Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Review Before The World Intruded

I "happened" to 'meet' Michele Rosenthal of Heal My PTSD through Matthew Sanford's group on Facebook. Matthew was going to be a guest on Your Life After Trauma radio show that Michele hosts. We exchanged a few emails and then I joined her community, shared my story having no idea that a beautiful friendship would develop and that by knowing Michele and being a part of her Heal My PTSD community, that I would fully embrace my recovery from trauma.

Today is the release of Michele's memoir, "Before The World Intruded". Before the world intruded, Michele was a 13 year old like any 13 year old girl you would meet and then she experienced a profound life altering event as a result of a medical mistake. She takes us from her hospital bed where she struggled between choosing life and choosing death, on her 25 year struggle with undiagnosed post traumatic stress disorder to her triumphant 40th birthday celebration.

Michele writes from the vantage point of a survivor and a professional who is a certified trauma coach and hypnotherapist knowing what salient points are for the reader who is a trauma survivor. She writes from the heart of a poet weaving wonderful metaphors and images to take us on her journey. Michele's story will touch your heart and enlighten you to the world of a trauma survivor and the indomitable drive of the spirit to prevail and create a life of joy and freedom ultimately choosing to serve others. I marveled at the similarities between her story and my story. Michele and I often say there is only one story although the details may differ from person to person. But even if you are not a trauma survivor, you will be enthralled by Michele's telling of her compelling story universal to the human condition.

Michele has clarified so much of my own journey - the struggles and the triumphs. I felt goosebumps as she talked about her struggle with her before and after trauma self. Last July, I had written out two columns in my journal - my polio/trauma self and my transformed self identifying the characteristics and traits of each. With each passing day, I am able to step more fully into my transformed self leaving the old world of trauma behind being fully present in the moment. Michele's memoir catapulted my healing journey to a new level. Michele's story is one that brings hope, possibility, and inspiration to trauma survivors weaving clinical information about PTSD into the wonderful plot driven odyssey that Michele shares with openness, brutal honesty, integrity and grace.

As Michele ends her memoir she writes,
"From my own experience, professional training, stories I've heard from many survivors, plus my work with clients I am convinced that we all have the potential to construct and deconstruct and change ourselves, our brains, and our traumatic connections. Indeed, recent research about neuroplasticity proves more and more of the brain's inherent capacity to heal. The implications of this are an enormous reversal in the idea that the changes PTSD causes cannot be undone. Often, they can. There is hope for us all." (p. 218)

Michele - you ARE a beacon of hope and light and possibility leading the way to transform lives and the way that clinicians treat post traumatic stress disorder. Even though your healing rampage is over, you have a quest for continued knowledge and for spreading your message. You did just that in "Before The World Intruded." Thank you for your courage, your strength, for choosing life and for being an incredible writer.

You can purchase Michele's memoir through Amazon.

Be sure to tune into her weekly radio show Your Life After Trauma. Here is the link to the podcast to last week's show. I was so blessed to share my healing odyssey with her and her listeners. Because Michele knows what it feels like to have the world intrude with a life altering event, she honors, embraces and shares the healing stories of other trauma survivors with a love and passion to let everyone know in her words, "You have enormous healing potential. The goal is learning to access it. Dig deep. You can do it. I believe in you!"

From my heart to yours
With deepest love and total gratitude,

Friday, April 13, 2012

Opening Day

For those of you not in Red Sox Nation, today is akin to a religious holiday in Boston - Opening Day at Fenway Park. For today's blog post I chose the song, "Sweet Caroline". I realized that I did not know the origins of playing Sweet Caroline at Fenway Park so I did a little googling:

Another mystery of the Diamond, explained at last

By Stephanie Vosk, Globe Correspondent | May 29, 2005

"The lyrics have nothing to do with baseball.

The composer has no connection to the Red Sox.

The song hit the charts more than 30 years ago.

So why does ''Sweet Caroline" pump from the speakers at Fenway Park in the middle of the eighth inning of every single Red Sox game? ...
Amy Tobey knows the answer to the ''Sweet Caroline" question.

