I wrote an article not long ago titled “RIP RECOVERY” I recently was triggered by previous traumatic events in a current way. Gah! This has created some mixed emotions, many based in anger and sadness. I credit ADOPTION: The gift that keeps on giving! I’ve created a bench, a safe space to welcome these “episodes” as I call them to come and sit down with me. I allow myself the space to sit with them, and welcome them. Then the work begins. No more running. Here I am, writing about it.
What is ART?
Accelerated Resolution Therapy works to directly reprogram the way in which distressing memories and images are stored in the brain so that they no longer trigger strong emotional and physical reactions. The word accelerated means that sometimes people can see significant results in 1-4 sessions. I liked this idea a lot, and I am not digging these episodes so I’m willing to try ANYTHING.
A few weeks ago, I had a total meltdown. Without going into all the details of what triggered it, I will say that I know it was linked to some specific terror & traumatic episodes I experienced in my childhood, although I wasn’t thinking anything about them at the time at all. However, I did not need to be. They were stored in my brain and body and they caused my body to react even when the current situation had absolutely nothing to do with them. I truly had no control over it and although I was able to make the connections between the two, I could not bring myself out of the meltdown. It lasted almost the whole weekend.
What feelings were I having? I would describe it as an impending doom, a terror feeling that literally took over my entire body which paralyzed me. I could not function properly, like the “normal me.” I was in bed all weekend long and I felt horrible. My body was riddled with fear, I was overwhelmed and sad because as soon as I feel like I am 10 steps ahead of the game, something like this happens which I consider to be somewhat of a setback.
Is adoption ever not going to impact me in a negative way? Even 10+ years into SELF WORK, I am still dealing with this bs. It brought on a lot of emotions for me that were difficult to navigate through, on top of the traumatic memories being triggered. I have not felt this type of feeling in a long while. But here I was, back at what seemed to be square one. FML was all I could think. All I was thinking was that I would rather die than feel this way.
One of the best parts about this situation was the fact that I did not react to it. I have come far enough in my journey to learn a few things. One is that I was able to make the connections to the way I was feeling, to the way I felt as a little girl and a newborn baby being relinquished by my birth mother. I was also able to distinguish that the reaction I was having was something from the past, because the current situation that triggered the response was not “that big of a deal.” The other is that I did not allow myself to react. I also knew that I had to move through this situation, until my brain was able to shake it off. I just did my best to sleep it off until that happened, because that is the only way I can shut my brain off, and I did a little self-care in the middle. I will not lie; the self-care was not easy. The only thing I could force myself to do was to get out of bed, put clothes on, and drive to get one of my favorite salads on Sunday. Then I went and got a large blizzard from Dairy Queen.
As soon as I was done, I came back home and got right back in the bed. Slept until Monday morning. Work was the pushing factor that snapped me out of this deep, dark hole I was in. I had to get up and go to work.
One of the things I believe escalated this meltdown was that I did not have any weekend plans. It was supposed to rain Sunday, so I did not make any plans. The rain came for a short while, the rest of the day was sunny and beautiful. I do not do well with idol time, and it is not healthy for me. So here I was feeling worthless like I wasted my whole Saturday and Sunday away, which is time I can never get back on top of the emotional traumatic episode being triggered.
Over the years, I have learned of several therapy types that have been extremely effective for adoptees. One is EMDR therapy, and the other is Brainspotting. I had never tried either, but I have heard that they are wonderful for adoptees, if you have an adoptee competent therapist.
I knew I needed to get to the bottom of this, because as stated above – I would rather die than feel this way. It is the worst feeling in the whole world. Monday morning I started reaching out to some local therapists, on top of Brooke Randolph who I consider a friend. She is an adoptive mom, and a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and she specializes in many areas, but one is brainspotting. We have had the chance to meet at several conferences over the years, and I respect her greatly. She lives in Indiana, and I am in Kentucky. She was able to offer some suggestions and guide me in the right direction on the next steps. I appreciate her kindness in taking the time to assist me during what I feel like was a crisis in my life.
I ended up finding a local therapist here in Lexington, KY. I read over her website and I was impressed by it. I reached out to her and we set up a consult appointment. I explained my issues, what triggered them and set up a plan to move forward. On Friday I had my first appointment with her, and I can share with you it was one of the most enlightening and amazing experiences of my lifetime!
I will not lie; I was nervous at first because I did not know what to expect. She has listed on her website many areas that she is experienced in regarding types of therapy she uses like brainspotting, EMDR, Daring Way, etc. The key factor was that she will not use just one technique on me, she will use a combination of techniques, depending on what works best for me. I liked that idea because what works for someone else, might not work for me and each person is different.
Now to the good juice.
Between our consult and our first meeting I was able to trace back in my early days of 4 different experiences that I feel created terror and traumatic memories that have been stored in my memory, some of it subconsciously.
Here they are.
