For so long, the entire night completely slipped from my conscious memory. I had used every ounce of willpower to get out of that apartment and save my life and the intensity of my body’s “fight or flight” stayed turned on. I spent thirteen years locked within Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and in order to move through my days, I kept that night locked away in my mind – hoping it would never emerge. Despite all effort to forget and move on, it finally spilled out of me when my husband and I lost our son Joseph, who was born still – thirteen years later.
The healing that my mind and body had been desperately trying to do for those thirteen years had begun and no matter what I did, I couldn’t deny it any longer. In a recent interview for Self Magazine – we discussed how integration of the mind and body was vital for healing. It is something I never understood for a long time.
Talk therapy was the only thing I knew to do to cope with all of the PTSD symptoms. I never was able to tell my therapists what had happened that night, but I was also never asked. I was taught instead, to become aware of the symptoms that I was experiencing and how to get through them. That only took me so far.
Losing my son, opened the door for me to healing like I never thought possible. Another tragedy, the loss of my precious baby turned into triumph. The love I have for my son opened my heart to what healing should be and what I needed to do. Compounded grief finally gave way to love…a love that showed me that it was safe to feel. I needed to feel my feelings fully. I realized, that merely coping does not open emotions and the need to feel.
My mind began to “talk” to my heart and body and the memory of that night at sixteen came pouring out. Every single detail. For the first time in years, I wasn’t afraid. I knew the night was over and I knew right then, that my body needed to know this too. This is what happens when you align your body, mind and spirit. It freed me.
I began to explore body healing through writing and trauma yoga. I poured my heart onto paper through my pen and my memoir was born. Writing my entire story showed me parts of myself I didn’t know before from the lost years of PTSD.
“The writer’s pen became the tool of God’s grace for me.” – Lindsay Gibson, Just Be Guide: Steps to Healing Trauma
Yoga became a powerful tool and made a major difference for me as a trauma survivor. Yoga has the ability to touch us on every level of our being—physical mental, emotional, and spiritual – integrating our experiences fully, bringing us to a level of wholeness. I used to be terrified of the sensations that the rape had brought on and while my mind fought over and over to “make sense” of it all with coping techniques – my body needed to release it too.
I became certified in yoga through my healing, include Trauma Sensitive Yoga which is a special yoga technique just for trauma survivors to reconnect. As I moved through each asana movement, I was able to notice my body and where I felt the trauma the most. My body was able to tell a story through my yoga practice and express the pain that it was still holding onto from that night. Science has come to prove through neuropsychology that the “imprints” from trauma gets left behind within the cells of our body and therefore, we have to move them out. Yoga and other body therapy help us to move those “issues in our tissues” through body awareness and connection with movement. Otherwise, they get stuck – which can manifest into physical symptoms like: heart disease, diabetes, panic attacks, ADHD in children, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and a host of autoimmune disorders.
Most importantly, moving the trauma through not just my mind, but through my body helped me to take my power back. I needed to regain a sense of control over my body and I was able to restore what was once lost. Only then was I able to entertain the possibility of forgiveness. Once I let go of the tight grip that my attacker still had on me all those years, I was able to soften. Forgiving him, forgiving fate and forgiving myself was what truly set me free. Within my healing heart, I surrendered to what was and leaned into what is, learning to just be.