Covid-19 and Collective Trauma

alone-2666433_1920

The paradox of trauma is that it has both the power to destroy and the power to transform and resurrect.” – Peter A. Levine

Lately, I’ve been conscious of trauma as it applies to society. Due to the outbreak of Covid-19, the world is currently in a state of collective trauma. Collective trauma refers to the psychological reactions to a traumatic event that can affect an entire society. For most of us, our daily way of life has drastically changed in the last few weeks. Freedoms and income have been reduced, and we are in a constant low-grade state of fear.

When a society experiences a collective trauma, such as 9/11, mass shootings, natural disasters, etc., our routines and relationships, those things that anchor us to our society are disrupted in such a way that it can leave us struggling to reclaim the purpose of our lives. In some ways, this can lead to a positive re-prioritizing of what is truly important. In other ways, it can leave us grasping for meaning and feeling hopeless.

For those of us already dealing with PTSD, this collective trauma can trigger other traumas to rise to the surface. We may find we are having trouble sleeping, nightmares, generalized anxiety, or hyper-vigilance may be rearing their heads again. Others may find they are having a surprisingly calm reaction to all this, as being in a trauma state is not strange to us, and we feel able to function in this state better than others.

Traumatic events can trigger past traumas, and who among us has not experienced some level of trauma? So we as a society have this huge collective trauma and our own historical traumas slamming us all at once. It’s a lot to deal with and process! And we’re confined either with partners, family, friends, or alone. Being alone can be most challenging as there is no distraction from your own thoughts.

If you’ve been feeling some of this, the dis-ease that has been engendered by this disease, there are practices you can undertake to ease the trauma response. We must regularly engage in self-care, find comfort in spiritual practice, stay connected to our tribe, and begin to reframe our relationship to historical trauma.

“Radical self-care is what we’ve been longing for, desperate for, our entire lives – friendship with our own hearts.” ~ Anne Lamott

Self-care is the best thing you can do for yourself right now. Stay centered and grounded as much as you can in whatever way works for you. Exercise, yoga, meditation, bubble baths, reading, and creative expression will connect you to your center. We cannot face this event coming from a place of scattered emotions and thoughts. Limit your news to a single check-in every day to keep from going down the black hole of information saturation. Go outside and find a place to connect to nature. None of these things cost money and can help you find some balance amidst the chaos.

If you have a spiritual practice, there is no better time to enhance and build upon it. Read, study, pray, and fill your soul with comfort, fill your mind with faith. Read the inspired words of those who have overcome darkness. Viktor Frankl, Elie Wiesel, and Mother Teresa, for example, are inspiring in their ability to hold onto faith in the midst of great suffering. Turn to your spiritual practice at this time to help you hold onto your faith, and to get a glimpse of the big picture. The world has survived many traumas and will survive this one as well.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ~ Viktor E. Frankl

In these times, we must find a way to stay connected to our tribe. Facetime, Zoom, Marco Polo, social media and good old fashioned phone calls are our life-lines now. Resist the urge to isolate, to avoid the changes we’re all adjusting to, and reach out. Write letters, send cards, connect with people you’ve been meaning to re-connect with. You have time, and everyone needs to hear from the people they treasure.

Lastly, start to reframe your relationship to historical trauma. If we are here, we have survived trauma, personal, ancestral, historical, and collective. This means we are resilient and we have developed coping skills that not everyone has. We know how to self-calm, self-care, rise above, forgive, and even help others. Build on the resilience you’ve developed thus far! We are strong, flexible, wise souls and our energies are needed in this crisis.

               “We can make ourselves miserable or we can make ourselves strong.                    The amount of effort is the same.” – Pema Chodron

We are in a state of collective trauma. So let us attempt to join in collective healing, first by taking good care of ourselves, then by contributing to healing the energy of the planet. We all need the energies of compassion, positivity, balance, and calm right now. Let’s practice this in our daily lives and see what healers we are.

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

3/20/2020

Why We Sometimes Hold Onto Trauma

snake-3064737_1920

“The sooner we heal our traumas, the sooner we liberate ourselves from the people who hurt us. By hating them, we hold onto them. We cannot heal.” – Vironika Tugaleva

As I have studied, learned and written about healing trauma, I find I’m guilty of assuming that if you have been through trauma, you must want to heal. I forget that some souls perhaps don’t want to look at it, deal with it, or get better; at least, not now. I forget it until I’m face to face with such a person and I realize they are still holding onto a trauma from long ago – sometimes decades ago.

