healing

Weekend Update

Spend the afternoon.  You can’t take it with you. 

~Annie Dillard

Okay, so I have been slacking on the blogging lately.  Life has been so busy!  All good things, thankfully.  I have not managed any long runs since my last post, mostly due to lack of time issues.  However, I did get in some workouts at the gym.  I have spent an hour on the elliptical with the resistance maxed (and my hydration pack on to add some weight) on two separate occasions- the most recent being today.  When I first started running I couldn’t make it through a full hour without feeling like I would pass out or throw up- even without the resistance maxed.  Now I am plowing through that hour- even with extra weight!  Workouts like that help me realize just how much progress I’ve made. 🙂

I have also been spending a lot more time stretching now that I got my foam roller in the mail.  The first time I used it I had flashbacks of physical therapy as a teenager.  The therapist would press on my IT band insertion point, and I would literally jump off the table.  This was the same pain.  The experience can be summarized in one word “OUCH!”  By the time I finished, it was much less tender, but I felt like I had deep bruises in my thighs for a whole day afterwards.  I am hoping this helps with the long runs!  I am also pleased to announce that I did not have any increased IT band issues after my 13 ish mile run, even without the benefit of the foam roller- something I am taking as an extremely positive sign.

Today I will be going out on the boat with Adam and some friends.  We’ve been trying to cram in as much time as possible out on the water before the weather gets to cold (part of the reason I have not had as much time to run).  It’s nice to get a change of scenery and actually be social (for a change!).  Although I have to admit it gets tiring at times to spend so much time around other people- being an introvert and all.  It is so worth the exhaustion at the end of the day though!  So far we have taken out my little sister- who loved every second of it, and a few of my friends from high school.  It was so great to see everyone have a good time, and especially to spend time with some special people I don’t get to see very often. 🙂

That’s all for now!  Boot Camp starts tomorrow.  I will keep you all posted on how it goes.  In the meantime, I will be thriving.  I hope you all do the same and have a happy and healthy holiday weekend!!!!

Me and my BFF

When trails become streams…

I may not be there yet, but I’m closer than I was yesterday.” 

~Author Unknown

I’m BACK!!!! It’s official!  Just shy of 13 miles today and only minimal IT band pain.  Wohoo!  lol  I’m so happy to FINALLY have gotten some mileage in.  Initially, Adam and I headed to Hopbrook (my favorite place to run), but it is completely under water.  We decided to do the Bridle Trail instead, which was slightly less damp.  The trail had turned into a fresh water stream in many places, which was actually pretty fun to run in.  Meanwhile, the small brook that typically runs along the gravel path had turned into class 5 rapids (See picture below).  We actually thought we heard traffic coming when we were crossing, but it turned out to be the water.  It was pretty impressive.

when brooks become rapids...

 

 

The first 6-7 miles were pretty easy, but my legs got pretty tired on the way back.  I was getting tangled in a lot of the debris from the storm, and Adam was light-years ahead of me.  He kept stopping or walking to give me time to catch up, and I felt kind of bad that I was running so slow.  I know there is a faster runner inside and I am determined to release her at some point!  I kept reminding myself that no matter how slow I was running, I was moving forward and still smiling- the 2 most important things.  Overall, the run went pretty well.  I was glad to have Adam there to show me a few new side trails and keep me from over-doing it.  Plus, he makes good company; and the view running behind him is not too bad either. lol  He even took pictures for me to adorn my blog.  He is so supportive!

Initially, when I was reading about many of the other bloggers who had run their first marathon, I noticed that a lot of them had a fair number of people cheering them on.  Many of them had photos holding flowers while posing with their finisher medals.  It made me want flowers when I finish!  Then I realized that I have something even better- a boyfriend who is willing to suffer through the 26.2 mile stretch with me to help motivate me and keep me going.  How lucky am I ?!   I am sure there are other things he would have rather been doing today than running through 13 miles of mud and debris, but he knew I would appreciate it.

In related news, I am looking into joining the boot camp program at my gym.  It looks like a lot of cross fit type training, and I’m hoping it will help me take my conditioning to the next level.  I also got an email today that my foam roller and cliff bloks shipped.  I am pretty excited! 🙂

running through the stream

 

 

 

made it!!!

Revelations

“Happiness is a form of courage.”

~Holbrook Jackson

"The Happy Person Inside"

As a survivor of abuse thriver, I have often tried to get in touch with “the happy person inside” me who was untouched by trauma.  It started with the My Avenging Angel Workshops when we had various exercises to draw this happy person out.  We did writing prompts and compiled letters to ourselves in the frame of that happier, unscarred person.  At the time, it felt so strange to write to myself in such a loving and accepting manner.  It was hard to love myself.  It was hard to stand myself.  I knew I was capable of being happier, more centered, and generally, more functional- I just didn’t know how to get there.

