A BETTER THIRD WEEK

Just a quick update…

I am definitely feeling better, though still haven’t had the burst of energy I’ve been waiting for.  I am still sleeping a ton more than normal, too.  It’s all good, though.  If I really think about it, it took me pretty much 55 years to get my body into the state it is currently in, no matter the reasons behind it, and realistically I cannot expect to be all better in just 2 or 3 or even 4 weeks.  Of course, that doesn’t stop me from expecting it.

I saw a friend yesterday I had not seen since we started The Whole30 and she noticed a difference.   Said my skin looked really good.  That must be the bone broth I drink every morning.  I also ‘convinced’ her that she should be doing it as well.  Since she was just diagnosed with carpel tunnel syndrome, eating clean on this program will most likely help her out tremendously.  Even if it doesn’t exactly cure her carpel tunnel, she will at least still be wheat, sugar and processed food free, and that’s a very good thing.

Because I am still having a lot of hip pain and wasn’t sure if I should really be walking/stretching/playing tennis/doing yoga or just resting, it finally occurred to me that my pain was probably being caused by my old walking shoes.  When I used to walk 60-90 miles a week, I was very good about replacing my shoes every six months.  Lately, I’ve not been so good.  Plus, I’ve been wearing the shoes that have absolutely no support.  So yesterday I went to Road Runner Sports and got myself analyzed on their ShoeDog machine.  I already knew I had high arches, but, dang, when I stood on the blue pad that records the bottom of your feet, the only thing that showed up was my toes, the pads that my toes are connected to and my heals…nothing in between.  I have an extremely high arch, which basically means any kind of non-supportive shoe is probably a bad idea.  It also explains the hip and IT band pain I’ve been suffering from.  So I got new shoes and custom molded arch supports.  I walked this morning and what a difference!

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As far as the eating goes, no cheats.  Sure I miss some particular foods, cheese and yogurt the most, but I see no point in eating them until we start the reintroducing process, which we may not even do.  I mean, why ‘gum’ up a clean system?   I can already tell that dairy is probably not my friend.  Bummer!  Really, nothing is off-limits expect the crap we shouldn’t be eating anyway, so I haven’t felt deprived in any way.

AN ACCIDENTAL REWIRING

Turns out our brains are a lot more elastic or plastic than was originally thought.  The old thinking was once you reached a certain age, your brain was, for lack of a better way to say it, set in stone.  The neurons were thought to migrate to predetermined locations in the brain.  Once there, they performed only certain functions.  New research has shown that it is possible to change our brains.  This is good news.  No, really, this is great news. We are no longer necessarily stuck with a brain that does not work for us, and by this I mean that when I accidentally rewired my brain to crave sugar and carbs and other things that are not good for my overall health, I have the ability to change it, to rewire it again.

After my attack 4 1/2 years ago, to help me feel better, I started eating cupcakes and macaroni and cheese and soft pretzels and rolls and, well, you get the picture.  In 2010, for the most part, I stopped eating bread and pasta.  And even more importantly, I stopped eating most processes sugars.  No coke, no more of my beloved (sad, but true) slurpees, no sweet tarts or jelly beans.  Or if I did have a treat, it was not very often and I never went overboard.  When I was sexually assaulted in September of 2011, that all changed.  I was doing my best to heal and part of that, unfortunately, involved self-soothing, which took the form of eating comfort foods.  Over time, my brain changed, and through the long process of healing and reclaiming my life, I inadvertently created another problem, though it has taken several years for me to completely understand exactly what I did.

I’ve always been a huge reader and though I enjoy fiction tremendously, I also love inspirational, self-help-type books, too.  Since I am always working on improving myself and my life, I am pretty open to most books that encourage that.  I am also a life-long athlete and, as I’ve written about before, after my attack, I went from walking 60-90 miles a week to zero.  Luckily, I found yoga a couple of weeks before my attack and I was no longer able to walk outside alone.  Still, not having that outlet for stress release and staying in shape was a huge loss.  HUGE.  So, I was on the lookout for books to, perhaps, change my life.  I read (listened to, actually) Grain Brain and Brain Maker by Kristin Loberg and Dr. David Perlmutter, Wheat Belly by William Davis, Use Your Brain to Change Your Age by Dr. Daniel Amen, The Wisdom of Your Cells by Dr. Bruce Lipton, The New Sugar Busters by H. Leighton Steward, Morrison Bethea, Sam Andrews and Luis Balart, and countless others.  While all were good, and some I’ve even listened to more than once, and all had good advise and wisdom to pass along, I still was not ‘getting it.’  I might try out a few of the suggestions, but nothing stuck for long.

