Where Can I Find Some Skin-Thickening Cream?

I was sitting here in my writing space, contemplating ideas for today’s blog post, when a friend commented on an article I shared in my Unicorn Shadows Book Launch Group on Facebook. The article I shared was You Can’t Be Trauma-Informed If You Can’t See the Trauma – a fantastic reminder to keep in mind that we have not traveled another person’s journey, therefore, wearing a trauma-informed lens will help us to see beyond the after-math of trauma and, at the same time, avoid our own triggering. This beautiful friend shared:

“It’s so hard!! From my trauma I tend to take everything personally!! Yikes!! I need some skin thickening cream!! If you have anything helpful for that, let me know!! Thanks!!”

That was my blog post inspiration: a how-to on “thickening one’s skin” to being triggered in our own trauma history. I used to find myself responding to other’s without understanding the underlying currents flowing beneath my gut reactions. One of the first memories that comes to mind relates to my interactions with the director of a preschool where I taught many years ago.

I had been doing the stay-at-home-mom thing for years, but was asked if I would be willing to teach part-time at the preschool where my then two-year-old daughter was attending. I adore kids and their amazing logic, sponge-brains always absorbing, and their knack for teaching us grown-ups about unconditional love. So I climbed on board the preschool wagon. A year in, this new director was brought on board . . . the one I allowed to push my buttons.

The day I walked into my classroom to find it completely rearranged, with new labels in place on some of my stations (i.e. sensory table, science area, reading corner), my head went kaboom! I stomped into her office and stated my case, accusing her of disrespecting my role as a teacher and violating my space and all I had accomplished in setting it up exactly as I had envisioned. There was an apology (of sorts) and we ended up coming to an agreement of terms on how we would handle any future changes she deemed necessary in the classroom. Fair enough.

In hindsight, I look back and realize how my response had little to do with the changes she made – they actually made sense and were beneficial for the children – and everything to do with the remnants of the trauma history of my youth. Walking into that classroom left me feeling as if I had no control, no voice, a loss of power within the confines of my space, and fearing retaliation if I would speak up.

What can we do if we find ourselves easily triggered by the actions or words of others?

  1.  Pause. Stop. Take a breath. Step back. 

All of those little tidbits of advice we hear often when we find ourselves stressing out. They work. If we stop for just a moment to notice the reaction we are experiencing, we can allow ourselves the opportunity to “be gentle” with ourselves and “just notice”. When I stand in front of audiences and share my Story of Hope,  I emphasize these two points.

Learning to be gentle with myself was a huge catalyst for healing. I learned to simply allow the feelings to be, without judging them, without trying to correct or guide them. I just let whatever was surfacing to flow through me. Then I would allow it to dissipate. Again, without judgment. The concept of “just noticing” is a part of this process. I allow myself the opportunity to experience whatever is rising to the surface within me by merely noticing it, observing it.

2. Remind ourselves we have not traveled another’s journey.

When I learned the concept of forgiveness on a soul level, it allowed me the opportunity to look at my transgressor’s lives from outside my own wounds. I reminded myself that I had not traveled their road. While I was not justifying their actions in any way, I was gifting myself freedom by releasing their negative impact on my current life. I allowed them their journey and, in so doing, continued along my own without them tagging along.

Perhaps my transgressors had been abused, neglected, hurt in profound ways, or traumatized. Their actions toward me or my indirect involvement in their actions really had little to do with me.

3. Send positivity toward others.

Once we have paused, then reminded ourselves we do not know another’s driving force for their negative behaviors, we can turn around our normally automated defensive reaction and instead send some positive energy toward that person/situation. That can be a quick prayer, a wish for the individual to find a moment of peace,  a sincere smile followed by silence, a purposeful sending of love from our heart toward the offender’s, whatever way feels as if you are sending positive energy.

By allowing this affirmative energy to flow from us, from a heart and soul place in lieu of an ego perspective, we empower ourselves in the process while providing much-needed goodness toward others.

4. Journal about the moment. 

When all is said and done, record it in some way. Journal, make a video blog, voice record it, again, document it in whatever way you find helpful. The point is to allow yourself to release your encounter without judgment. Set it free, perhaps noticing what triggers arose in you initially.

Remember to be gentle with yourself and merely notice what is surfacing as you record it. I also recommend writing without editing. A free-flow release can sometimes bring to light a long-sought-after answer.

Keep me posted on your progress! I love hearing stories of positivity, inspiration, and motivation. You are worthy of peace and joy. This is one way to empower yourself with those gifts.

