Signs that Life is Demanding your Attention

Signs that life is demanding your attention include:

1. The same themes and patterns (which are usually self-defeating) keep repeating themselves, or reappearing in your life. Notice these patterns, and then ask yourself: “What is this telling me about myself – my wants, my needs, my hurts, and my past?”

2. Hurt, unresolved issues, and problems from your past, are stopping you from living and enjoying your life now. Also, these are triggered more frequently than previously. This could include sleep problems, low self-esteem and relationship difficulties, fears, anxieties and PTSD symptoms.

These indicate repression isn’t working for you, and the past will not be silenced and ignored indefinitely.

3. You have trouble coping with powerful emotions – like overwhelming anger, or excessive crying. This frequently points to a deep and painful loss that hasn’t been mourned and given proper respect.

4. You feel restless, agitated, and feel something needs to change – in yourself, in your life, or in your close relationships.

You have so much potential, and you’re meant to change and grow. So please listen to your heart, and take its leadings seriously. You owe it to yourself to living a rich, fulfilling life. Be brave, and have the courage to step out and make that change!

5. You feel dazed or shocked by something that has happened in your life, and you can’t pick up the pieces, and ignore it, and ‘move on’. This indicates you need support, and that you need it urgently. Also, you need to practice self-compassion and prioritize self-care.

6. You keep pushing down your feelings, and denying your emotions, but they keep resurfacing – and crying out for your attention. These might seem out of proportion, are extreme and overwhelming. And at times they are surprising and inappropriate.

7. You’re afraid of digging deeper so you make some surface changes; but their impact is short-lived, and they don’t really set you free. You need to peel back all the layers that are there to protect you and look at the real issue that is buried underneath. However, this must be done slowly, and with meaningful support.

8. You can’t let go of something that meant a lot to you – a disappointment, or a failure, or a past relationship. These losses must be faced, and be experienced, and grieved … For only then will be free to really start to live again.

Healing is not an overnight process. It takes time. Sometime you’ll feel like you’re finally over something and happy again, and the wound will reopen. Don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged. Take each day one step at a time. Just try to be in a better place mentally and emotionally than you were yesterday.” – LLTHINGSBELO.CO.AZ

10 Things to Give Up

Suddenly, she realized that a fresh start was hers for the taking; that she could be the woman she’d always she’d always seen on the horizon – her future self. One step at a time, starting today.” – Life On Purpose

Some things to consider giving up include:

1. Trying to please, and be acceptable, to others

2. The fear of making a mistake

3. The fear of change

4. A fear of the future

5. Guilt or shame that’s tied to your past

6. Beating yourself up, or putting yourself down

7. Over-thinking

8. Living by your feelings

9. The desire to get even with others

10. The tendency to procrastinate.

How would your life be different if you choose to give up one of these things?

Which one could you choose to start on today?

Some Facts about Trauma

You can be healing and feel broken at the same time. Healing isn’t a destination we reach where we’re perfect and at peace all the time. Healing is a journey which involves accepting and embracing ourselves as we break, as we heal, and as we reconstruct.” Najwa Zebian

1. Everyone’s trauma is different; everyone’s reaction to trauma is unique. This means there is no “one size fits all” recovery treatment plan.

2. The effects of trauma are profound. They ripple into the future in unexpected and unpredictable ways. This makes it hard to address, work on, and heal from our trauma.

3. Understanding your own reactions to trauma is a long, pain-staking process. But they reveal themselves, and their patterns, over time; and as we gain more insight and understanding, we can try more strategies to help us heal. This is going to take patience, persistence, self-compassion and, also, a degree of trial-and-error (because everyone’s reactions are different and unique).

4. We need to be able to tell our story to someone who’s empathic, and who gets ‘what we’ve been through’. Someone who gets the unfairness of it all. Someone who gets the horror of it all. Someone who gets how completing devastating, disorienting, and distressing it all is. Who understands how it destroys our sense of safety, destroys our self-esteem, and turns our whole world upside-down.

5. Although this is essential it is not enough. It is not sufficient to heal PTSD.  This is because the memory of the trauma is recorded and stored in our body and brain. This is innate, and has clear survival value. We remember what has happened to protect ourselves from harm, should a similar experience ever happen again. This is why we’re triggered, and are hypervigilant.

6. We also need to learn how to deal with our triggers. Again, this takes patience, understanding, time and work.

7. However, there are certain commonalities in how we all respond when our body’s triggered, and we feel that we’re in danger. These include: a racing heart; trembling and shaking; feeling very hot and then very cold; feeling terrified, desperate and alone; wanting to hit out, or to escape and quickly flee; experiencing intense and powerful surges of emotions (like jealousy and rage).

8. These are usually uncomfortable, and also terrifying. Hence, we want to stop the feelings, and to run away from them. Though it’s understandable, this is the wrong thing to do.

