When Dr. Brenda Wade first met Wendy Ida a year ago, nothing short of an "intensive intervention" could save her from the trauma she'd endured at the hands of an abusive husband.
"We have a little girl, growing up in the projects in New Jersey and being traumatized and feeling unsafe everyday of her life," Wade explained to The Huffington Post. "For [Wendy], the terrible trauma she went through as a child, repeated in her marriage ... The nervous system tends to go into a state of red alert, and [it] can never calm down because it’s saying, 'Any minute, someone is coming after you. You have to run.'”
But when we first met Wendy Ida last week, her life of trial had clearly taken a different turn.
The first step: fleeing the abusive situation she found herself in, according to Wade. "In Wendy’s case, it wouldn’t have mattered who she talked to, if she exercised or anything if she was still in that situation," she says. After that, Wendy would have to come to terms with what she'd been through, the beginning of a process Wade refers to as "Insight, Skill, Action."
Watch as Wendy describes how she did it in the video above and scroll through the slideshow below for the three principles Wade says lie at the core of Wendy's success.
"Insight is where we come to terms with what we’ve been through, what happened, and how [you] feel because of what happened. How has it impacted [your] life?" Wade says. "Once we start to look deeply into the why and the what and the how of our own experience, that’s when we begin to take charge. If we don’t, those things are running us. "In our community, it’s like don’t go there, don’t talk about it. People feel ashamed and ... we don’t want people in our business. If we go all the way back to the enslavement experience and look at how people survived, a lot of the way people survived was not to talk about the pain, not to feel the pain, to shut down. Can you imagine an ancestor getting up in the morning and feeling so depressed, they couldn’t do their work? What people learned to do was stuff it all inside and just keep moving. If they didn’t, they were going to be beaten or killed. The stakes were high. Now, what we’re looking at is taking the first step to undo that survival mechanism. It’s time to get to a place where we can talk about things."
"Skill" requires you to ask, "What am I going to use to make it better?" "Skill is mastering the skill of taking care of yourself, nurturing yourself," Wade says. "Wendy was able to use fitness and exercise, because it produces endorphins that fight off the stress," she explains. "She very quickly noticed when she started exercising she started feeling better. She chose something that lowered her stress, that literally rebuilt her hormones in her brain so that she could feel safe from the inside out; it made her stronger and healthier. And by rebuilding herself, she began to feel lovable. When the nervous system gets ramped up and goes on red alert, people look for something to feel better. Most of the time it’s not exercise or fitness, it’s food. What we want with Strive to Thrive is for people to reach for solutions that actually help them in the long run to heal. What Wendy has done is reach for a solution that’s helping her."
Lastly, you have to take action ... and stay there, Wade says. "You have to keep moving in the other direction, down a positive path -- take a class, workout, get into therapy. Bit by bit, day by day you’re going to see a lot of that trauma heal."