March 3, 2014

Deanna's Trauma Toolkit

As promised in my last post, I’m sharing things today from my personal trauma toolkit. Some of these cost money, and some cost nothing but your time and commitment to pursue.

I’m not a therapist. That may be the 8,426,156th time I've said that, here. I’m just a fellow traveler on this journey of life. So, what I share with you in my next post is gonna sorta be like, “Overcoming Trauma for Dummies”. In other words, here are some things that help me in this process, in no particular order:


No excuses. I have a responsibility to heal, not just for me, but for others around me. Therapy makes it possible for others to co-exist with me, and not require therapy because of me.

Many people say, “I can’t afford therapy.”

What costs more?  Therapy? Or a breakdown?

What costs more? Therapy? Or having a marriage destroyed or kids traumatized because their mother or father never got help?

Contact every therapist within driving distance of your home, until you find one that fits your needs.  Inquire about their financial policies, and also ask them questions regarding their experience in counseling those who have faced complex trauma, significant loss and complicated grief.

Keep going. Don’t contact a few -- become discouraged, and give up. If I would have stopped pressing on in my personal e-mail and phone campaign, I would have never found Melissa Richards!

Need advice on finding the right therapist? Check out what Bonnie Martin, MEd, CACS, LCPC,  has to say about that, here.  


Whether I’m living in victory or defeat often depends on the amount of sleep I’ve had the night before. I'm not saying this is the total reason for lack of improvement but it sure helps. Rest is really important. Everyone is different in what they require to be well, but for me seven hours is the minimum, to function well.

You may not be able to take a leave of absence when recovering from trauma, but perhaps you can adjust your schedule, to be more conducive to healing. I didn't take a break altogether until my natural mother passed away, but I adjusted my schedule before that when I began therapy after our traumatic fallout. It was long overdue anyway, to come into a more balanced way of living. 

When I don't get adequate sleep, I not only become meaner than Alec Baldwin out of sorts, but my perspective is different. One thing that really spoke to me about this was Arianna Huffington's TED talk about sleep.  I recommend this little 4.42 minute clip.

Friend Time

Spending time with a friend strictly for rest and relaxation – is really important. I’ve found that for this to happen, it has to be on my schedule, usually a month in advance. And, it’s worth it. 

Note: by "friend time" I'm not referring to work lunches, or networking. 

Friend time is something and someone 100% outside the realm of your job. 

Fulfilling Dreams and Goals

All adoptees have faced significant loss and trauma as a result of the separation from their original family. 

Dreams unfulfilled have a significant impact, along the way.

Many adoptees have dreams and goals having to do with our adoptions that can take a long time. For instance, I've been waiting my entire life for my original (true) birth certificate.  The same holds true for my paternal information, and full medical information.  I waited for 27 years on the maternal side before that dream came to fruition.

Sadly, for some, these dreams are never realized.  

This aspect of the journey can feel so defeating that we may feel like nothing in life is right. That's not true, but it can become our perspective if we aren't careful.

One thing I’ve discovered is that it’s important to keep working on other dreams and goals, both large and small, and celebrate every victory along the way. 

Some dreams don’t take as much effort to fulfill, by their very nature. For instance, if you have the dream of taking a trip to outer space and one of your other dreams is to make a quilt, both dreams are possibilities but chances are you will reach the dream of making the quilt first. On your way to outer space, make your quilt!   
Physical Exercise

Ana Baird, who is the Zumba Fitness instructor at our church,  says that exercise is always an excellent “reset button” when we are under stress. 

 I notice how different my mood and perspective is when I am leaving Zumba class or when I come home from a walk or bike ride.

When my natural mother passed away, I experienced some of the highest waves of grief. This was a result not only of her death, but all of the other significant losses I faced as a result of her decisions.  During my leave of absence that followed, I walked several miles in the morning and evening. I didn’t always feel like it, but it was an essential “reset” for me, daily. 

Community Support

When I went through the trauma of secondary rejection back in 1990, I didn’t have community support. I leaned into my faith, but bore the pain without the help of those walking the same road. As a result I cried myself to sleep on a regular basis for two years. It was a major difference from last year when I went through the situation with my natural mother, and was well connected within the adoptee and first mother community. I cried for a few days. Then it tapered off and I have cried little in comparison ever since. I have such a strong support system and life is so different now because of it!


For all that I pour out here at Adoptee Restoration (and it is quite therapeutic), there’s a lot more that never makes it here. Some of it goes into the ears of my adoptee bestie, Laura Dennis, and a considerable amount goes into personal journaling. Writing it out helps me see my progress and stay on track, always moving forward.


Some books contain practical helps and others are such that they bring validation and understanding. One book that has really helped me with the latter as an adoptee, is The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier. 

I read The Primal Wound in small doses because it was such an emotional experience. It seems to have that affect on most adoptees I've talked to.  

Many people have asked me why I allowed myself to keep reading it, if it stirred such feelings within me. It was a necessary journey. Reading it was difficult but gave validation to feelings I had all my life.

It helps so much to know that we're not alone and we're not crazy!


Some people say they could never afford massage on a regular basis. I understand that. There was a time in my life that I never could have gotten a massage unless someone gave me a gift certificate. I still sometimes choose to use birthday and Christmas money for this purpose.  And when my family asks what I want for special occasions, I let them know this is something I would like.
If I am dealing with a day when there is a significant loss or disappointment, I will sometimes treat myself to a massage. I see it as "purchasing health." 

One thing I recommend is calling every place in town where you live and asking them about regular prices and specials. Particularly if you live in a larger town, the competitive pricing may surprise you. There’s a place where I live that is excellent that has a regular rate of $29 for 50 minutes.  I found that out from thoroughly researching all the places near my home.

Last week when I received the DNA results I could immediately feel the stress in my body. Believe me, it was totally worth the $29 plus tip.


An all time favorite relaxer! I’m a big believer in using whatever you have to make every day special. (I don’t wait to use the real china or get out the candles. One of my mottos is, “Use it or don't have it!”)  Make a “spa” list on Spotify (you can do that, for free) light some candles around the tub, and sink down into the bubbles until you turn pruny. I also put special items for this on my birthday and Christmas list, for my family. My favorites for aromatherapy are Bath and Body Works Moonlight Path, and sometimes I also drop Epsom salts, and lavender or eucalyptus essential oils in my bath water. 

Breathing Break

Mid-day I take about 15 minutes to turn my spa playlist on, sit back,shut my eyes and breathe deeply for a while. It helps me to refocus. If I’m working from home, I’ll lay down for 15-20 minutes. It helps tremendously to refresh and refocus for the rest of the day. If I was in a noisy workplace, I’d try to find a quiet place – maybe even going to my car during lunch if that’s what it took, to find moments of peace and quiet amidst the workday. I realize for parents who are raising small children this is may be impossible unless they are napping. I was there once, and understand.    


One of my most treasured books is Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. It's one I've read several times over the years, as a refresher when needed. Boundaries were for me, absolutely essential to my healing process and still are.

Cloud and Townsend say:

"Having clear boundaries is essential to a healthy, balanced lifestyle. A boundary is a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible. In other words, boundaries define who we are and who we are not. Boundaries impact all areas of our lives: Physical boundaries help us determine who may touch us and under what circumstances -- Mental boundaries give us the freedom to have our own thoughts and opinions -- Emotional boundaries help us to deal with our own emotions and disengage from the harmful, manipulative emotions of others -- Spiritual boundaries help us to distinguish God's will from our own and give us renewed awe for our Creator."

Presence of God 

 I’ve saved the best for last, even though I said these were in no particular order. Here’s what I’ve come to realize…

I can do anything in the presence of God. 
I can last a minute longer in the presence of God. 
I can handle one more day of anything, in the presence of God. 
I can move forward because of the presence of God.
I can overcome, in the presence of God.
I can do the unthinkable and the extraordinary in the presence of God.

How do I experience His presence? In a variety of ways -- His Word, prayer, worship in singing, and more. 

With Him, anything’s possible.
*Photos courtesy of