Moving Beyond Trauma: An Interview with Author Ilene Smith

 

 

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Have you noticed that no matter how much time you spend in talk therapy, you still feel anxious and triggered? That is because talk therapy can keep you stuck in a pattern of reliving your stories, rather than moving beyond them. But, most of all, it’s because trauma doesn’t just reside inside your mind–much more importantly, it locks itself in other parts of your body. When left unresolved, that trauma continues to live there, impacting your life, your relationships, your sense of safety, and your ability to experience joy in very real ways.

In Moving Beyond TraumaIlene Smith will introduce you to Somatic Experiencing, a body-based therapy capable of healing the damage done to your nervous system by trauma. She breaks down the ways in which trauma impacts your nervous system and walks you through a program designed to process trauma in a non-threatening way. You will discover a healing lifestyle marked by a deeper connection with yourself, those around you, and with everything you do.

 

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INTERVIEW WITH ILENE SMITH

 

What is somatic experiencing?

 

Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a body therapy modality used to heal trauma. When an event happens too fast and we do not have the time or ability for self-protection or defense, this survival energy gets stuck in our body as an incomplete biological reaction. This stuck energy is what causes trauma symptoms and the nervous system loses its ability to maintain a state of balance. The trapped energy from the traumatic experience causes the nervous system to rush to a state of fight, flight, or freeze. SE works to help bring the nervous system back on-line by helping the individual restore their sense of safety. This can only happen when the body has a “biological completion” and the trauma energy has the opportunity to reintegrate back into the body.  

While SE uses talking in the process, the talking is used to track body sensation and meaning attached to experiences, rather than bring the individual back into the event of the trauma. When we bring the body into the therapy process and facilitate a way for the individual to physically move through the experience with a sense of safety, the relationship to the experience changes and the stuck energy will discharge.

 

Why did you want to become a somatic experiencing practitioner?

When I went back to school in my early 40’s for a degree in mental health counseling, I knew I wanted to work with trauma. I was introduced to SE during my internship at an eating disorder clinic and felt as though SE was complimentary to talk therapy. I also felt as though it was the missing link for trauma healing. I became a student of the work as well as a patient because I believe you can only take a client as far as you are willing to go yourself. I was experiencing great results personally and began applying the principles of SE with my clients. The results were phenomenal. Clients with eating disorders and addiction were moving away from their maladaptive behaviors and finding deeper and more meaningful connections with themselves and others. I feel strongly and passionately that the body and the nervous system need to be part of the healing process for real and everlasting change.

 

What type of rewards do you get by helping others heal?

There is nothing more rewarding than watching a person go from surviving to thriving in their life. I have and continue to walk people through incredible healing journeys. I love being part of transformation and nothing feels better than being able to add value to other’s lives.

 

What is the focus on the nervous system related to this type of therapy?

While the nervous system is designed to be self-regulating, it has its limitations around trauma. Unresolved trauma, especially when trauma is chronic and accumulated, can lead to more extensive mental and physical health symptoms. The long-term effect of SE treatment is a restored sense of healthy nervous system functioning, which includes reduction in maladaptive coping skills, resolved sleep issues, and mood stabilization — to name a few. When the body gains the capacity to self-regulate, it restores its sense of safety and balance. In turn, stress hormones are lower and the body can produce more “feel good” hormones such as serotonin and oxytocin.

Unlike most therapy modalities which are considered “top down,” meaning they use our highest form of cognition, SE begins with a “bottom up” approach of sensorimotor processing aimed at guiding the client through the most primitive to the most complex brain systems. The therapist begins by guiding the client to track sensation and movements, helping a patient develop a felt sense of his internal states of tension, relaxation and respiration cycles. This is a powerful mechanism to regulate the autonomic nervous system. 

 

What does unresolved trauma mean and how does it affect our bodies?

When trauma is unresolved our survival mechanisms of fight flight and freeze get stuck in the on position and our autonomic nervous system (ANS) kicks into high gear. These states are only meant for acute situations for defense and protection. Our ANS contributes to how we regulate every state in our body including heart rate, breath, digestion and bladder.  When our bodies are in stress physiology, hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol start pumping through the body causing all sorts of imbalances both emotionally and physically. There have been many studies showing the impact of trauma and stress on the emotional and physical body. The Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study showed that the more emotional and physical abuse a person had during childhood the more likely they are to experience mental and physical health issues as adults. This body and mind are intrinsically connected and this is why bringing the body into the healing process is so important.

