Healing from Trauma

50-Positive-Energy-Quotes-for-HealingWhen I first began my journey of healing my trauma, I didn’t really understand what was happening to me. I had never experienced anything like this before, nor had I been aware of anyone else going through such things. When I talked to people about what I was experiencing I would usually just tell them that I was experiencing anxiety – which was true. But that wasn’t the full experience. It was just easier to say. Easier for some people to understand that way. Anxiety has been a huge symptom of my recovery, but it doesn’t all boil down to an “anxiety disorder”. These terms help people to understand what the symptoms are and what they feel like and they organize and group symptoms together which is helpful. But what mental health labels like “OCD” or “Anxiety Disorder” don’t do is describe the entirety of a person’s experience.

Healing has been a journey of peaks and valleys – my healing crisis began with anxiety and panic attacks. But there has been depression, flashbacks, PTSD, panic, worry, fear, overwhelm, great joy, freedom, opening, softening, boundary-setting, love, deep sadness, loss, grief, immense growth and strength. Anxiety is a symptom, not a “disorder”. What lies underneath the anxiety, what are the root causes and contributing factors? Those are the things we need to be addressing in order to heal. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t also treat your anxiety or OCD in healthy ways – you certainly should. But you need to be treating not only the symptoms but their causes as well. Otherwise you are just throwing a cloak over a bear. Finding ways to resource yourself is so important. Self Care has been one of my biggest lessons – and learning to trust my intuition, my body, my instincts. Learning to forgive Myself and love Myself more deeply and truly than ever.

Resourcing yourself while simultaneously addressing the healing of your trauma and inner wounds is the real key.

 

For me, resourcing Myself can look like any of the following:

–Going for a walk in nature or by the seawall

–sitting in a park and feeling the grass underneath me, connecting with the support of the Earth

–cuddling with my partner or pet

–meditation

–epsom salts or aromatherapy baths

–soothing music (spa or light acoustic)

–massage from someone you trust (partner, parent, friend, RMT, bodyworker)

–just sitting with yourself and being quiet, allowing time and space to be

–journalling, making lists, organizing

–de-cluttering an area of my home

–talking/sharing in a meaningful way with a friend/parent/partner

–cooking a nice, comforting meal for yourself and/or others

–spending quality time with family, friends, loved ones

–engaging in grounding activities like cooking, cleaning

–simply knowing that being in My human Body and having my experience of the world is enough

 

Doing the healing work around my trauma can be any of the following:

–going to regular therapy sessions with a trusted, professional therapist who is trained in trauma

–cranial sacral therapy

–accupuncture or energy healing sessions

–being in a supportive, loving and safe relationship

–developing close friendships with supportive people

–speaking up for myself when I’ve been hurt

–setting healthy boundaries in all areas of my life

–being kind to myself

–being an example to others, so they may begin or continue along their healing paths

–mending relationships with parents or family (when possible)

–sharing my experience and letting go of shame through sharing in a safe space

–working on owning my feelings, understanding my emotions

–being able to own and apologize when I have hurt someone else (this can be tough for me in some situations and I am still working on this one!)   **also important to note: I may not have intended to hurt someone, but that’s not the point. I can still be curious about their feelings and take ownership if my BEHAVIOUR was hurtful. This doesn’t mean I am “wrong” or “bad”. It simply means that my words or actions had an impact on someone else, knowingly or unknowingly. It is my responsibility to recognize that.

Trust

Trust is something we all crave. We all truly want to trust, and we want to be trusted. To be trusted is to be believed, and everyone wants their story to be believed. Because when you are believed you are important – you matter. Your part and your presence in the Universe matters.

As I was laying in bed this morning, cuddled up next to my little dog, I started thinking about trust. Her little face was close to mine, so close I could feel her breath on my skin. She was half asleep and very content. Tiny little sighs and her soft little exhales made me feel comforted, and let me know she felt safe beside me. I started then thinking about how she was so close that she had the capability to harm me…she could bite my nose or scratch me if she wanted to. But I knew that she wouldn’t. I trust her. And vice versa, if I wanted I had the capability to harm her – I am much bigger than her. But I would never harm her or want to cause her any harm. So, my little dog was laying comfortably on the pillow next to me, belly exposed and in total dream-state bliss. She trusts me. How is this level of trust established? We do it with other humans, too. We innately want to trust. We want to believe that people and animals are good. And I believe that we are all born good.