- Relinquishment Trauma – Being separated from my birth mother at the beginning of life. I have always had haunting visions of what the delivery room was like that day, and all the sorrow and sadness that was present. No one was welcoming me, no one was happy. I know I cried in terror, learning to self soothe as soon as I came out of the womb. How long did I cry? Likely until my spirit broke and I had no more energy to cry. I have visualized this over the years because I have no birth story. Most adoptees do not so we are left to create our own images.
- A Reoccurring Dream – Around 5 years old I learned I was adopted, and from that moment on I started having a reoccurring dream that lasted at least 21 years of my life. They stopped after I found my birth mother but are still very vivid memories. I was on the labor and delivery unit at St. Frances hospital where I was born. This was the last place I knew my birth mother was before I lost her. I was a 5-year-old little girl, in a small white hospital gown. I remember vividly there were no people in sight, but I was searching for her. I saw a long hallway; everything was cold and white. I remember running down the hallway barefoot, jerking every single curtain back searching for her. I saw a clock, and time was running out. I was hysterical, and the hallway went on forever. I never found her, and I never stopped running trying to find her. The terror I felt in this dream, being lost looking for her is like the terror I felt during my meltdown. It’s the same terror that frequents my life. I feel it when I get lost.
- Adoptive Mom Laying in the Street – My adoptive mom was manic depressive and suicidal most of my life. One episode of a lifetime of episodes, is something that I have never been able to remove from my brain. She had a manic-depressive episode where she went and laid in the street to try to kill herself while we watched from our 3rd floor apartment window. The terror and trauma this inflicted on me as an 8-9-year-old child is something I will never forget. The visions and memories are clear, and they have always haunted me. I specifically remember how I felt during this episode, and
- Adoptive Mom Locking Her Bedroom Door, Telling Us She’s Killing Herself – Another terror and traumatic situation as a child was the repeated actions of my adoptive mom taking her whole “box” of prescription pain pills to her bedroom, locking us out and telling her she’s going to kill herself. I WILL NEVER FORGET BEING HYSTERICAL OUTSIDE HER BEDROOM DOOR BEGGING HER TO NOT KILL HERSELF. This created lifelong traumatic memories I have never been able to shake. I remember being so tired from crying and begging that I could not cry anymore. I just slumped down by the door, fell asleep and eventually after some hours, she would open the door like everything was perfect. This happened many times.
So here we are, trying to piece things together and figure out which of these traumatic experiences still has a tight grip on my emotional and mental health. Which one is triggering an emotional response in my present life?
That is a good question, and the only way to figure out is to go through each one step by step. It could be a combination of them all. It could be related to preverbal and previsual trauma I experienced before birth. I know that the only way out is through, so here I was getting a new therapist, making a commitment to get to the bottom of this so I could hopefully heal these wounds that seem to creep up at different times of my life. I knew I was the only one that could do this as no one else can fix our junk for us but us.
I decided to start with #1 because it goes back to the beginning. Although I feel the true beginning was being in my birth mother’s womb, but I don’t have any visual memories of that. It might be something I have to circle back around and work on later. For now, we are starting with the first memories which I describe in #1 and the second session I worked on #2.
This is what I remember of the first ART session, but I am fairly sure I might mix my words up, and maybe not describe things perfectly, but I will do the best I can from what I remember.
Traumatic memory #1.
As already shared, I was a little nervous because I did not know what to expect. However, Jessica made things amazingly comfortable. We set up our first video zoom call and got the ball rolling. Jessica, had me hook my two thumbs together, and hold them at the top of my chest and I tapped on my chest with my fingers. Kind of like a butterfly. I closed my eyes and I started to rock as I did this which came natural for me. We had a brief discussion on my needing to rock, and we were able to trace this back to the original separation from my birth mother and an adaption tool I automatically picked up as a newborn baby as a way to self soothe. She wanted me to go back to the very first vision which I concluded would be visions of the delivery room where I lost my birth mother.
As I closed my eyes, my visuals of the deliver room were front and center. I was crying in terror for my birth mother to come back, but she never came. It was like a scene from a movie. I was able to focus on 3 different clips (visions) for this one scene and drew out as many details as possible. As Jessica guided me through the process, I started to erase each clip one by one. After I erased the first clip, I picked a color and painted over it by a paint brush or spray paint. I picked yellow like the sun for the first clip, blue like the sky for the second and grassy green for the third.
Next, I moved on to create new visions for each clip. The first clip I painted a picture of one of my favorite waterfalls. The second I painted a picture of the sun. the third clip I painted a picture of the forest. All 3 of my favorite things on earth, that bring be great joy and comfort. I made sure I did not leave anything behind regarding the old clip. As the new “Conductor Scene” was created by me, I was not sharing all the details with Jessica. She asked a few little questions like what color did I pick and what new vision did I place over the old one. But I did not have to RELIVE each traumatic memory in her presence, which I really liked. That is the part I was most nervous about because I have been reliving those scenes my whole life in my head, I did not want to relive them again, especially in front of someone else.
