Holiday Inn and Convention Center, Stevens Point, Wisconsin
November 1st – 2nd, 2018
The Prevelance of Secondary Trauma in Helping Professionals: How We Keep Ourselves Safe
This is a morning meditation I utilized for quite awhile when first pursuing my podcast, book, blog, and speaking passions. Then I started using it as a way to release stored up negative energy from traumatic events in my youth. I envisioned it leaving my body with the sound. What a beautiful release it was. Honestly, at first I felt weird doing it. As I continued practicing it, however, I found comfort in releasing the sound into the universe. There were times I would walk around the rest of the day feeling a beautiful energy, a tingly sensation, radiating from my forehead. Researching the concept of chakras, I began to understand “centering” and balance within my mind and body.
I would love your feedback on this as you practice using it on a daily basis. How did you feel initially? What did you notice happening in your body? Your daily life? Your thought processes? Did you happen to have the same sensation in your third eye/forehead area as I did?
Thank you for allowing yourself the opportunity to experience something new, for giving yourself the gift of positive energy and treasured time. You are worthy of peace and joy.
Step 5: Work on Healthy Habit Formation
Before diving into step 5, a reminder about resilience: it is defined as the ability to overcome adverse conditions; with healthy bonding relationships, guidance, support, and compassion as the catalysts. Basically, it entails having the capacity to bounce back from stressful or overwhelming experiences.
What are some steps we can take to ensure we are building resilience in our lives?
Today we will cover Step 5: Work on healthy habit formation.
Being an avid reader, particularly of self-help and trauma-related research books, I discovered the critical importance of habit change as a catalyst along my healing journey. One of the books that I talk about in my presentations is Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One by Dr. Joe Dispenza. This book helped me understand that my brain was not hard-wired in a permanently damaged state due to circumstances beyond my control (i.e. traumatic events) and I had the power to change my habits, thereby creating new neuron pathways. I also practiced the book meditations regularly as a transformational tool.
Another book worth diving into is The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. One of the powerful lessons in this book, at least for me, was learning to replace “bad” habits with “good” ones. For instance, instead of merely telling myself “Teri, you need to stop eating junk food,” I instead took on a 30-day journey of whole food eating, creating a food diary, and teaching myself new recipes. I created incredibly healthy eating habits by educating myself on the benefits of healthy food choices. Transforming our habits is a powerful tool we can utilize as we continue along our healing journey.
Here are five action steps you can implement in your life in order to create positive change:
There are books, YouTube videos, mediation series, classes, websites, Facebook pages, and so much more dedicated to habit formation and the benefits of creating healthy and sustaining habits. Find what works for you. We all have that thing that jives with our soul, be it humor or depth or intellectual spirituality or wise-old-owl. Whatever it is that stirs you up, use that! If something doesn’t feel like a fit, move on. This is about YOU and YOUR journey. Do you.
I have a poetic little story to share about this blossom.
Last winter we decided to pull our 2 hibiscus plants into the house. We read they would go dormant and they did. Come spring, after moving them back to the pool deck, they both turned a bit yellow as they re-adjusted, losing most of their leaves. The red one quickly recovered and started blooming like crazy. Sometimes 5 blossoms a day would pop up. Gorgeous!
But this one, the yellow one, not so much. It struggled and eventually dried up. Its branches snapped off in a storm and one tiny sprig remained, sticking out of a huge pot.
We revamped our walkway and added new pots filled with overflowing flowers. Everything looked amazing. But, there in the corner sat our broken yellow hibiscus, clinging to life with its last remaining stem, which had fallen to its side, laying on the soil. Every time I looked at it, I felt sad, but something kept whispering, “Don’t give up.” So I let it sit.
I continued to water it. It flooded twice during 2 crazy storms and developed a green funk on the soil at one point.
But then I noticed something. Green buds were appearing. As if it wanted oh-so-desperately to bloom again. I started to caress the little buds and send them little, “You can do it!” messages. The branch began growing, sideways, out of the pot. It looked pretty pathetic, but it was trying.
This morning I walked outside and yelled, “It bloomed!” startling my daughter as she finished her breakfast.
Here, my friends, is a symbol in perseverance, resilience, determination and healing. This is my forever sign of hope 💛❤ #nevergiveup
I found the #WhyIDidntReport hashtag a few hours ago. I’m normally not much of a Twitter user, more of a Facebook and LinkedIn fan. But, this one struck a chord. So, I sent off a tweet. This blog post is an extended version of that tweet.
I was five years old.
Let that sink in for just one moment.
Look at that photo up above. That’s me at five years old. Study my eyes. Do you see the sadness? He was a sixteen year old neighbor. He lived next door to my kindergarten best friend. I’ll spare the disgusting details. It was the first time STOP! screamed inside my soul, but could not find its way out of my mouth.
He threatened to hurt my mom if I told anyone.
I was nine years old.
Again, I will give you just a moment to ponder that.
My mom had sent me for a can of soup from our apartment neighbor. His mother was not home, yet he invited me inside. I was hesitant, but he insisted. If I wanted the can of soup, I’d have to come in. So, I did. He led me to a back room, pantry shelves lined the wall, filled with boxes and cans. He dangled the soup can over my head with strict instructions, “You’ll have to earn it.”
