Are you or someone you know a victim of abuse – verbal, physical, or emotional? As a survivor herself, Lilli Correll shares concrete steps you can take to recover from trauma and abuse.
Don’t miss Lilli’s personal and professional advice on how to become greater than your circumstances and RESOLVE TO RISE.
IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL LEARN:
- Lilli’s story
- How trauma alters a victim’s emotions
- The concept of triggers
- How to recognize your own trauma
- How to recognize trauma in others
- The best therapeutic approaches to trauma
- Traumatic healing resources and guides
- A 5-step approach for those experiencing caregiver burnout
- Resolve to Rise by Lilli Correll | Paperback: https://bit.ly/3NpVA1m
- The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk M.D. | Paperback: https://bit.ly/3wPDX4K
- Epigenetic Counseling: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1295483.pdf
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl | Paperback: https://bit.ly/3sMoYqX
- When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron | Paperback: https://bit.ly/3ySTyTu
- Internal Family Systems: https://ifs-institute.com/
- Trauma Therapy Approaches: https://www.resolvetorise.com/resources
ABOUT LILLI CORRELL
Lilli is a licensed counselor and Fortune-5 healthcare executive. She has spoken to many people about the patient experience. She has been featured by Open Minds, Mental Health America, and The National Association of State Mental Health Programs Directors.
Lilli Correll provides extensive lessons to help anyone emerge above their circumstances and establish limitless success through her trademark combination of wisdom, understanding, expertise, and compassion.
CONNECT WITH LILLI
- Website: Resolve To Rise: https://www.resolvetorise.com/
So I have somebody die unexpectedly, especially when it’s a tragic situation. Like you described a car crash or rape for some people that can plummet them into a depression. That’s inescapable. Welcome to the M perfectly empowered podcast with leading DIY lifestyle blogger on. Where women are inspired with authentic stories and practical strategies to reclaim their hearts and homes by empowering transformation.
One imperfect day at a time. Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the imperfectly empowered podcast. I am your host on a Fullmer. Today’s my honor to have on the show. Lily Corel, Lily is a best-selling author, speaker, and clinician. She is dedicated to helping individuals heal from trauma and learn how to thrive featured in open minds, mental health America, and the national association of state mental health program directors, Wellcome, mental health advocate, Lilly.
Welcome to the podcast. Thank you. I’m excited. I was listening to a little bit just to kind of ground myself. You’ve had some really interesting speakers with great topics and good job. We are very excited to have you and your expertise. We haven’t necessarily had somebody specifically speaking trauma, especially abuse, and I’m really excited to dive into your expertise, but let’s rewind a little bit.
I always like to hear people’s backstories. How did you get into the world of trauma and clinically helping people to heal from experiences? Like that’s a very specific area. Tell us a little bit about that. It is. And it’s funny when you have your own trauma. Sometimes at least for me, I was really hesitant to go into the clinical field at first, because I didn’t want to be that kind of cliche person who is trying to work out their stuff by going into the.
Clinical field. And so like a lot of people, I got a bachelor’s degree that I’ll probably never really use speech and hearing sciences, but then once I got into kind of marriage and family therapy and finished my graduate work and started discovering how really broken our healthcare system is in this area, I think my passion just kept growing and growing and.
This realization that here I am executive in a fortune five healthcare company, I’m building out all these programs, hoping that folks in the foster care system or in the IDD, intellectual and developmental space are getting the supports and services they need. And then once I started to kind of learn more about what was happening out there, I was learning that people were saying they were trauma informed, but they were not showing up any differently.
So it was very hierarchical. When you think of like the medical model, you got a doctor basically listening for maybe a few minutes to hear about what are the symptoms that you’re having, making a quick diagnosis, giving you medication and sending you out the door. And all the, while you’re the expert on how the symptoms are manifesting, how you’re experiencing those and what you need.
And so as a clinician and as a person who’s experienced trauma, I think I’m uniquely positioned to start helping make a difference in that area and helping people to consider where we’re kind of falling short. So you mentioned that you yourself had been through trauma, share with us a little bit about your own traumatic experience and.
Your healing process and how that’s kind of transitioned into, as you said, you’re perfectly positioned to serve this group of people. Tell us a little bit about your own history. I was actually born in Massachusetts, which nobody believes because I don’t have an accent from Massachusetts. And my mom had been suffering with bipolar one with psychosis and many, many times that would kind of play out in violence in our home as a result.
My dad was actually the first man in the state of Massachusetts to win custody of his children that never happened. And apparently the requirement in that day and age was that there had to be a threat to life and, um, for a man to get custody. That was the requirement pretty much. Yeah. Pretty high bar.
Yeah. And the, I mean, the assumption then, and probably sometimes still is that the mom is best suited to basically take care of their children. And probably in many circumstances, that’s the case. Absolutely. But in our circumstance it was not. And so I tell people a little bit about bipolar disorder for those who are not familiar with how that, you know, what did life look like for you living with somebody who suffered from bipolar disorder?
Sure. With bipolar one with psychosis is even more kind of severe presentation, but essentially either she would be very, very depressed, which may include irritability, but maybe sleeping a lot and just not in a great Headspace or she would be really. Up and alert and going and not sleeping. And that was really when the violence occurred most was when she was in these manic episodes where she was just not getting, I mean, none of us are at our best when we don’t get enough rest.
Right. But she was incapable of kind of getting rest and, and very, very anxious. In fact, when she did get on medication and she was fairly consistent and taking that medication, she always struggled with anxiety. That was just something, she was never able to really navigate very well for my mom, because there were psychotic features when she was making.
She might tell us there’s a war going on, wake us up in the middle of the night, tell us to get out of bed that the food is poisoned. We have to get under the table and hide and make sure that we’re safe. And that kind of thing would crop up whenever she was in kind of that space and obviously made for a lot of instability for her first and foremost.
And then for us, just because as a child, you really believe that the food is poisoned and there’s a war going on. And it’s terrifying old. Where are you in this timeframe? During that time was around probably four or five. And how old were your siblings? You said us. Do you have. I have an older sister who is six years older.
