Category: Trauma (Page 1 of 2)

Thanksgiving in a Desperate World

Giving Thanks When Your Heart is Breaking

Today in the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving. For so many, this year has been nothing but heartbreak, disappointment, pain, and fear. Many people have chosen not to travel. They have decided not to be with family. Untold numbers are forced to be alone, isolated. Because of the fear of a virus. Numerous states have even decided to attempt to fine or jail those who choose differently. Choosing to embrace life and gather to give thanks anyway.

Regardless of where you find yourself on the spectrum of fear and life there will be those who are alone and hurting. The holiday season tends to remind us of everything that we have lost. We see commercials, social media, and others tell us that we should all ignore the pain and be happy. Yet they remind us that we have lost loved ones. That we have lost our identities. That we have lost our freedom.

External reminders are nothing, however, compared to what we do to ourselves. Our minds are constantly looking to remind us of the pain. This is its desperate attempt to keep us from feeling that trauma again. We mourn and grieve the life we should have had, the life we were meant to live. And this year, many people will again navigate those emotional, physical, and spiritual reminders of what’s been lost or taken from them. They may also have to navigate the mental game of “well someone else has it worse…” A game that has devastating consequences.

This is a year when we have seen a sharp increase in suicides and additions. One with untold numbers of children and women being battered and abused. A year when it’s hard to even think about trying to find things to be thankful for. It seems that for so many, the demons of despair and fear are taking their toll. After all, you can only be exposed to despair and fear for so long before it starts to eat away at you.

Finding the Way

So how do we step forward today and for every day after that, choosing to turn away from the darkness that threatens to engulf us? We look at truth rather than lies. Choosing to hold onto evidence and hope, rather than give into panic and paranoia. Leaning into God, holding tight to His word. Which will always guide us home.

Truth is not fluid. Evidence is not subjective. These are two things which have absolutes and are irrefutable. It doesn’t matter what others think or believe if they are in contradiction to truth and evidence. This is where you find the hope to keep moving forward. The strength to offer us thanksgiving.

Evidence is only valid in one way. When coming from a source that does not have a vested interest in swaying your mind one way or the other. This kind of evidence is hard to come by this year. Everyone seems to want you to believe only one train of thought. The one that leads to compliance. One that silences the unafraid.

You cannot have a thankful perspective when you are unable to find truth and evidence. If all you hear are words of despair, then thankfulness cannot exist. Choosing to close your eyes to truth will not allow you to experience true thankfulness and life.

Truth

We are conditioned to think that we should be thankful for things as they are. That if we lament or grieve, then we are not “real” Christians. This often coming from people who wouldn’t know Christ if he was right in front of their faces, btw. But if that is true, why is there an ENTIRE chapter of the Bible called Lamentations? Oh and have you ever heard of the Prophet Jeremiah? Yeah, he’s called the weeping prophet for a reason!

No. We are allowed to lament, to grieve. What we are called to do, however, is follow that with thanksgiving. Not for how miserable our circumstances are, but for how good and faithful God is. We are not offering thanks for the pain, but for the promises and truth of who God says we are and who He is. Yes, you can find joy even in sorrow. In fact, you can both cry and laugh at the same times. When you seek to understand what in your world you can even begin to be thankful for this year, realize that you’re not supposed to necessarily be thankful for anything but God.

Those who tell us to thank God we’re alive today because so many people didn’t wake up, or to be thankful that it was ONLY one child we lost because so-and-so lost their whole family, or that your trauma ended long ago and so many people are still suffering so be thankful you’re out of it…yeah, those people have no idea what being thankful means. When you are still grieving the demons and ghosts in your life, sometimes the only thing you can cling to is the truth of God.

The Heartcry of Pain

And if you’re like me, and your traumas’ consequences involve a disconnect and anger with God at times, then you can be thankful that you have a God who can handle your anger and pain. Because I promise you, He can. If you ever doubt whether God can handle your heart cries of pain, then read the Psalms. David was a “man after God’s own heart,” yet the entire book of Psalms is filled with his heart cries. Just don’t stay there. Yes, we can cry out, but like David, we also need to speak out the truth of who God is.

Because God doesn’t change. He is the same, regardless of what our lives are like. His promises are good today like they were yesterday. So today when you are feeling alone, afraid, broken, and hurt, when you are trying desperately to find a single moment to be thankful for, remember who God is. Speak out the truth of God’s word and give thanks for the fact that, even when it doesn’t feel like it, God has and will always be by your side. That He will never leave you alone. That God will always remain, even when everything else fades away.

And remember. That truth of who God is, was the whole reason the pilgrims left England and came to what became the United States. They knew who God was, what He promised, and they refused to allow any government to tell them they couldn’t worship and give thanks to the true God who saves.

2020: The Year We Can’t Escape

Feeling trapped is never a good thing. As a trauma survivor, feeling trapped, backed into a corner, or being forced to do something against your will, wrecks your carefully built protections. This year has been a haven of chaos, orchestrated and naturally occurring, pain, and uncertainty. We’ve lived every day of our lives, at least since March, with a constant barrage of others telling us that we have to be afraid. We’ve been told that survival is not guaranteed, and unless we do exactly as they say, we, our children, our parents and grandparents, are probably going to die. We’ve been told that every part of the life we’ve been living, is now unsafe. All without the benefit of evidence from an uncompromised source that does not change every day on the whims of another.

We have been forced to comply in ways many of us would never choose and which are unproven to be helpful (and usually shown to be worse). Many of us have lost loved ones, our careers, our businesses, our sense of safety, and our ability to defend ourselves. We are forever in limbo, waiting and praying that nothing else will be taken from us.

Yet, now we are forced to wait to find out the fate of our country. Those who were supposed to protect our right to vote, whom we tasked to faithfully, and with integrity, count and deliver the results of our vote, have been repeatedly shown to fail at this. The evidence showing they have been choosing lies, manipulation, and blatant cheating, because they didn’t like how things were going, is astounding.

People often struggle to understand how someone could be traumatized by the events of this year. Many do not understand how a trauma survivor could be struggling with maintaining their level of healing and why survivors seem to be falling back into the thinking and behavior responses of their early healing journey. In fact, many of you, are wondering this same thing. Questions such as, Was I actually healing and getting better, or was it all in my head? And, If I was actually healthy, I wouldn’t be responding to these events in this way? You may be thinking such destructive thoughts as: I knew I wouldn’t get better. None of what has happened is even close to what I’ve gone through. This shouldn’t be bothering me.

2020: The year the world lived in a state of trauma

Trauma. This often misused, misunderstood, and dismissed experience, takes many forms. The definition of trauma from the Oxford Dictionary is: A deeply distressing or disturbing experience and/or emotional shock following a stressful event or a physical injury, which may be associated with physical shock and sometimes leads to long-term neurosis.

When you look back over your own personal experiences with everything 2020 has forced upon you, using that definition of trauma, it becomes easier to see how you and others have experienced trauma. This means that your body, mind, and soul have instinctual protective mechanisms in place to respond to the trauma. You don’t have to experience a massive horrific trauma in order to be traumatized.

Trauma responses take numerous forms. Being “on edge” all the time, being overly cautious and sensitive to the changes in others behavior or your environment, feelings of sadness, fear, and anger that seem out of proportion with the moment. These are all instinctual trauma responses that are out of our control. When our mind has been alerted that something is very wrong, we respond from that animal instinct place in our brain. It’s automatic, and NOT something that you can control just because you “shouldn’t” feel “this” way.