 

Honoring My Mother’s Journey: Next Time

As I sit here listening to my twelve-year-old daughter and her tweenage friends splash about in our pool, after a night filled with water balloon battles in the front yard of our quiet little cul-de-sac home and off-key singing of “Happy Birthday” while tiny purple candles dripped wax onto the cookie cake decorated with a giant basketball and birthday wishes, I smile in the knowledge that this kiddo’s exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) has been little to none. A far cry from my own childhood.

I will be visiting with my mom in a few hours, a trip to the grocery store and vacuuming her apartment are on my daughterly duty list today. I thank God I still have her here with me. Even through the torment of growing up the child of an alcoholic – a mostly distant and sometimes violent consumer of booze and pills – I loved my mom. I longed for her to teach me how to play those card games she’d laugh over for hours on end with friends, or help me with advice about the bullying I was experiencing at the hands of a fellow Catholic school girl, or even just listen when I’d excitedly approach her about my science fair project. Instead, I was told how disappointed she was in me for the 93% grade (still an A, mind you!). “A ninety-three?” she slurred. “God gave you the gift of a brilliant mind. You’re wasting it. Why didn’t you get a hundred?” As I turned to make my way back to my sanctuary of a bedroom, shoulders slumped a little more than usual, my soul held onto hope . . . next time she’ll be happy with you, Teri. 

I kept trying. Continuing to hold on to hope. Continuing to remind myself . . . next time.

And here we are, ages 82 and 52, my mother and me. We’ve reached a place of acceptance, both in our own ways. I accept my mother’s addiction, having learned to put healthy boundaries in place in order to protect my heart and soul. Her new hearing aids allow her to listen a little more than she did in my childhood years.

Last week, I excitedly told her about my new website, www.teriwellbrock.com, and all of my grandiose plans for helping others traverse their healing journeys. I grabbed her by the hand, dragging her in a toddler-esque fashion toward her front door, convincing her with each shuffled step, “Mom, come on! Let me show you!”

We stepped into the game room of the retirement village where she lives, two antiquated computers sat at desks along the far left wall and three antiquated little ladies sat at the round card table in the middle of the bright room, each a puzzle piece gripped between arthritic fingers and thumbs. They smiled in our direction as my mom announced, “My daughter, Teri, is showing me her new web-thing.” I laughed. They nodded in understanding so I left it uncorrected.

I sat her in the stationary chair next to my swivel seat, while my fingers typed away the web address in anticipatory glee.

Ta-da!

“Here it is, Mom. My new website. It has my book summary, podcasts, videos about my speaking engagements, meditations, Sammie Doodle therapy dog info, all kinds of cool stuff!”

“That’s nice. Hey, Margaret, I made vegetable soup. If you stop down I’ll give you a container of it.”

Ah.

Next time, Teri.

As I tucked her into her faded forest green chair, held together on the right arm rest by neon green duct tape, I kissed her on her forehead and reminded her, “I love you, Mom.”

“I love you, too, TT. Don’t forget my doctor’s appointment is at noon on Wednesday.”

“I got it, Mom. I’ll be here.”

Maybe on Wednesday at noon, Teri. You know . . . next time.

However, as I drove off, I reminded myself of insights I read recently in the book, “Change Your Thoughts-Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao” by Dr. Wayne Dyer. In his translation of the 41st verse of the Tao Te Ching he stated, “Apply this same insight to the times you feel unloved: When you see what appears to be indifference, know in your heart that love is present. Allow it to work its magic in your life.” Then in the 49th verse, “I see myself in this person, and I choose to be in a space of goodness rather than judgment. I honor the place in you where we are all one.” And I took pause.

My mother’s spirit cheers for me even when her ego-based actions cannot allow her praise to surface.

I called her this afternoon, this 2018 Mother’s Day, asking what time she wanted me to head to her place for our grocery shopping endeavor. “Oh, you don’t need to come today, TT. Just enjoy your Mother’s Day. You deserve a day off. We can celebrate tomorrow instead.”

“Mom, it’s not a problem. Plus, I’d like to see you.”

“No. I’m tired. I think I’ll just go to bed.”

“Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow then.”

As I was about to say good-bye, she interrupted my thought . . . “Teri? Thank you. For everything you do for me. I’m so proud of you. I told all of my friends about your book and handed out all of your business cards. Will you bring me more?”

“Yes! Next time I see you. Thank you. I love you, Mom.”

The Power of Self-Care

As I continue on this journey of healing, I am amazed on a daily basis by the number of resources coming across my path. Articles on ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) will show up in a Facebook news feed or I’ll receive an email discussing trauma recovery. I love when the universe aligns the stars just so and the answer I was seeking magically appears.

