Just when I think I’m all zen and transformed, the Universe presents an opportunity for me to peel back another layer – sometimes I want to punch the Universe.
Healing from trauma is like healing from cancer treatment. I know, because I’ve healed from both. No one points out to a cancer patient that once treatment ends there is a whole other set of issues they will have to deal with in order to heal from not only the treatment, but the physical and emotional changes that occurred from the initial diagnosis through the end of treatment.
I’m learning that trauma feels sort of the same.
Just when I think I’m done, I’ve let it all go, I’m fully transformed, BAM!, something happens and I’m back in that place of fear, confusion, anxiety and anger, so much anger. I have to start all over again.
Trauma is similar in that once you talk with a therapist or use whatever tools you use to get the initial story out, you think, “it’s done, I’m over this, it won’t come up again.” But it does, it comes up when you least expect it and, frankly, it can f*ck up your whole day. Whatever daily stuff you are dealing with is now overshadowed with an overwhelming sense of fight or flight. “Do I run or stay and fight? “Do I make meatloaf for dinner or pasta?” It’s like two people living in the same body and there is nothing to do about it but deal with it or spend your life running from it. (Neither choice is fun or easy, but I promise, if you choose the former your life will change for the better immediately.)
Since I’ve been consciously healing my trauma for the past three years, (I spent the previous twenty or so years, in fight or flight) I now refer to these moments as my “opportunities to let go.” At least that’s how I refer to them in public. In private, there isn’t much talking. I get tense. I feel like I want to climb out of my skin, just to not have to deal with it. The anger takes over. I try resist, just for a bit. I notice what I’m feeling. Then I remember what’s on the other side and I surrender.
I become present to the fear, the anger and I remember “this is not who I am, I am not what happened to me.”
Just this morning I was offered an “opportunity to let go.” Last night I woke up in the middle of the night feeling agitated. I couldn’t figure out why and I couldn’t get back to sleep. Then I noticed my husband’s body next to me. His arm was wrapped around my waist and it didn’t feel right. It felt dangerous. That’s when I realized, something is coming up. Something needs to be released. I just laid there, trying to calm myself enough to sleep. Eventually, I fell asleep.
When I woke up this morning I knew something was off with me. I tried the things that usually bring me comfort. I tried some breathing exercises, I pet my dog, nothing was working. I went down to the kitchen to start making breakfast. I continued to feel “off” and it was getting worse; I started shaking with fear. Without thinking I did something I’ve never done before. I asked for help. I went to my husband and told him I knew I was having a physical flashback and I was scared. He asked what I needed. I told him I need music (it helps bring me to the present moment). Knowing me as he does, he put on my favorite Michael Franti playlist. Listening to the music, I found myself in two different places. In my body I was a twelve year old girl, frightened, violated and scared. In my mind I was a forty-eight year old woman making french toast for my children. I allowed the emotions, the sensations and finally, the surrender to come. Again, I went to my husband, now I was crying uncontrollably and shaking, I felt the flashback throughout my entire body. I cried for a few minutes, then it was over.
My fifteen year old son heard me crying and asked what was wrong, I lied and said I was laughing not crying. At the sound of my son’s voice, the tears ended. I was safe, at home, in the present moment. A few minutes later, I came clean to my son. I apologized for lying and confessed that I was in fact, crying. I told him I had a bad dream that brought up some stuff about my childhood. He asked why I would lie to him. I said “Because I want to protect you. I don’t want you to feel bad. Which is ironic because I spent way too many years fighting my emotions only to realize that the only way to heal is to actually get present to and feel the emotion. No emotion is good or bad, it’s just the emotion.”
Please leave me a note in the comment section about how you heal from trauma. I read and respond to every comment.
Lockey Maisonneuve is the founder of the Let It Go Workshop. This workshop is a combination of yoga, discussion, journaling and meditation. Upcoming workshops in Ca., NJ. Click here for workshop registration. Lockey and the MovingOn program have been profiled in magazines, television, radio. Print: Shape Magazine, Origin Magazine, and Yoga Mantra + Health Magazine. For more information about Lockey and to sign up for her weekly Tao of Bacon, go to www.lockeymaisonneuve.com.
Image courtesy of Leon Ephraim.