Tuesday, November 30, 2010

In Sync

So, what do you call it? Synchronicity? Serendipity? Coincidence? God-Incidence? Fate? Happenstance? Miracles?

Just yesterday, I had the pleasure of chatting with brave and fearless individual who talked to me about being ready to learn from his past, heal from his pain, and give back to others. What an inspiration! He held up his wrist and showed me proof of his readiness and dedication: a bright red bracelet that read, "Enough is Enough." Those of you who are regular readers will know that phrase as the title of my last blog post, and obviously a concept that has been heavy on my heart and my mind lately. I shared that with him, and we marveled together over the synchronicity.

This morning, I found my spirit heavily burdened with the existance of a quite unexpected, unfortunate, and very confusing situation that has befallen my personal life. None of my imternal ruminations or conversations with others have yet been able to yield a solution to this conundrum in which I have found myself! Or much comfort, at that! So searching for a dose of inspiration and uplifting, I opened up my email read my daily "Note from the Universe" (http://www.tut.com/). The words I read were so perfect for my struggles, I want to share them with you here:

          "There are only miracles, Katie, and to one degree or another they all soothe, pamper, and enrich. However, to avoid blowing too many minds at once, some are disguised as unpleasant surprises, botched circumstances, and twisted acquaintances that can rarely be seen for who or what they truly are until the pendulum has fully swung. . . Yes. . . don't I think of everything?     Duck! The Universe"


A few hours later, I logged on to http://www.seededbuzz.com/ for a little more inspiration and perhaps some ideas for my next blog post, and I come across a small blurb, what the site builders call a "seed," on synchronicity. WOW! You can read the whole "seed" here http://hopedespitedepression.blogspot.com/2010/11/life-is-filled-with-meaningful.html if you would like. The author beautifully reminds us of the frequency with which life brings us synchronicities, and how, if we are present and mindful of ourselves and our circumstances, we can become aware of these synchronicities as heed them as reminders that we are in the flow (no matter how icky it might feel at the time), that we are being guided and nurtured by our higher power, and that we are all the time becoming  more fully connected to one another and to our highest selves.

All we have to do is open up, let go, and allow ourselves to be refined by our experiences.

These thoughts and realizations, these synchronicities, have given my spirit some peace today. I hope they will provide the same for you.

All the Best,

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Enough is Enough

When I was a little girl, I have fond memories of my grandmother pouring me milk in a little cup. Each time she prepared me a drink, she offered me a little dose of independence by telling me to "say when," once she had poured enough. So, each time she poured, I listened to her words, watched intently, and eagerly shouted, "When!" once she reached the imaginary line in the cup which meant to me that I would have enough.

Inevitably, by the time she reached that imaginary line, I shouted, "When!", and she pulled the milk away, I ended up with way too much.

With milk, it was no big deal. Either I drank it, or I left some in the bottom of the glass.

There are other things in life, however, that can feel like a bigger deal when we end up with way too much.

As an adult, sometimes I struggle with knowing when I need to say "When!" It's often hard to speak up when enough really is enough, especially when it comes to things like work, relationships, other committments, and emotional stressors. Sometimes I wait to late to say "When!" and I end up with more work, more committments, more stress, or more relationships struggles than I am able to manage. Sometimes I fail to stay connected to my body and to my emotions and I miss little cues that tell me to slow down or back off. Other times I hear the cues loud and clear, but fail to listen, either because I am too busy, I judge myself for not being able to handle more, or I forget that I'm important enough to be able to set limits to care for myself.

And then there are times when I listen, I hear, and I speak up. And the milk keeps coming. I know I have had enough and that I don't want anymore stress, work, pain, etc. but it comes anyway. Wow! Those are tough times! Those are times that test my resilience, my ability to care for myself and manage my emotions, and my willingness to accept my own powerlessness.

How about you? What do you struggle with when it comes to saying "When!" Is it your self worth? Your ability to be in tune with your own feelings and needs? Your willingness to have your voice heard? Your disbelief that your voice will be heard and heeded?

Enough for now,

Sunday, October 10, 2010

GrowHealChange: Go With the Flow, Man!

GrowHealChange: Go With the Flow, Man!

