Most of us are familiar with PTSD- post traumatic stress disorder, a diagnosis that is given for some in the aftermath of a traumatic event. Trauma can range from abuse of any kind, the loss of a relationship through death, divorce or breaking up, a severe illness, essentially any situation where on some level you fear you or someone you love, will not survive. More than half of the population has reported experiencing a traumatic event. Although I wasn’t formally diagnosed with PTSD, I’m quite sure I suffered from it after narrowly surviving the Montecito Debris Flow in January 2018. I had nightmares, fitful sleep, heightened fear and anxiety responses and two panic attacks. Yikes! I also felt stretched and faceted in a way I had never thought possible as a result of diving into the work and process of healing. Both shaman and psychologists have named this coming out the other side of trauma as an “initiation.” An initiation to what? In my experience, the initiation is to a more precious, dynamic life; an ability to connect more deeply and profoundly with others; and a sense of living as much as possible in the present moment.
I have always been a student of healing- formally earning my Masters degree in Clinical Psychology, and informally by trying every method and modality that has crossed my path! Mine and Lucy’s Wild Precious Life Retreats are the culmination and offering of all the methods and speakers, tools and places that have been instrumental in the cathartic changes in our own lives.
In my upcoming book on post traumatic growth, I will offer a full list of modalities and experiences with them. For now, here are two of the practices I found to be helpful in healing from my own trauma:
Research into journaling as its own path to post-traumatic growth shows positive effects. In particular, something called “expressive journaling” — where you write in as much detail as possible in present tense about your thoughts and feelings — is supported by psychological research studies.
I’ve always kept a journal. It helps me record happiness and I believe it helps me manifest my dreams, too! After the mudslide, I made myself journal before bed to get the heavier and darker thoughts out of my head, and to write about the good that was happening for me and my family. To remember and be grateful for the kindnesses that were shown to us by loved ones and strangers. It was also good to have these gratitude “letters” to look back on when I found myself in a darker moment.
Writing stream-of-consciousness for a set time, without stopping or worrying about legibility, spelling, or grammar, can help you access big feelings and the causes of them. Be aware, though, that diving into all those thoughts and feelings can be rattling, and you might want to line up some time with your therapist or supportive friends or family after your writing sessions.
Gratitude journaling is another practice that can stand alone as a really helpful way to move trauma toward growth. Simply make a daily practice of writing about what you are grateful for in as much detail as possible.
Flower essences are infusions of the flowering parts of plants, either through steeping in water in the sun or through boiling them in water. The flower essence picks up the ‘healing vibration’ of the flower, and every type of flower has its own such vibrations and healing properties. According to physician Christiane Northrup, MD, the effectiveness of flower essences has to do with the “innate wisdom” of these beautiful living things. Their medicinal properties have led healers to use them for many thousands of years.
I thought there was no way flower essences could be a viable and effective therapy. I was wrong.
Flower power! For real.
Dr. Edward Bach began experimenting with and noting the effectiveness of different flowering plants and trees in the 1930s. He left his medical practice following World War I and moved to the English countryside, where he formulated 38 flower essences. Numerous clinical studies have documented the positive effects of flower essences on anxiety, stress, and trauma.
I first tried flower essences back in my 30s, when I was a struggling actress, spun around and disillusioned by the world of film and TV. I suffered from self-doubt and anxiety, knowing I needed to make a life change but not knowing how, or to what. I went to see Alexis Smart, a healer practicing in the hills of Los Angeles and sometimes in Greece.
Alexis is a Joni Mitchell look-alike — a hippie Fairy Queen. Her ethereal looks, soft-spoken nature, and empathic presence gave me hope that the myths around flower essences might be true. Alexis’s quiet calm and wisdom allowed me to feel seen and heard. Soon after, a little blue bottle showed up in the mail. I was to administer several drops beneath my tongue a couple of times a day. Easy enough, especially when it works…and it did.
After the mudslide, I reached out again. Alexis prescribed a homeopathic trauma remedy in the form of tiny white pellets. Napper and I both tried it despite the instruction that we had to go without coffee and mint toothpaste while taking it. We both felt a little less on edge and a little more positive and mellow. Alexis also formulated a flower essence trauma tincture for me that further helped me with sleep and feelings of restlessness and fear.
Bach Flower essences are available for order online and in health food stores. If you can find someone locally who has expertise in prescribing and formulating them, you can have essences made just for you.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Firestone Sisters, Inc.