This date, April 26th marks the last anniversary of a major series of trauma cuts and residue that I have been slowly healing over the past year. My miscarriage was a marker of my life. All I wanted was to be a good mom, single or partnered. My family was radically adverse to the idea of me being a mom. They couldn’t stand my partner they didn’t even know. (Little did I know, they had been informed he was abusive). And just before that time… well, I will save that story for another time before I lose you. Let’s just say 2017 was absolute chaos.
And what does this narrative have to do with shaping my life? Well, nothing really, except the fact that I have had that mom physiology implanted into my DNA.
Us humans have an odd way of orienting toward pain rather than pleasure. There is this idea in many ancient philosophies that the human life is suffering and we are all just stumbling until we find our way home.
When we get lost in the trees, we forget to see the speckles of light dappling the forest. We forget to see the miracle of community that the mycelia create on the forest floor. When we get lost in the narrative, we forget to see the pattern of trauma.
For anyone, their first trauma is birth. Shit, isn’t it scary to fit our heads through that little canal?! And isn’t it horrid to leave the warmth and comfort of the ocean of life contained in our mom’s womb in order to sustain life in a dry hostile environment?! (Especially if our first taste to our senses is fluorescent lights, stainless steel instruments cutting our life force connection to our mother, the scentt of latex gloves, and odd beeps from machines.) Most that focus on birth trauma work forget to highlight the great welcoming we had by our family and friends. That moment that we were revered as the gentlest most miraculous thing that ever took their first breath on Earth is a beautiful moment.
It’s easy to get lost in diversion of particulate matter that we have to navigate around, and it’s ever so important to focus on the light of space that we move through as we run into each dense dark atom so that we may find our way home.
Traumas don’t have to be as intense as sexual abuse or violence. A trauma as simple as not being able to get an ice cream cone can elicit a similar psycho-physiological response to complex traumas. This response can begin to take a dynamic shape and initiate the fight, flight, or freeze patterns. These patterns define how we cope with navigating life.
As we become stressed or experience more complex traumas, these patterns can become magnified. When we are not met with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, these (mal)adaptive responses can become magnified and easier to identify.
These patterned responses to trauma are how trauma begins to shape our health. If someone for instance, me, was sexually abused at age six by some nasty ole’ pediatrician that my parents were friends with. Then, I can develop a freeze or flight response. Similar to that of a sweet little bunny that has been chased down by a fox. (Yeah, that did happen and yes he did go to jail, but not for what he did to me).
For the rest of our lives, if the pattern is not disrupted, we can go into those (mal)adaptive responses. These responses can lead someone to move when they feel trapped, be afraid of commitment, or even shut down into avoidance when they are stressed. The reason that mal is in parentheses is due to the fact that those responses can be life-saving in complex traumatic situations, such as when you are in the front lines with guns firing. All time may slow and you may be able to freeze, witness everything in slow motion and move with a calm that enhances your functioning rather than running away with the crew that spreads the freak out mode and generally results in crowd escalation / injuries.
Complex trauma can also wire those responses to a degree that someone can be diagnosed with PTSD or PTS.
Yeah, I had to heal from those acronyms. I will never forget that moment where I caught myself rocking back and forth with the 4th of July fireworks; thinking dang, if someone were to see this, they would drug me and check me in somewhere. There was a defining moment that I could sleep at a normal time and remember the tools that I knew like Yoga, breath, anxiolytic herbs, adaptogenic herbs, and simply being out in nature. To me, this is when I gained the next step of taking the D off the end of the PTS. The situations I was in over the winter of 2016-2017 were enough to drive anyone into bouts of insanity.
1. Find mind therapy that also emphasizes somatic awareness.
After EMDR (trauma therapy that is more effective than CBT. I highly recommend it), I was stable enough to share stories. I became more practiced at stories that could last for days and drop a million jaws, draw a million tears, and leave people giggling in awkward laughter (I tend to find humor in darkness). Eventually, I lost myself in the narrative. I lost my way home, my way back to heart space, back into my body, my groovin’ rhythm that connected me with the Earth that contains all the creative juicey goodness that I hold so dear.
Craniosacral combined with EMDR was amazing. Acupuncture and 5-elment therapies were also a godsend.
Every mindful moment is a healing moment.