Go With the Flow, Man!

A couple of months, I was caught in quite a conundrum, your typical rock and a hard place. Every where I looked, it looked like I was going to lose. It seemed like no matter what I did, I couldn't fix the situation, and the people who, in my estimation, could fix the situation, weren't budging. And boy, did I kick and scream!!!

Then one day, after listening to wise guidance from someone very near to my heart, I realized I was powerless, and altogether powerful at the same time. While I was unable to change the situation or change other people's behavior, I had complete power over where I focused my attention, and what I believed about the situation.

In that, I found my flow. Since that time, I have been blissfully riding the current of my life. I have welcomed into my life an abundance of blessings including a new husband, a new puppy, a growing practice, loving and supportive friends and family, and the list goes on! And I feel exuberant!!

Now don't get me wrong! Before you close your browser and gag from all the goodness, let me assure you that these past couple of months have also brought death, disability, and some dark moments to my doorstep! You see, being in the flow is not like winning the lottery. It's more like riding waves of energy that ebb and flow. When you're in the flow, life doesn't all of a sudden become Candy Land, but more like Chutes and Ladders!

The key to being in the flow is ACCEPTANCE.

So, are you in your flow? Are things coming and going from your life as they should?

Or are you stuck in resistance and despair? What are you trying to have power over that is out of your ability to control? Where have you given away your personal power? Who are you letting control you? And are you kicking and screaming all the way? Are there things that you have been pushing against in your life that need to be welcomed in and grieved with a big box of Kleenex and your favorite soft blanket?

My fellow Journeyers, as the winds come and the seasons change, let's change with them. Let's let go together and go with the flow.

All the Best,

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What's In A Name?

In six days, I am getting married. My name will be changing from one I have known for decades, to one that is brand new. I will no longer be Katie Hawkins, but Katie Truax.

So what's the big deal? What's in a name?

When I think of my family name, I think of strength, of character, of endurance, honor, and integrity. I have to admit, there's a part of me that's sad to lose it. It's a name that came with a sense of belonging. Not many people know that I chose my name. When I was 9 (ish?), I decided that I wanted to be called "Hawkins" like my mom, my sister, and my "Daddy." My stepfather claimed me as his own in heart and spirit when I was just a baby, and took vows to me as well when he married my mother a few years later, but it wasn't until I was in elementary school, did I think that I needed his name as well. Within no time at all, we filed some papers, and legally I went from being Kathryn Lucille Hagler to Kathryn Lucille Hagler Hawkins.

In 6 days, I will say "I do," file some different papers, and go from being Kathryn Lucille Hagler Hawkins to Kathryn Hawkins Truax. I am choosing to keep both the name of the family that has loved me for almost thirty years, and to take the name of the man who is promising to love me for at least the next fifty. On September 18th, not only will I proudly become a Truax, but I will also become a wife and a stepmommy. I will be a daughter, a sister, a mother, a wife, a friend, a therapist, a client, a neighbor, and the list could go on.

So what's in a name? What do you call yourself?

When you go to therapy, are you a "patient" or a "client?" Are you a "peer?" Are you a "partner in wellness?" Are you "mentally ill" or are there "things that you struggle with?" Are you a "victim?" A "survivor?" A thriver?" Are you bipolar, DID, depressed, anxious, autistic, borderline, ADHD, an alcoholic, etc. or do you honor yourself by recognizing that you are a person who may happen to be challenged by one of those situations at the time?

And does it even matter? Would it matter if my last name happened to be Stalin, or Hitler, or Hussein? Would I be any more or less eager to change it? Would different connotations come with thinking about my family name? Would others look at me differently? Would I look at myself differently and perhaps even treat myself differently?

So, in honor of my upcoming transition from Hawkins to Truax, my challenge to you is this: Think carefully about how you name yourself. Question your assumptions about yourself. Who do you want to be? What do you want to be? Do you carry any labels that bring you shame, doubt, or keep you stuck? Do you identify in ways that are less than truthful or don't convey the most honest sense of who you know yourself to be? I challenge you to shed any labels you have been carrying that don't fit or aren't in your highest good. Choose to be mindful of how you identify yourself in this world. Begin creating a truth for yourself that is rich, honest, and filled with positive intentions.

