have imagined.  Two years ago today I started this website to tell my story.  From the very beginning of this incredible journey, I was always very clear on what had to happen in order for me to move forward, to be able to truly put this behind me and get on with my life.  It has taken far longer than anyone ever thought it would.  I like to think I’m completely finished with my healing process, and then BAM, something happens that shows me I’m not quite there yet.  Apparently there isn’t a formula that I can plug all my info into and get a read out that tells me exactly when I’ll be all better.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  Perhaps it is something I will be dealing with, at least to a degree, and when I least expect it, for the rest of my life.  As much as I’d like it to be something that I can simply forget, that doesn’t seem to be the way these things work.

In the interest of honoring myself and my body, on this day of all days, I chose to hike up Cowles Mountain this morning.  I have only done it one other time, 3 1/2 years ago, and today seemed like the day it was important for me to do it again.  At 1593′, it is the highest point in San Diego.  The hike is only 1.5 miles, with an elevation change of 950′.  I got to the top in about 25 minutes.  The picture below is the view part way up.

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This is the view from the top looking west.

IMG_3452 And this is the view to the east.

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It was a beautiful morning, though I wish I had started just a bit earlier.  There were tons of  people going up and down.  I saw several that did the climb more than once.  I thought about it, but decided there was no need in overdoing it, as I am ever so fond of doing.  Tonight I will go to a restorative yoga class at Mosaic in Golden Hill.  Tomorrow I will do my beloved beach yoga with Danell Dwaileebe.  And then I have another appointment with Marsha Bliss, an extraordinarily gifted energy healer.  This is what I posted on Yelp about my session with her last week:  “I have been dealing with the after-effects of a sexual assault for the last 3 years, and though I am almost completely through it, there is still some residual ‘stuff’ hanging on. Since I have been to Marsha a couple of times in the past, knew that she would be able to help me again. My appointment yesterday exceeded even my wildest expectations! I do not understand HOW it works, but trust me when I tell you that it DOES work! By the time she was finished with me, I was literally floating. The only ‘bad’ thing was I had to get in the car and drive home. The feeling stayed with me the rest of the day, and I am still feeling it this morning. Whatever your issue is, I highly recommend that you go and see Marsha Bliss of Bliss Connections.”

(You better believe I am looking forward to my appointment tomorrow!)

This is what I wrote in my journal this morning, part of which I shared on Facebook:

6:28a  After reading my email and posting on Facebook, I’m off to hike Cowles Mountain.  It is a tribute to myself and to all those who have suffered a sexual assault.  Today is a GREAT day!  It is a testament to those who have survived and those who are still struggling to heal.  Today is the third anniversary of my sexual assault.  I honor myself for surviving, and I honor all those who are still in the process of reclaiming their lives.  I am proof of what you can do if you don’t give up.  I celebrate the new me, who is stronger and more determined than ever to not let the worst few minutes of my life determine the rest of my life.  With enthusiasm I choose to move forward.  I choose love.  I am love.  I am loving.  I am lovable. I matter.  My attacker matters.  (Hard words to write, but nonetheless true.)  Without him I would not be where I am right now.  And where I am is in a very good place.  As the title of this post says…I did survive, and I am now ready to thrive!

Going all the way back to one of my very first posts two years ago, I put this quote:

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I have been changed.  I am anything but reduced by what happened to me, though.  I am so much more than I was, and as I already said, without this traumatic event, without a violent sexual assault, I simply would not be who I am today.  All the way up the mountain this morning I repeated STRONG, HEALTHY, HEALED and on the way down I said, I now release all my trauma, I now accept all my good.  It does feel like something has shifted in me.  I smiled the whole way home.  It feels like whatever might still be hanging on will be energetically erased by Marsha tomorrow.  Best of all, I can honestly say that I forgive DCD for what he did to me.  And even more importantly, I FORGIVE MYSELF!!!

