Healing sexual trauma


#metoo #ChildAbusePrevention #SexualAssaultAwareness *Trigger Warning*


It seems on a regular basis, there are certain sexual abuse stories that make headlines, ones that finally get people’s attention. Truth be known that every 73 seconds, someone in the US is sexually assaulted. The statistics are worse worldwide. These statistics do not surprise me, I am actually more alarmed that many others are surprised. Our society is a petri dish for sexual abuse.

Sex is a basic physiological need. Healthy sexual development begins at day one of life. Our society tends to shame and repress our natural desires of sexual expression. So what do we do when we are not allowed to find healthy ways to express ourselves? … We hide it and seek out any opportunity to get our needs met no matter how wrong it may be which most often means taking advantage of vulnerable people. On top of this, we have a catch-22 in our society where we “train” children, our most precious and vulnerable, that they must obey authority figures and have no rights to say “No.” Then we neglect to teach children how to tune in and listen to their intuition as well as the skills they need to assert themselves in any context.

Sexual expression is a very complex and sensitive issue because even though we have been trained to feel mentally or morally wrong about it in many situations, even more conflicting for females. Yet sex is a fundamental physiological need, it feels good and is essential for holistic well-being. It is not enough to have the one ‘big talk’ or random assertion that “You should have no one touch you” and “to tell mom or dad if someone does”. It is a constant open dialogue in small teachable moments throughout life. It is in the subtle messages you send via your choice of words, clothes, media, and so on.

Although it angers me how ignorant people are to the prevalence of sexual abuse and that children are at greater risk with those they trust, I understand why we ignore the signs. To accept that this is going on in your city, your school, and even worse, your family would mean that you have to accept the responsibility that this went on without your awareness. Of course, it is easier to be in denial, it is a natural defense mechanism as who would want to take any responsibility for suffering.

The common reactions of when these stories of sexual abuse make headlines, “Yeah, let’s string ’em by their balls and make them suffer” or “They should rot in jail!” do not make things better. For me, those reactions come from the same vein as the initial crimes themselves, ignore the root problems, and no one can heal. I was sexualized and given inappropriate attention since I can first remember. I was molested by a neighbor and sexually harassed on a regular basis whilst attending a Catholic school. These events had led to traumatic consequences and emotional scars that I am still healing.

Only after years of having safe relationships where I could thoroughly process all the memories, feelings, and thoughts, I experienced a surprising sense to want to forgive all the boys and men who used me as an object and no longer wish ill on them. I understand that they were doing the best with the resources they had. I do not blame them per se, as we live in a culture that promotes sexual abuse. I choose to be part of the solution. I empower, educate, and support people to find healthy, respectful, and non-violent ways to get their needs met. I want to stress that forgiveness was never my goal nor do I believe people must forgive. This level of awareness only seemed to magically unfold as I gave myself permission to feel and heal. I had to learn to love and accept myself for where I was in my healing journey without pressure or expectation.


Here are links to get you started on promoting positive and empowering sexual development for children:

Top 10 Tips for Talking to Children about Sexuality by Vanessa Hamilton

https://e2epublishing.info/blog/2013/12/29/how-to-educate-your-child-in-body-safety

https://birdsandbeesandkids.com/

http://goodmenproject.com/families/the-healthy-sex-talk-teaching-kids-consent-ages-1-21/

http://coreparentingpdx.com/2013/sex-can-your-kids-really-talk-to-you/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joyce-mcfadden/things-little-girls-need-from-their-fathers_b_3348956.html

http://www.plannedparenthood.org/parents/resources-for-parents

Books

Talking with Your Child About Sex: Questions and Answers for Children from Birth to Puberty by Mary S. Calderone and James W. Ramey

Birds + Bees + YOUR Kids – A Guide to Sharing Your Beliefs about Sexuality, Love, and Relationships: Everything YOU Need To Know Before Middle School! by Amy Lang

10 Conversations to Have with your Teen about Sex, Dating & Relationships by Dr. Pepper Schwartz

Here are links on healing sexual trauma:

Sexual Healing

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/recovering-from-rape-and-sexual-trauma.htm

https://wgac.colostate.edu/support/sexual-assault/healing-from-childhood-sexual-assault/

DISCLAIMER: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

If you or someone you know is at risk of harm, please call or go to your local emergency center.

