Some things were easier when I was living outside of reality.

rear view of a boy sitting on grassland

So my son lost his job. He was fired the week before Thanksgiving. His dream job… Well, all right, perhaps it was not his dream job. Let’s just say it was my dream job. One that I would have loved to have had myself. My stomach is still in a knot as I write this post; a week after first hearing the hard news.

He seems ok with it. It seems he’s learned from the mistakes he made. The work wasn’t fulfilling him anymore. He would have quit soon anyway had he not gotten fired. Still. I felt like I’d been smacked in the gut by a bear.

After a day or two of pain, I found myself longing for the foggy dissociative haze that was once my brain. A numbed out holding place where nothing hurt deeply. Everything could be minimized (well, he was going to quit anyway!), spiritualized (God’s got this! Surely this was meant to be!), or blamed (those dirty pigs, firing someone right before the holidays!?!?), OR, (my unique speciality), DOING ALL THREE AT ONCE.

I no longer deny the reality of my abusive childhood, nor my present mental-health-struggles. Living in those truths is changing my brain. One might think that things would get easier when one is getting healthier mentally. It is a bit trickier than that for me. I denied reality (as an unhealthy coping tool), for so long that there are consequences. Bad news is harder to handle than it was prior. The pain is sharp. Foreign. It tempts me to return to the emotion-less-void that is still so familiar to me. On the flip side, exciting events can, literally, be overly stimulating. I also have to enter into those slowly and with caution.

All of which makes the holidays, err, interesting.

Very early in the morning on Thanksgiving day, I put a turkey in the oven with my heart heavy over my son’s situation. The feeling of loss had eased some, but not enough for me to host a gathering with a smile on my face. I knew I had to pull myself together before the turkey was done. The familiar ‘place’ in my mind was waiting for me to return. I entered into the numbness with relief, because, well, have you ever hosted a Thanksgiving dinner at your house?? It is a ton of work!

The scary part is I didn’t even notice, or feel, the burn on my arm that happened when I put the turkey in the oven. An hour or so later I saw the ugly red gash and only then did the wound begin to throb.

That’s when I realized that it is better to be in reality after all. Because to harm yourself, or to have another harm you, and not even feel it, is scarier to me, now, than anything else. Denial is not a place I want to be anymore.

I thought of Jesus weeping outside of Lazarus’s tomb. The shortest verse in all of Scripture: John 11:35. A mere two words: Jesus wept.

Dead Lazarus–whom Jesus knew would be raised from the dead in mere moments. Why the tears? Why not  focus on the miracle, which was literally about to happen, and which Jesus alone knew was about to happen. It seems strange–why He would cry. Everyone else, who had no idea Lazarus was about to come back to life — sure — it makes complete sense that they would cry and wail and mourn. But why was Jesus crying over something He was about to fix?

Perhaps it is because Jesus didn’t deny any truth. Not for a second. And in that moment, wherein Jesus wept, there was death and loss and hard changes and grieving people all around Him–and so He cried too. He felt the pain. The God-man who is full of Grace AND Truth… stayed in reality.

Scripture doesn’t record Jesus’ reaction when Lazarus emerged from that tomb moments later. But I suspect Jesus was shouting, laughing, dancing, hugging and crying happy tears along with everyone else. I have a hard time believing that He was just standing there, aloof and removed. I think He engaged fully in the celebration which likely ensued.

Living outside of reality works to escape the pain of life, in your mind at least. But the body knows when an injury has occurred, even when the mind is somewhere else. The body always knows. Books have been written about that (The Body Keeps the Score. When the Body Says No.). I’ve read them both in my recovery. They make some very good points; I dare say: chilling points about the importance of living in reality. Indeed, just like my Thanksgiving day oven-burn, it can’t be ignored forever. The body will get the mind’s attention eventually and then it will hurt. We think we can ignore it as a way to deal with it, but it won’t disappear like a salesman at the door. It waits and waits, even though you never invited it in, the pain doesn’t leave. The saddest thing is that a whole lot of restorations and resurrections might happen while you are ignoring the door.

It would be a tragedy to miss those while hiding from pain. And so, while part of me still wants to numb out, a bigger part of me wants to experience all of life. The pain and the joy. The sadness and the celebration. So I placed the good china on the table with a gash on my arm, tears in my throat, and a smile on my face. I felt it all that day. My emotions looked like the heaping bowls of sides, the platter of turkey, and the four kinds of dessert. Or was it five?

