August 15, 2017

The Art of Active Healing-Part III: Purpose

In this week's post with guest blogger, Jillian Short, we explore some practical ways to become "purposeful" in our healing.

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We’ve spent the last two weeks discussing the art of active healing. We touched on Denial and how this normal reaction serves to protect our bodies from damage—allowing us time to safely process. We then moved on to focus on Persepective, keeping in mind that so much of our wellbeing comes from how we feel or think about a circumstance or situation. Both of these—Denial and Perspective—provide physical aspects to our healing.

Just as other bodily symptoms/reactions are present with any illness or condition, in the same way our bodies answer our Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) with symptoms, reactions and responses. We can google “Diabetes” and read how to actively take charge of the management and treatment of this disease. We can readily learn how diet and exercise can prevent Type 2 diabetes from progressing and developing into Type 1—or worse. Through research, we now know that applying a holistic approach to managing diseases/illnesses can help create a much more successful outcome.

In our culture, we really aren’t taught to take an active role in the care of our mental, spiritual and emotional health. We are taught from childhood to supress and hide our adverse experiences—and the normal symptoms associated with our trauma—as if exhibiting our trauma somehow translates out to some innate weakness in our lives!! 

Oftentimes we find ourselves years down the road of life before we finally come to the realization that we actually matter. That our feelings matter. That our physical wellbeing is connected to our emotional health—or lack thereof! And this is the time to decide how we are going to move forward into an active partnership—bridging our physical self and our emotional/mental/spiritual self

It is during this season of awakening—the season of shedding the skin of our Denial—that we often experience our greatest onset of symptoms and “issues”. With proper perspective, we can make a choice to view this season in our lives as productive and necessary. We are literally taking back the ground that was taken from us—and it is time! 

Accepting—realizing—that our symptoms (and reactions) have been normal responses to our trauma is the most important healing step we may have ever taken! This realization may be accompanied by a feeling of liberation and freedom—or you may find yourself incredibly emotional and sad. Sad for all that has been lost. 

It is imperative that we grasp the idea of “rehab” and what that means/looks like. Let's imagine this scenario: an Olympian runner loses both his legs and is not expected to walk again, let alone run.  But more than anything he wants to run again, so he decides to go for it with all his heart. He puts the huge, nearly impenetrable goal of competing again in the forefront of his mind, and now he eats, sleeps and breathes his goals—his purpose. He begins to measure everything he eats. He writes out his goals. He hires a specialized trainer. He puts pictures of runners all over his house--on his fridge, above his toilet, in his car. He sits in bed at night and reads running magazines. He lifts weights. But more importantly he plans and anticipates his SUCCESS.


Successful rehab and treatment is always accompanied by hard work and "pre-commitment". We must choose to surround ourselves with strength and wholeness—to hunker down and do whatever is necessary to be well and happy. The first step in that direction is giving yourself permission to be happy. Especially for survivors of child sexual abuse, it's easy to believe we are not worthy to be truly happy. Guilt holds us back. Our memories chain us to the wall of indecisiveness. Growth seems to elude us, mostly because of our fear of change, our fear of responsibility and our fear of success. And strangely, sometimes it's just more comfortable to stay anchored to our excuses, fear and/or indecision.

During my awakening stage, I found it very helpful to write in a journal. I bought a new notebook that was small enough to easily carry with me in my purse. I actively wrote out my thoughts, plans and goals, lists of changes I wanted to make, verses, quotes and poems, letters to God (sometimes angry, sometimes full of hope and faith) and my exercise and diet goals. This is a practice I continue to embrace to this day.

On a practical level, here are a few “on purpose” steps you can take to help achieve mental balance and happiness:
  1. Join a positive support group
  2. Seek a coach or therapist you feel comfortable with
  3. Remove negative friends/family members from your sphere of influence
  4. Go through your list of TV shows—break free from any that are trashy or negative.
  5. Make a list of movies/books that bring back the happy “child” in you. Go on a quest to watch/read each one you can get your hands on!
  6. Begin an exercise regimen—including time for quiet walks and peaceful deep breathing!
  7. Commit to healthy eating—and throw in some great ambience whenever possible! Candles, a gorgeous view…and every now and then, enjoy a perfect dessert with someone you love!
  8. With the help of your doctor, decide to take active inventory—and active control—of your medications.
  9. Take steps to gain control over any addictions or dependencies you may have acquired. You deserve to be whole and well.
  10. Get up earlier—or go to bed earlier. 
  11. Reclaim your faith!
  12. Hug your loved ones!
  13. Give forgiveness a chance. At this point, you are only hurting yourself by allowing “them” to retain their hold on you. You deserve happiness—and they don’t have any right to control you! Not anymore, and not ever again! 
  14. Rejoice in your freedom!
  15. Look yourself in the eye—in the mirror—and be proud of who you are. Promise yourself that you will begin to care more deeply for your health. Make a choice to celebrate the things about yourself that you can’t change.
  16. Remove negative talk from your vocabulary. Speak the words you would say to your own child. Words of hope. Words of empowerment and confidence that they can "be whoever they want to be" or "achieve whatever they put their mind to".
  17. Reach out to others! Find a community outreach program or activity that interests you and get involved. You have no idea how much of a blessing you could be to someone else! Your past experiences will be a huge source of blessing and encouragement to those you meet! 

