Tag: trauma

Joy! It’s right in front of you! A little to the left…..

A Christmas Story

Once upon a time, there was a little princess who lived in my castle with her 5 brothers and sisters. She loved to read. She had a favorite, “Harry Potter,” by J.K. Rowling. She was given the first book, the first year it was released and she was a major fan and Christmas was coming.

The King and Queen met in the counting-house and counted all their gold. Each prince and princess would receive special gifts from their royal parents in the amount of $100 dollars! It was a fortune.

The King and Queen called all their little royals to the throne room and asked them what they wanted for Christmas. The little princess was the first to announce her request for all things Harry Potter. She wanted the broom, the hat and most of all the wand.

The King and Queen wanted very much to make the little princess happy, but their kingdom was in the country of Oregon, in the City of Seaside, far, far away from any Malls or shopping. This was a dark time, before Amazon, and they did not know how they would ever fulfill the princess’s request.

The Queen immediately announced the need for a quest. She had the King gas up the royal junker and with peanut butter and jam sandwiches they made the long trek over the mountain, through the snow, hours of driving with only an AM radio, to the magical mall in the city of Portlandia. But, alas and alack, no sign of anything Harry Potter.

They charged from mall to mall while calling with their magical 3-pound cell phone, Finally, as the sun set and rain fell, they located all things Harry Potter in the mall of Washington, at the All Things Expensive, Rare and Must Have store. The shelves were almost bare, but the King wasn’t afraid.

He joisted past the paisley hippie and lept over the Tickle Me Elmo line. Glory was in his grasp. He had 4 action figures and a magic wand all for a little more than gold he had saved.

As he and the queen went to pay the merchant they found one last thing, a 7-dollar pair of Harry Potter Pajamas. It was a sign! They bought the pajamas, even though they were far too small for the little princess and would have to be given to the royal toddler.

The night before Christmas, the royal parents began preparations for Christmas Morning and the royal family social media Christmas photos by having elves deliver new Pajamas to each of the royal princes and princesses.

When all the princesses and princes received their new, clean photo ready pajamas, they were thrilled, except for the little princess. When the little princess saw the little toddler in Harry Potter pajamas, her Harry Potter pajamas she wailed! She felt betrayed, heartbroken, unloved and green with envy! The little toddler, however, felt wet, so she giggled, laughed and ran for the bathroom with joy. The little princess chased her. The little prince chased the little princess. The dogs barked and the Royal parents, royal mouths fell open. How had they made such a tactical error! What would they do!

“What shall we do?” cried the king.

“Oh, what shall we do?” Cried the queen.

They could have given the little princess her Harry Potter toys but then she wouldn’t have any presents to open Christmas morning. They couldn’t find another pair of Harry Potter pajamas in their tiny kingdom. All they could do was try to comfort the little princess.

The king called the little princess to his royal throne. He pulled the little princes onto his lap, hugged her and wiped her tears.

“Don’t worry,” the king whispered to the little princess. “Have faith,” he said. “You know I love you and want you to be happy. Your Christmas is coming.”

That night the little princess went to bed early wearing her “Fozzy the Bear” pajamas. She lay in her bed, tossing and turning because as everyone knows, Christmas Eve is the longest night of the year. The clock kept forgetting to tick, time kept forgetting to pass, and Santa kept setting the clock back to eat just one more cookie and maybe some dough.

Finally, the stars got tired of twinkling and Santa’s sleigh was empty. It was time for Christmas morning. Excited to see the joy on the little princesses face, the king and queen snuck downstairs and tried to program their new ten-pound video camera. One by one the little royals began to stretch and open their eyes. It was Christmas morning!

The Royals ran from their tower. They ran downstairs, around hallways, through ballrooms and finally made it to the throne room and the royal Christmas Tree.

The camera was rolling and the paper was ripping. Squeals of delight and joy came from every child, but the little princess in Fozzy Bear jammies.

The king was dismayed, the queen was faint and swayed. The little princess opened package and after package, Harry Potter action figure after action figure and finally a magic wand. She tossed each gift aside and cried!

Not knowing what to do, the king turned off the camera, got down on one knee and said, “Oh my little princess, what can I do to make you happy?”

There stood the littlest princess, surrounded by everything she had wished for, prayed for, written Santa for and she pointed her finger and cried. “I don’t have any Harry Potter pajamas!”  The king followed her pointer finger to the end. It pointed to the toddler wearing Harry Potter pajamas. There, the princess’s gaze was fixed. The room was full of Christmas and all she could see was the Harry Potter Pajamas she didn’t have.  