In answer to Shakespeare's famous query, perhaps a rose by any other name might not smell as sweet, but perhaps it might indeed grow taller, heartier, and reach more vigorously toward the sun.

All the Best,

Saturday, August 28, 2010

What the Breeze Brings

Today, temperatures in the metro Atlanta area dropped to a cool 83 degrees. Thus, in anticipation for fall, we shut down the AC, threw open the windows, and let the breeze blow in. For me, the change of seasons has always been an exhilarating time. The subtle shifts in temperature, humidity, light, and wind, signify new beginnings, movement, and possibility!

This isn't the case for everyone, though.

For some, the change in seasons can be a time of angst. Perhaps, one year fall was hard for you, or even traumatic. Perhaps something dreadful happened one fall, years ago, that you have never fully healed from, and every fall thereafter you feel as though you are reliving the pain of "back then." If this is true for you, then the change in seasons, fall itself, or any element associated with that season, may be a trigger for you.

Last post I wrote about the spectrum of dissociation and how trauma-related dissociation is brought about by triggers. In 1984, Bennett Braun outlined a 4 part model of dissociation using the acronym BASK. BASK stands for Behaviors, Affect, Sensation, and Knowledge. In my experience and opinion, triggers can be classified along similar lines. At the time of a trauma, the brain encodes the experience along theses four axes; later, when any of the four are re-experienced, in any context, the brain is likely to recall the traumatic memory. With that recall, may come dissociation, or flashback. Ya with me so far?

Let's break it down. B is for behavior. This represents the action or actions associated with the trauma. Some examples of behavioral triggers might be sleeping, bathing, eating, running, exercising, yelling, crying, being stuck in a small space, etc. If that happened "back then" and the trauma has yet to be resolved, the same action in the present is likely to be triggering and result in some manifestation of dissociation or flashback (behavioral, emotional, sensory, or knowlege).

A is for affect. In short, affect is another word for feelings, or emotions. Let's say the trauma involved feelings of fear, helplessness, or sadness. And lets's say in the here and now, you decide to spend your Saturday night watching a scary movie with your best friend, and before you know it, you are feeling panicky, disconnected from your body, and have an incredible urge to run. Feeling fear is a trigger for you that initiated a trauma response.

S is for sensations, anything experienced with the 5 senses: touch, taste, sight, smell, or sound. A pat on the back, the temperature of the air around you, the taste of salt, the sight of darkness, the sound of a gunshot, the smell of vanilla. . . That which was felt, tasted, seen, smelled, and heard at the time of the trauma is imprinted in the brain as being associated with that experience and may be a trigger for dissociation in the weeks, months, and years that follow.

Finally, K is for knowledge. This is how most of us think about memory. This represents explicit memory, or narrative memory- a conscious recollection that one has experienced something at a particular place and time, and has a story to go along with it. The other three forms of memory mentioned above (behavior, affect, and sensation) are considered implicit memory. They are stored via different mechanisms in the brain; we may be triggered by a certain smell, and be kicked into an intense dissociative state without having the knowledge, or explicit memory of the trauma associated with that smell.

Whew! This feels like alot of info, so I will stop here.

All the Best,

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Rest of the Spectrum

Generally, dissociation is thought of as occurring on a spectrum.

Last post, I talked about the way in which we all use dissociation as a way to conserve energy or take a "mental vacation." That's one end of the spectrum. I also mentioned, however, that sometimes dissociation occurs as a defense or protective mechanism in the face of a perceived or actual threat. As we move through the spectrum, we see dissociative experiences which are more in line with trauma responses.

I think it's time for another operational definition. For the sake of our conversation here, lets define trauma as "an event or experience that, at the time of occurrence, exceeds the range of that which one believe him or herself able to manage." Implied here is the fact that trauma is a subjective experience. What may be traumatic to a child might not be to an adult. What may be traumatic to someone in America may not be to someone in Afghanistan. What may be traumatic to someone with little support network or resources may not be to someone with a network of family, friends, and professional supports. What may be traumatic to me may not be to you.

