A to Z Challenge

The Girl In The Mirror

smokingmirrors

I love the madness that is the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. The creativity, the fast-paced induced adrenaline rush of posting every 24 hours, the community spirit, and at times, the frustrating but glorious intensity.

This year I chose to write poems inspired by movies about addiction and absolution. I write often about the importance of honouring our emotions, about allowing ourselves to sit with the darkness, kicking at it until it bleeds light, but every now and then I resist the complete vulnerability and surrender that any sort of healing needs. So as April approached I took stock of my progress so far: two years of sobriety; an understanding and acceptance of my triggers; the warmth and affection that had grown in key relationships with loved ones; and the knowledge of what I felt I still needed to work on.

It was my intention to reach deep down to the dark, murky, frightening depths with both hands and pull hard against what needed to be uprooted, clearing away the weeds and plastic debris that were stunting my growth. I hoped to reveal, better understand, and become more accepting and appreciative of the dark emotions I keep at bay. I was ready, or so I thought.

Don’t get me wrong, all in all, this year’s challenge exceeded all expectations. For one, I reached the depths I wanted to and spent more time there than I cared to in the end. Even though I’ve come away with several poems that are worth shaping and rewriting, my plan to use movies about addiction as triggers worked better that I’d anticipated.

The shift was gradual and I did not notice it at first. But by the time I’d reached the middle of the alphabet I was staying in bed longer on mornings, wide-eyed with the covers to my chin, unsure and a little afraid of what the day would bring. My meditative morning habit – a cup of ginger tea on my front porch with an inspiring book – had been replaced with reviewing the difficult poem I’d written the night before, and I was no longer jumping out of bed looking forward to my day. I had underestimated my vulnerabilities. The writing challenge theme I’d set for myself, together with two unexpected life events, affected me adversely. I won’t be doing something like this again. At least not without setting some boundaries and safe zones first.

There were breakthroughs as well, which I am grateful for, with poems like The Quiet, which makes me so uncomfortable to read even though I wrote it, and Thirteen, which I wrote when I came to an understanding about my relationship with my mother. I think if there is anything I am truly happy about is turning that corner with my Mom. It was my last important relationship to heal and I believe that now I can begin doing just that.

In the end, and today I am grateful for the opportunity to learn. I am not invincible. I cannot, ever, underestimate my triggers nor the importance of boundaries. I am grateful for loved ones (online and IRL) who supported me through this “mad experiment” and never judged me for it. It has helped me to be gentler with myself and keep my own Judge in check. I even have to send a nod to the Universe for crashing my laptop two weeks into the challenge. I chuckle to myself now when I think about it. Perhaps the Universe was sending me a message after all.

Love and light,

Phoenix

Ikiru (1956)

Ikiru (meaning: to live; to be alive)

Ikiru (meaning: to live; to be alive)

“Life is brief / Fall in love, maidens / before the crimson bloom fades from your lips / before the tides of passion cool within you / for those of you who know no tomorrow.”

2nd February 2014 to 11th April 2016:
1 new hat, one healthier liver
2 clear eyes, two lungs more pink than grey
3 new career paths with ladybirds on sunflowers
4 loves given a reboot
5 community projects that bring the sunshine
7 writing partners with Mad Hatter hats
8 dear friendships strengthened and deepened
17 pounds of excess weight lost
27 articles published, with blushes (did I write that?)
43 new poems I’ve grown so fond of
91 sober blogging friends I could not do this without
100 revealing blogposts
216 times I chose not to drink
324 packs of cigarettes I chose not to buy
800 life-changing days of sobriety
48,600 TT dollars I did not spend on alcohol
69,120,000 seconds of hard truths and lessons, of learning self-care and self-respect.
1,152,000 minutes of healing and hope, with growth, gifts and gratitude.
19,200 hours and me, here now with a newborn lust for life, embracing joy, passion and pride.
800 days of being in love with living.

~*~

My 2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge Theme:

Pieces They Left Behind: Poems inspired by Movies about Addiction & Absolution

Copyright © 2016 by Phoenix, author of Shadow. Ash. Spirit. Flame. All rights reserved. This poem or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author.

Pieces They Left Behind

atoz-theme-reveal-2016 v2

Last April, I participated in the scintillating madness that is the April A to Z. I accepted the challenge to write 26 posts, each corresponding with a letter of the alphabet and now I’m going back for more. For my A to Z 2016 Challenge I am combining my love for visual and musical storytelling with my passion for words.