Tobey began working for the Red Sox through her job at BCN Productions, a film and video communications company, having interned for the Boston Bruins.

Her assignment was to decide what music would be played at the park from 1998 to 2004.

She had noticed ''Sweet Caroline" was used at other sporting events, and she decided to send the sweetness over the Fenway speakers.

The song was picked up by fans, and the more it caught on, the more superstitious Tobey became about playing it.

Tobey would play the song somewhere between the seventh and ninth innings if the team was ahead, depending on whether she felt the team was going to win.

She didn't go by any specific margin of runs, but rather who the opponent was, and her gut instincts.

''I actually considered it like a good luck charm," Tobey says. ''Even if they were just one run [ahead], I might still do it. It was just a feel."

In 2002, when new management took over at the park, they requested that Tobey play the song during the eighth inning of every game.

''They liked it and they just loved the crowd reaction with it and stuff," she says.

Though Tobey says she was nervous the change would be bad luck for the team, its appeal to fans ultimately ruled.

And under the song's spell, the Red Sox last season won their first World Series in 86 years.

It was even included in the recent film ''Fever Pitch," starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore, that appropriates scenes from 2004's winning season."

I have written a book review on The Joy of Sox book and reflected on a recent talk I attended by Rick Leskowitz that speaks to heart energy and the energy that can be generated when a group with a common purpose come together - like opening day.

What if we treated every day of our lives like opening day feeling the hope, the possibility, the goodwill, the joy, the anticipation of a championship season? What if we greeted strangers we meet smiling, drawing from the energy of a Spring day with perfect temperatures, blue skies and everything in bloom with a sense of optimism for our common purpose. And what if we approached life the way sports psychologists coach players in a slump; forget about yesterday's strike out. Focus on each time being a new ballgame (literally and metaphorically) when you step up to the plate feeling the strength and power within of when you hit that home run.

When I was growing up, gym class was excruciatingly painful for me as a survivor of paralytic polio. Back in the 50's and 60's there was no disability awareness and I bore the brunt of a lot of teasing and taunting. My nickname was "Easy Out Alper" - ha! That's what they thought. I would always be chosen last for a team and one of my favorite memories of all time is the day that everyone moved in from the outfield when I came to the plate for kick ball. Everyone was laughing at me. The wind up, the pitch and by some miracle I connected with the ball and kicked it hard. Now if everyone would have remained in the outfield, I might not have scored a home run but there was no one there to field the ball and so I trotted around the bases. I can still feel the power of connecting with that ball in my core and it's a body memory that takes me through many challenges on my yoga mat and off.

There was a time when every day felt like I was part of a losing season and I had no idea how to find my way out of the slump. I was in a dark hole slipping farther and farther away from life but never losing hope. Somehow I held onto a sliver of hope and my Spirit led me out of the darkness into this glorious life that I now live. It's taken a lot of hard work in the off season, many healing angels, guides and teachers to bring me to today's Opening Day. Remember when you show up at the plate, play full on with all of your heart, you are a champion. The energy is electric in Boston and I feel so blessed to be a part of these wonderful traditions - Red Sox baseball and the Boston Marathon. I am so grateful to feel well enough to appreciate life the way I do. Play ball!

From my heart to yours
With eternal love and total gratitude,

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Book Review - In An Unspoken Voice:How The Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness

It's not easy being green
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
And people tend to pass you over
'Cause you're not standing out
Like flashy sparkles in the water
Or stars in the sky

But green's the color of spring
And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like a mountain
Or important like a river
Or tall like a tree

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why
But why wonder why wonder
I am green, and it'll do fine
It's beautiful, and I think it's what I want to be

It's Not Easy Being Green makes the perfect accompaniment to my book review of Peter A Levine's brilliant book, In An Unspoken Voice:How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. It's not easy being green -- it's not easy being a trauma survivor until you surrender, accept with clarity what's happened and discover that life is absolutely phenomenal.

