Most of us go through our days trying to be happy, healthy and living the best life we can. We avoid conflict and drama, and try to forget those past times in our life that were difficult.
But sometimes life conspires to bring us face to face with those things that we’ve been avoiding. One day things are fine, and then before you know it everything has changed. Life has dealt us a dramatic blow, and our very sense of self is threatened. It might seem like the worst catastrophe, and something we would never wish for.
But bad things do happen to good people, as we know if we’ve already lived through tough experiences. And more bad things seems like a cruel twist of fate. But the way we deal with it, and the aftermath, can transform our lives into something even better than before. We might not realise it, but it could be the reason to finally begin the trauma healing we need to turn our lives around.
Catastrophe can turn out to be your saviour, but you have to hit rock bottom to realise it.
You’re living your life as best you can, and one day something happens to throw everything off track.
Maybe for you it’s a work burnout,
the death of a close friend
a divorce or relationship breakup.
Maybe it’s being made redundant,
or your partner becoming seriously ill.
There will be some event or circumstance that brings a dramatic change in your life – and how you’ve been living up to then no longer works. Things don’t make sense anymore. Your world has changed. And the ‘old you’ can’t quite function in the way that you used to. The trauma you experienced in your younger years looms large in your life again. The mask you wore no longer fits, and the parts of you that were in hiding no longer feel safe.
You might call that ‘rock bottom’, that things couldn’t get any worse. But you might find that this ‘catastrophe’ is really the catalyst for a new beginning in your life. An opportunity for you to wake up, and realise that the life you were living didn’t fit you anyway. And a chance to start a much deeper trauma healing journey.
The catastrophe that started my trauma healing journey.
I’d bumbled along reasonably well in my life, keeping a job, ‘functioning’ as an adult. With my husband Sam by my side, everything seemed doable. He was my cheerleader when things were going well; my nurturer and confidante when things were not. He boosted my confidence, and brought out the best in me.
All that disappeared on November 5th 2002, when he died suddenly.
In the chaotic months of grieving for Sam, I found myself grieving for my own mother who died when I was 14. All the pain of my younger years, and the tears I’d suppressed came to the surface in the solitary safety of my home. I cried a river of tears for everything I’d lost. But it was much deeper than just losing Sam. I grieved for losing my childhood to an angry, violent, traumatised mother. Memories of the times she beat me swirled and mingled with her harsh and critical voice. I grieved the loss of my self.
It was during my Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) training 5 years later that I started to learn how to process all of this stuff. I figured out how to put it into perspective, and to change how I related to it.
How NLP helped me discover what was really going on.
In my NLP training I finally put the pieces of the puzzle together. Throughout my life I’d had migraines, unexplained stomach pains, low energy and a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. I’d had a constant feeling of being disconnected, lost, hurt and afraid. I’d learned from an early age that the world wasn’t safe. That I couldn’t trust people, and I had only myself to rely on. Through learning NLP, I started to notice my habits of feeling and thinking. For most of my waking hours I would feel low, anxious, and sad.
What enabled my trauma healing.
The main things that changed this around for me were:
1. Daily journalling practice.
Every day I wrote down my thoughts, feelings and memories. The swirling mess started to clear, and I became conscious for the first time of what was going on in my head and body. I began to recognise that what I was feeling as an adult (lost, disconnected, afraid of everything) was directly related to my childhood experiences. My inner child part was often being triggered by things that were happening around me.
Writing in my journal was a lifeline for me. It helped me to express everything that was on my mind and heart that I couldn’t speak about.
2. Connecting with my child part – and learning how to love her unconditionally.
Even as an adult, we all have a child part of us, that sits just beneath the surface, and is there in everything we do. This fearful child part of me had never been soothed or comforted, and was deep in hiding to keep herself safe. Through various NLP techniques, along with the journalling and meditation, I was able to connect with this small, terrified, abandoned part of me. I learned how to reparent myself; to be the loving, attentive, nurturing presence that I’d always been lacking.
3. Dealing with my vicious inner critic.
Though I wasn’t aware of it, I had internalised all the nasty things that had been said to me and about me. I was repeating these phrases, and talking to myself in a way that mirrored the trauma of my past. I started noticing this voice, and writing down when it spoke to me and what it said. It soon became clear that this voice was always in my head; constantly beating me up over the slightest thing. Once I became conscious of the negatives, I then learned how to speak to myself in a loving, compassionate way instead.
4. Releasing my sadness, hurt and anger.
When I was growing up, it was never safe to cry or be vulnerable, so I learned to block out all my feelings. I finally felt safe to cry all those tears that had been blocked for decades. Releasing all that sadness, hurt and anger was a long, slow process, but very healing.
Your trauma healing journey is unique
When your own catastrophe happens, and you find yourself grieving for something you’ve just lost. You may find you’re also grieving for other things you’ve lost in your past. Everyone’s experience is different. But you may find that memories, feelings, flashbacks come to visit from when you were younger.
That’s very confusing. You can’t understand what’s happening, and you might think you’re going mad (I know I did). But the truth is, you tried to put your past trauma out of your mind so you could live a ‘normal’ life. But it doesn’t go away. It can resurface at times of extreme stress, and your current catastrophe may well bring it back. All those bad feelings you used to have may return, even though you’ve tried so hard to block them out.
You might have physical symptoms too. Nausea, headaches, back pain, fatigue. It’s a hard truth. No matter how much you want to forget and put it out of your mind. Even though it doesn’t make sense, it’s your body’s way of telling you this stuff needs to be dealt with. Whatever you’re feeling is totally normal.
Though you wouldn’t wish for this to happen,
It may be the catalyst for you to begin your trauma healing
The reason you’ve been waiting for to seek help and get the right support in place. Being able to talk things through with someone who listens and understands what you’re going through, without judging. Someone to help you sort through and make sense of what’s happening in your mind and body. Professional support can be a lifeline in times of extreme stress.
There’s no quick fix, or magic pill you can take to make it all go away. But there’s help available to make your journey easier. And it will be so worthwhile, to help you come home to yourself and start to heal.
As an NLP coach, I help sensitive women to recover from complex trauma so they can live a happy, fulfilled and connected life. To find out more about how I work click here.
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