I used to get jealous of my therapist. She got something from therapy that I didn’t (besides my cash). She got to hear from survivor after survivor after survivor.
I wanted THAT.
I wanted to know what the other people – who were sharing the same chair before and after me in my session – were saying. I wondered what they lived with, learned and discovered about life with developmental trauma. I wondered how they navigated life post-trauma.
That’s what I needed most.
How did others go from crappy to happy, stressed to blessed or from pissed off to blissed out?
How did they manage when they lost their center and fell into sadness, anger or numbness?
How did they shake off nightmare hangovers or cope with triggers when life was… life?
What were the short cuts, strategies and insights?
I craved conversation and sharing and eye contact without co-pays.
Now I get that all of the time.
I get to hear from other survivors. It’s the best part of doing this work and taking on the topics I do in my writing. It’s as powerful as I suspected it might be.
It’s wishes blown off daffodils now coming true. I want to share because I’ve often thought there’s got to be a way for everyone to hear one another.
So, these are your words below. These are words you’ve posted publicly here or To Write Love on Her Arms, Elephant Journal or Ms. Magazine. Or words you’ve shared privately and given me permission to share.
Your words affirm, validate and inspire.
Your words are important. Your experiences are important. YOU are important.
And we need each other.
So Yay to truth-telling, silence-breaking and honesty.
Yay to community, being real and being honest.
Goodbye shame. Goodbye silence. Goodbye stigma.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
From E.B. Fitzgerald
“Thank you. Thank you for creating such a sound container for transparent sharing. It’s something that has often felt missing in the healing community.”
“As for the practical kinds of things I have done to heal from my own abuse I would say a combination of a life-long faith practice, therapy, safe relationships with healthy friends and mentors, exercise and paying attention to my diet 99% of the time (Exercise is the greatest free medicine), meditation and mindfulness which I started at a very young age, volunteering, practicing gratitude and constantly reminding myself of what I have instead of what I think was missing or ‘bad’, recycling my challenges into gifts (asking myself what was good about each area of abuse, assault or pain-what did I learn etc, who can I help with that etc?), studying my experiences and turning it into a profession-that has given me a way to make meaning out of my experiences which I think is important for trauma survivors-to be able to say that what happened to me ended up helping someone else means that it wasn’t for nothing; my pain had a purpose to help someone else.
I also spent time re-parenting myself and learning how to nurture myself. It’s taken me a very long time to learn how to do very basic things, like buy clothing that makes me feel comfortable in my own body. No one told me to do this or showed me how. I learned by working with adults in recovery and asking them how they felt in their bodies; it was through reflection and then a failed, abusive marriage that I actually learned to look at myself, or see myself. I think part of trauma-survival is the ability to stay detached and remain invisible, so when we finally do come back to our bodies…well, I was kind of a hot mess and no one had told me that I hadn’t brushed my hair in 20 years?”
“How did you crawl inside me and find those words?”
“I completely related to this article and appreciate you sharing what is so hard to put down in words.”
“But this parenting stuff… heavy! I think you’re right. It was the absence of good/occasionally happy experiences that make it so very tricky to be the parent you want to be and keep all that expertise out of their sight, and somehow manage your own needs due to high ACEs etc. What an understatement. And yet so very very crucial to understand and achieve. I think this topic deserves it’s own blog!! There must be so many trying to do what you are and often struggling and need to find the appropriate support and hope: we CAN do this!
The things I have done to try and protect my children from what I’ve endured are kinda out there, but I know you would understand!:)
I think it’s hard to not leave some sort of impact on our children, but honesty and sheer gutsiness must surely overcome most of this legacy.
Keep up the great work. As ACEs becomes more well known and established by more of the population, this website and this topic, I’m sure, will become one in which parents will turn to. Congratulations again on such a crucial topic, Cissy!”
“OMG!! this story has really lifted my hopes of finding hope, something like this happen to me when I was 8years old and it was one of my family remembers.. but thank you 4 this story and I would like to thank you also 4 the hotline you put up there, they really care and want to hear your story! THANK YOU!”
“I read through some of Dr. Porges work and watched some videos but it’s not quite registering. I’ll keep at it though because I’ve watched another seminar on Compassion Fatigue that talks about the vagus nerve and that did make sense.
