Adverse Childhood Experiences and the path towards healing. You are not alone.
I share my trials, my victories, and my stories with you in hopes that if any of you were ever touched by childhood abuse or neglect, as I was, you will see yourselves in my experiences and feel strengthened to voice what you had not been able to before. I hope we can learn together why we respond to life through a particular lens, and that there are ways to climb out of this prison of pain, silence, and shame.
My name is Bess Hilpert

Breaking Through

Disconnection and Connection…

I have been thinking about how these trauma wounds show up in our lives and can cause an internal multi car pile-up on a foggy day.

Last week I wrote: “When we are stuck in a trauma wound that has us reacting to the world or those around us from a hypervigilant or scared place the natural tendency is to want to escape by isolating oneself, disassociating, and/or numbing those painful feelings. But when in community, using the gifts we have tucked away in our toolbox, we can learn when we feel safe and when we do not. We can learn where our internal boundaries are when we are with others, and we can begin to feel comfortable practicing saying “yes” to what feels right and “no” to what does not. Practicing setting these boundaries frees us to tap into the roots of our inner self. Without practicing this in the real world, we will remain trapped in the trauma wound and there is so much beauty to be discovered on the other side of trauma. In community we meet others where they are; and we find, more often than not, that we are met exactly where we are. “

My husband is a golfer. It is his happy place. He has community each week with his buddies. They compete while holding each other up. They have connection.

Recently, he asked me if he could have his golf buddies over for dinner. It was a simple ask. It was a loving act towards his friends and their spouses. However, my immediate reaction was “no!”

I felt my body tense. My breathing became elevated. I felt my chest constricting and I felt my legs become weak. I retreated into my internal world. I could see, in my mind’s eye, people in my house. Footsteps in every room. Footsteps of people I do not know. I could see figures laughing, drinking, and eating and they could not see me. I kept scanning the rooms for danger. I felt invaded. I felt unprotected. I felt scared.

This was my trauma wound surfacing from the depths of my internal sea of fear. The sea that I swam in all my childhood and young adult life. I was constantly pulled under by the tow of these dark forces. Forces that hurt me under the cover of darkness, abandoned me leaving me drowning under this sea, and very clearly stole my sense of self from me with every diminutive act.

I was lost in an unconstrained state of mind wandering. My anxiety was off the chart. The present was lost to the past and the uncertain future. I was captured in my “small” box as I fought to protect the small child inside from being hurt again. I was unable, in this moment, to stabilize my container. My nervous system was in a maladaptive state.

This was my trial.

I admit, it took a while for me to become less paralyzed; but I did begin to slow my breathing down as I looked across into the eyes of someone who loved me dearly. Someone who would never hurt me. In that tiny act, I was slowly being brought back from the terror of facing a perceived danger that my body had learned to believe was true to facing the truth of this moment.

I have shared that I like to take a walk around “the trouble tree” (my neighborhood) when I feel particularly distressed or need contemplative time alone. I excused myself to take my needed walk around the trouble tree with my toolbox in hand. To breathe in the oxygen freely being gifted me. To get in touch with my senses through sight, listening, smelling, and touch. And to ask myself and discover what is real and what is an emotional response to a perceived danger.

The sun on my cheek, the bird’s song, the green leaves being reborn on the winter trees and the hum of the wind bending the grass pulled me forward with kindness and compassion. I began to feel again a deep compassion for self. I began to believe and accept who I am beyond my wounds. Patiently, I felt the deep and resoundingly true original goodness of me.

I share this victory with you to illustrate the depth of disconnectedness trauma wounds cause. I want you to understand that when our sense of connection with the world is stripped bare, sometimes it is very hard to see through the darkness. One’s sense of self no longer exists. Learning to become aware of when we are in these states of disconnectedness is a victory. Using the tools in our toolbox can bring us back online and help stabilize our nervous system. They can lift a burdened spirit and unfold a deep inner space of courage and resilience.

My next challenge will be leaning into having my husband’s friends in our home. Facing my paralyzing social anxiety and personal demons of the past in community, like we spoke of last week; and coming out on the other side. And when I do, I will meet our guests where they are; and, undoubtedly, I will find that I am met exactly where I am.

So, the healing journey of growing up under adverse conditions continues. And as it continues, I “get to” experience more and more of the energy of life.

When in need, take a walk around the trouble tree and embrace the magic of the gift given so freely.

Until next time, friends.

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