Life has given me complex trauma.
Over the past five years, I have been experiencing what this means on a gradually inclined scale of emotional upset and physical sensation.
Originally, before therapy, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and panic disorder that lead to periods of severe depression. These labels have caused a belief within myself and within some of the people that I have in my life that there’s something wrong with me. It has taken over my former identity and left me without any sense of control.
My trauma and diagnosis have led me down a long road of shame, embarrassment, and self-loathing.
It wasn’t until I discovered an interview with scientist and psychologist, Dawson Church, that I finally began to understand why I am the way that I am.
Dawson Church is a best-selling author and a true delight to learn from. His wholehearted laugh left me with a smile, and his insight and ability to explain trauma stopped me from habitually saying, “I don’t know why I’m like this,” tears streaming down my face.
Since discovering Church’s interview, I have been able to begin piecing together the why’s and how’s of the thoughts and feelings that I frequently experience. The understanding of my healing journey has begun to feel more like healing and less like suffering.
So, why do we shut ourselves down? Why do we feel unsafe in safe situations? Why do we create narratives that have no evidence of existing outside of our assumptions?
The stories we create are based upon past experiences that are engrained into our subconscious. They are not the thoughts that we choose; they are the thoughts that have solidified inside of us in an attempt to protect us. They’ve grown stronger through repetition.
It is my understanding that our “mental illnesses” are the product of living in a time that we were not built for.
Technology, while beneficial, is forcing us to reform beyond our control. We were not built to be stationary or to endure multiple abuses. We were built to survive. To fight. To flee. To build. All of which require movement.
Emotions are energy in motion. When we stuff them, bury them, or mask them, we are storing them. They don’t go anywhere until they have served their purpose.
Hello, anxiety and depression.
And when we repeat the stories that cause us such unpleasant emotions, we are strengthening the neurons that were originally fired in order to protect us and are doomed to relive the events and feelings in our minds and bodies. This is because the part of our brains that trigger responses such as anxiety or panic attacks is preventing us from being defeated by the beast that is after us.
Life has changed dramatically for humans, and biology has yet to catch up.
Dawson Church teaches us that the real threat we face today is our thoughts. Our emotions continue to tell us what we need to do in our situations by making us uncomfortable. But we are unaware of the fact that, essentially, we are now our enemy. Our negative thinking that is actually trying to point us away from harm, ironically, is itself harming us. This is why we must learn to rewire ourselves. We must seek alternative therapies that dislodge what no longer serves us and stop burying them in drugs, alcohol and denial.
Anxiety and depression are telling us that we need to take care of ourselves. This is why EMDR, EFT (tapping), reiki, meditation, and yoga have been proven effective treatments for mental and emotional illnesses. They move the primal energy through us and allow us to process, release, and find peace.
When the thoughts and feelings that beat us down pop up, we must stand up and show them we are listening but are not stopping at believing.
If you are in a safe place and cannot understand why you have such strong anxiety or such mean depression, get curious as to why these thoughts and feelings are arising. Ask them what you need, thank them for doing their job as protectors, and then provide a rebuttal statement.
“I’m afraid because I’m alone,” can be modified by realizing, “but I have the ability to reach out and connect with others.”
Or, “I should just stop talking; they don’t care about what I have to say and that means my words are worthless. I am worthless” can turn into, “There’s a part of me I wish to express, and I will politely express my needs. If they cannot be met, I am looking in the wrong place.”
Dawson is positive in perspective. He speaks of the neurons that we strengthen through repetition and recollection of events, but also of the ability to strengthen the parts of our brains that reduce our stress hormones and redirect the paths we are naturally wired to take.
Your thoughts may hold truth and produce real feelings. But they also carry a secret message—a message that has the ability to point you in a new direction where you find yourself thriving in life, beyond needless suffering.
This takes awareness. This takes work. This takes practice. And it takes time.
My fight-or-flight system would have kept me alive during a time where physical beasts threatened our lives on a daily basis. Understanding my thoughts and emotions allows me to see them in a different light and reminds me not to feel like a hopeless victim, defeated and stuck to my suffering. Understanding the science and history behind why I am the way that I am, allows me to accept myself as someone who is not broken and is very much the way that I was made to be in order to survive.
I can adjust my habits accordingly and begin rewiring myself to fit my present reality.
There is nothing wrong with us; we are the survivors of ancient history, unaware of the adjustments that we need to apply to ourselves and our lives during modern times.