Trust is built over time, layer by layer. You cannot have a healthy relationship without trust. But sometimes, trust gets broken along the way. Trust can be broken in various ways, not only by the obvious ones such as infidelity or physical harm. Trust can be diminished through a slow decline of acknowledgement or unkind words said. It may happen so slowly that you don’t even notice for awhile. But after some times passes, you don’t quite feel like yourself anymore. You become more fearful and more easily triggered. This is the state I find Myself in. But I know that I don’t have to stay in this space. I can choose to do something about it. I can set some healthy boundaries and pursue the best way to take care of myself.

To gain that trust back it requires repair. Repair in the form of active listening, of ownership and sincere apology. I believe it is possible to forgive someone without apology, but it is not possible to fully trust them again without one. That is why apology is so important in relationship. Apology is the acceptance that your actions or behaviours (intentionally or unintentionally) have hurt someone else. I think it is safe to say that we have all hurt and been hurt. Some of us at deeper levels than others. Everyone has their own time needed for repair. I believe that repair is possible, but it takes both parties being open and willing. Observe the situation with an eagle-eye perspective. The ability to look beyond ourselves and our own pain means the letting go of one’s ego…stepping into a clearer awareness. However we must first be able to recognize our own hurt and where it comes from, before we can fully accept someone else’s. This is the path to repair. This is the path back to love.

A penny for your thoughts, a nickel for your wisdom

Come you all, lost ones

Come find me

Bathe in these shallow waters with me

Seal your gaping, heart aching wounds

Consolidate that overflowing flesh

Lean into me – I feel you

I feel the agony of time

The time it has taken us to get here

Misery threaded through our veins

Craving, salivating for a distraction from ourselves.

 

Uncage our sorrows, set them free

For there, I find your beauty and mine

Free in heart, mind and deep divine

Show me your scars, your deepest pain

That is where we reside

Therein lies our free – that Soulful part of you and me

Forever longing to be seen.

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Adaptability & Resiliency

It’s crazy how adaptable we are as humans. I’ve been considering this a lot lately, particularly so because of all the changes in my life recently. I moved from a densely populated central-urban area to a more sub-urban part of the city. Moving in itself can be anxiety-provoking and stressful. My partner and I have been in the process of selling his condo and buying our first house for the past 10 months. Now we have finally moved into our lovely new home and I feel so happy here. But it was a big change nonetheless, and much effort went into making this dream a reality for us.

Amongst all this change (and at times it felt very chaotic), I managed to adapt through it all. I have zero doubt that part of what got me through it is my commitment to Self-Love and Self-Care, the support of my mom, fiancé, therapists, family and friends. Utilizing the tools I have learned and resourcing Myself continuously is what got me through. There was so much going on and it seemed like it was all happening at once, including many ups, downs and uncertainties with the salon I work at. I am slowly adapting to my new home environment, surroundings and my more peaceful life here in our pleasant sanctuary. We also decided to go on a vacation right after our move to celebrate recent milestone birthdays for both of us (Me 30 and my Fiancé 40). While this sounds amazing and full of adventure, for someone who needs a fair bit of time to process and integrate change, travelling so soon after a move was challenging. I am a nervous flyer (I hate turbulence) and even the thought of going on this trip was giving me pretty major anxiety before we left. It took me a few days after arriving in Mexico to settle into “vacation mode” – whatever that means. It wasn’t until day 6 into our vacation that I started to fully feel relaxed…and our vacation was coming to a close the next day!

In a very roundabout way what I’m trying to say is that through all of this, and considering my anxiety and OCD – I find Myself to be quite adaptable through it all. I am so much more resilient than I realize sometimes. Life has a way of testing us and it’s not until the aftermath that I can see Myself more clearly. I can see my strength, my courage and the progress I’ve made. I can appreciate how much I’ve grown. I can drink in the significance of these changes in my life – the way they test me, the way that I am always given exactly what I am ready for. It’s not comfortable along the way – expansion and growth is a stretch. There’s a new edge to be found. A new way of managing situations, a new perspective to be had. New feelings to be felt, new things surfacing to be released and making themselves visible for healing. It’s all in our evolution during this beautiful, crazy, indescribable, wondrous, incredible gift of Life.

Much Love,

Raina Aurora

What OCD looks like…the invisible monster

I began to really struggle with OCD about 3 years ago. I didn’t realize that it was OCD right away. Because of my severe anxiety I started obsessing over things. The way things looked, how I placed things, ruminating over small details for long periods of time. In the beginning, I just did things a certain way because it made me feel less anxious. So it seemed like a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t I do something that made me feel safe enough to leave the house? Eventually, the more rituals I did, the more rituals I added in. Now for most things I do, there is a very specific way I do them. From showering, to getting dressed, to leaving the house, to counting my breaths, to checking for cars coming on the street numerous times. The more I do these “compulsions”, the more they consume me.

