The Transforming Power of Gratitude

There’s a lot to deal with following a trauma. Often times, you go into survival mode. As I’ve stated before, there were times that just continuing to be alive come night fall was a successful day for me. But, what about after the tempests move on and the black clouds disperse? Every step of healing is unique and varies from person to person. Most recently, I’ve been asking the Lord to shake off the remaining debris that keeps me from living in the reality of the new life he’s given me. New life was not instantaneous for me. It is something I’ve been given, but have to choose to claim and live in every day. In the midst of this prayer, one night at Adoration, I felt him showing me the tendency of my mind toward self pity. I couldn’t deny it. I could see it so clearly, a leftover byproduct of years of repeating my story of victimhood for the courts and focusing solely on survival. But, even though I understood where it came from, I also knew that it did not need to continue. That night I went to confession, confessing self pity. Though I may not have consciously chosen to foster the thoughts, as they arose out of two years of depressed thought patterns, I knew that receiving the sacramental graces of Reconciliation was the most powerful first step I could take to reclaim control over my mind. Our God never disappoints. That week, through the words of the priest and my daily devotional readings, God made clear that self pity and gratitude cannot coexist. Thus, I have begun practicing outwardly thanking the Lord for any number of things that come to mind, whenever I begin to feel self pity attempt to creep back in. I must tell you, I’ve been practicing this for a few weeks now and I thought I was a grateful person before, but really focusing on remaining in a state of gratitude has changed the way I interact with the world and with my God. There are certainly times that it is appropriate to feel sad, the Bible supports this, but it can also be too easy to wallow in that sadness instead of reminding ourselves of all that we have to be grateful for. When we do, I am finding that the fruits of gratitude are endless! How natural it should be that we would be grateful for the one who is the only reason we exist and the giver of all that we have; and yet, how challenging it is. This day and every day, may we aim to practice gratitude and then watch as it transforms us.

 

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Healing after Trauma

What exactly does life after trauma look like? There’s no one answer. The truth is everyone survives trauma differently. What does healing look like? What does it mean to be healed? At what point can I claim that I’ve arrived? I don’t know what that answer looks like for everyone, but I have seen a glimpse of what it looks like for me. These past weeks have been filled with opportunity after opportunity to see the immense progress that has been made in my journey post-assault.

Just a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking at a Pennsylvania Law Enforcement training on a victim’s perspective of Law Enforcement. As such, I shared, alongside the ADA who prosecuted my case, the facts surrounding my assault, I broke down why it took me three months to report the crime from a mental and emotional standpoint, and touched on what it’s like to relive the crime as you comb through every detail again and again for the report, investigation, and testifying. They were an incredibly attentive group of officers and I was humbled by their hunger to know how they could better serve the future victims of crime they would undoubtedly encounter. Perhaps the most incredible moment of the whole day, though, was the moment I left the building and walked to my car. I began my self check, something I believe vital after revisiting traumatic experiences. I sat in the silence of my vehicle, expecting to feel the emotional exhaustion and mental instability which often accompanied sharing my story. But, it never came. To the contrary, I found, much to my surprise and delight, that when evaluating my emotional, mental, and physical state following the day of training, I felt energized, free, and so so good! Over the next few days, I would check in every so often with myself expecting the depression to creep in, as it so often did over the past years, wrapping it’s tentacles around my mind and suffocating my spirit, but it never did.

For me, this was a sign of true healing, a testament of true freedom.