Transitions - Home From Trauma 2016 With Guest Blogger Leckey Harrison Discussing Trauma Releasing Exercise: A Survivors Story Of Hope
Ever had one of those experiences where you were maybe crying and shaking, and someone comforted you with, “Now, now, none of that?” What did you do?
Ever have that feeling, “Did I just run that red light!?” and not really know if you did or not? How about not wanting to be in your own skin? Not be able to identify your feelings? Want to quit jerking awake in the middle of the night and wondering what was going on?
I used to live that way. They call it PTSD. I had it for decades. It all started when I went through a minor surgery – without anesthesia. I wasn’t asked either. I couldn’t have answered anyway, I was an infant.
Let’s skip ahead several decades. We’ll gloss over the mistuned mother and drug and alcohol abuse, the sexual abuse, the emotional neglect and disconnect. What’s important is, I joined the fire department and became a hero!
I am the guy who answers your call on your worst day. In the two small volunteer districts I served in, there was a better than average chance of responding to a call where I know you. I get to go to all your car wrecks that include fatalities, domestic violence calls, stabbings, shootings, suicides, and medical calls.
Better than average indeed. Yet we aren’t prepared for that. No class teaches us that this will happen, nor what to do about it. Nobody told me this stuff could pile up in the body and affect my brain.
After one Christmas Day call, one of those high odds calls where I would know the person, all that stuff that had piled up for over 10 years, started spilling out of me. My container was full. My nervous system shot. Memories screaming at me silently. Chronic physical tension waiting for the pager to go off, so I could jump into the battle. After a nine year old I knew was killed in a freak accident, I couldn’t hold it together any more. I put my head down on the Chiefs rig and cried.
After that call, I was given to crying just about everywhere. That’s how shot my system was. In a local coffee shop one day, I felt it coming on and went into the back room. One of the women who worked there saw me, and asked me, “Who takes care of you guys?” “
"You’re looking at it,” I replied.
She knew that wasn’t right, and knew one thing she could do was start a nonprofit website and ask health care providers of all stripes to provide volunteer help to the volunteer responders. She eventually asked me to co-direct that nonprofit organization. As we grew to know each and work together, we knew we had to address the problem of stress and trauma in first responders. The stress and trauma we were taught nothing about in our training. It was in that process of creating a solution that my partner contacted a retired firefighter in Canada. He said we should to look into something called TRE®.
We did. We were already aware that stress and trauma were primarily in the body. “First and foremost” as Dr. Gabor Maté says. That revelation was astounding enough to us. “How do we change our program to include this?” we wondered.
By the time we left for Canada a couple weeks later, we were looking at the idea of training responders in the use of tools to relieve stress, rather than just telling them about it. We had no idea what awaited us.
I have to admit I was a bit skeptical. TRE seemed “woo woo” to me. The morning lecture went fine, with no “woo,” and then it was time for the first session. The exercises weren’t difficult at all, I was still a bit skeptical, and there was a degree of novelty.
In all my firefighter “I’m the hero that answers your call I can take anything none of that now” tough guy attitude, I experienced what TRE is. My body gently tremored. With Dr. Berceli watching me out of the corner of his eye, I laid there and tremored, and again, it all began to spill out of me. This time, it was different.
It was safe. It was gentle. It was relaxing, and it was a release. I began to feel twelve years of backlogged stress and trauma in my body begin to unwind. For the first time in a long time, perhaps ever, I felt like I could actually learn to relax.
What’s changed for me? Everything. That constant feeling of, “Did I just run that red light!?” is gone. I like being in my body. I feel like I got out of that box that was too small in every direction, and I can look around, move around, breathe, and engage with the world. I’ve gone from being isolated to living in an intentional community. Sleep has improved. I can feel emotion again, and laugh.
Remember all the stuff I glossed over? The developmental trauma and attachment issues of infancy, the damage of drug and alcohol abuse, the trauma of sexual abuse? That was the foundation of my life.
I can never change any of that. I can make a new life though, and I have been. My resilience, courage, and self-confidence have grown immensely as the fears and insecurities held in my body in chronic tension patterns were released. Cognitively, emotionally, physically, and consciously: it’s all thriving, and there is no limit in sight.
My PTSD? A shadow of its former self. Christmas Day still triggers me, as it did last month. I was a little irritable. I felt the anxiety building as the anniversary hour of my Perfect Storm call approached. Yet they didn’t overwhelm me. I have tools to release and relieve stress and anxiety. I had also volunteered to organize a Christmas feast at our Common House, not even thinking about the anniversary. It turned into a feast for 32 people. Even though my anxiety was up a bit, I was able to laugh, connect with others, and had some very heart-warming moments.
My Perfect Storm call was Christmas Day, 2011. It was 2013 when I started doing TRE. It’s my foundational tool in my post traumatic growth. After almost six decades of hell, the last two years have been the best of my life.
Thank you Leckey Harrison For Your Service And For Helping Bring Healing To Those Of Us Who Suffer And For Helping Us Raise Awareness Of Dr. David Berceli's Work With TRE: Trauma Releasing Exercise. The Trauma Recovery Blog
Dr. David Berceli Appears January 20th On Transitions - Home From Trauma 2016
Disclaimer: These materials and resources are presented for educational purposes only. They are not a substitute for informed medical advice or training. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified health or mental health care provider. If you have concerns, contact your health care provider, mental health professional, or your community health centre.
Darren Gregory © 2016. All Rights Reserved
Certified: Community & Workplace Trauma Educator Traumatology Institute.
Associate Member American Academy Of Experts In Traumatic Stress.