A walk with a friend a couple of weeks ago ended up supplying the missing link, so to speak.  Just in passing he mentioned It Starts With Food by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig.  I cannot tell you now what it was he said that made me go home and check if the book was available on audible.com.  It was, and I got it.  From practically the first sentence I realized this was the book that was going to literally change my life.  I finally got it.  I also knew that I needed the actual book to refer to.  At the bookstore, however, I ended up with their followup book, The Whole30, subtitled The 30-Day Guide to TOTAL HEALTH and FOOD FREEDOM, which is the one I really needed.  This book explains the entire program and how to accomplish it.  It contains recipes, tips, hints and, basically, a blueprint for (my words) a new life!  And today starts that 30-day trip.

I will be chronicling my journey here, partly so that I am accountable and partly so that others may, hopefully, be helped, as well.  I keep hearing from people who have done the Whole30 that it is hard, that you always end up ‘falling off the wagon’ at some point.  While this may be true, I am confident that I am truly ready for the changes that eating clean will bring about.  I am so ready to be clean of my sugar habit.  I’ve spoken about it before and the trouble I’ve had with kicking the habit.  Like I just said, I AM READY, and this, I think, will make all the difference.  Will I never eat something that is less than perfectly healthy again?  In all likelihood, I probably will, but once I have rewired my brain to crave healthy, whole foods again, a slip or, rather, a conscious choice to eat something that is less than ‘good’ will not result in disaster.  It took a long time to wire my brain to want a cupcake once a week.  Likewise, once I am where I want to be with regard to food, one soft pretzel or martini will not create a new, unwanted neural pathway in my brain.

We all always have a choice.  My choice is to eat clean to reset my brain and hormones.

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If you would like, please join me on this journey.  We can help each other along the way.

FOUR YEARS AND A DAY

Today is the 4th anniversary of the day my life changed forever.  But, really, every single day is an opportunity for our lives to be changed forever.  It’s not so much the events of our lives that determine what happens next, but, rather, it is what we do with those events, how we respond to them.  And how we ultimately deal with and grow from them.  While it would have been far easier to not actually deal with what happened to me on 24 September 2011, for me at least, this was not even a remote option.

 

I wrote the above paragraph on Wednesday, which was actually the day before the anniversary.  It was as far as I got because I thought I should wait and see how the day unfolded.  Let’s just say it rather sucked.  The following is what I wrote in my journal yesterday afternoon:

I thought, mistakenly as it turned out, that the discomfort and sadness I felt at the end of last week and into this week, up to today, which I attributed to the 4th anniversary of my sexual assault, might be all I had to deal with this 24th of September.  No such luck.  The good news, I suppose, is no nightmares/flashbacks have come up today.  Well, that’s not quite accurate.  Every time I close my eyes I feel DCD’s weight on me.  You better believe I snap them open as soon as I can.  I was okay in savasana this morning, I think because I was mentally chanting I love you, I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you.  My neck and back are killing me.  This is all muscle memory.  There is no physical reason that I should be having pain in either place today.  I guess this whole week has been a build up to today.  I am ever hopeful that tomorrow I will awaken feeling back to my normal self.  Right now, though, I have splitting headache.  ///J was so loving and patient with me this morning.  When I got home from beach yoga, I was pretty much covered with sand, which meant I had to shower.  After my shower, I laid down on the bed and just stared into space.  He came and laid behind me and simply held me, not saying anything.  Eventually, I was able to talk about what I was feeling.  The first thing I said was, “I just wish he {he being DCD} knew the effect of what he did to me, and how it continues to impact my life.”  Not that it would make a difference if he did know, but maybe, just maybe, it would in a tiny way.  I cannot imagine that he won’t do it again once he gets out of prison, and because he must register for the rest of his life as a sexual predator/offender, he’s pretty much screwed.