I’ve been experimenting with poetry for a little over two years and while the adventure has been wonderful and reviews have been encouraging, I know that many of my poems don’t reach the emotional depths I would like them too.

Here in this space I write a lot about honouring our emotions, about allowing ourselves to sit with the darkness, kicking at it until it bleeds light, but truth be told, the complete vulnerability and surrender that any sort of healing needs, is still difficult for me to give in to.

It is my intention with this year’s A to Z to reach deep down to the dark, murky, frightening depths with both hands and pull hard against what needs to be uprooted, clearing away the weeds and plastic debris that are stunting my growth. It is my hope that by April 30th, I would have come to a greater understanding and acceptance of the dark emotions I keep at bay and become more welcoming and appreciative of them.

My A to Z Blogging Challenge Theme:

Pieces They Left Behind: Poems inspired by Movies about Addiction & Absolution

Zen & Self Acceptance

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Tenzin: I must stay focused. Remember who you are, Tenzin. You are the son of Avatar Aang. You are the hope for future generations of airbenders. The fate of the world rests on your shoulders. But what if I fail? Then your father’s hope for the future dies with you. I can’t fail!
Aang: Hello, my son.
Tenzin: Dad, I’ve failed you. I am no spiritual leader, and I’ve let the world down. I’ll never be the man you were.
Aang: You are right. You are trying to hold on to a false perception of yourself. You are not me, and you should not be me. You are Tenzin.
Tenzin: I am not a reflection of my father. I am Tenzin. I am Tenzin.

~*~

I’ve been stalling in writing the final post of the A to Z Challenge which was due on the 30th April. I put so much pressure on myself to write a brilliantly kick-ass wrap-up post that I just as brilliantly convinced myself that everything I composed was just plain ass. Of course, finding a title beginning with Z which was stimulating enough to inspire a post only served to exacerbate the issue. “Zis iz impozzible” crossed my mind many times. But here I am, more than two weeks late and determined to post tonight.

Zen is a way of being. It also is a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by our own thoughts. It is about acceptance of self rather than perception of self. Heavy topic. But let’s see if I can explain where I am at. I am struggling and have been for a while. Quitting drinking and smoking a year ago changed the way I viewed many aspects of my life: my health, my social activities, my emotional, mental and spiritual habits, even the way I handled my finances. The aspects of my personality and character that are at the forefront of who I am now are different from those that were dominant a year ago.

While I am proud of what I’ve accomplished and pleased with the direction certain parts of my life are heading, I am wrestling with who I am. I am caught between who I expect I should be and who I think I am. I know much of it has to do with self criticism and judgment and I really am trying. I want to be more accepting of myself. I want to be comfortable with improving little by little or even just staying in one place for a little while. But I’m not. I know it is important to be patient and to understand that progress is a process, but honestly, sometimes I’m so tired of it all. I’m tired of thinking that I should be more.

In the scene quoted above, Tenzin’s realization that he had put tremendous pressure on himself by defining who he was as only one thing, Avatar Aang’s son, resonates with me. As I interpreted it, this scene was about self acceptance. Tenzin found clarity when he realized that he should not try to be anyone but himself. He accepted all of who he was, even the parts that he deemed “less” than worthy of the son of Avatar Aang. He was, in the end, more compassionate with himself.  This is how I endeavour to be: more compassionate and more accepting of myself.  I want to accept myself as I am. All of it. But even wanting to be more accepting of myself is thinking that “I should be more”. It’s a fine line to walk, I think.

While I have accepted the mistakes I made in the past, some time in the last year, I made it okay to hold my present self up to a very high standard. I give myself very little leeway for mistakes now, which, I think is wrong. I judge myself harshly for being “too sensitive” even when I know that my reactivity is not rooted in the present. I excuse unfair treatment by others because I tell myself to “rise above it.” I criticize myself for getting angry or shutting down when I need to set boundaries or retreat to a safe space, because I’m “supposed to be able to handle it.” I’ve been essentially setting myself up for failure and only hurting one person in the process: Me. Inadvertantly I’ve been eroding my self esteem by pushing too hard to be someone I think I should be.