So she was probably at the time 10 or 11, um, also very difficult years. Absolutely. For different reasons. Yeah. Yeah. Share a little bit. Now you were younger, but what emotions or feelings do you remember from that time? And I asked that only because I think when we’re going to dive into this later, that’s ultimately what you end up having to unravel over the years are those sort of acute experiences in the subconscious truths and realities that you start to adopt in those moments that then take so much work later in life.
So talk to me a little bit about what you remember looking back, what you remember feeling. And the emotions that you had to work on then on the other side of things. Absolutely. It’s interesting because over the years I’ve become more clear about what was I actually feeling because for the longest time I did what I would say, probably every trauma, trauma victim, rather experiences at some point dissociation, where you’re just completely devoid of feeling and kind of disconnected from yourself.
But as I get more kind of in tune with where I was, I was terrified. I would just say, like I was literally in terror and knew that my life depended on me showing up in a way that helped kind of bring comfort and levity to my mom. So that things kind of stayed as stable as possible. Um, in the moments now, again, you were young, you were four, but you felt that the danger was real.
Meaning there really was a war happening. The food really was poisoned. At what age were you able to recognize. Her own psychosis, because at that age it’s real like your moms and adults telling you that the food’s poisoned well, the food’s poisoned, but then what age does it become that you recognize her psychosis or did you never get to that point in the house?
Well, and there’s also there’s where did, when did I get intellectually to that space? And then as you know, like in the embodied response, when did I get to that place? I don’t know if I’ve gotten there yet. I’m on my time on this journey, it’s getting better and better. And like, I’m more learning to attuned to myself.
I don’t know that there was a specific cut off, except for, I remember being in college and thinking, oh my gosh, what if I have bipolar one with psychosis, which somehow my sisters and I, we never, I had a half sister who was, who also was raised with her, her entire life actually. And none of us had any mental health conditions.
But so I know I had awareness as I was becoming a teenager that mom had mental illness. I knew what it was called. I don’t know that I was able to differentiate because she was either be saying things were happening that weren’t happening. Or she was violently reacting. Like I remember a time where she threw a beer bottle.
I think it was and hit my dad in the head and just again, being terrified. So I think in my brain and in my system, all of those things kind of got merged together. My father was fairly open that my mom had mental illness. So I do remember being aware that there was something that was wrong with mom. Um, as you got older than in your own trauma experience, how did the trauma manifest itself in your life?
You mentioned fear and you said in college, you experienced fear of mental health itself, fear of having bipolar disorder. Were there other things that you recognized as you got older emotions that were either more acute or maybe even less acute because of your trauma? What are some of the ways you saw those experience manifest later in your life that you had to work?
I think I had a tendency actually to be very disconnected from my feelings because of my trauma. So I had a tendency to either I’d be happy or I would be angry, but I didn’t really have this sense of like, I’m feeling ashamed or I feel sad or I feel afraid. It was more like if I felt afraid that I was angry and otherwise I was.
Kind of happy and upbeat and kept a really positive kind of frame of reference. And it wasn’t until I started kind of doing my own therapy, that I started to connect with a little bit more complexity around what I was feeling and how shame might turn into anger, because that felt safer or sadness would turn into anger because sadness felt vulnerable.
And I didn’t want to be vulnerable because I didn’t trust anyone else to meet my needs. I had to take care of attuning to others. So it’s been really a journey of kind of mapping, if you will, from anger or even happiness to like what’s going on, what’s contributing to this. How am I really feeling? What am I needing?
That was a huge distance run from, what am I feeling to, what do I need? So when you say what you need, like describe that a little bit. Because when I was growing up, it was all about mom and making sure that everything was okay. I wasn’t really familiar with what was going on inside of me. And what did I need?
So for instance, if mom was throwing a beer bottle at my dad’s head, then maybe if I was attuning to myself, I’d say peace out. You know, I’d run because that felt safe. But instead, oftentimes I was leaning in and figuring out how do I get mom to kind of calm down? And I was completely disconnected from what I was feeling and then what I was needing.
So I think at this point, it’s really having a sense of, you know, if anxiety is going on around me, sometimes I’ve had a tendency because of that attuning externally to kind of merge with the anxiety of other people and think I’m feeling anxious. When, when I attuned internally, I realized I’m not anxious.
And then I might realize actually I’m upset and I need to erect a boundary because this doesn’t feel good. And so it’s sometimes it’s a need like that. And sometimes it’s a need, like I think we all have, right. I need to take a walk. I need to step away from what I’m working on. All right. I need to meditate.
I found meditation to be really, really helpful. And knowing that when I get really busy and anxious, that sometimes that’s the very best thing I can do is just kind of slow down and meditate. So it’s really tuning into what are those needs that I have. And then how can I. Kind of navigate that as a post-traumatic victim and having been working through the process for many years now, in your experience, how have you approached triggers?
You kind of talked, touched on that a little bit, the idea of triggers and finding the balance between allowing yourself to feel somebody else’s grief, being with the person who has bipolar being with the family of somebody who has bipolar disorder, but then also recognizing this is just too much for me.
I have to separate myself. Talk to me a little bit about the sense of triggers and then also finding the balance between investing and engaging, but then also recognizing, oh, I might need to step away. That is honestly, and the most recent trauma training that I did it, she focused wholly on starting from a place.
Understanding triggers, understanding that like I’m reading an email and all of a sudden I’m anxious, I’m flooded. I’m not thinking in a way where I can problem solve. And it’s like, there’s a rational part of me. That’s saying it’s an email. Exactly. Who cares. And then there’s this anxious part of me.
That’s like, like life or death situation. So obviously a trigger, right. An email isn’t going to kill you. But when the email gets connected back to the feeling like you have to immediately respond, feeling like you have to calm everything, it gets associated with a life or death perception and how your brain has changed from that trauma.