If you tend to run around, busy-bodied or else go into major rest mode, then you can find a third gear by re-wiring your flight response. To do this, you can pause for a moment before you get out on your grind. Tap into the energy pulsing up from the rhythm of the Earth and the light from the sky coming down through your head. You can allow those to meet at your heart. This quick meditation visualization helps you balance out the lightness of the sky and the heaviness of the earth to pause in a balanced way. Each time you pause for a moment, you can think of it as re-wiring your autopilot the same way you blaze a trail in the forest. Each practice, each step brings you closer to optimal health and each moment you take that step, it is easier to find the trail you walked before.
I began to find re-find Yoga. Exercise therapy, especially mindful exercise is unbelievably healing for your mind, body, and spirit. Anytime before I’m about to face a day that gets me in my head and out of my body, I do leg day! Leg day is my favorite to get back into my body. I personally do squats and dead-lifts until I cannot fathom walking up a stair and just chill on the escalator with everyone else. I balance these out with some glute-med exercises such as monster walks in between.
3. Food as medicine & Gut Health.
If you have not heard of the recent microbiome and mind health research, prepare to have your mind blown. The summary is that we are way outnumbered by our microbes and the researchers have no idea why a gut imbalance effects us so deeply, but they have a few ideas. The microbiome balance has an effect on our movement, immune system, mind, and so much more.
There are theories about the microbes effecting Vagal nerve response (direct connection to the brain). Microbes definitely have an effect on the lymphatic / immune system via the GALT/ MALT & Peyer’s Patches. No need to get caught up, these are simply long acronyms for lymph areas around the body which contain immune cells. There was actually one article I read recently where they found a microbe presence that migrated all the way out to the spleen! Cool, eh?! When bacteria break down fiber, short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are developed. SCFAs help sustain our nervous system and other cellular components. Bacteria also synthesize certain B vitamins. Recent geek-out reads have reported that our gut bacteria may contain micro-RNA that actually encodes DNA in our nerve cells. Whoa, baby.
Okay, so this being said:
1) Eat healthy fats 2) take probiotics 3) chew your food mindfully 4) eat your veggies
4. Find supportive community.
Community is here to take you to your places of discomfort, go there with you to the places you fear. And when you get lost, they are here to remind you of your own way home. I have lost sisters to my mission and vision, I have lost so many. And what has come through, is amazingly supportive beautiful people that are not afraid to go there with me to those dark deep places of healing, without judgement. And just as I enter that place, that edge that I can no longer respond to life in a healthy way, they are there with me to remind me of my true purpose, the original fire built that has ignited my path and my purpose to be here.
Community is the people we choose to surround ourselves with. If we are here to live our best life, then know you are the sum of the 5 people you hang with the most. Community is also not limited to your people. Community can include plants and animals too as they are also beings of reciprocation. (Introverts, celebrate!)
Community is there to pray with you. Community is there to carry ceremonies with you. Community is there to break bread with you. Find your core, do not take them for granted, keep them close and reciprocate. I almost lost so many and I did lose quite a few because I was too scared that they would judge my sticky situations and how I was choosing to unstick or stick with them. Communicate with your community! Use radical communication and always listen with compassion, unless they need to be the one holding space for you. Communicate your needs. How is anyone supposed to know what you need if you do not ask for it? To do this, you must know your needs first and sometimes, your core people may know what you need more than you do!
5. Get Deep into yourself with someone that can see you in all of your glory, a true healer.
When we experience trauma, we become less whole. Sometimes a little piece of us, our soul takes flight or shatters in order to preserve our life. The soul can become so strung out and so thin, that we hardly function. Think of this like a little electric cord that is fraying in order to reach the socket, the source of electricity, of energy. We may still be plugged in, still functioning, but on less of an effective level. This is when we need healing on a deeper soulful level.
I have always lived a life of health on the edge, searching deeper for the true balance. The fact is that balance is an illusion. Life is not 2-Dimensional or even 3-Dimensional. All factors are constantly in motion and we have to react as obstacles come at us. But what we do have is stability in our choice to react with ease and from a grounded heart-centered state. Use your tools, practice them daily. As they are more difficult to practice in stressful situations. Then when you need to return to these tools, they are more therapeutic and easier to access when you need them most. For a healers’ walk is only as strong as their daily practice.
Go directly to the source here:
This is one of my favorite new geek outs on the interaction of fungi and the microbiome. If mycelia connects the forest, then the fungi must connect our colony in our gut right?!
Nash, A. K., Auchtung, T. A., Wong, M. C., Smith, D. P., Gesell, J. R., Ross, M. C., … Petrosino, J. F. (2017). The gut mycobiome of the Human Microbiome Project healthy cohort. Microbiome, 5, 153. http://doi.org/10.1186/s40168-017-0373-4