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Trauma Talk - Episode 10

There have been times when I have been told that the way I explain a topic has been helpful. That I have said it in such a way that someone finally understands. It’s one of my favourite things about teaching. And now, it’s one of my favourite things about serving the people I’m serving. By helping someone understand that there is a reason for why their anxiety or depression makes them feel terrible and leads to illness fills me with joy. I like talking in terms that anyone can understand. We are not all medical professionals. But, we all have the capacity to learn information regarding our health, if it’s provided in language that’s understandable.

One of the things that would have been helpful for me earlier on, would have been to know how subtly depression and anxiety show up in our lives. It would have helped to recognize what high functioning depression and anxiety is like and how untreated, long term, it can lead to illness. As well, to understand that a lot of those coping habits that I had were not helping anymore and I needed to identify them and replace them with better habits. There were so many parts of depression, anxiety and trauma that I identified as my personality. Since I’ve started being there for others, hearing their stories and sharing knowledge, I’ve heard how others have also identified with these aspects as being part of their personalities, as well. But, they are not.

We think we are perfectionists, for example. But, what we really are is afraid of being abandoned or determined not worthy, not goo enough. So, we try to be perfect. Don’t make mistakes. But we cannot be perfect and in the end, it only contributes to our anxiety or depression. It constantly reminds us that we are not enough because we are never perfect. Especially, when we move the bar so often. We keep raising what the measure of “perfect“ is. We are always pursuing something more, some other person’s idea of what is perfect. Sadder still, is the fact that we aren’t even doing that. We are pursuing what we think other people think. We don’t even know if that’s what they really do think. We don’t ask. We assume. We live inside our minds, letting it make stuff up, buying into the negative spirals.

We forget that we have control. We are not our thoughts. We can control them. Sure, it takes effort and it’s repetitive. But, it really is worth it. Eventually, with enough persistence, you can stop the negative thoughts from impacting your emotions. Just like therapy is worth it. Or coaching. It all takes time. Whatever avenue you choose to deal with previous traumas, identify and replace negative coping habits, create a calm and stable nervous system that you can regulate through life’s stressors, it takes time. And eventually, we all have to deal. If not, the cost becomes more than a therapist bill. It becomes more than some missed days from work. At some point, the cost is more than time and money, it’s your health that ultimately suffers.

I had to learn how to create a calm, safe space. And I really had to learn to be present. I did this by constantly returning myself to the present moment whenever my thoughts strayed too far forward or too far backwards. I would picture a stop sign and ground into my body. I would feel the floor beneath my feet and see roots diving deep into the earth. I would feel my body contacting any surfaces and my body touching itself. I would feel the air and temperature. I added my thumbs rubbing my fingers to enhance grounding in the present to calm anxiety. But, I also added hugging, rubbing my upper arms and rocking to soothe distressed emotions. It was and still is work.

We create patterns and lay down neurons in our brain because they are used to firing in a particular way. When we are recovering, we are creating new connections and overriding the old. This is due to the neuroplasticity of your brain. It takes time. As you have probably experienced, there is comfort in routine. Change is difficult and sometimes resisted. It’s because of that yucky middle between the two points: your current reality where you are struggling with stressors that are affecting your mental health; and, the healthy space where you have dealt with your trauma, have healthy coping habits and stability to offer your nervous system. That yucky spot is difficult to navigate. You don’t know how to get from point A to point B. The path isn’t clear or even if it is, like most things in life, you want it now. We want everything immediately. We get frustrated waiting for our computers to turn on. We press the refresh button on our internet browsers if the page takes too long to load. We are living life in the fast lane. Therapy takes time and money. I have to say, it takes a lot of both. There are ways to get there faster, but they will more than likely cost more up front, though less in the overall.

Most people see their therapist monthly. One 45 minute to an hour appointment, to discuss your … Everything… As I can tell you from experience, you may want to deal with an issue, like why you keep repeating a pattern and it causes increasingly more problems in your life, but you will come in and a session will be all about how some terrible thing happened yesterday. That slows down your progression but it’s completely unavoidable. We fill up, the pressure building and we need an outlet. Sometimes we need reassurance, we’ve so long made poor decisions or feel so insecure with our low self-esteem, we need to verify we are making a decision someone ‘normal’ would make. We forget that we are normal. We don’t realize that the vast majority do think like we do. The traumatized, the individuals with anxiety, depression, etc., the ones who acquired poor coping skills, are not less than or abnormal. We have unique perspectives on life. We are strong and valuable. We are warriors battling our minds and bodies from experiences we didn’t ask for that plague us in ways you can’t imagine for long after the event happened.

I want you to know, if I can heal, so can you. There is no difference between me or you. We are made of the same stuff, just our DNA lines up differently. We are all worthy. We are loveable. We are all enough. Remember. And then, do the things that make you happy. Fill your spirit full of joy and love. And shine bright. Be a beacon for others.

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