Connecting the Dots to Heal from Trauma
Traumatic experiences are experiences that, simply put, overwhelm our brain’s capacity to make sense of what is happening. Unresolved past traumatic stress often results in recreating similar scenarios in order to find a solution to what has happened, to react differently and heal. Sometimes this kind of cycle can feel frustrating, test our patience, make us feel trapped and helpless. Ultimately, this can become the spiral towards depression and feeling lonely and isolated in our experience. We suffer from anxiety when we’re fearful of the past repeating itself. Seeking happiness, addictions and pursuing all kinds of distractions often become our strategies to numb the hole within. But they don’t bring inner peace.
It is painful to face oneself. There are events that are so unjust and hurtful that it seems impossible to make sense of them. It would be cruel to expect or bluntly recommend “to simply change your perspective and you’ll feel fine”. However, no matter what we are going through now, no matter how much pain we have had to endure in the past, no matter how much we have lost, how much feels like it has been taken from us, even in the darkest hours of being with our wounds, our freedom and our will cannot be taken from us. We remain the ones who assign meaning to our experiences and our past. No one could take that from us. We are the ones who are in control of our future by choosing how we respond to the present. Part of this response is giving ourselves permission to require time. To give ourselves permission to be gentle and gracefully accept that part of life’s mystical beauty is that no matter what we go through, we rarely know the purpose of it in the present. Instead, we can look at ourselves in this moment and ask ourselves: What got me here?
There will be all the fun, all the joy, the laughter, the beauty, the care, the love and being loved, the carefree lightness of being, the sun, the barefoot running, the connection, friendship. And there will be the pain, the tears, the desperation, the breakdown, the arguments, the anger, the rain, the frustration, isolation. We cannot erase the hurtful experiences that shaped us just as much as the love-filled ones. Instead, we can find purpose in them. We can find understanding, compassion, forgiveness.
I marvel at my life often. It actually feels more like another lifetime to think back of my childhood or adulthood. Many people I have known back then wouldn’t know me or get me now. There are places I have outgrown that I once loved. And dreams and ideas of my life and myself that I have let go of. It seems to me that maybe, when things don’t work out, we are only being redirected. This idea has made me even more curious and open to what life brings along. Looking back at my own healing journey and my life so far, I smile at life more than I used to. I begin to see how the dots in my life connect and what picture that slowly paints. Experiencing trauma as a child made me adapt coping mechanisms that took me where I am now. Dismantling them and replacing them with conscious decisions that come from a place of self-love remains a process. It occurs to me that the healing journey is an ever-evolving trip.
Remembering bits and pieces of traumatic events can be so overwhelming and yet once I started making sense of these memories, it gave me direction and purpose. I can now understand, I can relate deeply to others thanks to my own experiences.
My parents separated when I was only five years old. I learned what loss is so early, because it felt like I lost my father for a long time. I learned to be independent, resilient, self-sufficient and forgiving through the way our family has evolved since then. If I didn’t grow up with a father who loved cooking but didn’t live with us and a single mum who barely had time to make extravagant dishes, I might have never become a good cook, I might have never found it to be my art or love it the way I do.
A few years ago, I suffered from countless allergies and hit rock bottom, feeling depressed and lonely, helpless. I could barely eat anything, I couldn’t go out the way I used to. I felt absolutely socially handicapped. I developed disordered eating patterns and an obsessive habit of working out. I looked for my self-worth everywhere, until I found it is a plant to be nurtured within. Until I started seeing the underlying pain I tried to ignore by replacing it with destructive behavior. But, if I hadn’t experienced the pain of hurting myself to that extent, of being misunderstood by the medical system and some people I then thought were close to me, I wouldn’t have been forced to face myself and sit with myself. This is how I learned to appreciate my solitude and how I learned to consciously choose who I surround myself with. This made me mindful and more compassionate. It also strengthened my ability of saying '“no” and “hell, yes” when I mean it. It made me love myself more and take care of myself. It was a period in my life where I learned to cook creatively using mainly plant-based ingredients, because I had to find alternatives and substitutions for what I was reacting allergically to.
Originally, I moved to Greece in 2015 to study Culinary Arts. I never did, but doing so eventually led me to working in a refugee camp, providing trauma-informed care to children who fled war. Working with the children made me understand the deep impact of traumatic stress, question my own experiences and ultimately understand my own behavioral patterns and underlying trauma that I wasn’t even aware of existed. It gave me access to my own memories long hidden - because yes, this is what our incredible bodies do: trauma is stored and we are protected from these traumatic memories often for years, decades. I like to think that the moment we recollect frictions of these events is the moment when we are strong enough to face them - and embark on a true healing journey.
My story, my love for food and my interest in alternative healing guided me to move to Canada to study Holistic Nutrition. This gave me the opportunity to learn about the tools to facilitate healing and empowered me to not only help myself, but also others. During my internship in Bali at Jiwa Damai, I learned a lot about transpersonal psychology and had the opportunity to confront deep wounds of mine in the process. I studied permaculture and nature’s rhythm and structures that are so aligned with human’s rhythms and structures. This deepened my understanding of the interconnectedness of everything that we are and everything that surrounds us. This is why I advocate for an integrative approach to medicine, because we are whole beings and we are part of a greater whole that impacts us with every step we take. Nutrition alone, medication alone, meditation alone, a change of location alone is not enough. We need to see ourselves and heal ourselves wholly.
When I follow the dots of my life, I can see that they are what got me here. Life is our greatest teacher. My experiences are where I am from and they led me to focusing my work on holistic support for healing from trauma.
Have you ever thought about your life in this way? Stand still and reflect on everything that shaped you. All the versions of you that you didn’t love, that you couldn’t love, made you who you are today. They got you here. Are you able to forgive yourself for not knowing better? For not doing things differently? Can you step back for a second and connect the dots of your life, re-framing the meaning of what you have gone through? What are you grateful for?
Working towards this perspective on the experiences we made in our lives brings us to a place where we free ourselves from being paralyzed by suffering. Finding purpose in what we have been through and seeing the beauty, resilience and strength that is within us due to both our joyful and our traumatic experiences makes room for acceptance and gratitude. And gratitude is healing. Crisis has the beautiful potential to transform us into our true selves, if we don’t run away from it.