Healing and Trauma

When you are already a trauma survivor, the trauma of this year, can reactivate or worsen symptoms of PTSD. It can worsen your already activated trauma responses. This does not mean that the healing you’ve experienced isn’t real. This is something that I’ve struggled with all year. The reality that I can be healthy and relatively healed from previous traumas and still react to new traumas like I’m stuck in the past. The “I shouldn’t react like this anymore” feelings and thoughts can overwhelm you.

What we need to realize is that when we experience another trauma, the reactions that we are so familiar with, come again. Not because there’s something wrong with you, but because trauma automatically activates those fight/flight/freeze/comply reactions. That part of our mind doesn’t care that we’ve “worked on this” already. It doesn’t understand that we don’t need to react with that same intensity we did before we began healing. That part of our brain is only focused on protecting us from the immediate threat.

Responding to this new Trauma

Healing from your past trauma doesn’t mean that you won’t respond to further trauma in your life. For some with Complex PTSD, the reactions feel and are stronger than before. This is because the more trauma reactions to pile on top of each other, the more power they have. However, these reactions don’t have to control us. We can’t stop our brains from having a trauma response when we feel threatened, but we can learn and practice ways to retrain our brains, calm our vagus nerve (which runs from the base of your skull throughout your torso) which calms our central nervous system down. We can practice mindfulness tools that bring our minds and bodies in line with each other. When our minds and bodies are connected, we are more able to notice our body beginning to ramp up, even before we’re conscious of the trigger. This allows us to intervene before our thinking brain goes offline into a fight/flight/freeze/comply response.

Numerous resources exist for us to learn to practice tools to address our anxious feelings, trauma responses, and mindfulness. These tools allow us to address current and past trauma responses, working on healing while we’re in the middle of the trauma of 2020. The tools liked above are only a sample of what’s available. I personally use The Tapping Solution regularly myself. In my newsletter this week, I will link additional resources for you to explore.

Regardless of how you feel about 2020, chances are you are or have struggled through it. You might feel lost, scared, angry, dissociated, or any combination of things. This is the normal reaction we all have when we have to endure a seemingly never-ending series of traumas. Give yourself permission to feel what you need to feel, have compassion and grace for yourself, and give yourself space to walk through the nightmare that is this year.

Healing through Forgiveness

Taking back your life from those who sought to destroy it

To a trauma survivor, forgiveness can seem like a dirty word. Like something another person, maybe even their perpetrator, throws in their face to invalidate what they are experiencing. It is often used by well-meaning or ignorant people or churches, to “fix” the relationship instead of addressing the sin. It is often used by perpetrators to attempt to control their victims as well.

These immoral and traumatizing lies and behaviors from those who should know better, can create an intense resistance to forgiveness. Extending forgiveness to the people who have hurt us deeply is rarely something we want to do. There is a part of our minds that can convince us that forgiveness means that our pain will be forgotten. That if we forgive, we are letting those that hurt us “off the hook.” We can believe that if we choose to forgive, those that caused us pain won’t get what they deserve.

The Lies

The sheer number of lies that are associated with the concept of forgiveness keeps many survivors in chains. I first want to address what forgiveness is NOT.

  1. Forgiveness is not a feeling. If you are waiting until you feel like forgiving someone, you will be waiting forever. Feelings are fleeting, unreliable, and are not facts. You can feel one way and think and respond in another. Our feelings can and will change in a moment, so relying on your emotions to tell you when you are “ready” to forgive someone, will keep you holding on to unforgiveness.
  2. Forgiveness is not excusing the perpetrator or relieving them of the responsibility and consequences for their behavior. There are always natural consequences for the things we choose to do or not do. Your decision to forgive someone that hurt you, does not mean they can or should escape the consequences of their behavior.
  3. Forgiveness does not mean you can or should trust the person again. Trust is something that is earned based on another’s ability to demonstrate that they are safe. You can forgive another completely and also never trust them again. You can forgive them completely and still withhold your trust until they have earned it again. Choosing to automatically trust someone that has hurt you, can also have very devastating consequences to you.
  4. Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation. Forgiving a person for causing you pain does not also require you to reconcile that relationship. In fact, believing that you have to stay in relationship with the person who has harmed you, can keep you from forgiving them. Toxic people, those who are unrepentant and continually dangerous for you, are not people you have to be around. You can forgive your parent and still not have to ever have contact with them again. You can forgive someone who hurt you and not also have to visit them in prison as they serve out one of their consequences. You can forgive your spouse and still choose to divorce them because that is the healthy and safe thing for you to do. You can forgive and not have anything to do with that person again.
  5. Forgiveness is not tolerating the behavior that caused the pain. You can forgive your abuser and also leave the relationship. You can forgive them and also set strict boundaries within that relationship that will have consequences should they violate those boundaries.
  6. Forgiveness does not mean you have to be ok. Is is possible to forgive someone and still struggle with the pain and trauma that they’ve caused. Forgiving does not mean you have to pretend that you are ok, that you are no longer bleeding from the wound they’ve caused, or that you have to be ok when they want you to be.
  7. Forgiveness does not mean that you or your pain are forgotten. It does not mean that your suffering, your pain, is not valid. You and the consequences in your life because of their actions, will not disappear or become meaningless because you choose to let them go.

The Truth

Now I want to help you understand what forgiveness is. This is where you can find true healing. For me, I was not able to start healing from Columbine until I chose to forgive those people who created the pain. Today, choosing to forgive those who are hurting me, allows me to be who I need to be.

  1. Forgiveness is a choice you make every day to consciously let go of punishing those who have hurt you. When you are in the process of forgiving someone who has caused immeasurable pain and suffering in your life, this is something that you have to chose repeatedly until it no longer infiltrates your mind.
  2. Forgiveness is letting go of the person or persons who have hurt you. It is releasing them to God and allowing Him to deal with them. It is saying, I no longer choose to allow you to take up space in my mind, body, and soul.
  3. Forgiveness is freeing up space in your mind that those who have hurt you have been controlling since the trauma. I often think of it as evicting squatters. Evicting the people, thoughts, and behaviors that are involved in the trauma, so that you can have your whole self back again.
  4. Forgiveness is giving yourself permission to heal and leave them behind. It is saying that those people no longer get to have any part of your life, that they are not longer welcome in your existence.
  5. Forgiveness gives you peace, clarity, and hope. When you remove those people and the negative thoughts and beliefs they’ve forced on you, you are able to fully experience life again.
  6. Forgiveness is saying that you will no longer harbor bitterness and resentment towards that person or people. That you will no longer think of them, allow them to control you present. You are saying to yourself and to them, that they no longer matter to you and that you are going to live your life fully without the poison of their existence running through your veins.
  7. Forgiveness sets you free.

Living without the toxicity of bitterness

Holding on to unforgiveness, harboring anger, resentment, bitterness, and a desire for revenge, does nothing to your perpetrator. Let me say that again. Choosing not to forgive someone and holding onto the pain, does not hurt the ones who hurt you. The truth is that they rarely care about how you feel. It never crosses their minds. That is why they were able to cause so much pain in the first place. Thinking that if you just stay mad then they will see the damage they’ve done, is a lie. It does nothing for them.