 

RUNNING AWAY FROM HOME – 1976

For my 16th birthday, I thought I was going to see The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac perform; instead, I got a trip to a diving camp at De Anza College in Cupertino, CA.  What you have to understand is from as far back as I can remember, I always told my mother I was moving to California.  I just knew I was meant to be here.  I was to be gone for 2 or three weeks (can’t remember now) and would stay with my grandmother in Palo Alto on the weekends and my aunt and uncle in Sunnyvale during the week, so my aunt could take me to diving practice.  I flew into San Jose in the evening, with temperatures in the 80s.  That didn’t bother me in the least, as I lived in Atlanta and we had no air conditioner in the house.  No one did back then.  This was, though, a heat wave and when the temperatures went back to normal, I about froze to death.  I could not wear shorts past 3p.  Seriously!  Anyway, in between my all day diving practice during the week, I still managed to meet a boy, and for the life of me, I cannot remember his name anymore.  He was the son of a friend of my aunt and uncle.  Well, I thought I was in serious love and, unbelievably, he even asked me to marry him!  At 16!  Of course I said yes!  I was 16 and when a boy asks you to marry him at 16, what else would you say?  The fact that we lived clear across the country from each other didn’t seem to be a problem for either of us.  Nor that we were still in high school!  What can I say?  Needless to say, when my time in California was over, I went back to Georgia.  We wrote letters full of, I’m sure, declarations of undying love.

I am sure I’ve mentioned that I grew up with a bunch of monkeys, make that brothers, and to say that we mostly did not get along would be an understatement.  (I so wanted to be an only child.)  My brothers were mean and teased me non-stop.  My mother was not a lot of help.  She would simply say,’ ignore them, they’ll go away.’  Ah, no, not only did they not go away, they continued to make me miserable.  I very much loved my time in California when I was free of them.  So that fall, my junior year of high school, which by the way, I also hated, but that’s another story, I had had enough of them and their juvenile ways.  I decided I needed to get back to where I was the happiest I had ever been, which was California.  I came up with a plan to make that happen.  The only problem was airplane tickets were expensive, and I had no money to speak of.  It wasn’t ideal, but I settled on taking the bus, a 4 day trip.    The ticket, if I remember correctly, was only about $50 compared with about $200 for a one-way flight.  I did not tell anyone, least of all my best friend, Cathy.  It seemed smarter that the less people who knew, the greater my chance of successfully making it across the country would be.

The morning of my departure I took the bus to school as normal, but I packed a bag and hid it in the bushes outside the school.  Part of my plan meant taking MARTA, the public bus system in Atlanta, which I had never done before.  There was a stop across from my high school, and after home room, so that I would not be counted as absent, I walked out the front door, retrieved my suitcase/bag, and crossed the street to the bus stop and boarded the MARTA bus going downtown Atlanta where the Greyhound Bus Terminal was.  I somehow managed to get to the station and purchase my one-way, ’cause I sure wasn’t planning on coming back, ticket and got on the west-bound bus.  I was a little scared, but mostly I was excited to be going back to California.  What I did not understand about buses was they do not take the shortest route to wherever it is they are going.  The bus left around 10a, and we went through Alabama and Mississippi to get to Memphis, Tennessee.  I remember wanting to go and ask the driver if he knew where he was going, but I didn’t want to bring any unnecessary attention to myself.  We finally pulled into the station in Memphis around 6p.  I had a bad feeling that I wasn’t going to make it.  I thought if I could get through Memphis without getting caught, I’d probably make it all the way to San Jose.  No such luck.

As soon as I stepped off the bus the authorities were waiting for me.  They asked if my name was Tamerie Shriver.  I refused to answer and went into the ladies room.  I stayed in there until one of the (men) agents stuck his head and told me I couldn’t stay in there forever.  I shot back, ‘Why not?’  I eventually left the bathroom and they took me to the juvenile detention facility.  They had called my mother as soon as I got off the bus, so she was on her way to get me.  She flew in, and because it was late by that time, we stayed overnight in a Holiday Inn by the airport.  I was fingerprinted and photographed as a runaway, even though I was 16.  Turns out in Georgia and Tennessee you had to be 17 to not be considered a juvenile.  Details, details.

I cried and cried. I cried that entire night.  I cried for the entire flight back to Atlanta.  I was so sad.  Sad to not be going to California, sad to have to go back to my house full of brothers I hated, back to a school I couldn’t stand, back to the life I wanted desperately not to be in.  As it turned out, I never did get in trouble for running away, with my mother or with the authorities.  In order to not have a juvenile record, though, we had to attend family therapy for 12 weeks.   My actions finally got through to my mother, and she agreed to make changes at home so it was more bearable for me.  My brothers were basically forbidden to even talk to me, let alone anything else.  I was sad about my aborted trip for a long time.  And I never stopped wanting to move to California.

I did leave a note that my mother was supposed to get that night when she got home from work.  In it I used the words to Cat Steven’s song Father and Son (I substituted Mother and Daughter, I also did not include all the lyrics, just those that made sense for what I was telling her) to help me express what I had not been able to make her understand:

 

“Father
It’s not time to make a change,
Just relax, take it easy.
You’re still young, that’s your fault,
There’s so much you have to know.

