Yoga and PTSD: Why I Wish I Started Sooner

Several years ago, I was raped. Within 12 hours I was at the doctor`s office asking her what I should do. The female doctor told me I should know better than to drink on a date and sent me home. No DNA swabs, no counsellor referral, no support.

I did what most people would do in that situation. I blamed myself. I took full responsibility for something that I was only half responsible for. So I focused on moving on.

Within four months, I became obsessed with fitness. I would exercise 3-4 hours a day. I would run with music blasting to drown out my thoughts. I went to dance fitness classes with complicated choreography so that I`d be too busy thinking about my next move instead of facing the truth.

I took my first yoga class during this time. I hated it. I mean I epically hated it. I didn`t hate the postures, instructor or atmosphere. I hated the silence. I was forced to be alone with my thoughts. It was horrifying.

There`s a famous Buddha quote that reads, ``There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way, and not starting.`` I couldn`t bear going all the way. It was too painful. I wish I knew this quote back then. My refusal to meditate would eventually blow up in my face in the worst way possible. The worst part was that I never saw it coming.

Eventually, the weather was too cold for my outdoor runs. School would take up all my spare time so I stopped exercising. If I had pushed myself to stick it out with yoga, I could have easily followed along to YouTube videos in my basement apartment during the winter. I would have known how to focus on my breathing. I would have learned how to calm myself down. But I didn`t.

One dark winter day, around the anniversary of my trauma, I went on a bad date. The guy wanted to go back to my place to hook up. I freaked out. That date ended up triggering me. I didn`t even know triggering was a thing. I had no idea what was wrong with me.

Over the next year, I would wake up from nightmares every ten minutes. I`d hallucinate daily. I lived in survival mode, where you feel like you`re in danger every second of the day. No breaks. I never felt safe. I would sleep at a different person`s house every single day because I didn`t want anyone to ever be able to find me. I was a mess. Full blown PTSD.

During this time, I finally got help and I was connected with a social worker who specialized in traumas. Because my anxiety was the worst it had ever been, she was constantly teaching me tricks to calm myself down. Funny thing is, they were all breathing patterns. She essentially taught me the meditative aspect of yoga.

I sometimes wonder if I could`ve prevented PTSD if I had just kept going to those yoga classes. The truth is, when you experience a trauma of any kind, eventually you`re going to have to face it head on. If you don`t you`ll be completely blindsided one day when your brain can no longer repress everything you`ve been trying to put behind you.

Experiencing a trauma sucks. It`s painful and horrifying. However, PTSD is worse. The aftermath of an unresolved trauma is so unbearable that it makes the trauma look insignificant. Even though, we all know it isn't.

I wish someone had told me that it`s okay to feel uncomfortable with the truth you face during a yoga class. I wish my instructor had told me that regular practice would help me manage the stress of a trauma to prevent it from blowing up into something much worse.

Yoga healed me. I saw a darkness during PTSD that I didn`t know was possible. I saw no light at the end of the tunnel. I never thought I`d survive. But I did. Yoga healed me.

Today, I`m in a long-term relationship with someone who treats me with respect. I don`t experience triggers anymore. When I have nightmares, I use breathing techniques and positive self-talk to calm me back down. I don`t live in fear. I don`t run away from the truth.

If you`re currently battling a trauma, I`m with you. I know how horrible it can be. The best piece of advice I can give is to go through the pain one step at a time. Each day ask yourself, `what can I do today that will make tomorrow just a little bit better?` Tomorrow might not be the best day of your life. However, the small adjustments each day, will bring you back to stability sooner.

Don’t be afraid to face the pain head on. The sooner you confront the truth, the sooner you’ll heal from it.

 

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