 

What happens in the brain when trauma is processed, or resolved?

When trauma is resolved a person will begin to see and move through the world with more vitality and ease. They will begin to have a more accurate ability to sense safety and danger and experience a deeper connection to themselves and the world around them. When trauma is resolved a person will feel more present, helping them better express themselves and understand their needs and desires. These changes in the nervous system and brain, reduce anxiety, depression and maladaptive behaviors used to cope with pain and discomfort. Ultimately the individual will feel more curious and resilient to face the ups and down of life.

 

How does this type of therapy build resilience? 

SE works with the bodies most primitive instincts to help integrate trauma memories into the body. When this occurs, a person will experience a greater sense of safety within themselves. In other words, a person gains a sense of mastery over themselves and their feelings. It is a knowing that you can handle and tolerate what you are experiencing. Resilience is a byproduct of knowing you have the internal resources to survive and this is what we teach the body through the process of SE.

 

I love the title of your book, Moving Beyond Trauma. What can a life beyond trauma look like, and what kind of hope does it bring? 

Thank you! When trauma is resolved we gain capacity to live our lives with more presence and intention. We can connect to ourselves and others and feel more curious to explore the things that we like. Ultimately moving beyond trauma allows the space to find passion and vibrance. I like to think of life after trauma as a healing lifestyle. A healing lifestyle is different for each person, but it is a life of self-care with body/mind alignment. It is a life beyond survival where an individual can and has the desire to grow and thrive.

 

Where can people learn more about somatic experiencing?

My book Moving Beyond Trauma is available on Amazon. 

If someone is interested in finding a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner in their area, they can go to www.traumahealing.org. I also have many articles on my website www.ilenesmith.com

 

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7 Things Helping Me Cope with the Corona-virus Pandemic part 1

 

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With the onset of one of the worst infectious outbreaks of our time, the Covid-19 Pandemic, or Corona-virus apocalypse as I call it, there’s a critical need for coping mechanisms. I live in the U.S., so I don’t believe we’ve seen the worst of it yet. The schools, bars, restaurants, YMCA, barbershops, businesses are all closed. The kids are home 24/7. Work is drastically reduced, although I do work in healthcare, but not on the frontlines of a hospital. The elderly population that I work with are the most vulnerable, so Assisted living facilities are either restricting non-essential personnel, or closing their doors completely. In other words, I’m pretty much stuck at home seeking ways to escape intractable boredom.

One of things that has helped me cope with depression, panic, heightened anxiety, and the madness of the world going to the pot, is music therapy. I’ve made several playlists on my device, but the one that’s saving me right now is named JACKED. It’s a list of 7 great songs by various artists and types of music. For the sake of space, I’ll split it in half and only share 3 songs here. Ready?

The first on the playlist is this…

 

 

Powerful sound waves with funny sound speakers and screaming man.

 

#1 CALL TO ARMS by Flux Pavilion & Meaux Green

Genre: Dance/Electronic Album: Atlas Shrugged 2018

There are no lyrics, just some background vocals with a sensational rhythm and great bass line. I can’t tell you how this makes me feel when I fire this one up on the headphones! There’s simple introduction with various electronics, voices, then….the bass line drops. BAM. Instant gratification.

*Call To Arms = 1: a summons to engage in active hostilities. 2 : a summons, invitation, or appeal to undertake a particular course of action.  (Merriam-Webster)

The beginning of this playlist, JACKED, begins with a “Call to Arms”, a call to engage in active warfare. On a much deeper level, this is our actual situation in the midst of this global pandemic. An invisible enemy has attacked us with our pants down, daring us to respond. How will you respond? Staying at home all day doesn’t seem much like a call to action during wartime, but it is. We can’t fight this enemy head on. Our call to action is to retreat, distant ourselves, check on our loved ones, or those who are at greater risk of infection. I’ve been in the healthcare industry going on 20 years and I’ve seen firsthand what infectious diseases can do to the human body. It’s not pretty, trust me. To think we’re somehow immune or invincible to once in a lifetime pandemic is simply preposterous. Being smart doesn’t mean mass hysteria, or sustaining a sense of panic. However, strategy is everything in warfare.

