Summer is officially here! There is something about the shift of seasons, from spring to summer, that feels like a celebration. The days are brighter. Nature is singing—birds, cicadas, crickets. It’s all a beautiful chorus if you listen closely.
However, summer wasn’t always a welcomed change for me.
I didn’t always see the celebration in it. June 1 begins hurricane season in the U.S.—something that historically imprinted me in a negative way. I developed PTSD after surviving four hurricanes in a manner of six weeks during my senior year of high school. To move past the experience, I decided to move away for college, and in my final month living in Punta Gorda, a tornado gave me that extra push to really go.
Leaving (or avoidance) was only a temporary solution to what would be an ongoing problem. I eventually experienced a hurricane in the state I moved to and it was like going back in time mentally. Time or distance does not automatically heal. There was an indescribable sense of helplessness present for me during a natural disaster. There truly was no control, and I think it was that awareness that really created a lasting impression on my sense of safety. I’ve had to reassociate common weather events like rain and wind to break free from the flashbacks of past traumatic experiences associated with these events.
Understanding neuroplasticity was a key component to helping me work through this.
Trauma can functionally and structurally change our brain – however, we’re empowered to create changes, too. Brain retraining was my map back to experiencing safety again, even in the midst of chaos. I learned I didn’t need to have any control over my outer world, but I could acquire and use skills to help support my inner world. That perspective was pivotal to truly healing and moving forward.
Since studying neuroscience nearly 3 years ago and implementing strategies to promote neuroplasticity in my own life and previously established patterns, I have been liberated from the symptoms and experiences of the past. Whereas before I would have flashbacks and paralyzing anxiety in the midst of a storm, followed by physical symptoms and fatigue, now I have gained ever-present access to peace—even while living through more natural disasters. Peace didn’t come in the absence of hurricanes or tornadoes, but in realizing they no longer had the power to rule me emotionally or mentally. I was empowered to shift associations, undo emotional imprinting, and break free from history.
Avoidance is not what heals.
It’s the reprocessing of our past experiences using the lens we develop later on that brings about healing through the lessons that also come out of such experiences. We can also create or acquire tools that weren’t available at the time of the experience to restore a level of resilience, which is exactly what brain retraining has done for me.
Storm PTSD was just one layer of my recovery journey. Complex PTSD was another one of my diagnoses, based on my home environment and adverse experiences within childhood. Trauma, whether complex or not, whether short-term or not, has the ability to functionally and structurally change the brain. This is why time or distance does not truly heal. Repatterning my associations to triggers, plus establishing a grounding practice for my nervous system empowered me to rewire my brain through brain retraining and reach a long-term level of healing that wasn’t available in avoidance.
Healing is not the absence of the storm.
Healing is the ability to find steadiness even in the midst of the storm.
It’s the connection to peace and joy despite chaos—where chaos doesn’t completely overtake you.
Healing and recovery is not without challenges. I don’t think it works like that for anyone where you reach a level of fixed calmness or perfection that is constantly maintained. It ebbs and flows, but there is a steadiness that is much more accessible and sourced from within.
If you are interested in learning more about neuroplasticity, including techniques to create shifts from past trauma and safety in the present experience, join me in the upcoming Brain Gardening™ program. Those on the waitlist will get exclusive access to early bird pricing, so I encourage you to sign up now!