I Couldn’t Get Out of the Car

August 23, 2018

I’m intimately familiar with every detail of my steering wheel.
Every crack. Every stitch. Every bit of wear and tear.

Seems random, right?

But my steering wheel, or more accurately, my ability to get that present with my steering wheel, is one of the ways I healed aspects of my trauma.

Trauma has no regard for the seemingly linear nature of time. None. When trauma is activated, your body—both neurologically and physiologically—doesn’t know the difference between what happened then and what’s happening now.

So when I found myself incredibly triggered late last summer, I literally couldn’t get out of my car. Logically I knew that I was sitting outside the place of a man who wasn’t any of my ex-boyfriends, but I couldn’t stop the shaking, the near hyperventilation, or the way the world outside seemed to be spinning…

I couldn’t get out of the car.

I had no anchor to the present, and my body was reacting as if I was right back in the past. I fought to bring myself back into my body with each desperate breath, and when I was finally present enough to realize I was gripping the steering wheel so hard my fingers hurt, I just kept focusing on that.

Every crack. Every stitch. Every bit of wear and tear.

It slowed the spinning down long enough that I was able to recognize what was happening… so I said the only thing that came to mind to separate the past from the present.

“Boyfriend A is dead, Boyfriend B is gone, and I’m okay. I’m alive. I’m free.” Over and over and over again I let those words tumble from my mouth, out loud, as I took in every detail of my steering wheel. Eventually, I got myself out of the car.

I walked into where I was going, still trembling and pretty positive I was going to stop breathing before having a panic attack… but anchored in this powerful truth: the trauma was not happening now.

Can I get real with you for a moment?

The whole “just be present” preaching pisses me off.

Yes, being present is important.
It’s healing and grounding and all things powerful.
It’s everything essential to creating what you desire.

But it’s not always as simple as “just be present,” because learning how to anchor into the present moment when trauma is involved is a skill that is so incredibly challenging to attain, let alone remember in the moment… especially if you’re alone. Not impossible, but challenging.

You’re not just fighting with the stories and beliefs that have rooted into your subconscious, you are fighting against a neurological and physiological response coming from a part of your brain that has no language… no understanding of past vs present.

Your brain and body literally stop functioning in ways we take for granted each and every moment of each and every day.

Learning to stay in my body…
Learning to anchor in the present…
Learning how to tell my body the trauma had passed…
Learning how to move when I was physically paralyzed…
Learning how to keep my eyes open and not dissociate completely…

This has been some of the most challenging work I’ve done, and I’ve “failed” at it repeatedly. I can’t even tell you the number of intense panic attacks I’d succumbed to in the months prior to that moment of finally being able to anchor and find the words to create separation between past and present.

Healing is hard.
It’s possible, beautiful, life-changing…
And it’s hard as hell.

Understanding that is the first step towards being able to make the kind of choices necessary to move through it. To rise up and come back. To create something new, something different, something better.

I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life. I’m healthier, more grounded, more present, and more on purpose than ever before.

Because I was willing to face into the work. Because I was willing to understand what was happening and learn new skills and tools. Because I never gave up… I never allowed the reality of my trauma or my experiences to hold me back.

I did the work.

Are you ready to do the work?

It’s not too late to join me for Journey Mapping™.

Journey Mapping takes trauma into account, which means that I’m not just going to preach nice ideas at you and tell you that you’re not working hard enough if you’re not able to do them. We all have trauma, and if you’re struggling with something as “simple” as being present no matter how hard you try, there’s more to the story than you just need to make more time to meditate each day.

Click here to join me. 🙂

I can’t wait to share everything I’ve learned from my own loss, grief, PTSD, and healing over the last 3+ years. It’s going to be amazing.

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