Being a recent cancer thriver, my body underwent a radical hysterectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy.
I could, as some do, liken this to having gone through 14 weeks of war. At times, it felt like I had been shot. I was sick and fatigued, but I was also lucky as f*ck. No one was trying to kill me, just the opposite. They were trying to cure me.
My body had a significant trauma response to the needles and all the pokes and prodding, but my mind stayed in the pattern of “luck.” I allowed my body its full experience and cried with the pain. I experienced the fears and disappointments, but my mind didn’t go down with the ship because I had created a mindset for this experience.
Mindset is often an underdog of success, especially as sentences like “toxic positivity” stand out in headlines because we, as a society, love to play victims of our circumstance and trauma these days, as if they were a badge of honour. But with mindset, we can actually train our brain to get through anything.
Navy Seals, for example, are trained physically, but their minds are also trained to withstand pain, shock, fear, and grief in a way where no matter the circumstances of war, the body will continue to do its job and succeed in the mission. And as regular humans, can do the same.
But what is trauma?
Trauma, on the small, regular, and nonscientific human scale, is the imagination having taken the liberty of a moment in time and created a physical and emotional response to it. We have to have the physical and emotional experience and then add positive mindset tools to it.
As a society, we have yet to build a scale for trauma. These days, we tend to overuse the word “trauma” to describe the experience of parking at Whole Foods or the PTA meeting with mean moms. Trauma can also include physical abuse from a parent or spouse, rape, and a car accident that results in injury or loss. But the trauma I’m referring to here is on the level one to four scale, not a full-blown 10, emotional trauma that deserves a therapeutic intervention.
The truth is, we can’t protect our children or ourselves from the basic pain of life. We will make ourselves crazy, trying to stop the earth on its axis.
We can, however, teach our children and ourselves how to develop a mindset to navigate the challenges. When we see the anxiety, fear, and even depression peeking through, we have to speak to them. We have to feel our fears, dive in deep, wallow for a clear moment in time, and then build the ladder of truth and belief.
My nine-year-old daughter is afraid of rattlesnakes, a welcome and realistic fear for where we live in the high desert of Colorado. However, at times, that fear paralyzes her to the point when she won’t ride her bike or go for a hike. So my husband and I have to allow her to feel her fears, cry, shake, and then initiate the logical brain to create the solution and reality around what happens when we encounter a snake, and what to do if, God forbid, it were to bite. We do breathing, mindset training, and truth-telling about what happens with these scary ideas and realities.
Mindset is an ally to what we call trauma, but it can help to navigate, digest, and offer clear solutions to existing and future problems. Your response to hard things can be real; it’s how you decide to handle and climb out of it that matters.
With cancer, I had, on one hand, a grief therapist with who I would feel all my feelings and walk and talk through my fears, disappointments, loss of control and body, and all the other experiences that followed that. After I cried fully and embraced all the scary parts of what was happening to me, I then allowed myself to see the truth of how I was going to live as a result of this surgery and cancer therapy. But at first, my ego had to wear itself out with tears and howling, snorting ridden cries. I realize that the truth is not as scary as my imagination.
If you are ready to thrive past your trauma, start with the clarity around your personal experiences. Are you allowing those to be your personal excuses and battle wounds to keep you from your greatness? Or are you using them to help you thrive as you, likely, have already survived hard things in life? And if you can do that, everything is possible.
Are you allowing old traumas or fear of future ones to keep you from a good life and having fun with it? Or are you living up against your edge and pushing your personal comfort boundaries while pep-talking yourself through all the hard stuff?
Mindset takes buddies. As Glennon Doyle famously says, “We can do hard things.” I want to point out the “we” in that sentence. When I did cancer therapy, I invited all my friends to walk, drive, pray, and send me energy, so that on the days when grief was winning and needed to be felt, I had others holding me through it, helping me back up, and reminding me of why I was doing this and who I wanted to be when I was done with treatment.
We don’t do hard things alone, and we shouldn’t heal our trauma or train our mindset alone either. Create a team of wisdom warriors who can hold you through your hard things and offer wise, positive words to you when you can’t see the light. Allow them to cry with you and hold you in the pain so you can process it.
Thriving through trauma is possible when you create a clear vision of who you want to be, what you want to accomplish, and when you don’t allow trauma to be the excuse. Inside each of us is a powerful energy of possibilities. When we allow ourselves to tap into what we want for our lives and build a mindset and belief around it, trauma doesn’t stand a chance of winning.
Today, four weeks since I finished my treatment, I am hiking, paddle-boarding, biking, rollerblading, being a full-time mom and wife for the summer, prepping my mind to go back to work—all while allowing my body the time it needs to heal its traumas.
Comment below if you would like to meet my team of therapists or take my free intuition class that can help you understand your own mindset.