Once I had the conductor scene created, it now took the front seat to any of the delivery room memories. It was a refreshing scene that made me happy just thinking about it. Not only that, but it is my real life. Most people that know me know my love for Mother Nature, waterfalls, and the sunshine.
Now what? We had to seal the deal. Eyes closed, still tapping – I was instructed to take any painful memories or pieces of the beginning of my life regarding my birth mother and I put them in a box. One by one, I tossed them in the box. Next, I created a bridge that took me to the new conductor scene, but my kids, pets, close friends, and family all walked with me to the other side of the bridge.
I got to decide what to do with the other side of the bridge that I was leaving behind. At first, I visualized setting it on fire, but then I decided I wanted to blow that bitch up. (sorry for the cursing) Up in flames it went, with an atomic bomb style boom…
Forward I walk, into my new destiny with all those I love. Waterfalls, sunshine, and the forest that is forever my sacred space.
Ending this exercise, I had a new spark about myself. I was incredibly pleased with the experience.
Fast forward to the next week and my ART therapy session.
Traumatic memory #2.
I applied the same concept that ART guides, with my eyes closed. Thumbs hooked like a butterfly on my chest while I tapped my fingers, and I rocked back, and forth which comes naturally to me. I focused on two clips that I visually saw pertaining to this specific traumatic experience that I saw in a reoccurring dream. (please read #2 above for details) I erased them and covered them with pastel pink and yellow as the colors. Then I created the “Conductor Scene” that replaced this traumatic memory #2. I decided to apply a field of butterflies to the first one, and a rainbow on the other. I took all my feelings and memories that I thought about regarding this time in my life and piled them up in a box. Then I got to do what I wanted with the box. I decided to push the box off a cliff at the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Never to be seen again.
In the middle of this exercise as I searched for my birth mother in the dream, Jessica encouraged me to go to the Parent Store and pick out new parents. I decided I did not want to pick out a father, because the mother wound has always been much bigger to me, especially with it being compacted by two mothers! The father wound and mother wound/s do not even compare to me.
I was on the hunt. I looked for the perfect mother in the parent store. She had all the things I needed as a little girl, she was beautiful and affirming. She was happy and healthy. She was encouraging, supportive and complimenting. She was 100% on my side. She loved me unconditionally, without any ulterior motive. After I found her, I got to name her.
The name WILLOW came to my mind, because Weeping Willow is my favorite tree because I feel like they are so welcoming and beautiful. I HAVE ALWAYS HAD A HEART TIE TO THESE TREES. I named my mother Willow after the tree, and after my love for nature.
I expressed to Jessica something I have shared many times. I feel Mother Nature has been much kinder and more compassionate to me than any of my appointed mothers on this earth. They also do not compare at all. I was also able to make a shift from Willow being an actual person to entertaining the thought that Willow could be all the trees in nature, specifically Weeping Willows. If I am honest, I feel a connection to all trees. However, I needed to put something specific to Willow, because she is my new mother figure, I have missed my whole life. I can vividly see her, but you cannot. The closest thing I can tell you is that she is a lot like mother nature or mother earth, with a possible twist of mixing an earthly mother with mother earth. She is designed specific for me, by me so she is not something many others will understand or comprehend.
I was able to create a scene where Willow gets to meet my kids and she shares some uplifting and encouraging words about my parenting these 3 amazing human beings.
At first, I was skeptical of these exercises because I am a person of TRUTH, especially being an adoptee. But adoptees are also professionals at fantasizing things because we have been left to do this our entire lives. In a small regard, I was thinking I am not down with these shenanigans of playing “make believe” and “pretend.” However, I am also a firm believer that we can all rewrite our lives and our stories. I feel if I have one chance to write it the way I WANT IT TO BE WRITTEN – I would like to have the chance to be creative and do it. I know I am writing the future, but this allowed me a chance to rewrite the past.
Gradually as I did these exercises, the entire process allowed me to rewire my brain replacing the traumatic memories with ones that are inspiring, beautiful, and designed by me specifically.
I still have 2 of the traumatic memories related to the mother wounds to work on, but I am hopeful they will go like the first two.
I want to draw the pictures I see in my head about #1 & #2 being replaced because I would love for others to see. I am fairly sure I will start working on this soon. I cannot wait to draw the conductor scenes, and I cannot wait to draw WILLOW.
If you have made it this far, I commend you. I know this has been a long-winded article. I wanted to share as much details as possible so my fellow adoptees can possibly gain a spark of HOPE in the traumatic memories they might deal with in their lives. This has given me hope like I never had before.
It might be EMDR or Brainspotting work for you, and when and if I try them, they might work for me too. Right now, I was 100% satisfied with my experiences with Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) I am excited to see how this exercise helps me in my daily life moving forward.
For my fellow adoptees, I am curious how you have been able to get healing from traumatic memories and what’s worked for you? As always, I love learning from others because I feel we can all learn so much from one another. Can you relate to this article in any way? I would love to hear from you.
Sending Sunshine, Love & Light