Self-Care is a Vital Part of Healing

Focusing on our health is always important, but it is especially vital as you heal after trauma. And with all the added layer of stress that the world is dealing with at this time (between politics and the current outbreak), I want to gently remind you to take time for self-care. 

An overwhelmed body is a dysregulated body that is more likely to miss important cues about needing rest and unplug from the news and social media. Yes, we want to stay informed but we must also be mindful of the impact worried thinking can have on our feelings and create additional stress in the body. 

Learning about self-care was part of my healing journey after trauma. I had learned a lot about trauma. I understood the impact but had been fortunate with a healthy body, so the long term impact had not shown up in my biology except for very painful migraine headaches and depression. The toxic level of stress I had lived with my whole life had not registered yet.

Back then, my self-care...

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How to Create Healthy Boundaries

I was victimized as a child by my stepfather, a person I trusted, looked up to, and loved. Yes, I did love him. That’s why it was hard to understand why he would sexually abuse me, or why he would do something that left me confused, ashamed, and in pain.

As an adult, I continued his cycle of abuse by turning it inward on myself. The anger and fear I experienced as an abused child became self-loathing and self-hatred. I used alcohol, smoking, and sex to numb the pain. I also tried to play the role of "miss perfect" to hide my truth. I tried to make everyone happy so they would not see the truth about how I was really feeling. Even worse, I put myself in high-risk situations and bad relationships where I would be abused again and again.

It was a vicious cycle.

But that’s not all. I turned the anger, pain, and shame outward toward others as well. I manipulated people to get what I wanted. When the shame overwhelmed me, I withheld love or affection to punish and blame others...

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Why Am I Not Moving Forward in My Healing?

For many years, I felt stuck in my healing. I didn’t feel the changes I was attempting to make and constantly felt like I was doing something wrong. I asked myself for a long time, “Why am I stuck? Why do I always fall back to my old destructive ways?”

So many people would diagnose me when I shared my frustrations, easily coming up with answers to what was “wrong” with me, why I was struggling in my healing. But very few of them could actually help me heal. It became really frustrating and I was very discouraged.

Now I know why and I can look back and see what piece of the puzzle I was missing. My healing wasn’t the task of these other people. It wasn’t a problem I could present to others to fix, to sort out for me, or to even have specific answers to. How could they? They didn’t know all of me and all the unique circumstances of my trauma. It wasn’t their job to fix me. It was my job. I finally realized that I had to take all...

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Using TRE® For Stress Relief

A few weeks ago, I was asked to talk about how to release tension and trauma from the body with TRE® (Tension & Trauma Release Exercises) as a part of self-care education for a local Children's Advocacy Center. This was being offered as a part of staff development day, and for board members, volunteers, educators, forensic interviewers, and staff. 

Before I led the group through TRE®, the group was learning about "Presenting for Impact," strategies and best practices for presenting in front of people. For most people, public speaking is uncomfortable but with practice, it does become easier. The presenter leading this session did a great job sharing how to make a bigger impact with our speeches, from catchy headlines to using examples to teach a new concept or personal stories that people can relate to that demonstrate the main points. It was a power-packed and super informative session. My favorite part was how...

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Why Survivors Can Become Perfectionists

Perfectionism and shame are two sides of the same coin. People strive to be perfect because of their shame and then feel even more shame because they are never able to reach perfection. It is an endless cycle, exhausting and terrible, and one that takes us out of reality.

This is why perfectionism and shame are the “terrible twins” of trauma. Perfectionists are hiding something, whether that be trauma, an imperfection, insecurity, or an old belief about themselves. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be so hard on themselves and everyone else. 

And it isn’t out of logical judgments and criticisms. It’s fear. Perfectionism is a defense, a way to feel safe and attempt to prevent bad things from happening. When childhood trauma happens, the child automatically decides that the bad thing only happened because he/she was bad and deserving of it. Something he/she did or something he/she is brought on the bad things. This is a logical response to trauma...