Positive Reframe on spilled milk

I am grateful I ran across a newsletter about Energy Parenting by Susan McLeod when my kids were little as it shown a unique light on my parenting and spiritual  journey. Here an excerpt from newsletter:

My parting story is borrowed from Jack Canfield about a mother and a young child. It sums up for me the essence of all things energy parenting:

A research scientist famous for dozens of medical breakthroughs was asked by a reporter why he was able to achieve so much more than the average scientist. He traced it to this early experience: When he was 2 years old, he tried to get the milk out of the refrigerator and ended up spilling all of it on the floor. His mother’s response wasn’t typical. She said, “What a wonderful mess you’ve made! I’ve never seen such a huge puddle of milk. Well, the damage is already done, so would you like to get down and play in the milk before we clean it up?” Indeed, he did. After a few minutes, his mother said, “Whenever you make a mess like this, eventually you’ll have to clean it up. How would you like to do that – with a sponge or a mop or a towel?” After they cleaned it up, the mother said, “What we have here is a failed experiment in how to carry a big bottle of milk with two tiny hands. Let’s go out in the backyard, fill the bottle with water and see if you can discover a way to carry it without dropping it.” The scientist told the reporter he knew at that moment, at that tender age, that he didn’t have to be afraid of making mistakes. He understood that mistakes were just opportunities for learning something new.

Give your children and YOURSELF this same gift of “no mistakes” –  freedom to explore living, loving and being human. And…if you feel the need to cry over spilled milk, do it – before or after you clean up and have another go at it! Feelings are our friends and they only need to be felt. They are the flagpoles of our soul; we need not fear them.

It helped give me permission to let go of behavioral management of kids, to just be present and enjoy my children. The fact that I felt I even needed permission to do this gives more credence to the unnecessary suffering I endured from my messes.  I don’t have to make up consequences or enforce anything. I can just use what is inherent and experience the manifestation of human development within the most influential relationship there is: parent and child.

Reframe on “Mental Illness”

I am grateful that there is a shift in language from “mental illness” to “mental health.” I have yet to meet an individual who was diagnosed with a “mental illness” that had no personal or family history, including past generations, of environments that had periods of overwhelming emotional, social and chemical toxins, or had a significant negative event occur during critical and sensitive periods of development. Unprocessed toxins build-up, dysregulate our systems, create dis-ease, leads to disconnection, disorder, and trauma, then pass on through generations until processed. Our society tends to promote toxins and violence as well as grossly neglects getting vital needs met which would best support us at times of stress and greater need. I believe this is a systematic problem and subversive dynamic which strongly contributes to the development of “mental illness” so why should the individual bare the weight of diagnosis and stigma?

Levine truama quote

On the flip side, I also remember what weight was lifted when I realized I was experiencing “depression”, “anxiety”, and “C-PTSD”. It gave a name to the battles in my mind, body, and heart as well as helped me to see that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. My central nervous system was responding as it should under great stress, keeping me in a heightened state of alert to process all the toxins and perceived threats. The names gave me something to target and fight against instead of myself. I am grateful for the people who saw my light, empathized, and supported me. They responded lovingly and did not react or shame me for my intensity and sensitivity as now I can truly appreciate all the trauma I had to process as it has made me a more wise, compassionate, and resilient soul.

The saddest part and why issues with mental health are so pervasive is all the surrounding shame, stigma, and negative judgment and reactions by others when one is vulnerable and reaches out. Consequently, this is highly likely exactly how the initial wounding occurred in childhood (i.e. being vulnerable and needing a safe, loving response yet getting punished or ridiculed instead). It is only after I felt I had healed from these “disorders” for a substantial period of time – a decade-plus – before I finally started to feel less shame around sharing openly about my journey.

To be honest, a part of me is still afraid to share this post and of other’s reactions. Fortunately, my secure wise mind is stronger but this is only more proof of how insidious the toxicity of other’s judgment and reactions affects us to our core. This often makes the hardest parts of our suffering to be endured alone, steeping our mind/body/heart connections in stress hormones, deeply ingraining the negative pathways, beliefs, and destructive habits, and heightening all the symptoms all because it feels scarier to reach out… judgment and silence are violence to the soul.