There was too much of everything.

But it was good.

pastry on cake stand

 

The Holidays Are Hard

selective focus photo of red turkey head

Every year it is the same. I dread the end of summer. Finally, I get used to fall. I even begin to enjoy it. I love ginger cookies and homemade stuffing and baggy sweaters and stretchy pants and boots. Stores and QVC and mail order catalogs burst with holiday deals. I like all that. At first. But just about the time I start thinking that the holidays might actually be fun this year, I am hit by this incredible, overwhelming sense of loss and sadness.

We Christians like to declare that Jesus is the reason for the (Christmas) season and that Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks to God…But no matter your religious persuasion: the holidays are all about Family. Family gathering. Family bickering. Family going to church together. Family traveling to see family. Family gift giving. Family. Family. Family.

It becomes nearly impossible to limit the thoughts of my family of origin. The questioning (maybe they weren’t that bad? Maybe they’ve changed? Maybe I should reach out again?) starts up again. The aching feelings of abandonment. The loneliness.

adult art conceptual dark

I believe I have something called trauma bonding. Especially with my mom and to a lesser degree with my dad. Going no contact with them was very, very difficult. It remains difficult. It was also something I knew in my gut that I absolutely had to do if I was going to crawl back from the very dark hole I ended up in after a lifetime of denying the extent of my childhood abuses.

I have made such good progress in climbing out of that hole. But I can still get very low and I don’t like it. So lately I have been researching how to break trauma bonds. According to this article, there are chemical reactions in our brain which can take place automatically due to our feelings of love for another. To quote the article:

Through the process of love, our brain will have many chemical reactions, which take place automatically. Therefore, when we are trying to move past this type of painful relationship, we can reduce the chances of the brain having those reactions (of bonding) by limiting the time around the person with pathological narcissism or psychopathy.

And so the holiday season brings near-constant reminders of family which reminds me of the painful reality of my family situation. As well as constant temptations to forego reality and go back into the fantasy land of pretending that my family of origin isn’t completely toxic.

My therapist tells me I can’t outright call my parents, siblings, and other close relatives ‘narcissists’; or I might get sued…but regardless of what actual pathology they may have, I know I had to go ‘no contact’ in order to save myself and to try and heal. That is the hard reality.

And so, when I see all the obvious signs of Thanksgiving, and Christmas…

dachshund dog wearing a red sweater

I wonder if there are just automatic chemical reactions in my brain which occur. I suspect that the holidays themselves, with the constant reinforcement of family ties, are a bit like having actual contact again with the toxic people I choose to avoid. Because I’ve been doing CBT for years now. I’m containing. I’m reframing. I’m counting my blessings and being thankful for what I do have.

And the holidays are still very, very hard for me.

If anyone else is struggling with loss and the holiday season fuels your feelings of loss, then I feel your pain. Prayers and much love to you. And if I may offer some advice (advice which I am saying to myself as much as to anyone else):

Stay in reality. Don’t slip back into the fantasy that just because there is a turkey and a tree you can have a ‘normal’ time around a table with toxic people. You can’t.

Magnesium, Fish oil, Vitamin B&D (MyAnxietyDiet#2)

bunch of white oval medication tablets and white medication capsules

The theory in nutritional therapy is that you need to remove offenders from your diet and/or add in the nutrients which you are missing.

Therefore I avoid and I add.

A few years ago I saw blue bottles of ‘Natural Calm’ (magnesium citrate) popping up at all my health food haunts. Magnesium deficiency can contribute to feelings of anxiousness and muscle pain and tension and constipation. If you are magnesium deficient you might also have strong cravings for chocolate. But there is not a medical test available to see if actually are magnesium deficient. I had many of the usual symptoms so I bought a bottle of Natural Calm.

It didn’t do much. A few times I think it actually made me more anxious. (welcome to the life of a highly sensitive individual). It also made me very bloated. Every. Single. Time. The label said to work up your tolerance to the point where it causes you loose stools and then back off a bit and maintain that level. All it did was bloat me. Loose stools never came.

