Four Things to do Today to Help Heal Your Trauma

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“True healing is the willingness to treat yourself and others better than the past ever did.”                ~ Matt Kahn                 

I’m fond of being cerebral and spiritual. But sometimes we just need a list, right? Here are the directions. Just do this and you’ll feel better. Don’t give it too much thought, just do it. So here is my practical suggestion for four things you can do every day to help heal your trauma. (Still with the cerebral and spiritual quotes, because they’re awesome and healing in their own right.)

1. Quiet your mind.

“Listen – are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?   ~Mary Oliver

Breathe deeply. Set aside some time today to breathe deeply and quiet your mind. Settle yourself in a place you can feel safe, stick some nice music in your ears, whatever you need to just sit still with yourself. And BREATHE. Breathe deeply and profoundly.

Empty your brain as best you can, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Thoughts will trickle in, just gently say to them, “not now.” And return to the emptiness.

This is like pushing a reset button on your nervous system. And I know it’s hard when you’re a trauma survivor. I KNOW. Sometimes being alone in your own mind can seem scary.

I promise the more you practice, the deeper you breathe, and the more you disempower your random thoughts, the less scary it will be. It will start to be a safe harbor, and at some point become a necessity. This is the space we need to remember that we are one with God. 

2. Find something in Nature to marvel at.

“I go to Nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more.” ~ John Burroughs

We are all so busy, aren’t we? And here I am telling you to squeeze more time into your day to marvel at some Nature. But this doesn’t have to be a hike in the woods or a trip to the park. Even in a big city, Nature is literally all around us. Watch snow fall out the window, watch your cat or dog sleep, be amazed at the strength of an ant carrying a crumb across the kitchen counter, look at the moon or watch the stars come out. If you have a yard, sit in it and look around you. Just notice. Is there a gentle breeze, perhaps, stirring the leaves in the trees? Are there birds going about their busy day? Do you see things growing all around you?

Nature restores our faith by being so constant and accessible. It heals our trauma by reminding us that life goes on and to rely on these good and steady displays of God’s love.

Practitioner hint: to save time, you can combine #1 and #2 – in fact, I highly recommend it!

3. Take another step toward forgiveness.

“Today I decided to forgive you. Not because you apologized, or because you acknowledged the pain that you caused me, but because my soul deserves peace.” ~ Najwa Zebian

Forgiveness is critical to healing. It’s not easy and it won’t happen all at once and you will need God’s help to get there. But today, just take one more baby step closer. Not for their sake, but for yours. We truly keep ourselves in prison when we refuse to forgive.

Studies have shown, too, a correlation between the ability to forgive and the severity of PTSD. Holding back on forgiveness means holding on to some rage, which keeps our bodies in fight or flight status and can lead to increased anxiety. So by not forgiving, we are stuck in trauma. I know you don’t want that. You deserve better.

So just for today, hold a little thought, “I will forgive you, because my soul deserves peace.” Notice how saying “will” forgive can mean either you’re doing it in the next moment, or just maybe someday. Wherever you are in your healing will determine the timeline.

 

“The intelligent way to be selfish is to work for the welfare of others.”  ~ Dalai Lama

Selfish? But if I’m giving of myself Dalai Lama, how is that selfish? Because there is no quicker path to healing than to help someone else! Service takes us out of our own drama and reminds us of our ability to contribute in a positive way to the world around us. Service can restore our faith, not only in God, but in ourselves and our fellow man. Service can be anything! It doesn’t mean you put in many hours at a soup kitchen, although it’s great if you can! It can be many small things throughout the day – times you leave your own head, your own drama, to see what someone around you might need.

Trauma can be so hard on our self-esteem. Self-esteem is defined as how lovable and capable we feel in the world. Service helps us regain some of that. We can again see our value in the world, we make a difference, however small, and we are capable of giving and receiving love. So do something, today, for someone else.

So there it is. Four things to help heal trauma that you can do today. But to be truly healed, you know, we must do them tomorrow too, and the day after that, and then the next day. We don’t do it because we have to. We do it because we are brave and healing is our right, our destination, and our beloved journey.

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.” ~ Brene Brown

You Are Still Beloved

Victoria McGee

January 17, 2017

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DISARMING TRIGGERS

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 “Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.” – Dalai Lama

Thanks, Dalai Lama. I’ll keep that in mind.

Recently, I’ve been having a hard time with this concept. Suddenly, certain triggers seem to be everywhere, almost impossible to avoid. And survivors of trauma know that avoiding triggers is not the answer, because if you don’t deal with this one, another one will come along, until you deal with it.

