Mental health

Feelin shook up

Life is full of ups and downs, ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys. Living with Complex PTSD and experiencing dissociative episodes these last eight years as a result of the severe trauma I have endured has presented many difficult challenges to my stability and daily functioning. Lately I have expierienced a shift that feels like the rug has been pulled out from under me. I’m stumbling and struggling while riding these waves of intense emotions. A place I haven’t been to in quite some time.

When I was with my family this past February, my son got to witness up close and personal how my empathetic abilities draw strangers to me for healing. These are the walking wounded, people who are looking to release their life’s burdens. He quietly observed as this woman approached me on the street to share with me her life story of heartache and pain. She needed to vent to someone who would listen with compassion and understanding. I’m humbled and blessed to be that outlet for others!

This past weekend I had my own unique experience with a fellow stranger who I later came to find out is an empath. She and I knew each other a very short time before she held my hand and confirmed to me some events in my life I haven’t admitted to myself or even uttered out loud. I have been walking around with this deep dark secret since a young child. This is the repressed memory and acknowledgement of being molested when I was five and six years old.

Four years ago I started the journey into healing my inner child. The main healing tool that has worked wonders for me is EMDR, the reprocessing of emotions pulling that “charge” of the trauma away lessening its severity from my mind, body and soul. Trauma is held in the body and can be reactivated and triggered long after the actual physical damage has occurred. Even though these events took place some thirty-five years ago, my cells have been “refired” and thoughts, feelings and flashbacks have come flooding back with a vengeance.

To add to this complex situation, I work in a fast paced, highly stressful work environment. Two days ago I had an emotional breakdown before work. In an instant I was struggling to breathe, heart racing, uncontrollable crying…..the whole thing. My current emotional mindset is NOT conducive to helping and serving others. I need to repack my trauma baggage, rediscover who I am while continuing to peel the layers back of my life’s onion.

I have been riding an intense wave of high emotions, enduring intrusive thoughts and nagging feelings of shame. Anybody who has gone through sexual abuse knows the debilitating feelings of shame. For me they have crippled my life for years at a time. My fear and panic gets triggered as I worry that I’m backsliding into the depths of overly intense emotions all over again. Something I thought I had neatly packed away and compartmentalized in my psyche.

The two questions that first stopped me in my tracks were, why me and why now? Everything was going great and I was feeling so confident. Now I feel angry, ashamed and sad. A kind of mourning is going on. I’m in the process of patiently accepting and observing these emotions without judging myself or wanting to harm myself. Que the intrusive thoughts and suicidal ideation. Here comes that heaviness in my heart and overall exhaustion telling me to stay in bed and pull the covers over my head. I’m grieving my childhood and loss of innocence all over again.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far. This is all part of the healing process. We must continually throughout our lives revisit the pain and trauma from our past in order to learn, grow and accept it ultimately freeing ourselves. I refuse to become “stuck” again. I know I must carry on and this too shall pass. I’m taking a break to be kind and gentle to myself. I’m not ok right now and that’s ok.

Mental health, Spirituality

Some musings on my musings

I’ve been doing a lot of introspective reflecting as of late. What makes me tick and how far in these last six months I have come. A year ago I was utterly depressed, unemployed, out of shape and directionless. Something started to change around mid to late August and looking back I’m unsure of what that precipitating moment actually was. All I know now is that in September I connected with an amazing woman in Australia who gave me the selfless gift of simply believing in me. Her suggestion that I should start sharing my writing has absolutely changed my life!

Being able to let down my defenses, walls and whatever other terms can be applied here has proven so freeing! I gained so much self confidence that I finally applied to work for a company I have admired for many years. As fate would have it this coffee chain was building a new store in my neighborhood less the a mile from my house. I carried myself quite fearlessly into my interview and landed the job. After only a short time I was promoted to management. I began walking to and from my new job daily while starting to care again about what I was eating. I’m a petite woman and have always been naturally small yet when I gain even ten pounds I feel uncomfortable. This new me gave me back a spring in my step! My sassy self was finally shining on my outside again😁

Just yesterday I made one of my childhood dreams come true. I self published a book of poetry on Amazon entitled, “Emotional Musings” using my maiden name Maria Pratico. Afterwards, I felt like I floated on a cloud to work!! I’m so damn proud of myself my dear readers. I have always used writing as a way to cope with uncomfortable emotions, and being an empath sometimes they were feelings that weren’t my own. When I was younger I was really mixed up about this part of myself so my writing helped me make sense of it, process it and let it go.