 

 

 

#2 PROVIDENCE by Audiomachine

Genre: Epic music, Symphonic, electronic, instrumental. Album: Magnus 2015

The group Audiomachine is as awesome as it sounds. Very professional, epic sound. In fact they’ve appeared on multiple trailers for blockbuster movies over the years. I found them over the last few years and simply can’t recommend them enough. This particular peace is just heavenly, majestic, however you want to phrase it.

*Providence =  1. a divine guidance or care. 2. b God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny.

In dire times such as this, certainly we need the divine guidance of God himself. God have mercy on us all.

 

 

 

#3 BLENDED FAMILY by Alicia Keys featuring A$AP Rocky

Genre: R&B/Soul  Album: Blended Family (What You Do For Love) 2016

I’ve always loved the magical voice of the wonderful Alicia Keys. Her ability to invoke emotions in me through her music is truly special. When I listen to this song, Blended Family I’m immediately transported into her experience of loving her family. You can find the story behind her inspiration for Blended family here. Alicia Keys shares her experience of her husband, producer Swiss Beatz, his children from a previous relationship, and their own children. Families can be very diverse considering all the dynamics involved.

Definitely in the midst of any crisis we need to seek the emotional support from those closest to us. I found myself reaching out to some members of the family I haven’t regularly spoken to in a while. Under the strict guidelines provided by the CDC, state and local authorities, social or familial interaction is critical.

 

 

 

I’ll share the remainder of the playlist, JACKED in the coming days. In the meantime. Stay safe, take care of yourself, reach out to others who may be in need.

This is the writing train signing off…until the next time.

 

 

Dampflok

 

 

 

 

What Could Go Wrong: Interview with Author Brett Grayson

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There comes a time when couples decide to create and raise tiny helpless human beings, hoping they one day become non-tiny and less helpless.

This is one family’s journey through ten months of pregnancy (isn’t it supposed to be nine months?), the first years of parental cluelessness, the terrible twos, threenagers, and the few years that follow when they begin to learn about a world that’s even crazier than they are.

Join the author and his wife as they navigate those ten months, from the always romantic conception, to her water breaking in the most unique way possible. Then watch them attempt parenthood, from the seemingly simple routine of dressing their kids for school, to the complex experience of teaching them to use public bathrooms.

It’s mostly a breeze…

No it isn’t. Pre and postnatal complications; battles with their own mental health; and those rapidly growing and irrational miniature versions of themselves. Some of it is devastating. Much of it is overwhelming. All of it challenges them to maintain their sense of humor.

And when they attempted to go on an airplane as a family… that was a sh*tshow.

 

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An interview with Brett Grayson

author of What Could Go Wrong? My Mostly Comedic Journey Through Marriage, Parenting and Depression

Why did you decide to write What Could Go Wrong?

Well, deep down it’s probably because I’m a narcissist. Anyone who writes about their life and expects others to care has to be a little self-absorbed and potentially delusional. 

On a practical level, I am a person who struggles to get out of bed each morning unless there’s something for me to shoot for. This book gave me a purpose that was lacking in my life for so many years.

The book is full of hilarious parenting anecdotes. Can you share your favorite story?

That’s like picking my favorite dog. I should be reticent to do so, but unlike with my kids, my dogs don’t understand it anyway, so I have no problem choosing a favorite.

And speaking of dogs, my favorite story from the book is probably the night my wife Lauren’s water broke in a bizarre way which related to my dogs. So I used to cook our dogs their dinner because when you don’t have children yet, you have too much time on your hands and do insane things like cook for your dogs. Well, one night I made salmon and the smell permeated the air in our tiny apartment and led to Lauren getting nauseous and facilitated her water breaking.

You are very honest in describing the good, the bad, and the ugly of parenthood, including tough times your family has had. How does your wife, Lauren, and the other people in your life feel about this honesty? Has writing the book changed any of your relationships?

With Lauren, no. The book wouldn’t have been possible without her being on board from the start. She knew it would be revealing and signed off on it, which is freaking amazing as she’s more naked in the book than I am. (Figuratively naked, I mean. It’s not a porn book.) I’m not sure I’m a secure enough person that I would have been as understanding if she were the one writing it. But that’s why I married her. She’s better than me.

My parents have been a mixed bag as they’re from a generation where you don’t share your secrets, especially anything about mental health. Slowly though, as I’ve revealed a lot through my blog, and people have responded so positively, they’ve come around.