The only one that is wounded when you hold on to unforgiveness, is you. You are allowing the poison from their actions to consume your life. You are living in the past, in the present. They will never feel your pain just because you keep living in that pain. Your anger and hurt is absolutely justified. However, choosing to stay there instead of moving forward in forgiveness and healing, will keep you bound to those people.

The unholy bondage of trauma

When someone perpetrates evil, a spiritual, emotional, and physical bond is created. Those who have caused harm have linked themselves to their victims in many ways. This is one of the reasons why people who have been hurt, continue to return to the person that hurt them, or why children do not tell someone what is happening. This bond is forged through the trauma and reinforced through the threats, lies, and relationship between the perpetrator and their victim.

Regardless of where the perpetrator is now, choosing to hold on to unforgiveness, reinforces the bondage, the chains, they forced on you. It keeps you silent. It makes you question your own memories of what happened. It makes you think you’re the crazy one, the one who is wrong. The more you choose to stay angry, hateful, bitter, and vengeful, the stronger you are making those chains.

Breaking free

If you truly want to break free, to remove them from your life, you have to choose forgiveness. Your life will continue regardless of what you choose, but your choice to forgive or not, will determine HOW your life moves forward. Those who have chosen not to forgive and let go, suffer more than they need to. They have chosen to allow the full impact of their trauma to dictate their life. They have chosen to remain stuck.

When you choose forgiveness, you are choosing to live. You are allowing the pain from your past to remain in your past. You are choosing daily to walk in your life without allowing those things to control your present or your future. Forgiving those who have hurt you, will let you breathe free for the first time since the trauma. It will allow you to embrace your life with the truth of your pain, the person you are now, without being overwhelmed by your past.

Forgiveness is a process that you move towards. It is a conscious decision to let go. One that you may have to make daily, sometimes hourly, when you first make that step towards freedom. You may not even feel like you want to let go, but choosing to forgive anyway, will sever the hold they have on you. Choosing freedom, choosing to permanently sever the trauma bonds that have been formed, will never make things worse than they have been.

If you want to forgive and be free, then begin to ask God to help you. Begin to speak out loud, “I don’t feel like forgiving (that person), but I am choosing to do so anyway.” The more you practice forgiving that person, the more you’ll realize that you are forgiving them. You are able to see what life can be like without them in your consciousness. When you can see what freedom looks like, then forgiveness becomes easier.

Choose freedom today. Let the past stay in the past. Take back your life and live in defiant abundance and freedom.

Sex Trafficking and Child Exploitation

The Normalization of Child Abuse

As a “civilized” society, the idea that the brutality of sex trafficking and child sexual abuse becoming normalized, is abhorrent. Yet this is where we are as a country and throughout the world today. The movement to normalize deviant sexual behavior and to in fact, celebrate such as “freedom,” has created the environment where the most effective predators no longer have to hide but are free to perpetrate these atrocities in plain sight.

The trauma and pain suffered by these innocent victims is so destructive that many are unable to fully recover if they are ever rescued. These children, whom we as adults are ordered to protect, have been intentionally handed over to people whose only purpose is to use them for their own evil desires.

The Consequences of a Pandemic

The consequences of this year and the overly restrictive “lock down” and isolation procedures enacted by governments has created a vacuum for predation. The closure of schools, increases in online schooling and education forums, and an increase in unrestricted access to the internet, has forced victims or potential victims into close contact with predators. This, as well as the shelter in place orders, have forced victims into the constant presence of their perpetrators. This has drastically increased the number of victims, as well as the anonymity of their predators.

children lying on sofa and using gadgets
Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com

Perpetrators have also had an extraordinary amount of free time to increase their grooming tactics to lure victims online or to force compliance with their deviance. Technologically savvy predators have been able to spend an inexorable amount of time creating and consuming images and videos of child sexual abuse on the dark net. The recent arrest of hundreds of perpetrators and the rescue of hundreds of child victims, reinforces this truth.

Netflix and What?

Last month, Netflix released a movie poster for their new movie, Cuties. The backlash to this poster was immediate and brutal. Why? Because the poster showed young girls dancing in sexually suggestive poses. But this did not stop the streaming giant from releasing this movie. Instead, they apologized for the “grossly inappropriate” poster for the upcoming movie and replaced it, and the description of the show (Amy, 11, becomes fascinated with a twerking dance crew. Hoping to join them, she starts to explore her femininity, defying her family‚Äôs traditions), with something mild and seemingly innocent.

siblings sitting on a couch and looking at a laptop
Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

When in fact the movie was release, it became immediately apparent that the original poster and movie description was accurate. They even go so far as to claim pedophilia is religion and therefore they are supportive of “creative freedom.” This movie is about a group of young girls who join a sexually suggestive dance troupe and learn to twerk, show their breasts, and grind. The movie is nothing short of soft-core pornography for pedophiles. And Netflix is proud of that. In fact the movie’s producer, outraged at the “accusations” of exploitation defends this disgusting main stream movie as a “feminist voice” that illuminates child exploitation. Crying that she just wanted to show people what girls go through and especially, what minority girls go through (her words, not mine).

Netflix has often been the go to for families to have a library of movies and shows that are appropriate for their children to watch alone. Turn on Netflix and just keep it on, not really monitoring the ads or what shows follow the initial selection. Because “Cuties” is marketed as a show meant to decry sexual exploitation, but in fact is the exact thing they claim to be railing against. This platform has become a haven for pornographic and sexually gratuitous shows marketed to a young audience and interspersed within seemingly kid friendly shows. This serves to groom kids into normalizing adult/child sexual behavior. It’s what predators do.

2020. The Year of Predation and Exploitation

While child exploitation and abuse has been a constant in the underbelly culture of this world, 2020 has seen it normalized and defended by the media and high ranking politicians. The rest of us who are guided by God, morals, and common human decency, are being shown, many for the first time, what the real consequences are when society excuses and ignores deviant sexual behavior. What happens when the same, protect and defend the perpetrators of such heinous behavior.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has seen a 106% increase for global reports of online exploitation. In India, for example, there has been a 95% increase in online searches for child sexual abuse content. Other countries have also seen this increase in predatory behavior. This real pandemic has been receiving more attention over the last few years as a result of the arrest of Jeffrey Epstein, a prominent and well-connected pedophile who regularly flew high ranking entertainers and government officials, to a private island where hundreds of innocent children were brutalized by these men and women.

woman dark eye spooky
Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

While Epstein died awaiting his trial, his former partner was arrested and hundreds of documents listing other perpetrators has been released. The torrent of identified perpetrators and what they had been doing began the end of July, when numerous government officials had explained to us would be the end of the constant lock-downs and restrictions from COVID. Yet he we are, 2 months after that, with never-ending extensions in Democratic run states, and what seems to be an enormous effort to ignore this damning evidence.

This is what these innocent victims are facing. Not just the devastating consequences to themselves and their lives from this trauma, but the reality that the people who are supposed to protect them, are in fact, protecting their perpetrators.

The COVID-19 restrictions have reduced the workforce available to identify and rescue these victims as well. The number of children identified and freed, has consistently been lower, with the exceptions of the large raids that have taken place, than in previous years. This means more victims are being brutalized and are unable to escape, than in the past.