Later on in my journey I learned that magnesium comes in different forms. Sensitive people like me don’t do the best with magnesium citrate as it is harder to digest. I bought a canister of powdered magnesium malate by the company Seeking Health and that gave me some relief to tense muscles. It did not cause any bloating or other negative digestion effects. The effect on my anxiety was marginal; mainly I was less anxious because my muscles weren’t as painful.

Some foods that are naturally high in magnesium include cacao powder (I switched to that instead of cocoa in baking, and also use it now and then in a smoothie), pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, almonds and cashews, lentils, beans, bananas, leafy greens, and avocados. I do not regularly use a magnesium supplement anymore but I do regularly eat many of the above foods.

Cod liver oil supplements can restore fatty acid balance as they are high in Omega 3 fats. The average American diet is high in Omega 6 fats, which cause inflammation. Soybean, cottonseed, corn oils, margarine and shortening (Crisco), and grain fed meats are the usual offenders. Cheap oils, like soy or cottonseed, are also found in many processed foods: cookies, cereals, salad dressings, mayonnaise, the cheaper the food the more likely it is to have a high omega 6 content. I switched to natural mayonnaise, palm oil shortening, and searched (and am still searching!) for healthier salad dressings; or I make homemade dressing with good olive oil.

It was fish oil supplements which helped our son heal from the rash he’d developed from gluten, as avoiding gluten wasn’t enough. We used straight up cod liver oil, lemon flavored, (but disgusting nonetheless). The exact kind we used so effectively at first has now morphed into something else with krill and shrimp etc. instead of actual cod livers… We used the brand: Nordic Naturals. It had a very high content of Omega 3’s in it (I read all the labels on what was available and chose one which was the purist and also had a solid level of Omega 3’s.). The omega 3 level in fish oil ‘pills’ that I could find at the time were so negligible I knew we’d be better off choking down a daily teaspoon of oil. I still occasionally take a teaspoon of it. But mostly, I just try to eat more fatty ocean fish and am mindful of the oils I use in cooking.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is common in people who are gluten intolerant. It is also well known to cause neurological, heart/circulation, and mental health issues. For a long while I took sublingual B12 tablets to manage tingling in my hands as well as feelings of nervousness, which sometimes included a racing heart. It helped. You just need to look for B12 which comes in the form of Methyl Cobalamin. When my PTSD hit, though, it no longer helped. In fact, there were times that taking a tablet seemed to make it worse.

Same with Vitamin D, people who are gluten intolerant are likely to be deficient in Vitamin D. Thankfully this is one deficiency which is very easy to test for at a Doctor’s office. (It does include a blood draw though-not fun). I have mine tested yearly now and have cleared up a deficiency by using a 2,000IU D3 supplement by Garden of Life brand. I do not take it year round. In the winter if I am unable to be outside at all, I take one pill a day, when I remember (which isn’t every day).

I know a lot of people who take double that amount. For me, I do best with conservative approaches to most everything. As far as Vitamin D regulation: after the PTSD flared I started to intentionally sit in the sun for at least twenty minutes a day, just to heal. It was one thing which helped me more than any other thing–just getting outdoors. Birdwatching. Reading books. Actually smelling the roses instead of frantically trimming them to perfection. In the winter we leave our porch furniture put. Even if I have to scrape snow off the chairs and don a coat, hat AND blanket I try to sit there and get sunshine whenever possible.

nature animals pig alp rona

There are many foods high in Vitamin D: free-range eggs, fatty ocean fish, fortified cereals and milks, mushrooms, and I once read that free-range pork rinds have the highest levels of Vitamin D of any food available–more than ocean fish even. The pigs need to have spent a lot of time outdoors under the sun though, wherein is the rub.

Sadly, I haven’t been able to find any pork rinds that are labeled as ‘free range’. A shame, really.

Like pigs, I don’t do well with confinement indoors. Diet isn’t enough–I also need to be outside; and I need to live in the light!!

Gluten Makes Me Angry (MyAnxietyDiet#1)

wheat bread slices

Gluten makes me angry and irritable, tired but wired, achy, moody (up one minute and down the next) and prone to headaches and stomachaches. When consuming gluten I alternate between constipation and diarrhea, have painful and irregular menstruation, and feel a lack of appetite after eating bread or pizza, followed with an insatiable need to eat and eat without feeling full.

Eating gluten also affects my temperature tolerance. I was always cold yet I could not tolerate much heat and humidity. My spouse and children are the same but one son also gets skin rashes.

