In my never ending journey to heal childhood abuse, I’ve had to face a painful fact: I am the only one keeping my trauma alive.
Now that I am an adult, nobody but me is responsible for how I feel and how I choose to live my life. Of course, most days, I don’t really feel like an adult. I have a hard time integrating my childhood expectations of myself and day-to-day adulting, resulting in feeling overwhelmed by my emotions. Often it’s hard not to feel like a list of PTSD symptoms, excusing mood swings away with “well, you know, I was neglected as a child…”
What do all abusers have in common?
They all have excuses for their behaviour.
Therefore, if I want to be unlike them, I must be accountable for all my actions.
Even though I have been physically removed from abusive surroundings, my body doesn’t seem to have gotten the message. Trauma brains and our nervous system will be stuck in the flight-or-flight mode, meaning that I still felt as if I was being abused, hence self-inflicting trauma on myself over and over again. No wonder I felt horrible!
My breathing was shallow, I was risk-averse and preferred isolation over possible heartache; all of these had to change for me to get better and escape the trauma cycle. Many trauma sufferers report on body numbness, and yoga helped me to feel at home in my body again. After a morning session, I would focus on pranayama – breathing exercises to regulate my somatic nervous system.
It’s not enough to tell ourselves we are safe – our body needs to feel safe too. A gratitude journal is often the first step.
My trauma reading could fill libraries at this point. From Bessel van der Kolk’s classic The Body Keeps the Score to Gabor Mate’s When The Body Says No and Irene Lyon’s neuroplasticity videos; they have all helped to keep me safe. However it was reading up on the polyvagal theory that really helped me get better.
Let me know if you want to hear more about these – I for one can certify that I have finally started feeling safe, curious and full of joy again!