Normalizing Trauma

Trauma is a very human experience. You can’t live on planet earth and not experience trauma at some point in your life. And the longer your life is the more likely it is that you will experience trauma. There’s different levels of trauma. There is a trauma that is in blazoned on your mind and triggers feelings of panic and depression. And then there are types of lesser traumas that trigger grief sadness or a mild sense of melancholy. These lesser traumas will not leave you in bed for weeks at a time or contemplating suicide like PTSD level trauma. Lesser traumas are the blues, they are the times when you remember something or sometime that hurt you.

As we go through life we either seek help and healing or we push down our traumas deeper and deeper into ourselves until they morph into an illness we didn’t see coming or become a state of permanent melancholy diagnosed as depression and treated with a pill. The important thing about trauma is to recognize it. In all it’s forms it must be recognized, it must be spoken about, it must be brought into the light, and it must be healed. According to Dr. Bessel van der Kolk MD, in his book The Body Keeps the Score, trauma is stored in the body. Only by releasing it from the body are we able to find healing.

The other interesting thing about diving into your trauma work is the reality that your family lineage also holds ancestral trauma, trauma from wars, traumas from sudden deaths, traumas from loss so terrible that they have left a ripple of pain running through your family that shows itself as alcoholism, domestic violence, drug abuse, isolation, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, and even the total avoidance of love, of feeling or interaction with others. Not being seen and not being heard is one of the cruelest forms of child abuse and yet millions of children suffer at the hands of parents completely incapable of feeling.

When we recognize the trauma that we are holding, when we honor it, we subsequently normalize it so it is no longer the skeleton in the closet ready to jump out and disrupt our lives. When we realize that nobody on this planet is playing the victim, and that hurt people hurt people, then we can open our hearts and extend love to even those individuals who seem so bent on trying to create pain. Find forgiveness for yourself and all people, practice self compassion, find a good trauma therapist who will help you uncover your pain and heal it. And honor your path. It wasn’t easy to get where you are but good or bad, you made it.

We are all humans having a human experience in a world that is very difficult to traverse. Let’s normalize mental health issues, let’s really talk about how we’re doing instead of always playing at “JUST FINE .” Let’s normalize the beauty and pain of living. Let’s do this hard thing together.

All my love goes to you as you walk this world. I am your sister in this moment and every other,

E. E. Orme

My Mustard Seed

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If you had bumped into me seventeen years ago you would have met a deeply depressed person. I was sick and tired of existing and I wanted off this rock. My level of despair was paralyzing. So what to do when you feel washed up at twenty-four? For me the answer was…a hypnotherapy class?

I remember walking into the classroom (a remodeled second story room over the garage) and wondering why in the hell I was bothering. My PTSD was so bad at this point that my anxiety came over me in waives, crushing me with panic attacks so severe that I often felt as if I was dying moment by moment.

Hypnotherapy class was…different. I met neat people, I learned about meditation, trance work and how easily humans are led through the power of suggestion. (We are predictably irrational creatures) I also learned what manipulation looked like and how to identify it instantly. I heard other stories of suffering and felt my heart open little by little to the reality that suffering is universal.

Until then I’d believed that the people I’d met throughout my life were all living “normal,” “productive” lives. I’d honestly thought that “normal” was the universal experience. I had bought into the assertion that I was not a “normal” girl because life felt scary 24/7 and that made me a freak. I believed I was the “late bloomer”, the “overly sensitive homebody” who would never “get a life.” I believed what I’d been told and my belief in my total “failure to thrive” only seemed to confirm my future as an insane bag-lady and underpass occupant. Confused, sad, and desperate, I went to our teacher and requested a private therapy session.

At the beginning of the session I prepared myself for a hoax, a well woven fraud. Even though I’d paid for the class and the session, I still did not believe in all this hypnotherapy crap. I wanted to desperately, but I was too jaded for hope, too angry and rebellious for faith.

The trance part was easy. Count down from 25, (I could do that). Imagine yourself in a garden (easily done). Now ask your spirit guide for guidance, (Hellooo…?) No one came. I stood in my idyllic garden, adrift in a silence where no one answered my call.

