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I opened the door and stepped into the beautiful warm, breezy San Diego day. I headed down the street with the joyful wonder I experience when I take off on one of my adventures. I turned up the street towards Sunset Cliffs with anticipatory freedom of running along the magnificent crumbly cliffs.  

I hiked while watching Seagulls catch the warm air currents, flying over the ebb and flow of the sun sparkled water. The hypnotic pull of the slow rolling waves acted once again as a balm on my troubled soul. I placed my hands on the cold grey pipe railing hovering above a set of steps, I glanced down at the wet mossy cliffs below.   The splashing tide left a view of the uncovered rocks. Holding onto the rail I charged down the steps. Reaching the bottom, I climbed over slippery stones to small caves I had not visited before. The sense of excited freedom washed over me and I am eight years old tiptoeing to the bathroom door, cautiously turning the shiny gold knob, stepping outside, and with a soft click, shutting the door behind me. Liberated from the dark crumbly oppression of a violent household, I would step into the bright yellow sunlight and begin a slow trot up the dusty trails of the green cactus filled canyons behind our house.   I was soul running, running for freedom. Soon I would meet up with my long time companion. A tall, sinewy brown skin Indian Brave who sported a white painted face, baldness shined on each side of his black Mohawk. The red stripes above and below his eyes framed his stark black pupils.   When I was the most afraid or lonely, I would leave my home and I would run, following my Brave, learning how to be quiet. After all who needs protection when they have an Indian Brave as their guardian?

Soul runner… I ran to save my soul. Perhaps, I ran beside the brown skin of my soul. The hideous hiddenness of domestic violence, poverty, and emotional deprivation infiltrated my childhood. We moved every year, changed schools every year, there was no safe haven, I was left a fearfully feral child, a child starved for love, a child searching for safety. I found that love and safety in imaginary companions. My father, my best friend and worst enemy depending on the scotch, once told me I was an Indian Princess. Perhaps my desire to hang onto the positive aspects of my relationship with my father influenced my choice of companions.

Running, trekking, exploring nature has provided me freedom from the intensity of my own emotions.   An intensity created by the introduction of terror at a young age. At an age when a developing minds are damaged by mayhem. An escape from thinking about the black reign of creepy crawly worms invading my young nervous system whenever I tried to sleep. Those long treks in nature were a soothing balm when the scrutinizing pain of other children, the bullies found me me lacking, escape from the condescending words of my mother.     I would try to outrun my rage, my grief. I would run until I could not run anymore and then I would cry.  Yet, I had founds something that no one could take from me. I ran and trekked my path to personal peace.

Maybe, by running with my Brave I was able to changed the chronic brain state of persisting fear found in children of Domestic Violent households, traumatized children. I was counter-acting those same brain chemicals norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine, that are developmentally altered in abused and neglected children.

Research has illuminated the neurobiological changes that occur in abused children. Children, like me, who experienced chronic threats, who live in a brain state of persisting fear.   This chronic state alters the norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine systems of our primitive brain, the brain stem. Running and interacting with nature became my way to self-regulate my emotions. My brave was my attachment to safety. I literally stumbled into a mode of self-preservation of regulating the brain chemicals in my brain. I think of my Brave today when I run along the trails, of the childish comfort he brought me.   I feel the blue-steeled passion I still feel towards physical exertion and the warm yellow calmness the aftermath brings me.

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