I worked in school settings for years, as a teacher and in a mental health professional role. Helping children learn to cope with anxiety, bullying, overwhelming emotions, unstable home environments, the after-math of abuse, and so much more, had my own inner-child longing for more solutions.

The kids and I would work on filling their “tool box” with coping skills, such as using manipulatives like stress balls to ground themselves or release energy, simple breathing exercises for centering, free art to express something they might not have words to convey, and so on. Allowing kids the opportunity to express themselves in whatever way they were comfortable, while I listened respectfully and without judgment, created a space filled with compassion and tranquility. I once had a fifth grade child, whose home life was in the midst of chaos, tell me, “I like your energy. You have white light around you. I feel safe here.” To say I was blown away by that message would be an understatement. Knowing this child was picking up on the energy I was sending to her as she learned to cope, heal, and empower herself, made my sappy heart dance with joy.

This morning as I scrolled through the amazing articles on ACEs Connection, I came across an article titled, Why Adults Need Social and Emotional Support, Too by Mathew Portell. In it, he discusses the needs of his school, not just in regards to the students, but in relation to the staff and parents’ care, as well.

Pointing out norms they have implemented in their school structure, this blogging principal sets a shining example of trauma-informed care in action. Self-care is critical in all aspects of our lives. I think about those funny memes that state, “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” #truth

The point being . . . when we learn to take care of ourselves, we fill our own coping tool box with beneficial energy we can share with others: compassion, understanding, patience, kindness, and love.

As you move toward healing in your own life or reach out a helping hand to others who may be struggling to find their footing along their path, make sure to heed the advice offered in 25 Self-Care Tips for the Body & Soul.  Learning to live in the “now” and allowing myself to experience joy on a soul level has been life-altering. A great read, and a catalyst for change in my own life, is the book, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, by Eckhart Tolle. In it, the author advises us, “All the things that truly matter-beauty, love, creativity, joy and inner peace-arise from beyond the mind.

Empower yourself with self-care and watch your life transition. Then share your tranquility with others as we move toward a world filled with compassion and joy.

Peace to you,

Teri

Short Story: Final Moments

 

“Dad, can I get you anything?” I asked, as he struggled with the flat, lifeless pillow beneath his shoulder blades.

“I would love a Whopper, Jr.,” he breathed. Pausing to catch his breath again, sucking the oxygen from the plastic life lines crookedly falling from his nostrils, he turned his sunken blue eyes to mine. “And I would like to watch . . .” again he rested his thoughts in order to draw in more air . . . “Christmas Vacation”.

His once strong hands, now thinned and shaky, slowly lifted to the nasal tubes, attempting to arrange the hissing air hoses more securely. The tubes fell away, askew once more, as his arms collapsed back at his sides. “Let me help you, Dad,” I said, as I leaned over the bed rail, trying not to tangle myself in the snake nest of monitor wires. I slid the nozzles into his nose and ran my fingers around both sides of his face, the bristle from his normally close-shaved skin pricking at my fingertips, pulling the tubes tighter until my hands met behind his head. I fastened them in place, then pulled that useless cardboard pillow from behind his back and guided his head gently back onto its stiffness.

“Boys, run to Burger King and get Papa a Whopper, Jr. and a Coke,” I said to John and Jake, as I fumbled through my purse. Having found a twenty and my keys, I handed them over to John, now 16, and gave him a feeble grin as our eyes met. I engulfed my baby boy in a hug, having caught the heartache in his eyes, as I urged him to run home, too, and find the DVD Papa wanted to watch.

As the boys shuffled out of the room, I turned back to Dad. His eyes were closed as I studied the man lying before me. He had aged so much in the twenty-nine days since his low-blood-sugar-induced fall into the kitchen table. I absorbed every detail, wanting to remember each crazy grey eyebrow hair; the wrinkled collection of pale skin gathering beneath his chin; his frail six foot six body, sinking closer to the ground with each gulp of air; and his hands . . . ah, those hands . . . enormous, creative and strong no more.

I grabbed ahold of Dad’s hand, sliding my palm beneath his chilled fingers. My thumb caressed his pinky and he gently squeezed my hand, saying “thanks” with the short-lived grasp. His eyes remained closed as mine released their anguish.