Our Response

As adults, it is our duty to protect children. This does not matter if they are your children or not. We are ordered to protect children and scripture paints the picture of what happens to those who hurt children. Many, if not most, adults, are more than willing to protect children but are unsure how to do so. I would like to lay out some steps that we as parents, teachers, coaches, and family members, should be doing to ensure our children are safe.

family of four walking at the street
Photo by Emma Bauso on Pexels.com

1. We should all be paying attention and be present. When something feels or seems off, it probably is. We need to stop rationalizing away those checks in our soul, our instincts, and start listening to what we are sensing.

2. Children do not need us to be their best friend, they need us to be the adults. Children have do not need unsupervised online time, nor do they need privacy in their social media. Children are not fully capable of understanding the consequences of what they are doing. This is why they need us. This goes beyond keeping electronics in common areas and refusing to allow unchecked phones and computers. It requires us to have the hard conversations much earlier than we think we should. By age 8, almost all children have been exposed to pornography. Waiting for the school to talk about sex, etc. isn’t going to protect them, and will not communicate your love and values to them. Talk to you kids about sex.

3. Children do not need to be treated like little adults. They do not need to be able to watch whatever they want, play whichever games they want, spend the night at whomever’s house they want, etc. Children need to be loved, respected, and guided. Take the time to know your child’s friends, and their families. Know your neighbors. Be engaged in their schools, with their teachers, and the after school activities. Lead their troops. Coach their teams. Go to parent-teacher conferences and ask questions. Our children need us to help them learn how to protect themselves, but they also need to know we will protect them from themselves as well.

4. Be present in every aspect of your child’s life. Listen to their stories, play with them, put your damn phone down and do life with them. If you are not in their life, they become easy targets and someone else WILL fill that void.

5. Stop forcing your children to hug/kiss/spend time with people they do not want to. A child should ALWAYS be able to say no. Even to family members. No child (or adult for that matter) should be forced to sit on someone’s lap, give someone a hug or kiss, when they don’t want to. This teaches them that they do not matter and that they have to do what they’re told, even when they are uncomfortable. This is how children learn to be compliant victims. They learn that what they feel and think doesn’t get to protect them. That they cannot set boundaries and say no to adults.

5. Finally, stop going with the flow. Stop complying with everything your told. Teach your children that just because an adult or someone in authority tells you to do something, doesn’t mean they have to do it. Children are not often victimized by strangers. Most often it’s the adults in their lives, older children in their lives, who are abusing them. Teach them that it is acceptable to disagree with an adult. That it is ok to tell an adult ‘no’ if that adult is demanding they do something that goes against their beliefs, what you have told them, or that causes them to be unsafe.

Children do not need to shut up and do what they are told. They need to understand that their body is theirs, and that no one gets to decide what they have to do. Adults are often wrong. Predatory adults and older children will ALWAYS make their targeted victims feel uncomfortable. ALWAYS. Children haven’t learned to ignore their instincts. They will tell you something is wrong if you take the time to listen to what they are saying.

Protecting children is not a suggestion. It’s compulsory. If you are not willing to change some parts of your life so that you can raise healthy and safe children, then don’t have children. Selfishness and parenting do not work together. It’s up to us to stop this downward spiral into normalizing and decriminalizing child exploitation and abuse. Take a stand for those who cannot speak for themselves. Fight for those who are still prisoners to their perpetrators. In doing so, you may save your own children as well. Show up, be present, and do life with your children. You will never regret that time. But you will live your life regretting what could happen if you don’t.

Resources

The Dirty Dozen 2020-List produced annually by NCMEC for companies that facilitate the exploitation of children

https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/keep-your-child-safe-online-at-home-covid-19

NCMEC: https://www.missingkids.org/home

Protecting Kids: https://brightside.me/inspiration-family-and-kids/10-essential-pieces-of-advice-for-how-to-protect-your-child-331810/

Protecting Kids Online: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/protecting-kids-online

The Pain that Lasts

Living with Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)

One trauma should be enough. In anyone’s lifetime, if all was as it should be, no one would experience the pain of trauma. But in this fallen and broken world, many people experience continuous or multiple traumas beginning in childhood. This world of surviving multiple traumas, of always having to adapt and change in order to continue on, creates a world of chaos and pain that never seems to end.

Often what happens when you have gone through multiple traumatic events, is that you begin to feel a constant weight of “the next shoe dropping.” You wonder when you will have to dive back into survival mode again. Expecting that trauma is a part of your life and there will always be another trauma coming at you. Viewing the world through this lens of when, not if, is something not everyone will be able to understand. It’s a consequence of what happened to us, not a deficit we can readily just choose to overcome.

Complex PTSD

PTSD can develop when a person does not have access to adequate resources to heal from their trauma. They are unable to move through the grief and healing process in order to reclaim their life. The journey to heal from one trauma is complicated, inexpressibly hard at times, and exhausting. Living with C-PTSD is a completely different beast. Every step towards healing brings with it wounds from the past that you may not even know are there. It is always at the ready to react when those deep and hidden wounds are poked. C-PTSD begs for constant attention to healing and continuing on your journey.

Regardless of where you are in your healing journey, C-PTSD will bring challenges to your everyday life. The invisible wounds of trauma, even when walking in your healing, are never fully healed. Depending on the depth, complexity, and pain intertwined in your earlier traumas, you can and will be caught off guard. You will be shaken again when you are faced with another traumatic experience. Traveling the path of C-PTSD means that you will be good some days, then suddenly struggle. This journey is full of deep holes and booby traps you didn’t set and struggle to see until you are in them.

You can be at your absolute healthiest, living your best life, and you can be taken down to the point you begin to question if you ever really healed at all.

Navigating Trauma after Healing

To be real for a minute, this is where I find myself now. I poured myself into healing from the Columbine shootings and earlier childhood traumas. Knowing I was at a point in my life where my healing journey wasn’t complete, I navigated life in health. I loved the life I was living, who I was, and I was pursuing a life I wanted. I thought I was aware, of my triggers and how they impacted me. I thought I knew my limitations and how far I could push myself before I overstepped my own boundaries. Though I had gained an enormous number of tools and techniques to manage and heal those residual parts of my past, I didn’t understand how I’d use them now.

What I didn’t know was how my deepest wounds had not yet been touched by healing. I did not know how painfully those wounds would react when they were attacked instead of protected. I am able to handle a lot of traumas, mine and others. I am resilient and strong. But I am also human. I have areas of my soul that are wounded so deeply they stayed more or less hidden. Until they could no longer remain hidden.

The last few years I have been walking a new path. A path I never knew or imagined I’d have to walk. I had no idea what I was going to have to do. The trauma from the last few years was progressive, subtle at first. The trauma of suffering with severe Peripartum Onset depression, anxiety, OCD, and rage. Losing our home in a fire at 3 months postpartum. Multiple additional challenges and pain beyond what I thought I’d ever have to deal with in this phase of my life. But it all snuck up on me. I didn’t realize I was not OK anymore until I was REALLY not OK. It wasn’t until I realized that the things I was feeling and thinking were similar to right after the Columbine shootings, that I figured out I was suffering through another battle with active PTSD.

Having C-PTSD has complicated this new healing journey in profound ways. I am able to see the healing that I achieved before, but I also struggle in ways I thought I’d dealt with already. A resurgence of an addiction, desperately trying to stay present and not continue to dissociate and check out, and an internal struggle so fierce, you’d think I was battling for my very life. Which, of course, I am.

