Master's Degrees in Social Work and Religious Studies, Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Pastoral Counseling. Bachelor's Degree in Education / Recreation.
Student of life, healing and trauma.
I am a survivor of what is often called "secondary trauma", which arises from caring for someone who has endured significant primary, emotional, psychological or physical trauma. I am also a survivor of first-hand physical trauma.
We adopted both of our children from China as toddlers. Jade came to us as a resilient, active, spunky little gal with a will of steel and motivation to accompany it. To this day, she throws herself into everything full-force.....school, playing guitar, climbing, etc.
Kai came to us as a child who failed to thrive in his orphanage. We believe that he may have been kept in what is known as a "dying room", as we learned early on that he was only 13.9 pounds at 21 months of age (eg. not given nutrition) Kai is a challenge, and knowing this, I try to have some compassion for the orphanage staff attempting to care for a roomful of orphans which happened to include our son. Due to his extreme neglect, Kai came to us with many challenges, deficits and delays. Some of these include: Developmental Trauma Disorder (often called Reactive Attachment Disorder), Pervasive Developmental Delay (PDD-NOS, or "autism spectrum disorder."), ADHD, Speech and Language Disorders, and other global delays.
As many moms of kids w/ special needs will attest, we always need to feel like we're on. We're the perennial "mama bears", trying to do what is best for our children. Parenting this way day-in and day-out leads to a sense of ever-present stress, and we frequently develop a fight-or-flight response to the world around us. This is because we become conditioned to react to the unconscious maladaptive behaviors of our children to keep them safe. This environment can really take its toll on the family system and those in the greater family circle.
It was precisely this angst which was the pre-curser to my scattered-ness and distractibility on November 30th, 2011, when I went to our local climbing gym on the way to an appointment for my son (there are many) .....Despite having climbed literally thousands of times before, this particular time I forgot to clip into the auto-belay device before heading up the wall about 30 feet. Unfortunately, I missed a hold and free-fell approximately three stories. In that fleeting moment, I felt as if my life literally came crashing down.
I ended up spending about a month in and out of the hospital that winter, and eventually enduring 11 limb-salvage surgeries. I had suffered fractures to my lumbar spine and my pelvis, requiring surgery and eventually injections and a radiofrequency ablation. In January of 2014, after a great deal of soul searching and research, I decided to have my right leg / foot amputated below the knee in order to regain my quality of life as an active person. Learning my "new normal" as an amputee has been an adventure for sure. I have met so many amazing people as part of this journey!
Having gone through these challenges, I find that one of the great silver linings has been the reality that not much that scares me anymore. Risk is inherent in truly living, and life is so precious...especially in the moments we find that we are most fragile.
Part of my recovery process involved the creation of a climbing program for persons with disabilities, and a peer mentoring program for survivors of trauma. Those programs continue to flourish and have taken on exciting lives of their own! I am currently in CPE training for hospital chaplaincy....where my new adventures are internal ones. My journey has led me from climbing mountains to the new internal adventure of companioning patients and families through the uncharted depths of illness, grief and loss.
Thank you for visiting!
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