8 years. It’s crazy to think about all that has happened in 8 years. We certainly never thought we’d have the type of year we’ve had.
8 years ago today, I woke up, crying and afraid from a nightmare. I haven’t shared this much because I felt weird about it. While I believe we know things are coming, that we have strong intuition that can alert us, I was still in a place of being worried what others would think of that belief. I woke up, not able to remember anything from that nightmare. But, I felt this deep grief. I wrote it off to being worried about my cousin who was in the hospital but we had actually gotten good news the day before and were looking to hear about more good news that day.
As I opened social media, this was the first thing I saw. This quote.
“When life gives you 100 reasons to cry, show life you have 1000 reasons to smile.”
This quote would stick with me.
I had trouble shaking the grief that morning. I went about my day, a visit to my cousin’s sons, a visit to the hospital where my cousin laid in an induced coma, then to my favorite coffee shop to meet a friend. We were heading to watch the marathon. It was her first time and I was excited to show her this fun experience.
I’ll never forget the moments that felt like hours, the people, the words yelled by those around us including, “Don’t worry, it’s just an electrical explosion” (to which, I literally mouthed, “no. it’s not.”). I’ll never forget what I felt or saw in those moments and going forward. I will never forget the ringing in my ears, being unable to call anyone, our escape running across the city, the moment I finally ran into a restaurant my family was at having lunch and so much more, much of which I will never share because graphic details are not needed.
There is SO MUCH to my story that I can’t go through it all here. (I do have a longer blog that I kept through those years. I’ll link it at the bottom.) I experienced a complete numbness (and leg shaking) for about 5 days before intense and debilitating anxiety attacks began. I would experience a roller coaster for the next year and 8 months, bouncing between anxiety/hypervigilance/frustration and numbness/deep depression. The survivor’s guilt. The panic attacks were frequent, my leg bounced like a jackhammer constantly, literally daily. Everyone started identifying me with this even coming up with little nicknames. You can read a little about that and my determination to not let this become my whole story, here in my last blog post.
I experienced a lot of guilt and frustration over the years. I felt like I had no right to be struggling while others lost lives and had physical injuries. Two veterans helped me by being my friends and justifying my struggle, reminding me that what I experienced was nothing anyone is prepared for or could be prepared to deal with. Still, I found myself carry that. The strongest thing that reduced it was when a friend and amputee from that day told me that she sometimes feels it’s harder for those with invisible injuries because people can’t see or understand the pain. She told me, with her hand on mine, that what I felt was justified. I immediately started crying and realized I was still holding onto that feeling and needed to hear it from her.
It's the people. It's not just the team of support I surrounded myself with from therapists to healers but also the community and the love of the family we built.
You can say, this experience is where I found my voice, strengthened my faith, learned how powerful I am and gained so much perspective on what’s important, who was true and so so many other things. I woke up to so much that I didn't even know was there.
I found myself unable to have small talk and have to share what I was feeling on any particular day (because, hello, roller coaster) with every person I saw/talked to. So, I decided I had to just put it out there, on social media and then, turned into a blog. It was easier to just write it all than have a bunch of conversations. It was RAW. I shared it ALL. And something I did for myself and to share a voice for others who had the “invisible injuries” turned out to have an impact I hadn’t anticipated. People were finding solace in my words. Others were finding that they understood better how to help their loved ones though trauma (both this particular one and others.) It was worth putting ALL of myself and my pain out there.
I had never had my voice before like this. I always said things were okay if they weren't. I never spoke up for myself or others. I never felt I could. This changed it all.
I knew I could move on from this in time, if I put my faith in that. I knew I could learn and grow from this experience. The pain I felt, the pain others felt and the loss of life had to turn into purpose. I refused to believe that I couldn’t fully heal from this experience. I refused to believe that this would forever impact me in the way it was at that time. (It WILL always be with me but in different ways.) My faith wavered. I hit the lowest of lows in that first year. But, I always came back to faith. I knew that I could do this with a team of support and hitting it from every angle possible: therapy, group support, connection, spiritual and energy healing (this is what I attribute most of my healing to). When I look back, I think attending every event and support group actually stalled things a bit. They had a good purpose but looking back I see how they heled me back, but that’s for another time.
Trauma makes us feel powerless. In some cases, that is true to a certain extent. It wouldn’t be right to continue with my own story of power if I didn’t make clear that in instances of racism and the trauma it inflicts (or in instances where people are still experiencing their trauma like abuse), there is loss of power. I hope and will continue to do my part to fight for that trauma to cease so that the healing process can finally begin. For this, in my story and that of other traumas, I’m talking inner power in healing from trauma that is no longer actually happening. A one time event or a series of events that already happened and are no longer happening except in the after-effects can be healed. It may not be fully healed right away and/or make take quite some time but it can get easier and easier over time as you unpack and feel the power and inside of you. I reminded myself and was reminded by my support team, of this power.
I had already been spending years unpacking how we all experience trauma, how it presents and how it’s handed down (or not). But, this experience made me look even deeper in myself and in trauma as a whole. It led me to where I am now personally and professionally.
It also cemented for me that negative actions, behaviors and beliefs are rooted in some type of trauma and experience. I made it my hobby and then my life’s work to understand this and to help people heal.
As in times of struggle for anyone, we learn who our people are, who fully supports us, who can’t (due to their own traumas). We start to put into perspective what matters, how holding on to the past, how fear of taking changes, how staying in places that don’t help us grow and be happy isn’t worth it.
I had said to her before, “I feel like I lost a piece of my soul.” And then earlier in 2015, we did a “soul retrieval” and I felt just a bit more whole again. I also had someone tell me how they felt I had something trying to work it’s way out and my shaking made that obvious. I was surprised by this person saying it and it’s exactly what I had felt.
On this December day, in the midst of this session, I began to have what felt like a panic attack. My entire body got hot, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I had a moment when I thought, “should I say something?” And then “No. This is supposed to happen.” So, I let it. I began to shake and I fell over and passed out. When I woke, moments later, I felt lighter than I had maybe ever. She told me that she kept working and that she felt an intense energy/entity leave my body as it went calm after convulsing. It was as I’d always felt, something was in me. I personally see it as me absorbing a lot of energies of fear/anger/grief on that day. I tend to absorb. That all, together, in my body for a year and 8 months, was now one energy. I was finally free of it.
The proof was there. I was in multiple situations over the next week that would usually cause my leg to shake uncontrollably and other physical anxiety symptoms. In these situations I was still. Completely calm and still. And I felt it inside. What had felt heavy every day, like a weight literally on my chest and heart, was clear and open. Once that energetic piece and the physical symptoms healed, I continued the spiritual and inner work on this and all other traumas and old wounds I continue to uncover.
I have made incredible friends, have seen so much humanity and love, and found light in the dark.
Now, to use that VOICE to speak and act on injustice, that FAITH to continue my own soul healing and helping others on theirs, that POWER to know that we all have more power inside of us than we’ve been allowed to realize and using it for good, that PERSPECTIVE to continue helping me see what’s most important.
You may not always feel like you have the power within you to overcome but I want to be here, to remind you that you do.