Viewing your healing as purposeful rehab can be very empowering. And that is exactly what this is. REHAB. You can’t go back and undo what happened to you. There is no magic to completely erase the painful memories or the fall-out of your abuse. So viewing your healing as rehab—learning to successfully readjust your life and re-route your thought processes—is crucial to your wellness. 


Living on purpose starts from the inside and flows outward. The most important “next step” you can ever take is that of shifting your heart toward the idea of Purpose—and this begins from the realization that you are still here for a reason—and that you matter.  







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As a very young child, I was subjected to sexual abuse until I was seven. When I was twelve, my parents and I went to Micronesia as missionaries with Evangelism Missions Inc. I loved it! I learned the language, embraced the culture, and eventually became interpreter for our mission church. My abuse became a distant memory—buried and unaddressed.

Years later, still deep in the clutches of my church affiliation, I married a man who was physically abusive—with the church’s backing—under the doctrine of “Biblical Patriarchy”. Then the unthinkable happened. I discovered my children were being sexually abused. My world crashed around me.

I wish I could say I was strong and tenacious. I wasn’t. The knowledge of my children’s abuse filled me with such pain I could barely function. Guilt engulfed me. How could this have happened? I’d been abused myself—Shouldn’t I have been able to recognize the signs? This trauma triggered my own unresolved past, resulting in PTSD and severe anxiety disorder. The lack of support from our friends—especially within the church—astounded me. We were told to forgive and honor our abuser. They strictly instructed us to be silent, even telling us not to press charges, stating that “speaking out about our abuse gave the church—and thus, Jesus Christ—a bad name”. He only served an 18-month sentence. After his release, he was brought back into church leadership.

I left my toxic church—and my marriage—and began the slow, upward path toward recovery. My children began to truly heal. I was amazed to learn more about Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) and its effects on us as adults. I surrounded myself with life-changing resources—and positive support.

Today, I am a court-certified translator/interpreter, co-owner of a real estate investment company, and the founder/CEO of Always a Voice®. I am the International Spokesperson for Stop the Silence® and an Advocate/Ambassador with the CSA Survivor Force, a national media outreach group under Stop the Silence®/NAASCA (http://www.naasca.org/StopTheSilence/ or https://stopthesilence.org/csa-survivor-force/). I have a degree in Counseling/ Biblical Theology and use my experiences to offer hope and encouragement to other survivors.

I am happily remarried and my family is thriving—more than I would have thought possible! My children have gone on to use their own voices through music, dance, art, education. Some are directly fighting against sex-trafficking and child abuse.

My passion and goal is to empower those who have no voice--or those just finding their voices--and to raise awareness on how to better recognize signs of abuse and how to combat precise issues/problems relating to the “fall out” of trauma. My next book, “This Little Plight of Mine©” (late 2017) speaks out against what I now define as “Church-Sanctioned Abuse©”.

I am committed to use my voice (through media, newspaper, and radio), on a global level, to stop the silence and perpetuation of abuse and trauma “one person, one dream, one step, one leap at a time.”




August 9, 2017

The Art of Active Healing-Part II: Perspective

During the month of August, we are focusing on learning how to tap into the truth we already have inside us and go all out in what Jillian Short calls a “full-thrive”. We will continue to discuss this week what it means to walk in strength, peace, power and joy—during our healing process and within the boiling pot of imperfection and pain.

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It’s so easy to get imprisoned in the quagmire of what was—of all that happened! Of what we didn’t do. Of what we know we should’ve done. But there is good news!

Anytime we are seeking growth in any area, there are always things we can do to cultivate our goals. It is so important to focus on practical ways we can nurture healing. Remember that every major change is accompanied by hard work and "pre-commitment".  And it requires us to change our perspective. But we have to want to.

What is your identity? Is it your pain/trauma? Has being a "victim" crowded out the YOU you were meant to be?

There are many situations in life that are out of our realm and control. Many things are not in our jurisdictions/job descriptions or responsibilities. For example, you can’t make it stop raining. If your home has already been repossessed, any amount of “changing your perspective” is not going to bring it back to you. It is not our decision to make. These unchangeables of life fall outside the box of what we can do.

There are countless unwanted scenarios/memories in each of our lives that we simply cannot change.  And most of those hard situations are the cause of our depression and stagnation.

I firmly believe we must live ON PURPOSE. Growth requires planning, plotting and cultivation. Once again: every major change is accompanied by hard work and "pre-commitment". WHY? Because the mere fact that we need a "change" implies that there is already something else that exists...that needs to be re-done, re-worked, eradicated, uprooted, re-born, revitalized...

