Self-Care after Trauma: Sharing the plan behind my study.

Fall of 2019

If you have not read the first post that shared the introduction of my thesis, you can read it, here. I would suggest reading that so you can have a better understanding of the topic of my study since this post will be sharing the next part which is the methodology, or plan! If you want to hear to me go through the entire introduction chapter you can listen to the podcast episode, Self-Care after Trauma: Discovering what that means through the introduction of my thesis

For the readers out there, who have never written a research paper, participated in studies, or don’t read studies for pleasure, you might not know what the word methodology means. Do not worry! I will be using layman’s terms.

It’s really just a descriptive outline of how I conducted the study and how I analyzed the data. What I will be focusing on in this post is explaining to you what my plan was. Telling you exactly how I used art therapy, journaling, and dream reflection as self-care tools. As a reminder, the title of my study was, “Self-Care after Trauma: A heuristic inquiry using Art Therapy, Journaling, and Dream reflection.” 

This could seem like one of the more boring parts of talking about my thesis journey, but it is essential. I can’t share my results without telling you how my study was conducted.

The strategic plan… paraphrased.

For 5 weeks I participated in weekly responsive art making, weekly journaling, and daily dream documentation. The daily dream documentation is virtually self-explanatory. Every morning I documented my dreams by writing them down. The weekly journaling was directed by these two journal prompts: Did any feelings related to your trauma surface or did you experience a trigger this week? What were your emotions throughout the week?

Then the art making was in response to the journal entries and dreams to further process them. I made an art piece in response to how I felt about my dreams that week, and I created another piece in response to how I was feeling throughout the week. So, I was creating two art works a week, journaling to check in with my emotions once a week, and every single day, I was documenting my dreams.

Then there was a minimum 10-day incubation period following the 5 weeks where I took a break from doing those three self-care techniques to allow my conscious mind to relax, while my unconscious mind was integrating the information. Within that period, I was required to participate in other self-care activities like yoga, meditation, being in nature, dancing, and working out. 

This study was intense.

It was also required of me to see a therapist on a weekly basis while I was actively conducting the study on myself.  I had already been seeing a therapist weekly for about 4 months, and I just kept up that routine. Which I definitely needed that mental support to keep me grounded while my study was cracking me open. 

There is the extremely simplified version of my methodology chapter! 

If you are interested, you can listen to me break down all of the sections throughout the methodology chapter in a conversational way on my podcast, in episode 32. (additional resources pertaining to the methodology sections are listed in the show notes on the podcast episode) If you have any questions please reach out! Stay tuned as I continue to share my thesis journey. The next parts I will be sharing is the raw data from my study. Yup, I will be revealing my dreams, my journal entries, and showing all of my artwork. 

.

When we see the light in ourselves, we create light in others.

.

Much love,

Kelsey

.

P.S. Even though I am sharing my study via blog and podcast, which is a public forum, my work through Creating Light with Kelsey is still copyrighted. Then my thesis is also copyrighted and went through its own publishing process at my university.

Let go, Accept, and Believe.

April 2021, “You are no longer a slave”

Last week my life got flipped upside down in the most freeing way, even though it is still a shock. This is why I only released one blog post instead of two. I am going to be quite preoccupied this upcoming month. I will definitely write one post a week on Tuesdays during this refreshingly chaotic time for me, but I might not be able to commit to twice a week! 

Whew, so, where do I start? Well, that drawing I made in April was complete foreshadowing. The angelic figure is my higher self, the blue figure is my present self, and the black figures were the darkness I was still letting myself be held captive by.

I have been learning the last 5 months that so much has to happen within the energetic field before it reaches the physical reality. I noticed that when I let go of what no longer served me, accepted my current situation, and believed that I could have the life of my dreams, the physical reality kept coming closer to me. That drawing was the last piece of energetic processing to occur before I got smacked in the face with last week’s events. 

Let go, accept, and believe.

I realize everything I’m writing probably seems vague. I do want to be open about my current life experiences, but I feel like I can’t just yet, which you all will understand why when I do start sharing. Next month I will begin to reveal some of the lessons I’ve been learning in more detail.

I am almost completely on the other side of this extremely dark time in my life. Even though I’m not 100% physically out of it yet, hence the drawing where the darkness is still barely connected to me, I am 100% energetically out of it. Energetically, I have reached the other side. When I finally did energetically reach other side my dream reality just started flowing in. 

I have been thriving even in the midst of trauma. It takes a lot of work to curate the life of your dreams in the midst of trauma, but honestly, that’s where it starts for everyone. I am excited to see how far I will be able to go now that I have freed myself.