The New Battle Ground

This is how I am beginning to understand the profoundly devastating consequences of surviving multiple traumas. Because I am not only fighting for myself now, but I am fighting for my son. I am fighting to protect him from the worst days. To show him how to be resilient and healthy. Fighting to teach him that no matter what, you still have to get up and move forward. Teaching him to honor himself, his emotions, and wherever he is at that moment without shame. Knowing when to fight and when to rest and take care of yourself.

The healing journey that I am on now, is harder than anything I’ve ever done before. There are so many times that I want to give up. To just stop fighting and let the pain overtake me. But that is not who God created me to be. I did not fight like hell to claw my way out of the grave I was in after Columbine, just to go back to that same grave (metaphorically). C-PTSD complicates everything. The things I’ve learned so far in my healing journey seem hard to utilize in this journey. I am having to relearn so much, and to be intentional about self-care in a way I never had to before.

In the hardest moments, when the light seems impossible to see, it is almost impossible to think of who I will be after I am through this leg of my life journey. Truthfully, I don’t want this leg, I don’t want this journey. I want to be on a path where I can have a reprieve from trauma for a while. I can’t change where I’m at or what I am going through. No matter how much I want to.

But I can do the hard work. I know that I can get through this, because I’ve done this before. And so can you. The strength and resilience that compels you to keep going is what will keep you hanging on wherever you find yourself. You’ve done this before. You’ve survived the worst, often more times than you can remember. You are not only a survivor, you are a warrior. The battle scars we carry weigh us down, but we can continue to fight.

Living with C-PTSD, even if you never have to survive another trauma, brings challenges that others can’t even conceive. Choosing to not let the past dictate how you live your life, changes how we step into the fight. Yes, things may be harder than they should be. Life may feel like it’s a never ending war and that you are drowning in defeat. But you have already survived some of the worst in this life.

Whatever life has for you next, you can and will overcome it. If you choose to. We can get bitter and live in anger at the injustices we’ve had to deal with, or we can focus on getting healthy (again). Struggling to handle new traumas when you’ve healed so many earlier traumas, does not mean the healing isn’t real. It can move you to greater levels of healing and freedom if you can embrace a new journey to healing.

Hopelessness and Death

September is National Suicide Awareness month. This year, I am even more aware of the pain of suicide as I lost a friend this year to this evil. In addition, this year has seen a sharp increase in the number of completed suicides as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions imposed on people. With the reality that there has been an increase in suicide deaths since 1999, it begs the question, what is driving the extreme hopelessness that results in the thousands of lives lost every year? There are many contributing factors such as mental health history, trauma, lack of support, resources and isolation. But what moves an individual past the point of no return to where this is the only option they can consider?

Those of us who have gone through the loss of someone due to suicide know first hand the pain the loss causes. We have guilt, shame, and forever unanswered questions. As part of the guilt process, we will find every single moment when we “should have” done something. Those who have survived being suicidal knows the damage and pain that struggle causes in your own life. But the truth is that you can do everything possible and use every resource available, but if someone is committed to dying, they will find a way. Since this month is dedicated to awareness and response to the epidemic of suicide, I would like to address this from a spiritual and mental health perspective.

Deadly hopelessness

We are not just our minds, bodies, or souls. We are all three, all the time. Each component of who we are is intimately connected to the other. There is never a time when one part of us is injured where the other parts don’t also suffer. Suicide is much more than just unresolved mental health issues. That is a part of it, yes, but not the whole story. Being suicidal is a symptom of extreme dysregulation and suffering. This kind of hopelessness only occurs with deep wounds to all three parts of who we are. We must look at all of these together in order to defeat this powerful enemy.

Hopelessness comes when everything we’ve done seems to go wrong, or we feel unable to escape a situation we are in. When we feel as if our voice has been taken from us, when we are devalued, hated, dismissed, and treated as less than, we begin to feel as if we will always be stuck in the pain of those rejections. These thoughts are false, we are never stuck. There is always a way out, but often that way requires work and effort beyond what we feel we can handle. And this is usually the truth. On our own, we absolutely cannot dig ourselves out of the grave of hopelessness without God and consistent professional help. Because if we could do it on our own, we would. Our will is not strong enough on its own, to overcome this deception of the enemy.

Surrender

Hopelessness requires our surrender. Our conscious decision to surrender to God and to whatever our current situation is. Outside of abuse and where you are in immediate danger, often it’s our perception of where we are and what we can do that keeps us trying to control rather than surrender. This is a hard place to get to.

It’s saying, I will be ok even if…. Even if I never heal. Even if I never feel better. Even if I am alone. Even if I am lonely. Even if I am rejected by those who are supposed to accept and love me. Even if this is all there is.

This idea of OK even if creates such a conflict within me that I find myself pushing back hard against it. Because it’s where we are that is causing the pain and suffering. It seems counterintuitive to surrender and accept where you are, no matter if you ever get out of it. What this is not saying is that you are going to ignore opportunities to change your circumstances, to heal, and to break free from your past. It is not saying that you are going to accept abuse and being at risk because you have to “just be content” with it. What this kind of surrender means is that you are letting go of trying to fix everything yourself and letting God take over. It’s an extreme trust that you will eventually get out of where you’re at, but you will no longer let that place destroy who you are. You will no longer allow your pain to control your thoughts and leave you hopeless, broken, and longing for death.

Our thoughts have life or death

You see, the hopelessness that leads to death, to suicide, begins long before you ever begin to think about death as the only option to relieve your suffering. It begins with the seemingly innocent thoughts of “this is never going to end,” “I will never or always…” and similar intrusive destructive thoughts. The thoughts that we allow to take root in our minds are the ones that eventually lead us to life or death. There is a reason we are told in scripture to take all thoughts captive and bring them into submission to Christ. This is what allows us to defeat everything that tries to draw us away from who God has created us to be.

This is where we begin to win the war against suicide. Instead of only trying desperately to medicate away the intrusive symptoms and talk about it, we need to begin in the mind and the body and the soul. These thoughts, the way our bodies react to these destructive thoughts, and the damage in our souls as a result of accepting these lies as truth, create more pain than what we are already struggling with because of our past.

Fractured God

Medications and bringing others into your struggle can be important components of getting your life back. But they are not the only thing needed, yet often where most treatment stops. We have to look at how the pain and trauma from our past has fragmented or destroyed our identity in Christ and our relationship with God. When life is incredibly hard, when the trauma never stops, and the suffering seems to come in inescapable waves, you can keep your head above water and survive if you hold onto your identity and relationship with God. When you accept separation and fractures in how you see God and how you see yourself in relation to Him, that’s when the deadly hopelessness becomes inescapable. If you have hope in something beyond this life, you can face anything. But when you lose that or choose to hold onto your anger with God over what you’re struggling with, you can begin to truly believe you will never be free again.

Trauma not only destroys our minds and bodies. It also fragments our souls and our connection to God. Acknowledging the spiritual pain and working through that as well as the physical and mental consequences of trauma, will give you the hope you need to make it through the healing journey you’re on.

