Exploring the Connection Between Trauma Healing and Physical Health

[This blog was written for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and recently published on their website.]

Over 20,000 research studies have been done on the impact of stress on the human body According to medical experts, no one study definitively proves that unresolved stress and trauma can cause physical illness. However, my personal experience has led me to believe that it does.

I am not a medical professional, nor am I a therapist or nurse. What I am is a professional patient who has battled a lifetime of illnesses, from Type 1 diabetes and high blood pressure to Graves’ disease and stage IV colon cancer (twice).

I believe my complex medical history is connected to the sexual abuse I experienced in my childhood. Exploring this connection has been a key component of learning how to heal from trauma.

Facing the Impact of Childhood Trauma

Typically, one of the first lessons children learn is the importance of telling the truth. For children who have experienced physical, emotional, spiritual, or psychological trauma, this lesson becomes confusing and stressful. Frequently threatened and told to lie, children like me are led further and further away from a core value: the authenticity to speak directly from the soul.

The result is often a spiritual loss so deep that recovery from stress and trauma can feel impossible.

Late one night, during a hospital stay for surgery to remove two feet of my colon, I knew I was dying. It was at that moment that I vowed, if I woke up the next morning, I would teach my body, mind, and spirit how to heal.

 

Accepting What Happened to Me Was Not My Fault
My journey to healing required an emotional reset. I had physically survived the trauma, but my emotional wounds remained. I was always sad, hurt, and angry because of the years of emotional issues and suffering I endured. I wanted a person to blame and hold responsible for my pain. I wanted the individuals responsible for the abuse to apologize, but I learned amends rarely happen.

The healing journey is also complicated by the constant reinforcement of victim-blaming attitudes (by peers, courts, and media) that validate what perpetrators have been saying all along – that the abuse was the victim’s fault. Part of my process involved learning and accepting that abuse is neither the victim’s fault nor their responsibility; the responsibility lies solely with the perpetrator.

For years after being abused as a child and sexually exploited by a therapist, I carried around the feeling that I was at fault for these traumatic events because I was not smart enough to know better. In a new therapy group, I was shocked to learn that none of these traumas were my responsibility.

Learning to Heal
Healing started the moment I took back the ability to speak directly from my soul. I also found many other ways to cope and heal:

  • Understanding and telling my story.
  • Finding the strength to withstand abuse myths and disbeliefs.
  • Creating a healthy support system.
  • Checking in with my medical and mental health professionals.
  • Strengthening my immune system.
  • Believing in an inner, astute truth: I am not to blame for the abuse I experienced.

I continued my healing by writing several books including Never Give Up: Break the Connection Between Stress and Illness, which won a 2018 Living Now Gold Book Award for books that change people’s lives. Additionally, I reported my abuse to the authorities as a way to take my power back.

The Mind-Body Connection
As I have written in my book, I have come to believe that when people think they are responsible for emotional trauma, this false belief disturbs the mind, body, and spirit — potentially weakening their immune system and leading to stress headaches and muscle tension, depression and fatigue.

Sometimes I worry that the self-blame and negative self-talk following my abuse was actually more harmful to me than the abuse itself. As I blamed myself and took responsibility for my abuse, I found myself in hospitals for illness after illness.

As I look back from an emotionally healed place, I have a message to share: It is our birthright to heal from the abuse we did not ask for or want, and to become the physically healthy person we always wanted to be.

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Alexis Acker-Halbur is an award-winning author and an abuse survivor. Now she shares her experiences and tools with women and men who have been traumatized. You can learn more about her work on this website.

 

 

 

 

Keep Speaking the Truth

Dear Wellness Seekers:

I received this picture and saying from a woman I greatly admire. In fact, this photo and saying are so touching that I wanted to share it with everyone I know. It has a very personal effect on me since some of my siblings have disowned me for speaking publicly about my childhood abuse. I am the only one in our family who admits that my father was the abuser, despite knowing some of my siblings were abused, too. (But that’s their story to tell. I can only write about my story.)

