As the Waters Rise

 

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I am struggling to understand.

I am a woman of deep, abiding faith. So far in this terrible storm I have seen God everywhere and nowhere.

If you are in Houston, as I am during this record-breaking hurricane, you probably know what I mean. All around us are beautiful stories of neighbors and friends helping each other, complete strangers jumping in to save homes and lives, dedicated first responders, medical staff, and other essential personnel staying hour after hour to make sure people are taken care of. God is working everywhere.

At the same time, there is devastation all around. Homes are destroyed, precious memories and belongings lost to the water. Whole neighborhoods flooded, businesses gone, so much infrastructure damaged. Tornadoes are touching down, leaving damage and chaos in their wake, as if the flooding wasn’t enough. People are lost. People are dead.

And it is still, still raining.

The thing that has absolutely crushed my heart and I know the hearts of my entire church family is the flooding of the rectory, where our dear priest lives. This house was completely flooded last year, and our priest had just moved back in two months ago after an entire year of exhausting renovation. She and the church had invested so much in that new house, and just like that, it is washed away again.

Beth+ is just…well, she just does not deserve this. No one does, but honestly, I just cannot understand this, and it makes me ill to think of it. The “whys” are too many.

There is so much pain, and so many prayers being sent up all around Texas tonight. My family has been so fortunate. Aside from a leaky roof, we are dry. We are safe. My mom is one of those dedicated nurses who remains at her hospital on emergency protocols, but she is also safe.  I cannot complain. I cannot imagine the disruption, chaos, loss, grief, pain, and distress that others are going through right now. Until the storm passes, and there are more concrete ways to help, I can only pray.

I’ve been praying so much, I don’t even know what to ask for anymore. I suppose all any of us can ask God for is knowledge of His will for us, the strength and grace to live that out, and the knowledge that He is always with us, no matter what. That is the only thing that I know for sure: that God is with us, forever.

May each of you feel God with you, feel His strength bear you up, and His peace which passes all understanding, keep you through this crisis.

Amen.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their                distress. He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed.              Then they were glad because they were quiet, so He guided them to their desired               haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His                                                                               wonders to all mankind!

Psalm 107: 28-31

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Being In My Body: PTSD and Exercise

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Gym selfie: no makeup, no filter, no problem!

Today I went to the gym for the first time since last August. It was good. I did twenty minutes of cardio (walking on an incline on the treadmill) and some core strength exercises. I’m starting small.

Exercise is an issue for me for a number of reasons. A former eating disorder is obviously one of them. My chronic pain is another. One that I don’t really talk about, though, is my PTSD.

The way that PTSD makes exercise difficult for me is a little difficult to explain. I suppose first I have to explain something about how I survived my original trauma.

One of the most common survival mechanisms in sexual and physical abuse is called dissociation. Dissociation occurs along a spectrum, but in its most simplistic terms, it’s a way for the mind to kind of separate itself from the body during a trauma so that it’s not experiencing it. For example, a good portion of my traumatic memories are remembered not from my perspective as I was there, but as if I were viewing them from above. This is one aspect of dissociation; the sensation as if one were floating outside one’s body. Another aspect, for me, is feeling detached from my body, even now. I’d say that, in order to function with the level of pain I live with, I have to live at about 2% dissociation all the time. I keep things pretty cognitive, focus on what’s going on in my mind and keep my body an afterthought. It’s the only way I can get up and do the stuff I have to do without taking major painkillers or crying some days.

As a trauma victim, I grew up dissociating from my body. I had to, to survive. As an anorexic, I dissociated from my body in order not to feel hunger or pain as I starved and abused myself. When I cut and beat myself, I was again dissociating from my body. I avoided touch. I abused pills. I did everything I could to basically not even have a body. 

As I’ve grown and healed, I have become better friends with my body. Even so, I have a hard time feeling present in it. When I decided to start exercising again I had some significant anxiety, and when I really explored that I realized that some of it was because I didn’t want to feel my body.

Exercising means moving, feeling, existing in the physical presence of yourself. I fear doing this because when I’m in my body, I open myself up to the presence of the traumas that still live in it. Being in my body makes me aware of my physical self, the self that was beaten, raped, choked, tortured. My body holds so many memories, and when I’m really in it I’m vulnerable to feeling those things. When it comes to PTSD, body memories are really the fucking worst. It’s not seeing what happened, it’s feeling what happened; as if his hands are still on you, as if he’s still forcing himself inside you, as if you still can’t breathe, in this moment.

The worst.

In the past, I have literally tried to rid myself of even having a body through starvation and self-mutilation. I’ll never do that again, but my connection to my body is still not what I’d like it to be. I think being grounded and comfortable in your body is something you have to learn as a child. It’s something I never had the chance to learn; after all, I was only three when the sexual abuse began. When you start dissociating from yourself at that young of an age, it probably takes a lifetime to build the connections that never formed. I’m continuing to try, through therapy and energy work, and now, through physical exercise. I hope that by being more present in my body more often, I can begin to heal the disconnect that’s still the norm. I hope that I can process that trauma energy out, so I no longer have to feel like the ghosts of the past are haunting my body.

Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.

Mark 5:38