Of course, there is no one perfect way to address all these issues and meet vital needs as everyone is unique. Yet, I have found that unconditional love, kindness, attunement, compassion, understanding, safety, and assertive, non-violent communication in our relationships, especially in the parent/child relationship and our partnerships, to be the most effective for cultivating mental health. #endstigma

“Shame is an epidemic in our culture. And to get out from underneath it, to find our way back to each other, we have to understand how it affects us and how it affects the way we’re parenting, the way we’re working, the way we’re looking at each other….
If we’re going to find our way back to each other, we have to understand and know empathy, because empathy’s the antidote to shame. If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too. And so I’ll leave you with this thought. If we’re going to find our way back to each other, vulnerability is going to be that path…” ~ Brené Brown

Please take wonderful wonderful care of yourself and each other. Every moment is a gift we get to choose to love or fear, judge or accept, fight or connect, heal or wound. Choose wisely as you do not know when your last moment will be.

If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, call 911 or visit your local emergency room

Call 1-800-273-8255 https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Text 741741 from anywhere in the USA https://www.crisistextline.org/

Outside of the US, check out: http://www.defyingmentalillness.com/worldwide-suicide-help…/

Please take wonderful care of yourself… It may not feel like you can or it doesn’t seem worth it yet I know that the world needs you and what you have to offer. You deserve a safe and non-judgmental place to process your pain and discover your gift and wisdom.

Disclaimer

Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical, and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

“I was spanked and I’m fine!”

I understand how anyone who has been physically punished would have to make sense of being hit in some way. You would need to believe that there must be some value in it… I mean why else would the person you love and trust the most hit you and make you suffer more…You must have deserved it. Right!?!

It is a step in healing when you take the time to reflect on your upbringing. The heartbreaking part for me is that the majority of people have been trained to dismiss their suffering and believe “they are fine” and that we are getting what we “need” to learn lessons and respect, then stop there as their conclusion. They don’t even know that they have other options to reconcile the conflicting messages. Stuck to rationalize it and pass on the suffering to the next generation.

From my experience, we are not fine. Seriously, look at the divorce and crime rates, suicides, homicides, the addictions and growing list of diseases… If you don’t know how these are related, then you definitely need to do your research. Start here at Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Spanking does to child development what hitting a partner does to a committed relationship…

The reality is the majority of our vital needs are neglected, abused, dismissed or propaganda-ed which is detrimental to our wellbeing and humanity.  The fact that one thinks it is normal and completely acceptable to hit a child during the most critical and sensitive period of human development is proof in itself that they are not fine. Even if one was “fine,” often times there are contextual variables affecting outcomes so naturally,  as humans, will find some way to rationalize and find ways in which spanking seems effective, oblivious of the resiliency factors at play or the future negative consequences.  I assure you that no matter what resiliency factors may be present, disconnection at some level has occurred, whether it be emotional, mental, physical, relational or spiritual. Spanking does to a child’s development what hitting a partner does to a marriage…

To me, we are all born inherently good and those who act ‘bad’ are those with less vital needs met and more pain to heal.  Everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they are aware of, have access to, or what was literally beaten into them. Fortunately, we can heal past negative events and discover new resources. I have found that secure attachments, co-regulation, compassion, connection, mindfulness, and nonviolent communication are the most effective ways to nurture human beings and discover mutually satisfying solutions.

Consciously choose to be part of the solution, not the problem. Embrace fear, ease stress, nurture needs ❤

Here are some resources to support positive, peaceful, and conscious parenting:

http://www.littleheartsbooks.com/

https://www.ahaparenting.com/

https://www.handinhandparenting.org/

https://www.teach-through-love.com/

“By understanding and increasing just this one capacity of the human brain, an enormous amount of social change can be fostered. Failure to understand and cultivate empathy, however, could lead to a society in which no one would want to live—a cold, violent, chaotic, and terrifying war of all against all. This destructive type of culture has appeared repeatedly in various times and places in human history and still reigns in some parts of the world. And it’s a culture that we could be inadvertently developing throughout America if we do not address current trends in child rearing, education, economic inequality, and our core values.” ― Bruce D. Perry, Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential–and Endangered

To learn more about the side-effects of spanking, click the following links:

The effects of spanking confirmed by 50 years of research

https://edition.cnn.com/2017/12/05/health/spanking-dating-violence-study/index.html

http://www.naturalchild.org/jan_hunt/spanked.html

Disclaimer

Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers,  as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