Do you have a pair of Harry Potter pajamas in your history? ‘

Many of us have had disappointments, bad experiences and major losses in our lives. Maybe we had a failed marriage and now find ourselves alone. Maybe we did everything right and lived every commandment and still were abused.

Maybe we have prayed, wished and wanted to be healed for years, to find joy. Maybe we are like the little princess. Are we surrounded by Christmas? Are we surrounded by children who love us, have a good friend, have a home, food, blessings so many people in the world lack and still focused on Harry Potter pajamas. If you will just look a little to the left…..

The night before your Christmas can feel like forever, but we have a loving Father in Heaven who wants us to be happy, and as our Heavenly Parent knows what is best for us, what we need and what will bring us joy. Is he showering you with little blessings, while he asks you to be patient, little princess, and have faith? Your Christmas morning is coming.

It isn’t too early to celebrate….is it?

 

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Captured by the sea!

 

Announcing an exciting new collaboration to illuminate healing from abuse and capture hearts!

What happens when creatives have an idea and they collide? Vikki Downs, Cedar Fort Marketing Director sparked an idea. What if we combined art and writing to bring awareness and hope to survivors and their loved ones?

And what if you could contribute?

That was all it took!

I called Haley Miller of Haley Miller’s Captures Photography. Haley, a true creative listened, was inspired,  packed and here in two days! Driven by the power of an idea and the family van!

Haley had been creating beautiful photographic art like the pieces below.

She dreams of bears
And she dreams in bears
 

 

I have long believed in the power of changing one heart at a time.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports 1 in 3 women and 1 in 10 men in the U.S. have experienced intimate partner violence, rape and/or stalking.

Abuse is a difficult subject.  It is easy to swipe past it on our screens. One-second glance and it is gone. But that same one second of time can be used to touch a soul.

What if every day we all shared one positive thought, we cared for just a minute and we all encouraged the survivors in our world?

That is why I will also be adding a page to my website for Haley Miller’s Photographic art and for you to share your stories. We want to hear about moments that have changed your heart or acts of service you are doing to touch others.

Haley’s art will be traveling with me to bookstores, book clubs, firesides, and events.

Has an act of kindness captured your heart or changed the way you feel about yourself or a survivor you care about? Have you participated in a service project for others?

Please share your experiences and we will share some of ours.

Haley capturing magic by the sea

I hope survivors and the world can walk together towards healing.

Watch for more magic to come!

 

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How to avoid being eaten by a bear

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good life really is.”  Marianne Williamson

Today I leaned into the joy!

It all started when I found five dollars during my morning run. I thought to myself, it’s a sign! Today is going to be great! Then my morning coconut milk, mate tea was free. My punch card was full and I thought, see! Today is going to be great!  I leaned into the joy instead of thinking all my fun tickets were spent and any moment something would go wrong, maybe even a random bear attack.

As a trauma survivor, I remember living for years with the fear that someone or something else was going to jump out and hurt me. Then one day I decided to take my life back. I remember the exact moment.

Choosing to change my thoughts

It was a summer day, I was 28, a mother of five children, in the middle of a two and a half year divorce. I was on the phone for hours with the gas company, insurance company and well you name it, struggling with everyone and everything while my children played joyfully in the yard.

Suddenly it hit me. The sun was streaming through the windows, the kids were waiting and I was letting the person, the trauma, the things that had hurt me poison this moment. The banks had closed. The courts had closed. Anyone who had traumatized me was far away and yet I was allowing them to consume my thoughts like a hungry bear.

That’s it! I thought and I took back my life. I decided I was not going to give them one more minute of this beautiful day. I opened the door, stepped into the sun, put the kids on their bikes and went for a run.

Okay, it wasn’t quite that simple, but that day began my personal struggle and journey towards taking back my life.

A few things I have learned along the way

Trauma and adverse childhood events change our brains. If you have a pulse, there is a better than good chance you’ve experienced trauma, and it’s rewired your brain. You may even spend some of your time on high alert waiting for something else to go wrong.

The Adverse Childhood Experience study reports that one in six adults have experienced 4 or more childhood traumas and two-thirds of adults have experienced at least one.

What happens to your brain if the bear lives at your house?