TODAY'S QUESTION(S): 
What is it you TRULY want? Do you want to be an overcomer? What is the alternative? Remaining a victim is a choice all survivors have. 

It is easy to become comfortable with our tag of “victim” and merely survive on the pity of others. Or worse, we can become dependent on the resulting turmoil and unhappiness of our pasts—without even knowing it.

This week as you are pondering your past and struggling to make sense of it all, I invite you to let go.  Release the terrible pressure of trying to figure it all out. You are here now—and you are here for a reason!  I encourage you to accept the fact that your trauma/abuse was not your choosing. It was not remotely your fault.

As you continue to park here on these thoughts, I encourage you to resist the temptation to blame, fix, tweak or manipulate anything in your mind. That even includes the “fall-out years”, following your abuse/trauma.  This “letting go” is nothing more than just breathing in—deeply—and embracing YOU. Your whole self—with the pain. Not inspite of it. Because of it!

Currently I am Mrs. District of Columbia US Continental 2017. When I donned my sash and crown, this did not magically turn me into a queen. Who I am—ME—was not intrinsically altered at that moment. The sash and crown were placed on me. They did not change or define who I already was or who I truly am.

In the same way that my sash and crown did not/does not make me a queen, the pain and abuse that was placed on me did not/does not alter who I am. Who I was born to be.

There is a future aspect to this thought. My title as Mrs. District of Columbia does not alter who I was or who I am, but it will alter what I am able to accomplish with my life from here forward. I can choose to use this title as a megaphone to implement change—to be a louder voice to STOP THE SILENCE and perpetuation of sexual abuse and trauma. But that is entirely up to me.

In the same way, I can choose to use the abuse/pain I have experienced as tools of change. Because of my life experiences, I possess empathy, compassion and understanding. There is beauty and power in taking back the ground that has been stolen from us!

This is the essence of empowerment!

“Perspective makes all the difference. It’s not what you look at; it’s what you see… Remember that the sun never actually sets; it's our perspective that makes it appear to. Our sunset is another’s sunrise. It's all perspective. How would your life be different if you applied this truth to the things that cause you stress? Letting go isn’t about erasing the past; it’s about looking at the same event and seeing something different. Activate this power in your life! Take the pain and poison of the past and allow it to nourish a new found wisdom. Remember, you can't change the past, but you can change the labels you place on events. Perspective - it’s not what you look at; it’s what you see.” ~ Steve Maraboli
           

Last week I touched briefly on ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and how they affect our health. Here is an excerpt from last week’s discussion:

“As it pertains to our past abuse, it is truly imperative that we address and embrace our trauma as we would any other major illness, disease or injury.  If you were diagnosed with diabetes today, you would be wise to take your diagnosis seriously if you want to live a healthy and happy life. You might be encouraged to make necessary dietary changes or begin an exercise program. You might even join a support group—especially if you were struggling to accept your diagnosis.

Emotional, sexual and/or spiritual abuse are life-altering experiences. These Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) are no less traumatic or impactful to our physical bodies than other more physical forms of trauma—such as diabetes and other health-related issues.”

In keeping with the fact that childhood traumas are relevant to our ongoing health, I want to take a moment to stress a very important element. It is of utmost importance for you to have strong, positive mentors in place who can and will assist you. If you haven’t already, I urge you to find a trusted coach/counselor/therapist who can help guide you as you change your perspective and grow in realization and awakening. Seeking help is not weak—it is wise!

It is our natural instinct to love and protect ourselves. The existence of these amazing survival apps within our bodies is the very reason we are struggling to conquer—to erupt—and rise above our painful childhoods or our years of “disconnect”!  

Giving yourself permission to change your perspective is one of the most powerful decisions you will ever make. Healing is a process—a journey—and YOU are at the helm of your own progress!






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As a very young child, I was subjected to sexual abuse until I was seven. When I was twelve, my parents and I went to Micronesia as missionaries with Evangelism Missions Inc. I loved it! I learned the language, embraced the culture, and eventually became interpreter for our mission church. My abuse became a distant memory—buried and unaddressed.

Years later, still deep in the clutches of my church affiliation, I married a man who was physically abusive—with the church’s backing—under the doctrine of “Biblical Patriarchy”. Then the unthinkable happened. I discovered my children were being sexually abused. My world crashed around me.

I wish I could say I was strong and tenacious. I wasn’t. The knowledge of my children’s abuse filled me with such pain I could barely function. Guilt engulfed me. How could this have happened? I’d been abused myself—Shouldn’t I have been able to recognize the signs? This trauma triggered my own unresolved past, resulting in PTSD and severe anxiety disorder. The lack of support from our friends—especially within the church—astounded me. We were told to forgive and honor our abuser. They strictly instructed us to be silent, even telling us not to press charges, stating that “speaking out about our abuse gave the church—and thus, Jesus Christ—a bad name”. He only served an 18-month sentence. After his release, he was brought back into church leadership.

