Throw the Boot Out the Window

PTSD is a weird animal.

pretty woman in a skirt jumping up in cowboy boots in a wheat field on a hot summer day toned with a retro vintage instagram filter

I wear cowboy boots frequently. I was wearing them the day of my car wreck, and I shoved my left heel into the floorboard so hard I bruised it. I still wear that same pair of boots, and I was wearing them today while driving.

The other day I grounded through my feet while driving, and I was wearing my fur-lined house shoes. It was a really successful meditation, and I was able to use that technique to successfully manage PTSD symptoms while driving.

I tried that again today and – since I was wearing the boots I wore when I wrecked – the process of grounding through my left foot started out pleasant and I was able to notice that the sole of my boot has completely formed to my left foot, including a spot for my big toe. Then the memory of shoving my left foot into the floorboard so hard I bruised my heel popped up and made driving a bit of a challenge, and I wasn’t able to process through that memory successfully, although I tried. So I pulled my boot off while stopped at a red light, and proceeded on without it. If I didn’t like my boots so much I would have tossed it out the window, but instead I tossed it on the floor of the passenger seat. After a few stops (for which I had to pull my boot back on) that didn’t make driving around left-booted any easier, so I finally gave up and left it off until I got home.

I was fine driving as long as my ankle-socked left foot was planted firmly on the floorboard, so now I’m thinking I need a second pair of my house shoes for driving. I’ve been driving in those cowboy boots for five and a half years, and this is the first time they’ve been a problem…or at least the left one, the right one stayed on without a problem. When I tried to do a thing that worked, it made me not able to wear my left boot…possibly ever again?

But I’m ok, the no boot thing worked and PTSD is still a weird animal.

How I Used Yoga Grounding Techniques to Manage PTSD While Driving

I have been hearing and reading for a long time that yoga helps with PTSD symptoms, but I had no idea how – until today. I’m really hopeful about what I figured out today. If you haven’t been following my latest resurgence of PTSD symptoms while driving, I nearly passed out from a trigger while driving a few weeks ago, and since then every time I’ve gotten in the car I’ve battled re-experiencing that and other intrusive trauma memories and imagined threats to my life or the lives of people close to me. Monday was really bad, and I’ve been worried about how to handle this and what it means if I lost my ability to drive.

I had two meetings late in the day yesterday, and had to divert off the interstate after 12 miles or so and take a much slower route on city streets. I just couldn’t do it, but driving 40 mph or less seemed to be ok. It took me twice as long to get home since I avoided the interstate and stuck to a series of roads I knew I could take as an alternative, but even that was a challenge and taking that long to get around is going to severely impact how I spend my time. I know that’s a reality for a lot of people, it just hasn’t been mine thus far and I’m certainly not organized around not being able to drive.

I had another meeting more than an hour out of town today, and I didn’t want to cancel or reschedule. It was an opportunity I have been working toward for years, but I didn’t have anyone to drive me and I decided I may as well try. Panic set in within the first two miles and I was about to pull off the road and quit when I wondered if I could ground myself while driving?

woman wearing green jacket in front of snowy mountain
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Mountain Pose in yoga is about grounding through all four corners of your feet, and I wondered if I could do that while I drove. I wasn’t directly standing on the ground, but I had bare feet within my fur-lined booties, which were on the car floorboard, and the car had a larger all four corners, which were on four tires which were on the ground. So, I was grounded, just through my car.

I set my left foot flat on the floor and meditated out loud through how my left foot was grounded. I then moved to my right foot and how it was grounded while still active and responsive, and I thought about the energy of having that foot be both grounded and lifting up at the same time. I then thought (still out loud) about how grounding in Mountain Pose can have the sensation of lifting up in the front body and grounding down through the back body, creating a cycle of energy through the body. I talked through this in each foot, then in my feet together, and by that time I was perfectly calm and present. I moved on to talking through how I was grounded by sitting in the driver’s seat and noticed the warmth of being connected to the seat from my shoulder blades to my knees. I very intentionally (and out loud) meditated through all of these aspects, being slow and deliberate and tying the principles I had learned about Mountain Pose to how I was sitting while driving.

adult automotive blur car
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I repeated this process continually on the drive to the meeting, staying present, connected, grounded and alert. I was amazed at how well it worked and how calm I was able to stay, especially considering how much panic I’ve had while driving for the last few weeks. I repeated the process on the way back, but after half of the drive I was able to switch from talking through the grounding meditation out loud to thinking through it off and on. It got easier and I didn’t have to be as vigilant.