What I really loved is hearing “Safety is the treatment.” The concept that as survivors, we live our lives ‘faking normal’ or white knuckling through life is finally becoming cruel enough to me, that I’ve just started giving myself permission to accommodate my own needs. Isn’t that nuts? Wild? Radical? Yes. And it’s also been really kind, compassionate, humanistic and peaceful.
I buy the soft blanket, and the shirt that is beautiful and covers my body how I want it to be covered. I eat the good food, even if it costs more. I create the space I want to come home to and set the pace for how I want to live. I set the boundary and leave when I need, instead of stay to make ‘them’ happy. I say ‘no’. I practice not apologizing. The hardest part is communicating those complex needs to a loving and available partner. You keep waiting for the other person to get sick of all your disclaimers, but the price my body makes me pay for not honoring those disclaimers has become too high. And then there’s the balancing of awareness. I think at some point I began looking around at people and noticing they had all managed to figure out what they wanted or needed to have a nice day at the beach or a good hike; were my ‘disclaimers’ or needs really any different? or any more or less? No. I had just deemed all of my needs as excessive, obnoxious, too much-insert the sound of my mother sighing, my father screaming or someone rolling their eyes. Permission to be alive and have needs-granted. Meeting needs = Safety = not aggravating that polyvagus nerve and spending the day with acute anxiety because of out of control somatic symptoms.
The most basic question gets missed by healthcare: What do you need to feel safe before we begin? Imagine if a doctor asked that?? Most don’t, so I’ve had to learn to be my own advocate, which can be exhausting. Hooray for trauma-informed care!
Anyway, great stuff. Thank you!”
“I tried to build a successful life and hide my truth and its just not possible. I do not have a local support group I can go to. I’ve been told to keep what happened buried inside so others won’t know what happened to me and/or think “bad” of me. Thank you for sharing this article because I feel that I’m not the only one who wants to speak up and help others by sharing my survival story. There should be no shame with being a victim to incest/childhood sexual abuse.”
“I always thought my thoughts of : if I were homeless where would I find shelter, how would I survive, or defend myself; when I am in a restaurant I sit facing the door and map out an exit strategy in my mind in case a gunman comes in; or, how will I defend myself if I am attacked while (fill in the blank)…were just things I did.
I understand the need for constant noise so my mind can’t rest and think and just be.
I will need to look into mindfulness.
Thank you for writing this and to my cousin who posted this on her FB page.”
“There is nothing more vindicating than seeing what I experience…written by someone else. I’m an adult adoptee, trauma survivor and also an adoptive parent (like you!) Today has been a tough one, safety eludes me…but, thanks to your sharing I found a little something else I wasn’t expecting today; HOPE. Can’t wait to dig in and read more.
“You have articulated so well the experience of trauma on going throughout life. I kept shaking my head yes at every sentence. When I read “the absence of good more than the presence of bad”, I knew I was home. I have been saying for sometime, it is not what happened but what did not happen that causes the most damage. When we receive what we need in the aftermath of an experience, the guidance, empathy, comfort and connection, we can form resilience instead of distorted self concept and copeing. It is not what happened but how we emerged from it that forms our expectations and beliefs in our ability and worth to ourselves and the world. Of course, a healthy response to trauma is rarely, if ever experienced in the home that allowed/created it. I invite you to check out my site which has a simple way to do this today, with amazing results. It is no coincidence that I saw the webcast today, you posted this today and I am personally working on managing my fear of “getting the word out about Life ReScripted”. I have more to learn personally about fear, no, actually terror and how to cope, continue, transform it and I am sure this will also enhance Life ReScripted. However, I wish it would be easier, “just do it” has worked for fear but is not working for terror.”
“I have only just found your website recently, but I just wanted to say thank you so much for articulating so eloquently thoughts that I frequently have about dealing with trauma, especially seeing mother as victim but also perpetrator and the repeated reference in literature to a “pre-trauma self” (which really doesn’t resonate for those abused in childhood). I am early days in my treatment of complex trauma (having previously been diagnosed with panic attacks and depression 6 years ago and my family being in denial about the abuse), so I am new to the concepts of developmental trauma and possible treatments (neurofeedback etc).
Thank you for providing such a human and empathetic voice to these issues. I find it greatly comforting.”
“Not everyone has the mental acuity or other support and abilities to become their own doctor, lawyer, advocate, investigator. I feel like im cramming for about a hundred tests at a time”