I used to wonder “What are they getting out of it? What’s the payoff?” Which sounds cold when you’re talking about a trauma survivor. But this is the thought I jump to when I see someone not making progress years after trauma. In reality, it’s far more complicated than my question, and of course, the reasons are as individual as we are. So in digging a little deeper, I found the reasons for holding onto trauma fall into three large categories (with many sub-categories).

The thought processes are basically the following:

Moving past trauma lets the person who caused it off the hook.

Moving past trauma means I can no longer be let off the hook.

Moving past trauma means I will have figure out who I am if I’m not suffering.

These are not light issues, not light thoughts. They are huge and overwhelming and no wonder people are often reluctant to confront these feelings! Let’s dive deeper.

“Moving past trauma lets the person who caused it off the hook.” This thought is often accompanied by other, related thoughts. If I forgive, then they’ll think they didn’t really hurt me. If I move past this and become stronger and more resilient, they’ll think their actions had no effect on me. If I forgive them, I’m weak.

The reality check to this thinking is part logic, part spirit. Logically, we have no idea what another person thinks of us, even they treat us poorly it’s more about them than what they think about us. And when we second-guess others’ thoughts and motivations, we give them even more power over us, thereby remaining stuck in the past. Spiritually, forgiving and moving on is something we do for ourselves, not for them. The longer we hold onto anger and withhold forgiveness, the longer we are in a state of inertia that we perpetuate. We don’t let anyone off the hook by moving past trauma – we break the chains that are keeping us in a dark place, so we can begin to climb to the light.

“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” ~ Marianne Williamson

“Moving past trauma means I can no longer be let off the hook.” This second reason people might hold onto trauma is pretty insidious. Sadly, some of us find that in sharing our trauma we are seen as a victim, and people around us can start to let us off the hook. If we have certain unmet needs inside us, this can feel pretty good. It also gives us valid reasons for not fully dealing with people and situations in our life. We can start to use it as a way to avoid life, people, and in the worst cases, work and responsibility. I think all of us who have gone through trauma have been through phases of this. With therapy and hard work, we usually get past it.

The reality check to this thinking is realizing that again, you’re giving the trauma and whoever you associate with it, the power to keep you from fully engaging in life. Every time we use it as a way to avoid life, we empower the trauma, not ourselves. I’m not talking about the times we need to practice PTSD self-care and carve out safe, quiet time. If we’re honest with ourselves, we know the difference between self-care and avoidance. And if we’ve really gone down a dark path and avoid work and responsibilities, it will undoubtedly cause people who care for us to have to pick up the slack or bail us out.  It’s so important to take an honest look at how our healing impacts others, usually our family. If we have avoided therapy, or are playing on being a victim, not a survivor, we are denying our full and beautiful light from coming forth. Our inner wells of strength and faith are deep, so turn this fear over to God so we can truly conquer trauma, and not live it again every day.

We can make ourselves miserable or we can make ourselves strong. The amount of effort is the same.” ~ Pema Chodron

Moving past trauma means I will have to figure out who I am if I’m not suffering.” This thought manifests as many different thoughts that allow the trauma to define you. I’m a person who was profoundly hurt. Trauma is my identity, therefore in my pain I feel safe. We naturally do identify with being a victim of trauma initially. This should fade and assume a back-burner position in a healthy identity as we heal.

If it doesn’t, as a therapist I once knew said, “It doesn’t feel good, but it feels familiar.” We know how to play that part, so we play it because it’s comfortable, it’s easier, and we’re tired. But the danger, the reality check in this thinking, is that you’re once again giving your power to the trauma, not the recovery. You’re living a role, an identity, that was forced on you, not one you’ve chosen for yourself. Your true spirit, your true nature is on that back-burner. Invite it to come forward, try to open yourself to what the Universe has for you next. When you put a foot on this path of letting that old identity go, new possibilities will unfold!

Healing trauma is rich, unrelenting, exhausting, and rewarding. There are so many modalities now to deal with PTSD – therapy, EMDR, tapping, and of course, I believe, taking God with you every step of the way can only enhance your experience and restore your faith more quickly. So who could you become as you move past trauma?

We can only know when we begin to climb out of the quicksand. Staying stuck can only pull us down into depression, health issues, addictions and more. Healing is the process of getting un-stuck, of creating movement, of creating energy to move, of letting go.