From my research I’ve come to understand that although related, self acceptance is not the same as self esteem. Self esteem specifically refers to how valuable, or worthwhile  we see ourselves, and self acceptance alludes to a far more gobal affirmation of self. “When we’re self-accepting, we’re able to embrace all facets of ourselves — not just the positive, more ‘esteem-able’ parts. As such, self-acceptance is unconditional, free of any qualification. We can recognize our weaknesses, limitations, and foibles, but this awareness in no way interferes with our ability to fully accept ourselves.” ~ Dr. Leon F. Seltzer

“Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by our own thoughts. It is about acceptance of self rather than perception of self.” Okay. So here goes:

I accept that I am torn between dedicating hours doing purposeful work I enjoy and work I don’t. I accept that it might be some time before I figure out how to balance it all and I accept that this does not mean that I don’t really have super-powers. (smile)

I accept that I am at a particularly difficult crossroads, spiritually, emotionally and mentally which is manifesting itself physically, with headaches, tension, weight gain, backaches and shoulder pain. I accept that in an effort to feel more in control in this area, I have a tendency to project that loss of control onto other areas in my life. Unfairly so at times.

I accept that I have a fiery temper fueled by my insecurities and that I get jealous easily and feel abandoned easily. I accept that I inevitably try to determine the root cause of those inseurities and how they play out in my life.

I accept that I will always want to learn more and better understand this world and my place in it, I accept that I will always be curious about why I want to learn and understand in the first place.

I accept that I have both light and dark in me and that at the same time I need and don’t need balance.

I accept.

~*~

This is Post X, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

Yabbering

Zuko_and_Toph

Toph: And then when I was nine, I ran away again. I know I shouldn’t complain, my parents gave me everything that I ever asked for. But they never gave me the one thing that I really wanted. Their love. You know what I mean?

I have a tendency to overshare. It was the most pronounced when I drank. Through the haze of alcohol drinking buddies and even acquaintances became “soul mates”. We were “destined to meet” and obviously had “a real connection” because after a few drinks we were pouring our hearts (and our personal business) out.

I am an empathetic listener and love psychoanalyzing people, so I have a way of getting people to open up to me. Of course, I always opened up about myself too. To an alarming degree at times. Then, the next time Sober Me (with a less than perfect memory of what we talked about) met the recipient of my confessions, I would be embarrassed and worried about how much I’d revealed. My new “friend” would be baffled by what appeared to be an about face on my part. I, on the other hand, would pretty much be ready to bolt.

I know why I did it. I told my personal stories to anyone who would listen, just because I needed approval and love so badly. I needed self-acceptance so much that I wanted someone who heard my stories to tell me that I was still a good person, not broken, or if I was indeed broken, say that I was made the more beautiful for it.

I keep the telling of my personal stories in check now, revealing them to only trusted friends. The reason why I share anything now has also changed. It’s no longer because I desperately seek approval or proof of worth, and is instead to offer understanding and compassion.

“Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: “Who has earned the right to hear my story?” If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky. If we have a friend, or small group of friends, or family who embraces our imperfections, vulnerabilities, and power, and fills us with a sense of belonging, we are incredibly lucky.” ~ Brene Brown

~*~

This is Post X, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

X = Sobriety

pai_sho

Jet: I’ve done some things in my past that I’m not proud of. But that’s why I’m going to Ba Sing Se, for a new beginning. A second chance.
Iroh: That’s very noble of you. I believe people can change their lives if they want to. I believe in second chances.

In primary school, we were given mathematical equations and taught how to solve for “x”.  We were taught how to look at a problem from all angles: algebraically, graphically and by using the concept of equivalence. We learned how to add, take-away, multiply and divide, and determine the variables (or unknowns) to find the solution. If we were impatient, tried too hard, or allowed the perceived complexity of the problem to overwhelm us, the solution was always frustratingly out of reach. But once we calmed down, realized that the math equation was not out to get us and followed simple rules, what was once puzzling was made clear.

Flash forward 30 years and I’m driving around the largest roundabout in the world, on my way to meet the girls, and having an epiphany. I finally realized what “x” is in my life. For me, x = sobriety. Now I am not saying that sobriety is the answer to all of my problems and that I have it all figured out. It isn’t and I don’t. But I cannot ignore how many different aspects of my life have improved since I had my last drink more than a year ago.

As 2014 began I was frustrated with my life and had little hope. I was sick and tired of making the same mistakes and I could not figure out why I could not get my life together. I was unhappy in my professional life, and felt stuck in a rut after working for the same firm for 15 years, yet at the same without hope that I could be of value anywhere else. I was angry with myself for drinking as often as I did and the way that I did. I was ashamed of it and unknowingly withdrew from or sabotaged relationships that were important to me. My self worth was at an all time low.