9. The right thing to do is to let ourselves experience them, and notice what it is happening – like a witness, or observer. As we do this, we see that they intensify … and peak … and then slowly dissipate … then normality returns. Thus, these feelings don’t destroy us. We can cope, and we survive.      

10. It is essential that our bodies complete this trauma cycle, and we don’t dissociate, or repress our triggered feelings. If we do that, all these feelings will get stuck inside of us, and they’ll only intensify and worsen over time.

11. In addition to this, using breathing exercise helps to calm us down, and keep us in present, grounded the here-and-now.

Also, EMDR (which must be used with a trained therapist) can be helpful for those who are dealing with events like a serious accident, or receiving shocking news. However, relationship trauma, like domestic abuse, may be helped more by ongoing, indepth therapy.

12. Although huge strides can be gained, and we can heal from our past, it’s important to know that we will still react at times. We are triggered as our body wants to keep us safe from harm. It shows us that we matter; that it’s looking out for us. So, although it is frustrating, it’s a sign of self-care.

How to Support a Depressed Friend or Partner

It can be hard to know how to help a partner or friend who is feeling depressed. The following suggestions might help with this:

1. Find out the kind of depression they are suffering from. Symptoms of clinical depression include sleep difficulties, loss of appetite, a desire to isolate themselves, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, suicidal tendencies and an inability to determine the cause of their depression.

Those with situational depression may have some of the same symptoms but they generally know why they feel the way they do. Also, once the specific issue is resolved, they are able to function normally again.

2. Be available to listen, or to just be there for them. Sometimes you don’t need to say a word. Don’t offer opinions; don’t give them advice; don’t be judgmental. Be kind and understanding; be gentle empathic, patient, accepting and compassionate.

3. Take them out of their environment as a change of scenery can help to change our mood. It doesn’t have to be somewhere that is wildly exciting. Just a walk by the river or a coffee at the mall is often enough to shift our mood for a while.

4. Don’t comment on their lifestyle (habits and patterns). Comments like “You ought to try and sleep more … or exercise … or change your diet …” are likely to hurt, and shut the person down. They show a lack of understanding, and send the message: “It’s your fault.”

5. Encourage them to seek out professional help. A friend or family member can be a real lifeline. We need a sense of belonging, and to know that others care.   However, objective, insightful support from a professional counsellor can help them deal with the real issues in a more effective way.

Quote of the Day

I promise you, little by little, the healing adds up.” – Ella Hicks

Maybe it doesn’t always feel like it’s true, but every investment in your healing counts. It all makes a difference, over time.

So hang on to that truth when it’s hard to believe. When you’re in the thick of battle and you don’t feel brave or strong.

You are starting to heal. You are different from before.

All that hard work: it is worth it.

Keep on going.

Don’t give up.

An Interview with Sakina, a Trauma Survivor

“What we lived through is now living in us.”

Counsellor: You said you would like to share a bit about your life – as a person who is trying to recover from trauma?  

Sakina: Yes. Perhaps I should begin by saying I now divide my life up into two parts: life before the trauma and life after the trauma. It may sound dramatic but it’s how it feels to me.

It’s not like I never experienced anything difficult in my life before this happened. I’ve experienced plenty of hard things. Really hard things. I was unemployed for a while. I’ve known major rejections in relationships. But terrible as these seemed at the time, they were nothing compared to living in the aftermath of trauma. It’s completely turned my life upside down.

Counsellor: Wow. It sounds like this has had a very dramatic effect on your life.   

Sakina: Yes. I’m not sure I’ll ever fully recover, even although I wish I could. I used to think that after 6 months, or a year, or 2 years, or even 5 years, life would be back to normal. But it isn’t. I think I simply have to face the truth that this is a new normal for me.

Counsellor: What does a new normal mean to you?

Sakina: It means that I’ve come to accept that every day something will come up that reminds me of the trauma. I don’t go looking for triggers, but they’re always there. There is always something that reminds me of what happened. Every day. Honestly, I wish I could just be my old self again but that’s not how it is. I don’t think it’s possible. I really believe this has changed my brain, in some fundamental way.

Counsellor: When you say it has changed your brain, what do you mean?

Sakina: I feel as if my brain is always on high alert now, and I’m continually reacting to things I don’t want to react to. Things that seem stupid, irrational and over-the-top to other people, to people who haven’t been traumatized. I have to consciously work on bringing these reactions under control. I have to calm myself down internally, and speak gently and logically to myself. I never had to do this in the past – but now it’s a way of life for me.

Also, it I try to suppress the different thoughts and feelings … and just keep on acting calmly and reasonably … I end up having my sleep disturbed. I am wakened in the night by a racing heart, by tingling in my feet and feelings of panic. It’s like I’ve been catapulted back in time, and I’m reliving the trauma, in the middle of the night.