I left my toxic church—and my marriage—and began the slow, upward path toward recovery. My children began to truly heal. I was amazed to learn more about Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) and its effects on us as adults. I surrounded myself with life-changing resources—and positive support.

Today, I am a court-certified translator/interpreter, co-owner of a real estate investment company, and the founder/CEO of Always a Voice®. I am the International Spokesperson for Stop the Silence® and an Advocate/Ambassador with the CSA Survivor Force, a national media outreach group under Stop the Silence®/NAASCA (http://www.naasca.org/StopTheSilence/ or https://stopthesilence.org/csa-survivor-force/). I have a degree in Counseling/ Biblical Theology and use my experiences to offer hope and encouragement to other survivors.

I am happily remarried and my family is thriving—more than I would have thought possible! My children have gone on to use their own voices through music, dance, art, education. Some are directly fighting against sex-trafficking and child abuse.

My passion and goal is to empower those who have no voice--or those just finding their voices--and to raise awareness on how to better recognize signs of abuse and how to combat precise issues/problems relating to the “fall out” of trauma. My next book, “This Little Plight of Mine©” (late 2017) speaks out against what I now define as “Church-Sanctioned Abuse©”.

I am committed to use my voice (through media, newspaper, and radio), on a global level, to stop the silence and perpetuation of abuse and trauma “one person, one dream, one step, one leap at a time.”





August 1, 2017

The Art of Active Healing-Part I: Denial

During these next four weeks, we will have the great gift of Jillian Short sharing with us about her life and what she's learned in her healing journey. We will focus on learning how to tap into the truth we already have inside us and go all out in what Jill calls a “full-thrive”. We will discuss what it means to walk in strength, peace, power and joy—during our healing process and within the boiling pot of imperfection and pain.

--

When life hands you a plate you didn’t order, even the basic ins and outs of life can become a battle just to keep your head above water.  Perhaps you can’t even remember what trust and zest is—it’s been so long since you've possessed either one—or worse, you can’t remember life before the abuse/trauma!  

Perhaps your abuse happened decades ago—and yet your heaviness lingers and you’ve noticed you’re getting more traumatized about your past than ever before. Especially after years of numbness, or even decades of intentionally avoiding your memories—or perhaps you only recently remembered what happened to you!

Questions are now bombarding you. Why can’t I turn the corner? Why are the bad memories and nightmares getting worse?

With each survivor—no matter what our story is—there comes a time, a season, of awakening and realization. Our pain becomes almost tangible. Angry questions like What planet was I on? Why did I allow him to hurt me for so long? Why didn’t I stand up for myself? boil to the surface, demanding answers.

In spite of this horrific upheaval, something wonderful is happening to you! Your body/soul has decided you are now strong enough to confront your pain!

This awakening hurts beyond words! And no wonder—when our eyes have been accustomed to the dark, the sun’s brightness hurts! It makes us squint and want to run the other way! 

So what is going on? Our bodies have been in protection mode—and as we awaken to the truth of our abuse, we become present. We become aware. And increasingly we begin to feel the reality of what we experienced in our past. We are no longer in shock—which, by the way, is a life-saver when our bodies undergo major trauma.

Much like our body going into shock to preserve us after a physical trauma, our souls put up protection and padding against certain unraveling. We have given this a name. We have called it Denial.

I want to camp here for a while and pull apart the word and the idea of denial. The word denial has been floating around a lot lately. So has the word empowerment. But like other buzz words, we often fail to hear and/or truly acknowledge their meaning or how they apply to us. There were many years of my life that I couldn’t see I was drowning in denial (case in point!), and the word empowerment scared and confused me because I was living the complete polar opposite. We must not take this lightly.

Funny thing when we are wrapped in the blanket of denial, there is a pseudo sense of peace. It isn’t a peaceful kind of peace, but rather a lack of engagement, a lack of being able to be truly present. Certain areas of our hearts are roped off and we must maintain a pseudo existence. We want to be normal. 

Interestingly when we look closer, denial itself is one of the stages of shock. And when we look even closer, we realize that these stages are actually normal.

I have come to understand denial, and to even respect it. Abuse is too horrific to gaze directly into its face, so our bodies lovingly protect us. We often turn to unrealistic thoughts or escape mechanisms in an attempt to maintain our footing. 

Denial creates a massive disconnect between our bodies and our souls—which is good for a time. But it isn’t healthy to stay there! This disconnect can only continue for so long until our bodies and our souls cry out, “enough is enough!” We are intricate and priceless creations—and we can only handle denial/neglect for so long. We can put off eating for a time, but our bodies will eventually rise up and demand care. Much in the same way, as survivors, one day we may begin to revisit our long-ago pain. We may begin to experience the trauma as if it happened yesterday.  And we hear—if we are willing to listen—our souls demanding to be heard. Asking us to rise up. Care for me! Notice me! Stand up for me! Celebrate the beauty of me—the real me! And with this awakening comes the opening of old wounds.