As a family we gained back our summers, doing more outdoor activities. Walking around county and state fairs without someone falling to the side with a bad headache and discomfort. Boating and swimming on hot days without the usual flares of anger at one another. We could do yard work without complaint. Now when someone tells me they can’t tolerate heat and humidity, I have to wonder if they are intolerant to gluten.

Some people can go gluten free for a while and then be fine eating it again. I have realized that’s not me, though. When I lapse, the above symptoms come back.

It is beneficial to me but it wasn’t and isn’t easy. Going gluten free in the beginning was very hard and there were negligible changes. Real improvements came after about a year of avoidance. This was a decade ago, before stores had gluten free labels all over the place. Every label had to be read (which doubled my time grocery shopping). Gluten free bread cost seven dollars a loaf and tasted like compressed paper. Now you can find it for five bucks a loaf (still insane, I know) but (so long as it is toasted) the quality is much improved.

We mostly avoided gluten free products in the beginning due to cost, our disgust with the taste, and unavailability. We ate food which was naturally gluten free. Rice, rice and beans, potatoes, meat and vegetables. I tried lentils and chickpeas, sorghum and millet, for the first time. We grew a bigger garden and built a root cellar to store homegrown potatoes.

We wasted less food. Leftovers from meals were often fought over, or labeled with names, in the fridge. I remember the days of throwing out leftovers or the heels of cheap wheat bread without a second thought. When a small loaf of bread is five bucks you end up saving every crumb and heel in the freezer and using it for stuffing or breading! I spent far more time in the kitchen than I had prior. I love cooking and being in the kitchen so that was good. Rearranging my busy mom/business owner life so that I could spend more time there was complicated. Looking back, though, I’m glad to have spent more time at home and less at the office; when my children were still growing.

It took a long time to figure out that things like licorice, certain kinds of beef jerky, soy sauce, and the fries at McDonalds are not gluten free (whoops).

I am convinced my body pain would have led me to therapy a few years sooner than it did, had I not gone gluten free when I did. (Though, maybe entering therapy sooner would have been a good thing!?). For several years my digestion was ‘regular’ and easy and my body pain nearly disappeared.

But, the mind still has a huge role in our physical health and well being; and vice versa. In the end, my buried trauma did not disappear with the gluten…my digestion acted up again, hence over the years I kept tweaking my diet further. Body pain kept surfacing in my upper back and neck, so I sought out physical therapy and then eventually cognitive behavioral therapy and talk therapy.

When I began CBT we looked at my diet and my therapist told me that being gluten free would give me a leg up in the recovery process. Research shows a strong link between gluten intolerance, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

You may be skeptically wondering: why have people been eating wheat for thousands of years and now nearly everyone claims to be intolerant to it?

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

I wondered the same. And I still don’t know. In all the reading I’ve done, though, the simplest theory I found is that in the 1930’s and 40’s strains of wheat, mostly untouched from Bible times, was hybridized for higher yields. Thereby the natural gluten content of wheat was increased (Norman Borlaug won a Nobel Peace Prize for this work, because he ended famine around the world). A dietary staple that once yielded ten bushels an acre was now capable of yielding forty to fifty. This was, overall, a good thing. It ended famines around the world!

Most advancements (cell phones and computers, for instance), are the same. While they bring a host of good to the world, there are always, always, many downsides too.

Either way, I just want to clarify that I don’t ‘hate’ gluten. I think it’s a lovely thing! I miss it dearly!

However, gluten seems to hate me.

Gluten makes bread chewy and that’s what I miss the most. So on days when I just want some chewy bread, I make my own yeast-free flatbread, and it only takes about twenty minutes (with cooking time)! You may need to wait longer than that just for the oven to heat up…Chewy bread is really hard to find in a processed gluten free product, so I cheat the process and add some psyllium husk (psyllium husk is the main ingredient in Metamucil), you should be able to find it at a health food store. Otherwise, here is the brand I like.

This is also the bread recipe we use when we want to have a home-based communion, or for our family Passover meals in the spring. So when you score it with a knife and fork, if you are so inclined, you can make the sign of the cross on the round, and the fork marks are reminders of Jesus stripes and wounds bringing us healing and salvation.

On days when I am feeling particularly repentant and/or thankful, making this flat bread, and going through the process of scoring it with a knife and watching it bake up in that hot oven is also very healing for my spirit.

