PTSD Survivors Speak: How I Got My Voice Back

I’m often told that my story is inspirational. I like that. I like thinking that my suffering can be turned to good so someone else suffers less. In a way, it makes what I went through worthwhile.

Tonight from 8-10pm EST/7-9pm CST I’ve been invited to speak about PTSD and recovery on  Truth Brigade Radio. I was invited by Christie Czajkowski, a former hard core in your face street activist with a video camera who turned to the microphone after those she exposed took away her ability to walk. Where most just discuss the events as they happen and their effect on us; Christie explores the causes that make them happen. Christie is inspirational. I’m so happy to have her guest post for us today.

How I Got My Voice BackPTSD, Survivors Speak

By Christie Czajkowski

Without a Voice

People ask me almost daily, “How did you get over your trauma?”

The truth is, I’m not sure it’s completely over, but I know I can get through it and live a full, healthy, productive and magical life in spite of it.  If someone told me years ago I would be doing a radio show and talking to some of the most brilliant minds on the planet helping others to heal, I would have laughed.  Actually, I am laughing…especially when I think about how this all started.  I mean, I was afraid of public speaking and knew nothing about radio.  How could someone like me be on the radio teaching others about subjects even I didn’t know about?

After being asked to write this blog, I had to ponder where this all started.  I should also admit I was a bit scared being that writing is one of my greatest fears!  What has transpired since beginning the show?   It truly has been an amazingly beautiful series of miracles that I can take no credit for.   Sometimes I have to ask, “Is this really happening?”  I realized fear of writing, speaking and expressing my creativity was clearly linked to trauma.  But it was only because of a life or death situation I was forced to speak.  I didn’t decide to speak out consciously knowing that I was about to finally start the process of self healing.  Never in a million years would I have expected it to help me heal something I didn’t even know I had.

Without going in to the gory details of my past, I think it will suffice to say that no trauma is any better or worse than another.  We all react the same way.  Maybe some take a little longer to recognize the trauma than others so the healing can begin, but all trauma affects us the same.  So no matter if it was ritual abuse, violence, control, accidents, surgeries, betrayals or belittling we are all in the same boat.

I lost my voice as a teenager.  I suppressed my voice on multiple levels; music, speaking and writing.  At the time I didn’t know there was such a thing as “trauma.” Therefore I had no idea how to deal with it, nor did I possess the skills to do so even if I was aware.  Using my voice in the home was frowned upon and discouraged to the point of abuse which of course led to more trauma.  It was easier for my parents to lock me up and drug me than get to the root of the problem and learn to heal.  The mantras I grew up with were, “Children are to be seen, not heard,  “You ask too many questions,  and “Curiosity killed the cat.”  When I was brave enough to bring “it” up, I was told it was all in my head.  I started to doubt myself and quickly accept their rules of life as authority and truth, without question.   Naturally, asking questions, speaking up, or expressing myself through using my voice became something to fear because the end result was so painful.  Or was it?  Could have speaking up then prevented the pain and consequences of not speaking up for the next few decades?

How Trauma Impacted My Life

Life after growing up was no different.  I never even considered there was a healthy way to deal with such a chaotic yet controlled upbringing.  So instinctively I thought the best way to deal with it was to pretend the trauma didn’t exist.  Cover it up, try to fit in situations that I was not comfortable in to keep the peace, self abuse, self hatred…I continued to traumatize myself in the very same ways that I was so used to, therefore carrying on and compounding the trauma.

I still had not an education in the existence of trauma and how to cope, which led to a tumultuous, yet undeniably adventurous life.  If you don’t know something exists, how can you recognize it and turn it around?  I always knew something was wrong, but didn’t know how to address it, or even fully understand what “it” was.  I not only suppressed my voice, I also suppressed my memories.

I continued to be victimized and abused most of my life into adulthood because it was really all I knew.  It felt comfortable.  I was so sick and programmed into the victim mentality, I even justified it.  Of course there were rewards and perks for doing so in many cases.  If I left the abusers, how would I take care of my children?  Where would I go, how could I take care of myself?  I  tolerated violence and other forms of abuse and held on to a constant victim mentality that I was sure I could never break away from, along with the belief that my life was all about suffering.  The perceived cost of breaking free and going it alone was far to scary.  I still had no idea what I was hiding from or that I had something to heal.

