“Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence.”— Peter A. Levine
Everyone has experienced trauma in their lifetime, whether it’s cumulative or a one-time episode. Adverse or negative experiences often remain stuck in the brain and body and will hang out, wreaking havoc on our bodies and minds, until we face the wake-up call to hear the message your body is sending. The interesting thing is that however you interpret the event, the perception is the “snapshot” you’ve imprinted in your mind, which causes major disruptions in life, and especially if you’re aspiring to a well and healthy lifestyle, as many of us are striving towards. Most of us think of car accidents, abuse, alcoholism as the top of the list for traumatic events, however, trauma also looks like: a parent(s) physical or mental absence in the home, being bullied at school, going through a parent divorce, identity crisis, sustaining embarrassing situations.
According to the Adverse Childhood Experiences (from the CDC) and like everyone,I’ve experienced trauma. Mine came in the form of sexual abuse and my four-year old little self, decided “too much” and hid it away from my memory for 44 years. Growing up, disassociation, anxiety, dyregulation and coordination issues were the name of the game.
I’ve always been an empath with intuitive gifts, but there were increasingly important messages being shown to me, that I had ignored. Once I had my mind set on healing (little did I know what that would encompass) it’s fascinating to watch who comes through the door and what experiences you gain once you set an intention. From that moment, the path was shown to me in bite-size remedies that I would adhere to and implement on a regular basis. My journey began with receiving reiki sessions and I practiced meditation, delving into trances so I could get in touch with my emotional body. After being frozen for what seemed to be eons, the tears came pouring out of me, the unleashing of a dam.
Trauma actually causes a person to incorrectly interpret facial expressions and numb out to the point of not feeling anything. I didn’t even realize this was the case with me, until I couldn’t stop the crying. I began non-traditional therapy to reset neural pathways, meditated every single day, received monthly bodywork sessions and attended hot yoga five days a week. It was after yoga class one night, when my brain was loosey-goosey enough, that I was shown the memory of the events surrounding the abuse.
I was utterly abhorred and yet, everything made sense in the way I acted as a child, and how it impacted me growing up. I knew in the depths of my core it was indeed true. There I was on my hand and knees sobbing and screaming and flashbacks of how I sat alone by the big glass sliding doors in kindergarten, reading “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” Every. Single Day. I must’ve thought my prince was going to come and rescue me from this horror. I sat with it for over a year, mustered the courage to ask my parents, to which they were equally abhorred and saddened.
More and more dreams and messages came forth, solidifying the trauma. I collected numerous traumas as I grew into adulthood: physical traumas with broken bones and bizarre mishaps, traumas with emotionally volatile relationships, bullying — leading to a plethora of negative patterns and core believes I held towards myself. I re-committed to “the work”, marched on like a warrior and continued to heal like nobody’s business. After 10 committed years to my self-healing towards becoming whole, fully present and showing up in the world, here is what I’ve discovered:
1) Heroine is a four-letter word. I had to come to the brutal realization nobody else could do the work for me or rescue me. My reservoir of strength had to come from my willingness to go into my depths of my psyche, to understand my behavior, or lack thereof, and the courage to fight through no matter the cost. It’s like taking a sword and cutting through thorny bushes until you come through the other side into the open field with the blue sky overhead. I can honestly attest nobody truly knew the madness I traveled to arrive here. It’s curling up in fetal and not speaking to anyone for days, sleeping and napping a lot, and forcing ‘the ick’ out through intentional body work. Neural rewiring. Journaling, meditating, music. Yoga. Breath work. Rinse and repeat. Each step, peeled a layer, exposed an emotion, created a new thought, connected an old memory with a future self, built my strength, my self-worth. I truly learned the meaning of unconditional love.
2) Boundaries much? Experiencing trauma severely impacted my ability to make or maintain boundaries. For years, I allowed people to walk all over me, kept thoughts to myself (even if I knew I should be speaking up), and gave in much too easily. Trauma messes with not only how we perceive our self-worth but the basic function of executive functioning and reasoning. At the time, it seems much easier to justify behavior or reasoning. Often, we lack the ability to see ourselves from the outside because of the distortion the trauma has created in our psyche and our mind. Healing allowed me to find my self-worth, develop and maintain boundaries, find my voice and take chances I would never dream of. I now feel comfortable pushing boundaries within myself because the level of courage and self-worth is my foundation.