We have begun our exodus out of denial! We are now being given the choice to come up higher. To allow ourselves to learn to feel again and truly thrive.

Today I want to invite you to step back and view what is happening to you from a different perspective! The mere fact that you are able to finally look at, to see, to comprehend your situation—what really happened to you…even if you still can’t come to grips with it—is a healthy sign!

You are healing. Your denial stage was part of your healing too. In the case of long-term emotional, physical or sexual abuse, denial is a way of life. You are not alone. Your denial was a preservation tool! I encourage you today to be kind to yourself and accept that. Your very soul was protecting YOU.

There is life past your abuse. There is life past your stage of shock and denial!! You can find your footing again and be who you were truly created to be! And that person—that person you were born to be—is still here.  That You is fighting for you and standing up for you.

I invite you to view your life and your pain from a different perspective! There is no possible way to get from back there (your past abuse/trauma) to the life you deserve and want to live—not without first stepping out of the numbness of denial. And there is no way around the fact that it is going to be hard. It hurts to feel! But you can do this! “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)

As it pertains to our past abuse, it is truly imperative that we address and embrace our trauma as we would any other major illness, disease or injury.  If you were diagnosed with diabetes today, you would be wise to take your diagnosis seriously if you want to live a healthy and happy life. You might be encouraged to make necessary dietary changes or begin an exercise program. You might even join a support group—especially if you were struggling to accept your diagnosis.

Emotional, sexual and/or spiritual abuse are life-altering experiences. These Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) are no less traumatic or impactful to our physical bodies than other more physical forms of trauma—such as diabetes and other health-related issues.

Next week we will discuss, in greater detail, the issues of ACES and how we can learn to take an active role in our own path toward wholeness. Until then, know you are not alone. You are priceless and unique. And it’s OK to feel the unsettling of realization and awareness. In fact it is the beginning—the birth—of finding your voice!



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As a very young child, I was subjected to sexual abuse until I was seven. When I was twelve, my parents and I went to Micronesia as missionaries with Evangelism Missions Inc. I loved it! I learned the language, embraced the culture, and eventually became interpreter for our mission church. My abuse became a distant memory—buried and unaddressed.

Years later, still deep in the clutches of my church affiliation, I married a man who was physically abusive—with the church’s backing—under the doctrine of “Biblical Patriarchy”. Then the unthinkable happened. I discovered my children were being sexually abused. My world crashed around me.

I wish I could say I was strong and tenacious. I wasn’t. The knowledge of my children’s abuse filled me with such pain I could barely function. Guilt engulfed me. How could this have happened? I’d been abused myself—Shouldn’t I have been able to recognize the signs? This trauma triggered my own unresolved past, resulting in PTSD and severe anxiety disorder. The lack of support from our friends—especially within the church—astounded me. We were told to forgive and honor our abuser. They strictly instructed us to be silent, even telling us not to press charges, stating that “speaking out about our abuse gave the church—and thus, Jesus Christ—a bad name”. He only served an 18-month sentence. After his release, he was brought back into church leadership.

I left my toxic church—and my marriage—and began the slow, upward path toward recovery. My children began to truly heal. I was amazed to learn more about Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) and its effects on us as adults. I surrounded myself with life-changing resources—and positive support.

Today, I am a court-certified translator/interpreter, co-owner of a real estate investment company, and the founder/CEO of Always a Voice®. I am the International Spokesperson for Stop the Silence® and an Advocate/Ambassador with the CSA Survivor Force, a national media outreach group under Stop the Silence®/NAASCA (http://www.naasca.org/StopTheSilence/ or https://stopthesilence.org/csa-survivor-force/). I have a degree in Counseling/ Biblical Theology and use my experiences to offer hope and encouragement to other survivors.

I am happily remarried and my family is thriving—more than I would have thought possible! My children have gone on to use their own voices through music, dance, art, education. Some are directly fighting against sex-trafficking and child abuse.

My passion and goal is to empower those who have no voice--or those just finding their voices--and to raise awareness on how to better recognize signs of abuse and how to combat precise issues/problems relating to the “fall out” of trauma. My next book, “This Little Plight of Mine©” (late 2017) speaks out against what I now define as “Church-Sanctioned Abuse©”.

I am committed to use my voice (through media, newspaper, and radio), on a global level, to stop the silence and perpetuation of abuse and trauma “one person, one dream, one step, one leap at a time.”






July 25, 2017

The Survivor's Road to Parenthood - Part 4

We conclude our series this week with Anita Butler. In this post, she explores what comes up for survivors now that their baby has arrived.

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Postpartum and Breastfeeding



We’ve all heard the stories, whether from friends, personal acquaintances, or on the news:  A postpartum woman has done the unthinkable, whether to her baby or to herself, leaving her loved ones and so many others in unimaginable shock and grief.  Seldom are we ever told her history: what were the dynamics of her marriage/relationship, what kind of religious background or dogma she may have adopted, whether she was physically or sexually abused as a child, what kind of trauma she experienced during the birth, or any number of other possibilities that may have served to fracture her mental or emotional stability, leading to a psychotic break.

