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Healing the brain - A survivors guide

Did you know many people who survive trauma or have PTSD may also have ADHD like behaviours? The constant activation of fight or flight response causes immeasurable  damage to concentration, motivation and ability to succeed. Leaving many survivors numb, foggy, unable to focus and understandably damaged ability to trust. Victims can stay perpetually in a child like phase of life clinging to the familiar unable to mature.

Studying phenomenology and experiential learning during my Education masters provided an opportunity to learn about these links.  People who survive trauma stay with those that provide a comfort zone... not a good environment, just a familiar one, even if it is within the environment that’s damaging. They may step out of the zone but will often run back.

This is no reflection on their  intelligence, but it is a very devastating result and a sad reality when these victims may never reach their full potential and utilised their abilities and skills... damaged, often the most brilliant individuals stay within the zone because it's familiar.

There is a very good reason I left my abuser, because I had to save my sons brain from being damaged by his father... and  is the same reason I am weary of what and who he is exposed to. I can't risk ever exposing my son to anything like that again. It causes permanent changes in the natural development of the brain... Along with further trauma as an adult it can have devastating impacts on living a full life, so protecting  my baby (now 13) has to come first always...

Ironically victims of trauma who don’t reach out and form a loyal commitment and instead hide in their comfort zone repeat the same behaviours that caused  them the damage done to their brain. We all know how hard it is to break the bonds of the familiarity but there becomes and unhealthy bond to that which hurt us simply because we fear what we don’t know.

Breaking old patterns it the key, and gently rewiring the brain. Often traumatised people’s poor decisions, behaviour and repeating the mistakes of the past is not based on a lack of values or ethics it’s based on emotions being poorly developed due to damage and that will take time and therapy to heal.

They also often have guilt on some level, often children of violent homes feel guilty towards their your mothers  that maybe they  could have  helped her, too often in creates a rather unhealthy level of loyalty to her (which I’m very conscious of my child not developing this) and that loyalty outweigh future  loyalty to partners. My reading and research through interviewing survivors confirms this is  a common issue with sons of abused mothers.

Trauma victims may also have had to perpetrated their own actions for survival that give them immense guilt and trauma. These feelings of guilt can keep them distant from intimacy in all forms.

Often survivors of trauma have  childish tantrums due to the trauma damage, but it’s important to understand  that the brain can heal and self regulation can be taught...

When my son was little he had therapy on self regulation…  he had no off switch…  but we began these incredible therapies that reconnected him to his body and surroundings and he had therapy using scenarios where he needed to reflect on appropriate behaviour working through these helped him to learn regulation of his behaviour based on circumstances using a coding system to categorise different situations and how to behave, being mellow yellow, for calm quiet time, cool blue for when we need to do activities but calmly and  racing red like when you might be playing out doors or doing sport. After about a year he finally self regulated, the reminders and excercise’s trained his brain to self regulate.

His physical motor skills were also underdevelopment and it was critically linked to his lack of self regulation mentally and emotionally and his stuttering which took years of therapy to rectify was linked too. All of which with care, love and time are healed. The extent to which the brain impacts both behaviour and physical responses can’t be ignored.

Some survivors coping mechanisms are adrenaline based activity which doesn’t really help their brain and body to heal... whereas yoga and walking and writing and art for me  has been my therapy. In fact  I have stopped writing articles on DV because I felt it kept me living in the past one of the worst things a survivor can do, they can create a purpose  about the most horrible thing they had experienced, think how often survivors become advocates… it makes sense and they are the best advocates but at some point they must protect their mental health.

My yoga study broke me free of the past and trauma and for the most part I don't think about it any longer. Having  a child that needed my love stopped me from emotionally shutting down that's where children can be the most incredible  healing force in our lives.   

Support around you to help pull you out of the comfort zone, and can reduce survivors need for the familiar but years and years of being stuck in an awful cycle almost like Stockholm syndrome… means victims often stay stuck… though you can get out and start fresh they stay where they are miserable but familiar, they stay in social groups, homes, living situations, poverty, unemployment etc. That’s not a judgement, I have been there, but it’s  a really awful example of how stuck people can be how the brain becomes so wired to endure negativity that their fight or flight moves to freeze.

It’s like the fight or flight reaction has turned into nothingness, feelings of nothingness and numbness even after they are free and able to move on the numbness remains, without the right therapy, support and physical development they can remain in this comfort zone indefinitely.

Survivors moods can be impacted by the change in hormones during abuse. Constant cortisol can create and a reduction in natural serotonin balance. I have long known to  balanced my hormones with yoga and daily walking and doing arts snd crafts.  I know it sounds simplistic but they help return your hormones to balanced levels whereas doing aggressive sport and adrenaline causing activities can make hormone issues in survivors worse and stress their body rather than helping it heal.

Creating a mentally and physically healthy and enjoyable environment with improved  lifestyle will help balance your hormones and improve your mood.  Creating a new safe place where you have new and normal healthy memories made is far more  beneficial to your recovery than many understand.   

Doing yoga helps your serotonin levels, as does walking in nature. These will help reduce mood swings. Outburst are your amygdala causing an overreaction to minor things because of your low seroton. When I studied and taught emotional intelligence I was astounded to see the simplicity of something so devastating… then later when  I studied further via my yoga studies I decided to include this knowledge  as part of my 8 week yoga philosophy program.

More recently I’ve been investigating durable skills for academics… the combination of mindfulness, communication and emotional intelligence training are precursors for success. I realise now my joy and success with my own professional career which is leading the University Educator Capability Development is likely 100% to do with my serotonin levels,  they promote leadership abilities and has nothing to do with my IQ (sadly) which quite honestly I don’t think is that high.

In short …

Low serotonin = life problems

Solution = yoga,  walking, diet,  therapy …

I’m such an advocate of personal development,  yoga and healthy lifestyle for survivors. It’s the entire mind, body, spirit, healing approach. I think I’m living proof of that.

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