And so I think understanding those triggers first and foremost is the most important thing to do to say, this is a triggered emotion, just reminding yourself that I’m in the here and now I’m sitting in my office. I’m safe. That kind of disconnects it a little bit. And that’s kind of takes the weight down of it a little bit.
But I think also it’s just, I go back to, and in my book I referenced. And I think this gets referenced all the time, but rightly so, the oxygen dropping from the ceiling and the airplane. And it’s like, you have to put the oxygen on your face first and then your child, which is counterintuitive to most of us as moms.
We’re like, heck no, I’m giving it to my child. But if I’m unconscious, I’m not really going to be very helpful to my child. And so. When I’m noticing that I’m going through a really, particularly stressful time and I’m getting triggered a lot, then I tend to take some time to really think about what do I think might be the most helpful therapeutically.
And so not too long ago, I started doing internal family systems, which is kind of like doing family therapy inside yourself. So that you’re listening to the part of yourself. That’s saying this is an irrational response and kind of judging you. And then you’re kind of exploring also that part of you that feels really anxious.
What’s that about? What are you needing right now? So I’ll explore things like that to kind of start again, moving a little bit further into the healing journey so that I’m not as triggered and honestly approaching those things with curiosity and compassion for myself, for yourself. Interesting. Because if I don’t, what I find is I’m barking at others, expecting them to just back off or give me whatever boundary that I need to be erecting.
That space, as opposed to attuning to myself and saying, Hey, this is what I need hearing myself first. And then I don’t have to go out demanding other people hear me because I can just ask. It’s not, you know, is difficult because now I’m, I’m listening to myself, right? So you’re going through these stages of healing yourself, and you went to school at what point in this journey, did you end up getting your own degree and starting to be a therapist yourself?
I am finished my degree in 1997, I guess that kind of ages me a little bit. Um, and I immediately went into doing counseling. What’s called an employee assistance program, really just doing kind of like eight sessions or so with folks working through all the variety of different types of issues. And then I started doing some face-to-face practice secondary to that because the employee assistance was more telephonic.
And honestly, I. I grew in my passion for helping individuals. Like I said, with trauma, as I saw that providers aren’t equipped to deal with it. They’re not dealing with it. Sometimes they’re doing talk therapy and the person’s not getting better. And then they think they must be because I’m just irreparably damaged.
So I’ve been practicing and that’s been evolving as well. But I got my degree in 97 and started really providing counseling. Yeah. What, we’re going to take a quick break, but we come back. We are going to play a speed round of this or that with Lily. We’re going to get to know her a little bit better, and we’re going to dive into her expertise on healing from trauma.
We’re also going to talk about abuse. We’re going to talk about her book resolve to rise, right? When we come back from this. You have tried it all worried. He will never lose the extra weight or reclaim the energy. You once enjoyed want to achieve fat loss without spending hours in a gym or eliminating entire food groups from your diet.
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You don’t have to think about it too. Hard cake or pie cake. What’s your favorite cake? Chocolate mousse. Ooh, moose. See, now that sounds up my alley. I don’t love chocolate cause it’s usually too heavy. Do you have a favorite recipe? Well, actually I really like it from our local grocery store has this phenomenal bakery and they have this chocolate, it’s literally chocolate cake with moose and then chocolate cake and then moves.
And it’s got this. Delicious chocolate icing with chocolate shavings. I mean, obviously I like chocolate. Yeah. We’ve got a chocolate lover here. I liked the moose part. Sounds. Sounds fabulous. Okay. Coffee, hotter, iced hot. Do you have a favorite Starbucks like hot Starbucks drink? I typically drank a blond Americano.
I, I found sugar does not agree with me. So I just go in all the way black, but in that form, unless it’s in chocolate form, I cannot drink the Americano. It’s too bitter for me. Yeah. Starbucks can be really bitter. I talk about coffee all the time. I’m my coffee. Obsessed person probably be in counseling for it, but cat or dog cats.
Do you have any cats? I do. I I’m surprised she hasn’t come to visit today. What’s her name? Okay. Get ready for this it’s Chihiro. She was the heroin. She was the heroine and a movie by a guy named Misaki. It’s an anime movie. Okay. And she hero is a ragdoll. She is spoiled rotten and she ran that. Okay. See, this is why we do this.
Don’t be deceived. Lily is an anime fan and she has named her cat. See, we was my daughter. Oh, that’s hilarious. Okay. So it’s your daughter’s cat. Do you watch anime? I have watched anime. I’ve actually seen the movie spirited away that she are you here? Maybe I shouldn’t have made that assumption. I do like it.
It’s probably, I mean, I don’t watch anime all the time, but I do. It’s very powerful material, I will say. Yeah. Oh, well, there you go. What’s your cat’s name again? I already missed it to hero Chihiro to hero. You’ve gotten a shout out here on the podcast flats or heels flats. And then lastly, new Yorker Paris.
I’m going to go with New York actually. Okay. I’ve never been to Paris. I’ve been in New York. I’m not a city girl. So I’d answer neither to my own question. Probably you have spent 20 years, approximately 20 years counseling others through trauma and grief. You’ve had your own traumatic story. Talk to me a little bit about the difference between trauma and grief.
This idea that we all experienced suffering, suffering to some degree is an inherent element to the human experience. You know, I would argue in a broken world, we’re going to experience. Suffering, but in my own experience, professionally and personally, it’s not necessarily the same thing as trauma. And even within trauma, there are different aspects to it that create different responses.
And I’ll just give some framework. Having worked in emergency medicine for a decade. I had the unique position to be standing literally at the bedside watching first response to trauma or a traumatic loss more specifically. And even in the initial grief response, there are stark differences, you know, between the family who comes into the bedside.
And I have to explain to them their 90 year old grandfather, great grandfather passed away of a heart attack. Grief, certainly. Very different than the family of the 13 year old boy who had just been killed by a drunk driver, even different yet again, then the family who I had to tell their four year old was raped and ultimately killed because of the ongoing injuries.
