Trauma Survivors Share their Inspirational Stories – Page 2


“Get the Edge” by Tony Robbins

I purchased Tony Robbins “Get the Edge” program and I’ve been listening to it and what a difference! The change is dramatic. And that’s on day two! Well, the other Saturday, when I saw his commercial for it I’d decided then and there to do the liquid diet but wow! Now, instead of looking down and saying how can I survive this surgery (I have an ovarian cyst), I’m saying how can I use this to my advantage? What a difference!

But it is an awakening! I would really like him to speak about PTSD because that’s really what he is doing right now. The energy I feel. It’s spectacular. What a difference a day makes. I actually walked yesterday half way around the block — slight use of the cane –listening to Tony Robbins and his music! Great positive energy!

The tape today said to take action by writing four things we have been putting off and then write down the pain we are having as to why its not done, then the pleasure we would have if it were done and then the opposite if we continued not to do it and the absolute gain if we did it.

Well, that was at 7:30am when I finished the tape and wrote the action items, constantly thinking there is just no way it can happen. None. Then I started on the list just those items that I could do in the time that I have and Guess What?! I’ve done three of the four! The fourth will be done partially now and partially when I get back but Wow! The power!

Oh, one of the exercises he has you do is go to a mirror and grin ear to ear — big big grin for 20 minutes, sitting or standing straight. It immediately gives you a lift! I did it at the office at my desk yesterday. I’m sure my co-workers were wondering what on earth I was doing, but they grinned back and gave some nice positive strokes!

This piece is about honoring the life experiences….those colorful stepping stones that brought a person to where they are today….perhaps we need to look with gratitude, not regret or shame or fear, how our life experiences have shaped our lives.

We hear over and over about “letting go.” What…out of sight out of mind? I’m convinced that our recorder-brain does not let go….it stores and stuffs everything we’ve ever experienced….but we don’t forget. And if the right combination of incidences occurs we could begin to replay some of those experiences we thought we’d let go of.

I’ve found it not only successful but also incredibly healing to teach clients and workshop participants how to make their history/herstory manageable by changing it into a different form. Let me share with you The Layers of My Life.


There I sat on a stump….deep in the woods before a roaring bonfire. A bushel full of memories…baskets, boxes, bags and bundles of treasures, experiences and secrets from my travels all tucked away for so long. “This is the perfect time….in a ceremonious way, to rid myself of the evidence.”

Holding a fistful of hot kindling letters, I paused for a moment….took a deep breath and then held my hand toward the crackling orange and blue flames.

Before I could even release them….from some soft spot in my heart arose…. “You would throw away all that has shaped you? You would turn your back on all that has set you free? You would discard what has rewoven your heart to your soul? In the heat of fear you would do this?”

A shiver coursed through me and I pulled my hand back from the flames.

“Oh my dear, be as the artists from ages past….create an artful forever reminder in honor of the many wondrous gifts and guides you’ve received along life’s way. Each and every one has helped you lift the veil of shame, has warmed your cool heart to feel again, gave you permission to let yourself go….go back home to your soul, yes?”

“NOT FAIR,” I shouted at the outreaching fingers of fire.

“What’s not fair, my dear? Not fair to toss away these treasures as if they were yesterday’s trash? You’re right! Hold on to these riches for a short while longer. The right and perfect time will present itself. You shall come to a place of transformation….and you’ll honor each and every experience you’ve ever had.”

Mmmm….and so there I sat….looking at the mound of letters, tapes, postcards, trinkets and such. With a sigh of relief, I packed up the memories and loaded them back into my car and went home where I placed the bags back in the “closet!”

One day while rummaging in the one and only closet in my apartment the garbage bags tumbled out….spilling from them the little boxes, postcards, letters, menus, playbills and cassette tapes.

My Native teachers would have said that the spilling of these bundles was a sign…a sign that meant it was time….time to deal with these memories and experiences. For a few moments I just sat in the stillness and listened to the silence, to my breathing and to the beating of my heart.

I followed the inner guidance that “urged” me to bring out my Medicine Bowl, an old Native honoring and healing tool. I then created a Sacred Circle in the middle of my living room….a large Circle outlined by a thin yellow ribbon….yellow symbolizing the East position on the Native Medicine Wheel….East the home of the Eagle….place of enlightenment and healing.

I then chose objects from my alter….shells, and stones and feathers and pinecones. I placed these healers around the outside of the Sacred Circle. The Medicine Bowl became the Inner Circle. Inside the bowl I placed sage, pine, sweet grass, and tobacco for cleansing, for honoring the road I’ve walked, for respecting my experiences, for gratitude and for the wisdom received.

I lit a white candle inviting in the Wisdom of the Elders….and then I brought forth the bags of memories….spilling upon my lap the years and the miles of experiences I’ve encountered.

I took a deep breath and up washed a funny little memory….not long before the trip to the forest and the bonfire experience….I began to feel uncomfortable about having all these “things” in my apartment….I thought ….if I were to die and someone had to clean out my apartment….who would ever understand the multi-faceted life I’ve lived in search of myself? Yet….I can’t just throw my life experiences away! Then I remembered….make them into an art form….something that will remind me of my guides and journeys.

And so….I sat with the remembrances and quietly ripped them into tiny pieces of confetti….remembering that each experience had been a grand celebration of sorts….yet in their present form…I didn’t want to bring pain to anyone for their lack of understanding me. Funny how the mind works, isn’t it….guilt…fear…honor….all the veils that cover the heart of hearts….yet the visuals from all of these treasures clearly have been an out-picturing of my healing journey…how could I not honor each and every one?

Some who know the free-spirited me would get it…but for those I’ve spent so many years with….and felt I could only share glimpses of the real me….I think my treasures would become jagged, jaded snippets for them….shapes like jigsaw puzzle pieces…. connectors to a path that will never fit for them. Maybe they’d waste way too many hours searching for the corner pieces of “why…why in the world would she have done that?”

And so….it was time for the transformation….cradling the truths….cooled from the warmth of what was….I finally opened the clenched fist of attachment…releasing in a gentle way….then detaching. The transformation from one form into another just like my soul-searching journey….each experience shaping, opening, releasing and detaching….gave me a deeper expression of who and what I’m all about.

And so….being careful to keep the experiences separate and boundaried….I made little piles…little peak experiences. And I giggled…as I looked at the stacks…some bigger than others…yet all equally cherished moments captured on photographs, postcards, letters from the heart, cassettes of real to reel voices….some experiences lasting a few more ticks of time longer than others because the message got mixed with the messenger.

I scooped up the first mound of warm memories and held them to the Light of the flickering candle…. “Thank you for teaching me about quickening….and how to uncover my heart….how to let myself be in this present moment, this second of time. I placed the first pile in the center of the Medicine Bowl….atop the sage, the pine, the sweet grass and the tobacco…and thus the process began.

And with the strike of a match….the flame touched….linking to the kindred spirit who sparked my journey. In deep gratitude I watched as the flame danced with high energy….just as the experience was…at times golden and warm….at times fiery red and scary….then finally….finally settling to a flicker.

And as quickly as the fire began it was extinguished….and in a gentle puff…the smoke slowly rose to nothingness and the small pile which covered months and months of memories became a palm full of chalky white ash….white the color of wisdom….Mmmm….I felt so grateful.

I scooped up the ashes and transferred them into a special longneck green-glass container. I paused for a moment and then moved to the second pile….my heart gave gratitude for all that was and I set the fires of transformation to the pyramid-shaped stack of experiences. I watched as the colors turned, melted, thinned away to ashy gray.

The ashes cooled. I poured them into the container and watched as they floated wistfully down….settling atop the white ashes. Over and over again…with each new pile I gave thanks and watched as the fires transformed the experience.

I picked up a letter…one that I had saved….One that so touched my heart at a time when my heart was most breaking. Written on striking lavender paper…even on this day I couldn’t rip it….the energy from the letter seemed to shout… “I will not be burned!” I cradled the letter for a moment and then suddenly an idea rushed through me…. “I’ll use that heart-shaped paper punch and make confetti!” YES!! This will add another dimension and a richness to this process. And without question….I honored the idea.

Oh my….it was done. Holding the green-glass container….gazing at the contents….I was overcome with emotion. “All my heroes who taught me to become the hero of my own life….I give you thanks. To all my warrior friends who taught me how to turn my veil into armor and to stand up and guard my own truths and integrity…my own voice….I give thanks. To the passionate ones who created the most incredible fairy tales for me so that I could come to believe that I am cherished….that I am loved…that I am capable of giving AND receiving love….I thank you.”

And now….sitting in the stillness….remembering the darkness of that night….I light another candle…this time a red one…for voice….for passion….for expression. I gaze at the sparkling glass container. I notice how each experience burned to a different shade…some light….some dark…and then my eye catches the deep royal purple heart-shaped pieces of confetti sprinkled throughout the container…each encounter burned separately….had settled separately….just as it had fired-up in my life….none mixing with the other….all richly unique…it is so very clear to me….that as I slowly turn the container….how this expression out-pictures my spiral walk home to my heart.

I found such comfort in this celebration….I felt peace then…just as I do today…and I think….NOW THIS….this expression I can live with….thank you….all of you who helped create the layers of my life.

Copyright – Julie L. Johnson, M.S. (ABD)

PTSD: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Yes, that’s right. I said the “good.” Someone asked me to write an inspirational article about PTSD so I have look at it from different views. I’m glad I was asked to do this, because it’s forcing me to look at the positives when I didn’t want to believe there were any.

PTSD may be something that I will always have to deal with, but at least it’s not my fault. I do not have to feel guilty for having it. It is a condition that does not have to hurt those I love and I can still learn to lead an enjoyable and successful life. True it takes work, lot of hard work. It will also leave me stronger than many people, and with perceptions that many people never have.

Because I have PTSD I am very open to the pain of others and very compassionate. One of my greatest joys is encouraging others. I will take the time to stop and reach out to someone who looks sad when others would just pass that person by. I also go out of my way to help others find the resources they need to get help. I go beyond saying I care to doing something about it when I can. This is a direct result of the frustration I have had while searching for help for a problem that is not very understood.

Although I live with a lot of fear, with imposing thoughts of tragedy and unsafety, I also am more aware of my surroundings. I am not careless, nor am I accident-prone. I work extra hard to take care of myself and those I love, to ensure we are all safe. I am more aware of my limitations and I am learning to say no when asked to take on more responsibility than I should. In other words, I’m learning to “listen” to my inner voice, which always gives me good guidance. Because I had to learn as a child to take care of myself and to survive, I have very good self-awareness and good instincts.

I am learning to ask for what I need from those I love. If a loved one is unable to accept my PTSD, I look for support elsewhere. I take the time to explain PTSD to those I care about so that they will understand my symptoms and give me the support I need. Those who are critical or impatient with me do not merit my time or efforts.

I am learning so much about life that many people will never know. Does that mean I like having PTSD? Heavens, no! But I can see how adapting has made me stronger in many ways.

One of the greatest positives I can mention is Gift From Within. I have found a family of support that is worth more than I can ever describe. Gift From Within has turned my life around and helped me to find the resources I needed to begin to heal from something I didn’t really understand until I found this organization.


I have a little story to share with you:
I was out taking a walk in the woods &fields the other
evening &was pouring over thoughts about my
seemingly eternal sense of utter vulnerability to others,
when all of a sudden there’s this odd creature that at dusk,
in the distance, looks like a dog. It’s white. Then it
raises its head &the neck &head are tan–It’s a deer!
It didn’t run like all the rest do. It was in the field
alone &didn’t even flinch over me as I walked by it within
about 30 feet. How incredible! How interesting, &how brave
this deer is!!!

How much hurt that deer must have gone
through all it’s life, being different from the others. I ached
for it & hoped its Mom didn’t reject it early on
&make it live (miraculously that it did) a very hard solo life.
I realized that if there was a lot of extra adversity it had to deal with,
evidently, it must have made the deer stronger than the rest, or
perhaps more numb, or something. But somehow I trusted it
didn’t do all damage &in fact, made it extra beautiful.
This deer was uniquely touching to me. It had something the
rest didn’t: power to jar me with emotion &feel both sad
&rejoicefully happy for it. In the end, I wanted to cheer it almost.
I’m proud of that brave, brave deer who carries on in spite
of its oddity &who seems to know more than any of the others
who is appropriate to run from (I trust) &who is not. S/he saves
his/her running for the real danger since s/he’s felt all too much
to not know the difference.

Often I’m one of few, if any others walking around at this last space
of park land in my home town (Manassas National Battlefield).
But a lady was then approaching actually, &I looked away for a minute,
diverted to her & the big furry dog she was walking. When I looked
back, the deer was gone. Not a sound. Like it had never been there.
(At the dog, yes, it fled). So I asked if the lady if she saw it &she said
with affection “Yeah–it’s Mom is down that-a-ways; she’s a mixture too.”
That made me so happy!!!

Those of us with extra hardship (PTSD) need to be brave like that deer.
(Or see that we have been &are still brave)
We need to realize we can be capable of managing &can be extra
equipped in ways that are perhaps really hard for us to see from our
point of view. We may be feeling so hurt &messed up, while others
see us as powerful! Or even if they don’t, we may nonetheless be
of course! We know more intensely what pain is, &we can use that
to know what we don’t want to be like; to be sensitive to others rather
than attack as was done to us. That makes us more beautiful.
And if we’re numb, well, the proof that we’re actually more alive than ever,
is when we’re given a reason to run–we know the difference.
Peace is rare. (Sad but true is this world).
Courage is rare, & Exceptional Strength &Beauty are rare.