trauma

For Those Who Don't Celebrate Mother's Day

Dear brave soul,

You feel the mixture of sadness, anger, guilt, and dread that comes this time of year. It starts with the ads: flowers, brunches, treats, and presents. The pressure is on with so many ways to cherish your mother.  Someone asks you about your plans with your mother for Mother’s Day. It feels awkward and embarrassing to share that you’re not doing anything with your mother. The shame starts to swirl within you. You wonder if there is something wrong with you for not talking to your Mom. You start to feel the impending day quickly approach. A day where everyone is busy and you’re stuck wondering what to do with yourself. You’re stuck oscillating between wondering if you’re really the one to blame for not having this relationship, or if this is how you can stay safe and sane.

Many others don’t understand the pain that you have experienced in the decision to not have your mother in your life. For you, it is a choice of safety and survival, and not one of spite. Your mother may have been painfully cruel and abusive, and remaining in contact with her could cause psychological and even physical harm. Our “get over it” culture is toxic. You are not expected to sacrifice your feelings for others. It’s not your job to sooth other’s discomforts about your completely healthy decision. Anyone who is uncomfortable with your decision needs to look within and ask themselves why they would ignore your pain and suffering. Your energy should be focused on your healing and wellbeing.

If you are someone who does not spend Mother’s Day with your mother because you have made the decision to heal, you are doing the right thing. You are making the decision to do something your mother never did for you by showing yourself love. Setting the healthy emotional boundaries you need to honor yourself is an act of courage. Not many others will understand it, but this is an act of self-love. The universe bows to you, honoring your healing and your unique path. Keep walking that path and you will meet others who will walk with you. The longer you walk this path the more the pain will seem like a dream because you have woken up—woken up to the wonderful, tender, and compassionate person that you have always been but never noticed.

This Mother’s Day, take the opportunity to nurture yourself in the ways you have always needed. Make a list of ways you would like to practice loving yourself more. Maybe you decide to replace your criticizing self-talk with gentle encouragement. Maybe you cook yourself a delicious and healthy meal. Maybe you take a walk and notice the beauty of the world through your five senses. Loving and treasuring yourself is a practice, and in this practice you share this love and generosity with others (even if it isn’t immediately obvious). The universe has many ways of saying “I love you” if we can pause and take a moment to notice.

If you know someone who is no-contact with their mother…

If you have someone in your life who has chosen to not have a relationship with their mother—honor that. Validate that they are wise, dedicated to their truth, and doing the right thing. Not only do they have to deal with the recovery from abuse, but also recover from the societal stigma of excluding that person from their life. It is harmful to live in a culture that puts more value on self-sacrifice than self-love. This value causes depression, anxiety, trauma, relationship problems, substance abuse, and suicide. If their experience with their mother makes you uncomfortable, take a moment to be compassionate toward that discomfort—maybe this is a way you can get a glimpse into this person’s painful experience and respect it. 

 

If you have a painful relationship with your mother, therapy can be an opportunity to develop love toward yourself, feel positive, and gain confidence. To go from surviving to thriving call today for a free consultation at (248) 291-7322 or email me for therapy and counseling in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Overcoming Childhood Emotional Neglect: The Path to Resiliency

Overcoming Childhood Emotional Neglect: The Path to Resiliency

If you have experienced emotional neglect, therapy can be an opportunity to nurture yourself in ways that were not provided to you in childhood or in current relationships. You can develop a positive sense of self, confidence, and know you are worthy of love and belonging. Just because these skills were not given to you in adolescence does not mean that you cannot develop them in adulthood with the help of a trusted professional.

Healing Trauma: A holistic mind-body approach

Those who experience trauma struggle with a combination of problems due to unwanted, abusive, and/or traumatic experiences. After trauma, survivors may experience depression, anxiety, PTSD, trouble caring for themselves, and relationship issues. Recovery from trauma does not necessarily result in being “free” of the traumatic events that affect you, but the opportunity to live in the present without feeling flooded with thoughts and feelings from the past. Trauma is not a mindset, but rather a physical, emotional, and spiritual illness.

In Bessel Van Der Kolk’s, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Treatment of Trauma, he explores the biological effects of traumatic stress on the body including how trauma rewires the brain. As Van Der Kolk describes, “Trauma is not the story of something that happened back then. It’s the current imprint of that pain, horror, and fear living inside people.” For those struggling with PTSD the trauma continues to live in their body after the event(s). Trauma affects us psychologically, physically, emotionally, behaviorally, cognitively, relationally, and spiritually. With that said, psychotherapy needs to be holistic and incorporate mind-body therapies.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, who wrote The Deepest Well, explores how adverse childhood experiences can have lasting effects on human health. Childhood adversity changes human biology, which results in increased rates of heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and other illnesses. When our brain is constantly in fight-or-flight we produce toxic stress in our bodies. This toxic stress affects our mental health as well as our physical health.  Given this, treating trauma requires an integrative approach.

Survivors of trauma can exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Hypervigilence: looking out for danger, trouble sleeping, easily startled, angry outbursts
  • Avoidance: of certain spaces, thoughts, people, or objects
  • Reliving: nightmares, flashbacks, and triggers
  • Dissociation: feeling disconnected from the body and/or amnesia
  • Feelings of shame and problems with mood

Other symptoms of complex trauma may include:

  • Difficulty regulating emotions: feeling “out of control” when experiencing strong emotions
  • Trouble remembering large parts of personal history
  • Low self-worth, chronic feelings of shame or guilt, and negative self-talk
  • Not feeling a sense of self, or sense of self is dependent on another person
  • Trauma bonding, which is a strong attachment between an abused person and their abuser formed as a result of the cycle of abuse
  • Emotional numbing
  • Self-harming
  • Addictions

Healing from trauma is possible.  Occasionally, individuals may experience post-traumatic growth in the final stages of recovery. Working with a skilled and experienced therapist who incorporates a mind-body approach is essential to recovery. There are three stages of recovery in trauma therapy explored below, which are adapted from Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery.

Safety and Stabilization

The first step in this stage is developing an understanding of the effects of trauma and treatment. There are three main types of safety that are strived for in this stage:

  • Feeling safe in our bodies
  • Feeling safe emotionally
  • Feeling safe in our environment

This work includes learning new coping skills and learning how to manage overwhelming emotions. This stage practices living in the here-and-now. Survivors are learning to remember trauma as opposed to reliving it. This involves developing a safe living situation, a safe and stable job, and a support system. Creating safety is the foundation for future stages of trauma work.

Overcoming Traumatic Memories

There is grief related to experiencing and overcoming trauma. In this stage, we process trauma by putting words to experiences and emotions. It is not necessary or required to discuss details of traumatic events, however, memory processing can help eliminate triggers we continue to experience related to specific memories. Also in this stage, mind-body therapies are the most effective because trauma lives in our bodies as well as in our minds. When we make space and time to grieve our experience we can move past it to live more fully in the present.

Integration and Living in the Present

Over time, we begin to develop shame resilience and create meaningful lives. At this stage, survivors start to reconnect with the present moment and make choices about how to engage in their lives. Survivors challenge themselves in healthy ways to increase resiliency and create meaning in their experience. This is an opportunity to reconnect with people, activities, and other parts of life. As survivors start to live life in their healthy and present selves trauma feels further away.  Survivors develop an understanding that trauma has been part of their experience but is not who they are.