Steps to Healing Conversations

“People start to heal the moment they feel heard.” ~Cheryl Richardson

steps to healing conversations

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand;
they listen with the intent to reply.”
~Stephen R. Covey
I synthesized these steps for adult conversations. When applying these steps, please be compassionate with yourself and others. Change is hard, especially as our negative reactions are often unconscious. It is easy to get stuck in our comfort zones even if they are filled with unhealthy patterns of interaction because they are familiar and “safe.” Anything new, even if healthy, will often be perceived at first as “threatening” so expect discomfort, resistance, and regression. It takes on average 21 times to practice a new skill in order to make it a secure, conscious connection in your mind/body/soul and relationships. It takes, even more times if there is any related trauma connected to the negative reactions. Change is only possible if you take responsibility for your needs and actions as well as consistently make authentic efforts to change and empathetically listen. Everyone deserves to be safe and treated with respect. Deep breaths, baby steps, and trust the process.
You can learn more about me and my online services at Wecounsel
Take Wonderful Care,
blog signature
Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only as this online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention.  To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

Non-Violent Reality

Non-Violent Reality

“Reality is what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is what we believe.
What we believe is based upon our perceptions.
What we perceive depends upon what we look for.
What we look for depends upon what we think.
What we think depends upon what we perceive.
What we perceive determines what we believe.
What we believe determines what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is our reality.”
― Gary ZukavDancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics

Every moment is a gift where we can learn to choose how we want to respond. I believe we are all born inherently good and that all negativity comes from a state of stress. Stress results in our brain-body and central nervous system when we perceive a threat to our wellbeing or worldview; have unmet needs; have a build-up of toxins (emotional, chemical, physical, environmental), and/or lack of skill. When we take time to notice our thoughts, feelings, thoughts, actions, and sensations and find positive, safe ways to process them, then we can connect to our wise self and respond in compassionate ways to get our vital needs met as well as ease stress for all those involved. We can transform fear to love, stress to resilience and trauma to wisdom when we choose to expand our awareness and be (a) present. Embrace your fears, love more, and trust the process.

Deep breaths, baby steps and take wonderful care and yourself and one another ❤

Debra

What motivates us?

I have learned that the most gratifying and sustaining form of motivation comes from within, intrinsically. Sadly, much of our world is built on a punitive or reward based system. Most of us are doing things to avoid pain or gain an external reward.

There are countless thoughts, feelings, and variables influencing a person’s action and self-worth. Much of these are suppressed, dismissed, ignored, unappreciated, refuted, shamed, criticized, rejected, etc. Our self-worth deteriorates into a distorted picture of what others think and by how we are treated. We focus on external things to not only judge our own wellbeing and value but to also make us feel better (or worse in most cases).

I have an extensive history of being successful: captain, honor roll student, summa cum laude, job promotions, Master’s degree, business owner, happily married, brilliant children, yet whenever anything goes slightly off, all I could see is a big fat “F” and feeling terrified of what other’s reactions may be. Most often people’s attempts to comfort felt dismissive or insulting. When I was in a depressive, stressed state and one exuberantly pointed out everything I have to be grateful for or even what I did right, it sadly only highlighted my inadequacy…that I even fail at being grateful and seeing my strengths. This may seem extreme yet this had been one my realities I had to identify and embrace.

Now I am well aware of where this all comes from as I have dedicated my life to finding peace. Fortunately, I have many, many more moments of peace and joy yet I am human and still get triggered.  These moments have grown exponentially the more I embrace my fears and follow my light. I have a history of abuse, shame, and guilt to heal. Accepting pain and negativity was the only way to survive and still be next to the people I loved and needed the most. I know from the bottom of my heart that the cast of people in my childhood were truly doing the best they could with the resources they were aware of and had given to them… You only know what you know and can’t give what you have never received.

I vow every day to give everyone the unconditional love and support they need to be honest, free and process their pain. Our universe, body, mind, and heart have a highly intelligent and sensitive communication system that regulates beautifully when innate resources are given time and space to do so.  It is amazing what the one’s will manifests when trusted and nurtured from beginning to end.  Love and connection are the ultimate inherent rewards.

