It has been a few months since I’ve been able to write. I experienced a situation a few months ago that triggered me and sent me into a tailspin emotionally and physically. My mind was reeling with questions and thoughts. My body was reacting with horrible anxiety. I couldn’t understand why I was triggered so severely. I was so confused and discouraged. So I decided, with the Lord’s help, I needed to go deeper into understanding trauma.
Everything that lives inside our bodies can at some point break down. We might need to have surgery to repair a bone that gets broken or take out an appendix if it ruptures. We might need to have our kidney stones removed. (I am far too familiar with that type of surgery!) You get the idea. Sometimes our bodies need to be repaired. But what do we do when our mind needs repair?
When we deal with PTSD or other mental issues, we can’t go in and remove our brains. Surgery isn’t going to be the answer. But, we can work on repairing the damage that has been done. Restoring our minds is definitely not a quick fix. It might take years to mend the damage that was done. But I am learning, that restoration can happen because we have a God who is in the business of restoring our minds, bodies and souls.
“Many of us feel deep shame around our feelings of anxiety or disconnection—as if we should be stronger than we are or just “get over” our fears. But what I want you to hear is this: It’s important that we honor our stories, and it’s vital that we understand and have compassion for the biological responses our bodies now have because of those stories. Many of our responses happen whether we want them to or not.” Aundi Kolber
My body has been biologically responding to the trauma that happened to me in my childhood for many years. I have suffered from anxiety, panic attacks and at times depression. Even though my father and the danger of his presence is gone, my body still responds as if the violence was still present. The fact that I haven’t been able to control how my body reacts has only made it worse. It has been a horrible battle for years.
I was talking with my counselor and I realized something that I never have before. I’ve always told myself that I handled my abusive childhood better than my brother did because he was the one that committed suicide. I made myself believe I was the tougher one and he was more sensitive than I was. I think I did that because I had to be the stronger one in my mind in order to survive. Well, that was a lie.
I realize now, that I have to admit that I was just as profoundly affected by my childhood as my brother was. The trauma has nearly destroyed me. My story could have easily been suicide. The only way I am going to heal, is to honor my story; be honest with my feelings and help the different parts of me feel like they have a voice. I need to bring them into the presence of Jesus where there is always help and safety.
“When we consciously or unconsciously feel we aren’t safe, our bodies automatically shift into hyper- or hypoarousal. This is an incredibly helpful instinct when we are in actual danger. However, the neuroception of folks who’ve grown up in physically or emotionally threatening situations can become skewed. This sense is exacerbated if they feel they don’t have a voice, choice, or way to set limits on experiences that feel threatening.” Aundi Kolber
I have to accept the fact that my brain developed differently than a child who was living in a safe environment. When I was growing up, I felt threatened daily because I was living in a war zone from the moment I woke up till the moment I fell asleep. Yes, I wish my life could have been different. But I am realizing that God is writing a different story for me. A story that I want to share with you.
I have spoken often about journaling. It is still the best way I can communicate with my Savior. But now, I am trying to listen to my body more than I have in the past. I am trying to honor my story and be kind to myself.
When my body is in full panic mode the last thing I think of is kindness. I have a lifetime of bad habits to change that include pushing through pain and willing myself to look okay. I am learning that I have to listen to my body, be kind to it, and figure out what I need to do to feel safe. I was not safe as a child and to be perfectly honest, I haven’t felt safe as an adult very often.
“If you grew up without a secure attachment, you may not feel you can reach out for help when scared—this is a clue that your experiences have made your “Window of Tolerance” smaller. We must figure out how to establish safety for our bodies. If we can listen to and respond to our bodies’ needs, whether that means releasing energy by getting outside or staying connected to ourselves through conscious breathing, our WOT will begin to grow, and true healing can occur. It is slow work, but friend, nothing could be more worth it.” Kolber
The kindness part trips me up a lot because I get so frustrated with the process. I get frustrated with my body reacting the way it does. My body can get triggered without my mind knowing what is going on. I just want to scream and cry most of the time.
I am learning to befriend the parts of me that need someone to listen to them. I realize that might sound weird to some of you. But I have to tell you this has been an amazing experience. I have encountered a younger part; a teenage part; a very anxious part; a threatened part; an angry part: a fearful part; and many others that I can’t remember right now. Each time I listen to them, I learn and I heal.
I want to pause and say something right now to you, your friends and your family. I/You did not choose to be abused. I/You did not choose to be yelled at or belittled. I/You did not choose to live in a home filled with anger and fear. I/You did not choose to live in a war zone every single day. I/You cannot help what happened to us. This is something that I/You are not just going to get over. Instead, we are going to get through it!!
I have spent so much of my time beating myself up because I couldn’t get over it. Maybe you have too. But, by the grace of God, I am going to get through it. I will get through this because of the work I put into healing and also the work of the Holy Spirit in me.
I know our friends and families have a hard time understanding all of this because they haven’t lived it. They just want us to get better. There is a lot of stress and frustration out there with the process of healing. I know… because I have been on both sides.
When my brother was really sick with OCD, I felt so helpless. I saw a darkness in his eyes. I just wanted him to get better. I did whatever I could to help him. Year after year I watched him go through so many different treatments and nothing seemed to help him. I know he felt alone, frustrated, scared and angry because we didn’t understood what he was going through.
Can I just say something about that? The next time you feel tempted to get frustrated with yourself, your friend, or family member… stop and take a moment to pray. Pray for yourself and that person. Love yourself and one another. Be kind to one another. Be kind to yourself. You will find more peace by doing that than trying to push through or put unrealistic expectations on yourself or that person.
Healing is tricky. My brother and I grew up in the same household, but our bodies reacted very differently. He had his story and I have mine. I really wish I would have know then, what I know now, so I could have reacted differently. I think that’s true for most of us.
His death set off a chain reaction inside of me that I have been dealing with for years. He was the one that uncovered the truth of what was happening inside my family. To be honest, my body and my mind wasn’t ready for the truth to come out. But, ready or not, I have been on a journey that I wouldn’t trade for anything because it has brought me into a relationship with Jesus that I didn’t know was possible.
So, in order to honor my brother and my story, I would like to keep writing as many posts as I can to share with you what I am learning and also what I am implementing in my healing process. There is so much to tell you. I am like an onion that is having its’ layers peeled away one at a time.
I look forward to sharing with you. I have already talked about journaling, which in my opinion, is instrumental in healing. Knowing you have an empathetic witness, which is what I talked about in my last post, is key. You also need to have a counselor and a support system. I will talk more about honoring your story, befriending your parts and being kind to yourself and so much more in my next posts.
Until then my friends…This is my journey to joy!
One thought on “Healin’ Ain’t Easy”
Glad to hear you are healing.