In my case, as in many others, my trauma had laid underneath the surface for decades.
As time passes trauma literally writes itself on your DNA.
It is not just the psychological effects we all know about – anxiety, depression, intrusive thoughts, nightmares. Trauma also brings a host of physiological effects on body process as well. It is not uncommon to see a person with unaddressed trauma suffering from a host of physical symptoms such as chronic inflammation, dysregulation of adrenaline, cortisone + thyroid production, issues with digestive processes/ the composition of gut biome, and inability to to enter certain rest states during sleep cycles.
Beyond the “body effects” then there are the “life effects” as well. Trauma plays itself out over and over again in relationships, interactions, and self-talk. It is a constant. Those dealing with unaddressed trauma, likely find themselves stuck in a life of unavoidable patterns and what feels like unbreakable cycles of hell.
Unaddressed trauma can make life a living hell.
As scary as the journey can be. The path out of that hell is to choose to face the darkness. For those who are engaging in your own trauma work as part of their 2020 intentions, I’d like to share a few guideposts from my own journey:
- Do as much prep as you can for your journey. Often we can feel the internal tension rising in the months preceding this type of work. If you know that you are about to embark on the process, go ahead and set up a buffer of support before you begin. Ideally your system will be composed of a mixture of family, friends, professionals, and support groups. When appropriate, go ahead and talk to these people before hand about vulnerability and your hope that you will be able to discuss your experiences with them over the coming months.
- Things to consider: Who are the people you really trust? Who are you comfortable being vulnerable around? Whose do you admire for their willingness to be open about their own story?
- Find the right professional to walk this journey with you. In the end it comes down to doing the work ourselves – period, point blank, no matter what approach you take to it. So I don’t believe it has a ton to do with the methodology, approach or certification of who you work with – therapist, pastor, yoga instructor, acupuncturist, naturopath. It doesn’t matter as long as you trust them and they are invested in taking this journey with you. Their role is not to have all the answers or even to make this process easier for you. Their role is to be a facilitator on your journey – to shine a bright light on the days when you fear getting lost in your own darkness.
- My experience is it’s easier for me to trust someone who is willing to discuss their own healing process. Personally I want to know you’ve walked the path before you guide me. But hey that’s personal preference.
- Practice the principal of non-attachment. Work of this nature tends to be upheaving. To reach a life that is not rooted in trauma, we often have to let go of aspects of our lives that we have long held dear. Try to adopt a stance of willingness to let go of that which no longer serves you. Accept that change is necessary for new life and loss is part of that change.
- Of course also give yourself space to grieve those things your are permanently releasing as well.
- Prioritize self-care. This process will bring you down. It is a time when you will likely require a more deliberate practice of self love. Create and follow rituals for:
- Cleansing: bath, shower, dry rub, sauna
- Releasing: yoga, running, punching bags, group fitness
- Reflection: meditation, prayer, journaling
- Give yourself a break. Everything is harder when you’re in the middle of trauma work. You may need to practice self-soothing more frequently than you are accustomed to. (I smoked more cigarettes last year than at any other point in my life. Now that I am on the other side I’ve completely quit). You may forget to drink or eat. When you notice, don’t beat yourself up for these things, just give your body what it needs with compassion. In DBT we use the phrase non-judgmental stance for this specific cognitive process. It’s a healthy perspective to have as you build the foundation for your new life.
- Finally. Don’t give up hope. I know there will likely be days when it just won’t seem worth it. I promise you it is. You are strong enough to face whatever darkness this journey hands you. You have already proved you are a survivor. But you deserve so much more than that. You deserve to be a THRIVER!
As I write this I am sending out great vibes of love to all who stumble here during a dark period of their journey. My hope is that it provides you with a small measure of comfort and peace in your storms.
P.S. Please feel free to share any further tips for the journey in the comment section!
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