And I say that not to dive into the unspeakable stories that I could talk about in the yard, but the point being even within traumatic experiences, there are various forms of grief. And I think sometimes we don’t even recognize that not only is the response different, but then perhaps the healing processes are different from those experiences as well.
That was a lot of words on my end to try to help frame the question in your experience. Can you speak a little bit to the difference between trauma, the ideas of trauma and suffering and why it might be important to help understand the two and then how we respond to them. Sure. Trauma involves a sense of imminent danger or fear of death or death of a loved one or a fear of death for yourself.
And that the fear is so great that it creates. Overwhelmed to your system that you cannot navigate it. It’s too much that’s trauma. So that can take a lot of different shapes, right? Really to have somebody pass away in their nineties. Obviously you’re expecting that at some point, cause we’re all going to meet the end of this life that that’s going to happen.
And when you are in your nineties, your club. You know, nobody knows when, and it’s not that it’s not sad and upsetting, and, but maybe it involves grief. Maybe it’s suffering because this was my grandmother that I was really, really close to. And I always looked to, maybe I wasn’t very close to my own parents, but my grandmother was always there for me.
And so it’s a deep loss, but I’m not afraid for myself and I’m not on overwhelm then it’s probably not a traumatic type of loss. And sometimes when you have somebody who has cancer, right. For a long period of time, and then they die, sometimes there’s actually relief at first. And then the grief comes. It may, it may be delayed by a few months, and then you feel guilty because you’re like, I shouldn’t feel relieved that this person has.
But to have somebody die unexpectedly, especially when it’s a tragic situation, like you described the car crash or rape, and it’s out of order where it’s, it’s my child. I’m supposed to not outlive my children. They should be alive. When I go, when that gets turned around and upside down, it can spiral a person into.
A lot of what ifs that are put you in a state, a complete state, not to mention the loss. Right? But in this state of overwhelm, as if you’re trying to do what heaven, Elizabeth Kubler, Ross talked about, the stages of grief, that part about the bargaining, where you can actually be swept up in the bargaining of like, what if I had have done this, that would have happened if I just hadn’t done this.
If I hadn’t of taken her here, but I had taken her here. If I had picked this person to watch her, if I had, or him, or if I had just driven him, I was supposed to take him to school that morning. And I couldn’t because I had to go do something else you can get caught up in and encapsulated and stuck in that space.
And trying to reconcile and, and for some people that can plummet them into a depression that’s in escapable. Sometimes what I hear you describing too, I think sometimes we can even get stuck in this cycle while somebody may still be alive, whether it be, I think when, uh, so from a personal standpoint, I watched one of my best friends of 20 years die from breast cancer.
She was diagnosed in her twenties and died in her early thirties. And it was the first that I had personally experienced walking side by side with somebody with cancer. And then I personally helped her for the last month of her life. And. You know, a side note for me, the blending of the two worlds professional and personal was part of the trauma for myself, because we like to keep them very separate, especially in the ER, and when suddenly they blend, you know, every patient that I saw in the ER with cancer, it was so hard for me to separate and to keep kind of that professional mindset.
So that was a whole nother issue, but it was enlightening to also experience that sense of, it’s almost like you’re going through all the stages of grief while somebody is still living, because there’s few experiences where it’s almost like they’re dead, but they’re alive. And there’s times that you look at cancer patients in the end and it just seems almost unbelievable.
They can still be living with the physical body that they have. And I think there’s other examples where that could be the case. Maybe it’s a mental decline and it’s somebody that you love for various stuff. Diagnostic reasons is no longer mentally there. And so you’re grieving while they’re still alive.
It’s almost a traumatic loss, but they’re still living. So for people listening and watching, I also want to encourage you that it’s not just necessarily a loss through death, but maybe it is ongoing loss that is taking a long time, or it is the loss of somebody’s personality or whatever it may be. You know, I think all of the things that you’re speaking to here are applicable to those scenarios as well.
So in your own life is a good example. How can we be helping, not just to recognize maybe symptoms of trauma in our own life. Maybe somebody has gone through a traumatic event and they don’t even recognize it’s a traumatic event in their own mind, or maybe it was somebody who experienced trauma when they were younger.
You mentioned foster care. We are adopting our fourth child. We’re adopting, we have three biologically and he will probably be slightly older between three and five and reading these books on really the traumatic processes that so many of these children have to, to heal from. I’ll give that as an example, but speak to me a little bit.
Maybe there are two different examples, but speak to me about recognizing symptoms of. In ourselves, but then also in other people and how then we should be responding to that. And this instance, I really love an aspect of the 12 step program where it’s like, I’m sharing my story and then it’s not disarming, but it’s, it keeps you from having to be super vulnerable, but you can relate and you’re thinking.
I felt that, so I’ve had a lot of people say they read my book and they didn’t realize, or they, it prompted them to look at their trauma or realize that what they experienced was trauma. So I think one part of that in terms of the, the second part of your question, which is how do you recognize it? And other people, I think we have to be really careful not to be diagnosticians of our friends and family and that kind of thing.
So I, but we’re going to pick up on what we pick up on. If somebody is dissociative there’s, you know, as in they’re disconnected and you see them just kind of going through the motions and they’re not, they don’t really care for themselves. That’s pretty common. It’s actually not just my savior persona that I kind of grew up with.
Certainly inclined me that way. But if somebody is going through a frustrating situation also, and you’re thinking, well, they should never have spoken to you like that. And they’re feeling bad. Like they did something wrong. That’s usually an indicator that there’s this over-responsibility and there’s like, they’re attuning externally.
They’re not honoring that. Some of those appreciate that clarification. I should have been more specific. I guess I’m thinking more as a parent of an adoptive child helping to recognize. Symptoms of trauma from a parenting standpoint. I did not clarify that very well, but I’m glad that you made that point because that’s fair.