So what do we do? What do we do when we are faced with a trigger on a daily basis? I’ve seen so many examples of this; whether it’s someone in the news, a new supervisor who makes you uncomfortable, a new co-worker who resembles someone from your past, a new neighbor with domestic violence issues or who likes to set off fireworks – how do we deal with new and frequent triggers?

The answer is that we deal with daily triggers the same way we deal with intermittent ones, but with more diligence and compassion for ourselves.

First of all, most triggers are not there intending to be a trigger. It, or they, are just existing in the world, in their own sense of reality, being what they are. We are experiencing it as a trigger. We are assigning fear and panic to it. In most instances, a person or thing is not intending to trigger you, but you are triggered by it. It is not their fault, nor is it yours; it just is.

For me, I have to shift this into a state of spiritual opportunity, or anxiety sets in rather quickly. When I’m triggered, I experience the fear and panic, the anger and rage. Then I must step out of this linear reality, examine my own projection, and replace it with a new thought.

I also have to be willing to make this shift. Sometimes I’m not. Recently, I’ve been rather enjoying my rage, and I got stuck there. I had to find a way to stop raging at the trigger without letting it off the hook. This is the spiritual conundrum isn’t it?

Sometimes we have what we feel is rather justified anger, coupled with a notion that anger is not spiritual. But it is! Everything is spiritual.

We can use everything that occurs to show us where we are asleep and how we can wake up completely, utterly, without reservation.” – Pema Chodron

This beautiful quote from Pema Chodron is the ultimate in spiritual thinking. Using everything that occurs, absolutely everything, as our teacher, as that which will lead us to our true nature, that will lead us to the Divine, is the answer to every question.

Letting our triggers show us where we are still asleep can be seen as a gift. In her book, When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron advises seeing what arises in our lives as enlightened wisdom. We do not know what we need next on our spiritual path, only Spirit does. Trust in this. If triggers have come up, if you are struggling with it daily, turn it over to God. The reason for it, and the healing of it, will come to you.

When we need to disarm a trigger, here are some steps you may find helpful.

Breathe – Stopping the gut reaction with a large intake and exhale can help.

Follow the fear – Ask yourself what about this person or situation is triggering fear or anger in you. (This is assuming the trigger is not the original source of your trauma!) Journaling about this can be helpful.

Step into neutral – Once you’ve identified the trigger, shift your mind into neutral. Try to see the person or event from an objective place. They are not “a” trigger, they are “your” trigger.

Ask for Guidance – Ask God to help you understand this trigger, what you are to learn from it, and bring you to a place of healing.

This is not to say that there are not times we need to make changes in our lives. Sometimes a daily trigger is just too much for us. It depends on the trigger, the source trauma, our support network, and where we are in our healing process. Take care of yourself and follow your instinct. Don’t stay in an uncomfortable situation – ever.

As I said, I’m struggling with this right now as well. Some days I’m good at it, some days I give in to anger and fear. It’s a PROCESS. All I know, as I look back on what are now decades of dealing with trauma, that triggers, anger and fear will not win. Constantly turning to the Divine has always saved me, and always will.

A Course in Miracles: Lesson 69:

“Because your grievances are hiding the light of the world in you, everyone stands in darkness, and you beside him. But as the veil of your grievances is lifted, you are released with him. Share your salvation now with him who stood beside you when you were in hell. He is your brother in the light of the world that saves you both.”

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

December 6, 2016

 

Healing is Perception

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            Everything is either an opportunity to grow, or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.                                  ~Wayne Dyer

I’ve been going on walks lately, grateful to live in a quiet neighborhood where I can truly just listen to nature when I walk. When I lived in a busier place, I tried wearing headphones for music, just to block out the street noise. But I couldn’t. And I still have a hard time with headphones. As many years as it’s been since I experienced trauma, I still have to be able to hear my surroundings at all times.

This is just another “gift” from traumatic stress. It’s not hyper-vigilance any more, but it is vigilance, and I suspect I will always have it. And I’ve decided that’s okay.

Meditating on this thought, I realized that someone on the outside might think I’m not healed. Not truly healed. But I realized that just as our traumas are deeply based in our perception, so is our healing.

I perceive I am healed, therefore I am.

At least for now.

Because I am entwined in a relationship with the Divine, I have complete faith that as I am ready for another level of healing, the opportunity to experience that healing will present itself. Healing is fluid, it is constant, it is a very real field of vibrational energy. And because it is a part of God, healing will never abandon us.

So the burden on us, then, becomes accepting where we are in our healing, and accepting that healing is never done.

