In 2005, I lived across the river from downtown Calgary in Canada. I loved riding my bicycle to work, even in the winter. One cold November morning I was cycling on the beautiful pathway along the Bow River when I was physically assaulted.

It came out of nowhere, a man running up the river bank. He had no shirt. Shaved head. I had no time to escape. With a couple of running steps, he punched me hard in the side of my head and I flew off the path onto the steep bank of the river. I froze there, him looming above me on the river bank, until I heard a woman screaming. The woman cycling behind me had stopped a few hundred yards ahead, called 911, and screamed for help. Her courage and action saved me.

That began my journey with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Very little was known about it at the time. I found Dr. Peter Levine’s excellent book, Waking The Tiger. I was fortunate to be able to afford a psychologist who diagnosed me with PTSD. She helped me prepare to testify and she told me the most important thing I needed to know in order to heal.

My nervous system had been traumatized and I needed to experience safety to recover.

I had been meditating and doing yoga for a dozen years and as much as I could, I created a sanctuary in my home where I could rest and heal. I did guided relaxation and breathing practices. I read and watched movies. Slept. I walked alone in the Rocky Mountains in grizzly bear country where I felt safer than with people.

It was a long journey to healing. It included learning about the effect of abuse and neglect in childhood on our developing brain and nervous system. I had an ideal 1950’s childhood until the age of twelve when I endured several years of being shamed, bullied, emotional neglect and isolation.

Like Alice, the effects of my childhood have lasted throughout my life. This is how our systems work. These are normal responses to our experiences.

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