I’ve always felt different from my peers and even anybody in my family. A blacksheep, a sore thumb, someone who walked to the beat of her own drum. I’m a true middle child who’s able to get along well with others but I still felt like I was outside looking in. I was a decent student, made friends easily yet I have always known that I perceive things quite differently than most. Now I have reckoned with that part of myself that felt strange.

I love the weirdness that my creative side allows me. I appreciate the way I hear music and the feelings I get from it. I understand that I feel stuff on another level, a more complex way that most wouldn’t be able to articulate into words. God has brought me down dark paths because He trusts that I will find my way back and learn from it.

I’m a late bloomer. An analytical thinker when it comes to these intense emotions, musings I call them. I have a highly tuned emotional intelligence that has delayed my progress in understanding certain important aspects of life. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. As a middle aged woman that sounds ridiculous but to me it’s exciting.

I’m just getting started. I’m coming into my own. Watch out world because I’m ready to roar and I’m finally ready for it all!!!!!!

Mental health, Spirituality

That monkey on my back

Every once in awhile, here it goes again. Wide awake in the wee hours of the morning knowing that I have a big day ahead of me. Not sure if it’s hormonal or subconscious anxiety but I’m not a fan my friends of this latest development.

I have been working a lot at the coffee shop and feeling pulled in all directions as a supervisor. In fact I had to have a few difficult conversations this week with my partners. I’m not one for confrontation and I’m definitely in flight mode rather than fight. Yet they say change and growth can be painful. I guess that’s what’s up right now. Just those growing pains of evolvement.

I am a classically trained dancer in ballet, tap, jazz, modern and contemporary dance styles. I started when I was just two years old. My biggest dream was to dance on Broadway. My sister and I were on a competitive dance team that traveled and took classes in New York City. I pursued this up until I was sixteen years old. That was when some harsh realities became too much to bear and I quit dance all together. I did rediscover my passion for it after my oldest son was born and I started attending adult classes. What’s the point of me writing about this you may ask? Here’s some truth to that question.

Since growing up and striving to be some part of the very competitive dance world, I definitely developed this perfectionist side to my personality. Everything had to be just right. My parents tell me they would catch me organizing my room by stacking up my books just so. Arranging my Smurfs figurines in a particular order. Everything had to be straight and neat. I even carried this over into people pleasing and being quite passive in my intimate relationships.

Fast forward to present day and I can feel when this shift tries to take the wheel again. This time in a more destructive way. I start becoming very strict with myself. I get overly angry with myself when I make even a small mistake. I start reverting back to old habits that I know aren’t healthy for my positive outlook. The tiny voices in my head that whisper, you’re not good enough start to get louder as if someone turned up the volume on that old tape. I thought I threw that one out years ago in the midst of my healing from the traumas. Here it is again playing louder than ever, boombox style.

One of my downfalls is that I have always been my own worst enemy. More than most other people are I think. The original diagnosis from my psychiatrist on my first visit was that I have OCD with PAD (panic anxiety disorder). I had decided I’d had enough of the unexplained anger and anxiety surrounding the way my environment appeared to me after my oldest was born. I was constantly cleaning and was absolutely consumed by this drive to have everything look perfect. I found myself stuck in these crazy routines of cleaning things over and over again to the point where I wasn’t leaving my house. I developed these phobias surrounding having to clean incessantly or else. What you may ask…….even today I’m unsure. I had a dark burgundy formica countertop in the kitchen at my first house. I used to wipe it so much that it changed colors in some spots. Definitely a bit too obsessive.

So, when I feel that itch coming back again this is what I do. I restart the positive self talk in my bathroom mirror. I allow myself to feel the uncomfortable feeling of understanding that I am imperfect. I give myself permission to feel uneasy. That sounds like a simple enough statement. Boy, is that a hard pill to swallow during these spells. That’s what I like to refer to it as, a spell. Like some greater force has taken over my mind, body and spirit.

