‼️Trigger Alert‼️ this post shares lived experience of Domestic Violence and trauma …

“Trauma is not what happened to you…
Trauma is what happened inside of you, because of what happened to you” – Gabor Mate

You are a whole person – mind, body, soul … connected. When something terrible happens to you – a traumatic event for example, it affects all of your being – not just mentally – you are not merely a head on a stick, you are a whole spiritual being.

When something traumatic happens to you, your body is taking in and absorbing information quicker than your mind is able to.

Your mind is focused on what’s happening in the moment –  as Bessel Van Der Kolk explains in his book ‘The body keeps the score’ – it  remembers things that your mental mind/memory may not be able to access – known as ‘implicit memory.

The information is stored in your body – trauma remains in your body until it is addressed and processed. It doesn’t go away over time, rather the sensations resurface and are felt in the body as triggers every time you encounter anything remotely related to that original trauma.  You may feel nothing for a time, and think you’ve got away with it. Or you may feel increasingly agitated and stressed – like a slow simmering pressure cooker, or until something unexpected happens and brings a flood of unresolved overwhelming emotions bubbling to the surface.

You may suddenly experience painful emotions such as – dread, trepidation, impending doom, anxiety, fear, worthlessness, hopelessness, shame, embarrassment, aloneness.. somatic memories; felt memories in the body – you are being triggered;  It might be a word, a glance or expression, a sound, a smell, an image or taste… this is your body remembering and warning you … ‘hey, sit up and pay attention.. this looks a lot like that trauma situation again that wasn’t great for you the last time.. nearly took you out’… thus tripping the Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn response …often referred to as emotional flashbacks…


I offer lived experience insight in my live trauma informed TRUST workshops ..(if you’re interested in attending, please contact me for details via the contact page of this website)

“It took over 50 moves before I recognised the pattern of ‘trigger equals flight’ for me and this is what was happening in my body …. I would try to resist, try to fight against it.. I couldn’t – the compulsion to run overwhelmed my ability to cope and I’d flee. One of my bosses would occasionally send a car to fetch me back into work after the flight response had taken me over. Red faced, I’d slip back into my seat at my desk, ashamed and embarrassed, the butt of the jokes ‘another woman unable to cope with the pressure of a man’s world’ was the assumption – or rag-week, as it was described by my colleagues. I was incapable of explaining it at the time, I didn’t have the vocabulary .. ‘

Over 50 relocations!  … imagine that!
Moving house is a mammoth task.. moving location… finding a house… a new school.. a new job, Doctors, Dentist, Library, etc… moving house once or twice is enough for most people, and yet once triggered, the compulsion to run was so strong in me I could have my entire life, family, dog, possessions packed up and squeezed into a Nissan Micra and away within a matter of hours! From experience I learned – Trauma shows itself in relationships and toxic work environments..

Imagine how exhausting it would be to keep moving like that! and yet the adrenaline from the trigger filled me with so much energy – I never felt more alive than when I was in a space of ‘compulsion to run – determined to flee..’

I once managed to secure school places, a job with a car and a rented cottage in a new location all within the space of a day and with next to nothing available financially.

I‘d inadvertently developed a rare skill set! #PlateSpinning – a tolerance for intensely stressful situations… Impressive? Absolutely not, this is no way to live/exist! It wreaks havoc on the nervous system and the nervous systems of those who dragged along for the ride. Trauma is passed on in our DNA and in our language and behaviours.. Albeit unintentionally, I was teaching my children the opposite to what I intended to teach them.. If Stephen Porges social connection system is safety and connection, and optimum wellbeing is a result of integration. my example was the polar opposite so instead of a healthy calm, peaceful and joyful life experience for the children I love so deeply, I was imparting  a high tolerance for chaos and suffering… rather than safety, connection and stability, I was showing them, the worlds a hostile place, no one can be trusted, it’s safer quit and run.. it wasn’t an intentional lesson, more of a side effect of the trauma … nevertheless, the baton of generational trauma continued  along its path journey to the next generation ..

“Those who flee are not yet free.” Hegel.

Why keep running?

As explained in previous blog posts … this compulsion to run is triggered by a real or perceived threat..

‘A rolling of the eyes, a sideways glance, a sudden silence or whispers on entering a room, a critical word, or even an unintentional but perceived as being a critical comment- to name just a few instances that were once enough to set off my nervous system and trigger in me a panicked flight response! #compulsiontorun

If we look deeper and examine what is actually really happening…

a trauma event – life threatening.. (real or perceived)

A physical attack.. ongoing domestic violence – often referred to as type 2 trauma…

Overpowered by someone aggressive .. bigger, stronger, more powerful ..

