Winter Moon Milk

I have been really reluctant to make this known to my readers for quite some time, but I’m also realizing that the best way for me to own up to my power is to share my story.

I have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

I tried sweeping it under the rug for over three years. I knew that it was a problem, but I was a young mother and I was thinking that if I ignored it for long enough, I could will it away. I finally had a mental break about a year ago after another traumatic incident and I knew it was time to make myself open to the possibility that this was something I couldn’t fix on my own.

I thought that if I admitted to myself that I had a problem, that I would have to make room for prioritizing my self care and I felt that I wouldn’t be as good of a mom and that I would have to identify myself with my trauma, which terrified me.

There’s a ton to unpack here, but I realized that the years of coming last place in my list of priorities had created a mindset of self-deprivation and self-denial, and I understand now it was because I didn’t feel as if I were a whole human anymore. I was a broken thing, discarded by society and it felt likely that I was to stay that way.

I stopped reaching out to friends and family after making the reach and it not being reciprocated, and I isolated, in hopes of keeping up the act that I was a “normal” human (if only to myself) and to keep from being reminded of the trauma that I experienced.

Most days I felt as if I was just going through the motions of living life and it would often take me hours to collect enough courage to just step outside of my door and pretend to be a normal, functioning person, even just to go to the market. I wanted to hide, but I was also becoming used to feeling unseen.

In truth, friends and family stopped reaching out too, and I still haven’t decided if I believe it was because they didn’t think I was worth it, if they saw my hurt and wanted to give me space, if I hurt them, or if my projection of being strong gave people the impression that I was ok.

I was definitely not ok. (A friendly reminder to check on your strong friends.)

Also, we, as a society, have no idea how to help those around us deal with loss and trauma. I longed for someone to call me to just to check on me, ask if I was ok, someone I loved and who loved me back. Instead, I was left in charge of the mental work of relationship upkeep, and I simply didn’t have it in me. I tried, God knows I tried.

It was a deep cycle and the only way I can describe it is that I felt that I was a butterfly, trapped in a well, and the harder I beat my wings to fly out, the more they became tattered and finally, I wasn’t able to fly anymore.

I read a memoir called The Choice by Dr. Judith Eger that helped me to re-frame my experiences. She wrote about her story with surviving the Holocaust and the emotional fallout that came after. In no way am I comparing my story with hers, but the descriptions were so real and often familiar enough that I cried throughout the whole book. It was a breakthrough for me.

One of the most powerful things she said was something along the lines of the problematic terminology of PTSD- labeling it as a disorder makes you think that there’s something wrong with YOU, rather than it being a logical and normal human reaction to trauma. This was the first thing that had given me courage to accept what had happened and to begin to understand what recovery would look like. For the first time in years, I had hope.

I began to read, sleep, journal, eat, meditate, and practice yoga– I put as much in my cup as I could, and it helped, little by little. I took Xanax to help manage the panic attacks and to quiet the bursts of rage that I experienced during that time and it was a fair start.

As you go through the process of trying to understand trauma recovery, you realize that it’s stored on a very deep level and it takes so much work on unpacking the psyche and lifting the mantle of shame. I’m still working on it. I was scared of my anger at first and it took me a long time to let myself feel that. After a while of nurturing myself I dove into that uncomfortable water and started to be able to distance “me” from the emotions I was feeling. I wasn’t the rage, the anger, the hurt, or the disappointment that I felt.

I’m still me.

I stopped taking pharmaceuticals about 7 months ago when I began my journey with Herbalism. (**Please don’t stop your medications until you speak to trained professionals.**) After a consultation, I was prescribed specific herbs that would compliment my body’s terrain for that time. I have since dipped my toes in herb study and I am so amazed at how effective they are on the many different levels that they treat: physical, mental, and, believe it or not, spiritual.

In working with herbs, I have found that, for me, nervine herbs (nervine=gives support to the nervous system) like passionflower, skullcap, calendula, lavender, chamomile, and especially the adaptogen Ashwagandha are essential for the internal heat, adrenal fatigue and overly excited nervous system that I have. Using these herbs has changed my life and my outlook on how successful it can be.

People who experience PTSD often have episodes where a flight or fight bodily response is triggered from normal, non-life threatening stimulus. When people come by my house unexpectedly, I still have to practice calming and grounding techniques to help my body return to its normal state and to communicate to my body that I’m not in danger. This is one of the things that I didn’t want to admit into my life. I just wanted to be ok again; I’m understanding that healing takes this kind of work and this is just part of my journey back to health and well-being.

So, for today’s recipe, we are going for the new blogger trend, Winter Moon Milk, made with infusing Ashwagandha and warming herbs like cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom (which also has antidepressant qualities and can help lower blood pressure), and ginger. Perfect for these snowy, wintery evenings. This recipe was instrumental in my recovery process.

It is recommended that this milk is consumed within a few hours of being able to sleep, so if this is your first experience with Ashwagandha, please exercise caution after drinking it. I was quite sleepy my first time after trying this recipe and I almost had a terrible accident on my stairs!

Also, I just watched Julie & Julia for the first time last night and I’m seriously having some serious foodie envy- as in, I want all the yummy things- so I think it’s a good time to put some of those herbs to use in another recipe. Preferably with *lots* of sweet cream butter because we know that is what Julia would do.

Winter Moon Milk

4 1-cup Servings

1 quart milk (any preference you have)
1 tbsp Ashwagandha root
1/4 tsp cardamom seeds
1/8 tsp cinnamon powder
1/8 tsp ginger powder
1/4 tsp vanilla

Add milk, Ashwagandha root and cardamom seeds (the little black seeds inside the green pods) to a medium-sized pot over medium-low heat. Allow this mixture to low-boil for 20 minutes. (You can also use Ashwagandha and cardamom powder, just be sure to warm the milk gently and add the spices after you remove the pot from the heat.)

Sprinkle the cinnamon and ginger powder over the top, and stir in the vanilla and honey.