Son
How can I try to explain, when I do he turns away again.
It’s always been the same, same old story.
From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen.
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.

Father
It’s not time to make a change,
Just sit down, take it slowly.
You’re still young, that’s your fault,
There’s so much you have to go through.
Son

All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside,

It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it.

If they were right, I’d agree, but it’s them you know not me.

Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.”

 

Let’s just say, it made sense to me at the time, and bottom-line, it did get my point across and everything seem to change after that.

 

 

DEPRESSION…AND HAPPINESS

Is it possible to be both depressed and happy?  Common sense would tend towards no.  But I’m thinking that it is possible to be both, at the same time, without even being aware of it, especially if your ‘normal’ state is some degree of depression.  I think that depression runs the gamut from mild sadness occasionally all the way to severe clinical depression.  I cannot honestly remember a time that I was not depressed, though if asked now, I would say I am happy.  What does that mean?  Being happy?  Obviously, happiness is subjective.  What makes me happy will not necessarily make you happy, and vice versa.

I can remember clearly the first time I was aware that I really didn’t want to be in this world.  I was 14 years old.  As I am thinking about this, though, I suspect that this idea occurred to me when I was far younger.  I simply do not remember.  Much of my childhood is a blur. I have very few actual memories, but knowing myself as I do, it makes sense that it would have come up long before I was 14.  So much more is known and understood these days about depression and the genetic link.  I am definitely predisposed to suffering from it.  My brother and uncle (my mother’s brother) are both diagnosed bipolar.  I believe that my grandmother, though not diagnosed, also suffered from it.  And plain old depression runs rampant in my family.  Two of my brothers have died as a result of it.  It is something I continue to struggle with, though certainly not to the degree I have in the past.

I think part of the reason that depression is still so misunderstood and seen by many as some kind of weakness, is because it is possible to live with it and function almost normally.   I did it for many years before I finally took the antidepressants I needed to get my chemicals back in balance.  I’m sure I even had times that I felt happy in the midst of my suffering.   I remember when my grandmother found out I was taking an antidepressant, she said, “You’re not depressed.”  Ha!  I told her that just because she didn’t see it did not mean it wasn’t there.   I was very good at hiding it from everyone.  I knew for years, and other than a few attempts at therapy, I did nothing about it.  My mother’s attitude was, buck up and stop feeling like you do.  Oh, okay.  Too bad I didn’t think of that.  Unfortunately, that is the attitude of a lot of people.  If you were stronger you could do it.  It does not work that way.  If your chemicals are truly out of balance, no amount of wishing, hoping, talk therapy, exercise or anything else is going to change it.  You must get the help you need.  What made me finally break down and admit I had to go on medication was being in Key West, the sun shining and I was feeling nothing but darkness.  I thought, oh crap, my therapist is right, I do have to take something.  I was always able, when I lived in Chicago, to blame it on the weather and the lack of sunshine, which were definitely contributing factors.  But when I was in sunshine and warmth and still had such negative feelings, I knew the time had come.

When I got back to Chicago, I asked my therapist for a recommendation of a psychiatrist so that I could do what needed to be done.  When I first went to him (I do not even remember his name now) and he confirmed that, indeed, I needed medication, I asked how long I would have to take it.  He told me that usually a year, maybe a little longer was considered ‘normal.’  I said, “Okay, but that’s as long as I plan to take it.  No longer.”  He agreed, and I continued with my therapist and once a month saw him as well.  All I can really say about the drugs were they accomplished what needed to be done.  I have always described the process of being on them as hateful.  I was first prescribed Prozac, which just about killed me.  Every bad side-effect that was possible to get, I got.  Finally, he changed it to Wellbutrin and though I hated it too, it was not quite as bad as the Prozac had been.  In the end I took it for 14 months, and when I was done, that was it.  Luckily, he agreed, and I went off of it.  I felt better than I had in years.  At the time, too, I asked if I would ever have to take it again.  He told me that I might, that there was no way to really know, sometimes people did and sometimes they didn’t.  There have been times when I thought maybe I should probably be on something again, but until my attack, I never seriously considered it.