Quieting that harsh inner negative dialogue can be tricky once mixed with a heavy dose of anxiety. The “not good enough” imaginary police are breathing down my neck. You are nothing, you will never be anything, you are a loser…. their sirens wail loudly in my head. I steady myself as I ride this wave of uncomforbility. Assess what I actually can control, what to attempt to let go of and what next behavior will serve me the most. Some days are of course better than others. Add in our recent moon cycle and there you have it…….that nagging need to be perfect.

At the end of the day, I accept it will always be that invisible monkey on my back. It’s always there, lying right beneath the surface. Some days it’s quieter than others. Like everything in life I know it’s temporary. This too shall pass.

Mental health, Spirituality

Why I’m happy I put myself on the list

It’s a brand new year and this is a brand new me! After forty-one years of putting everybody else’s needs before my own, I have decided to put myself on my list of priorities. Here’s the kicker, I feel no guilt about it either!! Honestly it feels so good to take charge and stand up for myself. I’m no longer willing to allow anybody to walk all over me any longer. The buck as they say stops here!

This mindset is years in the making dear readers, it definitely didn’t appear overnight. After years of abuse, trauma and self harm I have finally turned a corner. I am strong, I am confident and most importantly I love myself. What’s changed and how did I get here you may be wondering? I believe the answer is all in the timing. As an intuitive, emotional and physical empath I’m highly interested in our metaphysical world. Astrology has always interested me since I was very young. Whenever I would read about my birthday and projected charts, I always read that I would be a late bloomer. That I wouldn’t “come into my own” until later in life. It’s really just in the last two years that things started to just click for me. Stuff I used to struggle with just isn’t a stressor anymore. All the time spent healing, praying,years of taking medications and rivers of tears have come to fruition. The seeds I started planting seven years ago are beginning to sprout. Writing about this gives me pure elation but actually feeling this way is so peaceful!

I recently had to make a choice at work to stand up for myself with the management. In the past I would of swallowed the poor treatment, condescending tone and allowed myself to feel bad. Those days are over! I took matters into my own hands and went above my direct manager’s head by expressing my frustrations to higher management. The result is respect, both my own and from my manager. I will NOT be treated poorly by anyone because I now value myself. Trust me dear readers, if you have been flowing my posts, you can understand how pivotal this is for me.

In this last week I had to chase down a full refund from my credit card company for something I purchased but never received. I put forth so much effort in obtaining the final refund and I wasn’t taking no for an answer. These two events really spoke to me by showing me that it’s ok to not accept what the world is giving you. It’s alright to say, hey nah….no thank you. I deserve better than what you are offering me.

Growing up I was so shy and believed I was crazy because I could feel other people’s feelings and know their thoughts. I’m a middle child, a team player who’s comfortable having someone else be the leader. I’m a companion type of person who is great at supporting others but I now understand I was letting myself down at times by not pushing forward to reach my full potential in certain circumstances.

In combination with the timing of the universe, I believe my new career has greatly improved my self esteem and proven to me I can be a leader. Making the choice to share my writing has also given me a huge confidence boost and aided me in finding like minded people all over the world. Thank you to all of you who follow me, it means the world to me.

As a child I was unaware of my gifts. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere,just strange and on the outside looking in. A square peg in a round hole, a sore thumb and the black sheep. I can honestly say I don’t feel like that anymore. I believe in myself and I know my worth. I love where I am going and I believe this is my year. This is my time.

Consciousness, Mental health, Spirituality

A crack in the shell, an Empath’s journey to salvation

I can see a bit of light and it finally feels more than alright to break free. The weight of life’s worry, sadness, fear and judgement have cemented me into this shell. A suffocating feeling of being bombarded by ten foot tall waves of negativity slapping me upside my head. Gathering my strength I kick as hard as I can and am finally through! I stand up to see where I am and get my bearings. Time passes slowly so minutes feel like years. The pain I was feeling was growing unbearable and my only prayers were for mercy to be relieved from my torture.

Who is this enemy that locked me away? Well the answer is not quite so simple. My energy field had been corrupted by an emotional vampire. This particular parasite is someone who was supposed to love and protect me. Some children view their parents as heros. I will never know what that feels like.