The boys returned with their Papa’s wishes as I was wiping the final remnants of sorrow from my cheeks. He must have smelled the burger in his dream, his eyes fluttering back to consciousness, as they pushed open the heavy oak door. Jake found a seat on the mauve sofa near the window. He was quiet, as usual, lost and unsure, a boy in a man’s body. With death lurking and unwanted, he had no clue how to save his Papa (and himself) from its inevitable arrival.

John took my spot as I wandered over to join Jake in staring blankly out the window. After a few bites, Dad raised his shrinking hand, shakily waving off John’s gesture to feed him another mouthful of bliss. Death danced merrily back into the room, our smiles faded, as Papa dissolved, smaller still, onto the rigid bed.

After sending the boys home, quiet gasps of snores escaped from Dad’s slouched mouth, as I half-heartedly lost myself in the movie he had asked to watch. Normally, quoting nearly every line, I would have been snorting with fits of laughter. It didn’t seem right to be cackling, even if it had tried to escape my bereaved body.

“This is my favorite line in the movie,” he muttered, startling me from my trance.

 Holy cow! How did he suddenly wake up from an unconscious state for his favorite part of the movie? I mused, half alarmed and half seriously impressed, as Dad began quoting movie lines. I looked at my Dad, laughter brightening his dimming eyes, a smile breaking through, his pale skin radiating a moment of elation and I joined him . . . I set the laughter free. Death stood frozen in the corner of the room, wanting to partake in the merriment but duty would not allow it. So it watched; studying, waiting.

Dad giggled off and on throughout the rest of the movie. My hand and his intertwined in a moment of harmony. A squeeze here. A kiss on the knuckles there. A final farewell in the touching of a hand . . . a hand that had held a tiny bundle of joy on the steps of Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati in March of 1966 as Mom climbed into the red Volkswagen beetle, a hand that had pushed my pink bike with the flowered banana seat as I learned to ride without my training wheels on the Mt. Washington Elementary School playground, a hand that hovered too close to the steering wheel as I pulled out onto Mears Avenue for the first time in Dad’s new silver 1982 Plymouth Horizon, a hand that twirled me around the dance floor in the undercroft of Guardian Angels Church to Al Martino’s “Daddy’s Little Girl”, a hand that gently enveloped my baby boys as he gazed at them in awe, a hand I knew would always be there to hold if ever I needed it.

Death, who had been impatiently hovering, had taken over holding his hand when I made my way from the room. When I arrived back in that chilled room a few hours later, his hand was icy still. The hiss of the tubes silenced. The laughter faded. As I placed a kiss upon his cool forehead, my hot tears cascading onto him, I felt the warmth of his hand upon my shoulder. The spirit of his enormous, creative, strong hand.

Weekly Update – Book Proposal

Weekly update!

This week has been fairly quiet on the book-front. The completed proposal is in my editor’s hands. She will have it back to me by the first week of February. Then I can edit away!

As for the book itself . . . I am so excited to have an outline to work with and a plan for it. Finally. As I’ve told so many, I’ve been writing this book for years. In, what feels like, circles. Always coming back to “what is it I am really trying to say?” I knew in my heart and soul I didn’t want it to be a “woe is me” story all about my trauma. I wanted it to be about hope and healing and the journey toward joy, yet knowing the trauma has to be a part of it.

There is a connection that happens between our souls when we have those “me, too” moments. The haunting beauty of my story is that it paints with a broad trauma brush, touching different people in different ways . . . yet, the vast majority of those folks are striving to live a more joyous, peaceful and purposeful existence. And many are stuck. Not knowing quite how to do move forward.

This is my tale from trauma to triumph, the “how to” for getting oneself unstuck from the muck.

* * * * *

Tomorrow, I have a meeting to discuss the website development. Excited to move forward with that, as well! Wish me luck.

* * * * *

A beautiful and incredibly talented friend painted this unicorn shadow for me. It hangs next to my desk in my writing space. I smile at it every day.

 

Angel Visit

Facebook post from December 25, 2016:

I have to share my annual sappy Christmas post! It’s become tradition. It has also become tradition for one or more of my family members to make me cry when opening gifts. This year did not disappoint. The award for “make Mom sob” goes to my oldest son, John Wellbrock. So, here’s the story:

When John was 2 months old, he suddenly developed an illness which made it difficult for him to breathe. He was admitted into Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center where he spent 10 days literally fighting for his life. His oxygen saturation was dropping into the low 90’s and at one point into the 80’s. He would cough and cough and cough and cough and NOTHING could stop it . . . except . . . when I would sing “Come Monday” by Jimmy Buffet to him. You see, when I was pregnant with John, Jimmy had just released his 4 disc album set “Boats, Beaches, Bars & Ballads” and his dad and I would blast it through the house for hours on end. This baby LOVED Jimmy Buffet from in utero! So, there I stood, over his crib, wires and tubes attached to his precious little body, my tired momma arms caressing his sweet little face as I sang him his favorite song. Over and over again. And he would catch his breath.