It was such a relief to be able to calm myself successfully and to feel like I have a tool available to manage severe PTSD symptoms while I drive (a car crash is why I have PTSD). I’ll keep practicing this to see how it works and how intently I will need to stay with the meditation to stay calm. Here’s hoping the yoga is really going to pay off!

worm s eye view of woman doing yoga
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A Text Conversation

I can get really absorbed with my needs, especially on days when I have a lot going on and have severe PTSD symptoms. But as I want to have a really good partner, I am also looking to be a really good partner, and sometimes that means it’s not the day to be all about me.

D: Service didn’t come back till I got here, now I’m unpacked but need a shower. I didn’t need to say anything else but will call after shower if you want.

Me: Ok

D: Do you want?

Me: Only if you want to hear about my driving issues.

D: I do want to be there for you if it’s a showing up/supporting thing, sure.

Me: My weight is down to November level, which is good. I can’t seem to deal with driving fast, that’s not good. I may have negotiated an important win for client, that’s maybe good. Now you know the highlights. If you’re tired and done for the day I can accept that.

D: I think I am.

Me: Ok. Goodnight

D: I just hit the pillow and already almost asleep without the shower. Goodnight

And I really can accept that, I didn’t say it to pretend or to make someone else more comfortable, I checked in with myself first, and I really just want to shower and go to bed and try again tomorrow.

Accepting Help

My independent self isn’t good at asking for help, not the least reason being that I often just don’t think to ask. I am good at organizing myself around what I need and need to do, but adding others to the mix is usually outside my interests/capacity/thought process.

I had three instances of feeling like I might pass out while driving yesterday, which came out of the blue, so I am trying to sort that out and figure out how I want to address it. I didn’t have to be out today except for an exercise class, and my mom offered to drive me so that it was one less thing for me to worry about. I gladly accepted, which is new for me – I often turn down offers for help because they don’t fit my paradigm. I am glad to help others when I can, I think it would be good for me to accept help with as much grace.

active activity adventure backpack
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Standing on the Cliff Edge of This Thing Called Living

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A couple of months ago I took a flying leap into an ice-cold river, plunging deep down into shockingly cold and brilliantly clear water, losing my breath before I burst back up through the surface, sucking air and scrambling for shore. I did not expect that to be repeated so soon and with even less energy to swim.

I almost passed out while driving again this morning. That repeated itself twice more because apparently now driving is itself a trigger for me. I have no idea how I’m going to get through the next week.

Or the next two weeks.

Or the next month.

I am standing on a ledge, feeling like I need to – that I am being asked by invisible forces to – jump off and trust that I’ll land.

Everything about my life thus far tells me that this is a terrible idea, and not only won’t work out, but will be a horrible, life and brain-damaging experience from which I will never recover but end up broke and exhausted and constantly triggered and out of resources.

You may understand why the prospect of trust is a challenging one for me.

I lost my optimism a long time ago, but not my hope, and maybe it’s the hope that drives me forward, contemplating whether I can trust and jump, or if I will simply wither on the edge and collapse. I don’t think that’s an overdramatization, I really feel that I need to make some hard choices with my life – I need to get myself into a stable, predictable job (as much as that is possible) with known paychecks and conditions and requirements and with minimal stress, and build a life around a calm, quiet existence.

Or I need to take a flying leap off the ledge, embrace everything I have poured myself out for and trust that the work is going to pay off and I am going to land, brilliantly, still having to work hard to manage the never-ending symptoms of PTSD but doing it joyfully because I am LIVING, finally, and being fully present and engaged and available.

The crushing weight of PTSD is like a heel on my neck while everything else is telling me to stand up. Oh I want to stand up, I’m just having a hard time with it. And this past weekend as my boyfriend and I rumbled with how much reckoning we’re both going through and how hard it is to watch the stories we’ve told ourselves dissipate as we pick up the courage to face ourselves honestly and how hard it is to adjust to each other under these conditions and while feeling like we have very little stability and I have less trust and confidence that things between us will be better…it is that much more impossible.

I don’t actually know what will happen if I trust and leap. I don’t know how cold or deep it will be, if I will freeze or not, if I can get to shore quickly enough or if I can tolerate the icy depth long enough to shock myself back to life.

Better to live though, isn’t it?

underwater photography of woman
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