(Song Dedication: July by Noah Cyrus ft. Leon Bridges)
I have literally been plagued by my need to express coupled with the insurmountable task of scraping the infinite Jackson Pollack smattering of specs and flecks of ideas from all four walls of my mind. A fucking gathering of beautiful mess proportions.
So rather than dig my heels into my grey matter any further, sinking to my ankles in unsorted thoughts, I will do what I know how to do in the moment. Unload what I am able to in this moment alone, put the 500 loose marbles I carry like precious cargo with only my arms to keep them from slipping from my grasp, into this humble container of written form.
So Sarah, what is it you wish to convey with such a preamble out of the way?
I don’t know! There is so much that I feel desperate to share with anyone who will listen, give me the time of day…and then old me swoops in and begins the familiar place-putting diatribe of keep it close, protect it because when you open this shit up you expose yourself to vulnerability…aka: being wrong.
Well Shhhhhh, I say. Do not fear what you know is truth and will help more than it would ever harm, this wisdom is in fact, the furthest thing from harm. It is the key to healing. The key to wholeness.
As I find the words a deeper part of me knows and has always known, I feel the combination to the safe begin to unlock and then the flow. I note the rust on my gears, I haven’t written this way in over 6 weeks.
And Yes, I am aware I was just writing out the internal conversation taking place within my consciousness. I have become skilled at these dialogues, and no longer mutter phrases aloud and my lips barely move, don’t worry, it’s contained so no one reports me as I carry on in public frightening small children and animals.
At the end of June I completed my first of 3 courses to obtain a certification in applied educational neuroscience. No, I am not going to be a Neuroscientist. This is not a masters or doctorate…I mean if I had a bajillion dollars, I could continue on this educational path that I love deeply, but the certification is a damn good place to start and pricey enough as it is! It’s funny how many people seem to think I am getting a Masters in Neuroscience, maybe I should just let them assume this tall order of me with a bow and tip of the hat. It’s slightly more accurate than the assumption I am going to “become a butler” which was the only take away my son had when I told him I was accepted into the AEN certification program at Butler University. The shock on his face, maybe I shouldn’t have corrected him either.
The course was intense and immersive. I felt I was in the company of giants. People with long and impressive careers and credentials. It was humbling. Cue imposter syndrome…always at the ready to raise an eyebrow and demand what the hell I thought I was doing there. Within a few days, after the instructors had set the framework for week one to be interactive with each other on the discussion forums based on the book, The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog by Dr. Bruce Perry, I was able to tap into my strength if we can call it that…writing.
With time and space and quickly sensing and reaffirming the cohort of students were all there for the same reasons, not to flex their academic muscles over any one else, but to learn just like me, to make connections to their own personal and professional experiences just like me, to ask what, why and how just like me, but most profoundly to connect with likeminded people who felt the ruptures of trauma and adversity in their communities in which they worked, lived and loved. We were all here to explore the path to healing, a path to safety for students, clients, colleagues, family and if at all like me…ourselves.
The 3 weeks was a powerful affirmation. It became a summation of everything I had been fumbling through in my own healing experience that began in the fall of 2017 and continues to arise as I find my power and resilience on the other side of unresolved childhood trauma. The research, the data, the case studies, the science felt like a warm hug of reassurance that everything I believed to be true in my own experiences on my road to recovery were no longer just anecdotal. The fact that my Adverse Childhood Experiences score was an 8 out of 10 was only part of the story. The fact that I had suffered from chronic pain and migraines, anxiety, depression, addiction, and a profound lack of self worth was also only part of the story.
The fact that my ‘biography became my biology’ (Donna Jackson Nakazawa, Childhood Disrupted).
The big idea of my story was this: I had felt a deep pull to locate my spellbound intuition that had been turned so far down it was on mute. When I began ignoring my doubt and leaning in to listen to my symptoms; when I found healers (who were more like interpreters) who met me with unconditional compassion, my symptoms began to uncouple themselves from my being. When I began to create space in the rest and recovery, the honouring of my experiences and how my body housed them, when I began to believe I had the right to feel safe and I deserved to heal then I simply did so. I fucking healed myself you guys! Like not anecdotally, I healed my body. That was a fact. I was one of our case studies and I couldn’t ignore that.
This acknowledgement was so profound in fact, that I kept wondering if I could be ‘this close’ to the content and remain objective? I had made mistakes in the past wearing my teacher hat, thinking I was there to save and to fix. This felt different though. I know I am not meant for the fixing, I am meant for the compassionate witnessing. This experience over the past few years has shown me time and time again, this is what most humans want: See me. Hear me. Please. I am so GD tired of being seen as a problem to be fixed. Why can’t I just be?!
In addition to solidifying this life-affirming wisdom, I was able to integrate the profound effects of trauma and adversity at the different developmental stages of the human life span. I now possess a deeper appreciation of how the Autonomic Nervous System calibrates and re-calibrates in response to chronic stress, adversity and trauma. I use to doubt that so many people, or in my case the students I worked with, could have faced so many challenges that their nervous systems were simply dysregulated. The fact is, I had to doubt, because knowing how many children struggle at the hands of well-meaning but ill-informed adults would mean children at risk are in much higher numbers than we would care to believe in a first world country. Adversity and Trauma are prevalent. My childhood story is not abnormal, it’s just the way I am willing to share it so openly, that is perhaps a bit strange and therefore makes people uncomfortable.
It is my hope, as I continue to explore my experiences and discuss the links I know to be direct correlations to my adult health and quality of life, that it will destigmatize the shame that often accompanies childhood trauma. The willingness to hold these dark parts of our story up to the light to see the transparent fragility, the seeking of compassionate witness by safe people, in order to begin the healing process. To begin recalibration of our Nervous Systems so they no longer operate solely in fight, flight or collapsed states.
I can say this anecdotally, it gets easier. With the right ears and hearts holding you, you learn to trust again. With the right dosing and gentle repetition, you can learn to hold your past as a firm foundation on which to build a healthy and safe life. It has taken me a couple years to process my traumatic experiences through somatics, intellect, spirituality, creativity and connection but I no longer feel resonant with the term “unresolved childhood trauma”. It has been work. This blog is a testament to that commitment to myself. But I am grateful for what my life has taught me; to listen without judgement, to wish healing for those who harm, to acknowledge another’s suffering as it is, in a sense my own.
We do not need to suffer if we are willing and taught to be aware of our body sensations (which we intellectually label as emotions), meet the needs of our body’s communications, and have a safety net of people who will catch us when we fall.
A gathering of our pieces, each and every time we allow the vulnerability to spill forth sometimes taking us with it. Be Brave. Hold someone’s net. Gather them close no matter how many pieces they may crumble into. And gather your own courage to allow yourself the same. I will hold a corner for you as well. As best I can, I promise.