So, dissociating is one way we humans have to cope with traumatic experiences- those experiences beyond that which we believe ourselves able to manage. When something happens to us that is so bad we can't manage it in it's entirety, we may dissociate. Some trauma survivors report having checked out, fuzzed out, or blacked out at the time of the trauma. Others report feeling as though they left their body and were standing beside themselves or floating above. Some report experiencing a split of self through which one part of self experienced the trauma, but not all of self. Sometimes we dissociate an aspect of our experience but not the whole experience, for example: being able to see the trauma as it unfolds, but not hear sounds, feel somatic sensations, or experience the accompanying emotions. In these cases, the dissociation is protective. It allows our experience to be managed, to be lived through, by limiting our awareness of it. In the cases of extreme or prolonged trauma, this dissociation may be so significant that entire occurrences, events, or parts of self may become unknown.

Long after a trauma has "ended," individuals may still dissociate when they are reminded of the trauma. These reminders are called triggers. They come in many different forms. Stay tuned!!!


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why We Do It

So now that we have a working definition of dissociation, and we know that we all do it, the next logical question seems to be, "why?"

Each of us uses dissociation on a frequent basis as a way to conserve energy or take a mental break. A perfect example of this, one with which most of us will be able to identify, is that of driving home. How many of you find yourself kinda zoned out on your daily drive to and from work? How many of you have ever gotten home and thought to yourself, "wow, that was quick," and not had a coherent memory of every inch of your journey?

Or here's another one. Ever found yourself in a classroom setting, a business meeting, or even a boring conversation with a friend and felt yourself kind of fuzzing out? Maybe the speaker's voice seemed like it was getting farther away. . .Maybe your vision seemed to blur almost as if you were crossing your eyes. . . Maybe you caught yourself out in "la la land" and realized that you couldn't remember what the person you were supposed to be listening to had said last. . .

These are some examples of normal, every day dissociation. After reading these, you can probably think of more from your own experience.

Other times, dissocation occurs as a defense or protective mechanism in the face of a percieved or actual threat. This type of dissociation is more closely linked with trauma. I'll talk more about that, but am going to sign off for now. I want to keep you interested in this really interesting topic! (And plus, I think long blogs are boring :) I don't want you checkin' out on me!)

Can you share any times when you have caught yourself zoning out or dissociation as a way of conserving energy or taking a mental vacation?

All the Best,

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Here We Go! Some of My Thoughts on Dissociation. . .

Wow! We're going straight for the tough questions!

On July 15th, Amber wrote, "I want to know about dissociation and it's spectrum. How does it effect different people differently? What does that look like/feel like?"

Great question! And one that does not come with a quick or easy answer! The phenomenon of dissociation has been studied for decades. The scholarly literature is riddled with leading trauma therorists, therapists, and researchers discussing and debating dissociation. Does it exist? Why does it happen? How does it start? Can it be treated? Will it ever go away? How is it dissociation different from psychosis?

So let's start with the basics. In order to discuss, we need to know what it is we're talking about. What is dissociation?

For the sake of our conversation, let's define dissociation as the lack or loss of connection with a momentary reality.

Implied in our definition is that in order to have a dissociative experience, one must first be connected to reality. This connection to reality can occur as physical sensations, emotional experiences, and thought processes including orientation to time, place, person, and situation. Then, for some reason, that connection to reality is lost. This loss can be short-lived and can return within moments, hours, days, or can be more enduring as in the case of dissociated memories of past experiences.

With me so far?

Okay, so here comes the kicker: WE ALL DO IT.

Did you know you were dissociative?

To be continued. . .

This is fun!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Why Blog?

It seems like everywhere I turn lately, I run into advice to blog. Friends, colleagues, clients, books, magazines, and emails all tout the benefits of blogging for creating and maintaining a thriving practice. So, here I sit, at my computer, attempting to blog.

But what to write about?

I have some ideas of my own, but I'd rather hear from you. Knowing what you know about you and about me, what do you want to "talk" about?

What questions do you have about therapy?
What questions do you have about trauma and post-traumatic experiences?
What questions do you have about grounding? Self-care? Emotional regulation?
What questions do you have about the mind-body integration?
How could this blog be most helpful and supportive to you?

I really want to know!

All my best,