It is within the darkness that we create light.

The life of our dreams doesn’t just happen. It is often created while we realize we are living the life we don’t want. From there, within the darkness, we build an aligned life. We don’t create it only when things are “good” or easy. Then before we know it, we have shifted our entire reality. 

For now, that is all I have to share with you on what is happening in my present moments. Thank you for being on this journey with me. I hope it inspired you in some way. I am doing the damn thing and I am so proud of myself. I love the life I have been creating this year. I am excited for when I will be able to share with you all the magic that has been happening!

.

When we see the light in ourselves, we create light in others.

.

Much love,

Kelsey

Interviewing my Best Friend: Discussing how they helped teach me what Unconditional Love is!

On my podcast, Creating Light with Kelsey, I conducted my very first interview! I decided to kick start this process by interviewing one of my best friends, Crystal! We talk about how our friendship started and some funny memories. Reflecting on how we have officially been friends for 10 years. Then we get into how she helped teach me what unconditional love truly looks like. 

You can listen to the episode, here. 😊

I will reveal one of the funny memories that was shared, which was the moment we became best friends! We met on a competitive cheerleading team our senior year of high school. One weekend our team was traveling 8 hours to compete at Super Nationals. I discovered that Crystal was planning on doing the drive by herself, and going to get her own hotel room (she was 17). I invited her to come with me and my parents. 

We had already been getting along at practice, but this was the first time we had spent this much time together. Growing up, if you have ever traveled for sports you know it is almost always a fun time. Me and Crystal were definitely the annoying teenagers in the hotel!

Me and Crystal went exploring one of the nights there. We discovered the entrance to get onto the roof. It was chained off, but with Crystal’s convincing argument, we broke in, and climbed on top of the roof. I thought I was soooo cool for being a rebel and going against the rules. For Crystal, this type of behavior was a normal thing. 

We were on the roof, playing in the snow for so long we eventually had to pee. We weren’t done hanging out though, but yet, getting off the roof to find a bathroom, to then get back on the roof would have been too much work.

We decided to pee on the roof.

Summer 2011, our first picture together

We thought it was the funniest thing! Thus, started a ripple effect of funny pee stories, which you can listen to a couple more on the podcast episode. It was within that moment we became best friends! Being goofy and just living life is what really connected us.

Me and Crystal have witnessed each other be in various walks of life these past 10 years. She has loved me, without judgement, through it all. I have loved her through it all too, but I definitely projected shame and judgment.

Because of her constant acceptance she unknowingly has helped teach me what unconditional love is. 

Basically, my entire life revolved around expectations. If those expectations were not met then I was not happy. I also was not willing to fully give over my love. My love was given under certain conditions. This is what I was taught through my environment growing up. 

The funny thing is, that Crystal did not give a shit. She did not take my expectations of her to heart. Which neutralized the shame that was present. As I have been on my own healing journey, this was one of the contributing factors that helped me let go of expectations. To love people for who they are, and for where they are at.

Crystal was my lesson of learning how to love someone unconditionally because she loved me unconditionally. With my fairly recent awareness of this concept, our friendship just continues to grow. I am so grateful to have her as a friend and I love living life with her. You can listen to the full interview on my podcast, in episode 30.

.

When we see the light in ourselves, we create light in others.

.

Much love,

Kelsey

Leave What Does Not Serve You.

This statement is so bold and terrifying, yet so simple. Leave what does not serve you. You’d think this would be easy, right? Deep down on some level I feel like we all know things that exist in our lives that do not serve us. Whether it be a job, a person, habits, or the way we talk to ourselves in our mind. If we take a moment to reflect, we know what isn’t serving us. The real question is, are we going to do something about it?

That’s the terrifying part, taking action. Once we take the time to understand aspects throughout life that do not serve us, it very well could change our entire life if we decide to actually leave, change, or let go of those things. One of the main reasons why it’s terrifying is because we’d have to give up control, our sense of predictability. 

When we choose to make a change, most of the time, we don’t know what is on the other side of it. The human mind loves to know exactly what is going to happen, to foresee the outcomes. When the reality is, we have no fucking clue. 

Why is it that so many people continue to choose things that no longer serve them?

This has been a prominent lesson for me in the past 6 months. I was noticing that my lingering sense of despair was a direct result of me not letting go of what no longer serves me. Which was a big smack in the face because I realized it was me standing in my own way. I was preventing myself from living my best life, while also choosing misery. Yet again, I was sick of my own shit.