The tricky part is that this ability to love unconditionally is developed in our higher, more evolved brain. Our brains develop sequentially over time from bottom to top. The more consistent, reliable and trusting support we have with someone who is safe, warm and responsive when we perceive a threat – real or imagined – and experience fear, then the more optimal and secure our connections, integration, development, and relationships are.  Our pleasure-seeking and pain-avoidance reaction is housed in our lower, reptilian brain, which is unconscious and highly sensitive thus another’s negative reaction, gets easily integrated into our central nervous system and being. It can take a lifetime to unravel these connections and discover what motivates you intrinsically. To discover this path, I recommend finding safe places and ways to process negativity as well as connect to what brings you the most joy, peace, and light to your life.

Here is a link for deeper exploration into the dynamic of avoiding pain/seeking pleasure and the parent/child relationship:

https://titaniumsuccess.com/6-rules-of-pain-and-pleasure-the-science-behind-all-human-action/

When a Parent’s ‘I Love You’ Means ‘Do as I Say’  by Alfie Kohn

Take Wonderful Care,

Debra

You can learn more about me and my online services at Wecounsel

Disclaimer

Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision-making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers and seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

A metamorphosis from a rag to Mother…

I dreamed of being a mother since I was little. I was the go-to babysitter for my 11 older cousins, five older siblings, and our community. I worked in daycare centers, schools, and specialized in child development, parenting, and marriage and family therapy when I got my Master of Science degree in Human Development and Family Studies. After getting married, I even chose to wait five years before having a child to ensure we worked through major issues, that my partner and I were secure and ready to start a family and have a conscious conception.

During the process of defending my thesis, I discovered I was pregnant. We chose to conceive a bit sooner in our 4th year of marriage because I was greatly sensing that many of my clients, who were parents, weren’t buying my positive and non-punitive approach parenting. They didn’t think I could truly understand and give advice as I was not a parent. I could see where they were coming from yet wanted to prove to them that it was not only possible but ideal, and of course, my partner and I were ready.

You could imagine my shock and dismay when after my son was born, I did not want to hold him. All I wanted was to eat my bagel, drink my smoothie, and be left alone. They did bring him to my chest right away as I had asked and I could see the herd of nurses and doctors and my partner taking care of him so I knew he was alive and being attended to. I shocked myself again that when they asked if I wanted him in the nursery or my room, I was going to respond with ‘the nursery’ yet my partner jumped in and said ‘our room’ as he would stay there all night.

I am grateful my partner asserted himself and our agreed-upon goal of keeping our son in our hospital room and he did take care of our son all night. I was also blessed that he had three weeks off of work for family-leave to take care of our son and me. For most of my son’s first year of life, I remember many times feeling numb, exhausted, and negative. I could look at my son and feel empty. When he was calm and happy, I was too but babies have many more times of crying than not. The most positive feelings I had were more often for my partner as he was so helpful, sensitive, and watching him be a father made me love him more each day.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it was not all a bed of roses in the marriage department either. We told family, who mostly lived out of state, to come after my partner went back to work so we could bond as a family and spread out the support. When my family came to visit, my partner and I had a huge fight about me giving preferential treatment to my family compared to his family. It wasn’t pretty and extremely embarrassing for me as it ended with my partner throwing my breakfast, tea and all, at me in bed…Apparently, he was on his way to bring me breakfast in bed when I made a triggering comment to him. Fortunately, my therapist skills kicked in as I worked very hard to empathize with his feelings and needs during a long, private conversation we had in our laundry room while cleaning the feta cheese omelet and tea off our bedding.

During this time, I was also training to be a birth doula and had to submit my birth story as part of the training. My trainers were surprised by how negative my story was. Their response then surprised me because I thought my story was honest and highlighted my gratitude for my partner which was very positive from my point of view. I had also suffered from major depression for at least a decade of my life so compared to my past, I was doing amazing and feeling quite decent, calm, and very proud of my accomplishments. Sure, I still felt more like a rag than a mother but at least I wanted to live and knew things would only get better. I had come a long way in my healing journey. I felt like I was well connected to my thoughts and feelings like I was objectively witnessing this metamorphosis. I knew this transition would be hard and messy as raising a child is the hardest and least appreciated job out there so I expected and accepted this harsh reality.