If you’ve been reading this blog all along, then you already know what happened when I attempted to take something for my depression, post attack.  Because I had had such a negative experience with antidepressants, even though they did help me, I really did not want to take one if I could somehow do it more naturally.  So, Suzie, my amazing therapist, recommended St John’s Wort, which is an herb.  I thought this was a suitable compromise.  Well, just as the prozac almost killed me, the St John’s Wort almost made me kill myself by jumping off the Coronado Bridge.  Thing is, I did not realize it was the pills, I just thought I wasn’t getting better.  I did not tell anyone, including Suzie, for a couple of weeks.  I finally told her and she immediately knew it was the supplement that was causing the problem.  I had to wean off of it, but because of that and the fact that every other thing I had tried taking and had had such a bad response to, I was afraid to try anything else.  I had to white-knuckle it the rest of my therapy.  As I’ve said before, my depression after my sexual assault was situational, not clinical, and I was able to do it.

Ask me if I’m happy now, and I’ll say YES.  Some times I am happier than other times, and I still have issues that definitely challenge me, but, over all, I am happy.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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A PAIN IN THE NECK

Make that a pain in my neck.  Literally.  In this ongoing, seemingly never-ending process of healing from my attack, when most everything has been dealt with and is, if not totally better, pretty dang close, the one thing that is still hanging on is the pain in my neck.  And, for the most part, it’s okay.  But not healed, and this is an issue for me.  As my soon-to-be-gone (moving out-of-state – boo hoo) acupuncturist, Matt Truhan, said a couple of weeks ago, my neck was the first thing injured and it is the last thing my body is hanging onto.  Immediately following my attack, I could not move my head at all.  I had to turn my entire body to look at something behind me.  In time, I was able to move it again.  Two or three months?  I do not remember exactly, but, eventually I was able to move my head without turning my whole body.  And because I was so focused on healing the emotional trauma, my neck was kind of forgotten about.  Or, rather, I just learned to live with the constant pain, and after a while, even though it was, and is, still there, I ceased noticing it. Kind of like the headaches I used to suffer from.  In my daily life, for the most part, I am not aware of it.  In yoga, though, I am very aware.  There are certain postures I simply am unable to do because my neck will not bend or turn.  Even when my teacher says, as we are on our stomachs, ‘turn to your favorite cheek,’ I have to keep my head straight, there is no turning to either side more than just a couple of inches.  Or when we are in a twist and he or she says to bring the head back to center, and mine has been there all along.

So, as a last-ditch effort before he and his wife move to Oregon, Matt has been concentrating on my neck.  It has helped, but I’m not sure it will be all better before he leaves.  Because I do not like massage, he never insisted on working on it before.  Oh, he put needles in it and in other points that correspond to the neck, but the pain and lack of mobility is as much muscle memory as it is real, physical pain, and that makes it much harder to deal with.  The massage, though very painful, has helped some.  This last Tuesday, though, I was exceptionally sore because I had played tennis for the first time in 6 years, and he did insist on a short, Chinese-style massage.  The reason I do not like massage is because I always feel awful afterwards, like for several days.  I agreed because he is so good at his job and I thought, maybe, it wouldn’t be so bad.  Wrong.  Not only did it hurt, I felt like crap the rest of the day on Tuesday and still felt yucky yesterday.  I even took an epsom salt bath, which I dislike almost as much as massage.  Today, I feel almost normal, whatever that is.  And when I say I feel almost normal, I mean from the ill-effects of the massage, not my neck.

The dictionary on my computer defines whiplash as:
whiplash |ˈ(h)wipˌlaSH|
noun
1 [ usu. in sing. ] the lashing action of a whip: figurative : he cringed before the icy whiplash of Curtis’s tongue.
• the flexible part of a whip or something resembling it.
2 injury caused by a severe jerk to the head, typically in a motor-vehicle accident.
verb [ with obj. ]
jerk or jolt (someone or something) suddenly, typically so as to cause injury: the force of impact had whiplashed the man’s head.
• [ no obj. ] move suddenly and forcefully, like a whip being cracked: he rammed the yacht, sending its necklace of lights whiplashing from the bridge.

In my case,  it was both a noun and a verb.  I sustained injury ’caused by a severe jerk to the head’ though mine was from being violently slammed to the pavement, and not by a car accident.  And the action of DCD in slamming me to the pavement caused the injury.  Even now I get a twinge of pain and sadness when picturing the scene that morning.  I know it could have been so much worse.  Had I not been in such great physical shape and been so angry that someone would even think of attacking me, the outcome may have been far different.  And yet 33+ months later I am still dealing with the pain that his actions caused me that September morning.  That pisses me off.  And makes me even more determined to get myself completely healed, however long it takes.