Much more common - and commonly accepted - is “baby blues,” the milder form of postpartum depression, which most often calls for intervention, which may include individual therapy, support group participation, or medication.

The early days and weeks after giving birth are a highly sensitive time for EVERY woman.  Every woman experiences enormous changes in her body:  hormones are “shifting” - to put it mildly; her body has changed, and will continue to change in the coming weeks and months; becoming a new mother, or expanding her family with a new member, will bring changes to her day, the loss of control over which will almost certainly surprise; and perhaps the biggest surprises of all may show up in her closest relationships and in her new identity.  These changes can test the self-confidence of even the surest, most capable woman.

Add to that the relatively short “recovery time” expected of women in our day and time, and the general lack of postpartum support available to even the most resourced, and the gap between a woman’s expectations and the reality of her experience can shake her to her core.

Labor, birth and postpartum are a unique and sacred time in every woman’s life.  There is no other time when she will be more intensely in need of mothering than when she herself is bringing forth new life.  If her own needs for emotional and physical safety and loving touch were not met, it would be no surprise that her challenges in meeting the needs of her own baby would be greater than those of a woman without a history of abuse, both in number and intensity.

Specifically, in addition to the “usual” challenges, a survivor may be haunted by self-doubt about her ability to keep her baby safe.  She may be afraid to leave the baby with any caregiver - even the baby’s father, who may be confused or understandably hurt over her lack of trust in him.  Sexual difficulties may develop between them.  She may also have much greater difficulty breastfeeding, especially if her breasts were the focus of some of her prior abuse, experiencing flashbacks and/or disturbing emotions, causing her to confuse what should be the pleasurable sensations of breastfeeding with the incest she experienced in the past. 

Add to all the above the fact that as many as 11% of women report some level of birth related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (11%! and based on my own “up close and personal” contact with many hundreds of postpartum women, I believe this number to be under-reported), it becomes easy to see the importance of raising awareness and the right therapy and/or support for these moms, their babies and their partners.

The good news is, simply being aware how her history may affect her postpartum and breastfeeding experience can be the start of taking back her power, enabling her to set a plan for the support she’ll need.  This may include a postpartum support group, postpartum doula, lactation consultant (IBCLC), and possibly a counselor or therapist who specializes in women’s issues in the childbearing season.  Getting help sooner rather than later is important.  Talking over her concerns, preferably during pregnancy, in and of itself, reduces tension. With the right education and support during pregnancy, she can be guided into identifying her personal triggers, and planning strategies to see to needs for comfort and emotional safety, both during birth and during the postpartum period.

The BEST news is, the entire process of conceiving, carrying, giving birth and breastfeeding can be the most healing experience of a woman’s life!  It can be a time of awe, as her body grows a new human being - and perhaps for the first time, she feels pride in her body.  Giving birth can be an all new experience of taking back the power that was wrongfully taken from her, as she pushes her own baby out of her own body - or alternatively, being prepared to make choices for appropriate medical intervention.    Breastfeeding, aside from the pride and confidence that comes from providing her baby’s nutritional and emotional needs, can bring the mother to new levels of healing - restoring her self-respect - even self-admiration - and strengthening her ability to bond securely to her new baby.  And THIS is a gift that will last for a lifetime.





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Anita has been serving women in the greater Sacramento area, from pregnancy through birth and breastfeeding for over twenty years as a birth and postpartum doula, HypnoBirthing Childbirth Educator, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (BA-IBCLC), and Clinical Hypnotherapist.  Her passion is to empower women, wherever in their journey they are, at a time in their lives when self-doubt and disempowerment are the most common experience.  She also believes that the way babies are conceived, carried and brought into the world MATTERS:  to the mothers, the fathers, and most of all, to the babies.  It is this passion that drives her to continue studying the science and refining her skills to her clients’ benefit.


Anita recently left Sacramento to join the Birth Education Center of San Diego, and is thrilled to now call San Diego “home!”






July 19, 2017

The Survivor's Road to Parenthood - Part 3

We continue our series this week with Anita Butler. In this post, she explores the journey of pregnancy and birth for survivors of abuse.

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Pregnancy and Birth:  The Survivor’s Journey



In last week’s post, we considered possible challenges around fertility, conception, and the prospect of parenthood for those with a history of sexual abuse.  For some, this is where you may encounter your first challenge of the journey. For others, conception comes easy and is greeted with joy - or can even come as a surprise, possibly even in spite of careful measures to avoid it.

Similarly, there is a very wide variety of ways a survivor’s pregnancy and birth can be experienced.

In her book, “When Survivors Give Birth,” Penny Simkin writes,

“Pregnancy is a time of monumental change for women - a time when the past, present, and future all come together, a time of openness, a time of vulnerability.  Being pregnant causes memories of one’s own childhood to surface.  Past events are stirred up.  The present evokes the paradox of excitement over the baby on the one hand, and fears and anxiety on the other.  Thoughts of the future bring hopes of dreams fulfilled and eager anticipation of joy and love, along with apprehension over the demands of parenting and the effort it will take to keep the child safe and happy.”