I remember when my son was about 11 months old and I was changing his diaper before nap time. That feeling of being a rag, like my sole value, was to be spit on, peed on, defecated on, and to be used at one’s disposal 24/7 to clean up everything, was particularly strong that day. Being nap time, my son was extremely fussy and resistant to going to sleep while I was overwhelmed and anxious about all the things I had to get done. Our clash of needs instantly brought rage and hopelessness to my being. I put him in his crib and stormed off to my room. I took some deep breaths, reminded myself that my partner would be home tonight and he would help me as he does so I can handle this. I felt calm enough to go back to my son to gently stroke his arms and face. I looked him in the eyes and could feel calm, joy, and love.

Still gazing and warmly engaging with my son, my train of thought then drifted to my mother who did not have a husband who would come home and help her. Yes, he worked and provided money, shelter, and food yet never changed a diaper for six kids. My mother did it all. If she could do it, then I could definitely do it. There was also a current news story about a mother who killed her two children in a town near my hometown. The news started to rehash the story about Andrea Yates who drowned her five kids in a bathtub and how could mothers do this to their children…

It was at that moment and for the first time in my life, I had complete empathy for those mothers. Here I was so full of resources and support yet just a moment ago, I had so much rage in me because my baby is crying at me and I could not stop him. The negative thoughts that flooded my body like “What is wrong with me that I can’t comfort my child?!” Even though my logical, wise and conscious mind knows he’s only a baby and this isn’t a personal attack on my abilities, all I could feel was inadequacy, desperation, abandonment, and rage. Had I not had so much recovery time, resilience, support, and positive coping skills, I could have easily hurt him at some point. I can only imagine what these women and their mothers and grandmothers had lived through… What their relationships were like with their partners and family? … What unprocessed trauma was tormenting their psyche and connection to body, heart, and wise mind?

As a person who is passionate about cultivating healthy relationships, maximizing human potential, healing trans-generational trauma as well as prioritizes taking responsibility, self-inquiry, and reflection, I have been able to pinpoint the trauma and adverse childhood experiences that resulted in depression, anxiety as well as many negative core beliefs and reactions. I could also connect how all these experiences and negativity were negatively affecting my attachment and relationship with my son. As well-educated and empowered I was for my son’s birth, I was sadly triggered in the hospital environment and was easily persuaded to accept interventions I did not want. This set off a cascade of medical interventions that lead to 53-hour excruciating labor and delivery, two and half weeks earlier than expected.

Yes, I know, many mothers have it worse and I should be glad my son was healthy and alive as I have had subsequent miscarriages and a stillbirth so that is painful on so many other levels. Regardless, our bodies react to pain in the same way and all we need is to perceive a threat to our well-being to trigger fear and stress responses. Based on my past, I got triggered which shut down the connection to my heart and wise mind when my son was born. Food and rest were all I wanted because I had not eaten in days and endured the most physical pain and exertion in my life. I was in survival mode.

After having a supportive, positive homebirth with my daughter where I did not feel triggered, I noticed how alive, connected, and joyful I was within my being and with my daughter. This stark contrast made me realize that I had postnatal depression and anxiety with my son. I still had bouts of anxiety and panic attacks after my daughter’s birth as she had different needs and temperament but I could see them more clearly and respond with love for her and myself more quickly. I also had more safe places to process my pain and have forgiven myself as well as applied my positive trust-based and attachment parenting to my relationship with my son. Every past relationship pattern can be healed in safe, nurturing, and responsive relationships today. He will be 16 is a few weeks and he is the most compassionate, responsible, and honest teenager I have ever known. Our relationship is a constant source of light, transformation, and joy in my life.

So for all those parents who didn’t seem to believe me that you don’t need to punish children and that you can be kind and respectful to get them to cooperate, I am happy to report that my kids are my living proof. I admit, what I did learn and did not truly understand before having children was utterly how demanding, exhausting, and challenging parenting is 24/7 thus I gained a ton more empathy for parents, especially mothers. You certainly cannot do it alone and you need as much non-judgmental and compassionate support as possible as well as prioritize your well-being. Keep doing things daily that nurture yourself and bring you comfort or joy no matter how small they may seem. There is also no one way to parent. It is best to connect and trust your heart and listen to your wise mind.

lessons from my son meme

Here is a video on creating secure infant attachment

If you are worried that you or someone you know may be experiencing signs of postnatal depression check out the following links:

8 Little-Known Signs of Postpartum Depression

Postpartumprogress.com

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/postpartum-depression-and-the-baby-blues.htm

