Finding My Voice

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I’m a quiet, highly sensitive and introverted person. I watch people and I can’t help but analyze situations. I want the world to be a better place and I hold deep convictions. Most of the time, I keep things to myself. But lately I’ve been meditating on the idiom ‘silence is complacency.’

Martin Luther King Jr. says, “We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

I have decided to be silent no more and the biggest reach I can make is on social media. So I have been expressing myself on Facebook. It’s interesting how powerful the voice of social media can be and how threatened others are with opinions other than their own. Finding my voice has had a cost … I have been personally bullied and professionally threatened. A friend told me it just isn’t worth it and my husband asked why I was doing this since it won’t change anyone’s mind. I answered, “I’m not out to change the minds of others but to express my own.”

But speaking out has a price … at least for my highly sensitive nature. After some particularly brutal comments a few days back, I started to feel panic. My stress response was triggered. At first it was an out-of-body type of feeling, then I felt nauseous (like my stomach dropped out). I went to walk around and could barely stand, I was actually weak in my knees and felt faint. It was hard to breathe and my entire body tightened up. I hate this twisted off-balanced feeling. I began to feel self-doubt and and self-blame “why did I stick my neck out” and “why bother sharing my beliefs, this isn’t worth it.” I wanted to crawl into a hole. But then another feeling kicked in … ANGER.

And after anger, came action. I knew all my systems were from sympathetic vagus nerve activation and so I began to practice everything I teach to calm the vagus nerve. I focused on diaphragmatic breathing and I started tapping (emotional freedom technique). I changed my self-talk saying inwardly “I have the right to my opinion,” “I have the right to share my view with others,” “I believe I can help others with my perspective,” “I believe something good can eventually come out of speaking up.”

Expressing an opinion different than mine is one thing but to attack is another. There were some people, who I didn’t even know, that were aggressive on my personal Facebook page and I blocked them. I chose to set that boundary. Then I journaled privately about what was happening and how I felt about feeling threatened. I applied some calming essential oils and then I prayed for everyone.

I wish I could say that I felt normal afterwards but it wasn’t quite that easy. I have had sleepless nights, I’m struggling with wanting to isolate, I have lost work time because it’s hard to focus, I feel a flare of the old chronic pain symptoms and my immune system is struggling to fight off old sinus problems.

I took time off work to simply recover and to decompress with quiet play … I read, watched movies, and walked out in nature. I’m practicing forgiveness instead of blame, and I’m mindful that I just experienced a personal reminder of how deeply and profoundly stress impacts our human person. Will I stop speaking out? Is the cost too large? All I have to do is re-read Martin Luther King Jr.s quotes and recall that Edmund Burke said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing” and I have my answer.

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Chronic Pain, Stress, and Fascia

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I’ve experienced another week of feeling like a normal person … occasional creaks and aches here and there but no constant background chronic pain sensations. I tried to explain this to a friend and the closest I could get was an analogy to weather. You know what it feels like to go out on a cold windy winter day with only a thin shirt on? That raw feeling you can’t get away from? Compare that to going out on that same cold windy winter day but now dressed in a thick down comfortable coat. You just feel safe and cozy no matter what’s going on. That’s the feeling in my sensory nervous system … before raw and now insulated.

In past posts I’ve shared how there’s always this mind-body connection and how experiencing chronic pain also put me in a heightened stress response and how stress increased my pain. Part of the sympathetic nervous system’s function is to increase muscle tension … it’s suppose to so that you can run from or fight danger. But fascia comes into play too.

Fascia is the connective tissue covering muscles and organs, fascia separates body cavities, fascia is the “stuff” of tendons and ligaments, and fascia covers our brain. According to research, fascia is a continuous sheath in the body and is as sensitive to pain as our skin is … it is filled with pain sensing nerves. Fascia, like muscle, also contracts in response to stress danger signals from the brain. But fascia has more collagen than muscles do and thus a fascial contraction creates a type of armor around the body with a strength of up to 2000 pounds per square inch.

Some disorders, such as fibromyalgia, are now being seen as an accidentally switched on sympathetic flight/flight nervous system response that causes an ongoing armoring of the body where the fascia is chronically tight and pressing on the pain nerves. The pain nerves then become more sensitized and less pressure is required to create the pain response. (Here’s an article on that.)

It’s exactly like what I had been feeling … like there was an ongoing low level post traumatic stress disorder going on in my body. It was frustrating when normal little things would trigger what I judged as an inappropriately large pain response. The pain felt unrelenting … and no wonder, it was tied to the stress response in an unending cycle. My pain was mostly on the left side of my body … an entire shortening of the fascia on that side (the fascia can be activated in different areas on different people).

Fascia accrues collagen cross links and a hardening of the colloidal fluid in areas of the body due to bad posture or that have been traumatized or experienced overuse or repetitive strain. These hard spots in the body not only put pressure on pain nerves in the area but also put a tension type of stretch on the entire fascia system. Try to walk fluidly if you are unable to bend one knee and think of how the rest of your body has to compensate so you can move forward.

It can take weeks to free up the fascia from an acute problem and months for chronic issues, only to have another stress or trauma incident happen that creates a set back. Since I never stopped participating in life, I experienced one step forward, two steps back, four steps forward, one step back and so on. My healing journey from chronic pain has not been linear … it has taken years of myofascial release bodywork to reach most of the fascial blocks and achieve the desensitizing of my old raw pain sensitive central nervous system. But I see the light on the horizon, I feel my body calming, I feel insulated again, and the journey has been worth it.

