Old Wounds Heal, Pal

Content warning: Suicide

One of the last lines in the movie, The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood is “Old wounds heal, pal.” I believe that to be true. And I believe my old wounds are in the process of healing.

I mentioned in my first post that I was working through my own childhood trauma with a therapist. For several years, I had wanted to work with someone who was skilled in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Last February I got that opportunity. I was referred to an excellent therapist.

But let me back up a little…or actually a lot.

The most impactful childhood trauma I experienced was my father’s mental illness that ultimately ended in him taking his life when I was 10 years old. [Here my focus is on my own experience, but I want to acknowledge my empathy for my parent’s own trauma and will address that connection in a later post.]

Things were very different back then. I never saw a counselor as a child. And there was so much shame surrounding a family member committing suicide that it was hardly ever talked about.

When I was older, I did a lot of work on my own—reading books about surviving the suicide of a parent, writing about it, talking it through with a few trusted friends. In junior high, I even wrote a poem about my dad’s suicide. Eventually, I thought I had it sorted out. I could talk about it without being emotional.… Read the full post “Old Wounds Heal, Pal”

I’m So Lucky!

As today is Thanksgiving, I want to share a story about gratitude.

Years ago my mom worked with a man who had several children. The youngest, Julia, was doted over by the whole family. She had to go in to have her tonsils removed and her parents and siblings worried that she would be scared. So they dealt with it preemptively by talking about all of the good things that would happen before and after the surgery.

“You’ll get to stay home from school.”

“You’ll get to eat all of the ice cream and popsicles you want.”

And on and on.

They realized they may have overdone it when she finally proclaimed, “I’m so lucky!”

This story is one that my family has referenced often through the years. Like an inside joke, we sometimes say “I’m so lucky” in situations where we are facing something challenging. It brings a bit of levity into the situation and is also a reminder that there really is always something to be grateful for.

As neuroscientists are recognizing the many benefits of gratitude on our well-being they are also discovering that for some people, like Julia, gratitude comes more naturally. Research is identifying both genetic differences and brain differences in people who are naturally more grateful.

The good news though is that whether gratitude comes naturally or not, practicing gratitude can change our habits and maybe even rewire our brains—resulting in greater health and happiness.

Gratitude can look a lot of different ways. We may be grateful to a specific person.… Read the full post “I’m So Lucky!”

Walk 20 Blocks and Call Me in the Morning!

I was 57. I had just separated from my partner of over 20 years. I had moved in with my mom in her rather small apartment. I was away from my dog. We were a year into the pandemic. Work was more stressful than normal. I was trying to work through some childhood trauma with a therapist. I was emotionally exhausted.

One day, I just set off walking. I didn’t walk because I read I should or because I wanted to exercise or lose weight. I walked because I had to. The turmoil inside my body, mind and heart compelled me to move. And walking was the way I chose to move. I began walking daily. And with every walk, I felt like I was somehow cleansing the trauma that was living inside me. If I skipped a day, I could feel more of it creeping back in. It was as if I had skipped a dose of medicine.

And then, I happened to run across Brené Brown’s podcast interview with Emily and Amelia Nagoski, the authors of Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle. Here’s a summary of some of the key points of the podcast and book.

  1. “Emotions…involve the release of neurochemicals in the brain, in response to some stimulus.”1
  2. They have a beginning, middle and end. They are like a tunnel.
  3. If you move all the way through the tunnel, great! But if you don’t do something to complete the cycle of the emotion, you get stuck in the tunnel and the chemicals created by that emotion get stuck in your body.
Read the full post “Walk 20 Blocks and Call Me in the Morning!”