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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Trauma and Living a Healthy Lifestyle

We all deal with trauma differently in our lives. It is inevitable that all of us will deal with traumatic events, to a lesser or greater degree, throughout our lives. The one thing for certain is that trauma and how we deal with it can greatly affect our physical and mental health.

Not only can the event itself affect us both physically and mentally but then how we deal with the memories of the trauma going forward can greatly influence our well-being.

I have had my fair share of trauma in my life. At some points in my life it seems like I was barraged with one traumatic event after another...like when my mother was dying of cancer, moved in with us as she dealt with this cruel disease and then 6 weeks after her death I gave birth to a little girl with a major birth defect. And then just as we were getting a handle on our baby's health, after neo-natal intensive care and multiple operations, my husband's business went bankrupt. Not an easy time.

How did I handle and deal with all that trauma? I ate. I also did not sleep so well. Lots of nights wandering the house and watching late-night movies...often with a snack. Eating has been a crutch for me all my life. It was a way for me to literally push my emotions...anger, hurt, pain...back down inside of me. I would swallow it...along with a piece or two of cake, or cheese and crackers..wine, too, or anything else I could find. It calmed me and anesthetized me. Food helped me not feel those big emotions so I could keep going and get up each day.

Ultimately though, all that eating and drinking didn't solve anything. It only made things worse. The emotions just kept piling up on each other. I slept even more poorly. And, of course, I kept gaining weight. You feel bad about yourself, you don't have as much energy, your clothes don't fit right, and your body rebels and strains against the undesired weight. So you eat more and the vicious cycle endures.

I have found that you can't really begin to achieve a healthy lifestyle, which includes positive weight management, without dealing with the reasons you are overweight and over eat. You can't just wake up one day and stop eating "because it is good for you and your health". You have to "face your demons". And since the chances are not all demons will disappear, you also need help in learning more constructive ways of dealing with your emotions. And those ways have to be ones that work for you so they can become habituated over time and easy to access when you need them.

I have needed a lot of support on this particular part of my journey. Reading is a great resource for me and where I find many answers.  One great book I have found incredibly helpful is Healing From Trauma: A Survivors Guide to Understanding Your Symptoms and Reclaiming Your Life by Jasmin Lee Cori, MS, LPC. I have also gone to a Somatic Therapist which has been very healing.

If we don't invest in ourselves, who will? Living a healthy lifestyle doesn't just mean indulging in the fun stuff. It also means investing time and energy in confronting your traumas and challenges so we can ultimately become as healthy as possible...both inside and out. It is not an easy journey but with out it I would still be on the same spinning wheel going in circles and staying in the same place, looking at the same rut-of-a-life. This healthier me is so much more resilient and can see choices in her life she was never able to see before. My feet don't hurt so much any more as I walk this rocky path of Life, filled with ruts, roots and pebbles. I wear nice, new and padded, tennis shoes now!