They were also rightly concerned about my career as a lawyer being compromised by the mental health revelations. That was the driving force behind me using a pen name for the book. I can keep the two careers separate.

In the book you talk about your struggles with depression and anxiety, as well as Lauren’s postpartum depression. What has been the biggest challenge in relation to your mental health and your role as a parent?

I think being present and active in their lives is a daily challenge. On one hand, I’m better around them because they don’t know about my struggles and also because being with them gives me meaning and forces me to be present. On the other hand, they are difficult to handle for long periods of time. They always require attention and sometimes I have a hard time taking care of others when I’m so caught in my own head. They also don’t listen and require patience, which I don’t always have.

It’s hard to admit, but at times I fight the urge to want to get away from them, and at night to rush them to bed. Life is easier to handle when you don’t have to care for others. But paradoxically life is also meaningless if you’re not helping others. And I know this and love them so much and try to remind myself to appreciate my time with them rather than rush through it.

How has becoming a parent changed your relationship with Lauren?

I go into this a lot in the book and I hope my honesty on it will be relatable. Because I’m not sure that becoming parents has necessarily been a good thing for my marriage. Yes, it creates meaning and gives you motivation to work through your problems for the sake of the kids. But kids are also a burden on a marriage in many ways. You don’t get to spend a lot of quality time alone, which is something I miss and has caused us to drift apart at times. Kids also have led to a lot of fighting for us on the issue of how to raise them. Lauren and I just disagree a lot about parenting decisions.

In the book you talk about your son’s diagnosis of CLOVES syndrome. How has this diagnosis impacted your family, and how is he doing today?

He has a big surgery coming up in the first half of 2019. It’s the first big one, though likely not the last. At four-years-old, he’s still in the dark about all of it. Which is both good and bad. On a social level, we’re worried about how he’s going to do once other kids start commenting on his different appearance. But we’re not there yet.

In terms of its effect on us as a family, it’s actually brought Lauren and I closer together. While we have our challenges as I’ve elaborated in the prior answer, experiencing this with our son together is a great emotional equalizer for us. Now I’d rather find a different equalizer, but I can’t make that trade. So experiencing all this with Lauren-the trips to Boston, the dozens of doctors’ appointments-are an experience that we share and few others can understand.

What advice would you give new fathers and fathers-to-be?

  1. Don’t cook salmon when your wife is about to burst.
  2. This may slightly ridiculous – but actually sit down and talk to your wife ahead of time about

how you intend to parent. And write it down. For example, Are you going to let your baby cry or are you going to run into their room the second they cry? It seems unimportant until that moment when you start disagreeing while it’s happening.

What’s next for you?

I intend to keep writing about the absurdities and meaningful parts of my experience as a parent. I’m not sure I have another book in me for a while on this topic, as this book covered a six-year period in our lives. I’m sure I’ll be sharing my story in some form, though.

 

I’d also like to write a bit more about mental health and continue to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of anxiety and depression. It’s just so prevalent in our society. I’m not sure I really understood the extent of it until I started blogging about my own struggles. More than anything I’ve written about, my blogs on mental health have garnered the biggest response.

Where can we learn more about What Could Go Wrong?

 

Go to Amazon and buy the book. Half the money is going to support a charity for our son’s condition (CLOVES Syndrome). So you’re being a good person regardless.

And I think you’ll enjoy the book. Worst case scenario – it winds up on that place on the back of your toilet that I don’t know the name of.

 

Website | Bio | Amazon | Goodreads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing With Depression: Michaelbrent Collings & Joanna Penn

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Writing With Depression with Michaelbrent Collings

 

 

 

 

Have you struggled with depression as a writer or creative? Tell us in the comments.

 

 

Benjamin Thomas

@thewritingtrain

http://www.mysterythrillerweek.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s within a Tear?

What is within a tear?

And from whence does it truly flow?

It hails from hidden abodes of heart,

sprung apart from embattled depths below.

What is within a tear? 

And how significant is its worth?

How heavy the burden escapes unweighed;

in dimensions of pain, unknown girth.

What is within a tear, you say?

Only the bearer truly knows.

Hearken that tune when it’s wrought.

As pain grows wings, let them flow.

Benjamin Thomas 

@thewritingtrain

http://www.thewritingtrain.com