I started doing the scary things, and guess what? My life is drastically different, but in the best way possible! I’m not going to lie, it has been hard. I have felt a lot of pain along the way because it is a form of grieving. I am in the process of shedding my old way of being. 

As a result of leaving what no longer serves me, I am leaving room for what DOES serve me to enter my life.

Every time I empty myself by letting go, I am then presented with an opportunity that is in alignment for my highest good. When we listen and take action, the universe provides. I know it is terrifying, but trust that you will be provided for. Everything is working out in the exact way it is meant to.

So, what are you waiting for? Your most fulfilled life is waiting for YOU! Take inventory of the things that exist in life that you believe are no longer serving you. Then ask yourself where can you start to take some action steps?

.

When we see the light in ourselves, we create light in others.

.

Much love,

Kelsey

Society Doesn’t Teach Authenticity.

Why can authenticity seem so hard to come by? It seems that most of us have been programmed to adhere to other people’s expectations. To fit their molds to make them happy, but if we are so concerned with making others happy, and constantly neglecting our needs, where does that leave us as individuals? It can leave us living an inauthentic life. This is why I believe stepping into who we really are is one of the greatest acts of courage.

Society is not designed for us to be free.

For example, as children if certain personality traits of ours made our parents uncomfortable, we had to hide that part of ourselves to achieve acceptance. As teenagers, we felt pressured to fit into social roles in order to avoid being rejected, and then we realize these social roles transitioned into every phase of life. As adults, we get jobs where we have to behave a certain way and follow a set of rules or we could get fired.

With all of these roles, we feel pressured to play the part that society has laid out for us. Then we are fed a false sense of hope that if we just comply to the social norms or the expectations of others we will be accepted and loved. What is the point of that? If we have to follow certain conditions in order to achieve what every human has a right to, we can easily fall into abusive situations. 

If we are sacrificing parts of our authentic self in exchange of acceptance or love from others, then we don’t actually have those things.

We all want love, acceptance, friendship, belonging, support, compassion, etc. in our lives. If those things are not freely given, it can definitely get to a point where we would do anything to receive them, even put up with abuse. But the reality is, if those needs are not freely given, we only have them as long as we live under the conditions that were set. 

Why would we want to constantly sacrifice our authenticity, who we really are, to be accepted by people who don’t fully like us anyway, or only like us under certain conditions? By choosing to be around people we feel aligned with, and by choosing to put ourselves in the environments we feel aligned with, we don’t ever have to “fit in.” 

Society tricks us into believing if we do the “right thing” we will get what we want. When the truth is, if we are taking aligned action, we will ACTUALLY get what we want. Aligned action starts from self-awareness. As we listen to our heart, spirit, soul, whatever we resonate with, by tuning in we will hear our own desires. Then we will know what is right for us. We will be living in alignment, and as a result everything we want will flow to us.

Nothing is worth the cost of suppressing our authentic self.

In what ways can we begin to embrace who we really are? Where can we start saying no, and setting boundaries towards things that don’t feel right to us? What are some things we have been wanting to try, but have yet to do so for fear of rejection? The world is full of endless opportunities for us to be our authentic selves! It is time to step into that reality.

.

When we see the light in ourselves, we create light in others. 

.

Much love,

Kelsey

Self-Care after Trauma: Discovering what that means through the introduction of my thesis.

Here is the introduction, which was the first chapter, of my thesis! The first chapter introduces the reader to the concept of the author’s research study. I hope you enjoy it, and I am excited to now be sharing the process of some ways we can all embrace self-care. The title of my study was, “Self-Care after Trauma: A heuristic inquiry using Art Therapy, Journaling, and Dream Reflection.”

“The world is imperfect. It is full of pain, neglect, misunderstandings, abandonment, and countless other sorrows. Not one person has been lucky enough to leave this world untouched by trauma (Gustafson, 2016). It seems that there has been a collective belief that once a person survives a traumatic event the next step was to just move on. But how can people transition from being traumatized to healed in one step, as if it was a swift movement, an automated response, like walking up a flight of stairs?

If the next step after survival was moving on, then what lied at the top of the flight of stairs? What was in between? Was healing really that linear to the point of putting one foot in front of the other, moving forward, and by climbing up these metaphorical stairs meant I have moved on

There were a lot of unanswered questions when pondering the concept of healing. I knew that I wanted answers. I wanted some sort of guideline to healing, happiness, and feeling whole presented to me so I could be granted the ability to attain it and check it off as complete. I have learned that healing was not that simple, it was not linear, and as much as I wanted it to be, it may never be complete. So, what now? How does a person continue to move through life if they cannot technically ‘move on’ after living through traumatic events? I had all of these questions, but who had the answers? With proper guidance I discovered that I already had the answers. Everything I needed was already available within. As poetic as that sounds, the reality was this journey was quite messy. 

