Coming to terms with the fact that our lives, according to our attackers, came down to being worth $360,000 put the value of money into a whole new perspective. Being kidnapped, held hostage for 14 hours, and and forced to rob the vault of the bank I managed while my daughter was tapped with explosives bound and gagged in a closet left us both inevitably altered. Recovering from that horrific crime for both my daughter and me has been the realization that what happened to us is now a part of our blueprint. It is a part of who we are and how we have arrived to exactly where we are today. There is no "getting over it". But there is the promise, the hope that you can actually live an amazing life, thrive and embrace the opportunity to experience life more fully knowing first hand how quickly it can change. For me, a life of purpose emerged. Trauma became my path to peace and sharing this journey while reaching out to help others has become a calling on my life I cannot ignore.
These days when I see the television flickering with images of violent trauma, which is all too often, I don't just see them as people suffering a devastating loss. I feel their pain, I ache for them and with them and want to tell them that in time, with faith and support and a lot of deep soul searching, their life will get better someday. In fact, I want to shout to them that they can become better than ever through tragedy and be transformed through it all. But first I also know they must brace themselves for the peaks and valleys of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
It's not easy to tell others about the symptoms you are experiencing that come with PTSD. In fact, violent trauma victims may not even know what is happening to them at all. They may feel like they are going crazy; questioning their own sanity with every flashback, loud noise that has them jumping out of their skin and the physical sickness that accompanies sleep deprivation due to the inability to close your eyes at night out of pure and unrelenting fear. I get it.
My daughter had a severe PTSD relapse after the San Diego firestorms and our evacuation. It was the first time since the kidnapping and trial that either one of us felt that sense of threat to our safety, to our home and our life. She displayed very strong physical symptoms and was clinging to me not wanting me to leave on a business trip even two weeks afterwards because "I may never come back." She hadn't displayed these PTSD symptoms and behaviors in four years. For the past two weeks there has been a lot of bubble baths, quiet time, yoga and soft music at bedtime and massages to ease the nerves. Sometimes the best medicine is a simple rub in a circular motion on the tummy or gentle strokes with your fingers through your child's hair. It's amazing what the power of love and affection can do to to calm those pesky PTSD symptoms! With natural methods her symptoms have subsided and yesterday she was back to her confident self at a regional cheer competition where her squad took first place. But getting her to be emotionally ready took sacrifice of my plans and travel, dedicating myself to seeing her through this with every natural method I could think of versus medication and, of course, that extra special mom stuff!
When I speak out across the country for all those who have suffered a violent trauma or know someone who has, whether it be a child or an adult, I write to guide, inspire and assist youth and adults to work through and beyond trauma together as a team with friends and family. At times of uncertainty, in the aftermath of trauma, using simple language, a language that only someone who has endured violent trauma and its aftermath would even know how to speak to a fellow survivor is important. It is also important to share that they can claim their life back, they can live Beyond PTSD and not allow the past, pain, anger, shame or blame to hold them hostage.
So, today I want to share my top ten "Beyond PTSD" Life Tips:
1. Don't be ashamed about your PTSD symptoms
2. Talk candidly with your family and friends about ALL of your symptoms
3. Love yourself...flaws and all!
4. Get rid of internal emotional clutter
5. Develop healthy new relationships
6. Re-connect with your childhood passions
7. Embrace your new reality, your "blueprint"
8. Get spiritual!
9. Never give up on yourself (even when you think you're going crazy)
10. Get out of your bubble and be alive!!