            I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are                                but does not leave us where it found us.   ~ Anne Lamott

Some people I hear from who suffer from PTSD just want to be done with it. They want to be healed and over it and never have to think about it again. This is not only impossible, but leaves no room for God to take our hand and lead us to healing. I completely understand. At one point, I was hoping someone would invent a pill or a surgery that could remove select memories from the brain! What I would have missed in terms of growth had that been possible, is beyond my comprehension. I’m not the same person I was before, thank God. Through healing from trauma I was led to greater growth than I would have sought on my own.

In his book Upside, The New Science of Post-Traumatic Growth, author Jim Rendon quotes Rachel Yehuda, director of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She says,” Trauma causes change. There are a lot of opinions out there about how that change manifests, but you just don’t stay the same. That is a really radical idea. You do recover in some ways, but that recovery doesn’t actually involve returning to the baseline. It involves recalibration towards something new…”

Yes, “recalibration!” That is exactly what it is. We have to accept that we will not return to who we were before. We have to reframe our self-perception and move forward with our new, fragile self, holding tight to God. There comes a day in post-traumatic growth where you realize you will never be the same, and that it’s okay. You will recognize your “new normal” when you reach it. Time and therapy will get you functional. Faith and acceptance will help you more fully heal.

            If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.     ~ Buddha

 

It’s important that we accept ourselves exactly where we are in our healing. Uncomfortable in crowds? That’s okay. Need a light on at night? That’s okay. Need to check all the locks three times? That’s okay. We have suffered a trauma and whatever we need to do to feel safe and secure is okay. There may come a time when we don’t feel the need to do those things, but there may not; and that’s okay too.

Our trauma is our own. Our healing is also our own. No one can walk in our shoes or judge where we “should” be in our process. Love yourself right where you’re at.

God does.

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

July 13, 2016

 

LOVING ACCEPTANCE

“To feel the Love of God within you is to see the world anew, shining in innocence, alive with hope, and blessed with perfect charity and love.” – A Course in Miracles, lesson 189

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I am still beloved. I believe this down to my core. No matter what I may have done or been or survived, the love of God for me is constant. I know God has been there through every trauma, and will be there always. This kind of faith doesn’t come easily, and perhaps you are not there yet. But know that it is true. God sees you perfectly, and God see you perfect.

I can accept this. I can accept that God sees me this way. God is, after all, God. The Divine is Love that is all encompassing and beyond our understanding.

My difficulty is seeing myself the way God sees me.

Does this resonate with you as well? You have a spiritual practice, you’ve survived trauma, you pray and meditate and turn everything over to the Divine – but still, still you judge yourself, withholding from yourself the very thing you need: love and acceptance.

I do it all the time. I’m still learning and trying and growing and becoming. But I know that this step is critical for healing.

When we withhold loving acceptance from ourselves, we set ourselves up for continuous disappointment. We set ourselves up for depression, anxiety and addiction. Seeing ourselves as God sees us leads us out of this cycle.

How do you start? I had to start with others. For a long time, I wasn’t at ease within myself, both because of the trauma I had been through, but also because I regularly withheld love from myself. With a strong desire to heal and change this, I started by trying to see others as God sees them.

This requires such vigilance on our thoughts! We are conditioned from a very young age to make judgments about the people around us based on their appearance, their words and their actions. When we consciously practice looking on others with love, we start to see their innocence. We begin to glimpse what God sees. We grow in compassion and understanding for others.

You are a creature of Divine Love connected at all times to Source. Divine Love is when you see God in everyone and everything you encounter.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer

Non-judgment is a muscle that needs constant exercise. Left idle, it will grow fat cells and spread. Like exercise, it probably doesn’t come naturally to us, so we have to be vigilant and dedicated. And like exercise, it is worth it, for it can be your path to self-acceptance.

Through continuous practice of non-judgment of others, I found it easier to forgive and love myself. I began to see myself as God sees me more frequently. This is a tool for healing that grows stronger the more I practice it. The less I judge others, the less I judge myself.

For some, the path to self-acceptance may start within you and then extend to others. This is also a valid path. And who’s to say you can’t walk both paths at once? There are many paths to seeing yourself as the love of God. The path doesn’t matter, what matters is the dedication to the path and to healing.

Give love to yourself today. Give yourself the gift of seeing through God’s holy eyes. See those around you with those eyes. Look within and truly see your glorious light of Love.

You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”                 Buddha

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

05/15/2016

 

LETTING GO OF SUFFERING

People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown they prefer suffering that is familiar.” Thich Nhat Hanh

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I once had a therapist explain to me why I was drawn to a certain individual. A person with whom my interactions were not healthy, reminding me of the power struggles between my mother and me. She simply said, “You’re drawn because it feels familiar. It doesn’t feel good, but it feels familiar.” It was so profound! It didn’t feel good, but I knew how to play that game, how to navigate that river, and how to survive it.

