I. Fearful. Victim.
I had an experience that left me feeling traumatized. The first thing my mom asked as I was sharing was, “Why? Why would God allow this?” And that question allowed me to start healing. There must be a lesson here for me to learn—maybe tolerance of those living in abusive situations or deeper understanding of how the body processes trauma.
The following day, I told my kids how my body was still reeling in a trauma response. Eyes were on alert. Heart was noticeably beating in chest. Muscles were tight. Voice was high. I knew the danger had passed. Yet, it was like my brain and body were disconnected. P.S. My perseverating brain continued playing and replaying the scenarios.
And then I attended church on Sunday morning. The music began and I felt it was chosen just for me. I felt strong but I didn’t feel healed. So I meditated. Uh oh, maybe faith isn’t about not feeling. Trauma happens. As my mom has stated and restated my whole life: “If He brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it” and “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” Was I strong enough to learn from this, become more compassionate towards others, and grow in my faith? Short answer: YES! Longer answer: Newly re-inspired, I will continue learning about trauma and its effects on the mind and body. With time and using the strategies in my toolbox, I will move through my own personal feelings of victimization.
It’s easy to be on the outside looking in. One can speculate—get out of the situation. Um, that isn’t always possible. So then what? One stays. Sometimes it is safer to stay in silence than to act and risk repercussions. I stayed. I, and those with me, survived.
Knowing my situation was time-stamped made it easier to endure. But it left me thinking about those whose lives are filled with daily trauma. Marital. Parental. Relationship. Drug-related. Societal. Cultural. Is there a way out for them? Whether they are ready, willing, and/or able to get out, what can I do to support the person right now in the present moment?
This question reminded me of an email I recently received from colleague Dynell Weinthal. She was excited that I’d be teaching about trauma in an upcoming Faculty at Work course. She shared an important consideration in relation to trauma and PTSD.
“Never tell somebody to “move on,” “let it go,” “get over it,” or ask “why do you let ______ have power over you?””
Important advice! From the outside, it can be easy to haphazardly toss cliches as potential lifelines. But do they offer hope or do they drive someone further into already existing trauma? I’d argue that it is necessary and important to be in our moment. Mind over matter doesn’t always work.
Dynell went on to explain, “Even if somebody rationally knows it is over, the body can react to a trigger… The best one can do is gain a greater understanding of what is happening to them and use any tools they have learned to get to the other side of that triggered moment as unscathed as possible. Nobody with trauma wants to be feeling a trigger. It feels horrible and can be terrifying. They likely have already tried a multitude of ways to “get over it” and likely already are beating themselves up for being triggered again.”
She concluded her email reminding me, “Our mindfulness can make a difference. Trauma and PTSD can be very misunderstood. Education is everything.”
As the days pass, my brain continues to return to a now familiar loop replaying different scenarios of what happened, “what if…”, coulda/woulda/shoulda. It’s frustrating to me. I know better than to “live in the past” and yet, I truly believe this replay pattern is part of the healing process.
Thinking it through and feeling the physical manifestations are part of my process. I can choose to pause and reflect. Journaling, as I’m doing in writing this article, is soothing my soul. Taking some down time—binge watching Alaska shows on Netflix, cooking and baking, connecting with friends. And then my old stand-bys: breathing and moving with Educational Kinesiology.
Each replay helps me feel my firm foundations of family and faith. I feel and therefore I am. (I’m not frozen in a stress response. I am alive!)
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” And wiser. It has the potential to change your heart-space. I’m here. Alive and well. Stronger than ever.
© 2018 Cindy Goldade, In-Motion Intelligence