If you’re in the process of coming back to yourself after trauma, injury, or illness, you know it’s not easy. If you’re on this journey, you’re likely fatigued, physically and emotionally. You may be uncertain or afraid. If you’re lucky, you may also be seeing a glimpse of hope or opportunity. Regardless, the path of recovery takes intention, work, perseverance and extreme gentleness. Below is my story along with some gems that I have learned from others. I hope it serves you well..
In November 2016, on Thanksgiving Day, I received a phone call that my mom (my sweet, crazy, fiercely loving mother) was in the ICU, very near death after suffering from a silent pneumonia and subsequently several strokes. She was in the hospital for 6 weeks and thank G-d is here today. The following spring and fall, our family endured two significant traumatic experiences requiring long term recovery, and what seems like unbelievable emotional endurance and growth. Then, in February, I was t-boned in my car and sustained a back, neck and leg injury. Let’s not forget, I had already been working with my adrenal fatigue and everything that was happening was an adrenal nightmare.
I found myself broken. Broken physically, spiritually and emotionally, and yet, also somehow growing, getting stronger, finding something in myself that I had forgotten or buried.
At the same time, I was helping others access their strength, dig deep, be vulnerable.
Here’s what I’ve learned from this incredible journey.
First, finding yourself and re-accessing your sense of strength and self after trauma, injury or illness can feel insurmountable. The physical and emotional pain can be so heavy that when we’re in this place, we feel weakened on every level and sometimes we don’t recognize ourselves. We may feel lost or afraid. Often, people feel changed or transformed in some way.
This transformation is the essence of healing, a culmination of many stages we move through to come back to ourselves. It comes from courage, vulnerability and love. Through these experiences, we’ve changed, and we must re-emerge, re-build and come out stronger.
If you’re reading this post, chances are you’re ready to take a look at your journey, to start asking questions and to begin the process of healing and learning from your experience. Below are the stages that I went through and have observed in others. Like the stages of grief, they flow in a certain order and yet, you may need to revisit some stage or another to continue healing in a certain way.
1. Tune in. Assess where you are. Look for the lesson:
I have always believed, and now believe more than ever, that everything that happens in our lives, happens for a reason. Life unfolds along our path and provides us with opportunities to grow. The pain and challenges hold lessons for us. This does not mean that we somehow deserve what’s happening. More, that this life is an opportunity for our souls to more closely align with G-d, or spirit, or universe, whatever speaks to you. At some point, while trauma was piling up, I had to ask myself, “What's here for me to learn? What lessons am I being handed?" As I began to listen, I realized that I was stuck in rigidity, perfection and control. I had lost my connection to my true self, my sacred feminine, and my personal truth as a healer. I needed, really, really, needed to be cracked open, vulnerable and lost. To survive, I had to access my true self, realize my vulnerability, face my fear, and find my faith. This was an opportunity. It’s not that I deserved any of the pain and suffering that I endured. It’s that these challenges were a part of my path to growth. Your truth may be similar or different, but tune in, ask the question. Listen closely. You may learn that you are stronger than you thought or that you have a voice that needs to be heard. From this place, you become open, you realize that there are infinite opportunities and you may get a glimpse of hope.
2. Seek acceptance and gratitude:
We can start healing when we accept where we are. After tuning in, and then only from this place of knowing and gaining understanding, do we get to own this journey to recovery and wellness. The tuning in and understanding creates an opening for acceptance, and with acceptance, we can allow peace to seep back in. Without a sense of peace, we lose the ability to grow, to recover, to gain full access to our inner wisdom. From a clear place of acceptance, we can look around and see what is good. Sometimes the things that happen to us are so incredibly terrible, that finding acceptance and gratitude seems impossible. If you are in the midst of an illness, loss of a family member, betrayal in your marriage, or the million of other deeply soul shattering things that can happen to us as humans, you have a choice. In these moments, you can search for little bits of acceptance and gratitude or you can choose not to. For me, while I worked to accept the challenges, I continually needed to remind myself that I was grateful for the health that I had, that my children were safe, and that I had the strength to see this through. Those moments kept me alert and alive and served as a reminder that I still had work to do and that I had work that I wanted to do.