Most of the time in life I had not been one to cut corners. This was why I had chosen to do a heuristic study. There were levels to a heuristic study, and it challenged the deeply rooted inner workings of the research topic (Moustakas, 1990). I wanted to obtain the valuable wisdom this process could offer through the exploration of my pain. Although pain manifests uniquely across the population, my trauma was not unique. I had been raped multiple times and was left feeling broken, empty, shameful, and filled with rage and despair. The list of feelings seemed endless. 

Worldwide 91.6% of rapes would never be reported because of the stigma attached to rape (Links, 2019). That was an unfathomable amount of pain that had the potential to go unnoticed and not validated. For me, it took my voice away. Through this study I was striving to take my voice back along with other countless parts of myself that were fragmented after each rape. I was able reach the point of gathering all these fragmented pieces by taking care of myself. 

I wondered what self-care after trauma looked like. It took me a long time to realize that attending to the darkness that dwelled in me following the trauma was self-care, but I did not have the capacity to do this if I maintained any level of denial about being raped. 

It has been nearly impossible for survivors to tend to this darkness without accepting the trauma and owning it as something that had happened in life (Levine, 1992). In the fall of 2018 while taking a spirituality in art therapy graduate level course and learning about Bearing Gifts to the Feast, I finally accepted my traumas and other associated sexual assaults. This was where it started for me. I knew I needed to tell my story, but I also knew that I needed to obtain the wisdom my suffering had to offer by sitting with my trauma and exploring it through expression. This heuristic study was me bearing my gift of suffering to then give away my wisdom to other survivors through this thesis (Levine, 1992).”

This was just the first section of my introduction chapter. If you are interested in listening to the rest of the chapter I talk more about it on my podcast, Creating Light with Kelsey, in episode 27. Stay tuned for when I share the results of the study that lead to many of my personal breakthroughs and the deeper aspects of what self-care can be!

.

When we see the light in ourselves, we create light in others.

.

Much love,

Kelsey

Alcohol and Consent.

This topic is a whole can of worms that most definitely needs to be open. This is one of the main avenues where the media horrifyingly loves to misconstrued the boundaries of sexual consent. It happens too often where the phrase, “Can I buy you a drink,” turns into the person trying to have sex with you. 

Did you know that Minnesota’s supreme court just ruled that if person A accepts alcoholic drinks from person B, and person A is raped later that night by person B, it’s not viewed as rape/non-consensual because person A consented to consuming alcoholic drinks, so that means they consented to anything that happens that night with person B?

Are you fucking kidding me?! So, my question to the supreme court would be, what if person A accepts alcoholic drinks from person B, then later that night person A is stabbed by person B, no charges would be pressed against person B because person A consented to anything that happens that night with person B since person A took the drinks that were given to them, right? This is the message society and the media are communicating to the world!

ANY level of intoxication is not a means for consent. Alcohol is designed to inhibit the mind, i.e. conscious logical thinking. This is why it is illegal to drive with an alcohol blood content over .08%, because we are not mentally all there after drinking alcohol. So, why the fuck is it normalized for it to be “okay” and nothing to question when people are seeking sex AFTER someone has been drinking? It is not okay. It is actually really dangerous and a violation of a person’s body to take advantage of them in a vulnerable state where they are physically unable to think clearly.

Rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t do it sober, you shouldn’t be doing it. If you would do it sober, then just wait until you and the other person are.

Think back to a time when you were under the influence and made a decision that you wish you wouldn’t have. An argument might have happened that normally wouldn’t have if you were sober. You called a person while drunk that you wouldn’t have called sober. These decision-making skills transfer over into the bedroom. This is why the consumption of alcohol does not equal consent. 

Just because a person is drinking alcohol with you does not make it an invitation for sex. That assumption though, is constantly thrown in our face by the media. Music, tv shows, and movies portray alcohol and sex together, which is how it continues to be normalized. 

A lot of people do not know better, which is why I am here to state that this is not okay. This instills unsafety within sexual relations. Everyone deserves to experience pleasure, but in a completely safe and consensual way. Please pass this information on if it spoke to you at all. Together, we can all bring awareness to what consent truly is.

.

When we see the light in ourselves, we create light in others.

.

Much love,

Kelsey