It was not all bad of course. There were moments of fun and happiness, and there were times that I did make an effort to change aspects of my life. I resigned from my job, but without having a new one waiting for me I ended up staying exactly where I was.  I was never getting enough sleep (sleeping off a hangover is not the same as a good night’s rest), smoking a half a pack a day (a pack if I was out drinking), not taking care of my body, and totally ignoring my creative side. I could not imagine what my future looked like. I just honestly could not picture it. And for the life of me, I could not figure out why I was where I was. I could not reason my way out of the puzzle I was in. At the time, I looked at giving up alcohol as just that. Giving it up. I would have the same life minus the booze. I had no idea that giving it up and thereby choosing to have a better life, that one factor, would be the common denominator in all the improvements to come.

Now, so many things have fallen into place. I feel like I have a second chance, at everything. Life did not magically improve of course, I put in the work that was required and I still do. But when I take stock and look back on the last 15 months and at all the variables, there is no denying that for me, x = sobriety.

There is a clarity of thought that I did not have before, the upside of which is focus which in turn manifested itself as determination and will. I now believe that I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to or at least learn from simply striving for a new goal. Then there is the power of attraction. I do believe that like attracts like, and my more positive attitude and confidence has attracted a lot of positivity and stability into my life. No longer am I wasting my days and energy being hung over, regretting a night of drinking, or berating myself for having no direction in life. My days and energy are spent on more positive and rewarding endeavours.

I have been appreciating my relationships more than ever before, cultivating stronger relationships with old friends because I now know my worth and can be a better friend. I have also made new friends with common interests, other than alcohol, who inspire and motivate me on so many levels.

I have more love for myself and with it automatically comes self-confidence, care and self respect. I am gentler with myself by dealing with difficult emotions in healthier ways instead of judging myself for having them in the first place. I’ve found a renewal of faith that life is good, and that sincere effort is rewarded. I have hope again, for myself and for my future.

From my second chance to yours: love and light,
Phoenix

~*~

This is Post X, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

Wisdom In Understanding Others

Earth, Fire, Air, Water

Fire, Earth, Air, Water

Iroh: Fire is the element of power. The people of the Fire Nation have desire and will, and the energy and drive to achieve what they want. Earth is the element of substance. The people of the Earth Kingdom are diverse and strong. They are persistent and enduring. Air is the element of freedom. The Air Nomads detached themselves from worldly concerns, and they found peace and freedom. Water is the element of change. The people of the Water Tribes are capable of adapting to many things. They have a sense of community and love that holds them together through anything. 

It is important to draw wisdom from different places. If you take it from only one place it becomes rigid and stale.

Last night I was out for dinner and drinks at one of my favourite places. A friend of a friend joined us, let’s call him George, and at one point George brought up a guy he knew who was going through a rough patch, “He’s all doom and gloom,” George says of the guy, “then the next minute he’s analyzing everything. He’s the philosopher type, you know. Says whatever he is going through now is something everyone in their thirties has to go through. A sort of crash and burn so you can rise from the ashes sort of thing.”

Everyone chuckled and two of my friends shot me sidelong glances as I am the known philosopher of our group. I smiled at the phoenix reference, even though for a brief moment I wondered if my friends thought I was as annoying as George found his friend. I too, philosophize about a lot of things. I love learning and exploring so I can’t exactly help it. I do try not to wax philosophical every time I hang out with my friends. What made me laugh was that as George was talking about the guy he knew, all I could think was that I wanted to meet the guy to chat. 🙂

I find people’s stories to be interesting learning opportunities. Sharing our stories and the way we individually see life only enriches our shared experiences and fuels our understanding of and compassion for others.

From my story to yours, love and light,
Phoenix

~*~

This is Post W, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

Victims ‘r’ us

Dark Korra

Iroh: If you look for the light, you can often find it. But if you look for the dark, that is all you’ll ever see.

Disclaimer: This post is not for the victims of traumatic events. This is for the doomsday folks, you know,
the ones who only see the dark stormclouds hung before them, and refuse to cast their eyes upward to see the sun.