Your experience can fall anywhere on the spectrum - from intense anxiety around the inevitable physical sensations and changes of pregnancy to an equally intense feeling of validation and joy, experiencing those same sensations as “proof” that your body isn’t broken, but normal - and wonderfully capable of growing a new human being.

Unresolved childhood abuse can be a significant factor in complications of pregnancy, such as intense “morning sickness,” pregnancy-induced hypertension, unexplained bleeding and pre- or post-maturity.  During labor and birth, it can result in prodromal labor (long, drawn out, slowly or non-progressing), increased physical pain and/or emotional trauma as certain exams or procedures may trigger flashbacks of abuse or feelings of being out of control or helpless.

Pregnancy-and-laborland is a veritable minefield of potential triggers for the survivor.  Some are just natural to the process of the spontaneous, uncontrollable unfolding of labor and birth:  nausea and vomiting, bloody excretions, moaning, grunting, crying out and feeling a baby in her vagina.  Some positions of labor can make any woman feel vulnerable - and especially one who may have experienced some form of powerlessness or humiliation in those positions.

Other triggers might be related to the hospital and/or medical procedures or equipment:  vaginal exams, IV’s, catheters, needles, and possibly the feeling of numbness from anesthesia that may add to the feeling of being out of control, even though the pain relief was requested.

Also, some commonly used phrases a labouring woman is likely to hear can stimulate surprising reactions.  Phrases such as “relax and it won’t hurt so much,” “open your legs,” “relax your bottom,” etc., can bring long-suppressed memories into the present moment.  Even phrases intended to be encouraging, such as “trust your body,” or “do what your body tells you to do,” can be unwelcome words to a woman who has felt betrayed by her body, or has embodied experiences of shame or anguish.

So…all that is the bad news.

The good news is, with the right support and preparation, your experience of pregnancy, labor and birth can be the next step to deeper healing and empowerment than you ever imagined possible!  And this is true for EVERY woman, whether or not she experienced sexual abuse.

It DOES require the right support and preparation - not merely an understanding of the potential, or wishful thinking.  And the usual preparation - books, hospital classes and short appointments with their obstetrician - falls far short of meeting the needs of a woman with a high level of anxiety or fear around pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.

The right support can include private counseling and/or hypnotherapy; guidance on how to communicate effectively with doctors, midwives and other medical staff; finding a mother-centered childbirth education series, such as HypnoBirthing or The Bradley Method, where you’ll find a safe environment where you can learn your options - and there are more than you might imagine - for giving birth in a way you’ll actually love to remember!

You can’t change the past.  What happened, happened.  It may feel like you just can’t overcome it.  But what if you absolutely CAN heal your present, and change your future - and that of your children?  What if carrying and giving birth to your own baby can give you back the power that was wrongfully taken from you?  It can restore your faith and confidence in your body.  It can transform your self-doubt - even self-loathing - into self-acceptance, pride, and self-love, as you experience the creation of life itself in your beautiful, amazing body. 

My life-calling is to do all I can to bring transformation to women’s and babies’ experiences of pregnancy, labor, birth and breastfeeding.  Because when women are healed and empowered, we can change the world - whether we do it by mothering our own children in confidence and love, or if we express our creative powers in another way.  And when a baby’s prenatal and early experiences are of love and peace rather than fear, they will be a beautiful manifestation of that change!



Read Part 4: Postpartum & Breastfeeding



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Anita has been serving women in the greater Sacramento area, from pregnancy through birth and breastfeeding for over twenty years as a birth and postpartum doula, HypnoBirthing Childbirth Educator, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (BA-IBCLC), and Clinical Hypnotherapist.  Her passion is to empower women, wherever in their journey they are, at a time in their lives when self-doubt and disempowerment are the most common experience.  She also believes that the way babies are conceived, carried and brought into the world MATTERS:  to the mothers, the fathers, and most of all, to the babies.  It is this passion that drives her to continue studying the science and refining her skills to her clients’ benefit.


Anita recently left Sacramento to join the Birth Education Center of San Diego, and is thrilled to now call San Diego “home!”





July 11, 2017

The Survivor’s Road to Parenthood - Part 2

We continue our series this week with Anita Butler. In this post, she shares some of the common reasons survivors of trauma struggle with conceiving.

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The First Stretch of the Road to Parenthood:  Fertility/Conception
How sexual abuse might affect this stage of the journey


You very well may have “worked through” a substantial amount of your wounds from the sexual abuse of your past.  Or, maybe it’s tucked so far away from your conscious awareness, you hardly think of it any more, even though you might have puzzling difficulties in your relationship emotionally and sexually - and it simply doesn’t occur to you how the dots connect between the abuse you experienced then, and the issues you’re dealing with now.  Your issues may be only emotional - or they may be physical, as well, with scar tissue from injuries or prior infections forming blocks to conception. 

