6 Ways To Cope With Trauma

You are not your trauma.

You are not your trauma.

A few years ago, the universe gave me a beautiful son, E. He suffered a stroke shortly after birth, and then was diagnosed with a rare food allergy syndrome called FPIES. It made him allergic to, well, food. Everything he ate caused him to vomit to the point of shock. It was a scary time for all of us. 

Fast forward three years. E is energetic. He runs faster than any adult can keep up with, and he has cat-like balance and loves playing soccer. It's pretty fantastic, considering we didn't know if he would ever walk, much less run. 

E also eats dozens of foods now, and only reacts to a handful. He continues to heal and overcome severe food-related trauma. We've sought out every possible treatment to help him, and have found one that addresses his trauma as well as his allergies. In short, my kid is a miracle. 

Every single day, this tiny human reminds me that we are meant to heal. We get a cut, and our skin immediately begins the process of closing up the wound to keep infection at bay.

But sometimes we need more help. Sometimes we need to address the underlying issue that creates bigger issues for a deeper healing to occur. 

During the last few years, I've experienced some trauma of my own. Walking through some of the darkest times of my life, while my son fought to stay on this planet, brought me very close to the end of my own world more than once. Because that's what trauma does: It pushes you and buries you and turns everything upside down until you don't know what's real, much less how to get out of the alternate universe the trauma has created. 

1. Acknowledge the trauma.

I remember very little of the first year-and-a-half of my son's life. I know I did all of the things moms are supposed to do, but I was incredibly overwhelmed by the demands of a special needs baby with profound eating issues. I had to shut down a bit in order to survive.

That wasn't a great thing, but it wasn't the worst thing ever. In my moments of powering down, I acknowledged that life was too big and too much to process and I purposefully put it on a shelf to deal with when I had the capacity to feel the feelings and melt down in a safe place with a safe person to help carry me through it. But doing even a little of that required acknowledging the trauma as it was happening, and at times the historical triggers that magnified real-time pain.

2. Seek professional help.

This is a must. There are no substitutions for professional care. Sometimes you need the care of a gifted therapist to help you acknowledge the trauma, or depth thereof.

Do your homework, ask trusted friends for referrals, and if you can't afford it, seek student counselors at a local university who are overseen by veteran licensed therapists.

You matter. Your wounds matter. You can heal, and you can have help along the way.

3. Don't be afraid to try something new.

During the height of my son's battle with FPIES, we soon became aware that he was dealing with deep emotional trauma that he had no way to process. When traditional medicine seemed to give up on him and suggest extreme treatments (and to be clear, we were perilously close to needing those treatments and we would have done them), we sought out help in the naturopathic field, because naturopaths are legit doctors who go through actual medical school and have a great grasp of conventional medicine, as well as alternative treatments.

We chose to do Neuro Feedback Therapy (NFT) for E and after two weeks, we saw a notable improvement in his willingness to eat. In two months, he started eating one entire meal a day. Two years later, he eats almost anything and has learned to trust his body, his parents, and the food we give him. My husband and I saw such a dramatic improvement, we began NFT with our own therapists. It was an invaluable tool for our entire family and has helped us all heal from trauma. Maybe it's super woo, but it's woo with a fair amount of science behind it. 

4. Find islands of sanity.

Your best friend, a fancy coffee, a late-night drive with your favorite music, your work, your family, whatever. Find the thing that reconnects you to who you are, even if it's a temporary reconnection. You are not your trauma. You are a whole being and you are still in there. Find you, even if it's fleeting.

5. Trust your body and intuition.

When you've sought the help you need, return to the highest truth you know: You and your body are wise. You are meant to heal and recover and thrive. You might not see that now, and that's okay. You don't need to. But as you reconnect to yourself and receive the help you are asking for, remember you are innately wise and can tap into that wisdom. I mean it. YOU ARE WISE.

6. Grace.

Give yourself grace, darling. Grace is the first step towards true empowerment. You are doing hard work on this planet, work that only you can do, on a timeline that only matters to you. Give yourself grace as you work through the tedious moments, the recurring themes, the lessons that seem to need learning over and over again.

You'll get it. I promise. But first, grace for you.

You are brave. You are wise. You are capable of recovering and healing. You've got this, even when you feel like you don't.

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