Suicide is never the solution to the pain. Suffering always has an end in this life. Even if it’s not what we want or how we want it to end, it does. Whether that’s because we remove ourselves from the circumstances, or we are able to change our perspectives and address our trauma, the pain will end in this life. Suicide does nothing more than remove your ability to experience healing and leave behind your pain for others to deal with. Those who have survived a suicide attempt almost always say the same thing: that as soon as they pulled the trigger, jumped, whatever, they regretted their decision. They all had a moment of clarity after they acted on their suicidal thoughts. This means that those who do not survive have the same moment of clarity and regret, but were not able to change their minds anymore.

Having suicidal thoughts is NOT part of normal every day life. It is a huge red flag that something is really wrong and you need to get help immediately. It’s not something that you need to be ashamed of, it’s a consequence of surviving hell and not having a safe place to heal. But it’s up to you, and only you, to decide that you want to live no matter what. No one will be able to rescue you from this hopelessness but God and you. Choose life, even when life is hard. You will always come out the other side free and grateful that you chose life. Our thoughts and feelings are not facts. They are illusions, usually unhealthy reactions to our pain that brings us more suffering not freedom.

The beauty is that we are more than capable of stopping our hopeless thoughts from taking hold and destroying our lives. But it requires a choice to fight and stay alive, to not entertain any thoughts of death, and to surrender to where you are so that you can get to where you’re meant to be.

IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING SUICIDAL THOUGHTS REACH OUT HERE or call 911 and get help. Don’t choose a permanent solution to a temporary pain. Choose to live no matter what and you will find hope again.

The Poison that Destroys

Harboring the chains of our hurt

When we have been wronged we rightly feel pain. The damage inflicted on us by the evil and selfish behaviors of others is real. It’s palpable and raw. Confusing and disorienting. This is how we are supposed to respond instinctively when we have been threatened and hurt. Our minds, bodies, and souls were created with the ability to respond to pain, emotional or physical, in a way that allows us to process and heal as quickly as possible. This system is often hijacked by a lack of support, validation, and numerous other external and internal factors. But the fact remains, that we are still programmed to respond and move on, not get stuck. But so often, we come out of trauma stuck as a victim and not living as a conqueror.

Stuck

One of the things that keeps us from being able to move forward in our lives, is how we tend to hold on to the hurt. I’m not talking about the expected scars and other damage that comes from surviving trauma, but of the way our minds adapt in an effort to “protect” us. When we have been hurt in such a way that the damage goes deeper than we can imagine, our minds want to do whatever it can to keep us alert so that we don’t ever experience that pain again. Unimaginable and gut-wrenching pain is not so easily processed and healed. But we can add layers to that already difficult process by choosing to identify with or replay the trauma, and holding on to the past.

I think that in part, we do this because we want justice. We want to see that the person that has hurt us will eventually feel the same pain that they have caused. In short, we want revenge on those who have destroyed our lives as we knew them. In the same way that we have been forced to reconcile who we were before to who we are now, we want them to suffer so it’s not just us. It is incredibly unfair that the people that cause us the most pain, often never experience the reality of that pain themselves. That we are the ones left picking up the pieces of our lives trying to heal, while they move on, in most cases, completely unaffected by their sin. In that accurate sense of it being unfair, we naturally want to right that wrong done to us. The problem is we go about doing that in a way that causes no damage to the perpetrators but immense damage to ourselves.

The Poison of Holding On

Romans 14:12 tells us, on the day of judgement, we will ALL have to give an account of ourselves to God. What does this mean for survivors of trauma? It means that we are responsible for our own actions, not those of others. We will never be held accountable before God because of what others did to us. That those who have hurt us will ALL have to come before God and try and explain the pain they’ve caused to us. But further, they will also be judged and punished for the evil that was done. I don’t know about you, but the idea of standing before the God of the universe, the sovereign over all, and trying to rationalize why they hurt us, kind of makes me feel better. However, in the same way, so will we have to explain our choices and responses to the evils we experience.

When we have been wronged, no matter how horrific the trauma and pain is, we all have to choose what to do with that pain. We have basically two choices in this. We can choose to forgive and let them go, or we can choose to obsess over them and the damage they’ve done. Let me explain.

One of the most deadly chains that keep us bound, is the powerful chain that weaves unforgiveness, hatred, bitterness, and resentment together. While we are absolutely justified in feeling anger, betrayal, and hurt when we are traumatized, we don’t need to stay there. The reason anger is part of grief, is because it’s a step, not an encampment. When we choose to harbor and cling to our “right” to feel that way, we are doing nothing to the person who caused the harm. They don’t care, usually. While we can be angry and hurt by what happened, we shouldn’t stay that way. The poison of harboring these destructive emotions causes immense damage to our own mind, body, and soul. In addition to what was done to us.

Alternately, we can choose to be free. Choosing forgiveness, allowing ourselves to let go of the anger and pain we rightly feel in response, cleanses us from that poison. Here is where most people get stuck. In the misguided belief that to forgive those who have hurt us means that they “got away” with whatever they did. We can convince ourselves that if we aren’t angry or hurt all the time, then we and everyone else will forget the harm that was done to us. That if we just hold onto the anger, hatred, bitterness, and resentment, then we are somehow holding them accountable for their sin.

But this isn’t what forgiveness is. At all. Forgiveness is letting yourself let them go. Meaning that, when you choose to forgive, you are no longer letting them control you today. You are not allowing your past hurts to dictate how you live in the present. You are taking away the valuable space in your mind, body, and soul, from the evil that shattered you, and giving it back to yourself to fill up with life again. When we hold on and refuse to forgive those who have hurt us to the depths of our souls, we are giving them permission to stay in our lives. Forgiveness kicks them out of our lives, and allows us to be free from their strangle hold.

Freedom or Control

Ultimately, we have to decide how we want to live our lives. Do we want to be chained to the people and events that traumatized us, or do we want to be free from them? Do we allow these people, their evil choices, and the destruction they caused to take up residence in our lives, or do we evict them permanently? We aren’t always meant to completely remove from our lives those who have hurt us (family, friends, relationships, etc.). But sometimes we are. The only way we can get to the place where we are making choices that will lead us to freedom and the life we are supposed to live, is to forgive those who have hurt us and let God deal with them. This frees our minds to move us to where we need to be, instead of keeping us tethered to a past we were never meant to live.

Will you choose the courage to forgive those who have hurt you and break free from their control over you? Or will you choose to harbor the “right” to feel angry, bitter, hate, and resentment because of what they’ve done to you? The choice is yours, but personally, I prefer life to death. I choose to remove their control over my life today so that I can be who I want and who I am meant to be. This is a daily, sometimes hourly if I’m honest, decision to consciously forgive. It doesn’t mean that what happened isn’t important and that you are not still struggling to heal from the wounds they’ve inflicted. But it does mean that when you pursue true healing, you will find yourself able to live without them being in your mind turning you back to the darkness.

Flee the Darkness

Trauma creates darkness. We step into our lives full of light. The lifeblood of hope and God flowing through our being. Looking into the future with eyes full of wonder and excitement, we begin to tentatively explore our world. Our senses come alive with the experience of newness, of discovery. Instinctively, we know that life is meant to be beautiful. That it’s meant to be full of light.

However, for many of us, this light and hopeful expectation of life, is quickly snuffed out. When we enter the world, and until we can reasonably take care of ourselves, we are wholly dependent on another human being to sustain our life. We trust that our needs will be met, that we will be safe. Until we’re not. The darkness slowly creeps into our lives or is ushered into it suddenly and with force.