 

At the end of each day, for the last 2+ years, before I go to bed, I write down 5 things I am grateful for.  Yesterday all I managed to write was, ” I am grateful I made it through.”

And by the way, I do feel a lot better today.

 

KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN

If you read my posts on a regular basis you already know that I did a personal yoga challenge for the month of February.  Also, that I do yoga, when not challenging myself to do it every single day, usually 4-5 times a week.  In the various styles of yoga I have done, the very last pose of most classes, and the one pose that is considered the hardest, is called savasana.  This is pronounced either sha-va-sa-na or sa-va-sa-na.  It is a Sanskrit word that means corpse pose.  It is called that because you are lying on your back, not moving.  Personally, it is one of my favorites.  The idea behind it is to do absolutely nothing, which means you quiet your body and your mind.  The body, I really have no problem keeping still, at least not for the 5 or so minutes that usually constitute savasana; my mind, though I like to think it is quiet, the truth is, it probably isn’t.  Actually, I know it isn’t.

In what I will call ‘normal’ yoga, that is, all the different types of yoga that I have done, except Bikram, when you are in savanna, your eyes are closed.  And honestly, there are times when we are in, say, warrior two, and the instructor will encourage us to close our eyes, just to feel the pose.  Most poses on the back can be done with the eyes either open or closed, which to me means to have my eyes shut, and I like it that way.  Since most of the classes I do are outside, I wear sunglasses, whether it is sunny or overcast;  but even with my eyes protected, I prefer them shut.  Bikram, however, is a completely different story.  When I was going to Bikram yoga, my teacher would say, ‘This is a 90 minute meditation with your eyes open the entire time.’  I will admit that the first week or so, I had a really hard time keeping them open.  I got better as the month went on, but I still had to mentally and purposefully keep them open, especially when we are in the mini-savasanas between the poses on the floor that make up half of the class.  To me, yoga is as much about feeling the postures and poses as the actual position of my body.  And I feel things better with my eyes closed.

While my mind was supposed to be quiet, I was thinking about how keeping ones eyes open can be a metaphor for life.  When we do not keep our eyes open we can miss what is right in front of us.  Or conversely,  we shut our eyes to what is right in front of us.  We can choose to see or not see, and we can do that whether our eyes are open or shut.  How can one possibly stop to smell the roses if those roses haven’t been seen first?

When I lived in Europe, I walked more than I took the bus or taxis.  And when I walked, I frequently would look up, and I mean, way up, so that I could see the tops of the buildings, which were more often than not, even more beautiful than the view at street level.  I would never have known this had I not looked up.  At the same time, if you are always and only looking up, then it stands to reason you will miss whatever is on the ground in front of you.  It is a balancing thing; you kind of have to do both.  Of course, Mae West said that “too much of a good thing can be wonderful.”  Personally, I do not think that you can ever see too much.

We’ve all had experiences where, even with our eyes open, we cannot remember how we got where we are, literally or figuratively.   So, eyes opened or eyes shut, it is up to us to see, or not see, where we are, and maybe even more importantly, where we are headed. Still, if you aren’t aware of what’s truly going on around you and are walking with your ‘head in the clouds,’ you just might get hit by a bus.  Awareness, then, seems to me to be the real key, whether your eyes are open or not.

 

 

 

I DID IT!!!

Yea!  Yippee!  Music cued and I’m doing the happy dance!  Okay, really, I’m just sitting at my desk typing, but in my mind, I’m dancing.  Yesterday was day 28 of my own personal yoga challenge, and I am happy to say I did it!  Of course, if it would not have rained all last night and this morning, I would have had 29 days in a row since I always do beach yoga on Sundays.  Unless, of course, it is raining.  When I realized beach yoga would not be happening today, my first thought was, ‘I’ll go to Bikram;’ my second thought was, ‘what’s wrong with you?  Your body needs a break.’  So, no yoga today.   My body truly does need a day of rest.