Easy Gluten Free Flat Bread

Preheat oven to 450 degrees (or 475 if your oven tends to run on the colder side). Prepare a baking sheet or a pizza pan with a piece of parchment paper. It is best if the baking sheet or pizza pan has ‘holes’ in it, but it should work with any pan. Just be sure to use a sheet of parchment paper.

In a small mixing bowl put the following in the exact order shown

  • 1 T psyllium husk mixed with 3 T very warm water until it forms a thick gel
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t apple cider vinegar
  • 1 t oil (sesame or canola oil is best)
  • 1 t honey
  • 1 Cup GF flour of choice (Namaste GF flour is the ‘stickiest’ brand I’ve found so if you are looking for a chewier bread you can try that brand. Otherwise you can use 1/2 cup brown rice flour, 1/4 cup tapioca starch and 1/4 cup potato starch)

Mix all the above with a fork until it is well mixed and forms a ball in the bowl. Spread, with moistened fingers, in a circle onto the parchment covered cookie sheet or pizza pan until it is about a half inch thick and fairly uniform. If the dough is sticky, keep wetting your fingers with fresh water and press it into a circle. Score the circle with a knife, up and down and left to right. Prick all over with a fork (optional).

Bake for five-seven minutes in 450 degree oven and then flip over to the other side and continue baking for another five-seven minutes.

This is best eaten fresh and still warm. But it will keep for about a day on the counter.

 

 

 

 

 

My Anxiety Diet–the foods (and fads) which helped. (Introductory Post)

food on tableA niggling voice is urging me to share some of the dietary changes that helped me deal with anxiety, stress, and various physical ailments. I don’t enjoy technical writing,  so I have resisted doing it. To lessen the discomfort–I am hoping to break it down into a series of shorter posts over the next few days/weeks.

I have been diagnosed with anxiety disorder (and later diagnosed with PTSD). Even prior to that diagnoses, I had health ailments and a ‘nervous disposition.’ Therefore I tried a LOT of diets and supplements to try to mitigate the effects. There were specific times I believe I was led, by God, to make changes in our cupboards. Other changes were made for our entire household and for the benefit of my spouse and children. (My BHH’s family has celiac disease in its genes and we have all been gluten-free for about a decade).

As part of the cognitive behavioral therapy method that I chose: eliminating sugar, caffeine, and alcohol was a requirement in the beginning phase of recovery (cigarettes and recreational drugs were also included–but I was not using those). I must confess that even at my sickest I did not entirely eliminate sugar, and I used natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup. I didn’t always share those ‘slips’ with my therapist who asked probing questions about my food intake each week. I had known, from prior dietary experience, that my body did well (and didn’t ‘spike’) when using natural sweeteners in exchange for sugar; particularly when using real maple syrup–that was one sweetener that just ‘agreed’ with me and my system.

I did, however, eliminate caffeine and alcohol entirely for a while. They are now relegated to special occasions. A ‘healing’ vacation to the Carribean is not the same without indulging in the best coffee ever! Saturday mornings on the back porch also deserve a ‘real’ cup of coffee. My son’s college graduation and entry into the real world of job/career was christened with a bottle of bubbly on ice. So, even at that I made/make exceptions.

And I still eat junk food. I can tell you where all the gluten-free french fries and taco trucks can be found; in three towns around my own. I can also rate them for crispiness and quality…Clearly I’m not a purist about diet. I’m more of a ‘foodie’ at heart. But I do believe dietary changes have improved the quality of my life and helped me heal. I do not, however, believe that what worked for me will carte-blanche work for everyone. I think it is about listening to your own body, and praying, and trusting where God might be leading you.

In my ongoing recovery from anxiety disorder and PTSD, I worked with a nutritionist specializing in PTSD and anxiety recovery. Furthermore, I have been guided by various healthcare professionals who have stressed dietary changes along with lifestyle changes.

I have found, in sharing with others, that it is unusual to find modern healthcare professionals who address dietary changes with their patients. Niche naturalists, healers, chiropractors and yogis (et al) will stress dietary changes. But I haven’t actually been to any of those. Much of my dietary-change-advice was coming from men and women in white coats! Strange because M.D.’s don’t always get along the best with the gurus in the strip malls selling diets and herbs and supplements. As a friend recently shared, her doctor rolled her eyes when she mentioned a supplement she was taking– after seeing it on Dr. Oz.