How my Greatest Fear became my Greatest Blessing

I held on to this pattern of self abuse for over 3 decades.  And while I have been able to make tremendous leaps and bounds with my recovery, I need to reiterate again that I can take no credit for the series of events and miracles that were about to happen.  It wasn’t until after I was already in to my “accidental” healing process that I even realized what was going on!  I say accidental because it seemingly just fell in to my lap by a carefully coordinated Force greater than me .  I have many others to thank for that, including those who were part of inducing my own trauma.

Looking back and seeing how certain events transpired, I was convinced it could have only been of divine intervention, which alone inspired me to continue on the path in a more conscious and hopeful manner.  It was only 3 years ago where I made the conscious decision to heal and do whatever it takes to get there.  Discovering my trauma and facing my fears was a challenge I could no longer avoid.  It was time to confront the that which was holding me back.  You know they say “When the student is ready, the teacher will come.”  And the teachers came, oh boy did they come!  The guests on my show are all teachers who I respect and admire, many of which I owe my life and “sanity” to.  I would buy more books on the subjects that I thought would help with getting to the root of my problems, take notes during my shows, watch the videos or read the books they recommended and share whatever I learned with others. 

It still blows my mind to think that because of facing one of my fears, because of fear, that I would be led on this path of an endless supply of teachers, all the while being able to help others, which interestingly was my goal from the start!  But how could I help others heal when I was not complete myself?  I continued to schedule shows on topics that interested me, not really always knowing at the time that it would lead to such incredibly transformative events in my life that I will be forever grateful for.  

Initially, it seemed just a coincidence that I would schedule shows about subjects I needed to hear.  Each of which would ultimately help me to put the pieces of the puzzle together for my new self discovery and path to healing.  As I began to see how it impacted others and how beneficial our shows were to their healing, I became more confident in scheduling shows that not only were recommended by others, but subjects I too needed assistance in.

Why Speaking Our Truth is So Important

After I found my voice and was able to speak comfortably in radio, I was able to confront my fears in public speaking as well.  I have since faced other fears that I have held on to due to past trauma such as water, writing, and am now working on my fear of expressing myself creatively through music.  This blog alone is part of the process and I am grateful for the opportunity to share my story with others in hopes of helping others find strength in their healing.

I have found that seeking to help others ended up helping me more than I could have ever imagined and I now look forward to the gifts of each day, rather than dreading it with fear and hopelessness.  I also found that in facing my “demons” and releasing my “baggage” there is a way through it.  Learning to speak it with my voice has released the pressure valve that served only my self destruction.  We all have a choice and once I learned there was a better way, I had no choice but to find it if I were to be true to myself and my desire to help others.  It certainly wasn’t all rosey.  It took a lot of work and self reflection which was something I was used to avoiding.  Each step on the path gave me the confidence I needed to move forward to the next one. 

The more I discovered inwardly and was able to see changes in my outward life, the more I desired to study and reach deeper for full realization.  I can’t say I’m all the way there yet as the road is long and sometimes dark, but even the “dark” days are necessary.  In fact it was my “dark night” where I came to the realization that trauma was in fact the root of the suppression of my essence, thanks to a book called “Waking the Tiger – Healing Trauma by Peter Levine and Ann Frederick and many others.  As one of our guests and one of my greatest teachers Tobias Lars says, “You can go through it kicking and screaming or you can go through it.”  I had made the decision to go through it and thanks to my wonderful support network, and my show I am here today.

My “dark night” in facing these challenges, although scary at the time was a lot easier than holding on to it for another 30 years and continuing the cycle of abuse.  Through releasing the chains and finding a better way I have finally been able to discover who I truly am as opposed to living a life of pain and trauma.

I guess it didn’t matter if I knew how I would get there, only that I did.


The ideas contained in this post are solely those of the author. To contribute to the Survivor Speaks series, contact Michele.


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