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

 

WHEN YOU CAN’T FIX IT

workshop-2104445_1920

“Surrender – giving up what we think should be happening for what is actually happening.”          ~ McCall Erickson

 

I’ve been musing about this thought lately. There are times in life when tragedies happen, people you love are suffering and YOU CAN’T FIX IT! There’s nothing you can do. Nothing.

THEN WHAT DO WE DO?

We are beings who love doing, aren’t we? We’re all raised with such focus put on our ability to be capable and fix things. Problem? I’ll solve it! Predicament? Here’s what to do! Something broke? I’ll fix it! So when life throws us situations that we can’t actually fix, what can we do?

I’ve been struggling with this recently, both with my father in hospice care and passing last year, and with someone dear to me being in a depression. They were in physical and mental states I could not fix. I felt completely helpless. It was not in my power to make these situations any different.

I felt everything within these life challenges – grief, despair, LOTS of anxiety, frustration, anger, and guilt. Surely there must be something I can do! Have you been there? I believe most of us have if we’ve lived very long at all.

So what DO we do when we can’t fix something? I’m no expert, but here are the things I found I could do.

Be present. Simply be with the person who needs help. This is a natural instinct. I remember observing children when my son was in pre-school, and if one of them was upset, several other children would move and simply sit by that child. Not saying anything, just letting him or her know they’re not alone. It was powerful and comforting. Mere presence is often underrated. In his last months, my father was so comforted by the presence of people he loved. We didn’t have to do anything but just be there. Some people who may be depressed or recovering from trauma will push us away, but we need to gently find ways to be present with them anyway. In my life, when I’ve tried to isolate, I am eternally grateful for those friends who showed up and didn’t let me drown in the abyss I was creating. And if you can’t be with someone in person, call them. It helps.

 

“I thought faith would say “I’ll take away the pain and discomfort.” But what it ended up saying was “I’ll sit with you in it.” ~ Brene Brown

 

Listen without judgment. Sometimes people need to speak their dark thoughts out loud. We all, at times, need that person who will listen without judgment. My father needed to talk about death. Others I’ve known needed to admit they’d thought of ending it all, or running away from their life. To sit with that, and provide space for that, is a gift. Have you felt that? The times when you just say something out loud, you are heard, and you feel a weight lift off your shoulders? And the scary thoughts become less scary. They’re more scary when we keep them in. Friends and family aren’t therapists, but to be able to listen and not judge, to just respond with “That must be painful to think about,” or “I’m sorry you’ve felt so desperate, but I’m here for you,” can provide much-needed comfort.

Allow.  Allow people to be where they need to be. Remembering that we all have a path to walk and we don’t really “get” our lessons until we walk that path is so important. And we see so clearly what others must do or how they should be to fix their issues, don’t we? But by being present and listening, we allow them the space, the glorious window through which they will ultimately see their own unique path themselves. Know they are on their path, and the path God has for them doesn’t need fixing.

Visualize.  If we believe we are spiritual beings having a human existence, then we must know the power of seeing the truth about a loved one. When those I love are in a crisis, I take time each day to visualize them as they truly are, a beautiful spiritual being. I see them whole, happy, healthy, or simply wrapped in the love of God. If you feel you need to do something for someone, this can be very powerful, especially if you don’t live close enough to be present in person.

 

“Prayer is where the action is.” ~ John Wesley

 

Pray.  Prayer is a very active response to feelings of helplessness. Gandhi said, “Prayer is not an old woman’s amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.” In many situations, it is imperative to pray and take action, but this is not always possible. Sometimes, all we can do is pray. And those are the times to remember that prayer is not passive, prayer is not a last resort, it is a powerful action we take as we turn a situation, a concern, a person, over to God. Praying for the best outcome for a person or situation, not what we think should happen, but for what God knows is best. Trust. Have faith. Surrender. Pray.

I’ve found in my life these five things help. Sometimes it’s just a thought, sometimes it’s me railing against what is, struggling to allow and visualize, but at least I feel like I’m doing something.  Maybe I can’t do anything physically, but I can spiritually. Maybe I can’t fix it and make it go away, but I can love it and ultimately find the gifts in it. I can try.

You Are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

December 5, 2018

Releasing Emotions in the Body

person-2244036_1920

“The body is the most reliable truth meter.”  ~ Adyashanti

Recently, I found myself in tears during a yoga class. It was near the end, and as I tried to keep my face down and roll up my mat, I felt the teacher come and stand near me, lending supportive energy as she chatted with another student. I knew she had noticed my upset and probably recognized it for what it was – a healthy release!

