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Guest post by: Kristinna Marowski
1. STRESS = Sometimes “normal, every day stressors and/or the pressure to keep going, maintain responsibilities, etc…. gets in the way of healing! The physiological changes associated with stress can approximate and/or mimic the symptoms that occurred during the (medical) traumas I experienced. In addition, it is amazing to me how many people expect you to continue on as if nothing has happened. It’s true immediately following the trauma, and even more true as time passes. Often others will accept nothing less than “the way you were” or 300% of your time, attention, skills, and work.
TO OVERCOME = I work to listen to my body and the signals it provides. I utilize a LOT of corrective self talk, written & visual affirmations, nutrition, exercise, time outside in the sun, and “warm fuzzies” (curling up in a robe I like, scents that are soothing, music, etc…), saying “no”, cutting back where possible, and asking for help to get things accomplished. Worship, praise, and fellowship activities help me to overcome stress. I also work to incorporate “fun” into each day, whatever that means to me at the moment. It might be a walk with my kids, writing, sitting quietly, playing a competitive physical game/sport, riding a bike down a large hill with no hands, dancing, baking, or taking a nap.
2. TRIGGERS = An ambulance, hospitals, people in scrubs, sirens, bright or hospital like lights, blood, needles or IV’s, cramping, severe headaches, being cold/chilled, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, nausea, feeling shaky or weak, discussion of any of the events that occurred, etc…. can unexpectedly interfere with my forward movement and healing. It surprises me how often I encounter these triggers. They have become significantly less intrusive over a number of years, and there are still times when one shocks me because of its intensity.
TO OVERCOME = I utilize self talk and warm fuzzies to cope with triggers, just as I do for stress, especially as an immediate response. However, I depend on swimming & Tai Chi or Yoga to re-center and re-focus my attention after being triggered. These activities help b/c of the soothing, rhythmical movement. My spirituality and faith, too, are critical in re-centering and re-focusing, on re-establishing a balance within myself. What I put into my body is very important in helping me re-establish and maintain my well being as well. I work to eat and drink things that nourish me and restore balance; water, fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Sometimes I need to call a close friend, ask people to physically be with me, or call my therapist (if my reaction is really intense or I am unable to re-focus on the present).
3. THOUGHTS/FEELINGS of being unworthy or a burden, of being alone/isolated or of being helpless.
TO OVERCOME = Often I have to remind myself that I am not alone, isolated, worthless, or helpless. I coach myself to pick up the phone, get out of the house, reach out to someone, talk about the thoughts & feelings I’m experiencing, etc…. I have a great support network and many people around me that do care, and I have had to re-learn trusting them and actively work at sharing with them so they realize when I’m in need. Accepting help from others helps to overcome detrimental thoughts and feelings. This is difficult though, because I first have to ignore the thoughts I’ve internalized from the trauma; that I am a burden simply because I exist, that I am unworthy and worthless, that my needs are an extreme inconvenience and bother to others. I’ve also internalized messages from well-meaning friends, loved ones, and professionals that have encouraged me to “move on” and “get over it”, or have simply stated that they don’t understand how I could have been traumatized by what I endured. Reaching out, in any form, means allowing myself to be vulnerable and risk being hurt by others. It is very scary to realize that I could receive a hurtful response from someone or know that I could be traumatized again, that there are still individuals and systems that are predatory in their interactions with others. However, as I reach out and allow others to support and nurture me, I become aware of how safe and healing interactions with others can be. Each time I overcome the thoughts and others respond to me with warmth, compassion, and true caring, my trust in others grows and the thoughts lose some of their power.
4. BALANCE = Focusing on only one need can result in neglect and failure to meet needs in other areas. This deficiency, within the self, results in an automatic physiological response to restore balance. If we remain unbalanced, however, it can cause numerous physical and psychological issues. Many, many things compete for our attention and we are given excessive amounts of information, via the media, about how we should fulfill our needs. However, we have a diverse range of needs, all of which are critical to our well being and survival; physiological, safety, emotional, psychological, expressive, social, spiritual, competence, power. It essential to have shelter, to get an adequate amount of sleep, to maintain proper nutrition, to drink enough water, and to achieve balance. These “base/survival” needs must be met before we can focus our attention and energy on others areas of significance. Unfortunately, our society and our lifestyle encourage a lack of balance in attending to our needs. Trauma also causes a similar state of disequilibrium. Healing demands that we work to satisfy all needs equally and restore harmony to body, mind, and spirit.
TO OVERCOME = Beginning with the base needs, I make sure that I am sleeping 6-8 hours each night. I focus on eating mostly fruits, vegetables and whole grains in my diet (this is easiest with a menu). I drink 8-12 glasses of water each day. I schedule time to attend to each area. It is ridiculously easy and tempting to neglect basic/survival needs. It is also the quickest way to disrupt the mind, body and spirit. If I’ve created a deficiency of sleep, nutrition, hydration, or homeostasis, I find that I struggle in all areas, experience more triggers, feel more stressed, have an increase in negative/detrimental thoughts, etc. To address safety related to my self, my job, my family, my health, my morality, to address friendship and family needs, to address achievement, confidence, morality, creativity, and spirituality, I find that the same system of awareness of those needs and organized attentiveness to and scheduling of time for the meeting of each need is effective. It seems like a lot to pay attention to and do, but it becomes very simple if base/survival needs are fulfilled first.
5. SYSTEMS/ENVIRONMENT = Our country is made up of numerous “systems” or entities formed from the integration of smaller components/groups. The educational, religious, criminal justice, human services, political, public health, and medical systems are all examples of systems with which we interact. Each of these systems was designed to enhance our society and our individual lives in some manner. Unfortunately, throughout the course of history and in our current society, intentionally, inadvertently, or indirectly, these systems have caused a number of barriers that detract from and threaten our quality of life and general well being. My traumas were a direct result of the negligence, abuse of power, use of terror to coerce/manipulate, and overwhelming physiological and psychological pain caused by one of these systems and the professionals within it. Sadly, this system is so large, powerful, and pervasive that it has not changed and others have been and continue to be traumatized as well.
TO OVERCOME = I practice naming my traumas, speaking of them aloud and sharing what occurred with others who validate my experiences. I joined online support groups of individuals that have also been traumatized by systems and persons in them. I read about and witnessed the historical and current ways of addressing harm perpetrated by systems; including educating others about what has occurred, working to prevent future harm, and assisting those that have been traumatized in coping and regaining their strength and sense of self. I have recaptured some of my own personal power, begun to formulate my individual approach to activism, and have started to write in order to re-story the traumas I’ve experienced.
The ideas contained in this post solely represent the perspective of the author. To contribute to ‘Survivors Speak’ contact Michele.
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