Trauma Queen

If you know me, you know I am acquainted with trauma.

And so are members of my family. And so are most people.

But, you see, "trauma" is a word that I feel necessary to include in my biography. It's a part of me. Always has been, always will be. I find that, for whatever reasons, people equate the word "trauma" with words like "damaged," "incapable," or "impaired." When I was told a couple of years ago that my symptoms were aligned with that of "post-traumatic stress disorder," I felt all of those things. I felt damaged beyond repair. I felt incapable. I felt impaired. I felt like a broken piece of junk, for lack of better term.

I've been very transparent about my journey to healing; it hasn't been linear. I heal each and every day, and I will for the rest of my life. And I've reached a point where I have accepted that. I have accepted the experiences I've had in this life, and knowing what I know now, I would've never considered myself damaged a couple of years ago.

From a science standpoint we now know that, biologically speaking, when the human body endures trauma, certain systems of the brain are used more than others. We have two major systems that make up our autonomic nervous systems: parasympathetic and sympathetic. Your parasympathetic is often referred to as the "rest and digest" system, because that's exactly what it helps us do -- rest. Our sympathetic nervous systems, on the other hand, are often referred to as our "fight or flight" systems. Basically, your body utilizes this system heavily when you're in danger. Or, when you think you're in danger.

My body and mind are all too familiar with the "fight or flight" response. I've been admitted to several emergency rooms thinking I was literally dying, with chest pains that felt like a ton of bricks just slammed down on me. When I was still at school, I remember needing to leave class countless times because sitting in that room made me too anxious. I would sometimes try and look down at my hand, and then open and close it slowly so as to align my breath with how slow my hand was opening. Sometimes it worked -- more often than not it didn't. I've been prescribed every medication you could think of. And, thankfully, am free of use today.

It wasn't until I took up the practice of yoga and mindfulness that I found true relief from any kind of PTSD symptoms. My panic attacks became less frequent, my chest became less tight, and I felt like my breathing was no longer being constricted at all hours of the day. I once heard a saying that pain does something to you that just wakes you up. It's true -- I was woken up everyday to a lot of panic, fear, sadness, and worry. Worry that I would die. Worry that my family members would die. Worry that I'd fall flat on my face while just simply walking to class (no, seriously). Just fear. All the time. But sure enough, as I continued fighting for the things I deep down knew I deserved, I felt more and more alive, and more and more able to breathe again.

Most of you reading this probably know I competed for the title of Miss Iowa a couple of weeks ago and was fortunate enough to receive 2nd Runner Up to my dream job. My journey in the Miss America Organization began ten years ago. What a humbling, remarkable journey it has been so far. I get asked a lot about the most strenuous part of preparation. Contrary to popular belief, no, it is not preparing for swimsuit. Although, two years ago I probably would've said that. The hardest part? Letting go of control. At some point or another, there is nothing left to prepare for, there is no news left to read, there is no workout left to be done, there is no talent practice that can make you more ready, there's no dress left to be bought, there's... simply... nothing... left. So you let go. You let the Universe do its brilliant thing and you scoot yourself over to the passenger's seat while the World manifests some miraculous plan behind the wheel. And it's always miraculous. Miracles are around us everyday - it's up to us to decide if this is true or not (psst - life is better and wonderful things happen to you when you believe good things are supposed to happen to you).

I refer to myself as "trauma queen." Not because I am "damaged goods" or because I am broken. I refer to myself as such because I'm well-acquainted with trauma. And that's okay. In many ways, for me, that's a good thing. The trauma from my past makes me who I am. It makes me capable of understanding others in a way I never imagined. It makes me capable of being extremely empathetic. It makes me capable of anything I want to do. It makes me capable. Period. My trauma has prepared me for loss of all different types. Loss of a dream job. Loss of friendships. Loss of loved ones. Loss of anything. But what it has prepared me for even more so, is for the earnings - gaining friendships, ideas, experiences, knowledge, understanding, growth.

Life is a balancing act of losing and gaining. I've lost, I've gained, I've gained, I've lost. And you guessed it: I learn much more when I lose.

People have asked me numerous times what the next step is for me. To answer that question, I will be living in Iowa for the next year, spending time with my loved ones who I've missed so dearly for the last four years. I will be working here eventually, and am in the process of creating a nonprofit organization entitled "Trauma Queens" - an idea that came to me after a long day on my living room couch. Trauma Queens is a community-based initiative designed to help others cope with PTSD through movement, mindfulness, and support from others. Trauma Queens will also be developing into a blog series in which I discuss the different facets of PTSD I have struggled with, and will be a place for guest bloggers to share their experiences. Ideas like this come to you when you're open to the possibilities of great things happening to you - and right now, I am.

I say this a lot now, but it's truly because my heart is filled to the brim with gratitude - thank you a million times over to those who have been on this spectacular journey with me. I am so beyond #blessed to be surrounded by individuals who radiate positive energy, and please know that your love and support means the absolute world to me. There are simply not enough words.

For now, I hope you will continue with me on this journey by following Trauma Queens in its next phases. I invite you to join in the movement even if you don't suffer from PTSD - there will be information provided that is sure to be beneficial to all. Again, thank you.

                   "What matters most is how well you walk through the fire." -Charles Bukowski


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