As the teacher had recently explained, certain poses, especially hip openers, can release emotions we’ve been holding onto. Fear, trauma, grief, anxiety, depression – all these murky feelings get stuffed down from our eyes when we do not cry, our throats when we do not scream, our hearts when they are broken, and settle in our hips.

That day, I was overwhelmed with grief about my father, who passed nine months ago. So although I understand the stages of grief will go on for a while, and the feelings of sadness were not daily anymore, my body released more grief in that class, and I felt better because of it.

Yoga teachers and massage therapists will tell you they see this all the time. Our bodies are silos, storing all of our past experiences and present worries. When we are able to find ways to release, in supportive environments, we let go of some of that stored “grain.” Combining physical attunement with a more neutral, relaxed mental state allows these emotions to be liberated.

“If we do not work on all three levels – body, feeling, mind – the symptoms of our distress will keep returning, as the body goes on repeating the story stored in its cells until it is finally listened to and understood.” ~ Alice Miller

In this quote, Alice Miller is expressing what science is coming to understand. Peter Levine, Ph.D. (In An Unspoken Voice), and Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. (The Body Keeps the Score) research, explore and write about the evidence that much of our trauma is held in our bodies, and with this knowledge lies hope for releasing it as well!   

Just think about how much we hold in. We are taught from a young age to hold. We hold onto uncomfortable emotions caused by abuses and traumas we suffer as children, showing the world a face that says everything is okay. We hold it together as we grow, facing cruelty at school, disappointments and broken hearts. We hold our breath, sometimes not daring to breathe deeply out of fear or sorrow, sometimes not breathing at all if the terror or grief is too great. We hold still, not wanting to call attention to what we see is our broken self. We hold back tears – so many tears that we are certain we would drown those around us if we let them go.

A law of physics would tell us that this holding has to release at some point. And we see it around us in all its unhealthy forms – illness (turning it inward) and violence (turning outward). The challenge then, for us, is to find healthy ways to release it from our physical being.

Yoga, massage, reiki, and other forms of healing are effective but can be costly. You can also find release in a soothing bath, an intense workout, vigorous dancing, tactile art, or a project that requires physical exertion. There are many ways to loosen what you are holding onto. Find what feels right for you, and know that different kinds of emotions may need different kinds of release.

“The cure for the pain is in the pain.” ~ Rumi

When it comes to releasing what we are holding onto, we must also allow ourselves to be held where it is safe. If you have a supportive partner, let that person hold you while you cry and release. Being held by the right person for the right purpose is profoundly healing.

And most importantly, in your own private space allow yourself to be held in God’s love, wrapped up in Divine comfort, and sink down into that place where only Love exists, and let go. God will hold you, God will hold space with you for all those feelings and God will eventually help you up.

“Love falls to earth, rises from the ground, pools around the afflicted. Love pulls people back to their feet. Bodies and souls are fed. Bones and lives heal. New blades of grass grown from charred soil. The sun rises.” ~ Anne Lamott

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

June 29, 2018

Radical Acceptance

barbed-wire-114363_1280

                       “Radical acceptance is the willingness to experience ourselves                                 and our lives as it is.” ~ Tara Brach

In searching for images and quotes for this blog, I recently came across this photo – barbed wire with a tree growing around it. I resonated with it immediately. Because the sufferings of life become part of us, don’t they? Our pain, our trauma, our PTSD, our grief – healing doesn’t mean it goes away, it means we learn how to grow with it and in spite of it.

Like the tree, we are impelled to grow. The tree continues to grow in spite of everything that happens to it, short of being cut down. So do we, hopefully, continue to grow in spite of what happens to us. We have a choice, of course. We can stop where the barbed wire entered our life, we can remain stuck there, allowing it to twist our trunk and ignore or delay healing. Or we can accept that barbed wire, feel the full effects of it, and figure out how the very act of acceptance helps us grow stronger.

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” ~ Haruki Murakami

Trees, especially old trees, are just so solid, so fierce and stately. If I think of myself as a tree, I see all the elements of growth that I also need.

Deep roots: I need the deep roots of grounding myself daily. Connecting myself to the earth, to the solid ground under me, so my mind doesn’t take off running to scary places. When I place myself in a grounded state, I am tree-like. I can bend with the wind without losing my footing. I stand firmly within myself. I feel the solid support of God and Mother Earth holding me up and anchoring me down. Fierce. Stately.