Forest For The Trees

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You know the old saying, “Can’t see the forest for the trees?” Well, I confess, that can be me. I’m a detail oriented person and it takes effort for me to step back and refocus on the bigger picture.

I was recently arguing politics on Facebook and it wasn’t making a tit of a difference. No one would budge an inch on expanding their thoughts and as much as I then wanted to spank them out of their tantrum and drama, I realized these are my adult friends and the bigger picture is that they are good people living their lives the best they can. So I just dropped away and stopped adding to these discussions.

There’s a bigger picture in my life too, totally unrelated to the politics of the day in the freedom America provides. I have a fantastic marriage, a loving family, parents I visit each week, faith in God, a simple but beautiful place to live surrounded by nature, horses, and a business I’ve designed to fulfill my spirit and fulfill the spirits of those I serve.

And health … this blog started with my chronic pain diagnosis and journey. I’ve noticed the details of the pain and have been using natural recourses (detox, bodywork, essential oils, supplements) to try and heal. But I almost failed to notice when I stopped feeling much pain. This past month has been nearly pain free. It’s strange when you notice pain is there but not the fading absence of it. At least it’s strange for me.

I haven’t felt like the normal me the past 5 years and now I’m starting to feel normal again. Truly, I despaired of it ever happening since it has been a long journey. But I believed in the axiom that the body can heal itself given the chance … so I never gave up and trudged onward. Now the big picture is coming more clearly into focus.  I can see the forest for the trees and it’s wonderful. Life is good.

Four Fears

A couple of years ago I was certified as a Fear Releasing Coach and also as a Wellness Coach. This year my professional New Year’s Resolution is to aim towards wellness by reducing fear.

I tend towards a more anxious personality that craves safety. That has served my business well when I use that energy to look at all potential future risks and put systems in place to avoid problems.

I also have a personality type that analyzes everything. That’s great as an Occupational Therapist and a Centered Riding Instructor were I can look at an activity like horseback riding and analyze all it’s different parts … what body parts the horse moves on a person, what happens to balance during speed changes, and how a horse responds to a rider’s muscle tension.

This past month I’ve been analyzing fear and came up with four different categories of fears. I’ve named those four fears Risk Fear, Threat Fear, Trauma Fear, and Loss Fear.

People with risk fear are the type that craves safety (like I do) and goes through all the “what if’s” in a perceived risky situation. Risk fear has you looking into the future about everything that could go wrong … what if a bee stings my horse and he runs off with me and I fall off and get hurt and can’t work and then can’t pay my bills and lose my house. People with risk fear need to know how to determine if a risk is probable or if a risk is possible. Every time I drive to work, it’s possible I’ll get into an accident but is it probable? Well, maybe if it’s freezing rain and I’m driving on bald tires. If a risk is probable, then you deal with it by changing what you do … fix my tires and avoid driving during freezing rain.

Threat fear is something that happens to us all. It is the fight/flight stress response that happens when we have to face a threat. The threat may be psychological (a work task deadline that will be impossible to meet) or it may be physical (dealing in the moment with a bucking horse). You can’t always predict threat fear because there are so many factors that are just out of our control … weather, another person’s behavior, or a horse with it’s own mind. Even though you can’t predict it, you can handle threat fear better by understanding what the fight/flight response does to the body and how to minimize it.

People with trauma fear have experienced a past accident or incident that overwhelmed their ability to cope. The most severe type of trauma fear is actually a diagnosis called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There are less severe trauma fear types too. But in everyone with trauma fear, big or small, somehow they have a “download” of a fear trigger from the past trauma event. That trigger can cause a stress response under seemingly benign conditions … ex. if you were injured while showing your horse jumping over a red jump, then a trigger could be show arenas or jumping horses or the color red. You deal with trauma fear by tuning into your body and neutralizing the triggers.

Loss fear is the most difficult type of fear to acknowledge. This is the type of fear that results from a combination of the other fears … past events, trauma of some sort, the what ifs. If a person has always dreamed of trail riding and finally goes on a trail ride but then experiences soreness or overwhelm at the distance or being corrected by another trail rider … the person may start sabotaging self-talk … I’ll never get this, I don’t know why I’m here, I’m not good enough, but instead the person could be thinking … wow this is harder than I thought and here I am doing it, there is so much more to learn, I’ll have stories to tell after today.  Giving into loss fear creates a hole inside of yourself that drains your dreams and joy, causing avoidance and procrastination of things you really want to do. You deal with loss fear by journaling your dreams, setting goals to overcome obstacles, and reframing negative self-judgement to positive affirmations.

If you’re a horse person and want to live fearlessly, join me for an online workshop starting this month. DETAILS HERE.

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Happy New Year

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If the rest of 2017 is anything like yesterday (January 1, 2017), then it will be a very good year.

Why? Because New Year’s Day was …

Relaxing

Flowing

Filled with horses, dogs, nature, a few friends, walking and praying, movies, books, and simple good food.

When a gun went off, I hardly noticed and then I thought what a gift that is. To not be traumatized by that sound and even to feel peace, knowing you’re not under attack when a gun goes off … how many areas of the country or world is that true? How many people fear for their lives? Life is good when you don’t have to fear for your life.

Money, parties, or shopping did not make yesterday good. It was the simple things in life that made it so nice. It was peace … a peace so real that a little bird landed inches from me and then looked surprised that I was there and a moment later a red squirrel played only a couple of feet away. I watched both in amusement while sitting in stillness.

Yes, if 2017 is a year intermingling peace, relaxation, flow, and stillness then it will be a very good year indeed.