And this happens ALL THE TIME.

Counsellor: Yes, I can see why you say your brain has been changed. It sounds really tough. That’s a lot to deal with. But, clearly, you have been working hard on your recovery for a while. You seem to be very self-aware, and to have learned a lot. So, I’m wondering … What advice would you share with others who are going through something similar to this?

Sakina: I would say: Get as much information as you can about trauma, and about recovery from trauma. Read up about it. Listen to podcasts on it. Try to understand what is going on inside your brain. Try to identify your own patterned reactions, and accept that your brain is trying to protect you from being traumatized again. Although it feels frustrating it is actually a healthy sign. Your brain is taking care of you.

Also, don’t attack or shame yourself for feeling the way you do. What you are experiencing is absolutely normal. You’re not going crazy. There are others who’re reacting in the same way as you.

But try to find out what helps you, too. What makes a difference, and calms you when you’re triggered? Is it observing the feelings as an outside observer? Is it escaping, and going for a walk or jog? Is it playing relaxing music? Doing yoga? Meditating?

Counsellor: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Sakina: I think being able to share my experience, and having it witnessed by people who cared has helped a lot. It’s really destructive to keep that stuff inside. You feel as if you’re going to explode at times, and you also feel as if you’re living a lie. You’re not being congruent … and it’s hard to keep on living like that – as a divided person.

You need to talk. You need to be heard. You need to be able to unite “life before the trauma” and “life after the trauma” You need to be able to draw one long continuous thread through your life’s story.

Does that make sense?

Counsellor: Yes, it does. It makes a lot of sense! Thanks, Sakina, for your honesty. I really appreciate you sharing this with us.

Bearing Witness

“There is in life a suffering so unspeakable, a vulnerability so extreme, that it goes far beyond words. In the face of suffering all we can do is bear witness so no one needs to suffer alone.” –  Rachel Remen

Sometimes it’s impossible to put into words what we have experienced. What we have gone through. Words can’t capture it. They seem inadequate.

And yet there is this pressure to articulate, to share – what can’t be said or spoken.

The impact’s too profound.

We’re spaced out. And we reeling. We’ve lost all contact with time.

But what we need is human contact. Someone there, to be with us. To sit with us in silence. To witness all that pain.

We don’t need words, and answers. We don’t need trite advice.

We need the gift of presence.

And that will be enough.

Quote of the Day

When you can’t look on the bright side, I will sit in the dark with you.”

We all need people who will do this for us; but it’s not an easy thing to do at all.

Why? Because others’ pain reminds us of our own.

So not everyone you know can be there for you.

But I hope you find someone who will offer you that gift

Who will help to bear the burden so you don’t feel so alone.

No, we Can’t Just Forget the Past

“I did not ask for the things I’ve been through, and I certainly didn’t ask my mind to paint and repaint the memories in the form of flashbacks.”

The majority of people who are living with trauma wish they could simply forget the past. But the fact is we can’t just wipe the slate clean, put it all behind us, and move on with our lives. Here are some of the reasons why:

1. By definition: trauma is unbearable and intolerable.

2. Thus, perhaps it’s not surprising that the traumatized person tries to avoid remembering the past, and push the experiences out of their mind.

3.  It’s impossible for survivors to put into words the traumatic experience, and the impact it has had. They do their very best to bury all the memories and pain, and to act as if everything in life is okay.

4. However, living in this way requires tremendous energy. It is extremely difficult to function normally while carrying the memory of the shock and the pain, the disorientation, the helplessness and shame, and the feeling of powerlessness and vulnerability.

5. But the brain isn’t good at denying the truth. Even though the painful memories may have been repressed, it still remembers we were deeply traumatized.

6. Thus, years after the event, a sudden unexpected trigger can reactivate the buried memories. The brain senses danger and it jumps back into action. It mobilizes circuits that are programmed to protect us.

7. It releases stress hormones and we experience, again, the symptoms associated with PTSD. We feel overwhelmed and weak, powerless, out of control, and we start to believe that we are damaged to the core.

8. Gaining understanding and talking can help; also meaningful connections, drugs, EMDR, yoga, meditation and neurofeedback.

Still, it takes a lot of effort, patient and hard work to help us to gain freedom from the torment of the past.

The Truth About Life …

1. Things never go according to plan.

2. You’ll always meet with unexpected obstacles.

3. Not everyone will like you, or want to be your friend.

4. We all lose motivation and want to ditch our dreams.

5. Success is transitory, and happiness will pass.

6. We all get disappointed and let down by our friends.

7. Attitude is everything; we choose how we react.

8. There’s always something good, if we will only look for it.

9. There are those who “play it forward”, and who’re helpful, warm and kind.

10. Life is full of chances, new beginnings and fresh starts.