When I pictured my happy inner self, I would envision the photo above.  I was so fearless as a child.  I was vibrant.  My mother always told me she needed to hold me back growing up because I was ready to take on the world.  I lost that girl somewhere…

What I found instead was PTSD: anxiety, nightmares, hyper-vigilance, low self-esteem, and above all a NEGATIVE OUTLOOK on life.  I hated feeling so negative, but it followed me everywhere.    It stalked me.  It was on my back.  It kept me up at night.  Every time I thought I eluded it, I’d find it creeping up somewhere.  I couldn’t escape it.  I didn’t know how to stop it.  It was a terrible feedback loop.  The more negative I felt, the more I hated myself for it, which only made me feel more negative about the whole situation.  I was stuck in a cycle of beating myself up- overly concerned with how other people were perceiving and judging me.  I was withdrawn.  I didn’t want to spread my negativity, so I shut people out.  I was trapped.

In retrospect, I think my negativity served a purpose.  It was my armor.  It kept people at arm’s length where they couldn’t hurt me.  Being betrayed by people in my life who I had loved deeply and trusted had completely reframed my perception of the world.  If they could hurt me, imagine what other people might do.  I couldn’t handle any more hurt.  I couldn’t handle anything, period.  However, it way over-lasted it’s usefulness.  It kept me from myself.  I was surviving- just going through the motions of existing, exhausted at the thought of another day.

Today I realized a remarkable thing.  I am no longer working toward getting in touch with the happy person inside. I AM that happy person. What a REVELATION to finally have arrived at the point I’ve been struggling to ge to for so long, and it took me until today to finally realize it.  I don’t know how or when it happened, but I am here.  I have made it through the muck and finally emerged on the other side as a smarter, stronger, and more self aware person. I have taken control of my life back.  I feel so light, so refreshed, so OPTIMISTIC.  I have so many great things going for me — volunteering with CT-ALIVE, the Archangels, my blog (thank you everyone for the kind words and positive feedback), my running, fundraising… I could go on and on.

I have no room for negativity in my life anymore.  It’s not in my nature.  I only have space for positive thoughts, so the negativity and I are breaking up for good.  I am ending our two year relationship and not looking back.  I’m not entertaining anymore negative thoughts.  I’m not letting it crawl into bed with me anymore when I’m feeling tired and vulnerable.  I’m not giving in to the temptation to blame my trouble on others.

The one person in life I have power to change is myself, and that is exactly what I am doing.  I am reevaluating and renewing the relationships in my life with a more positive outlook.  As a final act of closure, I left cards for my coworkers to thank them for all their support on my journey and to apologize for being distant and not myself for so long.  I wanted to make a commitment to them and myself to work on more positive relationships with them- the kind that involve actually opening up and showing myself.  Plus, I really wanted to acknowledge all the support I had received from each of them.  I feel like now that it is all in writing- it’s official.  I have let go of any negativity still lingering in the past and stepped forward into a brighter future.  Who knows where this road will take me, but one thing is for sure- there are good things in store!

I spent so long not knowing what to do with all that negativity.  I couldn’t find a way to stuff it down or shove it out of my life.  Today I finally found the solution- I faced it head on and threw it out the window. 🙂

Once again, thank you for reading!  Comments and feedback are always welcome and appreciated.  Questions can be directed to runningthriver@gmail.com.

Reflections

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family:

Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”

-Jane Howard

(Quote on my Archangels workshop folder)

“Day 3 of the Thriver Retreat and I am drained.  I had nightmares overnight and didn’t get much sleep.  I am still missing my natural rhythm of running in the morning and have had difficulty shaking off lingering negativity.  I should have run this morning , but it’s too late to beat myself up over it.  I do anyway.  I feel guilty for not being more upbeat.  I don’t want to drag down the rest of the group.  I need to stop doing this.  I need to allow myself to feel off at times. ”

Above is my journal entry from this morning.

I spent this weekend at an Archangel Thriver Retreat at the Guest House in lovely Chester, CT.  It was both an energizing and exhausting experience.  That is part of the reason my blog posts have been delayed and are now coming in a flood.

Naturally being an introvert, I find spending time in groups extremely tiring.   I can’t even handle long periods with my own family without getting worn out.  I need alone time to recharge.  Don’t get me wrong.  I truly enjoy other people’s company.  I want to feel connected like every other person, but this was a little too much of a good thing.  By the end of Day 2 I was over-extended and overwhelmed.

