Healing Unaccompanied Minors: Recovering from PTSD
One of my favorite aphorisms in yoga is “to let go of what no longer serves us.” However, just like yoga, it is a conscious practice we must actively take part in to release what no longer serves a purpose in our growth. Many times, the outdated tactics we must release are the very behaviors we cling onto for dear life because that is all we have known. As I enter three years into eating disorder and PTSD recovery, my younger exile parts that are stuck in the past are ever present.
As a firm believer that the universe offers many life invitations to revisit and heal our pain, I believe we can reclaim the power we once lost.
As I continue to become more aware and receive space from my perfectionist and restricted eating disorder “managers”, my younger exile parts are beginning to surface. Having suppressed these hurt traumatized, young parts for years by masking them under my eating disorder, they are showing up in my adult relationships desperately trying to get my attention. When these invitations were unfolding, I quickly realized a part of me did not want to let go of the outdated tactics these young exile parts carry into my present 25-year-old self. By completely letting go of the weight manager, compulsive exerciser, the over thinker, the controller, the perfectionist, I would lose the only safety I’d ever known. And losing safety could mean feeling and accepting realities that I do not want to feel and accept. At the same time, I knew that to no longer control my imperfections would gift me with freedom. That is, freedom to live in the truth and witness both the beauty and brutalities of life in my highest self. In that moment when I contemplated giving up on recovery, I remembered that from a cellular level, when we begin forming new neural pathways of change we are prone to quit, but at the same time, if we hold on, we can experience the biggest breakthroughs.
I kept asking myself, how can I stay afloat in the present if I let go of my inner managers? What does real safety look like?
My life invitation came in an unexpected way. While driving home, my water bottle spilled onto the passenger seat. Anxiously, I pulled over in disbelief and begin rubbing out the quarter size stain desperately. After I realized it would not come out, I broke out in uncontrollable tears. Filled with immense grief and despair, I acknowledged that the stain symbolized my trauma that I could not undo. At the suggestion of my therapist, I visited a stained glass museum the following week. There, I witnessed the color, awe, life, and beauty stains bring to a piece of “crystal” artwork. I am a living mosaic with colorful stains that give me the heart, empathy, and compassion for my vocation. I find heaven in these pieces- in the glimmer and stains that help me help others.
This season is my life has been filled with countless life invitations to heal my younger, traumatized self. I am learning to recreate true safety for her. I envision redefining safety is like repotting a flower into new soil. When plants are replanted from their roots they are stronger and more resilient. I am replanting myself and my younger parts to safety. If I am flower, my perfectionist, controlling, and weight managers have been like a screen in front of me trying to protect me from the dangers and bites of the outside world. However, by unburdening the trauma, my inner managers are realizing that the petals and colors ARE what protects the flower and that I do not need to be protected by a screen. I, as the flower, can reach out for support. I can reach for an umbrella on rainy days. I can have “supported collapses” through community, therapy, yoga, my breath, without falling back into self-destructive behaviors. The energy my managers are exerting to keep me safe is actually holding me back from reaching the sun. As I continue to unburden the trauma, the protected screen is dissolving and becoming a river to uplift the flower-me.
They say people begin healing the moment they feel heard. Instead of pushing my traumatized, younger-self aside, I am learning that she needs my love, my forgiveness, my patience, my compassion, and my protection, for all that was not provided to her. Cultivating a relationship with her is paramount in healing. Only when I heal her will I be able to feel worthy of being loved by my present beloved. One of the fruits from trauma is that I will always feel and experience moments in double metaphors. Feminist author Reagana Thomashauser expresses that life would be dull if we only had one emotion. Just like a piano with many keys, we have numerous emotions that we play that make us virtuoso and connect us with one another.
At the end of yoga practice in shavasana, we learn how to let things go. Every healing to bring our traumatized younger self to the present allows us freedom to witness all life has to offer today. Just like yoga, trauma recovery is not a 30-day plan but instead a lifetime process. I’m learning what healthy boundaries look like and that safety can be found within boundaries. Like a bedroom, the shape it takes and the wall corners tell us where a space begins and ends so we know where we can dance, create, speak, and move freely. There are so many resources out there to help you walk through the darkness so you can rescue and heal your younger self. You are not alone. I know the weight of trauma first hand but I keep reminding myself that bearing the fruit that comes from recovery will be worth it.
Recovery can feel uncomfortable but it will never be unbearable. It can feel like open-heart surgery but it will never claim my life the way anorexia did. I believe that in every facet of our life, the degree in which we can own our light is only to the degree in which we can own our darkness.
You do not need to earn your right to seek treatment. Breathe. Your life is so precious. You have a right to live a fulfilling and redemptive life. You have an endless source within you to move through the waves of trauma and heal. Seek support. In whatever stage of recovery you are in today, please know you are more than enough. You do not need to be “fixed”; you are already complete and have everything within you to navigate the boundless seas of life. The trauma was not your fault and you are not defined by it. You may never receive the answers for the trauma but you will gain so much more than you ever lost.
In her book, Radical Acceptance, Tara Brach writes, “we have the capacity to embrace the waves of life as they move throughout.” If you are in the midst of unburdening your trauma, it will feel uncomfortable. But piece-by-piece, you will be able to live in the present moment and handle all the ebbs and flows of life from the endless source within you. Life is brutally fragile AND it is beautifully redemptive. I keep my hope in the things not yet seen. Trauma recovery will be worth it to not recreate the pain. When all is said and done, it will be worth it to breathe life into the children I teach yoga, to inspire my kindergarten students, to accept love from those around me, to experience motherhood one day, and to bring my younger self into the present to witness all the safety and abundance she has TODAY. Recovery IS possible.
Rooting for YOU and all your beautiful parts,
I dedicate this blog post to my sunshine on rainy days, Hasan. <3
about the author: Crystal Campoverde
Crystal Campoverde is a GRATEFUL Project HEAL treatment grant recipient. Having walked through her journey of recovery from anorexia and bulimia, she is incredibly thankful for her loving community and vicariously experiencing a life-giving childhood as an adult. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Teaching Elementary Education to return to teaching. She loves to blog,travel, practice yoga, teach children's yoga, and advocate for children’s needs. She is a strong advocate for both eating disorder awareness and post-traumatic stress disorder awareness. She shares her vulnerability through blogging to encourage others in their healing to lead a fulfilling, redemptive life.