Kristi is a functional Health Practitioner who learned the hard way how to cultivate wellness into her life, so you don’t have to. As well as being aFunctional Diagnostic NutritionPracticitoner and Certified Transformational Coach, she has a background in personal training and Yoga Teaching.
Kristi shares with us her honest experience of being diagnosed with PTSD.
May contain triggers for some people.
Written by Kristi Lees
I’m not an expert on Trauma. I am, however, well versed in my experience of it. I’ve also observed that it’s in the background not only for my clients but women everywhere. Especially women who are struggling to achieve optimal health.
Trauma is a tough thing to talk about and a strange emotional state for people to connect to if they’ve not been through it themselves.
Early in my career as a yoga teacher I had a lot of concepts on how to deal with emotional turmoil in class. Handy phrases including, but not limited to, “breathe” or “drop into your body” and “be present to what is, don’t let thoughts of the past come in.” I realise now that none of these are helpful during a trauma response.
As a kid, I was active and comfortable in my body. It was a safe place for me. I could do most physical stunts and have no emotional response (other than my ego squealing with glee), so I had no felt experience of the things I spoke about in class. I would be rattling on about how we hold emotion in our hips or suggest that chest openers can be confronting as they tap into anything we’ve locked in our heart, without any real sense of what that was actually like… until a few years ago.
My PTSD didn’t come from one isolated event. It came from many.
At first, I felt silly even entertaining the idea because I hadn’t been through what’s considered a typically traumatic situation; until the flashbacks and nocturnal panic attacks started. When dropping down into a squat at the gym had tears streaming down my face. And any type of relaxation became torture, as I didn’t know what was going to start flashing behind my closed eyelids.
This type of PTSD is from a history of accumulated events. With Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), you can’t pinpoint it to one main event. There’ll be flickers, and some things will hold more weight than others, but it happens so insidiously that you don’t realise you’re in it until it’s too late.
Childhood neglect, abandonment, emotional, and physical abuse are all ripe breeding grounds for complex trauma.
Over the course of your life, lots of little things can happen that shock parts of the soul. You experience them, you lock down, and you hold on. It happens some more. You start to control your surroundings to in an effort to feel “safe” as it continues to happen around you and/or to you. Eventually, you’re a sensitive mess that no one seems to be able to handle. You have little control over your reactions and don’t know why everything is bigger than it appears. Every… tiny… thing… begins to tear away at you more.
Until an event happens that finally rips you open. Everything you’ve been holding onto floods out. You’re no longer strong enough to hold it down. It tears you apart and you’re raw like never before.
All of your feelings are on the surface and anything and everything hurts. It’s like grief on steroids and the fear takes over.
When I was at my worst I couldn’t sit in silence, I’d always have to have some noise running in the background. The simple thought of going to bed would have me physically shaking. And the night terrors, I can’t begin to explain.
I couldn’t put words to it, I couldn’t explain it to anyone. When I tried I got the “calm downs” the “just breathes” and the good old, “nothing’s happening right now, you’re fine.” All that unhelpful stuff I’d rattle off to others.
Going to yoga class, my safe space since the age of 12, was a nightmare. My heart pounded the whole way through. I’d close my eyes and get a flashback. I’d open my eyes and there’d be an external trigger keeping me stuck in the past.
It wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t escape.
Someone would ask something harmless (or so they thought) and I’d freeze. As the tears welled up I’d have to excuse myself and go home. I’d lock myself inside where I could stop the onslaught of the outside world that was getting harder and harder to manage.
Trauma is like little punches to the very core of our being. Slowly weakening us as we try to find more and more ways to cope.
In my experience, it won’t go away by itself. It’s not a “time” thing because we have to find ways to move through it.
Here are the tools, tricks, and therapies that helped me manage Trauma & PTSD.
To address the core issues and current survival patterns. I found the most success with a body-centered therapist who had been through trauma herself, as well as having professional training in the area.
To get back parts of myself that I’d left behind with these traumatic events. Not for everyone but worth looking into if you’re even a little bit ‘woo’.
Some things were in the “too hard” basket, and I let that be ok. I stopped forcing myself or letting others force me into discomfort. I accepted that I’d have to avoid triggers for a while.
Gentle Energy Work
Massage, which used to be a regular thing, wasn’t an emotional option at my worst. I had to find more gentle ways to move the energy.
To unlock held trauma without having to talk it through. Some days talk therapy was too overwhelming.
Emotional Freedom Technique
A free and easy way to shift the energy yourself. Lots of great stuff on YouTube (Brad Yates is a good one to look up).
Gave me something to listen to when my mind wouldn’t stop. They helped keep me in the present without being consumed by my emotional state.
Learning as much as I could about what was going on was an empowering step for me.
People who get it, but not people invested in staying stuck. Facebook groups can help but be careful as many people can continue to loop through the victim cycle.
Around potential triggers and people who created stress in my life. Abusive relationships for example. Just get away from them. Likewise with un-supportive friends. Find people who understand.
I had to give it all space while trusting that I would eventually come out the other side and, for the most part, I did.
This is just a small selection of my toolbox. Feel free to use what might be helpful for you. Consider finding someone who can help you investigate what you need to help you with the healing process. These are still things I call on most days, not only because they’re necessary for recovery, but they’re essential for mental health in general.