“So what’s coming up for you?” My teacher asked as I lay there looking over fields of poppies and tulips.

“I’m alone,” I whispered dolefully, “utterly…alone.”

“What message is your body sending you?”

“Pain,” I said, “the usual heavy cold pain.”

“Go into it,” she said.

In the next half hour, I wandered through every dark memory, every lonely moment of my life, every section of violence, stupidity and pain I’d ever experienced until I was so drained I couldn’t feel anxious, fearful, or depressed. I felt empty, abandoned and for the first time in my life I felt enraged by the injustice of existence.

“Now stand in your garden and ask for guidance,” my teacher said. I stood among my flowers, glared at the soft sunlight and asked, “Why all this suffering? Why all the pain? Why can’t we all be happy?”

Light comes in many levels of brightness. The light that answered me that day was warm, it was loving, it was everywhere all at once. It offered peace and (for me… maybe not for you) it took the shape of Jesus.

I was raised a sort of Christian. As a baby I was christened in the Mormon temple, as a girl I went to Unity with my parents and as a teenager I went to every church I could, sampling religion like chocolates from a box. At eighteen I was a Buddhist, at twenty an agnostic, at twenty-four I was lost.

Nothing prepared me for the presence of the one man I had never wholly given credence too. Nothing prepared me for the love and comfort he offered or the words he spoke, “What you see as suffering, is in fact a lesson. There is only love.” I felt my rage melt away. I thought of the suffering of Job and understood, really understood how God never left him, how he never left me, and how he is here for all of us. I understood that we are here to reach for the light even when we are surrounded by darkness. I understood that God is our mustard seed; even when we think his love has slipped through our fingers, it’s still there holding us close.

I’m not going to thump you with a bible. I don’t believe I’m right and you’re wrong. I believe in unconditional love, in compassion, in answered prayers no matter what language they are spoken in or to which God they are uttered. I have learned to welcome this world of experience. I accept my own life lessons knowing that some lessons come as soft as angel wings while others cut our throats while refusing to let us die.

So be brave in existence. Be true to your soul’s purpose. Savor your life. Be quick to find the lesson within the experience.  No matter the pain you may be in or how dramatically violent the world around you seems, in the end we are all learning, we are seeking to understand the lesson in the experience, and we are all cradled in loving hands which will never let us fall. We are all the children of a loving creator who is as eager to expand our souls through experience as he is to welcome us home when the lesson comes to a close.

 

On the Seventh Day She Painted Her Nails

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Nail polish isn’t just some chemicals in a bottle, it is light and color measured out in droplets of perfection, at least that’s how I see it. I pick out nail polish with all the reverence of a devote, matching base color with glittering top coat, pink on pink, gold on gold, disco ball silver glitter over moonstone white with rainbow opalescence. God I love nail polish. I have jewelry and clothes, but only with nail polish do I feel that girly sense of wonder when I sit back and look and my frankly adorable toes and say wow…that’s awesome. I’ve just recovered from yet another bout of clinical depression, the kind that makes me wish for death while I cling to life through long naps, dried fruit, my cat and a good book. In depression I can’t write, I can’t eat, I can hardly do any of the things that a competent successful, vital person can do. Instead I feel childlike, lonely, useless and afraid. No one can help a depressed person unless it’s to get them a blanket, make them eat or get them to talk. A depressed person can’t be helped because the pain comes from nowhere; the medicine does more harm than good and all the bleeding is internal, intangible and imagined. When it passes it’s like having survived a hurricane which blew only in your soul; you look around expecting the house to be gone, your possessions strewn across the road but everything’s in place and you are you only with a little less sparkle than before. Maybe that’s why I love glittery nail polish so much. On the seventh day she painted her toes! This act marks my Sabbath, my holy day, my healing time of rest and revitalization. I know I’ve reached recovery when I pick a new color, look myself in the mirror and say, “I’m feeling pink today.” Today I was feeling pink and my new nail polish reflects that. I may never publish any of the wonderful books I have written, I may never ride a camel around the great pyramids, I may never hike in the alps or walk the grand Camano through the Pyrenees mountains but I’m here today because of you, because of my husband, my son and because of the little things, like nail polish, which make life sweet. God bless you all, and thanks.

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