YOGA AND HEALING

I started doing yoga in September of 2011.  While it is true that I had taken a few classes here and there, I never ‘got into it.’  However, when I took my first class at Coronado Yoga and Wellness, something clicked.  I will admit that during the first class, I thought, ‘this is so slow, I’m not sure I can do this.’  Then I admonished myself to relax and take it for what it was, that I didn’t have to go 100 miles an hour to benefit from something.  That did it for me.  I had had only 2, maybe 3 classes, when I was attacked.  I kept going back, though, even as my body and mind were in shock, and I had to be around people, and at that point, I was afraid of all people, I kept going.  I remember lying on the floor, wanting to cry and not being able to, going over and over in my mind what had happened and still not believing it had actually happened to me.  And even though my body was hurting, I continued to show up.  There is not a doubt in my mind that doing yoga was instrumental in my healing process.

I came upon this wonderful essay about just that and I emailed the author, Molly Boeder Harris, to ask if it was okay for me to reprint it here.  She graciously agreed.  She also has a web site that deals with sexual assault, www.thebreathenetwork.org.

 

Transcending the Trauma of Sexual Violence With Yoga
By Molly Boeder Harris
Photos by Michael Rioux

“Sexual violence can impact every facet of a survivor’s life, including her physical, mental, and spiritual health. Philosopher Ann Cahill captures the pervasive nature of the crime of rape in her book Rethinking Rape (2001), explaining, “As a traumatic, violent, embodied experience, rape…does not merely attack the victim’s sexuality, or her sense of safety, or her physical being. It does all of this, and more. It cannot be assumed that there is one aspect of that person’s being that is untouched by the experience of rape. There is no pristine, untouched corner to which to retreat…the extent of the rapist’s influence is broad, but not infinite…the self that emerges from the process of healing will always be qualitatively and profoundly different from the self that existed prior to the assault. To know oneself.as raped, is to become a different self.”
Healing after sexual assault requires intentionality, consistency, and patience. The challenge of swimming against unexpected waves of physical, emotional, or spiritual disturbance and depression, combined with a cultural expectation that time heals all wounds, can leave survivors feeling disconnected from themselves and others and unable to trust their ability to manage their inner experience. The nonlinear and often lifelong process that begets healing can cause survivors to question their capacity for resilience.
Yoga provides an accessible, personalized practice that can engage survivors in safely processing sensation and sustain them through multiple stages of healing. Like healing, yoga is a lifelong practice , with ebbs and flows, breakthroughs and setbacks–all equally valuable and necessary. For a sexual assault survivor, an intentional yoga practice provides a safe, accessible, and self-directed space that serves to reintegrate body, mind, and spirit. As survivors explore layers of their being and allow sensation to emerge, pain and suffering are alleviated, and more space is created for encountering the awesome experience of being alive. Yoga allows survivors to regain a sense of comfort and ease within their own shape, to process nonverbally feelings that transcend language, and to experientially cultivate gratitude towards the body, which serve as a reminder of one’s resilience.