Don’t you just love encountering people who only talk about their woes and how much they hate life? They assemble in groups, usually after work at their favourite watering holes or coffeeshops, trying to one up each other with their sob stories. It’s like a pissing contest to see whose day was worse or who has the roughest life. Oh boo hoo! We ALL deal with stuff. Strife, drama, and hardship are all relative and affect each person. How you deal with them is up to you. Don’t get me wrong, we all need to vent sometimes and that’s what friends (and the internet) are for but seriously, something bad happens to you EVERY day of your life? Nothing brings you happiness? You can’t find something to make you smile anywhere? There is nothing you can do to improve your life? I seriously doubt that. Hi, I’m Phoenix. I battle my demons every day. Some days I win and some days I don’t. I get that sometimes life gives us a raw deal, but I refuse to have a defeatist attitude about my life.

I understand “misery loves company” and the need to share sorrows and hardships with your peers – that’s what we do here on the Sober Blogging Network, but we also share our hopes, dreams and positive things about life too. Holding on to drama and grudges and swimming in a big vat of  “Everyone, and the world, is out to get me!” proclamations will never get you anywhere. At some point you have to take charge of your own life.

Pearls don’t lie on the seashore. If you want one, you must dive for it.”  — Chinese proverb

You have to make the decision to change what you don’t like and then follow up with practical choices. This means not only being open to new ideas, approaches and practices, being willing to explore them and try them out, but also figuring out if you would benefit from surrounding yourself with those who look for and talk about the positives in life despite their difficulties. Words are very powerful.  What you say and what you listen to affect your beliefs about the world. Finding others who believe in the possibilities rather than the impossibilities will help you to believe that you too can do anything. I know that no one has it all figured out but I’ve found that sometimes a good shake up, dust off, and re-organizing of the group of people you spend most of your time with is always good. Figure out who inspires and motivates you, and says “I can” more than they say “I can’t.” The ones who care about you, will listen when you need them to and appreciate the time, care and consideration you offer when they are in need too.

Life is too short to spend so much time complaining and bogged down with only negative and pessimistic attitudes. Life is too short to miss the brightside.

Love and light,
Phoenix

~*~

This is Post V, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

Until I Dance Again

Katara Dancing
Aang: Listen, guys… dancing isn’t something you think about.
It’s a form of self-expression that no one can ever take away from you.

I was dancing. It was midnight and I was in the middle of the dance floor with my eyes closed and a smile on my face. The music pulsed all around me, thumping its way from the speakers across the room, along the floor and up my body. With all limbs in motion, I rocked to the beat as the strobe lights lit up the nightclub in flashes. I opened my eyes to find my best friend looking at me with a gentle smile. He walked over, wrapped me in his arms and whispered, “You are magnetic when you’re happy.”

I miss dancing. I loved going dancing with the girls and haven’t done so in over a year. I love music that moves me and I didn’t care too much back then for form or routine, and my “style” was a mixture of everything I’d learned in my lifetime. Mostly I just went with it, moving however I felt like moving, adding shimmies and hip hits that summer I learned how to belly dance. And then of course, when I drank most inhibitions went out the window and I didn’t care what anyone thought of my “groove”.

Since I quit drinking, the need to “be on my best behaviour / be sober” when I’m out in public has me more self-conscious than usual. Nowadays my public dancing is limited to head-bobbing in my car on the way to work. At home, in private, I dance up a storm to Lana Del Ray, Lady Gaga, Shakira, Nelly, Tove Lo, Sean Paul and Gwen in front of my mirror, creating Phoenix dance moves while I get dressed for work. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that with time and acceptance of self, I will feel comfortable in my sober skin, free enough to be myself, and dance to my own beat in front the whole world again. In the meantime, my bedroom rug is the stage upon which I’ll never stop dancing.

Love and light,
Phoenix

~*~

This is Post U, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

Trauma

Korra Katara Healing 2

Katara: I can help guide your healing process, but whether you get better or not is up to you. I know what it’s like to go through a traumatic experience. And I promise you, if you dedicate yourself to getting better, you’ll recover, stronger than ever. The mind can be a powerful ally, or your greatest enemy.

Korra: I am trying to understand why this happened to me, but nothing makes any sense! I’m tired, Katara. I’m so tired.

Katara: Korra, I know you feel alone right now. But you’re not the first Avatar who’s had to overcome great suffering. Can you imagine how much pain Aang felt when he learned that his entire culture was taken from him? But he never let it destroy his spirit. He chose to find meaning in his suffering and eventually … found peace.

