I have always been a morning person. Early bird catches the worm and all. I was never one to sleep the day away like my kids often do now. I do my best work in the morning and love to see the sunrise.
This time of year, my anxiety gets the better of my and I have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Insomnia is my constant companion. I worry about so many things at the holidays, making lists in my head, replaying conversations, and catastrophizing all that can happen. It is always an issue but this time of year it gets worse.
I have worked long and hard to calm my anxious thoughts and behaviors, but sleep is one of the most difficult. For years I would lie awake waiting for my wasband to arrive home. He worked nights and often went out drinking after work. I never knew what his mood would be when he arrived home and often slept on the edge of the bed afraid to even breathe. Mornings I would tiptoe out of the room as not to wake him and incur his wrath. I would keep the kids as quiet as I could for the same reason. It was a difficult dance for all of us.
For years after I left, I still had trouble sleeping and would get out of bed feeling like I had been in a fist fight. Every muscle ached…especially my hands.
One evening, my therapist mentioned that I looked more tired than usual and asked me to talk about it. As I spoke, she watched me then she asked me to lie on the floor and show her my sleep position. I did as she asked, hopeful she could provide insight into my insomnia.
She asked me to talk about each part of my body and how I felt. What I realized was that every single part of me body was tense, my whole body was in a tight ball, my shoulders were by my ears, and my hands were in fists.
She told me that I was a resting fighter, always vigilant. That I was ready to defend myself in while I was resting. I was not, in fact, really ever sleeping. My body and brain would not allow me to let me let my guard down. Trauma is stored in the body and appears in many different forms unless it is healed.
It has taken intentional practice to release that trauma and vigilance, letting others into my life. The boundaries are firm, walls are high, guarded fiercely to protect myself and those I love. I am keenly aware of my body and its cues when it comes to sleep and other trauma responses. During the holidays, insomnia wants to not just visit but stay. So when the insomnia rears its head I can say hello and send it packing again, not allowing it to overstay its welcome.
Trauma takes many forms. With the help of others, we can identify as well as address the issues in order to find hope and healing. This is an ongoing process as healing is not linear. We are all in the process of becoming stronger humans. With some help, and some sleep, we can all find peace.


Baggage. We all have it. It is the stuff we carry around with us. All those little anxieties and insecurities that we carry with us from one day to the next, one relationship to the next, one experience to the next. We can learn it, inherit it, create it, or have it thrust upon us but what we do with it and how we carry it is up to us. It is our choice in how we handle that baggage.
I have often been called a ‘bag lady’. I love a good purse of any size…but honestly, the bigger the better! And it is in the purse, I carry EVERYTHING! I went from teacher bag to diaper bag to giant purse. I have also carried everything for everyone else. I have everything for everyone all the time. “I put in in your purse…” “It is in my purse somewhere…” are common phrases in my family. But when I slowed down and started cleaning out my purse, I realized how much crap I was carrying that was not mine and how much of my own crap that I was carrying that I did not need. I had been so insecure and afraid for years that I was carrying things ‘just in case’ out of sheer fear. I needed to unpack. I needed to prioritize what was important to ME and face the fear head on.
When I started to unpack my emotional baggage, I realized that it was taking over and defining me. Emotional baggage slows and sometimes stops us from reaching our goals. We head into emotional overwhelm without really ever realizing it. I was not just overwhelmed…..I was buried and suffocating! I needed to find a way to lighten the load.
Unpacking was not fast nor easy and I often feel like it will never really end. But just like cleaning out a purse, we have to sort and get rid of what we do not need any more.
I no longer want to carry around a steamer trunk, or even a large purse, full of stuff I don’t need. I am downsizing like a flight attendant with a small, carefully curated bag filled with only the necessities in travel sized containers.
The bag I carry now is smaller. It is packed intentionally with only what will serve me in this next stage of my life. What are you carrying around stuff that is not yours? Are you carrying around stuff that is no longer serving you? It is time to unpack and travel a little lighter.