Not doing the compulsions can bring about varying feelings of extreme anxiety. Thoughts that the worst possible thing will happen to me. The type of OCD I deal with is health related OCD. It is the fear that something horrible might happen to me. I read on an OCD recovery blog that OCD attacks what we value most. Since I value my health so highly, this makes sense to me. Sometimes I wonder where these intrusive fearful thoughts come from (aside from Trauma), and I realize that OCD is sneaky and will go after the very thing that means the most to you. My well-being is something that I take great pride in. I have devoted a lot of energy to being my healthiest self over the past 4 years. Yes I have made mistakes, yes I have messed up. But that’s also how I’ve learned. So when I feel one of my biggest values being threatened by these scary thoughts, it only makes sense that I would try to do anything to make the thoughts go away. The funny (or not so funny) part is, that the further you try and the harder you try to make the thoughts go away, the more persistent they become. It is actually by acknowledging the thought and seeing it for what it truly is – just a thought – that it actually dissipates. By welcoming the anxiety and accepting it, allowing it to be, it holds less power. Sometimes I literally tell Myself “this is anxiety”. Or “this is a thought, and thoughts aren’t facts”. These little phrases help me observe what is going on with compassion and acceptance, rather than getting so caught up with the thoughts and entering what I call the OCD whirlpool. If I stay on the edge of the whirlpool it is much easier to avoid getting sucked in. Sometimes I do get sucked right into the middle, and it is much more difficult to get out. But I CAN STILL GET OUT. That’s the most important part to remember. I do have a choice – and so do you.

One of the worst parts about dealing with OCD is the shame. It’s something I try and hide from most people, with the exception of very close family. I think I’ve only told one friend. It’s a scary thing to tell people, I worry they might think I’m crazy, or broken, or incapable. I’m worried people will judge me. I still feel the shame. I worry people can see me doing these weird compulsions, or rituals. I’m sure people notice, and probably wonder what I am doing. Maybe they have just accepted that I’m a weird person. Which wouldn’t be the worst thing. Or maybe they are too scared to ask me. Maybe they don’t even notice at all. Whatever people think, the fear is that OCD makes me strange and unlovable. Makes me abnormal in some way. So everyday, I have to choose between the shame of someone seeing the rituals I am doing, or the intense anxiety and frustration/panic/confusion of not doing them. It can feel debilitating at times.

Luckily, I am working with an OCD specialist and together we have come up with exposures for me to do. Exposures are when you deliberately don’t perform your compulsive rituals. I didn’t start with the hardest one, but I have done some pretty difficult exposures. Gradually, as I gain success in my exposure therapy, my confidence grows. The idea is that I have to repeat the same exposure enough times for my brain to become comfortable with the discomfort or anxiety. So eventually my anxiety goes down, and it goes away much quicker than by actually doing the compulsive behaviours. My confidence is building, and it’s been very sticky here and there. I’ve been through some very rough patches, but they made me stronger.

When we are thrown off balance – as is inevitable in life, we learn to strengthen our core.   The stronger our core becomes the less we can get thrown off so easily. And the next time we get uncentered we know how to come back to homeostasis much quicker.

Trauma and “mental illness” is not an easy thing to talk about. Or write about. I just want people out there to really know that. Writing this post was hard. And scary. Know and appreciate that when someone opens up to you about their struggle – this is bravery. This is their healing. So consider it an honour to be a part of another human being’s healing. I’m not talking about people dump-truck piling their negativity on you. That is called having no boundaries. Vulnerabilty and bravery have boundaries. Be deliberate in your vulnerability. Be vulnerable with the right people, for the right reasons. And always remember that you are doing things in exactly the right time, at the right pace, for you.

 

Much Love,

Raina Aurora

 

 

A mid-day Daydream

I accept my flaws and see them as what makes me human. My setbacks become my growth, so should I choose it. I choose my own healing. I reclaim my body as my own. She always has been. My soul is forever mine – to tend with love and kindness. My heart is strong as I hold her with love with love and compassion. She is supported and she is Free.

Free from the chains that once bound me.

Free from the pain I clung to.

Free from the things I had the courage to acknowledge and feel.

Free from the repetitive trauma-wheel.