This what I learned from doing 28 straight days of yoga – it is exhausting.  For whatever reason, I definitely need a day off to let my body recover and recuperate from all I ask of it on a daily basis.  I also think if I did beach yoga 7 days a week, I’d probably be okay.  It was the Bikram that I found so difficult.  And not difficult in that it was hard, but, rather, it was the heat and sweating like a racehorse that did me in.  Don’t get me wrong, I kind of liked it, or I at least liked the challenge of doing it.  I did not manage to fall in love with it, though I will continue to do it, but only one day a week.  What I also learned is I need to walk.  It is like breathing to me, and when I am unable to do it, I feel like something vital is missing.  I simply did not have the time to do yoga every day and walk, too.  Maybe if I didn’t have to work… but I did, I do.

I was so busy getting through last month’s challenge that I never thought of anything to do for the month of March.  Like I mentioned a few posts back, January was cleansing and no sugar or alcohol; February was continuing to eat clean, and though I did drink alcohol a couple of times, for the most part I stuck with not drinking, and, of course, my yoga challenge.  I think for March I will take it easy and spend the month deciding on a challenge for April.  It seems a good thing for me to challenge myself.

Below are a few quotes about challenge that spoke to me.  Perhaps they will inspire something in you, as well:

“To be a champion, I think you have to see the big picture. It’s not about winning and losing; it’s about every day hard work and about thriving on a challenge. It’s about embracing the pain that you’ll experience at the end of a race and not being afraid. I think people think too hard and get afraid of a certain challenge.”   ~Summer Sanders

“Challenge is the pathway to engagement and progress in our lives. But not all challenges are created equal. Some challenges make us feel alive, engaged, connected, and fulfilled. Others simply overwhelm us. Knowing the difference as you set bigger and bolder challenges for yourself is critical to your sanity, success, and satisfaction.”   ~Brendon Burchard

“I want to challenge you today to get out of your comfort zone. You have so much incredible potential on the inside. God has put gifts and talents in you that you probably don’t know anything about.”   ~Joel Osteen

“Scientists have demonstrated that dramatic, positive changes can occur in our lives as a direct result of facing an extreme challenge – whether it’s coping with a serious illness, daring to quit smoking, or dealing with depression. Researchers call this ‘post-traumatic growth.'”   ~Jane McGonigal

Of these four quotes, the last one explains, perhaps, the why I feel it necessary to challenge myself.  I guess in some ways I am still healing from my sexual assault, and this is my brain’s way of continuing my ‘post-traumatic growth.’  I like it!  It makes sense to me.  I think so much of what we do, of what I do, is more unconscious than not.  These small or not-so-small challenges I set for myself are a way of being more conscious in my life.  And if life truly is a journey, not a destination, as Ralph Waldo Emerson believed, then the way I see it, the more conscious we are, the better that journey will be.  So much, well, really, everything, changed in my life on 24 September 2011, which has turned out to not be a ‘bad’ thing.  I’ve just had to learn how to embrace what now is.  I will continue to challenge myself, and, hopefully, continue to grow.  And that, I believe, is a very good thing.

 

 

CROOKED FEET AND BAD KNEES

Two of my last three posts have been about, basically, being active and moving my body, and how important it is to me.  It’s why I am challenging myself to do yoga for 28 days in a row.  What is amazing is that I am able to do all that I do now.   I was born with metatarsus adductus, which is commonly known as pigeon toe or in-toeing.  Apparently, it is quite common, and most cases are mild.   Mine, however, was extreme.  The causes of it are still unknown but, in my case, while in my mother’s womb, my feet bent and stayed that way.  My feet were so crooked and turned in that starting somewhere around 8 months, I had to wear a polio brace, the kind that had the metal bar from knee to knee.  I searched and searched for a picture of this type of brace but I was unable to find one.  So, there I was, an 8 month old baby, a quite active, climb-out-of-my-playpen kind of baby, wearing a brace on my little legs to try to straighten out my feet.  I started walking at 9 months, and I must have been a sight.  I clearly liked walking from a very early age and didn’t let the fact that I was in a brace keep me from it.  The picture below is me on my first birthday.  You can see the angle of my left foot, even after 4 months of being in a brace.

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At some point, which I of course do not remember and neither does my mother, the polio bar brace was replaced with a brace similar to this one…

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This was as close as I could find to what I wore.  For five years!  I seem to remember that the metal bars went down both sides of my legs, but I could be wrong about that.  All I do remember for sure is how much I hated, despised is probably a better word, wearing it.  And I had to wear it 24 hours a day.  The only time I didn’t have to have my braces on was bath time and when my feet grew and I had to get new shoes attached to the metal bars.  Other than those two times, I always had them on.  I wore them through kindergarten.  Thankfully, by the time I went to first grade I was finished with them.