So it can be with our trauma related feelings. We sometimes cling to them unknowingly, not because they feel good, but because they feel familiar. We know how to feel those feelings; we don’t know what lies ahead.

Are we getting something out of holding on to these feelings, and if so, what? Is there a payoff here we’re not seeing? The answer to that is as individual as all the beings on the planet! The real question to ask is “What am I getting out of holding onto this suffering?”

To answer this for yourself, look at the flip side of some of the symptoms of PTSD. Do I use my suffering to isolate from others? Do I use my suffering to avoid crowds or family events? Do I use my suffering to avoid relationships?

All of these questions have to do with avoidance. I completely get it. And I venture to say that for many people, myself included, avoidance is part of the initial healing. In my struggle, I had to find a balance. I didn’t feel safe going out, but I also had to re-learn that I could be safe at home. There was some avoidance, but also some pushing through to get to the new normal.

However, when this behavior and these beliefs linger for too long, it is time to take a hard look at what you’re getting out of this suffering. I wish I could tell you how long is too long, but it is, again, extremely individualized. My advice is to ask a trusted friend or therapist. They will tell you.

“If you are suffering in your life right now, I guarantee that this condition is tied up with some kind of attachment to how you think things should be.”     ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer

 

The toughest question keeps many trauma survivors stuck: Do I use my suffering to gain sympathy and pity from others?

This one is tricky, because it’s most tempting to the ego. If you have been attacked, abused, raped, in a war, devastated by an accident or an act of nature, you deserve sympathy. You have survived something most people never have to experience. You’ve been through trauma; you are changed. It’s appropriate for people to extend sympathy to you, and for you to receive it. Just be very aware of your response to sympathy. If you notice the compassionate coaxing or outright pity of your friends or family makes you feel loved, you’re on a slippery slope. The ego eats this up, turning your efforts to gaining sympathy, which will keep you from healing. If you find yourself drawn to this form of suffering, actively find ways to serve others. It will take you out of wanting sympathy for yourself, and give your spirit new purpose.

There were many times in my initial years of healing that I used my suffering as an excuse, a reason to isolate, and a point of sympathy. But each time, it held less power and attraction. It began to feel more and more false as I grew in my healing, until it dropped away entirely. Using the trauma to deepen my suffering was more costly than moving on from it, doing the work, and finding happiness.

Besides, the real work is not surviving the trauma, it’s healing the trauma.

The wound is the place where the light enters you.”   ~ Rumi

You are Still Beloved

Victoria McGee

April 3, 2016

A New PTSD

“To feel the Love of God within you is to see the world anew, shining in innocence, alive with hope, and blessed with perfect charity and love.” – ACIM, Lesson 189

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See the world anew. What a concept. What a challenge. What a daunting task some days. We often go through so many days in a row that all feel the same, a little numb, a little tired of the day-to-day business. With PTSD, we are tired of summoning courage each day, tired of fighting down the fear each day, and tired of swallowing down the rage.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t live like that. I can’t. I made it my daily task to find something, anything, each day that gives me hope. There is no surviving PTSD without it. And here’s the tricky part: it is as easy as shifting your focus, and it is as difficult as shifting your focus. Ha.

Because some days shifting our focus is easy, right? We have that attitude as we set out on the day, and the universe rewards us with baby birds, friendly cashiers, compliments from strangers, hugs from kids. And we sigh and say, “I DO have hope. Life is good. Things are getting better!”

Then there are the days when, try as we might, our focus won’t budge off the damn trauma. We could encounter the same rewards as before, but they would seem trite, ordinary, meh. Right?

Don’t despair on those days. Our healing minds and spirits are like muscles. I learned this trying a new exercise where I got into position, then the instructor said, “Now, lift your leg.” My leg wouldn’t budge. She immediately, wisely said, “If your leg won’t lift, imagine it lifting, and do the count.” I did. I did this for two more classes. On the third class, my leg lifted.

So on those days when we are trying to shift our focus and it doesn’t feel like it’s working, we are still actively engaging that part of our minds and spirits that so deeply desire to heal.

In the spirit of seeing the world anew, I recently decided I needed a new meaning for the acronym PTSD. Not to dismiss or belittle my trauma, but to transmute it, as is always my goal.

So here it is:

Pray

Transform

Surrender

Deepen

These are the steps I take, almost daily, to heal.