Scared as I feel new energy opening up within my body. Excited and hopeful as I feel space being freed. Old wounds being sealed and healed. Unblocking pathways for energy to FLOW. Stuck things washing away with the tides of the ocean waves inside me. Calmer shores are cleared. Pink, peachy, smooth, gold-dusted sparkly sands sink ever so slightly beneath my feet. Just damp enough to feel hydrated. Just cool enough to soothe the warm soles of my feet on a hot summer day. As I walk along the ocean’s shore amidst the sunset. Pink, purple, lavender-blue hues line the skies. All the colours meld seamlessly together, and yet they all have their own space. They are all distinguishable, lovable, here. Time floats on. I continue breathing. In, out, with the tide.

Much Love,

Raina Aurora

Denying another person’s reality is a form of abuse

One of the most hurtful things a person can do is to deny another person’s feelings or pretend that they don’t exist or matter. This hurts us to the core of our being because at some point in our lives, many of us weren’t believed or were made to feel like our feelings weren’t important. The more your feelings are denied or be-littled, the more afraid you feel to share them. Afraid of the reaction from another and afraid of being blamed for “starting an argument”. Afraid of being made out to be “wrong” or “bad” in some way. This is shame. Shaming someone’s very real emotional experience is detrimental to our feeling of safety and well-being.

I want to tell Myself and all of you something.

YOUR FEELINGS ARE REAL AND THEY MATTER.

YOUR FEELINGS ARE NOT WRONG.

YOU ARE ENTITLED TO YOUR OWN EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE.

YOU DESERVE TO BE HEARD AND LISTENED TO WITH OPENNESS AND CURIOSITY AND LOVE.

Isn’t this what we all crave after all? To be really seen and heard for our truth? To be understood at a deeper level? Sometimes I feel like I have to “prove” or justify my feelings – which then spills out into other areas of my life. Feeling like I continuously have to prove my worth affects how I love, how I work, how I lead and how I connect. This is not to say that I shouldn’t try. Effort is different from trying to prove your enoughness. Let me say that again. Effort is different from trying to prove your enoughness. If you are doing something because you genuinely want to support another person or work towards your goals this is effort. It won’t always be easy and you will still have to push yourself at times. But this effort is very different from doing things out of fear that you will not otherwise be accepted.

Try to remember this: when someone puts you down or shames you, it is not about you. It is a reflection of themselves and their own unresolved issues. It is their insecurities, their hidden feelings of anger or resentment sliding through. And it can be nasty. If someone diminishes your feelings, it is because they are uncomfortable with their own. You can’t be witness and hold safe space for someone else’s feelings unless you are able to do the same for yourself. Feel your feelings people…or they will get the best of you and spin out onto others. Stuffed hurt feelings create more hurt feelings. You can’t release your feelings until you have felt them. So don’t keep them captive. Don’t pretend your feelings don’t exist. That’s like pretending you don’t exist. Express your feelings in healthy ways – don’t let them run you on the sidelines.

Take a moment to think of how and when you may have dismissed someone else’s feelings. I know I have done it, and it’s a hard thing to admit. Most of us have done it at some point – or at many points. Stop the cycle of hurt and start listening to others with openness and with consideration.

Much Love,

Raina Aurora

 

 

Put on your princess dress!

Tuesday inspiration:

pagan-kids

When I see little girls in their sparkly, Disney themed princess dresses I get all excited. There’s something so magical and real about wearing your sparkly princess dress out in public. These little girls don’t care what anyone else is thinking about them. They just pick out their favourite glittery dress and get ready to embody their own princess self. They sparkle wherever they go and light up the world around them!

So put on your own version of your princess dress today. Throw on something that makes you smile a little bit bigger, walk a little bit taller and appreciate every step you take. Because YOU ARE LIFE…and that IS amazing! You are worth celebrating! Choose something that makes you feel like a damn Queen! Because you ARE!

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Depression feels like

depression-looks-likeDepression feels like a dark grey space surrounding every part of your being. It feels like you are severely deprived of joy and the idea of things that would usually bring you joy don’t seem like options. You feel like a mute among the sea of stimulus around you. You feel tired. You feel like everything is too much and yet nothing is enough to make you feel. You feel like a zombie walking around in the fog. Everything seems dimly light and in shadows. You struggle to find a life raft into the sun.

For me, depression isn’t something I usually talk about. I think I make myself so busy so that I don’t even have time to feel the depression. I am afraid that if I slow down for a minute, I might just sink into the sand and be unable to squirm my way out again. Until I tire myself right out and then I sink anyways. So everyday I put on the mask, the cloak of glitter, make myself the person I’m “supposed” to be. Sometimes she is bright and shiny, she is a people-pleaser and seeks validation from the outside world. If I push myself to keep going, maybe I can outrun the immense sadness that longs to be felt inside. Maybe I can keep those tears at bay for one more day.