Telling the truth about an issue so despicable is never easy. After I survived Stage IV colon cancer, I finally learned that if I didn’t tell my personal story I was going to die. Sounds dramatic, but it’s the truth. What I learned was I had stuffed all my life’s trauma into my body, mind, and spirit, and the trauma dove deep inside my muscles, cells, organs, and bones. I could never understand why I had so many health conditions, that is until I was diagnosed with cancer – 3 times. In my research to find how I could survive a 6 percent chance of survival, I began to research and pray to keep living. My book, Never Give Up: Break the Connection Between Stress and Illness, helped me realize that I had the power to heal myself. (You can view this book on this website.)

Many of my siblings refused to believe and were angry that telling my story was a healing journey. They, in fact, thought I was seeking attention. They knew I’d been abused, but felt the truth should be hidden. Hiding that truth made me deathly ill. I struggled with telling the truth until cancer became a wake-up call for me. Now I believe that the siblings who disowned me are not liars but are living a lie. I never thought they would act against me.

My world has not come to an end and many of my cancers have come and gone making me extremely grateful. That is why I chose to tell the truth.

You can, too!

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Alexis Acker-Halbur is an award-winning author and medical miracle. Child abuse made her seriously ill and put her in harm’s way numerous times. She survived and now shares her experiences and tools with women and men who have been traumatized. To order her tools for healing trauma book, Never Give Up: Break the Connection Between Stress and Illness, click here. If you would like to read her 2020 published fictional novel, THE BEAR: In the Middle of Between click here.

A New Tool to Help You Heal From Abuse/Trauma

Dear Wellness Seekers:

I’d like to share with you a new tool I’ve created to help you understand and heal from abuse/trauma. All you have to do is click on this link and read the two charts Tools to Help You Heal.

The first chart reflects the negative effects that make you sick. Scroll down to the next chart to find the positive tools to help you heal.

You’ll be amazed to see how abuse/trauma can affect your mind, body, and spirit. Healing from abuse and trauma may seem daunting, but this chart can help you see the negative side of trauma and the positive side of healing.

Abuse and trauma can be healed and you can also begin healing by reading these charts and purchasing my T.R.U.T.H. workbook for just $25.00. (Special  50% discount.) You’ll  find new ways to heal.

T.R.U.T.H. Manual Now Available

T.R.U.T.H. Program — 2nd Edition

NOTE: Due to the coronavirus, T.R.U.T.H. Program groups will not be held until it is safe to gather. In the meantime, if you’d like to purchase this workbook, you can do so by contacting me at alexisackerhalbur@gmail.com. The cost of the manual and information packet is $25.00 plus shipping.

T.R.U.T.H. Program is an 8-week self-study and/or group program designed to help trauma survivors heal from past trauma, and to strengthen your mind, body, and spirit before illness takes hold. Through weeks of guided educational and informational techniques, you will learn how trauma has affected your physical, emotional, and spiritual health. T.R.U.T.H. Program is not therapy but a self-study opportunity to learn more about trauma and how you can resolve issues. T.R.U.T.H. Program is also not affiliated with any religion.

What does T.R.U.T.H. stand for?

The Road to Unresolved Trauma Healing. This program puts you at the center of truth.

What topics does T.R.U.T.H. cover?

Program Introduction
Why the Use of a Mandala
Week One:     Creating a Safe & Healing Environment
Week Two:     How Stress & Trauma Affect Your Health
Week Three:  Facing Our Fears
Week Four:    Healing the Mind
Week Five:     Healing the Body
Week Six:       Healing the Spirit
Week Seven:  Showing Self-Compassion
Week Eight:   Creating Your New Life Plan

What type of activities are included?

T.R.U.T.H. includes group discussions, writing exercises, guided imagery, meditations, questions and answers, trauma facts, pre- and post- self-assessments, and peer support.

Who facilitates T.R.U.T.H. Program

T.R.U.T.H. program is facilitated by Alexis Acker-Halbur and psychologist Johanna Lamm, PsyD.

Get you T.R.U.T.H. workbook today and never give up.

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Alexis Acker-Halbur is an award-winning author and medical miracle. Child abuse made her seriously ill and put her in harm’s way many times. She survived and shares her experiences and tools with women and men who have been traumatized. To order her book, Never Give Up: Break the Connection Between Stress and Illnessclick here, or her newly published fictional novel, THE BEAR: In the Middle of Between click here.

 

 

Dear Mr. Trump

Dear Mr. Trump

Dear Mr. Trump:

I’m a 41-year-old mom with six children. I’m like all moms who want their children to be safe from crime and live healthy lives; but unlike other moms, I was lead poisoned at the age of four. I didn’t know this when I had my six children, but now they all have health and behavioral problems because of the high levels of lead that were found in my blood. My lead poisoning is from paint chips on the old run-down house my family lived in for years. As President of the United States, it is your duty to keep children in this country safe from being poisoned from toxic paint and water.

I see that you’re reducing EPA standards to allow factories to continue to pollute our air and water just so they can make more money. Let me tell you something: I am disabled because of the lead poisoning which includes anxiety, depression, joint pain, hearing loss, and anti-social mood swings. I hate the fact that my life has been out-of-control and only recently did I find out the cause of lead poisoning. I’ve been hospitalized four times and my doctors could see my symptoms but didn’t know the cause. When I read a blog about the long-term effects of lead poisoning I got tested. All these years I thought I was crazy but now I find out that I was poisoned. I was poisoned here in the United States of America. This shouldn’t be happening.

My heart breaks knowing that my children are effected by my lead poisoning. They didn’t ask for anemia, ADHD, and learning difficulties. They didn’t ask for their lives to become more complicated because of lead. They didn’t ask to have a sick mommy. I’m angry that it took so long to find out the cause of my medical and health issues and that my children are suffering too. So, I’m telling you to keep EPA laws in place that effect our bodies and our environment. If you’re going to make America great again, maybe you should stop and ask the poor and disabled how to make life great for us because it isn’t happening.

(I had help writing this letter because I was too sick to finish high school and I don’t write so well. But I want you to know that I’m a fighter and I won’t give up until I can control my dysfunctional life. I could sure use your help and protection for me and my children.)

Sincerely,

Rosemary Henley (This isn’t my real name because I’m a private person.)

The No. 1 Abuse Myth

The No. 1 Abuse Myth

I’m creating a healing program for trauma survivors. It’s intense work but I know it will bring lots of healing to those of us who want to live healthier lives. In my research, I can’t believe how often I’m reminded of the No. 1 Abuse Myth: Forgive and Forget. I’m amazed at the number of articles, written by professionals, who state that “survivors should just forget their traumas and go on with their lives.”

If it were only that simple!

Surviving from trauma of all kinds is not easy. Whether the trauma is from abuse, attacks, war, illness, or divorce, traumatic events take up residence in our bones, cells, skin, muscles, and memory. You CAN’T just forget something because it’s awful. In fact, forgetting the trauma is impossible. We remember things that happen to us because it’s our body’s way of reminding us NOT to walk down dark alleys, give a stranger a ride, or trust someone we don’t know. Our bodies do warn us but if we don’t listen we’re apt to find ourselves in trouble – repeatedly.

When it comes to healing from trauma, the first thing to do is to forgive yourself and REMEMBER! Yes, I said forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for trauma you didn’t cause. You didn’t ask a tornado to hit your house, you didn’t ask for a relative to physically harm you, nor did you ask for cancer to take root in your breasts. Trauma like this is not your fault or responsibility. Your only responsibility is to heal from the trauma – trauma you didn’t cause!

When we remember the bad events in our lives, we are less likely to make the same mistake twice. We all make mistakes, it’s human nature, but when we ask survivors to forget we are asking them to be superhuman. Our bodies remember. Our minds remember. Our spirits remember. Healing comes from remembering the trauma and doing what we can to avoid repeat occurrences. We take self-defense courses, we go to therapy, we relocate, and/or we just get out of harm’s way. The words forgetting and repeating have a relationship since forgetting leads to the act of repeating.

So, if anyone asks you why you can’t just forgive and forget, ask them why they ask insensitive, dumb questions.

Remember to NEVER GIVE UP!!!