I shouldn’t be diagnosing someone else’s trauma, I guess, from a parental standpoint, I’m thinking, you know, adopting someone who has been through trauma, certainly not my neighbor. No that’s and that’s, so that’s so important because if it’s your own child and you’ve seen what they’ve gone through and you’re helping them navigate it, you know what their trauma is for the most part, when you adopt somebody, you don’t necessarily know the full breadth and depth of kind of what their story is about.
So I think really listening for patterns of behavior, I adopted, actually, people don’t even think this is possible, but an adult foster care alumni, she was, I love that. I realized when do you outgrow needing a parent? Amen. And just recognizing that she disappears, like she stops communicating with me and I used to take it personally and think that it was about me.
And what I realized was when something was going on that she didn’t think she was navigating very well. She just go away because it was embarrassing. So she was just like, we’re not going to communicate until I’ve kind of come through this. So it’s kind of keeping your eyes open and paying attention with your child to see when do they kind of seem like they get stuck or they react and go to what they refer to as like your downstairs brain, where it’s like, you’re not in a rational place.
You’re not a problem solving place. You’re in this fight or flight mode and really listening because I think children are. Amazingly good at telling you what’s going on. If you’re really just attuning, which is hard to do when your child’s flipping out, because you just want it to stop. Cause we’re like, you know, have my biological children who, to my knowledge have not experienced.
Exactly. So being able to kind of sit and be present with them and helping them kind of navigate, you’ll figure it out over time. Kind of what are these kinds of coping strategies also think in that kind of situation? You definitely want a therapist. Who’s not just working with your child, like in a vacuum, but that’s like engaging with you and helping you understand what they’re, what they’re picking up on and noticing.
And then you likewise sharing what you’re picking up on and noticing and what seems to be helpful. I can’t say enough about coping strategies and really figuring out what are the best coping strategies when that fight or flight mode happens, you know, is it ice on their neck or is it coloring or is it going for a run or activity or what is it to kind of help or just sitting down on the floor with them and being kind of at their eye level to kind of help their nervous system, kind of calm down as once it’s calmed down, then you can help them with some ideas about how to navigate it.
If you try to give ideas to anyone, when they’re in like a reactive mode, they’re not going to be really appreciative really of that. I totally have high regard for you in stepping into that. Even I adopting a 23 year old, who was certainly very appreciative and I love her to pieces. I see her as my daughter.
You can’t know everything that’s going to go on because those of us who would adopt a child, I think tend to be a little bit Pollyanna, little rose colored glasses, positive, like everything’s going to be better and it’s going to be healing and there will be, and there may be some really difficult times where your child is not really thanking you for being a mom.
Um, there may be raging at you because you’re the safe person that can do that with. So I think really building up the equipping, not that you asked me, but just really the supports I think is so important in that process so that you have somebody to kind of bounce things off of. Cause it’s, that’s the hard, yeah, I appreciate that.
I think you mentioned something in that the, having somebody to bounce things off of and the equipment. That is already something that we have seen the importance of entering this community that is incredibly unique and also very supportive, very, very supportive. I mean, I think there are very few communities out there, more supportive of each other, then the adoptive community, because there’s a mutual understanding that this is hard.
It’s a beautiful blessing, but it’s also incredibly challenging. So I think any traumatic scenario, whether you experienced the trauma, you are a family member of somebody who has been traumatized, friend, whatever. I think that is one of the biggest takeaways is making sure that you are not an isolation.
That seems to be one of the most dangerous elements that you are actively engaging with. Other people. And surrounding yourself. So I really appreciate that. I kind of took you down a different path. We were also talking about in ourselves and Lily made a really, really, really important clarification. And I’m glad that she pointed it out.
We’re not to be diagnosing our neighbor when they rage at us because we are kids entered their lawn or the person at the grocery store. And I sort of clarified that. I was talking about, uh, specifically as you’re adopting a child or maybe even fostering, but in terms of ourselves, I love that you mentioned that when people read your book and it is resolved to rise, we will absolutely have that link in the show notes and the YouTube video description, highly encouraged that you read it.
Didn’t arrive in time for me to read. I unfortunately, wasn’t here in time. I’m anxious to read it. People recognize that they themselves experienced trauma and they didn’t realize. On page one, by the time they get to the end of the book, they realize, huh? That was me. Tell me a little bit about recognizing.
Trauma symptoms and ourselves, and then steps that we need to take toward healing. Well, one thing that I’ve heard consistently and has been really informative to me was that, so I take it from kind of a here’s here was my story. Here’s like essentially like a framework, like an idea of here are the statistics on this, or here is the symptom list or here is whatever.
But then I take it to a personal application. This is how it’s manifested for me. And what I’ve heard from people is that in the clinical work that’s out there right now. And there’s some really great books out there that the body keeps the score. A lot of people are aware of that book. So people would read my book and they’d say, what made the difference for them is that they’d read these clinical books that had these lists of symptoms, but they didn’t see it in themselves.
But when they read my story, they were like, yes, that’s totally me. I experienced that. And I put in there and you’ll, you’ll see it excerpts from my journals. I had 30 journals sitting in a pile in my corner and that’s not even all my journals. It was the ones I could find from age 13, all the way to now.
And I was really on the fence, like, is this something are people are going to be like, why did she include her journal entries? That’s so weird. It was brilliant. No, not at all. It’s what people referenced to me over and over and over again. Okay. Specific part of the book where I said that there was this awareness of these extremes that I was going between.
I’m either exceptional or I’m detestable, um, either intellectual or, um, feel like I’m an idiot. It seemed like I was going between these two, when really I’m just a person like I’m perfectly imperfect. And somehow that really helped people kind of go, yes, this is what I’m experiencing. And when there’s an awareness of that experience, I think what you need to know first and foremost is you don’t have to remember the trauma.
That’s not necessary. In fact, they basically said years and years ago that they thought that was what you had to do. You had to do a deep dive. You have to remember every detail you got to recount it. They actually found that that was retraumatizing. So that’s not necessary. I think it goes back to what we were talking about earlier, which is recognizing the triggers, the symptoms that are manifesting today.