Water: I need nourishment to those roots so I can grow. Nourishment comes in the form of self-care, love, friends, and daily connection to the Divine through prayer and meditation. When I “water” myself, I grow, I heal. It seeps up through every cell and connects me to myself, to others, and to God. I am nourished. I am fed.

Air: Did you know there’s a photosynthesis of the soul? We breathe in faith, (you sometimes can’t see it, but breathe it in anyway), and breathe out doubt and fear. God is the oxygen we need to heal and to grow. Breathe in Divine air, breathe out the toxins we keep inside. And like carbon dioxide, God will take those toxins and transform them into more oxygen, more healing. We must keep breathing and breathe deeply!

Light: The tree needs the sun as we need God’s light. But rather than shining down on us, we find it by looking within. When we ignite that light within, it warms us and puts a balm on our wounds. When we ignite that light within, it speeds us on our healing path. Miraculously, when we ignite that light within, it shines out and warms those around us.

New Growth: Each time I reach a new place of healing, a new level of forgiveness, I feel a new branch grow. I feel leaves sprouting forth. As I encompass, envelop and send love to the barbed wire, I swell toward the sky, branches reaching up, drinking in the sun, arms open to receive God’s gifts. When we invite God on our healing path, new growth is inevitable, and we expand in our own individual way because of the wound, because of the barbed wire. Fierce. Stately.

“When we become aware that we do not have to escape our pains, but that we can mobilize them into a common search for life, those very pains are transformed from expressions of despair into signs of hope.” ~ Henri Nouwen

So let’s be this tree today. Let’s use and honor these elements of deep roots, water, air, light and new growth. Wounded with barbed wire, but accepting that it’s part of us.

It’s a thorny pain, and sometimes it still hurts, but it’s part of our path and the choices we have and will make. I own this barbed wire. I am who I am because of it, and for that I am grateful. It has made me turn to God over and over, grow in faith and forgiveness, and it has made me fierce and stately.

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

04/28/2018

Honor Your Hard Healing Work

 

statue-1010531_1920

“As long as you have certain desires about how it ought to be, you can’t see how it is.”                                                                                    ~ Ram Dass

“Hey, why aren’t you all the way healed yet? Aren’t you trying? What? You’re not done? Well, when will you be done? You don’t know? Why not? How long will this take? I need to get on with things, and this is really holding me back.”

Sound familiar? This inner critic, this part of our minds that keeps us from being happy needs to be smacked down sometimes. Well, not sometimes, pretty often actually. Okay daily, maybe hourly. Because it stands between us and happiness. It stands between us and peace of mind. It stands between us and God.

So today, I invite you to take a rest from your inner critic and honor the hard healing work you have done! Seriously, give yourself the gift of acknowledging how far you have come in healing from trauma. We hardly ever do this, do we? We work so hard, we pray, we heal, we take our baby steps, sometimes we have a huge breakthrough, and we just… keep going. Pause and look back at what you have done to get to this place in your healing.

Just as no one can walk this path for you, no one can acknowledge the work you’ve done either. Only you know the breathing, the reading, the therapy, the nights of constant praying, of turning it over to God again and again and again. Only you know – and God. I think the Divine is always looking for opportunities for us to heal more and to acknowledge us when we do. I can look back on my life and so clearly see times when the opportunities to heal would lessen so I could catch my breath and just live. Similarly, I clearly see the times when the opportunities intensified because I had to heal something deeper to move forward. God knows our needs, and I feel God celebrates our progress, not only for our own healing, but the healing of the world.

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” ~ Maya Angelou

It takes really hard work to become a butterfly, and what do we do when we see one? We often stop, reverently, to admire it. It’s one of the few absolute transformations in nature we have probably seen in person. So we know that dark period in the cocoon can be long, but that so much is happening inside that we can’t see! Miracles are happening. So we stop and witness to it.

Do that for yourself. You are nothing less than a butterfly, and even if you’re still in your cocoon, not ready to come out – witness and have reverence for how far you’ve come. No one will do it for you, and it’s so crucial we do this for ourselves!

“We acknowledge our pain, not to get more depressed or to drown in the suffering, but to see the truth of our experience.” ~ Sharon Salzberg

What is the truth of our experience? Take stock today of your progress. Have you slept through the night? Decreased flashbacks? Have you asked for help in a healthy way? Have you surrounded yourself with supportive friends? Can you close your eyes and meditate? Can you stay alone? Do you feel closer to God? These are all wins and we deserve to pat ourselves on the back.