The farther in the past your abuse and the work you’ve done, the more likely you’ll feel that you’re ready to move on with your life.  The good news is, that very well may be true!  And you may now be in a wonderful relationship, and have decided to start a family.  Or, you may be struggling with the thought of pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding, with your non-abused partner expressing his/her desire - and there’s now an awkwardness in your relationship that’s disturbing to you both.

Whatever the cause is for you, the result of it, so far, is what you don’t want:  reduced fertility or infertility. You may have been diagnosed by physical exam, which is actually the “best” news - because many of these conditions are correctible with today’s medical technology. The most frustrating diagnosis is
“unexplained infertility.”  What do you do with that??  If the cause is unexplained, how can you begin to take appropriate action?  You might jump right in to any number of fertility treatment options.  But if the answer were that simple, you could just go with IVF (in vitro fertilization), and be “one and done,” right?  But a quick look at the statistics will show that it just doesn’t work that way.

What are some possible explanations for unexplained fertility? 

Fertility is usually a function of overall health - mental/emotional AND physical.  Of course, the two are inextricably linked, with one’s mental and emotional states having physical effects, and physical conditions affecting one’s mental and emotional state.

Let’s take them one at a time:

In her article, “Psychological Trauma and Physical Health: A Psychoneuroimmunology Approach to Etiology of Negative Health Effects and Possible Interventions,” (whew!  That’s a mouthful, right??), Kathleen Kendal-Tackett describes the research on the effects of trauma on health.  The research affirms my personal and professional experience working with women who have survived childhood abuse, whether sexual or not:  There is a strong correlation between “Adverse Childhood Experiences” (ACEs) and a host of medical problems in adulthood, much of it related to systemic inflammation.  

Inflammation itself has a very important function, with pro-inflammatory cytokines sent to the site of a wound (for instance), serving the adaptive purpose of helping the body heal wounds and fight infection.  Many abuse survivors are in a heightened state of stress most, if not all the time. With the “fight or flight” hormones constantly elevated, the level of pro-inflammatory cytokines increases dramatically - but there’s no physical wound to heal. 

So you end up with “systemic inflammation” - which leads to such conditions as coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction, chronic pain syndromes, premature ageing, Alzheimer’s disease, impaired immune function, and impaired wound healing - makes sense, right?  All those cytokines are circulating through the body instead of doing their job at the wound site. 

Similarly, people with PTSD who were studied (also, logically, would have systemic inflammation), were found to also have, in addition to the list above, gastrointestinal illnesses, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple-chemical sensitivity.  Why would it be surprising that a woman’s body would lack the “bandwidth” to conceive and carry a baby with all of that going on?

The other main component is the emotional blocks you might have.  Negative emotions can be widely diverse, ranging from depression to anxiety to hostility.  All of these states will increase systemic inflammation and reduce the strength and vitality of the immune system.  Again, the good news is that with competent, caring guidance, these troubling emotions and blocks can be discovered (yes, often there is a discovery process that yields surprising revelations about “what’s going on in there”) and released.

Then, there’s the baby that wants to come to you.  Don’t laugh!  Energetically, the embodiment of a soul is really a thing.  So imagine if you were a “future embryo” wanting to “land” in your mom’s body.  What would you want?  A body full of stress and pro-inflammatory cytokines? (I’m thinking not)  What would you be looking for?  A happy mom, with no greater desire than to snuggle with you, sing to you and play with you? Mmmm, yeah.  That’s what babies want.

In my work with women struggling to conceive, I’ve found such an inspiring level of commitment - physically and financially - to whatever they have to do to realize their dream of conceiving, carrying, giving birth and mothering.  I’ve also found lack of awareness around the importance of systemic inflammation and emotional blocks.  Once you know the roles they play in your fertility - not to mention your overall health and happiness - the “work/play” can begin! This work/play, done in a very safe “container,” may include any combination of health coaching, visualization, hypnotherapy, cognitive work, and various exercises to discover and release those blocks. And when blocks are released, miracles happen!

My loving wish for you is that you will be supported on your journey into motherhood, with all its potential challenges and frustrations. And may the growth and deep healing you experience be the foundation of many joyful, fulfilling mothering years.




Read Part 3: Pregnancy & Birth




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Anita has been serving women in the greater Sacramento area, from pregnancy through birth and breastfeeding for over twenty years as a birth and postpartum doula, HypnoBirthing Childbirth Educator, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (BA-IBCLC), and Clinical Hypnotherapist.  Her passion is to empower women, wherever in their journey they are, at a time in their lives when self-doubt and disempowerment are the most common experience.  She also believes that the way babies are conceived, carried and brought into the world MATTERS:  to the mothers, the fathers, and most of all, to the babies.  It is this passion that drives her to continue studying the science and refining her skills to her clients’ benefit.


Anita recently left Sacramento to join the Birth Education Center of San Diego, and is thrilled to now call San Diego “home!”




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