I was doing pretty good today…until I wasn’t. For a number of years I was finding life difficult and overwhelming on a number of levels. I’ve worked pretty hard, and God’s grace has carried me forwards, and I’ve recently been in a place of building myself up. However, sometimes as we seek to press forwards, despite all of our best efforts, there can be an internal challenge to get to where we want to be and feel how we want to feel. Sometimes we just want to feel ‘ok’, but that might seem like an impossible dream.
If you’re struggling just now, I’m sending you a great big virtual hug and lots of compassion.
Especially in this pandemic year we may find that we go through ups and downs and that’s ok. Some of the things we struggle with might be to do with what’s happening this year, but then other things may be internal and seem to come ‘out of the blue’ and can be ‘triggers’ of some form or another. It can be tough, especially if you feel like you’d been making progress. But it’s ok. It’s ok to learn to sit with those uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and emotions until they pass (and eventually they will), and to take the next step to begin again. You’ve come this far, and if you need a well done from someone, then I am giving it to you right now, friend.
*Well done* – whatever it is you have faced or been going through or are going through now, it is something you are or have persevered through and possibly in the most difficult of circumstances for you – so well done. I’m proud of you, even though I don’t know you, but I know what it is to be human. I know what it is to struggle, to suffer, to feel weak and broken, and I also know what it is to get up again. And again. And again. And chances are if you’re reading this and relating to this, then you do too.
It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to be doing fine for a while and then not to be doing fine. You’re human, that’s part of what it is to experience our frail and fallen lives in this world. It’s ok to ask for help, it’s ok to need grace and it’s ok to be humbled to a place where you need to ask for help. I believe there is an amazing grace for us all, in fact, I know that the Grace of God has saved me and brought me this far and is giving me Peace and renewal day by day. It’s not always been easy, perhaps it isn’t meant to be. But I have a Saviour, a Friend, a King, to turn to and Who loves me through the dark times as well as the more joyful moments of life.
Whatever you think or believe or whatever you don’t believe, know that the moment you are in will pass. You will find the strength to not be ok. You will find the strength to sit in those uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, and to get up again. So take heart my friend, this too will pass. You are not alone. ❤ x
Triumphing over trauma is a process. It isn’t always a ‘linear’ one, but it is very much a possibility.
One of the first key steps in overcoming trauma, or at least beginning on the road to recovery, is the very practical one of establishing safety and security. I don’t know if anyone can recover from trauma while in the midst of it – I don’t think that’s possible, is it? Establishing safety is therefore crucial.
Safety means getting out of the harmful situations and into a place of protection. It means that your physical wellbeing isn’t threatened by external forces. At this point you may be more than likely to experience the unprocessed experiences of your trauma through flashbacks, nightmares, chronic pain, sensory overload, breakdown and a whole host of PTSD symptoms. If you’ve come through this you’ll know how tough this can be and it’s vital to get support from a professional as well as to build up a network of caring individuals that you can turn to, whether from charitable organisations that exist to help trauma survivors, or friends and family members. This can take years, so don’t give up. It really does take time, but healing and recovery is possible.
Safety also means that your basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, etc. are being met and that you are able to establish some kind of stability, routine and perhaps also crucially to work through a care package with a professional.
It might take months, it might take years, it might take decades, but if you continue on the positive path of recovery then at some stage you will hopefully be ready to reintegrate socially, making connections and contributions to society. Routines are very helpful in any recovery process as it establishes a system for the brain to follow, which helps prevent ‘relapse’.
So say you, or someone you know, has passed through these stages and you are now ready to not merely survive, but to Triumph over trauma. How do you do this? Sometimes people say things, and they become helpful little nuggets of truth to help us along our way. One doctor once told me (and this wasn’t even a particularly helpful doctor as her manner was very abrupt and even hurtful at times, but even so she has left a productive input in my life in some way) that I needed to begin building up positive experiences.
It seems obvious doesn’t it? Yet when you’re in a tough and dark place and your brain has been ‘put through the mill’ of negativity time after time, then it can be very difficult to see how that is even a possibility. However, what the doctor said stuck with me, as obvious as it may seem, and I set out on a path to build up positive experiences for myself and this wasn’t easy to do because of the negative forces I was fighting against.
However, this my friends, is a significant key to becoming Triumphant over trauma. It’s not the only key, nor even necessarily the main one, but it is very important. Your brain in trauma is overcrowded and clouded with negative ‘reference points’ and your thoughts will keep lapsing back to these traumatic experiences, emotions and memories unless you give your brain, your mind, somewhere better to go.
Initially, as another doctor taught me, this might be in the form of visualisation, of very simple and short ‘positive experiences’ such as through ‘grounding techniques’, breathing exercises and focusing on gratitude. These are ‘easy breezy’ for many non-trauma sufferers, but for those who have had their brains turned inside out and upside down in somewhat of a nightmare, it takes real effort, perseverance, commitment, diligence and determination and will most probably also be accompanied by several tears, some sleepless nights, anxiety or panic and so forth. Push on through….the view is worth it on the other side!
Over time the positive experiences you are building into your life will grow in possibility. You can focus on your senses and begin to actually enjoy living, even if only for a few seconds at a time at first. Taste your food. Smell the sea breeze. Feel the fresh air wrap around you. See the colour of the autumn leaves. Hear the bird song.
You may then be able to integrate such positive experiences with ‘self care’ such as taking a bath, and taking care of your self. Gradually you may build up to include hobbies as creativity can help reduce chronic pain (such a blessing to me as a mental and physical pain reliever!) as it engages certain parts of your brain linked to concentration and pleasure sensations. This might involve tactile hobbies too such as gardening, knitting, cross stitch, photography, music, drawing, painting, singing, dance, adult colouring, cooking and so forth. It could also include ‘brain training’ by doing puzzles and quizzes and building up your time with these from seconds, to minutes to even hours as your concentration and ability to regulate your nervous system improves and is strengthened.
Hopefully in time the positive experiences will also come to include trusting friendships and social and emotional connections, social events even if just little baby steps at first (it certainly was for me), and then as you build and build and build upon your resilience, your mind will be mapping out many new neural pathways and connections of positive experiences that will at first soften the ‘relapses’ and then gradually over time become new ‘reference points’ for you mentally and emotionally. And after that, what could possibly stop you from being and living Victoriously and Triumphing over trauma?! 🙂 x
To survive this winter season, and to thrive as you journey through it, I’d like to encourage you, and myself, to have regular mental health and self care ‘check ins’. Make an appointment with yourself to focus on taking care of you. It’s easy to get lost in the many things going on around us, to the detriment of our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. So along with all of the other tips in this season, let’s make our wellbeing and our mental health a priority. Once again I have loads of helpful tips and articles on these issues on my blog, and the many things I’ve learned over the years from personal experience, so I’m with you friend, I know it can be hard, but you’re important and your mind matters, so do what you can to take care of yourself, to regularly make some time just to be kind and look after your wellbeing so that you can be and feel your best this season. x