Mindfulness and PTSD
by Leigh Hurst
| PTSD: My Story Project #002
Suicide Trigger Warning
In choosing to participate in the ‘PTSD: My Story Project’ I found it was another way to offer healing and guidance to the world. I am honored and blessed that Katy allowed me to share this teaching with those who need it.
My PTSD began when I was three years old. I was an only child, and every day there was violence, neglect, arguing, drugs and alcohol in our house.
This one particular evening was a bit different. There was a lot of screaming and breaking of things going on, and I got out of bed to see what I could do to stop this behavior. As I approached the living room, I saw my dad holding a gun to his head. He said to me, “Go back to bed Leigh Anne, I am going to kill myself”. My mom spoke up and told him to do it already. I was horrified and remember that ‘feeling’ in my body. Sadly, sixteen years later, he was found dead with a bullet to his brain. The death certificate said ‘accidental suicide’, because the gun was actually underneath his pillow when it was fired.
I ended up in a marriage as I wanted to remove myself from the family dynamics. I was seventeen years old and pregnant by someone I did not even like, let alone love. We ended up having three lovely children together, and I put myself through college.
During that marriage, there was so much unhappiness and lies. Items in our home were always in the pawnshop. My ex-husband always had a ton of payday loans that hung over our head. I knew he was always cheating but did not want to break up the family we had created.
One night about four months after my father’s suicide, I received a call from my husband saying he had been arrested. I was twenty-one years old at the time with two kids. The fact that they arrested my husband for being caught with a prostitute only added to my PTSD. It nearly destroyed me. I felt so alone and unsafe, I even considered suicide and went into a dark place. I knew that was not the answer and could never do that to my children. After all, I was already going through the trauma of that myself.
After suffering for three years, I had another child with my ex-husband and thought our life would turn in a different direction. I decided that I needed to do something to better myself for not only my life but the life of my children. So, I decided to start attending a catholic university to receive an education. When I signed up for my education, I had a 5-year-old son, a 4-year-old daughter, and a newborn baby girl. Keeping myself busy (for six years) and focused stopped me from acknowledging my trauma.
When I graduated, we moved across the country (2100 miles from home) to begin a new life. Once out west, I began earning my own wages and my independence. My ex-husband wanted to start wife swapping, and other outrageous sexual acts, and attending swinger parties. We were nearly twenty years into our marriage, and it was crumbling quickly.
After he left me for another woman, I began my healing process. I started a celibacy practice that lasted 4.5 years. I learned tools like yoga, journaling, meditation, energy work, mindfulness and sound healing. I began attending retreats and learned things like veganism, conscious dance, and being in silence.
In 2012 I started my own healing business. I also worked in a full-time job, so I was basically killing myself working 80+ hours a week. However, I realized that this wasn’t helping me to deal with my trauma or my PTSD. I had the tools but wasn’t putting them into practice. I was actually becoming a workaholic to avoid my PTSD.
Then in 2017, I was practicing energy healing with a friend at my business. I felt a very dark presence in the room and told my friend our healing session was over. We walked to our vehicles and said goodnight. The next day I walked up to my building, and there was yellow tape all around the block. There was a pool of blood behind my building and blood on the back of the building.
There were police everywhere. They told me that two boys had shot two girls up against my building. There were eight shots fired, and six of them had entered my building.
When I finally could go into my building, I noticed that the bullets had caused damage to the inside of the building. One of the bullets went through a rolled-up yoga mat. After the incident, I became very ill for two months. I did not go into the building or my full-time job for two months. I went to the doctors multiple times, although they could not figure out what was wrong with me. One day I was so sick that I went to urgent care. After going through my symptoms and my past records, the doctor finally asked, “Has something happened?” I shared with her about the shooting at my business. She said, “Oh, Leigh! You have PTSD!” There it was, finally.
The PTSD symptom that was happening was similar to dementia. I kept envisioning myself leading a meditation class at our building and bullets coming through the building, killing all of our students. It was similar to a broken record, the scene happening over and over again. I knew I had to do something to restructure my mind.
At my corporate job, I had them hire an assistant for me and went down to part-time. I began a daily ritual that included lots of mindfulness and meditation. I poured myself into my business of healing others and teaching an intentional lifestyle. I started to commit myself to my plant-based diet. All these tools have been great medicine in helping heal myself while also providing healing to others. In 2021 I turned in my resignation letter at my corporate job and went full time in my business.
Do I still have triggers causing my PTSD? Yes. I do not watch television or movies. I was at my partner’s home, and he was watching a movie. I was talking to him and looked at the screen where I saw Joaquin Phoenix sitting in a restaurant and in an instant pulled out a gun, held it under his chin and blew his head off. The trigger happened so quickly there was nothing I could do. Instantly, I chose to close my eyes, go within my body and ask myself where I felt the trigger. Once I recognized it was in my shoulders and belly, I sent softness and breath to that area.
I noticed that I was breathing very quickly, so I slowed my breath down. Then I reminded myself that I was in a safe space and nothing was going to happen to me at that moment.
Choosing to practice a healing ritual each day and not giving in to the triggers and chaos, and recognizing when we are not living in the moment, is the beginning of healing. The damage happens when we allow our mind to rule us instead of we control our mind.
Leigh Hurst is the envisionary and owner of Purposeful Living Healing Center in Reno Nv (USA). She holds degrees in Psychology and Social Work, as well as Gerontology. She helps clients move past their traumas and into living in the present moment. You can learn more about Leigh’s work here Mindfulness | United States | Purposeful Living Healing Center (purposefullivingcenter.com)Follow Journeyofsmiley on WordPress.com
Share your experience
‘PTSD: My Story Project’
Do you have experience with PTSD, or do you take care of / live with someone who has? Would you like to share your story in a guest blog post?
I’m not an expert or a health professional, so the aim of this project isn’t to offer professional advice. Neither is it to pity those who experience PTSD. That’s not what I want. My aim is to raise awareness of PTSD. By sharing your story, you can inspire and empower others. You can highlight the methods that helped you. This way, you can encourage others to reach out for help.
And it may help you as well. Perhaps it’s something you feel like you’re not able to talk about within your closest circle and would like to connect with others in a similar situation. It’s nothing more than bearing an untold story inside you. The fact is that our society still lacks an understanding of mental health. Therefore, I’ve decided to share my story and invite others to join me in this project and write a blog post about their experience. By working together, we can help destigmatise mental health problems and promote wellbeing.
To be featured
If you would like to join in and share your story on my blog but don’t have the experience of writing a blog post, this isn’t a problem. You can still DM me or send me a message, and I’d be happy to assist you with the writing. And you can use a pseudonym if you wish to stay anonymous. You can share as much of your story as you want in a way you feel comfortable with.
The only thing I ask is that you mention ‘PTSD: My story project’ in your post and briefly state why you have chosen to take part in it. You will be allowed to approve the post before publishing it, should it be edited.