The lack of sleep that night only added to my fatigue.  By the morning of Day 3 I felt like I had nothing left to give.  I was drained.  Breakfast was a bit a of a solemn affair.  I could see the exhaustion I was feeling written on the faces of some of the other women.   This made me feel a little better, a reminder that sometimes being off is normal and not a lingering remnant of abuse.  We looked like we had been to battle- in many ways we had.   The retreat had pushed each of us outside our comfort zone and forced us to confront our inner critics.  Survivors of abuse have particularly loud inner critics (many times taking on the voices and comments of the past abusers).  It’s a constant struggle to keep them quiet.  It was clear the fight had worn on many of us.

The morning began by “opening the circle”, a chance for the group to meditate, offer prayer, share energy, and our thoughts of what we were grateful for.  There were many apologies mixed in.  Apparently many more people were experiencing low energy than I had realized.  I was clearly not alone.  Even Susan was not herself.  Sharing this knowledge helped us try to shake off the negativity and embrace the day.  Our theme of the retreat was “Fireworks”, inspired by Katie Perry’s hit song.  It was the first time I had actually read the lyrics.  They seemed so appropriate.

We let our colors burst by writing letters to ourselves from 6 months in the future.  We were supposed to envision all we’d have accomplished by then.  It was so wonderful to hear everyone’s positive vision of the next 6 months!  I was the last to read mine to the group.  I started strong but started to tear up (as usual).  I congratulated myself on finishing my first half and full marathon despite doubting that I could do it, for fundraising for charity, for having a successful blog that was reaching and inspiring other women and spreading the word about domestic abuse, for using my desire to help and heal others to overcome insecurities and my inner critic, for accepting myself and others, for no longer keeping people at arms length, for letting go of the lingering notion that I “make everyone around [me] miserable” (something that still haunts me from my abuse), and for finding volunteer work that was meaningful to me.   It was a tall order, but I’ve always been one to aim high.

I also gave myself the task of organizing a road race as a fundraiser for CT-ALIVE.  It will be my first attempt at organizing any event, period.  I don’t know anything about how to host a road race, but I will very shortly!  It gave me a pit in my stomach on the ride home, and then I reminded myself that 1) I won’t be doing it alone, 2) even if I fail or it doesn’t work these women will support me and encourage me to keep trying, and 3) it will be COMPLETELY AMAZING if we actually pull it off!  After all, my goal is to help other victims and speak out, and this will be a terrific opportunity to not only spread the word about domestic abuse, but also about THRIVING.

As worn and exhausted as I returned home today, I was equally inspired!  I LOVE these women.  I have never experienced such unconditional support and understanding from a group, many of whom are practically strangers.  It is such a profoundly incredible  feeling to belong to such an empowered and optimistic network of women.

Here is another terrific music video that one of the beautiful ladies at the retreat shared: “I Love Me Better Than That” by Shirley Murdock

First day on new legs…

Man imposes his own limitations, don’t set any”

-Anthony Bailey

I have finally begun my (not so triumphant) return to trail running!

I may have been pushing it, but the combination of rest due to nagging IT band syndrome and my subsequent viral invasion had left me home bound and stir crazy. At the first sign of being able to stand upright and marginally breathe through my nose I was out the door.  I needed to run. 

I brought Penny along to ensure I took it easy and give her some much needed exercise and attention.  We did an easy couple miles with a few good hills.  Penny disappeared frequently into the nearby streams before finally rolling in a particularly large, muddy puddle.  She instantly turned from yellow lab to chocolate.   She was delighted with herself.  I couldn’t help but laugh.  It’s a good thing I’ve gotten past keeping my car meticulously clean! 

The trails were particularly wet and buggy from all the rain earlier in the week.  There was evidence of recent flooding with fine silt covering the leaves of the low lying shrubs.  The pavement and large concrete blocks had been upheaved and oddly twisted out of place.  There were branches and leaves scattered that had fallen prematurely, likely from some violent wind storm.  The whole scene had changed dramatically from my previous run there just a few weeks earlier, a reminder that nature is always changing and evolving.  The bugs, however, were the same- a reliable drawback of trail running.  They swarm so closely that I have frequently inhaled and swallowed them accidentally.  I wonder if it is still bad karma to kill bugs even if it isn’t on purpose… 

Overall, my trail performance was not stellar.  However, I made it out and I enjoyed it.  More importantly, I didn’t aggravate my IT bands- a promising sign.  🙂 

 

Running for the Color Purple

“Being good is commendable, but only when it is combined with doing good is it useful.”

– Unknown

Hello Everyone!

I am officially launching my Running for the Color Purple Campaign.  I will be running in the upcoming Half Diva Marathon in Long Island Oct. 2, followed by the Hartford Marathon Oct. 15 in an effort to raise money for CT-ALIVE (CT Alliance of Victims of Violence and their Families).  October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so the timing could not be better for both raising funds and awareness.