Pray – Prayer is action. Prayer is never static. It is a dynamic way to engage your spirit with the Divine (from whom you are not separated anyway!) When I feel helpless, prayer is my catalyst to act.

Transform – If you’re stuck in an emotion, identify it so you can transform it. If you’re anxious, it is fear. If you’re depressed, it could be unexpressed anger, which stems from fear. A Course in Miracles, and many spiritual paths, state there are really only two emotions: fear and love. To transform fear in any form, you must love. Love yourself, those around you, pets, God, find someplace to send love. Love will return to you a thousand-fold.

Surrender – Surrender to God. Surrender to your feelings. And it’s okay to surrender to your trauma in order to heal it. You can accept it by surrendering to it. It happened. Now surrender to the Divine for your healing.

Deepen – Truly healing from trauma means to confront ourselves and our fellow man on a truly profound level. If you just try to get on with your life, without a thoughtful examination of your life and your psyche, your trauma will revisit you. This healing must be deep. Take a full breath and dive in. Reflect on each day and deepen your awareness of your healing.

That is my new PTSD. It feels active and loving. I hope you find some healing there too.

 

You are Still Beloved.

 

Victoria McGee

2/10/2016

Who Will Save Me?

“Nothing outside of yourself can save you; nothing outside yourself can give you peace.” ~ ACIM Workbook 118

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Truly the Divine is not a place, not inside you or outside you, but everywhere. The Course in Miracles is saying don’t look to things outside yourself for the healing and peace of mind you need. Spiritual teachings assure us that we already have everything we need to heal ourselves.

Our problem is we have all this other stuff.

We humans are so good at distracting ourselves, especially in this day and age. We are surrounded by distractions from phones, TV, the Internet, a million available apps, people, work, etc. It’s a bottomless pit. Never before in history has it been so easy to distract ourselves.

What is the danger of this distraction for those of us with PTSD? Sometimes it feels so good to just numb out and put mindless stuff into our mind, instead of the haunting thoughts. Our minds, left unattended, often drift to unwanted memories. I admit, I still do this sometimes. Sometimes I just don’t want to “think” any more! Sometimes numbing out is the right prescription for the moment. As long as it doesn’t become a crutch, or a frequent tool for avoidance. Balance is always key.

Keep this in mind always, “Nothing outside of yourself can save you; nothing outside of yourself can give you peace.”

When we constantly look outside ourselves for our healing, for our relief, we are actually impeding healing.

Of course, I’m not talking about therapy because good and valuable therapy should lead you to healing yourself anyway. I’m talking about the dangers of putting the burden of your healing on other people, or things or events.

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”                           -~ Buddha

When you place the burden of your healing on your love relationship, a friend, or a family member, it only delays your healing. It’s as if you’re climbing a mountain and you give your pack to your companion, who is carrying his or her own as well. Eventually, they give out under the weight and you end up with your own pack again. But your path is slower because your companion is weakened, and probably resentful, that you gave them such a burden. These people who love you will help you on your path, and catch you when you stumble, but placing your burden on them will only weaken the relationship.

When you place the burden of your healing on things, you are activating a dangerous portion of your brain. There is a place in our minds that believes we can make ourselves feel better if we only buy this thing, look at that thing, go to this event, drink this, eat that, get high, stay busy!!!! It’s part of the instant gratification neurology of the brain. It’s understandable. It’s a PTSD warrior saying “I want to feel better now!”

Scientists used to think people who could delay gratification were simply more patient people. However, here’s some interesting information about that from a recent article in Scientific American, by Melanie Bauer.

“A recent study by a team of researchers at Washington University in St.   Louis found that when people waited for a reward, patient people were seen—through the lens of a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine—imagining the future.”

Is it possible that people who have been through trauma, or suffer from PTSD, have trouble imagining the future? This rang true for me. There is a part of you with new wisdom that realizes life as you know it can change in an instant. So live for the moment.

But we know how shallow that instant gratification is, right? Or we wouldn’t have to keep doing it. We keep trying to fill the same hole. Placing the burden of your healing on things, is like playing Jenga. That tower will come down, and you will ultimately be left with yourself again.

So, who will save you? You. God cannot save you until you invite God in. Once God is in you, then God is you, and you are God. Feel that. How joyful to know it is available in any instant of your life.

Trust me on this. When you are silent, and not distracted, and close your eyes, and sincerely invite God into your heart and mind, the tools for your healing will present themselves. It is as inevitable as the tide. Nothing, nothing outside yourself can give you peace.

“Be silent. Only the hand of God can remove the burdens of your heart.” ~ Rumi

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

1/24/16