Not too long ago, I was reflecting with my therapist about the work I’m currently doing with women and trauma healing around the world. It caused me to take a stroll down memory lane with my own personal history with trauma and what it was like growing up in a Haitian community and household. Though we are a beautiful people with so much goodness and joy, the Haitian community is very well acquainted with pain, suffering, and loss—those living in Haiti and abroad.
For those reasons, I spent a good portion of my life running. I first ran into the arms of books. They became my loyal friends that made life bearable. They afforded me the opportunity to become well studied, ensuring a way out of poverty and an escape from the pain I was experiencing at that time. I then ran off to college and never looked back. My biggest escape was moving away from my community in New Jersey to a brand-new community in Dallas, Texas, for sixteen years.
While I was experiencing those life shifts, they felt like necessary steps to grow and evolve, and they were. But looking back now, I was also running. I kept running from the inescapable pain of life.
As a child, running was the only strategy within my power to guarantee safety. I didn’t have the voice to process what was happening. I didn’t have the words to ask for comfort, support, or for someone to validate that what I was experiencing was real. I didn’t have the power to create boundaries and enforce them because I was facing systems too profoundly rooted for my little voice to have an impact. Running was my mechanism to cope. We all find ways to cope. Running was mine. It assured me that the tangible day-to-day pain was out of sight and controlled. I only dealt with reminders of it on the occasional visit home.
I shared all this with my therapist, my head hanging down. Then she said something to me along the lines of, “I’m proud of you for running.”
Whoah. What? Proud of me?
For most of my adult life, I felt ashamed for running. I felt weak that I couldn’t handle my problems head-on. And sometimes my mature, adult self would talk down to my childhood self, chiding her for not fighting back. But therapy has taught me that children do the best that they can with the limited power that they have. For me, the best I could do at that time to survive was to run.
After listening to my therapist’s words, how proud she was of me for running, I felt myself breathe a sigh of relief. It was as if, finally, my internal self and my external self gave each other a high five, embraced, and congratulated one another for a job well done. We did it. We not only survived, but we are thriving with the help of God and therapy.
The most remarkable part of this story is that I’m no longer running from the pain of trauma. I am now running toward the pain of trauma to help other women heal, find freedom, and flourish in the work that I do professionally. I’m reminded of the words of Toni Morrison: “The function of freedom is to help free someone else.”
I now know that it was necessary for me to run and survive until I no longer needed to. Sometimes surviving the season we’re in is the best that we can do. We must first survive before we can show up for others, and only then could we be in a position to help others and set them free.Leave a Comment