I have referenced Dr. Levine's work throughout my blog these past several months and said one of these days I'll get to finish it and write my review. Today is the day. I learned about Dr. Levine's work through Michele Rosenthal of Heal My PTSD. The title of the book is what spoke to me - no pun intended.

Reading Dr. Levine's book places in a scientific context how the body releases trauma and is able to return to its natural state of goodness, wholeness, vibrancy and a connection to something greater than ourselves. Dr. Levine weaves in theories from psychology and science along with anatomy to help the reader understand trauma from a multidimensional viewpoint. Whether you are a therapist, a scientist, a survivor, a seeker of truth and wisdom or someone who is curious about philosophy, psychology, evolution and spirituality, you will resonate to some or all of Dr. Levine's book.

Dr. Levine weaves in quotes from literature, mythology, Eastern philosophies and case studies to bring the reader to a rich, deep understanding of the impact of trauma on the mind body connection and how the body has an innate capacity to heal and return to a state of goodness once the body is able to complete the actions it was unable to complete during the traumatic event. One of the points that Dr. Levine brings home over and over again is the importance of having the presence of a compassionate other to help transform the trauma.

Dr. Levine uses himself as a case example in the beginning of the book sharing how, because of the presence of a compassionate samaritan who just happened to be near by when he was hit by a car, he was able to transform his trauma and prevent it from developing into full blown post traumatic stress disorder. Dr. Levine is also a supporter of changing the diagnosis from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to PTSI - post traumatic stress injury. "The very diagnosis of PTSD disempowers the patient and results in burnout for the unprotected healer who has been artificially hoisted onto a precarious pedestal as false prophet," Dr. Levine writes.

Dr. Levine has been working in the field of trauma for over 40 years. His passion, compassion and dedication to helping people heal their lives is palpable in the pages of his book. PTSD has until recently been considered a sort of death sentence. Once trauma happens you are scarred for life; Dr. Levine addresses this in his book. Yes there are scars of battle every trauma survivor has but Dr. Levine emphasizes the gifts that happen as a result of trauma and the powerful potential that resides in every person to transform and heal trauma. "Once uncoupling occurs (he is talking about uncoupling the fear from the sense of paralysis or tonic immobility) and then able to exit immobility, the individual opens into a mother lode of existential relief, transformational gratitude and vital aliveness." (p. 91) One reason why Dr. Levine captured my heart as well as my mind is because he speaks to the healing power of yoga and other mindful movement modalities throughout the book.

Dr. Levine speaks to how unresolved trauma is responsible for a majority of the diseases of mankind but once resolved, the experiences are transformed into a renewed sense of confidence and joy. He provides case examples from young children, to survivors of 9/11, to an elderly man who was a holocaust survivor to a fire fighter with a frozen shoulder that was unresponsive to physical therapy intervention. Dr. Levine speaks to why talking therapies alone and especially insight oriented psychotherapy can be counter productive for the trauma survivor. "Becoming the world's leading expert on myself has nothing to do with being fully present in the moment. Having the same reaction over and over while having the insight or understanding can be demoralizing." (p. 289).

The road to recovery for a trauma survivor is often fraught with many trial and error therapies. Dr. Levine brings together the latest theories in biology,neuroscience and body-oriented psychotherapy to bring a message of hope and a road map for therapists and survivors to demonstrate that transformation even in the face of the most "painful assaults to our humanity" is not just possible - it happens!

Embody, Embrace, Release

My body banged up a little worse for wear
but my Spirit shines
how can it not?
Human hands cannot touch what is Divine.

It is an honorable endeavor to reject the violence
pushing it away
what you resist persists
and shuts out the world of love and joy.

Energy drains
anxiety reigns
what if someone finds out the truth
what if I found out the truth.

As I embody the violence, I embrace myself
compassion and love overflow
tenderly tending to the wounds
cleansing breath.

I admire the beauty of scars and adhesions
my battle wounds
mighty warrior survived
transformed into a humble warrior.

Moving through my practice quieting my mind
listening in stillness
hearing the hum of connections once lost
singing in perfect harmony.

From my heart to yours
With deepest love and total gratitude,