Sound familiar anyone? If you have experience living with these types of people you can understand these thoughts and feelings all too well. The entire world slows to a crawl and my body gets heavy. Extreme fatigue and sleepiness latches on making it impossible to function properly. My thoughts are all hazy, confused and unfocused. Due to this, my emotions are wildly irrational and I can’t help from weeping. It’s like somebody turned all the lights out and I’m wandering around, stumbling to find my way. Everything seems too overwhelming and I have a case of the “I can’t(s)” and “I don’t care”.

Once I can see my way to reality, there is a stark contrast to that last statement. I care too much and I take the world upon my shoulders. My body physically hurts due to the anguish and sorrow. This is a burdensome feeling I have known since I was very young. An unexplained heaviness of heart. It wasn’t until my early twenties and after my first son was born that I was able to discern the root cause for these spells. Once I had left home for college and my own adult life it become very obvious exactly who was causing me to feel so out of body. While growing up, I never felt quite right. I was happy and everything was great and then I would enter my house and the darkness would creep in. As a teenager I started to feel like I was going crazy. Of course I never spoke about this to anyone, how would I have described it?

Finally, once already along on my journey to self discovery was I given the answers I so desperately desired. My therapist told me I am an intuitive and physical empath. That means I can feel others feelings and I can also feel the physical pain of others. When I get very close to someone I love, I know their thoughts before they speak them. Upon hearing this I immediately felt cursed not relieved. I started building a wall all around myself mentally. Digging my heels in and resisting everything I encountered.

Trying to live life against my nature which is open, friendly and positive was hurting me more than anything. I was living in a constant contradiction scrambling to keep others away from me. I was turning into someone I didn’t recognize and I became so miserable.

By God, my creator’s grace I woke up one day and made the decision to change my thinking . I went into full on study mode to teach myself how empaths protect themselves, maintainin our energy and use our gifts for healing. Incorporating boundaries has become essential to my daily mental health. I’m a big fan of using visualization techniques. I taught myself how to meditate and then I attended proper classes on different types of meditation. Sometimes I color mandalas for relaxation. I love my essential oils collection and how they can impactfully change my mood so quickly. I carry a small sack of crystals in my purse wherever I go. My nighttime routine before bed includes deep breathing and chanting. Yoga is my religion and when I miss doing my stretches my joints ache.

Here’s what I have learned so far about my empathic life. I have the ability to see colors and sights so vividly. My sense of hearing and smell is extra sensitive. I operate on a higher vibration than most. My soul is touched on an almost daily basis by those around me, especially by strangers. I fully embrace these as gifts today. I’m a good listener and strangers seek me out to tell me about their problems. A friend once told me I have an invisible flashing neon sign on my forehead that says I’M SAFE, YOU CAN TELL ME”. I have to agree and I feel humbly honored to serve.

Anxiety, Depression, Grief and loss, Mental health

Gathering hope, one more try

I have overcome many obstacles in my life that I thought at the time would break me. Ten years ago, while I was still married, I lost my house in the housing crash of 2008. Even today I still struggle putting that experience into words that accurately portray how that felt. In the three years following that catastrophic event I endured a few more deep losses, the horrible death of my beloved cat, having to give away my dogs followed by my divorce that ultimately broke my relationship with my boys. Shouldering the blame for it all, now I realize just how naive I was to the pain and sadness I was truly feeling. I had to make some tough decisions in order to survive. The financial ruin is still something I haven’t fully recovered from. In true C-PTSD fashion, it has taken me years to heal from grief. At the time I wasn’t hopeful God had opened a window in response to the many doors that had been slammed in my face.

Today however, it is these experiences that have reshaped me. I had to construct an overhaul of my thinking in order to get out of bed everyday. The heavy seriousness of such stark change was absolutely suffocating at times. I attempted to stuff and swallow it all by drinking to excess, over exercising and restricting my food intake. I have a terrible knack for kicking my own butt and punishing myself when things go wrong in my life. My resistance to accept what was going on around me proved completely futile. Something had to change and the only thing I had control over was myself and my responses to the lemons I was receiving. I learned how to make lemonade by redirecting my thoughts and gathering hope where I could find it.

Throughout all the heartache, my faith in humanity was tested. I have some wonderful lifelong friends that put their arms of support around me and guided me back into the light. I’m someone that prides myself on being there for others and I don’t ask for help often. During these years my priorities shifted when I made the decision to wave the white flag of surrender. Swallowing that pride was one of the hardest and most fruitful choices I made.