That’s what you’re dealing with is what’s happening in the here and now. And really exploring that and giving it curiosity and compassion. Like I said, because our tendency is to be like, why am I reacting like this? This is so embarrassing. It’s ridiculous. I shouldn’t feel this way. And we kind of berate ourselves as opposed to kind of thinking, Hmm.
I feel really, really upset right now. And I’m beating myself up what what’s going on. Like what, and really exploring that and figuring out that, oh, I’m embarrassed. I feel like I just made a mistake out in front of a bunch of people and it’s, I’m humiliated. And I feel humiliated because I always told myself I couldn’t make any mistakes.
And that’s kind of silly because people make mistakes all the time and just doing some kind of exploring of like, trying to figure out, like, what is that about? And giving ourselves compassion in that. On that note really quickly. I just, one of the things that I, I thought it was the most important that I wanted people to take away was that when you start developing these maladaptive coping strategies, we have a tendency like overeating, we’ll just say, or restricting your diet or suicidality even self-harm is we saw a lot of that.
Yeah, we have a tendency to think, well, just stop doing it, but it is their coping strategies. So I think it’s important to understand that those are there. Not because people are defective, but because they’re adaptive and it’s important to understand how is that serving you? So that you can figure out something that’s more life-giving that can serve you in that way, rather than just telling a person which is kind of shaming in a way that even though that’s never the intention to say, just stop doing it because the person doesn’t know how to stop doing it.
And in fact, it’s serving them. So to say, that is like to say, take, I want you to stop doing the thing that helps you survive without helping them understand how it’s helping them survive. And then what can I do instead of self-harming that can be self-soothing that can help me feel in control and empowered in my life.
And taking back that control that I feel like was taken from me, you know, is that the process for somebody I’m just thinking through, you were talking about these maladaptive. Behaviors that come out. And certainly I appreciate what you’re saying. That sense of in my head, it’s like, just stop doing it, you know?
And like you’re saying, this is their adaptive mechanism. So now on the side of somebody, I’m the one that’s gone through trauma, I’m cutting myself. I’m, you know, experiencing suicidal ideation. I have these massive swings and behavior or habits in your experience. What is then the first step for me?
Because as an outsider, I don’t understand how does that person even recreate these habits. So what would you say to me, if I’m the person going through that trauma so that we can kind of understand the approach? How do I start changing? And take back control. Where does that even begin? I loved this question so much.
So I’m going to give it to you. I’m gonna, we’re going to pretend for a second that you are suicidal. Yes. And so I want you to just sit and just feel this in your body and take this in and think about it. If suicide is the solution, what is the problem? That is a great starting place in terms of like, what is the problem you’re solving with suicide brings you to a space of deep insight as to where you need to tend, where you need to take care of and give regard to yourself in that healing.
Because I’m going to speak from patients that I’ve seen. This is not me speaking. So everyone is clear. This is me speaking out of what I have certainly heard many times again, in the ER, as we are often the medical kind of emergency point for these patients. One that I hear frequently. So I’m a cutter, I’m a woman, I’m a cutter.
I have never actively attempted to take my life. Although some of the cuts are deeper than others, but I’m very suicidal. Ideation is what I’m here for as well, self harm and a common response would be I’m a burden to those that I love. So I, they would be better off without. That’s probably what I heard the most.
Then you working with folks to kind of reground and to find compassion for themselves. It could be a therapeutic journey that takes quite a while, but it’s, there’s a part of you that it sounds like, feels like you’re such a burden to others, that it would be better if you weren’t here and exploring that because our tendency, even in the clinical realm is to just make a suicidal plan, get them to sign off on it.
Right. So that we’re covered. We’re good. And then they go home, but we haven’t really given any exploration of what that is about. And if I feel so greatly that I am a burden that I just want to end it, that needs to be explored. I’ve been like loving epigenetic counseling recently. I don’t know if you’ve know, I’ve never heard anything about that, but then they’ve done all these studies and I’ll be quick on this.
But one example was they had these mice and the mice had cherry blossom, smells matched up with a shock. And so over time that that cherry blossom smell was distressing to them. Then they had pups and their pups had the same reaction to the cherry blossoms. And then they had grand pups and their grand pups had the same reaction to the cherry blossom.
So it’s this, this, they didn’t experience it. The correct. They did not go through the pairing process. So. I think it can also be helpful to understand that if I feel like I’m a burden to my parents, um, the epigenetic kind of realm is talking about how love should flow from your parent to the child, right.
And then from that child, so their child, but not the other way around, if I feel like I’m a burden to my parent, my love is flowing upward. Right. Because I’m taking care of them. I don’t want to be a burden. So epigenetic counseling can be really, really helpful to kind of look at that genetic, the geneogram if you will, and then figure out like, how does this core problem that.
You’re a burden, your greatest fears, that you’re a burden connect back to your family and being able to see that and reorder the love. Even if it’s not possible with that parent, like the parent may be, is so toxic. You can’t be around them, or they’re deceased that you do this meditative practice of having that parent engage you.
And you reordering that love where you understand they have their faith, right? If they’re bird. That’s their fate to bear. Right. And so how do you reorder that love so that it’s coming from them to you? The exercise of that can be just profoundly healing. And what I love about that is, again, it’s an embodied practice, which is, are always my favorite practices of sitting there and connecting with what goes on in my body for me, when my mom would come into the room and it’s like kneecap to kneecap, I noticed myself backing up and putting my head to the side, like averting, eye contact.
And when we kind of broke that down, it was like, I think my mom’s sensitive. I was going through a really hard time. She sensitive that I’m going through a really hard time, but she’s so upset by my hard time that I’m going through that. If I look at her, I’m going to be taking care of. Yeah. And so the therapist who is walking us through this exercise said, I want you to understand that boundaries have more to do with keeping ourselves in than keeping others out.
And I thought that was so exactly how I felt that if I look at her, I’m going to take care of her. And then again, attuning externally and not internally. So it’s just that embodiment gives, gave me so much insight. And I think it gives insight to people. So they feel like a burden what’s going on and how’s that connected.