Trauma. Pain. Hurt.

The Darkness Happens to Us, It Is Not Us

Depending on when we first experience the dark evil of this world, we can begin to believe the lie that we are the cause of our suffering. Children, until around age 8, believe that everything that happens to them or their loved ones, is because of them. That they are the cause of theirs and others suffering. What a horrible lie to internalize as a child! Slowly that light and hope begins to fade and the poison of the darkness seeps into our very beings. If we are not given adequate help in overcoming this darkness, we are left in the pain of what happened to us.

It takes many years and intentional healing for most people to overcome this basic, yet profound lie of the enemy. If the initial trauma we survived is compounded by further traumas, the darkness and the lie become ingrained in our cells, down to the DNA. Many times, people choose to decide that they ARE the darkness. They ARE the problem. That it’s easier and safer to embrace this lie then to fight it. We can grow up believing that we are worthless, broken, and that we deserve the bad that happens to us. Making the evil of another person replace our God given identities. Giving up on the life we were created to live.

Expose the Darkness, Don’t Embrace it

Ephesians 5:8-21, states, in paraphrase, that we used to belong to darkness, but now, as believers in Christ, we belong to the light. We are to have nothing to do with the deeds produced by darkness. That everything done in secret, will be exposed by the light. We are called to pay careful attention to how we choose to live our lives. Despite what we have suffered at the hands of others. If we are called to expose the darkness instead of becoming the darkness, then it must be possible to do it!

Many times, when we have embraced the trauma that was done to us, when it becomes our identity, we do anything we can to make that pain go away. Our intuition screams at us that we are not the thing we think we are, but we are beloved children of God. The fight between the identity of a victim or of what was done to you, and who you truly are, causes many to seek out ways to escape the conflict. Trauma survivors choose many ways to escape including addictions and becoming like the person who hurt them.

Life Come With the Light

Friends, this is NOT who we are supposed to be! It’s not how we are supposed to respond to the evil that is done to us! No! We are called and equipped to overcome the darkness and step into the light. Just because you have lived in darkness, either by your own choice to embrace it or due to other’s actions, doesn’t mean you have to stay there.

Jesus did not die for us and rise from the grave so that we could stay in the tombs created for us by trauma!

He has called us out of the darkness, out of the trauma, out of the false identity placed on us by trauma! We are meant to expose those evil men/women and behaviors that continue to perpetrate the darkness against the innocent!

This is part of the reason the enemy wants us to stay locked in the darkness he created in our lives. If we do not step out of the trauma and into the light of Christ, we won’t speak against the evil happening in our world. When we are so stuck in the hurt caused by what we never asked for nor deserve, we can’t speak the truth. Step out of your darkness today. What happened to you, is not your fault. However, choosing to embrace the darkness and live in that darkness rather than a life that is full and whole, is your fault. The battle to fight back the darkness is hard. But it’s a battle that we’ve already won in Jesus.

Be the one that speaks light into the dark. Expose the deeds and persons who are intentionally hurting innocents. Do not let anyone force your silence when you shine that spotlight. Make it harder for the dark to hide. Save your own and someone else’s life! Be the voice for those who don’t have one yet. Speak up. Speak out.

Invisible Wounds Still Bleed

The Pain is Real

Surviving trauma causes real and significant changes to your mind, body, and soul. If you were physically injured during your trauma(s), then you are fully aware of how the pain you experience is very real. When you have these injuries, the expectation that you will feel pain is accepted by everyone. But what happens when you escape your trauma without physically visible injuries? The same thing that happens when you have physical injuries. Adult trauma, chronic stress and childhood trauma, causes systemic changes within the body. The resulting cortisol and hormonal imbalances and systemic inflammation (which can penetrate the barrier between the brain and the rest of the bodies blood), when left untreated, will cause physical symptoms and damage to your body. This can lead to cardiovascular problems, autoimmune disorders, cancer, and obesity, for example.

Survivors of trauma with invisible wounds, already know that their pain is not just emotional. Ask anyone who has survived, what happened in their bodies after the event, and almost every one of us will tell you that it caused physical pain. Have you ever had that feeling where you were grieving something so deeply that it physically hurt to breathe? Where you could feel the pain of the grief as you were bent over sobbing? Then you have experienced this reality. But ask almost any medical or health professional what happens to “uninjured” survivors, and they will give a very different answer. Research has now begun to show, however, that toxic and chronic stress, childhood and adult trauma, increase the chances of developing an autoimmune disorder and other physical disorders. Research has yet to find a causal relationship between trauma, PTSD, etc. and autoimmune disorders, but I believe that its only just a matter of time.

Soon after surviving the Columbine Massacre, I noticed the widespread pain, fatigue, confusion, dizziness, and many other physical symptoms. For years, I tried to find answers and help from medical and mental health professionals. They told me repeatedly that it’s “all in my head,” and I realized that I was going to have to figure out what was wrong on my own. That began my quest for answers and healing that led me to the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is an autoimmune disorder characterized by widespread pain, fatigue, sleep, cognitive, and mood dysregulation. I finally had a name, but not many people 20 years ago accepted fibromyalgia as a legitimate disorder. Even fewer had any idea, beyond narcotics and antidepressants, on how to treat it. Fibromyalgia, like other autoimmune disorders, have no cure. The only option for relief, is effective and life-long treatment.

Why Does it Hurt?

You will feel physical pain and emotional pain in similar ways within the body. This is because the same region and pathways in the brain that respond to physical pain, also respond to emotional pain (trauma). Interestingly, this same study showed a lessening of emotional pain when using Tylenol in response to the physical pain. This is just one of the current ways of understanding the way trauma causes physical pain. When the fight or flight system activates, a flood of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline courses through your body. The rush of chemicals propels your body to respond to the threat in whatever way is needed. Normally, these hormones return to the levels they were before the event. In those who develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and those in chronic trauma and toxic stress situations, this doesn’t happen. Instead, your body is continually flooded with these hormones, causing a toxic internal environment as well. This chronic overexposure leads to physiological changes (such as structural and functional changes in your brain) and systemic inflammation.

Our minds, bodies, and souls are intimately connected. They are inseparable. When trauma and injury occurs in one, all are affected. Because every single cell in our bodies is connected to each other and the nervous system, we can and will physically feel psychological pain, eventually. When you break a bone, you know where it is and the pain is immediately recognized as coming from that body part. With emotional pain, many times the physical pain is in the same area where your body was unable to discharge the trauma energy. For example, if you wanted to fight back but your body made you freeze or comply instead, you may experience physical pain in your muscles from not being able to fight. If you wanted to scream but were unable to, you may experience issues with your throat, vocal cords, and lungs.

If we are willing to accept that everything is connected to each other, maybe we can begin to better understand the pain we have that seems unexplainable. In fact, this is a critical component to healing from trauma. Experiencing the event in your body, emotions, and soul, lets you get rid of the toxic energy, hormones, etc. that are being stored in your body. In essence, you have to feel it to heal it.