Korra: And … what am I going to find if I get through this?

Katara: I don’t know. But won’t it be interesting to find out?

Very upsetting, frightening, or traumatic events that happen to us, or that threatened or hurt someone we love are very powerful incidents that affect daily life. They are usually defined as experiences which are life threatening, or where there is a significant threat to one’s physical or psychological wellbeing. For example: physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; neglect; war experiences; outbursts of temper and rage; alcoholism (your own or in your family); physical illnesses, surgeries, and disabilities in your family; loss of close family members and friends; natural disasters; accidents.

When these kinds of things happen, we may not “get over” them quickly. In fact, we may feel the effects of these traumas for many years, even for the rest of our lives. Traumatic events result in frightening, distressing, and sometimes disabling emotional symptoms such as phobias, anxiety, depression, delusions, flashbacks, and dis-associative behaviour. Sometimes we don’t even notice effects right after the trauma happens. Years later we may begin having bothersome thoughts, nightmares, and other disturbing symptoms. We may develop these symptoms and not even remember the traumatic thing or things that once happened to us.

Some things that may be very distressing to one person hardly seem to bother another person. If something bothers you a lot and it doesn’t bother someone else, it doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you. People respond to trauma differently. The impact of an event may be related to the person’s mental and physical health, level of available support at the time of the event, and past experience and coping skills. As much as possible try not to trivialize your feelings about what happened to you, because you think others have or had it worse than you. Every experience you have is personal to you and how you feel about it matters.

As likely as it is that traumatic events can have debilitating repercussions, it is also as likely, that we make a conscious choice to ignore what happened. I know for me, I told myself that it did not happen. Just matter of factly, and very firmly, told myself that it did not happen. Unfortunately, in denying myself the opportunity to deal with the event, my emotions sought an outlet. And in the end it was not a healthy one. I turned all the anger, pain and confusion over what happened me, inward. Because I was ashamed and told myself that I was to blame, I was not very kind to my self, my mind or my body in a myriad of ways: binge drinking, obsessive compulsive behaviour, smoking, disrespecting my body, having unhealthy relationships, etc. The list is long. I’m sure you can imagine.

The year before I quit drinking, I started thinking and talking about what happened, but only when I was pretty intoxicated. Seemed like the story was trying to get out and be dealt with. Perhaps my authentic self had had enough. For whatever reason, when I finally quit drinking and started actively dealing with all the things I believed were at the root of the reason for my addictive personality, I had to come to terms with what happened. I did. I still am. It was a big step learning to accept what happened. The second step: not thinking that it was my fault was a lot harder, but the more love and understanding I showed myself, the easier it was to let go of self-blame. The third step: Learning and growing from the entire experience, is a work in progress. It will take some time but I know I will get there.

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” C.S. Lewis

Love and light,
Phoenix

~*~

In coming terms with a traumatic event, Mary Ellen Copeland, Ph.D recommends that we begin with the following:

  1. When you are traumatized, you lose control of your life. You may feel like you still don’t have any control over your life. You have to take back that control by being in charge of every aspect of your life. Others, including your spouse, family members, friends and health care professionals will try to tell you what to do. Before you do it, think about it carefully. Do you feel that it is the best thing for you to do right now? If not, you should not do it. It is important that you make decisions about your own life.
  2. Talk to one or more people about what happened to you. Make sure it is a person or people who understand that what happened to you is serious and that describing it over and over again to another person is part of the healing process. It should not be a person who says something like: “That wasn’t so bad;” “You should just forget about it;” “Forgive and forget;” or “You think that’s bad, let me tell you what happened to me.” You will know when you have described it enough, because you won’t feel like doing it anymore. Writing about it in your journal also helps a lot.
  3. You may not feel close to anyone. You may feel like there is no one you can trust. Begin now to develop close relationships with another person. Think about the person in your life that you like best. Invite them to do something fun with you. If that feels good, make a plan to do something else together at another time, maybe the following week. Keep doing this until you feel close to this person. Then, without giving up on that person, start developing a closer relationship with another person. Keep doing this until you have close relationships with at least five people. Support groups and peer support centers are good places to meet people.
  4. If you possibly can, work with a counselor or join a group for people who have been traumatized.

If you are having difficulty dealing with a traumatic experience this website offers tips on managing psychological trauma and can point you in the right direction: https://www.psychology.org.au/publications/tip_sheets/trauma/

~*~

This is Post T, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.