In practicing yoga, we link movement with breath and a presence of mind, offering a welcome inner quieting and release of tension that foster expansion. Yoga creates a unique environment where survivors can explore inside with kindness and inquisitiveness and develop attitudes that allow for compassionate responses. Honoring the body as a sacred space after surviving the violation of rape demands tremendous, consistent effort, but the integrated healing it provides remains unparalleled.
The belief that humans (and animals) contain an innate healing capacity–accessed through the body–is a guiding methodology in contemporary trauma treatment. Dr. Peter Levine, creator of a “body-awareness approach to trauma” called Somatic Experiencing ® , describes how our “instinct to heal [and] self-regulate [are] engaged through the awareness of body sensations that contradict those of paralysis and helplessness, and which restore resilience, equilibrium and wholeness.” Levine’s body-based method ” returns a sense of aliveness, relaxation and wholeness to traumatized individuals who have had these precious gifts taken away.” Pat Ogden, another trauma expert, describes the value of mindfulness, an integral part of her body-based psychotherapy practice, as a “state of consciousness in which one’s awareness is directed toward here-and-now internal experience, with the intention of simply observing rather than changing [the] experience.” Ogden eventually encourages the individual to “come out of a dissociated state and future or past-centered ideation and experience the present moment through the body.” This holistic system brings ” the body experience into the foreground” and offers the possibility for profound healing. The essential threads within these innovative techniques, such as body awareness, examining internal movement of feeling and sensation, staying present in the “here and now,” and bearing witness to one’s experience without judgment are qualities that rape victims can weave into a balanced, intentional yoga practice.
Since sexual violence often damages the connection with the body, body-based therapeutic practices are invaluable. Discussing the layered impact of trauma, which can heighten negative sensation and hinder positive sensation, Ogden describes how ” fully experiencing sensations may be disconcerting or.frightening, as intense physical experience may evoke feelings of being out of control or.weak and helpless. On the other hand, traumatized individuals are often dissociated from body sensation, experiencing the body as numb or anesthetized.”
Yoga postures, breathing exercises, and meditation techniques can effectively reduce the symptoms of rape trauma syndrome (RTS), a form of post traumatic stress disorder that was identified by Ann Wolbert Burgess and Lynda Lytle Holmstrom in 1974. RTS includes symptoms and reactions experienced by most survivors during, immediately following, and for months or years after the assault. RTS can involve psychological, physical, behavioral, cognitive, and interpersonal disruptions including headaches, anxiety, inability to concentrate/focus, sleeplessness, lethargy, anger, depression, mood irregularity, spiritual disconnection, hopelessness, fear/avoidance of intimacy and sexuality, eating disorders, self-injury, and substance abuse. Survivors navigate amidst hyperarousal, numbness, and vivid nightmares, causing a host of energetic imbalances and concerns.
Survivors may experience flashbacks upon some sort of sensory trigger, in which they feel as if the assault is happening all over again–and the physical and emotional responses can be quite visceral, if not debilitating. The embodied practice of yoga allows survivors to develop healthy coping and grounding techniques that can disrupt a flashback and reestablish stability. Since flashbacks may also happen due to perceived or real threats, this ability to track body sensation, which helps survivors experience present reality rather than reacting as if the trauma were still occurring is an essential tool to self-care, independence, and personal safety.

Given the challenges that individuals must brave after surviving sexual assault, it is clear that a comprehensive yoga practice involving organic movement, exploring sensation, intentional breathing, and deep rest can aid healing. A survivor benefits from the internal cleansing and freeing feeling of a vigorous vinyasa practice, as well as the profound comfort and spaciousness that accompanies a restorative sequence. The yoga practice can be tailored to support and enhance a survivor’s sense of embodiment, integration, and inner peace.
When the poet Adrienne Rich describes the healing power of poetry, it reminds me of the mysterious and boundless gifts that yoga can bring into a survivor’s life: “[I]t has al ways been true that poetry can break isolation, show us to ourselves when we are outlawed or made invisible, remind us of beauty where no beauty seems possible, remind us of kinship where all is represented as separation” (“Defy the Space That Separates,” The Nation , October 7, 1996). W e are all essentially survivors, carrying the stories and scars of our Life’s path. Some of those scars still hurt us deeply, yet others have transformed us and informed new and beautiful journeys. As we trek along our paths of healing and growth, let us offer gratitude for the exquisite opportunity to discover embodiment, breath by breath, this precious and simple offering that the practice of yoga returns to us.”

 

I continue to do yoga 3-4 days a week, mostly yoga on the beach here in Coronado or outside on the grass in Pacific Beach.  It has made me stronger in all ways and I will have a yoga practice for the rest of my life.  I wish I had found it earlier in my life, but am incredibly grateful it came when it did.  It contributed greatly to the healing of my mind, body and spirit.

THE ‘SIDE EFFECTS’ OF HOFFMAN

As I have already stated, doing the Hoffman Process, literally, saved my life.  Just as my last three posts were titled, it was a huge leap of faith for me.  It was truly an experience like none I had ever had before, nor have I done anything like it since.  I am forever grateful that I was able to find it when I did, that I had a very supportive (soon to be ex) husband and that I had the resources necessary to do it.  My life so completely changed afterwards.  Something very fundamental shifted in me.  It was clearly something that needed to shift.  BH (before Hoffman) I was a very pessimistic person.  Even after having ‘done’ the antidepressant drugs and therapy, there was still something not quite right in me.  It is very difficult to explain how I was different, why I felt so much better, though I will do my best.