Why “Normal” Doesn’t Always Work

When we experience physical pain or physical symptoms, often the first thing we do is go to a medical doctor for help. Many times this is beneficial to rule out any serious concerns and, if possible, to get a diagnosis and make the unknown, known. Things become frustrating when you begin to treat the physical issue and you find that what is prescribed doesn’t really work. Medical doctors typically give medications to treat an ailment. While medications can be extremely beneficial in beginning the healing process, they do not address the underlying reason for the pain. Most western medical professionals do not acknowledge the interconnectedness of our mind, body, and souls, and therefore fail to see a reason to look beyond treating the symptoms.

If you want true and complete healing, you have to look beyond the symptoms and attack the root. When we focus on “getting rid” of a symptom that is disrupting our lives and causing pain, we miss the opportunity to heal the reason for them and to achieve freedom from the symptoms. I have found that rarely do medications work to fully treat the symptoms of stuck trauma being expressed in your body. Often the medications work to numb you out rather than stop the symptoms. If you are told there’s “no medical reason” for your symptoms, if you are “treatment resistant” to traditional methods of healing, you are likely fighting against unhealed trauma. Unhealed trauma does not go away on its own. You will continue to suffer until you heal that root of trauma in your life.

While you are on your journey to heal and repair the damage done by the trauma you survived, there are many things you can do to address your physical pain as well. I have found that a combination of “traditional” and alternative medicine works the best. There are times when the pain is so bad, or the symptoms so dangerous, that medicine is necessary. But I also know that treatments such as massage therapy, acupuncture, biofeedback, brainspotting, prayer, and Godly energy work (such as Splankna), are powerful in helping your mind, body, and soul heal. In fact, these are the treatments that have provided the most relief from pain in my life.

Regardless of where in your body your unhealed trauma is manifesting, it’s important to realize that its unhealed trauma, not necessarily a purely physical problem. By all means, seek relief from the physical pain and other physical dysfunctions. That is an incredibly healthy decision to begin your healing journey. But don’t stop there. Many people are content with some relief from the physical symptoms and never give themselves the chance to fully heal. Choose true freedom over temporary relief. The process of true freedom is harder than temporary relief, but it is permanent freedom. True freedom is better than simply medicating away the problem. Choose a life healed and whole and step into who you can be, instead of who your trauma wants you to be.

Safety, Hope, and the Onsite Foundation

What does hope look like? What does it mean to feel safe for the first time in your life? How can these things create an environment where you can truly begin to heal from the traumas that have shaped the landscape of your life?

An Unforseen Opportunity

At the beginning of March, I had a unique and unparalleled opportunity to attend a workshop addressing the trauma of being a mass shooting survivor. This was an opportunity I never had after surviving the Columbine Massacre in 1999. Another survivor spoke to me about the program, and I will admit, my first instinct was to see how I could help. I am a trauma specialist after all, it made sense for me to want to come alongside a program specifically aimed at mass shooting survivors. I inquired into coming on board with the program and then thought nothing more about it.

Funny how the things we avoid tend to assert themselves even stronger. The phrase “what we resist, persists” is very fitting. Being someone who has consistently avoided many things surrounding the Columbine Massacre even to this day, the idea of opening up that wound again was not appealing. I’ve always done the work, but also held a lot at arms length. I did not “want to go there” so many times that I convinced myself that I didn’t need to.

When my friend got back to me about joining the foundation, they were excited about the opportunity I presented, but everyone they work with has to go through the program first. If I wanted to help, I needed to travel this healing path myself.

What I Didn’t Know

Into the Unknown

When I said yes to the process of attending the program, I had no idea what I was really saying yes to. I did all the research I could on the Onsite Foundation and the Triumph over Tragedy Program (TOT) offered. The part of the program that appealed to me the most was the idea of having 7 glorious days of uninterrupted me time. Healing from whatever God brought me to. The fact that the setting for the program in Cumberland Furnace, TN, a 250 acre property that is beyond idyllic and serene, didn’t hurt either.

It was the second day of the program that I begin to feel the strong, visceral resistance to the work. I did not want to experience the pain. The crux of the program is somatic experiencing. Your body knows how to heal itself, but we get in the way. In order to heal from the pain, you have to grieve what happened. It’s not possible to break free from the past if you are unwilling to experience the strong emotions and responses associated with your traumas.

Apparently, I also developed a strong inclination and ability to not really feel what trauma had done in my mind and body. This was the cause of my strong resistance to the work. But I had chosen to embrace this opportunity no matter what God asked me to do.

Taking a deep breath and choosing to dive into the unknown, I experienced something I’ve never experienced before. Safety, a sense of truly being safe in a place and with the people in my group. We became a family. Bonded by tragedy, strengthened by the process of being known and seen, and not judged or devalued.

A sense of safety, being fully known and seen, created the exact environment needed for healing. Experiencing that I can feel the emotions and not die or get stuck in them, opened up the door to healing I didn’t know I had shut.

Reconnecting Me To Me

Our minds and bodies are intricately intertwined. Trauma breaks that connection between our mind and body. Our mind or our body is loudly screaming at us that something is not right, but we don’t always get that message the right way. The tendency to seek out medical help for physiological symptoms such as digestive issues, chronic pain, autoimmune, and other physiological concerns, is a consequence of this disconnection.

Your body will always remember what your mind forgets.

Our signals get crossed, and we don’t relate the onset of these physiological symptoms with a traumatic event. The rational mind can’t make sense of what the body is feeling because it is stuck in a memory loop of our trauma. A loop driven by the primal, unthinking, part of the brain.

Your mind will always be working to try to resolve your stuck trauma. It will cause you to remember in whatever way it can so that you can heal. Many times this is what triggers panic, anxiety, irrational fear, paranoia, and vivid nightmares. A key indicator of unhealed trauma is whether you still respond strongly to the events or memories of them.

This disconnect between mind and body is the focus of somatic experiencing. The goal being to reconnect us to ourselves. When we are connected, we can heal. If we are dissociated from ourselves, we stay stuck in trauma. We live in the past, in the present.

Goals

Onsite is the first program of its kind and it is incredibly unique and effective. Through the somatic experiencing process, the incredible knowledge of the group leaders and educators, I left with a new perspective on my trauma.

The goal at Onsite is NOT complete and total healing. The expectation of complete healing in a week would cause immense shame and further trauma because no one would get there. The goal is a 1-2 degree change. The illustration of a pilot is helpful. If a pilot shifted his course by 1-2 degrees he’d end up in a completely different and unexpected place.

So it is with us. 1-2 degrees of change will alter the trajectory of our lives.

Changing course

Being able to embrace the knowledge I already had as the truth for myself as well as everyone else, set me free to experience change. Realizing that the parts of me that I was so determined to eradicate are not my enemy and meant to protect me, let me see my pain for what it is.

Moving Forward

After this week, I came home to shut-down and shelter in place orders. I was thrust from a safe, healing environment, into toxic chaos and lack of control. The transition was extremely hard, and I am still learning and recovering from the abrupt change. Because of the work I did at Onsite, I am able to navigate this chaos in a very different way.

I am stronger. I am healthier. I am still on that healing journey.

The process began that week, and I am continuing it now. Healing from trauma is complicated, messy, hard, painful, and takes time. Instant, magic pills, do not exist. Trauma does not simply go away. Your body and mind will always try to force you to stop ignoring the trauma and heal.

Embrace the bad with the good. Realize that you are interacting with the world through the lens of your trauma response. Believe that you can heal. Then take the next step forward on your journey to freedom.

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