Our mind, body and spirit is running a marathon of healing. It’s a long race, so we must pace ourselves and recognize our immense progress along the way! There will always be more to do, more to heal, but just for today, acknowledge your own dedication and progress in healing. Rest in God’s arms, and join Him in being proud of you. Can I get an amen?

“Lovng ourselves through the process of owning our own story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” ~ Brene Brown

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

March 5, 2018

Dipping Back In – Healing Trauma is Not a Straight Line

toe-in-water-772773_1280-1024x768

 

“Wounds don’t heal the way you want them to, they heal the way they need to. It takes time for wounds to fade into scars. It takes time for the process of healing to take place. Give yourself that time. Give yourself that grace. Be gentle with your wounds. Be gentle with your heart. You deserve to heal.” ~ Dele Olanubi

This quote is profoundly comforting. It reminds me to be gentle with myself and my process. No one has a straight, flat, easy path in life. Every life journey is unique. For those of us who survive trauma along the path, who may struggle with PTSD, and for whom healing is part of this journey, we need to remember that the path is not linear. We will often take great strides in healing, only to be triggered and feel we have fallen back. I’ve come to realize that these are not steps back, but steps sideways, a time to witness how we are triggered, and dip back into healing.

I call it “Dipping Back In” to remind myself that I will always be healing, and that it isn’t possible to dive in and heal all at once. So I dip my big toe in, test the water, then wade in for while. This way, I know I won’t drown.

“Just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’re failing.” ~ Anonymous

Admittedly, the trauma I survived was a long time ago, so I don’t deal with PTSD every day anymore. But I clearly remember the early days, months and years when I was working so hard to heal, and was regularly triggered. I would get so frustrated about triggers. “Aren’t I getting better?” “When will I be done dealing with this?” “When will I be healed?” Over time, the reaction to the triggers lessened. I can see now, in retrospect, how the path was unfolding. It’s harder to see in the midst of it. We are so tempted to beat ourselves up if we get triggered again, or if we go through a difficult time emotionally.

As many years (decades) as I have worked with healing trauma, I’m still having to “Dip Back In” occasionally. Just last year, I had to spend some nights alone for the first time in a long time. I was massively triggered, couldn’t sleep, and had nightmares again. Rather than lose hope that I’m not fully healed, I now know this is an invitation to “Dip Back In” and see where I have more work to do.

MORE work to do? Really? (My inner child has a small tantrum at this point.) But I know that a little more work is exactly what I need. And I couldn’t have done it sooner, because healing occurs in stages. Healing is circuitous. Healing is random. Healing is difficult and it is also not optional if we are to recover and live fully. For me, I need God on this path with me.

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” ~ Buddha

And so we must accept our healing for what it is. And to do this, we must get to a place of surrender. We must surrender our ideas of what our healing is supposed to look like. Surrender our linear ideas of how long it should take. Surrender the human tendency to compare our healing to that of others. Be gentle and loving with yourself.

Surrendering the form and time-frame of your healing leads to a deepening in the faith of your own path. Surrender to the healing God has planned for you. You are safe there. God will lead you to those feelings and situations that will help you heal when you are ready for it. Surrender and have faith.

So “Dip Back In” when you feel you need to. Have faith and surrender to the process. God’s plan for your healing is inevitable. It will be there for you when you are ready for it. It will be there for you when you embrace your journey as solely your own, and surrender to the chaotic beauty of your healing path.

“Your path is beautiful and crooked and just as it should be.” ~ Anonymous

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

February 12, 2018

Crawling Out of Trauma

“If all you can do is crawl, start crawling.”  ~ Rumi

crawling light

When I saw these ancient words of Rumi, they hit me right in the gut. What could be more true for someone who has suffered a traumatic experience? Who among us has not been there?

Even if you’ve not lived through a trauma, even if you don’t suffer with PTSD, you have probably been at the steps of profound grief, on the floor, or on your knees, and all you can do to move forward is – crawl. Often, it’s all we can do.

Rumi’s words are so comforting and inspiring at the same time, because they not only acknowledge that you’ve been knocked down, and you are weakened and overwhelmed by what lies before you; these words also acknowledge that the road forward – the road of healing – is inevitable. So start crawling.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  ~ Lao Tzu

In the early days and weeks of the aftermath of a traumatic event, you are crawling. Every movement, every question someone asks you, getting yourself out of bed in the morning – these things are monumental. They are heavy. They require every bit of focus you can muster because a good part of you is still in shock. You feel like you’re watching a movie of other people’s lives. The movie of your life has taken a shocking turn. This is not the story you wanted. This is not the part you wanted to play. And yet, here you are. This event is now part of your life, part of your past, part of your future. And this, you come to find, is where your power begins to come back to you. You decide what part it will play in your future.

