I’ve been taking a deep dive into the effects of early life stresses and trauma on long-term health. In my world, if I’m teaching it, I’ve gotta’ live it. And it's profoundly related to adrenal and thyroid health for women (did you know there's a connection between early life trauma and autoimmune disease?).
So I’ve been thinking about some of my own emotional “demons” – how they started out as patterns that served me, eventually didn't anymore, and how I have learned to transform them into a more powerful life that also includes more inner peace peace and joy.
Where Does Tupac Fit In?
When my oldest daughter was old enough to listen to Tupac, she said, referring both to his poetry and to my upbringing, “Mom, you’re a rose that grew up from concrete.” This was because, while I grew up in a tough home in public housing in NYC in the 1970s, I saw my environment as a motivator and was determined to get the hell out of there. I studied hard, got a scholarship to go to college at age 15, and never looked back.
I’ve been thinking about that metaphor of the rose.
While I did get out of my childhood circumstances, I didn’t get out entirely carefree. Like a rose, I grew some thorns for self-protection. I’m an incredibly kind, gentle, compassionate, and caring person. But cross me, my family, or someone close to me or in my care, and we’re done. In 2 seconds flat I become a momma bear protecting her cubs. Fierce. Attending a birth in the hospital, I once put my hand on a woman’s perineum as the attending obstetrician was picking up episiotomy scissors to cut a woman who expressly said she didn’t want one, and who didn’t need one. I told him that he was going to have to cut through my hand to get to her. It was like I got possessed by a she-bear.
It’s a great quality, except for the fact that for much of my adult life, I’ve also been on the lookout for danger and the need to protect myself or others.
Trauma & Our Stress Set-Point
Instability and trauma in our early years can set patterns in motion that are initially meant to protect us, but all too often also become our adult default setting. The same hormones that get triggered to keep us vigilant – aware of danger, and ready to escape or fight it off – with exposure over time, reset our nervous systems to think that life is always dangerous. To our primitive minds, this danger can be anything from economic scarcity to starvation. Our survival mechanisms then cause us to begin to perceive every obstacle as a threat to our core stability and survival. Our bodies respond by pumping a ton of sugar out into our bloodstream and turn it into fat in case there’s a famine in the future. We crank out insulin, cortisol, and other hormones that make us insulin resistant, crave sugar to fuel the response, crave carbs, sugar, alcohol and drugs to calm us down and turn off the mechanism. In turn this process causes sleep problems, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and weight gain, and wreaks havoc on our immunity and inflammation – to name just a few of the long-term effects!
Even when these responses are no longer relevant, they can persist, or they can surface quickly and easily because of how we initially got hardwired to respond to stress. They manifest in the form of addictions, eating disorders, anxiety and depression, compulsive behaviors, and in the persistent belief that we are always in some sort of danger, that we have to crawl and climb to safety, or that the other shoe is always about to drop.
Yes, I got out – but with a belief that stress was exactly how life is supposed to be. Until I learned to completely love my self and learned to stay soft and welcome a quantum shift into ease, and to keep love first. To let go of pain being the comfortable default. Bloom from the mud like a lotus.
The metaphor of the lotus provides us with a beautiful framework with which to think of our lives when we are in the mud, and of course, it is why Buddhism considers the lotus flower so sacred. The lotus naturally grows up right through the mud. The beautiful flower bud literally pushes up from the muddy bottoms of lakes, often through murky waters, and then opens in perfect purity, no mud on the blossom whatsoever. What’s the trick there? Nature is full of ingenious tactics, and the lotus is no exception. The outside of the lotus is covered with special reverse Velcro structures that prevent stuff from sticking. Get that. It goes through the mud but that shit don’t stick! Additionally, while the lotus stalk is very easy to bend, it is quite difficult to break, due to the sinewy fibers it is made of.
It is a model of transcendence from the mud around us. It is a way to see ourselves as able to let the troubles around us roll off rather than stick. To stay flexible, bend not break, and bloom year after year after year in full gorgeous glory.
I thought a lot about stress and trauma when I was writing The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution, and their impact on women's health, especially the adrenals and thyroid. I also work with women as a medical doctor – which means I hear stories of trauma – #metoo is a reality for so many women – and not just sexual trauma – but abuses of power against us.
After my book was released I kept looking for ways to share the things I had learned and was incorporating into my life to support my own healing and that of the women I work with. I ultimately created a short course with materials that couldn't fit into the book. It's called Fear to Freedom, Perfectionism to Peace and contains several hours of video chat with me along with daily (optional) worksheets, self-care, and inner practices to point the way to making shifts in your inner and outer life that reset the adrenal stress response and change your mindset. Because I think these issues are so important to women's health, I am continuing to provide this course for FREE with the purchase of any copy of The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution. All you have to do is purchase a copy – in any form – and register it here to get access.
To your ease, peace, and health,