Nadine Burke Harris, explained in her Ted Talk, “… imagine you’re walking in the forest and you see a bear. Immediately, your hypothalamus sends a signal to your pituitary, which sends a signal to your adrenal gland that says, “Release stress hormones! Adrenaline! Cortisol!” And so your heart starts to pound, Your pupils dilate, your airways open up, and you are ready to either fight that bear or run from the bear. And that is wonderful if you’re in a forest and there’s a bear.

But the problem is what happens when the bear comes home every night, and this system is activated over and over and over again, and it goes from being adaptive, or life-saving, to maladaptive, or health-damaging. … High doses of adversity not only affect brain structure and function, they affect the developing immune system, developing hormonal systems, and even the way our DNA is read and transcribed.”

The good news

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” 
― Brené Brown

We now know we all have something called neuroplasticity. To put it simply, we can change our brains.

Dr. Amen in his book, “Change your brain Change your life,” said, “Most negative thinking is automatic and goes unnoticed. You’re not really choosing how to respond to your situation, it’s being chosen for you by bad brain habits.”

Today is a good day to make new thinking habits and to stop waiting for the bear in the woods to jump out and eat you!

Here are some ways to change your brain and your thinking habits:

  • Practice spending time in the moment focusing on things that bring you joy
  • Set aside time to do things to fill your emotional bank like gardening, writing, walking or listening to music
  • Recognize what you can’t control, and focus on what you can control
  • Look for beauty in your home, the world and the people you choose to spend time with
  • Choose friends who think positively
  • Invest in hobbies
  • Learn to meditate, practice yoga or find a prayer that quiets your mind when you feel anxious
  • Treat yourself with the same compassion and kindness you do others

It is my hope that you allow yourself to be happy because joy is one of the few things we are entitled to. We are entitled to find joy, feel joy and create joy whenever possible.

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Holistically You! Let the Healing begin!

Great news! You can heal! For years research focused on the damage done to victims brains and well-being by abuse, but as it turns out survivors are more resilient than anyone ever dreamed. They may feel broken, but they don’t have to stay that way.

Although after trauma, our brains are rewired, leading to the release of stress hormones and anxiety, we can choose to create new neuropathways and new responses to stress.

Trauma survivors have a personal basket full of coping mechanisms they use at times of stress. Some of the ways they use to cope worked well during trauma, like abusing alcohol, however, after the trauma passes abusing alcohol becomes an additional problem. Survivors can work on adopting healthier ways to cope.

Once a survivor finds a healthy way to self-sooth, like exercise, they can reinforce it through practice, making it easier to let go of some of the costlier methods.  It’s hard to let go of a habit that has served a survivor well unless they replace it with a habit that serves them better and gives them a healthier sense of self-worth.

Here are some healthy coping mechanisms. Try one or try them all. Find out what comforts you and put it in your basket of coping mechanism for difficult days:

  1. Exercise. It isn’t necessary to run a marathon to benefit from exercise. It is important to find something participants like doing so they want to do it again. Anything from a calm nature hike to a cross-fit class constitutes a healthy way to reduce stress and combat depression. Remember, variety keeps it interesting.
  2. Read a book. Whether it’s a romance novel or a self-help book, it can be a mini vacation between covers. The library is free and filled with adventures to give readers a short break from life.
  3. Garden to Table. Gardening is a way to move, find peace and grow healthy food for interesting meals. Gardening can be a quiet solitary moment or a place to connect with family and community. Community gardens may offer free or low-cost space to plant vegetables and grow a healthy salad.
  4. Yoga or meditation. Trauma survivors often spend time disconnected from their feelings or their body. Sexual assault survivors sometimes feel their body has betrayed them. Yoga is a way to reconnect in a safe environment. Survivors should ask instructors if they are trauma informed and inform instructors if they are uncomfortable being touched. Learning to control breathing and relaxing are skills that can transfer outside the yoga studio.
  5. Art. Any form of arts or crafts that allow free expression of inner feelings is powerful. Be aware that art therapy is a safe environment to explore feelings and express them. Survivors, who are new to art, may experience powerful emotions as they process feelings.
  6. Music. Whether a survivor sings plays or is a part of the audience, music is therapeutic. A song can express a feeling a survivor hasn’t found words for, or lift an aching heart with hopeful notes.
  7. Writing. Anything from a short poem, journal entry to an autobiography can help a survivor process the good and bad experiences that make up all of our lives.
  8. Spiritual healing. Read, ponder and pray. Search out good books and spiritual connections that fill your basket.

What do you do to cope? Comment below and share ideas with other survivors.  Let’s stop examining the trauma and start focusing on healing.

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