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Learning to Let Go of Control

All survivors of child abuse have control issues, whether they are aware of it or not. And I was no exception. I grew up in a home that was out of control. I had no power over what was happening or the abuse inflicted upon me. And because of that, as soon as I was out of that environment, I sought to take control whenever and wherever I could to make up for the lack of power I felt growing up. My inner child was reacting to the adult world in defense, controlling all in order to possibly prevent any further harm from coming to her and I. Consequently, I spent many years being a terribly controlling adult.

But it took me a long time to realize that I was. Child abuse survivors are so disconnected from their bodies and emotions that we don’t know we’re control freaks. And we have no idea why we desperately crave control. We just need it to be that way to feel safe and it feels so risky to even question why.

I was an extreme case. I would actually complete other...

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The Healing Benefits of TRE®

Most of you who follow me have heard me mention or discuss TRE® at one point or another. I often mention it in my YouTube live videos as well as in social media posts. I use it with my clients and I practice it regularly in my daily self-care routine. And I'm very excited to be teaching a group class in my home country, Iceland, next month with Deva Laya Guleng.

So what is TRE®?

Tension & Trauma Release Exercises (or TRE®) is a simple yet innovative series of exercises that assist the body in releasing deep muscular patterns of stress, tension, and trauma. Created by Dr. David Berceli, Ph.D., TRE® safely activates a natural reflex mechanism of shaking or vibrating that releases muscular tension, calming down the nervous system. When this muscular shaking/vibrating mechanism is activated in a safe and controlled environment, the body is encouraged to return back to a state of balance.

There are lots of benefits to TRE®. But the main reason I...

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Which Story Are You Telling?

Child abuse survivors don't have just one story. We have three.
 
The first story is no story, the hidden story, when we are living and breathing out of the toxic shame of our past and spending every moment of our day distracting ourselves and disconnecting from the pain. We don't want to feel it, we don't want to think about it, we don't even want to acknowledge that it happened. But that can't happen for long before the truth catches up to us.

The second is the "Trauma Story," the one that takes the most courage to tell. It's the one about what happened to us. It's a story of trauma, abuse, and victimization. We all have to start there. It's important to realize this is actually a story about the abuser, the person who hurt you and betrayed your innocence, heart, and trust. It's the story of what happened to you, not who you are.

You can't move forward with your healing until you acknowledge the impact of this traumatic experience and allow yourself to feel the...

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How You Care For Yourself is How You Feel About Yourself

I struggled with self-care for a long time. It wasn’t an easy task for me. Back then, I was solely focused on numbing myself. I was in too much pain and too ashamed of what had happened to me. It hurt too much to think about it. In the process, I had completely disconnected from myself, my body, and my needs. 

What helped was when I learned about the long-term impact of trauma, what the long term impact of toxic stress on my body. I could easily see how the abuse I suffered made me not want to talk about the past, feel my feelings, or want to take care of my body. But what was invisible to me was how the toxic stress from my childhood was still fueling the high level of cortisol in my body. The high levels of stress hormones in the body can create and contribute to long-term problems with our heart and our blood vessels. This information became a complete game changer for me. 

I had to start to practice good self-care to help my body counter the years of living with...

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How to Reach Your Healing Goals

Summer is almost here and we are already on month 6 of the year, I can’t believe it. Now is the perfect time to review your healing progress, to check in with yourself and the tools you’ve been using and what’s working for you and what isn’t.

But first, I want to celebrate you for your commitment to your healing. I know it can feel like two steps forward, one step back sometimes. Remember to not focus on what you didn't accomplish. Because that's not important. The only thing that matters is what you did accomplish. I know you had several victories so far (even the smallest changes can be HUGE victories in the healing journey) and I hope you celebrated them. If you haven’t, do that now. You deserve it!

What healing goal did you set for 2019? It’s easy for abuse survivors to forget change is a growth process and that part of healing is to learn to trust the process. The journey is the healing, not just the destination.

Survivors often ask me if...

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