How I'm Making Peace With My Childhood Trauma
By: Crystal Campoverde “Healing is not an overnight process. It is a daily cleansing of pain; it is a daily healing of your life.” Such an aphorism is well known to the warriors actively recovering from an eating disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. As humans, we stumble, we bleed, we scar, we grief. We cope in any way to survive. If in our earlier years, we only knew how to “roam in the known” of chaos, oppression, dread, than as an adult, we continued to cling to this familiarity. We inevitability silenced our truth for years. The unbearable silence occurs because of the fragmented pieces trauma leaves behind. As children, our only responsibility was to grow and develop. We were meant to move our bodies, explore our environment, and discover safety within our bodies and safety in those closest to us. When trauma took place, instead of being attuned with our body, we began to look at our body scrupulously and internalize the effects of trauma by numbing ourselves through self-destructive behaviors. For many of us recovering in our adult selves, we still have young exile parts that felt powerless and are stuck in that time and space of trauma. I call these young exile parts of mine - my unaccompanied minors.
They are a part of me. They are showing up more presently since I have received space from my eating disorder behaviors. At first, I thought these young, anxious parts that were appearing through my emotions of despair, hopelessness, and restlessness were a sign of regression in my recovery. My therapist informed me that although this stage of trauma recovery is difficult, in healing my unaccompanied minors I was actually beginning to bear preliminary fruit because I was no longer numbing my feelings. These young exile parts that carry the burdens of people pleasing, anxiety, and despair, need to be healed in order to be brought into the present and see me as an adult capable of handling life, forming safe relationships, providing resources, and creating safety. A truth I had to unburden in healing these young parts was to separate the shame of my trauma from the shame I felt towards my younger self. Specifically, the shame that she couldn’t choose to change her environment and the shame that she felt powerless. When in reality, the only responsibility she had was to grow, flourish, and trust the people around her.
For too many years, I was trying to fit into a certain pair of “jeans” through my ED when in reality, I needed to learn to embrace my “genes”, my origin-myself. I am okay the way I am. When I think of my younger self in the midst of trauma, she did not perceive herself poor or judge her origin. She just wanted to be noticed, accepted, and loved. Realizing the shame I put upon her and attempting to change her at all costs, I knew that to heal I needed to mother my parts through compassion, curiosity, and grace. If one day on Venus is the equivalent to 243 Earth days, on what planet do we feel the pressure to recover by a certain deadline? Every person is a world within himself or herself; every person heals at a different pace. And just like a mango tree, we cannot rush the natural process of fruit to ripen. The moon goes through numerous phases and if the moon is allowed to change and evolve so are we humans in the duality of life’s brutality and beauties. I’m learning to live in that duality to hold space for my young parts through yoga and not allow my parts to bully me. I’m learning to mother my parts. I am beginning to expand my life more as my young parts are beginning to trust that I will take care of them and that trauma will no longer occur.
With each stage of healing, my younger parts are letting go of the adult roles they thought they had to serve to keep me protected. I envision they are taking on new roles such as sewing a pair of wings so I can continue to expand, take risks, and fly. In those moments when I wake up at 2am having the urge to cry, I say, “I’m okay, you’re okay, I will let you have your say.” She knows I won’t ignore her anymore. I am learning to plant my tears. I envision a mango tree that is blossoming as I recover and thrive. By planting my tears in the soil of the mango tree to nourish it, I begin to bear fruit at the pace it takes by pursuing recovery, blogging for Project Heal, teaching children’s yoga, pursuing a Masters to return to teaching Kindergarten. To me, the mango tree represents new life-new breath. How can you plant your tears to help you grow something beautiful that trauma can never take away from you?
We are made for connection. We are made to attach our hearts to others. I am witnessing that when I hem my heart to my most tender young parts and help heal them with my Higher being, I then can truly feel unsinkable no matter what waves or the waves of others wash up on me. Many times our youngest, wounded parts believe they have to solve every curve ball life throws at us. I’m learning that instead of having to immerse myself with all the tides life throws, I can instead focus on today’s life invitations that are encapsulated in a smaller body of water that I can handle. I am learning that safe relationships look different but that family can be defined in so many beautiful ways. The love that our closest relationships offer us in ways differently than we envisioned does not discount that love as less valuable just because it did not come in the form our fantasy part hoped it would.
This past Christmas, I swam in the Indian Ocean. The waves were crashing with such force and the temperature of the water felt like an ice bucket. Despite my best efforts, I could not keep my balance. I finally realized the waves were not meant to be at a stand still but instead to make their presence known. They were offering children nearby their first taste of salt water, momentum for surfers to take a ride, and a memory for adolescent friends to create. I realized life invitations that appear as curve balls are actually allowing me to make my presence in the world larger than I could have imagined. Although going with the waves was scary, once I surrendered, I experienced the bliss of laughter with my boyfriend, tasted pure salt water, basked in the present moment, and received a huge hug from nature in the form of water. I allowed someone to witness my vulnerability, messy hair, feely heart, and perfectly imperfect body. And whether he’s the love of my life or if he was only meant to gift me with a feeling of love for that season, I’m grateful for that experience to have attached my heart to someone safe in all of life’s ebbs and flows through those Australian waves.
I had the space to experience those moments (not to discount I went to the beach in a swimsuit for the first time in 10 years) because of all the steps I have taken the last 3 years in recovery. One of my favorite spiritual leaders Lisa Nicholas once said, “Can you give the world permission to love you and to leave you? Some of us are just as afraid of being loved as we are of being left. Can you give the world, people, permission to leave you and to love you?” A year ago, I would have said no for fear of feeling rejected, neglected, and unwanted. But today, from all the work I’ve done and am actively doing to heal my unaccompanied minors that were stuck in trauma, I can allow the world and the life invitations from it to teach me, love me, leave me, support me, because I have myself. The universe will always provide a source of safe love whether it’s a hug from a Kindergartener, a hug from a fellow graduate student, or a hug from a yoga student. I can handle life’s beauties and brutalities because I am learning to accept all parts of myself, experience safety within myself, and remain present to witness all that it is to be human. These are the things that my eating disorder robbed me of. You are a precious soul that has a one of a kind light to offer this world. Your younger parts will show up when they are ready to heal. Embrace them. They helped you stay alive. They are rooting for you as best as our child selves were capable of. Seek help. You are not alone. Even if you stumble, continue on your path of recovery at your pace. There is safety within this world and people that are safe and supportive. Recovery is possible.
Rooting for you! Xoxo Crystal