Some startling statistics:

  • One in four women in this country has or will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime.
  • Approximately 1.3 million women are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the US
  • Approximately one in five female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.
  • On average, more than three women are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day.
  • Only one third of injured female rape and physical assault victims recieve medical treatment
  • Women of all races are about equally vulnerable to violence by an intimate partner.
  • Intimate partner violence affects people regardless of income.
  • Nearly three out of four (74%) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.
  • Forty percent of girls age 14 to 17 report knowing someone their age who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend.
  • Studies suggest that between 3.3 – 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually.

As a survivor of domestic violence, this cause is very important to me.  Domestic Violence affects not just the individual, but also the family and community of the victims.  It’s time to let go of the stigma associated with abuse and start talking about it.  Education and awareness are crucial.  Please show your support and DONATE!

Denial…

“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”
       – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Sometimes I try to convince myself that I am not suffering from PTSD because I have never officially been labeled.  In fact, every therapist, counselor, and psychiatrist I’ve seen has told me that I was experiencing “a completely normal response to a traumatic event” and insisted the anxiety and difficulty sleeping would improve with time.  No one ever uttered the term PTSD.  They looked at me as functioning normally and assumed I was ok despite the fact that I told them otherwise.  The truth is, there is a huge grey area between being functional and well.  People can function without sleep, when they are sick, or even when they are suffering, and it doesn’t mean they are at their baseline.  It wasn’t until I spent time around other individuals suffering with PSTD that anyone pointed out the name for my symptoms.

Then the more I read about other people’s struggles with PTSD, the more I realized I could identify.  I felt guilty because it seemed like my “trauma” was so trivial compared to others.  There are people who have seen loved ones murdered, been to war, and been in terrible, horrific accidents; and all I went through was 5 years of ridicule.  Doesn’t quite seem to measure up.

Here are the DSM IV criteria used to diagnose PTSD.  I have highlighted the ones that apply to me:

Diagnostic criteria for PTSD include a history of exposure to  a traumatic event meeting two criteria and symptoms from each of  three symptom clusters: intrusive recollections, avoidant/numbing  symptoms, and hyper-arousal symptoms. A fifth criterion concerns  duration of symptoms and a sixth assesses functioning.

Criterion A: stressor

The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both  of the following have been present:

  1. The person has experienced, witnessed, or been confronted with an event or events that involve actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others.
  2. The person’s response involved intense fear,helplessness, or horror. Note: in children, it may be expressed instead by disorganized or agitated behavior.

Criterion B: intrusive recollection

The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in at least one of the following ways:

  1. Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions. Note: in young children, repetitive play may occur in which themes or aspects of the trauma are expressed.
  2. Recurrent distressing dreams of the event. Note: in children, there may be frightening dreams without recognizable content
  3. Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes,including those that occur upon awakening or when intoxicated). Note: in children, trauma-specific reenactment may occur.
  4. Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
  5. Physiologic reactivity upon exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event

Criterion C: avoidant/numbing

Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and  numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the  trauma), as indicated by at least   three of the following:

  1. Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma
  2. Efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma
  3. Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
  4. Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
  5. Feeling of detachment or estrangement from others
  6. Restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings)
  7. Sense of foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span)

Criterion D: hyper-arousal

Persistent symptoms of increasing arousal (not present before the trauma), indicated by at least two of the following:

  1. Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  2. Irritability or outbursts of anger
  3. Difficulty concentrating
  4. Hyper-vigilance
  5. Exaggerated startle response

Criterion E: duration

Duration of the disturbance (symptoms in B, C, and D) is more  than one month.

Criterion F: functional significance

The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or  impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of  functioning.

Specify if:

Acute: if duration of symptoms is less than three months

Chronic: if duration of symptoms is three months or more

Specify if:

With or Without delay onset: Onset of symptoms at least six months  after the stressor

While many of these symptoms have improved or are improving, everyone that is in bold I have had (and many still have) during the past 2 years.  It is plain as day, and yet denial is a powerful thing.  I can attest, though, that knowing the name and reason for the way I react to stress (or perceived stress) has made it tremendously easier to deal with.  In  a sense, the therapists were right, my symptoms did improve a lot with time (something I am incredibly grateful for!); but I continue struggle with nightmares and hyper-vigilance.  I am sharing this post because I know that there are other victims of violence and abuse who discount the trauma they experienced and are not getting help when they need it.  Everyone is entitled to a happy, productive life- acknowledging the problem is part of the path of getting there.

Resources (just a few of the many) for PTSD:

Department of Veterans Affairs

National Institute of Mental Health

National Alliance on Mental Illness

International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

Anxiety Disorders of America