And so….and so….we start to crawl out.

What IS that within us that drives us to start crawling? To eventually get on hands and knees? To stand? To walk? Survival instinct? The basic will to live? Anger and revenge? I’m sure the specific things that get us up off the cold, hard floor are as different as we are, but I do think that we all have an intrinsic, Divine spark that gets us up and pushes us forward, toward healing, toward overcoming, toward courage and toward the transformation the Holy Spirit has in store for us.

“We tend to forget that baby steps still move us forward.”  ~ Unknown

Crawling is forward motion. Baby steps move us forward. The point is to honor that fire in our belly that tells us to move forward, keep moving, and start taking the steps to right yourself, for you have been knocked off balance in a profound way. Get help. Make that call. Talk to others. Pray. Take steps.

I thought about this during a yoga class this week. I’m trying to regain some flexibility in my body and then hang on to it! In yoga, as in life, you are sometimes asked to do impossible things. And you look at the teacher and say to yourself, “Oh no, I could never do that.” But the teacher gives you options and reminds you that there’s beauty in the trying, and to only do what your body can do, and that’s enough. That’s enough! What a wonderful metaphor for life and for healing! Each day, take some baby steps and that’s enough.

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”  ~ Nelson Mandela

Yes, you will fall down again. Yes, you will take a few steps back sometimes. Be kind and forgiving toward yourself when this happens. You are doing your best in an impossible situation. Much is being asked of you. Be gentle with yourself, with your progress. For you will always get back up and move forward again. And when you are down and it’s so hard to get back up, remember to not rely on your own strength. Turn to God, again and again. God wants nothing more than your healing, so when you are crawling, reach up for strength. God will lift you.

Also, on those days when we have been knocked back a step, we need to remember to look back – look back to where we were in our healing two weeks ago, or two months, or two years. You will see progress. Your fears lessen, your flashbacks lessen, your engagement in life slowly increases. Look back, then look ahead again and take a step.

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

February 5, 2018

Healing doesn’t have to be Heavy

Laughing-Yoga-Smith-Center-Healing-Arts

“I believe in the healing power of laughter. I believe laughter forces us to breathe.”

– Brene Brown

The title for this blog floated into my brain during a group meditation at a Reiki class. I almost laughed out loud because looking around the circle we were all so serious in our quest for deepening. And of course, connecting with God, expanding our ability to Love in God’s name, forgiving our enemies, these are serious things! But we have to remember to laugh.

Healing from ANYTHING is difficult, whether it’s physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. Sometimes it’s a full time job, getting well. Everything starts to revolve around getting well. We have physical therapy, psychotherapy, yoga, hiking, prayer groups, whatever – and it’s easy to forget to find time and places to laugh.

“Man when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.” – Ken Kesey

But as Ken Kesey so profoundly states, losing your laugh means losing your footing. I would even say losing your laugh means losing your hope. What is more hopeful than laughter? I have a distinct memory of my first big laugh after I was sexually assaulted. I don’t think I really laughed for at least a month, which is pretty normal. I was deeply traumatized, focused on healing, still dealing with an investigation, and trying to wrap my head around what had happened. Trying not to be angry at God. All of it.

I don’t even remember what made me laugh, I just remember laughing deeply at something and in that moment, long lost endorphins flooded my body and I felt (could it be?) hope! I knew I was going to be okay. Laughing helped me feel normal, and connected, and alive in a way I hadn’t felt for some time. It was a gift, and it continued to grow and help me heal in the months and years following.

“What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.” –Yiddish Proverb

Those of us who have struggled with PTSD know the numbness that comes with it. If you’re not in a state of freak-out you’re just kind of numb. No highs, no lows, just existing. Laughter can break through that numbness, as it did for me, and give you a taste of feeling truly alive again.

Scientifically this is being proven to be true! Research shows that laughter lowers the level of stress hormones (epinephrine, cortisol, etc) in the blood and raises endorphin levels. It is now being seen for the healing force it is, boosting immune systems, lowering blood pressure, and soothing the souls of soldiers with PTSD, healing victims of trauma. Of course, this is in conjunction with other healing modalities, but laughter definitely enhances whatever else we’re doing.

“Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain.” – Charlie Chaplin

Sometimes we can seek laughter and find it. Other times it will sneak up on us and lighten our load. Interestingly, science shows us that real and fake laughter have the same effect on our physiology. This is why laughter therapies are springing up all around the world. It’s difficult when you’re feeling low, in grief, or focused on healing to think about doing something to make yourself laugh, but try! Try! Watch an old favorite show, go to a comedy club, gather with friends.

When friends gather, laughter is inevitable, and so is connection. Often with PTSD, we turn to isolation because it’s easier and we feel wounded and we don’t want others to see. But we need the connection, we need the laughter, and these things are blessed by God! The Divine doesn’t want you suffering in the depths of your soul. God wants us lifted up, laughing again, being Love.

Even the Dalai Lama is quoted as saying “I am a professional laugher!” He understands that laughter heals the soul and lifts the heart.

“Laughter is an instant vacation.” – Milton Berle

In other aspects of my life, I do comedy improv. I once remarked to a friend that it felt like an odd dichotomy, to write about healing spiritually from PTSD, and then do comedy improv. My friend just smiled and said, “They’re both healing. I don’t see them as opposing each other at all.” That was such a gift to hear! So I go forward, healing myself and hopefully others with laughter.

Give yourself the gift of laughter today. Healing doesn’t have to be heavy. Healing includes laughing.

Seriously.

You are Still Beloved

Victoria McGee

January 22, 2018

Happy New Year???

winter-3061397_1920

“Be here now.” ~ Ram Dass

There’s nothing like a new year to make us start “shoulding” on ourselves. We get caught up in the idea of resolutions and new beginnings, when really this man-made calendar has nothing to do with our inner path, or where our wisdom can take us if we are listening instead of planning.

I tried to have a happy new year. I really did. I was dealing with a ton of grief and I tried to shove it down and feel happy and hopeful about 2018. But I couldn’t do it. Of course, I hope 2018 is better than 2017, but my reserves of hope are depleted at this moment, so my cry of hope for the new year is more “meh” than “Yes!” When I got very honest with myself, I had to admit I was entering the new year feeling sad and empty.

And then I had to get okay with that.

Turning a calendar page cannot rush my process. Watching a ball drop cannot put balm on my wounds. Sad and empty is where I am in my processing of grief, and my job is to honor it and let it be my truth in this moment. Allowing is sometimes the most difficult part.

“You have to feel it to heal it.” ~ Unknown

We have all been raised and taught to compartmentalize our emotions. It’s actually a good life skill that helps us carry on sometimes when we must, in spite of what we are feeling. There are times when we absolutely love practicing this life skill, so we can avoid the emotions that seem so scary: fear, grief, guilt, rage, despair, disappointment. It’s daunting to unpack those sometimes. And yes, you don’t want to do it at the market, or at work, but they must be unpacked at some point.

If we don’t unpack them, life becomes a game of Whack-A-Mole, where no matter how many times we push the emotion down, it pops back up when we least expect it! So we must find a way to let the feelings out. This is different for everyone and every situation, and I urge you to identify what works for you and honor it. I tend to want to be alone and have privacy to process. When I don’t have the time or space to do this, I can start to feel like a pressure cooker. Others may want to let feelings out with someone there to witness and console. And for deep trauma and grief, there’s nothing quite like being able to unpack your feelings with a good therapist.

So how can God help in this process? There is no situation where God would not be helpful, but in applying spiritual principles to allowing and honoring our feelings, I find that inviting God in and then turning everything over to the Divine is how we start.

As I work through allowing myself to be sad and empty and bereft, I say this prayer:

Dear God, my __(any emotion)_____ is so powerful today. I can’t bear it alone. Please be with me, feel this with me, and help me feel safe in allowing the feeling to be felt and honored as deeply as possible. I turn this feeling over to you, Holy Spirit, to be healed, and I give you my heart to be comforted. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.

Whatever you are dealing with, and we’re ALL dealing with something, let us feel it. Feeling it is where the growth lies. There is no growth in carrying on and shoving things down. It takes courage to face these feelings, but the alternative is numbness, and an inauthentic life. What is the reward for such courage?

Eckhart Tolle says this:

If you had not suffered as you have, there would be no depth to you as a human being, no humility, no compassion.”

So let’s honor our feelings and not the calendar. Let’s begin each day anew instead of just one day each year. Wherever we are on our path is where we need to be right now.

God is with us.

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

January 9, 2018