October 19, 2020
Healing Through Personal Trauma
The most difficult periods of my life have also been the most transformational for overall life lessons along with growth in character, strength and resilience. However, I wouldn't necessarily ask to go through these times again. On the other hand, I probably wouldn't have been the person I am now without those experiences!
One of my most traumatic experiences in my life actually begun just 6 months ago. I have only very recently released the most overwhelming feelings and emotions to get back in control. This was discovering back in May that my 2 year old had been diagnosed with a rare childhood cancer. Thankfully though prognosis is good and he is doing amazingly well. However in the moment of receiving that news, my world temporarily fell apart.
How do you cope with that type of devastating news? Firstly you go through a state of shock, followed by a great deal of trying to process the information and reality of it all. I am fortunate in that I'm usually pretty good at releasing my emotions, rather than burying them. There was a great deal of crying myself to sleep for the first few weeks, after 'holding things together' as much as possible during the day. With also being in 'lockdown' with no family support along with difficulties coming to light for the older children; the trauma and stress of the situation really did come to a head.
To heal from this particular life trauma, I found it necessary to have some telephone counselling sessions. Previously I had been very reluctant to go through counselling as I didn't feel it would be helpful and had heard very mixed results from others. I was actually able to work through things quite effectively and quickly though with the right professional. I think that's really the key. If you find a counsellor who is the right fit, with the right approach and a good connection with you; it really does work. Don't be put off if you've had a bad experience previously. I have also found relevant support organisations and charities, community kindness and feeling understood by those with similar experiences very helpful over recent months.
Going back several years, another significant traumatic event in my life was losing a baby at 12 weeks. Miscarriage is actually more common than people realise but it doesn't make it any easier to deal with. It never completely leaves you. I also found at the time the right support was not offered and there was just not a lot in place for those suffering that kind of loss.
My partner at the time was not very keen to talk about it. I mostly 'dealt' with it myself by comfort eating and burying my emotions; then putting on weight and ultimately feeling much worse. I did find writing reflectively (and turning some of it into poetry) very healing at the time, along with some meditation. However, I think I only really managed to properly move on from this by coming to some kind of acceptance and understanding on a spiritual level (with my own beliefs I was able to understand things on a higher level) and then finding out I was pregnant again 6 months later!
Another significantly traumatic period of my life was having someone promise me 'the world' then effectively 'crush me like a bug'; knowingly leaving me alone and pregnant, heading off to work thousands of miles away! Shortly followed by discovering for other reasons that I could no longer afford the running costs of my then home (with my 2 other children); resulting in us being effectively 'homeless' but 'camping out' all in 1 room at my parents house for 7 months with our furniture in storage.
This whole period of my life took me the longest to heal from, as at the time I effectively gave away my 'power'. I had expected a future with this person and unfortunately I was not quite as strong, empowered or independent as I am now. It has taken me nearly 5 years to fully regain my confidence and self esteem after being let down so badly. Healing was a gradual process and I know I have been 'working' on letting go of the pain and taking back my power over the years. In the early months, whilst still pregnant and homeless, I would often sit in a coffee shop writing or walk to a nearby park.
Much later in the journey I found painting and some spiritual work and meditation took me to another level of healing. However, I do believe that if I had been able to work through things with a professional much sooner, I could have also moved on from this quicker than the 5 years it took me overall!
Some forms of trauma can leave after effects to varying extents with many experiencing what is known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I believe I experienced something similar to this both after a very traumatic end of pregnancy and emergency birth with my youngest child and when my eldest was taken away from me in the night after birth and placed in Neonatal several floors up (remaining there for nearly 2 weeks).
As well as post natal depression, I also had flashbacks with both and just couldn't get the whole experience, images, feelings or thoughts out of my head. After the traumatic birth I was actually offered counselling and it was referred to someone to contact me. The counsellor got in touch and actually left me a voicemail. However at this particular time I simply couldn't manage a phone call to arrange the support and therapy I needed. No one followed this up at the time and so I effectively slipped through the net!
Due to this experience and others I have continued to educate organisations that there needs to be other forms of communication in place, rather than having to make a voice call yourself. I know many people that experience mental health issues who have found it very difficult to seek the help they need by making an actual call in the first instance!
For those still trying to work through trauma from the past or in the midst of it now I offer you strength, hope and understanding. I also hope that what we offer here on the hub will in some way help you through it all.
Here are a few suggestions to help you move forward from your own traumatic experiences:
1. Don't expect overnight results, be patient with yourself.
2. Try not to internalise things, talk about how you feel with someone you trust.
3. Find a creative outlet you are comfortable with to express and release your feelings.
4. Don't be afraid to let those tears flow, they are very healing.
5. Don't blame yourself or look for a reason, often there isn't one.
6. Try to seek out support groups with those who have experienced similar trauma.
7. Ask people for recommendations of a good counsellor and book sessions with one you are comfortable with (some charities can cover the cost if necessary).
8. Remember how amazing you are to have even got to this stage and know you will get through this and ultimately be much stronger eventually.
Don't forget to check out the help pages including our local help page for local counselling services as well as some relevant organisations for specific traumas. If you can't find what you're looking for and need signposting, please get in touch. - Louise V. Fowler
Devin 5 months into his Chemotherapy treatment