There are many misconceived notions about what it means to be strong versus weak. We all go through dark times and our ego’s will lie to us by telling us, “I have got this.” I was forced to realize that I most definitely didn’t “have it” and I needed help. My friends uplifted,  guided and at times carried me through a time I was sure would destroy me completely.

People tell me often how strong I am. Most days I am proud of where I have come from and what I have achieved. Understanding what is truly important, what I need instead of what I want. My route to these realizations was a hard lesson to learn.

In the United States, we live in an over consumption culture fueled by the myth of the more you have the happier you are. In reality, I have learned this is false. Bigger, better, faster, more of everything is a sure fire way to disappointment because the emptiness we try to fill with those things provides a false sense of security. The depressing reality of materialism causes one to feel secluded, lowers human interaction and socialization. We must work more and spend less time with family and friends in order to maintain what we think we “need”. I believe this driving cycle is a self fulfilling  prophecy. We gain real happiness from our connection with others which is not something that can be bought.

Today, I don’t have many possessions and I live more of a minimalist lifestyle. The things I have lost can never break me because I choose to invest in relationships with the ones I love. I now understand that if I hadn’t experienced loss, I wouldn’t have gained hope and faith. It is the people around me that continue to support me, proving to me that as long as I keep trying and never give up the sky’s the limit. My dreams can become reality and I definitely have more than one try left in me.

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#divorce, Mental health

Some words from the broken hearted

It’s really difficult for me to think about my two boys these days. As a result of my divorce from their father, my ex-husband, we have become estranged. For the last 18 months I have had no communication with either of my teenage sons. My oldest told me I was no longer welcome in his life. Those words felt like bullets going through my heart. My youngest remained connected to me through social media but never responded to my many attempts to message with him and has now blocked  me like his brother did. I don’t even know what they look like now. I have not visited with them since August of 2016. Every holiday and major event during the year, I  eat my heart out scrolling through social media at my friend’s pictures of their children. This post is my attempt at processing the  roller coaster of emotions I go through daily concerning my boys.

I got married at 22 years old and all I wanted to do was become a mother and create my own family, do it my way. My oldest son was my honeymoon baby and was born 10 months after my wedding. I had left my position working at a high end retail department store months before I gave birth. I happily chose to become a stay at home mother. I relished it, thrived at it and thoroughly enjoyed every second of being the one whom was in charge of caring for my children full time. I took parenting classes, attended workshops, read countless books and joined Mommy groups. I ran my household like a well oiled machine. I took different kinds of classes with both of my boys including swimming, music, arts, sports, dancing and gymnastics. I cooked all three meals a day for my family. In addition, I cared for our two dogs and two cats. At one point we added a turtle to that mix.

Looking back on those ten years of my life, one constant thought always plagues my memories. I didn’t appreciate my life at that time. I took for granted all that I had and was not 100% grateful. That is hard to admit to myself let alone write here but it’s the truth. I owned two beautiful homes during those years, went on great vacations and was there for my boys at all times. In 2010 all of that, my life as I knew it was altered dramatically. My mind began to break apart and everyday I would “lose it” a bit more than the day before.

My ex-husband and I were one of the 1.2 million households to lose our home in the housing market crash of 2008. We weathered that loss by moving back to my childhood home and in with my parents. As awesome as it was for me to live in my hometown and have my boys take advantage of all the privledges that I was afforded growing up, it became more and more difficult to be reminded of my own childhood’ s ugly memories. The summer of 2010 my little family moved back to the state we had resided most of my adult life. It was really bittersweet and in hindsight I should of spoken up about what was happening with me mentally.

The last shred of sanity I had was gone completely by late December 2010. I remember that Christmas sitting in my in-laws house and feeling so numb and disconnected from reality, like I was sitting behind glass watching my boys open their presents. In early January I told my ex-husband that I didn’t love him anymore, I felt “crazy” and not myself. I then proceeded to demand that he and my boys move out. My actions were cold and unfeeling, I refused to discuss anything. In reality, I wasn’t able to reason or make sense out of anything during that time. I remember staring out my window, tears streaming down my face, scared to death because I didn’t understand what was happening. It’s like another person took the wheel of my life and was in the driver’s seat; I became an unwilling passenger forced to be a spectator to my own life and not a participant. I now understand, dissociative episodes were emerging.