For 10 days this went on. I refused to leave his side. I told everyone who kept suggesting I go home and rest, “I don’t want him to ever open his eyes and not see his mommy standing there, praying for him and taking care of him”. The doctor told me he could die and I was not about to let that happen.

Call it exhaustion or be a believer, but on Thanksgiving night 1993, after I had nibbled at the plate of turkey and the fixings that my mom had delivered me, I sat in the rocking chair, watching my baby boy struggle to breathe. I drifted off to sleep, the light dim in the room, shining from the crack beneath the bathroom door. My eyes suddenly opened when I felt a presence in the room. A peacefulness enveloped my body as I silently watched a magnificent being of light stand at the foot of John’s metal hospital crib. This angel or heavenly being, just watched him. And he stopped coughing and studied. I knew in that moment that John was going to be okay as tears streamed down my face.

John was released soon after and had no long-lasting residual effects from his illness. They never did give us a definitive answer to what was making him ill. They labeled it an “echo virus” and said it was similar to Whooping Cough, but all of those cultures kept coming back negative.

Jump to Christmas 2016. My beautiful son, wrote me a poem about this time in our lives together. He made this gift . . . his words, his creation, our moment captured.

Forever I will remember that “Come Monday it’ll be alright . . for come Monday I’ll be holding you tight.”

Peace,

Teri

Goals and Self-Care

Facebook post from January 3, 2017:

 

Goals for 2017 include continued self-care, cultivating peace in my life, experiencing continued connectedness. This morning before heading off to work, I took some “T” time.

I’m currently reading 13 different books but my favorite is “The Gifts of Imperfection”. If you’re looking for an amazing read, pick this book up.

I also wrote in a Gratitude journal, with today’s instructed subject: “To learn from our enemies is the best way to loving them: for it makes us grateful to them” . . . not that I have “enemies”, per se, but a difficult subject to write about in a grateful way, nonetheless.

Finally, I took a few minutes to mindfully color. Just breathe and settle into my day.

Take care of yourself in some way today. Whether big or small. You are so very worth it ?

I wish you a life filled with an abundance of joy, tranquility, laughter and love.

Peace,

Teri

#traumainformedcare #hopeforhealing #hope #healing #unicornshadows

My Muse Rocks

Holy wow!

I did it.

I finished the book proposal. I told myself I wanted it done mid-January. And, look at that. Turned it in to my editor by Jan 15th! This sample chapter turned out even better than I had dreamed. Inspiration was flowing through me. #mymuserocks

As I conversed with my amazingly talented editor, Alee, earlier today, I have to admit I was pretty blown away by how this process is unfolding. It’s as if the stars are aligning and I am seeing the path before me in this magnificent illumination of light. As Alee and I tossed around branding ideas for my new website, the themes for all of my endeavors came into clear focus: healing, hope, empowerment. She loved the idea of “hope for healing” which was the Tristate Trauma Network’s fall conference Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) banner theme.

This book, Unicorn Shadows . . . a story of hope.

Our Sammie therapy dog role and our Sammie’s Bundles of Hope Project . . . healing through therapy animal services and a hope-inspired project.

My podcast, The Healing Place Podcast . . . a safe space to share stories of healing and hope.

My upcoming speaking tour with a brilliant friend and leader in the TIC arena . . . continued sharing of the “hope for healing” message.

These four areas of concentration are practically full-time jobs in and of themselves. Yet, I find myself energized and in a constant state of creative movement. I should be exhausted! However, here I sit, mulling over digital makeover suggestions; talking to the President/CEO of Hay House Publishing, Reid Tracy, on the phone during a Q&A session tonight; creating new business cards with my soon-to-be-released www.teriwellbrock.com displayed in happy purple font; designing labels for our Sammie’s Bundles of Hope “Hope Folders” for care-givers;  and editing my sample chapter in the book proposal.

This is really happening.

My suggestion to anyone out there hoping to make their dreams come true . . . take one step toward that dream right now. Research something. Make a call. Send an email. Write your short-term or long-term goals out. Put your dream out into the universe on social media. Then tomorrow . . . take another step. And the next day . . . yet, another. And do not stop moving toward that dream until you are sitting in your favorite space one evening, around 8:15 pm, and your heart starts to smile as your soul whispers to it, “This is really happening”.