“When you move, I’m moved.”Movement by Hozier
The first time I experienced tremors was in 2014 in a heated power flow class. I am fortunate to be surrounded by so many caring yoga teachers. I kindly took their offered extra water or electrolyte tablets, because saying I was dehydrated felt safer than admitting the truth: my body was unearthing long held back emotions, memories, and experiences. I was a person living with the symptoms of trauma.
To admit that, always felt like a weakness or an insult. The tremors always felt like a betrayal. Here I was trying my damnedest to be normal or at the very least look normal, and here they were outing me as a mentally ill person. To tremble in front of people always felt vulnerable. It’s like having a sign strapped to you that says, “I’m fucking terrified all of the time.” Not many people can hold that information with compassion. I definitely couldn’t.
In retrospect, I’m amazed at how my brain can compartmentalize. Shortly after that, I sought out a trauma-informed yoga training, not for me, but to help “other people.” Knowing the narrative of my life wasn’t enough for me to take on the identification of “person living with trauma,” yet my subconscious, or maybe my spirit, pulled me in this direction.
My trauma-informed training was a goddess-send for me. I learned about the nervous system. I normalized my tremors after reading “Waking the Tiger” by Peter Levine. These shakes weren’t something to be ashamed of. Tremors were a sign that my nervous system was operating as it should. Tremors meant my body was working to get itself back to homeostasis. The shaking had message about how my body felt, and it was something to listen to, not to avoid. I didn’t stop having tremors, but they did lessen in severity. I didn’t feel the need to investigate them any further because they only happened in yoga class sometimes or when I was stressed. I felt like I had good managing techniques, and no need to discuss them further.
Then I gave birth, in a pandemic, in a hospital (the hospital being the scene of one of my major childhood traumatic events).
When you give birth, you shake after. There’s a lot of hormone changes to make the miracle of birth happen. Your body dumps adrenaline, as it should. Everything I read said it would resolve in a few hours, but I shook for days. In defense of my medical team, they wanted me to stay at the hospital longer, but I felt the urge to get the hell out of there (fight or flight, you know). My milk wouldn’t come in, likely because of my body’s stress response. I gave my daughter formula, but I had nightmares and audio hallucinations of her hungry cries for months.
I sought mental health help, but postpartum depression diagnosis didn’t seem to really fit. I didn’t want to run away. I didn’t want to harm my baby. I just felt completely overwhelmed by everything. Life felt like too much, and I didn’t feel equipped or able to handle any of it. Every day was this cycle of thoughts between: “I want to die.” “I can’t die because I love my baby and husband too much.” and “I’m trapped.” It’s hard for me to write those words, but I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone else say that, so maybe someone will find it helpful. I didn’t consider myself suicidal, but I felt enraged and terrified that I wasn’t allowed to die.
I put up a good fight for eight months or so. I was very resistant to taking medication. I, like a lot of people in the yoga and wellness profession, felt that I just needed to eat better, get more sunshine, exercise, and definitely more yoga, and I would be delivered from this illness. There’s an additional layer of shame here. If I as a yoga teacher was thinking about suicide, then I must be doing everything wrong. I believed I wasn’t “yogic” enough. What kind of wellness professional wants to die? I felt like a fraud, and my will to live was probably fueled mostly by defiance and inability to have people think ill of me.
Yoga and vegetables did not cure me. My entire life was hours upon hours of “self-care” just so I could spend all the other hours caring for an infant. It didn’t leave any other time to just be. I didn’t have any fight left. I got the prescription.
Zoloft didn’t cure me, but it did save my life. It silenced my inner demons enough so that I could even begin to think about living a normal existence again. I don’t want to relive the past two years, but it was a kind of cosmic clusterfuck of events so absurd that it shook my stubborn mind to its core. It moved me to get help. It was the first time I really understood that my trauma didn’t made me weak. I am SO strong because of it, even if at times I felt the opposite.
In May of this year, I began EMDR (Eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy, and while this has been the most intense, difficult type of therapy I have ever been done, it has really helped me find some healing after a very harrowing two years. This does not mean that I am done or completely okay. I have a ways to go, but I have arrived at some metaphorical overlook, and I see beauty and hope here. I have a lot to write about concerning my journey with EMDR, but I will leave that for another time.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, there is help. You can heal.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Postpartum Depression Research and Info: momgenesfightppd.org