And how do we start disconnecting what our parents need and what burdens them from our experience so that we can heal. Um, what advice would you give to families? Whether it be a spouse or a parent or a child? I mean, I have had patients where frankly, their teenagers are ultimately raising them, kind of what you described a little bit, the caregiver burnout, that exhaustion that I have seen too many times to account where they just, they don’t know anymore, you know, their lives are almost centered or.
Protecting their loved one. Maybe it’s a teenager. Their entire life is around protecting their father from killing himself after getting drunk or bipolar disorder and making sure that he’s not dead on the street somewhere in the middle of the night or a spouse doing the same or a parent doing the same for a child.
I see the exhaustion and what do they need to be doing? And I also recognize this as a little challenging. If you’re talking about, if the child is the one experiencing these issues, especially, you know, for talking to 18 and below, most states that’s considered a pediatric patient is a little different, but assuming we’re speaking adult to adult, if you will, or the adult being the person who is going through the trauma, what words do you have for the caregivers?
You immediately made me think of the acronym that I introduced in the book. Um, great. And it was give, give, is that giving oxygen to ourselves first, before we give it to somebody else? And the idea is figuring out what for you is oxygen, is it taking a walk? Is it meditating? Is it, what are the things that you can do for yourself to just kind of really help?
Again, kind of lessen the intensity in the nervous system are, is respect. It’s respecting that hard and difficult experiences are hard and difficult and important to respect the fact that. You aren’t going to show up like you normally do when things are chaotic. So, and man’s search for meaning Viktor Frankl, who was in a concentration camp.
He says the normal response to an abnormal situation is abnormal. That is an excellent book, by the way. Can you say that one more time? We’ll also put that in the show notes. Viktor Frankl. Man’s search for meaning. Yeah, that’s a great book. It’s been a long time since I’ve read it, but that’s an excellent one.
Um, so I think that’s really important to understand that. If you’re going through something really stressful and you’re showing up, like you normally do, there’s something actually really wrong with you, as opposed to you’re going through something really difficult. And you’re noticing that you’re doing things you’re embarrassed about or you’re upset about, or you’re not, you don’t feel like you’re coping well, that’s normal.
Um, so that’s our respect, respect, respect that it’s difficult. Acceptance is the next one accepting where you are, you know, not trying to force yourself to be somewhere else or just knowing that this is where I am. And I, another book, sorry. Let’s see, but you cannot have too many resources in life, please.
Perfect. Okay. So when things fall apart by Pema Chodron, great book, I create these little note cards. So I created this little note card. It says abandoned hope seems counterintuitive. For me, it was super profound because what she’s saying is we spend so much time when we’re in pain, hoping that the situation would be different, hoping that we would show up differently, never, ever sitting with where we are and who we are.
Hmm, that acceptance of being in that space of, because what causes suffering, not wanting to be in the situation that you are not wanting to be showing up the way you are that creates suffering the pain is the pain. We can’t do anything about that. Pain is pain, but we can actually create suffering for ourselves.
See is for compassion. If you came to me and you said, I’m going through this horrible situation, I’m so upset. I’m going to be so compassionate to you. I’m just going to be like, oh my gosh, that sounds awful. Tell me all about it. If I am going through a really hard time, and let’s say I’m late to a meeting or something happens, it’s I’m going to be beating myself up maliciously.
Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I was late. I should’ve been, I should’ve known that I had this meeting right at this time, whatever. So turning that around, taking how I would treat you and treating myself that way as well, being compassionate in the way that I speak to myself, paying attention to the kind of things that are kind of going through my brain.
I know for myself, when my stress is high. My criticism is high too, to myself. So watching out for that and trying to make sure I’m changing that language. And then the last one’s every day, it’s just not letting yesterday follow you in today, starting fresh every day with giving yourself grace. I think that’s a great place to start and it can manifest in a whole lot of ways and give, can be giving yourself a therapeutic intervention with a new therapist using a particular approach.
That’s interesting to you, or it can be going for a walk. Yeah. How much my last question here, again, I’m thinking through so many interviews that I’ve done over the years, and there have been scenarios where I will see a patient on the other side of their journey and they’re coming in for something unrelated.
But of course, as many of you know, when you go into the ER, we are like the people that people will say anything to you because they know it’s all in a safe space. And I mean, the stories that I’ve heard and could tell. It’s also interesting. I’ve heard stories on the other side, where for their particular story, the best thing that happened to them is a loved one released to them, meaning they were still there.
They knew that they were there for them, but almost like they backed off, they no longer were like hovering in a protective manner all of the time. And they kind of had to face in a very real way. It’s like they knew that somebody was always going to come to their rescue. And so they never had to fully take ownership of the threats that they were making.
And that’s not always the case. I am sure that is not necessarily a good approach, but I’m thinking through that standpoint of that loved one, where is the line? Especially if it’s adult who had. At what point do you just simply have to say, you’re an adult. I am here, but I can’t completely change my life to constantly making sure you don’t actually follow through with your threat.
You’re going to take your life or that, you know, you’re going to overdose on whatever, even if it’s unintentionally as a really poor way of wording it. But I’m just thinking back to a lot of conversations. Is there a place that as you know, working with an adult that you have to back away and take a step back or where’s the balance there?
Well, could you ask me a more challenging question please? I mean, literally we’re going to solve the world’s problems in one hour. The question I just asked is hands down, probably one of the most difficult, which is why I ask it because I’ve thought so many times, I mean, hearing so many different stories and some of the most impossible stories.
And you think at what point do you stand back and say like, my spouse is an adult. I can’t make my entire life revolve around, making sure they wake up in the. I don’t know, where’s the balance there. The reason it’s such a hard question is because there’s so much complexity and it’s so delicate. Well, I think we all have to, again, be attuning to ourselves when you attuned to yourself, when you really connect and really, and you have curiosity, you tap into a wisdom that is.
Unbelievable. And we’ll guide you. And if you’re living with somebody or you have somebody in your life that you’re engaged with, who’s in that space, oftentimes we become attuned to that person. And we’re worried about that person. And we’re acting out of a space of kind of trying to rescue that person.
Yeah. And I don’t think any of us can rescue any person. I doubt. I think we can be compassionate. We can be loving. We can show up in a way that supports them. But if you’re feeling inclined that you have to fix a situation for somebody else, then that to me is an indication that you’re not attuning into that internal wisdom to really figure out what’s needed for the situation because you can’t fix them.
So you got to take care of yourself. Right. And I think to go back to the grace, you know, giving to yourself first, maybe it seems, contra-indicated like, no, I don’t need counseling. They need counseling. Yeah. I can’t make them do counseling. Right. I have to focus on what I can change. What I can change is that this is really, really stressful for me.
And I don’t want them to kill themselves. And it’s overwhelming. So I’m going to seek counseling. I’m going to see Anne again, epigenetics been helpful. I love internal family systems because it’s that whole, like part of me wants to rescue them. Part of me, wants to tell them to go jump off a bridge.
Pardon me, whatever. And so I think that’s a really great approach because they can kind of help explore kind of deep dive into each one of those things and figure out what are those internal motivators for you that you feel responsible to save them and help you navigate that. And I think that is the most important.
It’s that whole idea of if I’m sitting there and I’m going to go back to a little oxygen analogy and I’m going to take a little bit of a privileged with this. If I put the mask on myself, right. And then I put it on you and then like, but you seem like you’re still struggling, so I just need to keep it on you and keep it.
I’m eventually I’m unconscious, right? Like it’s not just that. I didn’t put it on myself first, but if I’m focused around you and just hovering over you, like you said, and at some point I’ve neglected myself to the point of depletion. So. We have to reground and reconnect and attune and get the help that we need, because that’s what we have control over the two forms of counseling that I’ve heard.
You mentioned epigenetics, you said. And what was the other one? That internal family systems? Is that something that I could Google and find somebody near me? How would I. Find somebody that is specific, as you mentioned, not all therapists are created equal, not all anyone is created equal. Let’s just be honest, which is why we have such amazing people on this podcast because they give us clarity.
So what would, I want to Google to find a therapist near me who would be able to specifically hone in on this type of traumatic counseling? There’s a couple of things that I’ve done in my book. I created a table. It’s the very, very end. It talks about different approaches, kind of how they view trauma, and then what you could expect.
You know, if you were to get that type of treatment, I will admit it was a large table. So it’s like a four point font. That’s awesome. I can’t read it myself to rise. You need to get that book on my website. I also, I started a blog. I haven’t done a lot of blogging, but I did do a blog about how do I find a therapist because they’re not maybe.
There’s on the resources page of my website. If you scroll down to the bottom, I put all these videos in there. So you can look at ifs. What is that about? What is EMDR is one that people talk about a lot. It’s also very effective. Neurofeedback, epigenetic. There’s so many different, like I said, great, great.
Evidence-based approaches that are out there. I just, these are epigenetic and ifs is just where my head space is right now. Yeah. So you guys, that’s on her website resolve to rise.com. Again, links will be included and that’s under the resources tab is where she’s talking about right now on her website.
I think it’s so important. This is again, getting back to like, we’re all experts on our own experience, how this is manifesting. So it’s important to understand from a basic standpoint, what are the things. That are going to show up based on this model they expect. And what is the approach they’re using to help address it?
Because it’s either going to resonate with you or it’s not the other thing that I wrote said, here’s how you go on psychology today. Here’s how you look. People will say I have ifs approaches or whatever, but they have nothing about like I’m certified in ifs or I’m like, I really, I look into these websites.
I call people, I ask them questions about what they do, how much of their practice do they, you know, I investigate because this is time I’m going to be spending and I want it to be beneficial. And so I think that, and then the other thing is. It may sound a little bit silly, but how to fire your therapist.
Like we’re absolutely. You know, I mean, it’s like, we’re all people, so I may be a phenomenal clinician. You may come see me. We may not gel and that’s okay. In fact, we should be celebrating that when we’ve created a trust with a client where they can say this isn’t working for me and move on to somebody else, that’s actually a positive compliment.
So I kind of talk about that too, because I think people tend to think if therapy is not helping me, it’s my fault. There’s something wrong with me and I’m not fixable as opposed to if there is not working. If I don’t trust that my therapist can help me, I might need a different therapy. So all of that is there’s links to the other resources.
Yeah. You have a quote on your website. I’m looking at it right now that I absolutely love resonates with me. It just simply says broken to perfection. Obviously the title of this podcast is in perfectly empowered. It’s that whole sense of perfect is not perfect. Perfect. Is an illusion. There really is no such thing.
The point being your story. Matters. And you are who you are because of the difficulties, because of the suffering that we’ve all gone through is part of what makes us so unique. And I love that concept broken to perfection. If what Lily is saying is resonating with you, maybe somebody that you love, it’s all part of the process.
It’s all part of your story as part of the person that you love. It’s part of their story. I firmly believe that God can use it in incredible ways. We’ve certainly heard those amazing stories and the light on the other side, beauty from ashes, I highly recommend that you check out Lily’s book. It is called resolve to rise, become greater than your circumstances.
I thank you so much for your service and the way that you love on clients and that you have so graciously shared your wisdom with us. I have personally learned a lot and I’m sure it is an inspiration to many. So thank you so much. I pray. God’s blessing over you and your cat and your daughter and everyone else.
Thank you in your life. Thank you so much. I’ve really enjoyed talking. I’ve learned a lot myself. Oh, I love it. Thanks for listening to this episode of the imperfectly empowered podcast. I would love to hear your thoughts from today. Head to your preferred podcasting platform and give the show an honest review and let me know what you think.
Remember, you cannot be redefined only redeveloped one imperfect day at a time. Your story matters and you are loved.