As if this wasn’t enough, when I was 11, I had a growth spurt that messed my knees up, pretty much, for life.  I grew too tall, too fast, and this caused my knee caps to slide and for fluid to accumulate on my knees.  Luckily, it was never enough that I had to have a giant needle stuck into my knee to remove it.   When it first happened, I was splinted, told to take aspirin however many times a day (don’t remember exactly) and given my first pair of crutches.  And from then on, I was on crutches at some point every single year until I was 19 years old.  I ‘broke’ my splint within a week.  I couldn’t stand having my leg immobilized and each day would practice bending my splint until it broke.  Of course, all that meant was I had to go back to the hospital and get another one.

So, like I said, at some point in each year from 1971 to 1979, my knees would flare up, and back to the orthopedic doctor we would go.  If I remember correctly, I only had a splint the first time, but I would have to use crutches for a few weeks at a time until the pain went away and I could put my full weight on it again.  And I took so much aspirin that it stopped working for me.  I then switched to Tylenol when that came on the market, until that stopped working, too.  Now, ibuprofen is the only pain reliever that (sort of) works for me.  Actually, thinking about it now, that first growth spurt was big, but I continued to grow until I was about 20 or 21, which is probably why I had problems all through my teens.

When I was 17, I was sitting on the back of a metal folding chair and fell over backwards and when I hit the ground, my foot somehow hit the seat of the chair and my heel broke.  You can’t really cast a heel, but you can use crutches.  I had permanent calluses on my hands and under my arms from using them so often.  Then, when I was almost 19, the night before I was leaving to spend the summer in Wildwood, New Jersey, I stepped on a rake handle wearing Dr. Scholls sandals and broke three bones in my right foot.  That necessitated a trip into Atlanta (at the time my parents were living in Canton and there was no orthopedic doc on staff at the hospital) to get x-rays and a soft cast.  I did make my flight the next morning, on crutches, though that made it impossible to get a job as a cocktail waitress, since I couldn’t tell potential employers exactly how long I would be on said crutches.  Instead, I worked in a sea shell shop on the Boardwalk.

Though I continued to have periodic problems with my knees, especially my right one, I more or less stayed off of crutches until my later 30s.  I was in Barcelona and tripped crossing the street and tore cartilage in my knee.  Not, of course, my ‘bad’ right knee, but my left knee.  While in Spain, it was misdiagnosed as severe tendonitis.  I stayed off of it and by the time I got back to the States a month later, it seemed fine.  Six months later, though, it started clicking.   Long story short, I had to have surgery, where 30% of my meniscus was removed, and fun, fun, fun, I got to be on crutches yet again.  When I went to physical therapy after my surgery and told the story of the history of my knees, my therapist was astounded that it had taken that long for me to have had a serious problem.  Well, really, if I wouldn’t have tripped and wrecked my better knee…

I do know that yoga has helped my knees over the last 3 1/2 years.  And while there are certain poses that I will most likely never be able to do, that’s okay.  At least I am still able to walk, and I am happy to say I have not been on crutches since 1997, and I am doing my best to keep it that way.

 

TIME CHANGE

Most everyone set their clocks back an hour this past Sunday.  It is my favorite day of the year.  Whenever I tell people this, they look at me like I’ve lost my mind.  The reason it’s my favorite day is the day seems endless.  Or at least it used to when I’d wake up at my usual time, but instead of it being 5a, it was now 4a, and I’d get up and walk for 2 hours, which is 8 or so miles, and when I’d get it home, it was only 6a.  The entire day would go like that.  It would seem so much later and it would only be, like 10:30a.  Now, though, because I don’t really walk in the dark anymore, when I wake up super early, I don’t want to get up, because, really, what am I going to do?  This last Sunday, I woke up and realized I couldn’t get up and walk, not because of the darkness, though it wouldn’t be that way for long, but because I have beach yoga on Sunday mornings at 9:30 and I walk to it, which is about 2 miles.  And then afterwards I walk home.  So I am getting a nice walk and yoga, and a 4-6 mile walk before that seemed silly.  So I went back to pretend sleep.  Pretend sleep is what I do when I don’t want to get out of bed because it’s either dark or cold or both.  I’m beginning to think I was a bear in a past life, and that’s why all I want to do these days is hibernate.