(consider a time when you’ve felt powerless against someone or something more powerful than you! – how does your experience compare?)

Likened to Dr Peter Levines explanation of the Impala and the Tiger in the wild .. I represent the Impala, the aggressor represents the tiger! I’m in a confined space with no means of escape.. under attack! I’m no match for this level of aggression.. nothing has prepared me for it… like the impala who can feel the sharp claws of the Tiger reaching out – we realise we are caught.. as a result, the body releases chemicals that numb the pain and the immobility response is triggered .. the Impala falls to the ground and plays dead – it’s the impalas last remaining shot at survival, numbing the pain before life draws to it’s an horrific  end.

This happens to all mammals .. you & I, we are no different …
I’m under attack, I collapse, I can’t breathe…

I lose consciousness as the grip of the aggressors hands tighten around my neck… …….like the Impala – I’m out..

As the impala lies helpless, the tiger withdraws to admire its win and catch its breath .. when suddenly- the impala jumps up and runs off before the Tiger realises what’s happening.. The impala gets away!

I stir, regaining consciousness.. my aggressor is perched, head in his hands on the end of the bed, undoubtedly contemplating the rest of his life behind bars – he thinks I’m dead – he believes he’s killed me this time.. he gets up, runs down the stairs and leaves..slamming the door behind him..

Leant up and supported by the wall, my mind and body are in shock, I can hardly move. I sit there for hours.
Over the coming days I feel as though my soul has been sucked out of my body and is standing outside of myself- observing from a distance. My physical body is heavy, I’m going through the motions, disconnected, disengaged.
Silent tears fall uncontrollably from my eyes though I feel nothing – I am exhausted and numb. I’m in a different place. Things look similar but they are different..dark, empty, disused and derelict. Cobwebs and demons, like a haunted house in a horror movie..or a sunken pirates ship… dark, dismal with the stench of rotting corpses.
Stephen Porges knows this place as Dorsal!
If I were a client and you a therapist – and I I was trying to describe this place to you, I would use words like ‘void, empty, dark,  cold, damp, eerie, lonely …pay attention therapists ..this may be a nervous system in a dorsal vagal state …

When I think of it, I’m reminded of a psalm I heard in church as a child ..

‘As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.. I fear no evil’  and for me at that time this was true, for I felt no fear- I felt nothing.. I was completely and for a while, comfortably numb.

Somehow I muster the energy to drag myself to my parents house and knock on their door and wait.
Someone answers ..

I watch myself – by body, go inside .. I cannot speak to them, they appear panicked at the sight of my bodies distress .. water continues to fall out of my eyes- I have no control over anything, my body sits down while I observe from a safe distance. I’m trapped in this Dorsal world but I do not consider or even contemplate leaving. I recall thinking – My children are safe. They are being cared for,  I can stay where I am. Dorsal feels safer than the other.. real world – even though it’s dark and murky – I am alone, hidden from sight.. I stay put…

I observe as my concerned parents escort my heavy clumsy body into the car and then into to the GPs surgery. It looks like me but it’s unlike me ..  my body is doing as it is told without question or back chat. My parents & Dr P exchange words – I’m not paying attention. I can see my physical body slumped in a chair, sandwiched between my two concerned parents.. the Doctor, sat behind his desk, in front of these 3 bodies .. is saying words, but I’m not there. I’m elsewhere and something else has my attention..

Its a voice coming from within… faint at first but getting louder … it’s warning me – “get up, don’t just sit there you idiot” the voice is familiar.. it’s forceful .. determined

“ Medication… Really? ‘ … the voice is yelling at me.. sarcastic and demanding ..‘“okay – let’s just sit here shall we while they medicate you!, let’s make it easy for him why don’t you   -just give up and let him win .. and that will be the end of it … and the end of you…! ..”  Louder, more forceful – the voice insists .. and calls me by my name – “… get up now and take care of your children – they need you, they need you well –  Now!”.. and I’m back in the room …
“ I’m okay – my physical voice announces.. I will be okay”. I am back inside my body – Im not myself by a long way, Im not free..  – still one foot in dorsal but I feel different. Thoughts -that had previously stopped altogether since the attack started to enter my head.. like a frozen computer,  buffering back into existence. “We need a plan”  the inner voice advised and so started daring to allow thoughts about what should happen next to whirl inside my head. Unsure, uncertain thoughts and feeling very unsettled and unsafe I thought about finding the exit. From the comfort of my parents sofa where I stayed, hidden from the world for several weeks while a tended to my wounds, nurtured my children in safety and eventually contemplated the terror of jumping back on the conveyer belt and rejoining the real world.

