From navigating a global pandemic to experiencing adverse childhood events, nearly everyone has or is experiencing trauma. And its’ impact can be felt in every area of one’s life. Whether the “injury” is a one-time occurrence or repeated over time, survivors are left with emotional wounds from which they need to recover. In our conversation with Dr. Donna®, we go beyond the common assumptions regarding self-care, define what it means to be trauma informed and learn how to be more compassionate with ourselves and others as we move from healing to thriving.
(Dr. Donna® gives us a working definition of self-care.)
We thought we had a pretty good understanding of trauma when we first sat down with Dr. Donna Hamilton, MD to discuss trauma and self-care. We. Were. Wrong. We thought trauma was, well, something catastrophically traumatic. We also believed that emotionally “traumatic” events fell in the category of things that, unfortunately, happened to other people.
From our perspective and cursory research, trauma was the emotional effect of adverse childhood events, abusive relationships and overwhelming life hardships. We’ve certainly had disappointments, setbacks and tough times. However, we failed to consider that being the primary caregiver for my mom might qualify as a trauma. Nevertheless, recovering, re-structuring, and re-defining our lives in the wake of Mom’s transition from this earthly realm while mentally processing national racial unrest AND negotiating a global pandemic has a way of producing more than a little emotional upset.
Without question, as we cared for Mom, we could have used a more expanded definition of self-care. We knew we could have often used a break, but didn’t think much about what that looked like mentally, emotionally, socially, spiritually or physically.
As we leaned into the conversation with Dr. Donna®, it became increasingly more clear that, we would have definitely benefited from being trauma-informed as we moved through the process of taking care of Mom.
Don’t get me wrong, we had countless joyous moments along the way and have no regrets about our care giving decision. However, we absolutely had a very limited definition of self-care. A shower was a rushed luxury. Neither of us has any shame in admitting this fact. Four hours of sleep in a row was considered a victory. And, most of the time we were mentally and physically exhausted. This was our normal.
Upon reflection, I can’t help but imagine what it might have felt like during the toughest times if those around us had been trauma-informed. During and after this illuminating conversation, I pondered how our experience might have been different if I had only known what self-care really looked and felt like for me, how to achieve it for myself, ways I could better support my over-wrought daughter and what others could do to really make a difference in the midst of our amazingly wonderful, life-changing…and, yes, sometimes traumatic care giving experience.
My sweet baby and I showed up for my Mom in a courageous, generous and loving manner. We cared. We loved. We gave…to the point of depletion. Now I wonder how much more beautiful the experience might have been if we had been trauma-informed. Knowing more healthy ways to care for ourselves would have certainly benefited us all.
We cannot change the past. However, our hope is that this conversation is the beginning of an increased understanding and, perhaps, a paradigm shift for us and you as to the many ways we can better care for ourselves– no matter what life brings.
IN TODAY’S CONVERSATION WE:
Take care of yourself!