It is very strange, but before the time changes, and before we have nighttime temps in the 50s, I have no problem getting up.  Now, it’s a completely different story.  I so do not want to get out of bed because it’s cold, freezing actually, in my house.  It doesn’t help that I have to sleep with my ceiling fan on to help with my stupid hot flashes, so not only is the house cold (no insulation, typical in old California houses) because it’s cold outside, I have the extra breeziness from my fan making it even colder.  In past years, I used to sleep with my workout clothes on so that all I had to do on our chilly mornings was put my shoes on, that way avoiding being naked to get dressed.  If I tried that now, I would cook myself, even without the electric blanket because of those stupid hot flashes I already mentioned.  It is quite a dilemma.

I also realize that any of you reading this while living someplace other than Southern California, someplace where it is actually cold, will probably be rolling your eyes and saying this isn’t cold.  I’ll be the first to agree that it isn’t cold, but I am the world’s biggest wimp when it comes to being cold.  Besides, it’s all relative.  I lived in Chicago for 10 years, so I definitely know cold, and this is, of course, nothing even close to that.  However, it’s cold for here and especially after the really hot weather we have had since we began May with 2 separate heat waves.  And this week it is hot again.  I know, I know, poor us, right?  Well, if you lived here, you’d understand.  This picture I found on Facebook might help explain it a little better:

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And I am not afraid to say I did this on Tuesday.  And I wore two jackets to beach yoga.  Of course, once I got over to the beach and into the sunshine, it was warmer. Clearly,  it doesn’t bother me to look like a dork.  I would have worn my slippers, but I don’t want to get sand in or on them.

I digress…back to the time changing…I’ve decided that it may no longer be my favorite day of the year.  I love that it is light earlier, but I do not like that it is dark by 5:30p and that will only get worse until we reach 21 December, which by the way is not the shortest day of the year.  It may be the day with the least amount of daylight, but every day is 24 hours, regardless of the light or lack thereof.  Anyway, getting up when it is dark and cold is just too much for me.  And I do it anyway.  Just this morning (and Tuesday) I met a friend to walk at 5a.  According to my phone it was 61 degrees, though my thermometer said it was about 10 degrees colder.  I didn’t look at it until I got back though, so thinking it was above 60, I wore a skort.  I was fine because we walk fast.  Now, though, I am trying to decide if I can keep it on or if I should put yoga pants on; not long pants, mind you, because it isn’t that cold…yet.   I am sitting here, wrapped in a blanket, freezing, while writing this, but it is sunny outside and going up into the high 80s again today, so even if it is little chilly on my bike ride over to the beach, the actual beach should be warm enough.  I know I have tough decisions to make, but someone has to live here and deal with this kind of stuff on a daily basis!

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!!!

 

MY LIFE STORY IN 100 WORDS

I got this idea from Jennifer Pastiloff’s post yesterday.  She featured a guest post by Elissa Wald,  who had been asked on an application for freelance copywriting work, to tell her personal story in 100 words.  (To read Elissa’s 100 word story, go to Jen’s web site, http://themanifeststation.net)

It got me thinking of what I would say in 100 words that could truly encapsulate and/or describe my life in so few words.  I mean, I’ve lived 54 years and been through an awful lot.  But I like a good challenge, so I gave it a shot.  I am calling it my life story as opposed to my personal story.  Here’s what I came up with:

My Life Story In 100 Words:

A happy, healthy, loving, kind, silly, adventure-seeking, funny, mostly intelligent, sometimes wildly irreverent, forward-looking spirit having a very human experience. Have faced many life challenges with grace, and survived. Have fought hard to stick around to see what happens next. Looking to make a difference in my life so that I am able, by example, to encourage others to do the same. Believe that one person CAN make a difference, and if we all live with this uppermost in our minds, think of the awesome transformation the world would see. Am ready for blessings that are no longer in disguise.

What do you think?  Did I do it?  Can you do it?  I’d love to see what you come up with.  Please leave a comment with your 100 word story.

 

 

 

 

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.