Yet the medical professionals who helped me in my efforts to improve my quality of (an anxious) life have suggested dietary changes time and again. One woman literally dropped her mouth when I shared that after a colonoscopy/endoscopy, the surgeon who did the procedure sat me down and told me I don’t have celiac or IBS or any issues with reflux in my esophagus but my stomach looks redder than it ought and he thinks I ought to try the FODMAP diet and see if that calms down my digestion…the astonished woman had simply never heard of a negative colonoscopy/endoscopy ending with obscure dietary advice...let alone advice coming from the specialist doing the colonoscopy. Meanwhile, I had grown used to hearing such off-the-wall things at doctor visits. And I began to research FODMAPS while chalking it all up to another ‘God’ thing.

Therefore I think I am (somewhat) qualified to write ‘technically’ about this subject, based on all of my real world experiences. However, I’m not entirely convinced I actually want to write about it (again, because I dislike tehcnical writing!).

But, here I am now, writing about it

I will try to keep it as pain-free as possible.

 

Update on The Melt Method

adult alternative medicine care comfortI met, briefly, with a local Melt instructor. She told me the very basics of the method and showed me how to do the main techniques on my hand. As I wrote about prior, I was hopeful it would work for me since it is a hands-off massage method.  (I experience great relief when my BHH rubs out the tension in my upper back, but I don’t do well with massages from others.)

I told the local Melt instructor the basics of my story (PTSD) and history of physical pain and past attempts to correct my posture. She was intrigued to learn that the Melt Method uses similar language as I’d been learning in cognitive behavioral therapy–particularly regarding the rewiring of neural networks in the brain. I was intrigued to hear that the Melt Method recognizes that incorrect posture is often emotions based.

I purchased $170 of materials. The materials included a book, “The Melt Method” by Sue Hitzmann, four instructional DVD’s, a blue foam roller (much softer than the spine stretching roller a physical therapist once forced me to purchase during physical therapy torture) and a bag of small blue balls of varying degrees of firmness. While it was a lot to invest initially, I reminded myself that one physical therapy visit, complete with painful massage, was costing my health insurance at least $170 a visit.

I am reading through the book. I have watched about half of the DVD’s. I have begun by doing the basic ‘beginner’ exercises, on my hands and feet, as well as a ’50 second facial’ exercise, (which I find very relaxing) all of which takes about ten minutes a day. These basic exercises use the larger and softer balls from the ‘bag of balls’. (shown in photo)IMG_3067

A main theory behind MELT is to rehydrate the fascia, connective tissue which is everywhere and which is believed to be crucial to sending feedback from the muscles and skeletal system back to the brain. Fascia helps your body ‘talk’ to its other parts. The theory is that fascia tension and dehydration in the hands and feet can affect your entire body, hips to neck.

There are several components to using the balls on your hands and feet. Gliding (which preps the fascia), sheering (which rehydrates the fascia) compression and rinsing (which spreads the rehydrating effects around), and then drinking lots of water after a sequence. These techniques will then be learned and applied to other areas of the body once you work past the beginning phases.

Doing the foot and hand sequences was all going well and fine for me. I had some localized pain in my hands a few times and so I eased back on the amount of pressure when I did a glide and shear technique.  Overall, though, doing the simple hand exercises already seemed to be making a real difference in decreasing my arm and hand pain and increasing flexibility.

But that foam roller that stretches out your spine… Yikes. It was softer than the physical therapy spine stretcher I still have (and ought to toss!). But it was still quite distressing for me to lie down on that thing. It also made me feel quite funny in my neck. Memories of my months of near-immobility, from strained neck muscles and PTSD rearing up all at once, returned every time I tried to lie down on that blue torture device.

I was scared.

I had a few traumatic flashbacks of my time in physical therapy–during which I forced myself to go through manual massages with a therapist I couldn’t stand and slowly progressed deeper and deeper into physical immobility and pain rather than being released from physical tension–as my therapist had outright promised me would happen if we just kept massaging out all my tight spots.

Ugh. It was a hard time for me.

I didn’t realize I had PTSD at the time, neither did my doctor who had prescribed physical therapy. Eventually I found a physical therapist, and a therapist-therapist, both of whom understood the emotional component of my physical pain. It has lessened. But the physical pain has not fully resolved, despite several years of treatments.