But this is not the only part of me. And that is true for most of us. We are made up of many sides, many moving parts and pieces. I also have this tenacious strength – the strength that gets me out of bed in the morning, the strength that gets to me where I need to be, the strength that keeps me going towards my dreams. But I think I need to allow myself to be sad more. Sometimes I don’t even know what I am sad about…but it feels good to cry. Crying usually releases some of the tension, the depression locked away. It soothes the pain and opens a crack of sunlight into my soul again. I can build on that sunlight.

Circus Balancing Act

How do we find soul-time in the midst of organized chaos? Even when things are going well in our lives, it can feel like everything is happening at once, a thousand doors are opening at the same time and we are trying to walk through all of them. You are only one person though, one human being. Sometimes I forget that. It is not possible for us to do everything at once, but we have become excellent jugglers. Skilled in the art of mastering several tasks whilst trying to stay afloat emotionally/physically/mentally/soulfully.

This is no easy feat and we will fumble our way through. Trial and error are a sure thing. But if we are listening to our bodies while keeping our dreams at heart we will surely succeed. But how can we avoid that feeling of burnout or loss of meaning along the way? If we become burnt out, how can we come back to ourselves with ease? The thing is, we know a lot more about ourselves than we are willing to admit. We know when we are pushing ourselves too much, we know when we need to rest, we know when we are in need of time and space. We know our tendencies when burnout is looming near. We know how we react when we feel too stretched.

So how can we avoid feeling like a big old burnout bear that lumbers along and just wants to hibernate all winter? We have to become skilled at compartmentalizing. This is NOT easy to do and don’t worry – we are human so it is only natural that we will slip up sometimes. So…what in the hell does compartmentalizing actually mean? Are our brains like trains with different compartments for all our thoughts and focuses? Not necessarily.  But the more we can train ourselves to be in the present, to breathe deeply, the more we can enjoy life around us and within us. If you are at work, focus on being at work. If you are at home, enjoy the pleasures of home. If you are on a walk, focus on your feet on the ground or your hands swinging back and forth. Be where you are. Orient yourself and find some element of comfort in your surroundings. Let go of the need to jump ten steps ahead and learn to be ok with the now. TRUST that things will sort out. I don’t mean being complacent in your actions, but I DO mean taking only the necessary action for right now. There isn’t much gain in worrying about the 10 things you have to do before you get there. But you CAN make your very next move to get you one step closer to your dream.

Sidenote: get clear on your dream. What exactly are you looking for? How and what do you want to feel when you get there? Write down a list of feelings that you want to feel. If your dream doesn’t support how you want to feel, then what the heck is the point anyway? We are all really just working towards feeling a certain way. We all want to feel “good”. Society propagates good feelings along with material success, so we strive for that. But when that material doesn’t deliver said promised feelings, what then? This is why it is so imperative that we get so so super clear on how we want to feel. Design your dreams to support those feelings.

OK, so now that you have your dream and feelings kinda sorta figured out (they may evolve along the way), what is the next step you need to take? When will you take it? Schedule it in. And then schedule some soul-time nearby. Make sure you balance the outward ventures with your inward reflection and processing. We need time to digest what is happening in our lives, just like we need time to digest our food. It is no wonder that when we feel stressed it affects our digestive system. It is all connected. It is all in sync. Did you know that our stress hormones can actually become addictive to us? We get used to being in a state of being busy and being on the go that we learn to operate like that. It actually takes our higher self to recognize the pattern and make a shift. Slow down, do less, let go. It’s really scary to not feel ‘in control’, and when we’re busy trying to control everything we don’t have as much chance to feel. By accepting uncertainty in life (and you can assume the best instead of speculating the worst), we realize we don’t have as much to do. We can just enjoy being. Being alive, being in the moment, being a part of the world around us. We don’t become a product of the world – we are instead able to observe it from a place of ease and flow.

Get off the merry-go-round because it does not leave you feeling very merry. It just continues to go round and round until you feel sick and dizzy. Sometimes we get busy, crazy busy even. That’s ok…you can handle it if you play your cards to the tune of your needs. Take breaks, go for walks, put your feet on the grass, drink water, eat well, sleep consistently, wind down before bed, limit your use of technology, take time to journal, to talk to people who support you, cuddle your pet, stretch, take baths, shake it out, feel your body, get a massage. Do things that help your body and mind go from buzzing to a smooth grounded rhythm.