Over the months following my family’s departure I proceeded to try and fill the deep holes in my heart because of the damage my mind had caused by doing everything to disgusting excess.  My exercise routines, eating habits(starving myself) and drinking went into overdrive. I was working three jobs during that time and sleeping no more than 4 hours at night. It was complete hypomania behavior and I sustained it for months. I was desperately trying to do anything to distract my mind and stop my troubling feelings from bubbling up to the surface.

Then came the crash, my suicide attempt and subsequent hospitalzations. I was diagnosed with a slew of acronyms from the DSM-5 and put on an overlong list of medications to combat my ever changing symptoms. It wasn’t until four years later that my long term therapist and I were able to FINALLY get to a proper diagnosis of Complex PTSD. I believe living with my family from 2008-2010 triggered all the deep seeded traumas my mind hadn’t processed properly and became the catalyst for my complete mental breakdown. My boys being forced to witness my mother, their grandmother,  scream at me and physically fight their grandfather. I remember my oldest calling out in fear, “grandma stop yelling at my Mommy.” Having my boys become a part of my dysfunctional past was more than I could ultimately bear.

I have read many articles on how people with a history of childhood trauma left untreated, can result in bipolar like behaviors as an adult. Many of these people have also been misdiagnosed which results in delay of healing. Unfortunately, I had little support from loved ones during this time which exacerbated my condition. I did everything I could to see my boys every other weekend. I would push myself to muster the energy it took so I could function as “normally” as possible during our weekends together. In 2013, I made the drastic decision to enter a long term treatment facility many states away from where I was living and from my boys.

I completed that treatment and did everything in my power to stay in communication with my boys. I wrote many letters, we video chatted, and stayed in touch by our social media accounts. In 2016, I attempted to move back to the state they reside in with my ex-husband. It’s also unfortunately the state where so many traumatizing abuses happened to me. Those memories and flashbacks proved too great for me to overcome so I left there again for third time since 2008. It is the hardest decision I ever have had to make. I promised my boys I would try again to make their state my home. In the end, I have had to come to terms with my failure to make that happen. I feel so much guilt, shame, sadness and anger within myself for that decision. I have had to do a lot of soul searching and reckoning just to get out of bed everyday.

I know my boys must feel abandoned and they are justified in their anger. I have tried on numerous occasions to talk with them about their feelings, ask if they have questions for me etc. Unfortunately my ex-husband is not willing to participate in my healing, he is still bitter over our divorce and we haven’t spoken in almost 4 years. It’s most unfortunate for my boys who have to suffer because the adults in their lives can’t work together in their best interest. My ex has succeeded in erasing me from their lives for now. I have tried calling and texting the number I have for him, sending letters and emails…..ANYTHING to get him to talk to me. Last spring, I mustered up the courage to call my ex-mother in-law in an attempt to talk with my boys. I am glad that not only did she answer but I was able to thank her for loving and caring for my boys in my absence. She told me they are doing well and that she gives them my letters. I don’t know the actual address where my boys live so I mail my letters to my -ex in-laws house.

Coming to terms with this situation has taken an arduous effort on my part. The ones who I feel the worst for are the two boys who are growing up without their Mother. I hope someday they will forgive me and reach out to repair our broken relationship. Deep down I do have faith that will happen. I’m proud to say that throughout the separation, divorce and estrangement I have never spoken a bad word about their father to them.  I refuse to damage their image of him. I know what it’s like to have a parent’s disdain for the other parent ruin the minds of their children. My mother always spoke negatively about my father,  how he wouldn’t want me if they got divorced, how much he didn’t like me even comparing us when I did or said something she didn’t approve of. That forces a child to dislike themselves and look upon those comparisons of character in a shameful way. I refuse to engage in that kind of parent against parent warfare.

Every single day, I spend time thinking about both of my boys. I look at pictures, I cry and I forgive myself for missing out on their childhood. I use the helpful technique of compartmentalizing my thoughts to aid me in exploring those difficult emotions. I also write. This is a poem I hope to share with my boys someday.

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