When I left to drive back to Chicago, the world seemed somehow brighter.  I felt more alive, like every part of me was happy.  That feeling in itself was odd for someone who had been perpetually depressed and unhappy for most of her life.  Depression is a weird and insidious thing.  It’s not that I had a bad life, quite the opposite, but I never felt that good, let alone great, and certainly not happy.  Okay, maybe on occasion, for a short amount of time, I felt okay, or good enough to keep me going.  Believe me, that is no way to live, and, yet, I know many people do it, day in and day out, for their entire lives.  So, on my drive, I noticed something very strange: no more road rage.  None.  It was all gone, and it stayed gone for a good 9 or 10 years.  Sadly, it has started creeping slowly back in.  It’s not bad, certainly not like it used to be, but I do find myself getting mad at other drivers.  I have to make a real conscious effort to relax and realize that no one is purposely ‘out to get me.’  It was nothing I consciously decided to rid myself of, it just happened as a result of doing the Process.

For years, as long as I can remember, I have always had headaches.  When I was a teenager, I suffered from migraines that appeared every 6 weeks or so.  They did not seem to be connected to my periods, but they did show up just as regularly.  The worst one I ever had lasted 13 days.  Yes, THIRTEEN DAYS!  My (physician) mother finally took me to the doctor to see if there was anything that could help.  The doctor wanted to test my tolerance to pain (clearly I had a lot) and did so by giving me a shot in my hip.  I could tell that the needle was tiny, but it hurt so much that when he told me he could give me another shot that would make my headache go away in 20 minutes, I said, “No way!”  My thinking was I had had the headache for 13 days so it was bound to go away soon, even without a shot.

The really bad thing about my migraines as I got into my late teens and early 20s was how they affected me.  I had blind spots in my eyes and when I would look at a person, I could not see his or her face.  Everyone was headless.  This was a real problem when I was driving.  Not only could I not see people’s faces, now I couldn’t see whole cars.  I would have to pull over, carefully, and call someone to come and get me.  Over time, the migraines eased up a bit, but I still had regular headaches.  I rarely did not have a headache.  There was always pain, but I was so used to it, I mostly ignored it.  I have probably taken enough aspirin, Tylenol, and ibuprofen in my lifetime to kill a herd of elephants.

Very unexpectedly, AH (after Hoffman) my headaches were gone.  Completely!  I had no pain at all in my head anymore.  As far as side effects go, this was a great one.  13 1/2 years later I rarely get headaches, and if I do, it’s because I really have a pain in my head.  All the headaches I suffered for all those years were, apparently, stored and repressed anger, and once I dealt with the underlying causes of that, they had no choice but to disappear.

I always had a potty mouth.  Not horrible, but not so nice, either.  I had read a book by Hugh Prather in the early 90s called “Notes To Myself.”  I do not have the book in front of me, so I cannot quote it exactly; but he said something to the effect of ‘when you swear, all I hear is the swear words and not what you are trying to say.’  At the time I had boyfriend who like to yell and swear and that’s all I could hear.  So, even then I was doing my best to be more conscious of not swearing.  Let’s just say, I wasn’t that successful at it.  AH, though, that all changed.  I was doing something and felt the need to swear.  When I opened my mouth to say, oh, who knows, ‘shit’ or ‘fuck,’ out of my mouth came, ‘oh, bother.’  I just started laughing.  To this day, I rarely swear, and when I do, it is way more effective.  And, really, I think it sounds crass to have every other word come out of your mouth be a swear word.  I will admit, I sometimes do swear when I am alone, especially if I am angry or frustrated at something or someone.  But, like I said, I hardly ever do it in front of anyone.  I have friends who have said they have never heard me swear, and that’s a good thing, I think.

These are just three of the ‘side effects’ I ‘suffered’ as a result of doing the Hoffman Process. All are good and all helped to improve my life, I’d say.  There are so many more, some big, most small, that I wouldn’t even be able to list them.  The entire 10 days was such a life-changing experience.  There are hundreds of Hoffman graduates in the San Diego area, and we have monthly gatherings to continue to work the tools we learned, and to stay connected to each other.  I know Bob Hoffman (founder of the Process) is smiling down on me.