7 Reasons Why Mothers Don’t Disclose Their Scary Thoughts

And Dads can get it too: https://www.parents.com/parenting/dads/sad-dads/

https://www.mother.ly/life/25-self-care-ideas-for-exhausted-parents

If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, please call 911 or visit your local emergency room

Call 1-800-273-8255 https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Text 741741 from anywhere in the USA https://www.crisistextline.org/

Take Wonderful Care,

Debra

Disclaimer

Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers and seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

Negative effects of toxic stress

All negativity comes from a state of stress within our central nervous system. Stress can be an emotional, mental, physical, or chemical stimulus that is prolonged, unpredictable, and/or overwhelming to our body and mind. Stress can come in the form of having big and conflicting emotions at once, lacking skills and not knowing how to handle the situation appropriately, or having unmet needs like nutrition, rest, connection, etc. Any stress that goes on unexpressed, unprocessed, and/or misunderstood can become toxic and traumatic.  Naturally, experiences that involve actual or perceived death or serious injury increases the potential for toxic levels of stress and trauma. Toxic stress and trauma lead to dysregulation which is being in a state of STRESS beyond one’s window of tolerance and does the following:

  • Alters the chemistry and functioning of your mind/body/heart connections;
  • Creates unconscious emotions of fear;
  • Activates stress hormones and flight/flight/freeze mode of reactions;
  • Decreases ability to access higher brain functions (i.e. problem-solving, planning, language, knowing right from wrong etc.)
  • Decreases our tolerance level and increases sensitivity to stress
  • Creates more rigid, inflexible, incoherent, temperamental and chaotic reactions
  • Click the following link for more information on Effects of Toxic Stress

Our natural stress response exists on a continuum from hyper-aroused to hypo-aroused with mild to extreme reactions. Hyper-aroused is when we are over-active, on alert and in fight or flight mode. In this state, we may act out aggressively or feel anxious. Hypo-aroused is when we shut down and are in a state of freeze or collapse mode. In this state, we are disconnected within ourselves and with others. We tend to withdraw and feel numb, empty and/or depressed. Just as we are all different, so are our responses to stress. There are many contextual layers that influence the variance in our responses and the likelihood of negative effects like our window of tolerance, temperament, environment, genetic expression, the availability of protective and supportive relationships along with the presence of risk and resiliency factors.

Our experiences, especially the ones in childhood, create our templates and filters for how to process stimuli and stressors and how to respond. The first three years of life creates the blueprint for all future relationships. Most caregivers do not realize how impactful their reactions, mood, and behaviors are on their children. Children depend on caregivers for everything so if a caregiver is unavailable, angry, depressed, neglectful, out of control or acting in a way the child doesn’t understand, then the child will perceive this as a threat to their livelihood which will activate their stress response system. It is important to note that it doesn’t matter if the stress is a real threat or not as our central nervous system just has to perceive it as a threat. Our perception and interpretation of a current event instantly get filtered through our past lens of experiences and developed belief system. I highly recommend learning more about how Adverse Childhood Experiences affect our health.

From my experience, negative consequences such as conflict, “disorders” and “diseases” are the result of an overstimulated, fearful and dysregulated central nervous system which manifests itself through different reactions and symptoms dependent on our interpersonal neurobiology. This is why they’re so many new diagnoses, disorders, and diseases as they keep evolving along with the dynamics and increase of toxins within our minds, bodies, relationships, environment, and our world.

As a society, we have failed to promote sustainable, compassionate ways to get our vital needs met. We all have vital needs to feel safe, love, connected, heard, and understood. When we meet these needs, then we can naturally calm our central nervous system which allows us to access our higher brain functions and innate intelligence as well as integrate new positive experience and coping skills and even heal past trauma. When we consistently meet these vital needs, our central nervous will become securely integrated. When our brains are well integrated then we can optimally process stimuli, self-regulate, connect as well as enable more intricate functions to emerge like insight, empathy, intuition, and morality. This in-depth level of integration results in greater kindness, resilience, and well-being. We need to be child-wise and relationship-rich society.

To learn more how you can promote sustainable, compassionate ways to get your needs met in your family, check out my post Promoting Resiliency and Connection Tips

You can learn more about me and my online therapeutic services at WeCounsel

Take Wonderful Care,

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Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers and seeking referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA