Author Mary Firestone shares her gratitude with Spirituality & Health readers, and celebrates the publication of her new book Trusting the Dawn: How to Choose Freedom and Joy After Trauma.
Could you ever imagine that the worst thing that happened to you may—in time and with healing—turn out to be a gift in disguise? That trauma, however it impacts you, might be an initiation to a richer, fuller life?
When I was in the throes of PTSD suffering from panic attacks, paralyzing fear, and nightmares following a near-death experience in the 2018 Montecito mudslide, the idea that anything good could somehow spring from that dark place seemed absurd at best. And yet, as I began my healing process and dove deeper into it, I noticed miraculous, seemingly divine occurrences.
I felt a greater connection to my community, friends, family, and strangers alike. I developed an intensely profound appreciation for life and beauty: a feeling that I wanted to hug, crawl into, or somehow capture the fragile beauty of the ocean, the scent of jasmine, the sound of my baby laughing. Happy synchronicities were unfolding regularly. I felt as if the rawness of surviving the trauma had quieted some part of my overactive intellect and allowed me to be a part of something much bigger and more wondrous than in my “before” everyday life.
As I healed and experienced these blessings, I became frustrated by the assertion that I would be cursed with PTSD for “many, many years,” if not the rest of my life. Having a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, I understood the textbook explanations and prognosis of PTSD, and yet I was living a different reality.
On a flight back from my Princeton reunion where I’d told the story of my survival countless times, I committed to delve deep and write a book that helps trauma survivors find their way out of the darkness of PTSD and into the bright, magical, mystical light of post-traumatic growth.
Trusting the Dawn: How to Choose Freedom and Joy After Trauma is a compilation of my own story, interviews with all kinds of trauma survivors, and healing methods ranging from traditional to cutting-edge. This book is my offering to others who are struggling, so that they may know they are not alone and that dawn is breaking!
One major technique that helped me heal was to reframe my story. How was I thinking about my story? How much was it defining me? What language was I using to tell it? For a long time, I was saying/thinking/feeling, “I almost died in the mudslide.” A therapist suggested I shift that story to “I survived the mudslide.” A seemingly change, and yet so much more empowering.
Think about your own story. How can you empower yourself more in it?