The Melt Method uses a lot of similar techniques to physical therapy–including that spine roller which made my hands sweat just looking at it… Therefore I knew that before I could go any further with trying this new method, I was going to need to face up to some more fears.

I prayed and asked God to show me what else might be going on physically and emotionally and spiritually. And I saw myself like Lazarus. He’d come out of the grave alive but he was still wrapped up in burial cloths. Removing the burial binding was work either he, or others close to him, had to do. Just like a burial shroud, parts of me are still tightly ‘wound’ up, something is still trapping me around my core–my spine. But what?

Further prayer and therapy session ensued.

I believe the thing tying me up is hyper vigilance. A state of being that I have adapted and ‘known’ for my  entire life. Beginning as a baby when I was born into an abusive home–being on guard was just how I have always been. Not being on guard, being relaxed, still makes me nervous.

I worked through a lot of those feelings in my next therapy session with my Christian therapist, who totally understood the hyper vigilant state I had chosen and why I was choosing it. Basically, I am in the process of reframing my need to remain vigilant with a trust that Jesus and angels are guarding me in the midst of the dangers and therefore I can relax and start to unwind those grave cloths which still have me bound in so many ways.

But I couldn’t, and can’t, shake the feeling that while the spiritual and emotional element is huge; something physically has gotten out of whack with my body. Therefore it needs to be something physical which rights it again.

Hence, I prayed and got out that blue melt roller a second time… I propped my head up on a small travel pillow, even though I could find nothing in the book or video saying you could do that..it just mentioned propping your arms up on pillows, not your head… but the pillow made it far more bearable. For a few days I didn’t even try to do the rebalancing sequence (which is part of the ‘beginner’s protocol). Rather, I just acclimated myself to lying on the spine stretching roller using the travel pillow to prevent any neck strain. Even with the pillow for support, I could only lie on it for about a minute before my neck began to warn me it was too much. I also worked through some inner fears while lying there, turning them over to God in prayer.

I stopped and tried it again the next day. Each day increasing my time a bit.

The other day I was finally able to work through the ‘rebalance’ exercise while lying over the blue roller, head propped on a travel pillow. But I didn’t assess, and then re-asses afterward, as the DVD and book states you must do.

While I was excited that I could do the sequence without my neck warning me to stop; I didn’t feel any real improvement. I kept reading the book, regardless…and voila, I finally read far enough in the book to see the emphasis the inventor of the method places on both initial body assessments, and then reassessing your body AFTER doing any of the sequences. When people fail to do the assessments, they rarely improve.

woman in blue dress lying down on the street

That’s when it all kind of just clicked for me. I needed to allow my body the time and space in which to talk back to my brain, and make those internal connections, as well. I followed the assessment instruction (lying on your back and assessing all the areas which are out of alignment)–then did the rebalancing sequence on the foam roller (propping my neck with a small pillow)–and then re-assessed my body once again (lying on your back on the floor and noticing all the areas which went back into alignment).

Taking the extra time to ‘assess’ before and after a sequence can seem like a waste of time (hence I was skipping that part), until it ‘clicks’ in your own head and you get what your body needs…in fact, I had a hard time even finding an ‘excercise-ish’ photo of someone lying in a relaxed, listening, pose on their back–hence the strange photo above of someone lying in a road!

But I believe it is those crucial moments of lying down and listening and tuning into your body that are encouraging your brain to start communicating again with the autonomic nervous system. I have the feeling that this simple technique is a huge discovery, training your body and brain to talk to each other again– especially for anyone recovering from massive stress, trauma, anxiety, etc. (like me).

For me, my autonomic nervous system is clearly still out of whack and not communicating well with my brain. I am wondering if that miscommunication between mind and body is playing a role in lingering body pain. Years of my central nervous system ‘living’ in fight, flight, or freeze states has probably contributed to that miscommunication.

If you took the time to read this far, I figured you might appreciate an update. So one final note: I am still in the beginning phases of trying this method. Time will tell if it is going to be effective in treating the lingering physical effects of PTSD and anxiety disorder.

For now I remain cautiously optimistic that these hands-off massage and assessment sequences; in addition to therapy, prayer, and support from others– can help me unwind from the lingering tension.