3. Find a network and prioritize:
When shit hits the fan, we have no choice but to start prioritizing and quickly. Looking back, I realize that I dropped groups of people and commitments from my calendar. I dove into a minimalist life. I had no energy or desire to fuel those things that were not really important to me. I connected with only my truest friends. I ended many volunteer commitments. I prioritized my close family and friends and and they were there for me in a way that I could never repay. Honestly, because of my perfectionism, I felt horrible that I was somehow now that person that was always in crisis. I had always been so put together. My network was there for me through the messy, yucky terrible moments. I was vulnerable and broken and they still loved me. I could not have made it through in the same way without their pure, loving support. Connect to those that you can trust and love you unconditionally. Find others that have had similar experiences. Do the things that nourish your soul . The rest is just crap.
4. Choose to love yourself:
Often, when we reach these moments of significant growth and challenge, we realize, that in fact, we were not really loving ourselves. Sometimes, that has contributed to our trauma or illness. Sometimes not. But always, we must love ourselves enough to climb out and re-emerge. We must love ourselves enough to ask the tough questions, set boundaries, and take care or ourselves. We must love ourselves enough to ask for help. We must love ourselves enough to love others while we are broken and need help. Never would I have thought that I didn’t love myself until I faced these challenges. It’s in these moments of pain, that we hear our truths, our own inner messaging about not being enough, or not deserving to be well, or to be happy. Choosing self love is a turning point. It allows us to say, “no matter how this turns out, I’m ok, I’m worthy, I’m enough.”
5. Prioritize your health:
You knew this one was coming from me! Choosing your health is where you get to put your self love, tuning in, and prioritization into practice. If you are recovering from trauma, injury, illness, loss, or betrayal, you need to take care of your health and wellness. You cannot separate the emotional, spiritual and physical. If you’re ready to clear out old energy, feel good, and heal from the inside out, you need healthy food, sleep and exercise. Clear out the junk literally and figuratively. Avoid processed foods and sugars. These things take energy from your body, energy that you need to heal. Instead, choose foods and drinks that nourish you, that give you energy, that transmute negative energy and stagnation. Go to the gym or to yoga. Go to bed early and sleep late. Access your network of friends and family to support you in this. When we’re in the midst of recovery, this is hard, but love yourself through the hard and take care of yourself and your wellness. I experienced deep healing in nourishing myself back to health as an act of self-love. During one period, I was unable to eat for over a week, but I was able to drink bone broth throughout the day. At the same time, while I was too fatigued to exercise, I could take walks. Even though my body was in shock and I was sickened by pain and grief, I chose to continue to gently nourish myself. Use food as medicine to bring you back on every level. Nourish your body and your emotions and spirit will follow.
6. Ask yourself what else you need:
A side-step from number one. As we tune in and start asking ourselves what we need, we will start to get clear answers. It may still be hard, but just slow down and ask. Find out what the next step on your journey to recovery is. For me, I needed support from other practitioners that included energy and shamanic healing, acupuncture, and soul nourishment. I needed to break free of some old patterns. I needed to follow my soul path and finally take my practice from a kind of side thing to living my vision. I needed to move homes. I don’t know what else you need, but I promise that you do. You may need help. You may need a therapist, a vacation, or a new job. Just love and trust yourself enough to ask.
7. When you know what you need, find a balance between action and rest:
Recovery requires action and rest. You will not get well without a balance of both. This was one of my great lessons on this journey. I slowed down for the first time in my life and that slowness allowed me to open and expand. I began to grow. Be gentle, but firm with yourself. Baby steps are fine, they keep you on your journey. Just take those next steps.
I sincerely hope that you find this helpful and that it brings you peace and support during a time of challenge. I find myself writing this at what appears to be a time of closure. Closure of a period that was easily the most challenging 18 months of my life. A time of trauma, injury and illness, but also a time of expansive thought, growth, ownership, and peace. I look at myself now, a different self, almost unrecognizable. I see a more authentic version of me emerging and I feel a loss of fear and a deeper connection to my purpose and my own path. I am still in pain, but I am healing. To be able to write this for you all, and hopefully in some way support you in your own journey to return to yourself, is part of my own healing journey and I thank you for that. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is the biggest show of strength. You are not alone.
“There is a crack in everything.That's how the light gets in.”-Leonard Cohen