"I am a survivor of multiple incidents of abuse. As a small child both home and school were dangerous places for me. Edmonton's river valley became a place of sanctuary, peacefulness and safety for me. I walked the trails as a kid and young adult. Then (insult to injury) I was shot in the back of the head while walking in the river valley one autumn afternoon-a random incident of stranger violence. Back in the "olden days" there was no knowledge of PTSD [post-tramatic stress disorder] and its longterm effects-dissociation from one's own self, severe anxiety, insomnia and social isolation are just a few and so I lived for a long time in a kind of void. About a year after being shot I realized I had not been outside other than walking to my car. I began slowly--by jogging around and around the schoolyard in front of my house. I had never run before--I wasn't an athlete by any means. But, I just had to move. Then, I got a dog and, with a bit of company, I began to run the river valley trails I missed and loved. I just couldn't have them taken away from me. Over the years I ran longer and longer distances gradually reclaiming the entire valley as a place of peace for myself. And, when my son became old enough, he became my willing jogging companion. Moving was a lifesaver, and I mean this most sincerely--those of us who live with PTSD know it's darker side, the compulsion towards isolation, self-harming and suicide. I would run, when I felt those urges. I now realize that this was an instinctual coping strategy that kept me connected to my physical body--present and helped me feel safe in the world, something that is challenging for me. I have also, in my adult years, taken up yoga, and sought the help of a personal trainer (as well a a good therapist). Feeling strong in my body helps me to be present--to not dissociate when my out of whack stress response is triggered. It helps me to feel safe, and it helps me to deal positively with a challenging condition--to make some darn good lemonade.
I believe that being human is to rise to whatever life presents to us, to always seek our best self. So, I believe that I have been blessed. The universe, God, karma, gave me a gift of a healthy body. This body has been through a bit. :) But, my body is also a gateway through the violence it experienced to find the other side of violence, to survive in the present, to feel strong, to breathe, to find and know and spread the value of peace. With this strength, I am strong enough to not just survive, but to create peace in my relationships, to live a positive life, do good work, raise a child who is strong and thriving in spirit and body. I will always need support from a good dog and a good psychologist. And I will always need to move. But moving through jogging, yoga, and with a trainer means that I can create a positive experience / encounter with people and my community each day. I can be IN the world every day, even the tough days. Moving has helped me to fill my life with good people--including me breathing in beautiful river valley peace through all seasons; learning and feeling my own strong self, my own potential by running the trails, doing yoga and with a certified exercise professional; I use this strength to create a meaningful life and to connect (not dissociate) with neighbours, friends, and family."
- Cynthia C., 56
Edmonton, Alberta Canada