He told me he would kill my mom if I ever told a soul. STOP! could not find its way out of my terrified body.
Mom never did ask what took me so long to retrieve the can of soup.
I was ten years old.
Ten. Years. Old. As in fifth grade.
He was my school choir director and our church organist. He told me I had a pretty voice. But, I needed private lessons if I wanted a solo. I believed him when he told me I was special. Private lessons quickly turned to “privates” lessons. I begged my dad to let me quit choir. He didn’t insist on knowing why, but allowed it. Mom was disappointed in me. I mean, how would it look? The choir director was her church friend.
STOP! stayed frozen inside.
I was fourteen years old.
An awkward freshman in a Catholic school, working in the evenings for our parish priests in the rectory, answering phones and stuffing Sunday’s church bulletin with announcements about picnics and fundraisers.
He was the religious education director. I would giggle and blush at his suggestive comments, so unsure of how to scream STOP! even though that was, yet again, screaming in my soul. He followed me to the basement one evening, as I descended to fill the basement fridge with sodas as instructed by the pastor. This time I pushed back, but not before he made one of his suggestions come to life.
I was sixteen years old.
I would tell all the boys, “I’m as pure as the driven snow.” Code for: “I’m a virgin and proud of it.” He was my boyfriend. We were at a party on his grandparents farm. I was drinking. Heavily. He had tried before. Repeatedly. I had warded off his attempts. This night, I was less guarded thanks to beer and shots. He asked me if I wanted to see the family’s race car in the barn. I complied. Knowing in my soul I should not. He took me instead to the other barn. The one filled with cats and a loft. A loft with a rickety old bed. I repeatedly told him, “No” and “STOP!“, but . . . he didn’t.
Upon our walk back to the party, with a soft snow falling like tears from heaven, he turned to me and said, “I guess now only the snow is pure and driven.”
I was seventeen years old.
I had been jumped by a gang of youth while downtown and sexually accosted. That doesn’t belong under this hashtag because it WAS reported. I spent much of my junior year of high school testifying at trials in juvenile court. And having lunch with a detective involved in the investigation. His friends threw around the words “jail bait” quite a bit as they gave their fellow officer a congratulatory slap on the back.
He asked my parents to take me to dinner downtown to celebrate the final conviction case. They obliged. He was a police officer, right?
On the drive toward the city, a Knight Ranger song played on the radio and he turned to tell me, “This is our song.” My stomach flipped and STOP! silently screamed . . . yet again.
We never made it downtown for dinner. Instead he took me to his apartment. I resisted and eventually convinced this naked police officer to take me home. His children’s photos hanging on the wall helped me win that battle.
He instructed me not to speak of it. To anyone.
What is PTSD? Or, in my case, what is C-PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD) is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as: “a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.”
Medical News Today explains: “PTSD is generally related to a single event, while complex PTSD is related to a series of events, or one prolonged event.”Health Direct defines it as: “Complex PTSD describes a more severe and long-term condition that can occur after prolonged and repeated trauma, particularly in childhood. Trauma can cause problems with memory and disrupt the development of a person’s identity and their ability to control emotions and form relationships with others.”
For over twenty-five years, I battled severe panic attacks. These initially appeared when driving, brought on by a benign and unknown trigger. Flashbacks started haunting me and soon I was waking from my sleep in the throes of full-blown panic. I started to close in on myself and became agoraphobic over a period of time, afraid to leave my house for “fear of my fear”.
When I started EMDR therapy at Cincinnati Trauma Connection in 2013, it was there I first learned of dissociation and my having compartmentalized my trauma incidents in order to survive and cope. It was also within the safe confines of my therapist’s office where I started to sift through those old storage boxes of horrors and confront the negative energy attached to them. Trauma by trauma, memory by memory, I took my power back from the ghosts who had been haunting my mind and soul. I released long-stored trauma energy and learned coping skills to regulate my symptoms when triggered.
Some of the symptoms of PTSD which I experienced were:
Today I hit the trails at Cincinnati Nature Center for some self-care soul work. I practiced mindfulness exercises as I hiked, listening to the sounds of nature, taking in deep breaths of the forest scents, and allowing the cool morning air to embrace me. Nature is my reminder to stay grounded. As I focused on the little bee, asleep on a flower, I allowed myself peace. Right there in that moment. No decisions about nursing homes or insurance policies, no scheduling conflicts or malfunctioning recordings. Just me, a bee and a flower.
I wish you serenity in nature. Here is a little collage of some of my favorite photos I have snapped while hiking at our local nature preserve. Enjoy!
Before diving into step 4, a reminder about resilience: it is defined as the ability to overcome adverse conditions; with healthy bonding relationships, guidance, support, and compassion as the catalysts. Basically, it entails having the capacity to bounce back from stressful or overwhelming experiences.
What are some steps we can take to ensure we are building resilience in our lives?
Today we will cover Step 4: Take action steps to create positive change.
In order to overcome the panic attack and anxiety symptoms I had been experiencing for over twenty-five years, I had to make some serious changes in my mindset. I also had to be willing to change my habits, instill healthy boundaries, build my support system, and welcome challenges. These days I pat myself on the back for investing time and energy into ME and creating a life filled with tranquility even in the midst of storms.
Here are ten action steps you can implement in your life in order to create positive change: