When you come to a breaking point in your life, continuously being beaten down time after time, struggle after struggle, never seeming to gain your footing for any length of time, one of the things you might find yourself doing is praying for help and for wisdom. You reach out for help to God, the great spirit, the universe, or the higher power you connect with.
Healing from physical wounds is one thing, but healing emotional wounds is something entirely different. Not to minimize the pain of physical trauma at all, that’s difficult enough as it is and can leave lasting traumatic, emotional wounds that go far deeper than the physical ones that can heal in time. When you’re talking about the deep, deep wounds of emotional trauma that leaves scars only you can see; you need more than the body’s ability to regenerate over time on its own.
It requires a commitment the likes of which you may have never experienced before in your life. Unpacking those old wounds that you’ve tried so hard to bury in the bottom of your mind, for years, even decades, is not something to be taken lightly. However, the rewards that can come from reliving those memories, processing and learning from them, and forging your personal healing path, are truly life changing.
Healing unresolved trauma takes a combined effort of mind, body, and spirit; which is exactly the message my guest on the podcast today is sharing with the world. Alexis Acker-Halbur is the founder and creator of the Never Give Up Institute, and the author of “Never Give Up: Break the Connection Between Stress and Illness”.
Alex offers anyone who has suffered trauma or loss not just one way forward, but many. A survivor herself—of an astonishing number of traumas including, sexual, emotional and physical abuse, sexual exploitation by a therapist, rape, and cancer—she describes the connection between mind, body, and spirit and shows how the stress and anger she has experienced connect to her life-threatening illnesses.
I was in a hospital bed, diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, and fighting for my life—not once but twice. I suddenly saw the connection of how stress and trauma made me so sick. I knew at that moment I needed to survive and find ways to help me thrive.
I founded the Never Give Up Institute to help you understand how unresolved stress and trauma can cause illness, increase financial difficulty, and keep you from living a meaningful life.
As a survivor myself, and someone who works with trauma survivors, the message that Alex shares today on this episode of the podcast, and what she teaches in her book and online program, “T.R.U.T.H.“, is one that resonates so much with me. I’m so honored to share our conversation with you. During our chat, Alex and I cover the following topics:
- Some of her story of being a survivor, which includes childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse, rape, sexual exploitation, failed relationships and more, in addition to dealing with colon cancer, breast cancer, and auto accident, type 1 diabetes, and other medical issues.
- The experience of going for a colonoscopy and hours later finding herself being prepped for surgery for colon cancer. She tells of laying in the hospital and praying for answers and help.
- Her prayers were answered in the form of being presented with a list of every trauma she’s ever faced, every disease or physical challenge, and the matching correlation to a past that involved a multitude of unresolved trauma.
- What she did with this information, and how it took it happening twice for her true healing to finally take shape.
- How the body copes with unres
Whether you are an advocate, mental health professional, a family member or friend of someone who struggles with a mental health challenge, or you yourself live with your own struggles, we can all agree that raising awareness and doing our part to help erase the stigma of mental health is needed now more than ever.
We can all do our own part, using our talents, gifts, and hard work to help make a difference in our local communities. After all, this is where we live, work, and socialize; it’s where we spend so much of our time each day. So why not do what we can to make our little corner of the world a place where people can feel empowered to ask for help when they need it, and to not feel ashamed or alone.
This is exactly what Cynthia Chazen is doing, with “The Stigma Free Zone”, in her local community of Bergen County, New Jersey.
The Stigma Free Zone, started by founder, Mary Ann Uzzi, in Paramus New Jersey, has a mission of inspiring public interest and open dialogues about stigma, raising awareness of the local mental health resources available, and breaking down barriers of mental health in local communities.
Cynthia and I first met at the HealtheVoices Conference in 2018; she is an enthusiastic advocate who believes everyone can educate about mental health. She is the editor of the Stigma Free Zone News of New Jersey, and has a huge following on Twitter where she shares both local and global news about mental illness. You can subscribe to her newsletter by checking out her Facebook Page, SFZNewsofNJ.
During our chat on this episode of the Beyond Your Past Podcast, we talk more about The Stigma Free Zone initiative, including:
- How the Stigma Free Zone movement started in New Jersey, and is spreading across the country.
- How you can get involved and create your own chapter in your local community. Get the toolkit here.
- You don’t need to be a mental health professional or have a degree, to make a difference.
- How mental health education is the area for grassroots organizing.
- Giving people permission to talk about their own mental health struggles.
- Some of Cynthia’s story of the challenges she faced in her life that inspired her to take action for others.
Be sure and follow Cynthia Chazen on Twitter and check out the Facebook Pages for the Stigma Free Zone for more information on how you can get involved where you live.
If you’d like to be a guest on a future episode of the podcast, you can contact me anytime. Don’t forget to share this episode with someone who might need it; together we can all continue to make a difference.
-Matthew Pappas, CLC, MPNLP
All conversation and information exchanged during participation on the Beyond Your Past Podcast, on BeyondYourPast.com, and BeyondYourPastRadio.com is intended for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing on these podcasts or posted on the above mentioned websites are supplements for or supersedes the relationship and direction of your medical or mental health providers.
Something I learned a long time ago, from both a therapist, and later from a coach, and to be honest more than a few others, is to celebrate the wins, no matter how small they may seem. It’s something I encourage clients to do, talk about on the podcast often, and reference in blog posts. It’s a regular reminder on the daily recovery support calls, it’s something that I have written down right on a post it note on the wall, right behind this monitor.
So when I talked to a friend about a week ago, and was sharing just in passing that I was coming up on episode 100 of the Beyond Your Past Podcast, she said to me, so how are you going to celebrate that?
Uummmm, what? I replied?
“How are you going to celebrate this win, acknowledge this milestone…it’s a big deal”, she said.
I thought about it for a minute and said, well it’s funny but this episode kind of snuck up on me, landing at 100; and so I hadn’t really thought of doing something special initially. Of course it was then that I got a taste of my own medicine; a reminder that if I’m going to encourage someone to do something good for their journey, I should remember to do it more often too.
So…here we are at episode 100 of the podcast and I figured it might be a good idea to take a brief break from the normal routine and just talk with you for a while about what’s been happening over the last year including some events over the last 12 months that have changed my life in ways I would have never even thought could happen.
As I tossed around some ideas on what to do, I had a brainstorm of making a compilation of highlights from a select number of episodes over the last year. However the more I thought about it, trying to decide which episodes to choose and which sections to use, it became a daunting task that I would never have been able to finish in time for my regular schedule. Plus, each and every guest, and their episodes are equally important and have their own special message, so trying to decide who would make the cut just didn’t seem like something I would be ok with doing.
So I figured, hey, I haven’t done one of those, “talk to you guys” episodes in quite a while, and now just might be a good time to do one again.
I’m happy to do just that on this milestone show, number 100…and I’m thankful that you’ve decided (or at least are considering) giving it a listen. And heck, maybe even share it with someone who might find it interesting as well. *I know, living on the wild side, right!*
During this episode, we’ll chat about:
- What is Surviving My Past, how and why did I create it and how does the podcast fit into the blog. For that matter, how did Beyond Your Past form anyway.
- A look back at earlier episode topics and how the podcast has evolved from earlier show design and topics, to current episodes.
- The last 12 months of events, both positive and challenging that found me facing:
- Death of my dad
- The marriage of my daughter
- Birthdays and Holidays
- A rare illness that sent me to the hospital and a subsequent ongoing recovery.
- Continued education and finishing several new certification programs
- Leaving corporate America after 17 years and striking out on my own, full-time.
- New opportunities that have developed and a partnership with a friend and mentor, and now colleague.
- and more.
Thank you again to each and every one of you who listens each week and shares the podcast episodes; together we are reaching survivors, practitioners, and advocates all over the world with the message of hope, validation, and inspiration.
Remember…celebrate those wins, every single one of them and don’t minimize the progress you’ve made so far and the path you are on that will continue to help you live your life, no longer defined by your past.
Since I began recording this podcast, I’ve covered the topic of Dissociative Disorders and specifically, Dissociative Identity Disorder, quit a bit. Each time I talk with a practitioner or survivor of trauma who lives with DID, I always walk away from the conversation having learned something new, and with a further appreciation of the amazing people who live with DID every day of their lives.
I would definitely encourage you to check out some of the previous episodes with guests like Erika Reva (The We in Me), Robert Goldstein, Lisa Tobe, Erin Fado, Analie Shepherd, Elisabeth Corey, and more!
Anytime I have the opportunity to talk about Dissociative Disorders, I always jump at the chance because it means that someone else wants to speak up and share their story, or a practitioner wants to share their work and how their approach is helping trauma survivors with DID. This episode is no exception, as I’m so honored to talk with Kathy Broady, MSW, of Discussing dissociation.
DiscussingDissociation.com has been around 2008, and has been steadily growing ever since; offering a place for survivors, their family and friends, practitioners, and anyone who wants to come and learn about DID and share their experiences in a safe place. This incredible website offers videos, educational materials, shared artwork, therapy resources, blog articles, podcasts, and a host of materials on recovering from trauma. If you’re interested in learning more about DID and Dissociative Orders of all types, you’ll definitely want to make Discussing Dissociation a regular destination on the web.
I’ve been talking with Kathy for quite a while and we were finally able to get our schedules to line up and chat for a bit on the podcast, diving more into some specific aspects of DID, some of which have not previously been covered on past episodes.
- Living with DID does not mean you are crazy, psychotic, or looking for attention.
- When talking with someone who lives with DID, how do you address them? Should you address all of their parts or alters?
- When and Why do people who live with DID switch from one alter to another.
- The differences between dissociative amnesia and losing time or missing time.
- Some primary keys for healing:
- Safety, both inside and outside worlds.
- Internal communication / System Work
- Connection to the here and now
- When and How to do memory work without destabilizing the survivor.
- Tips for spouses, partners, and friends of dissociative survivors.
- Are there certain types of trauma that can increase the likelihood of developing DID?
Talking with Kathy was such a joy, and I’m sure that you’ll get as much out of hearing her share her wisdom as I did. Her approach is genuine and validating with just the right about of humor; you’ll feel as though you’ve known her forever as you listen to her speak about her experiences and her work in the field of trauma recovery and specifically with dissociative disorders.
I definitely encourage you to check out Discussing
As you begin to learn how your past affects your present life, you start putting the puzzle pieces together of why you feel the way you do, what your specific triggers are and where they stem from, why you struggle in certain areas of life, and a myriad of other things start to come into focus and you have these “ah ha” or “lightbulb” moments when suddenly everything makes sense.
I’ve had many such enlightening moments during some very intense and difficult times in a therapists office, or working with a trauma informed coach. I can remember saying things like, “I never know that my self-esteem problems were because of being bullied. I didn’t realize that my learning disability may very well have developed due to childhood trauma. The problems with my weight and issues with food are not simply some genetic family problem, but have been intensified and increased due to childhood sexual abuse and other trauma. The list goes on and on, and needless to say this revelation was both empowering and disheartening at the same time.
Realizing that all of these struggles were not my fault, and were either caused by or greatly influenced by past trauma, could have taken me down a very dark road. To be honest, it did for a time. Sitting with that realization was difficult, but one of the ways that I began to work through it was to use these situations and this information as a learning experience. Something I could take, so that I could change the tide of what was ahead for me, rather than just accept that I destined to suffer and struggle in these areas for the rest of my life.
One of the biggest hurdles that I continue to work through, is in the area of food, and because of this struggle I am always on the lookout for ways to discover and understand how the mind and body work in the wake of past trauma, and specifically in this case, with eating disorders, food struggles, and gaining weight.
My guest today, Dr. Carolyn Coker Ross, joins me on the podcast to discuss the connection between trauma and eating disorders.
Born in Houston, Texas, Dr. Carolyn Coker Ross spent her childhood in San Antonio where as the oldest of five children, she comes from a long line of physicians and healers. Her mother’s father was a well-known physician in Bryan, Texas, who opened his own hospital and nursing school. His mother, Betty Love, was a Cherokee medicine woman.
Dr. Ross’s own personal health crisis and the diagnosis of her mother with Alzheimer’s led her on a journey to healing in which her perspective about medicine changed and her desire to focus on integrative medicine led her to the University of Arizona’s Center for Integrative Medicine. Dr. Ross completed a two-year fellowship in Integrative Medicine, studying with Dr. Andrew Weil. Her path then led her to work as the head of the Eating Disorders Program and the Integrative Medicine Department at world-renowned inpatient hospital, Sierra Tucson where she pioneered the Integrative Medicine approach to eating disorder treatment. She currently works in private practice in Denver, Colorado, as an addiction medicine specialist and suboxone doctor who specializes in opioid addiction treatment. She also is a consultant for treatment centers across the country on eating disorders and integrative medicine. You can learn more about her practice, and how she got started in medicine, by checking out her bio on her website, CarolynRossMD.com
I’m so honored to talk with Carolyn on the podcast, and dive a bit deeper into some of the struggles with food and weight that are not only close to my heart but affect so many who listen to the podcasts and read the blog posts both here and on Surviving My Past. During our chat, Dr. Ross and I discuss:
- How do events from the past impact eating habits?