A LEAP OF FAITH, PART 3

The following is the second half of my Summary of the Process, written on 18 November 2000:

My experience with the Emotional Child/Intellect/Body/Spirit confrontation and Truce was actually fun.  (Again, a lot of what I am writing about here will make no sense in the specifics unless you have done the Hoffman Process.)  All parts of me felt good that they were finally able to have their say, to actually be heard and to know that what each part felt and said was, and is, important.  All parts of me now realize that we all must work together, that no one part has more of an important role than any other, that we must all listen carefully to what is being said, and act accordingly.  The truce was a validation that we will continue to be there for, listen to and work with each other, all our parts, from that day forward. I found the recycling to be useful as a tool to get rid of negative thinking and patterns and to look at those patterns in a new way.  Some of the alternatives that came up seemed a bit silly, but, perhaps, that’s really the point.  In the end, the idea is to eradicate those patterns that impact negatively in my life and if rolling in a field of sunflowers, whether physically or only in my mind, does this, then it must be a good solution. My experience of expressing my vindictiveness and then finding forgiveness had a sense of being free of the need to lash out and try to get back at people for the perceived slights or hurts inflicted upon me.  Again, in the end, I am the only one hurt by carrying a grudge and feeling that sense of superiority or self-righteousness.  It felt good to let go of those feelings and the feeling of trying to show you that I am better because I am paying you back for hurting me, that I’ll show you.  The need to always be “right” has disappeared.  I’ve always felt that people should live and let live, but in reality, I didn’t actually practice it.  I thought people should live and let live, but by my rules, by doing it my way.  Now I feel able to actually practice what I preach, so to speak.

My experience with writing the Positive Letter to my parents isn’t complete yet since I haven’t finished the letter.  With what I’ve written so far and with all of the good thoughts I had surrounding it, though, I feel it’s a good thing to be able to think of both of my parents in positive terms instead of as all negative patterns.  And though at times it has been quite difficult to see, I do know that I did learn the virtues and strengths that I have, even if I don’t always recognize them as such, from them.

I have to say that play day was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.  The play session made me want to join, or if none is available, to start my own “Adult-Play Group,” just like those that exist for kids.  All the different games were so much fun and like one of my fellow Hoffmates mentioned, none lasted too long.  We didn’t have time to get bored before we were off to another game and/or adventure.  I especially liked the counting by 4s and then each number was given an animal and we had to find our other members with our eyes closed, of course.  It was all fun, though.  The magic carpet ride to the North Pole to visit Santa Claus was so cool.  It was an affirmation that I am a good and loving person since Santa doesn’t give gifts to bad people.  I don’t honestly remember going to visit Santa as a child, so it was a chance to experience something I wasn’t able to so long ago. It was great.  And so was the birthday party.  Although I do not remember such a large and elaborate party for me, it was a wonderful celebration.  I felt we were celebrating all that we had accomplished thus far in the week.  And to top it all off, we got to put on a play, just like kids love to do.  I don’t think the content of our play would ever show up in a play put on by actual children, but it was fun, nonetheless.  It gave us a chance to work together with each other.  Overall, I thought it was hilarious and showed what we can do when we put our heads, and hearts, together.  All in all, it was one of the best days.  I was truly sorry to see it end.  It felt kind of like when I was little and not wanting to go to bed because I was having way too much fun.

The next day we went back to the ‘hard’ stuff.  My experience with the Dark Side Process left me with a feeling of hope and calm.  And a determination to never let my dark side back into my life.  I know there will be times it’ll creep up on me, but I feel like I’ll be able to zap it and keep it from taking over.

I believe that if I am willing, and I am, to really listen to my spiritual self, I will never be led astray.  I know, without a doubt, that my spiritual side is very powerful.  I know that she has kept me alive for 40 years so that I could get to the place I finally am.  Even when I couldn’t see past the pain, she could.  I know, too, that she is a very loving and giving part of me. As I’ve always been a very visual person myself, I know that she must also be, since, really, we are one and the same.  She has helped me in the last several months, but especially in the last week, visualize my future.  And it looks good!

As I approach the end of the Process and prepare to go fully back into the world I left, I know that I can do it.  I feel so grateful that I’ve had this opportunity to grow and experience the last week, however painful and hard it was.  I am excited about what the future holds for me.  I am also a little bit scared.  I’ve got some major stuff to go through with J, but I KNOW I can face whatever comes my way.  I have the tools and the willingness to do it right, to keep the negative love out of my life.  I also know there will be pain and stumbling along the way, but nothing that love and my belief that I’ll come through it can’t handle.  I am free.  I am love, and I am lovable.

 

Okay, back to present day…just typing this out has been eye-opening.  As I said in one of the previous parts of this, I have not read or even looked at this stuff since I finished the Process in November of 2000.   One of the most powerful things that happened at the end of my time in Wisconsin, was opening my eyes and seeing all the past graduates who had come to participate in a particular ceremony we had, and knowing, I mean really knowing, that no matter what, no matter where I went, or what I did, for the rest of my life, I had a community of like-minded people.  And that alone was worth it.