On the morning that I returned to my smashed up house,anxious, fearful, with trepidation filling ever cell of my being despite the assurances from the powers that be that it was safe for me to do so.. the abuser was waiting in the wings with a lump hammer, determined to end my days.

Some how, some way .. that my body would remember.. I managed to run to safety. This attack correctly triggered my flight response and the compulsion to run locked on .. Had I paid attention to my body, I would never have returned to that house..I believed I had no choice .. I now know – we always have a choice…. listen to your body and choose life!

What should happen following an attempt to end a person’s life? The same thing that should happen (but doesn’t happen often enough in reality) when a person is injured or abused .. .

Wrapped in care, concern, compassion, love, warmth, safety, protection… it’s the the perpetrator who should be seeking help to understand their disordered behaviours.. not the victims!

Social animals – We are hard-wired as humans to receive support through loving, caring, protective relationships .. that’s how human attachments form… it keeps us safe and regulated and has done since we were cavemen foraging for food … if we don’t receive support, we become disconnected …

In order to lessen the impact of trauma, victims should be seen, heard, supported, wrapped in love, protected and cared for.. not made to feel like the problem because they are an nervous, fearful, anxious wreck..


#congruence = the first core condition of the person centred approach..

when I’m sad – I cry ✅

when I’m happy -I laugh✅

When I’m angry – I stomp and shout ✅

when I’m abused – I’m an anxious wreck ✅

When  I’m attacked, when my life’s threatened – I run ✅

when I can’t run because my abuser is bigger, stronger, more aggressive, more powerful than me .. I collapse into a dorsal state and become detached and numb…✅

Natural and correct responses! ✅

For me, the flight response was well and truly locked on, and was tripped by even the slightest hint of aggression directed towards me. ‘A rolling of the eyes interpreted by my hyper-vigilant brain ‘that persons disapproving of you .. they are annoyed.. they are angry .. they will kill you – run for your life! And run I did.. over and over and over again..

On the outside I appeared to be crazy..  ‘unsettled, dis-organised, irresponsible, irrational.. a whole cluster of labels considered ‘disordered’ that could apparently be easily numbed and reordered by medication. What I really needed to experience was TRUST … Trigger= Reassurance, Understanding, Safety and Truth. Once I found someone who was able to support with Reassurance, Understanding, Safety and Truth, in a safe, non-judgmental way, my nervous system calmed and the compulsion became more manageable allowing room for healing and recovery. Healthy, supportive relationships matter and aid our recovery ..the opposite is also true – unhealthy relationships hinder recovery… boundaries are essential..

I didn’t ever consider myself disordered.. I knew what had happened- I was there, When someone is trying to kill you and nobody is trying to stop them!
The correct response is to run ..

The only disordered aspects of my experience was the behaviour of the perpetrator and the lack of interest and protection afforded to me by the people tasked with protection.

He’d walked away with a fine he never paid and got on with his life. I spent my life running around the country, trying to escape the trauma that I hadn’t realised was trapped inside of me and like an unwelcome stowaway – I was running and taking it with me!
‘Different places, different faces.. same old set of circumstances’ – all roads leading back to square one – until you pay attention and notice the patterns .. round and round we go..

My advice ..

Stop running ….
Stop hiding …..

Stop and pay attention…

Trauma, like vampires thrives under the cover of darkness ..my suggestion is ..

Become curious about what’s happening to you…

Get yourself some support from someone who knows the truth about trauma and it’s impact..

Get yourself active and burn off the chemicals… cycling worked for me which is why we offer a free cycling for mental project…

Find an holistic therapy that works for you.. EFT is a good one for bringing trauma into the light and set yourself free…hence our affiliation with Helena and the EFT and Mindfulness Centre.. highly recommended ..

“Trauma is not what happened to you…
Trauma is what happened inside of you, because of what happened to you” – Gabor Mate

If you are interested in attending our live, CPD Accredited Trauma Informed TRUST workshops – please email Deborah to info@apositivestart.org.uk for details.