Friday, May 31, 2013

Healing From Trauma

I was introduced to the work of  Jasmin Lee Cori while I was in graduate school at Naropa University where it just so happened that we lived in the same apartment building in Boulder, Colorado. Jasmin is a counselor, author, and self-identified trauma survivor who specializes in understanding, dealing with, and healing from trauma.

I saw a flyer in our building for a workshop being offered on healing from childhood abuse and neglect and came home with her book, Healing from Trauma: A Survivor's Guide to Understanding Your Symptoms and Reclaiming Your life. I have since read it twice and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for some guidance in the aftermath of trauma.

Here is a sample:

Ten Points to Remember

1. Trauma is magnetic, and you have to work hard not to get swallowed up by it. There are a number of tools you can practice to help with this. The more you practice, the better you'll get at it.

2. Discover what anchors you to the here and now. Because this may be different at different times, you'll need to notice what works in any given moment.

3. The more grounded and present you are, the more you can handle and the more you can protect yourself if needed.

4. When you can manage your arousal level, you will feel more in control. So many trauma reactions are about runaway arousal.

5. When one channel of information (thinking, feeling, sensation) gets too disturbing, try changing channels or bringing in many channels simultaneously so that you can diffuse the intensity.

6. Find your rock, your regulating resource. Call upon it when trauma threatens to engulf you.

7. Identify people you can call on for help. Listen to your body in their presence. Caring others are a pharmacy all their own.

8. Having a sense of options is an antidote to the feeling of being trapped and powerless that are central to trauma. Just seeing that you have options will help you feel much better.

9. Soothing and support are important antidotes for activation.

10. It takes time for the body to recover after it has been flooded with stress hormones. Sometimes all you can do is create a safe space to wait it out.

Notice any patterns? Learning how to calm down and reach out for help is a central part of the healing process. It takes time but it can change your life. 

This is tough stuff. If you choose to explore the subject with this or another source, know that you can pace yourself and listen to your body, taking a break if you get overwhelmed. It's especially important to be kind to yourself when you're down. Consider it a prescription for your health and wellbeing. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Occupational Hazards and Gifts of Counseling

The other night I exclaimed to my hard working husband, who recently started his own tree service, "I feel bad that you come home with all of these scratches and bruises!" His response: "Yeah but your heart gets hurt at work." Goodness me!

I truly care about my clients and sometimes my heart really does hurt for them. But, I get to watch them feel better- and I am changed in the process. Just like it's worth it for my partner to get smacked by the occasional branch to get be around the trees and wildlife that he knows and loves, it's worth it for me to accompany people in pain to get to nurture and be touched by the resilience of the human spirit.

We all become changed by the people and places in our lives. It's just a matter of how.

But, returning to occupational hazards of counseling, for a moment, I was not aware of the dangers of spraining my foot in counseling- but I managed to accomplish it! My foot fell completely asleep during session and was not there to support me when I stood up. Instead, I rather dramatically fell over in front of my client! Not part of the treatment plan.

In the days since, I have had to slow down. While studying for the national counseling exam, managing a growing caseload, and adjusting to newly married life back home, I had to slow down. This wasn't easy or what I wanted to do. But, the message that my body was communicating was not lost on me.

When it comes to our health and healing, there is no finish line. No magic moment when we can begin to start living- but this isn't a bad thing. We might as well settle in and enjoy the journey. Life is happening around us right now- whether we're sitting, laying, walking, or limping for it!