3) Daily grace. With increased healing, grace is given more freely with not only myself, but others. I learned that mistakes were not issues I need to keep re-living or punishing myself for. All actions have an outcome and I readily made the same choice over and over based on my former survival brain. Why would I keep beating myself up for choices I made when I didn’t even know the why? Once that lightbulb went on, I could stake an intention and back it with action to change my path in life. I gave grace to others who wanted to take a fight stance, or push their beliefs onto me. This ties in with boundaries, because at some point, I learned when the armor was up, it was my decision to bow out from that, which would zap my time and energy. I learned to discern the ego from the soul within an individual, knowing that hurt people hurt people. I was a hurt person in the past, so of course, I hurt people too. Other peoples’ behavior has little to do with me, and is about their struggle, their grief, their baggage. With the continued practice self-regulation skills, I disallowed particular individuals to affect me and If I was being triggered, then I need to look deeper into myself to figure out why. With the right balance of emotions and words, I could then steer a potentially volatile conversation into a more positive state because I was no longer being triggered by my own baggage; extending grace extends far and wide. I learned to apologize when I was wrong and that I didn’t need to always be right. Just smile and wave.
4) TGIF (Talents, gifts, intuition, Freedom). Trauma does a bang-up job of affecting self-worth, courage, aptitude and covering up talents I already had or should be expressing. I re-discovered the talents and gifts I was born with, and channeled them even more as an adult. Healing allowed me to show up in the world, to be present, and to share my gifts with those I came into contact with. When your brain isn’t operating in survival mode, the high brain can kick in and that’s where the magic of unveiling pure potential truly lies. You get to actually spend more time in imagination land (not disassociating), setting intentions, solving problems and creating solutions. Your mind becomes an image-making movie. I had intuitive experiences as a child, then everything went dormant for many years. When I started to heal, my ability to intuit situations and experience pre-cognitive events came to fruition. Through these experiences over time, I began to trust myself implicitly and came to realize I didn’t need to seek out everyone else’s opinion or approval. The answers were within me. With my finely-attuned intuition, coupled with self-love and knowing I deserved the best, resulted in an incredible amount of freedom and latitude. Freedom to run my life as I choose, freedom in my body, freedom to pick and choose who I share my time and energy with.
5) Solitude is Soul Food. “To make the right choices in life, you have to get in touch with your soul. To do this, you need to experience solitude, which most people are afraid of, because in the silence you hear the truth and know the solutions.” — Deepak Chopra
After my divorce, I dated off and on, but soon began to realize that showing up for myself and participating in “active healing”, would require me to go at this alone. Too much outside “noise” and I’d endured plenty of verbal assaults within relationships over the years and had just sat back and taken it. I had plenty of supports to share my insights and help me with the deeper tragedies, but I found strength in my solitude I didn’t know I possessed. I practiced regulating my own emotions through tools which would benefit me and my jacked-up nervous system, and onto processing these larger-than-life emotions (sadness, hatred, grief, and fear) at varying paces of “Man, I feel great” to “Oh my god, I think I got hit by a mack truck and I can’t move.” The dips in the emotional roller coaster became leveled, more stable, and with less time needed to return to baseline. I traded in nights out with for nighttime yoga, Himalayan salt baths with music, reading and solo popcorn parties with my favorite movies. Self-care became THE prority.Alone time facilitated me to let go of loathing, guilt, shame and once and for all, unlearn my co-dependency. I hadn’t realized the depth of this pattern until specific people left my life. The gift in being alone afforded me the chance to be the #1 Rule Maker and Breaker and earn the title ‘my own best friend’ who loves her company.
6) Alchemy isn’t ancient. During Medieval times, alchemy proposed turning metal into gold to discover the universal elixir. What this really means is turning lead (ego) into gold (soul). Deep, contemplative, spiritual activation occurs when immersed in the type of healing I underwent. The pineal gland is affiliated with the spiritual center and also regulates sleep. Healing allowed me to tap into my divine connection to God, the Universe and the entire company. It goes without saying that spirit often comes down into me and lights the way for me to know my next steps. Literally the expression of “feeling lighter” is just that. Alchemizing the darkness into light takes the weight off anyone. Healing allows the body to be filled with more light, less dense dark energy (trauma and negative emotions) being dispersed. I went to the dark side with only a small nightlight illuminating the way until I was no longer a prisoner to my past. Integrating the light and dark to become balanced and whole, is part of the process. Alchemy uses love as the ultimate weapon to transform fear, guilt, sadness and rage into something magical. It unleashes the pure potential and light that we already are, but forgot to turn on. I’m not burdened with the past, I forgave the people and experiences who hurt me. I’m lighter and I vibrate at a different level. We all have the opportunity to become alchemists. It’s wired into our spiritual DNA if you allow its expression.
7) Healing helps Humanity. When I healed myself, I witnessed my life unfolding in a way with the potential towards something different. I had to go against the grain and listen deeply to my intuition. I left traditional work as an occupational therapist and opened my own practice to assist people to heal their trauma and provide education. Doing the work allowed me to be transparent, empathetic and to pay it forward. The more people I can help, the more trauma is resolved and those individuals go on to find their gifts to truly express themselves. Showing up in the world as our best, authentic self is what we are here to do, whether you’re doing this on a small, local scale or large, global mission. Healing trauma allows us to be catalysts — and the world is ready for this new generation of awakened, rebirthed, change agents.
“The Soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.” — Caroline Myss