Survivor Message to Other Survivors on the Day of TTN’s 7th Annual Fall Conference 10/26/21

“My trauma starts in the generations before mine. I come from a long line of parents abusing their children. Every generation gets better than the last, but none of them were “good.” Because of my family’s past, I often overlooked my own trauma because my life was better than my parents, their parents, and their parents’ parents and so on.

I also am a survivor of child sexual abuse, and surviving that tainted my view on trauma. I thought only the big things were traumatic. I ignored the little things, well, what I defined as little, and by doing so, I hindered my own healing. I thought it was normal to have parents that told you they didn’t love you anymore, because that is what happened in previous generations. 

As a result of comparing my trauma to others, and invalidating the little things, I hurt myself and prevented true healing from happening. I don’t know anyone else’s journey, but I do know, it’s common for survivors to downplay their trauma, and to try to be strong. It’s how many of us have learned to survive. 

I want to encourage others to know that once the healing process begins, to acknowledge the little and the big things; both of them are valid and both of them require healing. It’s not weakness to admit to being hurt, it’s the opposite, it takes strength to admit you have struggles and need help. 

From one survivor to another, know that you’re not alone, healing isn’t linear, and it can’t happen when we’re not willing to be honest and acknowledge the past. Your bravery in surviving will also be the same bravery that will lead you to healing. Be brave, be strong, and know you’re not alone and you can do this.” 

-Anonymous Trauma Survivor

“Brave” song with lyrics

Wishing you a day sprinkled with hope,

Melissa Adamchik, Executive Director, Tristate Trauma Network

Survivor Story #1 – Poet, Prophet, Outlaw, Sage & Trauma Survivor 10/22/21

Introduction to the Survivor Stories section of “The Hope Chest”: There is nothing more powerful than hearing other people’s stories of overcoming adversity. Sometimes we feel we are the only ones battling our way through something, which is very isolating and serves to increase our stress level.  When we realize there are others who’ve walked  or are walking similar paths, we feel a sense of connectedness and of hope. Learning from others can propel us to get “unstuck” and start our own journey of healing. Here, we will be highlighting stories of trauma survivors who have risen above their usually quite complex trauma experiences. They may even be in a place where they are capitalizing upon the survival skills they developed to manage the trauma, and not just surviving, but thriving.  They may have also taken their journey to the point of becoming instrumental in making a difference in other people’s lives.    

And with that, I will introduce you to a man named Philip Kent Church, who I met in 2003 when I was what I call a “baby therapist,” meaning I was young and inexperienced in the field, not too far into being a clinician, and working at a local community mental health center. Philip had an extremely complex and long-standing trauma history that spanned the age range of 2 to mid-20’s.  He came with multiple mental health and medical diagnoses that I won’t get into here. Suffice it to say, he was showing his ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences).  The long-term trauma history he had was clearly at the root of all the mental health challenges he had been experiencing and was continuing to experience at age 40. However, this gentleman had built the most impressive set of survival and coping skills, including the gift of writing, and we were able to start capitalizing on those things.  He went from journaling for himself and me, his therapist, to eventually launching himself into the literary world.  By the time of Philip’s unfortunate death in 2020 at age 60, he had written and published close to a dozen books and had been working the poet, storytelling, and dramatic reading circuit for about eight years.

For my first Survivor Story entry into “The Hope Chest,” which I’ve entitled “Poet, Prophet, Outlaw, Sage, and Trauma Survivor,” (a nod to the title of his first published collection of works in 2013) I give you Philip Kent Church’s first poem ever written entitled, “Love, Brad,” dedicated to Brad Adkins (1975-1995) with whom Philip worked as an aide during Brad’s high school years. I dedicate this first Survivor Story blog post to the memory and the legacy of Philip Kent Church (1960-2020).

Love, Brad

From a sea of shame I was tempest tossed,

To a last chance for life, or would I be lost.

I received a sweet, small voice from Heaven above,

To finally get it right, I must learn God’s love.

To know God’s love? What did that mean?

It’s there in First Corinthians, Chapter Thirteen.

For me to live such a life, was an example to be had?

The voice said yes, his name was Brad.


Brad’s long suffering could extend to be ancient,

In virtually everything, he would always be patient.

Life was unfair, he knew in his mind,

But he didn’t care, for he chose to be kind.

In acquiring so many things his friends were quite zealous,

Brad didn’t mind, he was just never jealous.

While others reveled, their selfish pride to save,

In an unbecoming way he would never behave.

To him, great and small raised their cups and toasted,

But he was not arrogant, Brad never boasted.

Regardless of the person, their friendship he’d hone,

Brad accepted everyone, not just his own.

Some were mean-spirited, they might’ve been choked,

But he’d just let it go, he was never provoked.

While attacks could be cruel, their intentions unbuffered,

Brad let it pass, counting no injury suffered.

In celebrating wickedness some would make their choice,

In things such as that, he refused to rejoice.

In small things some complained and showed great care,

But it was a mercilessness illness roar he had to bear.


Jaded by the world, our hearts’s desires we might leave.

But from Brad’s innocent heart,  he would always believe,

And while those around him struggled to cope,

He would not surrender, he always had hope.

This world, his direction, vexation would send,

Brad never relented. He endured till the end.


And so I had from my gift above;

I’ll always remember Brad….He showed me God’s love!

1 Corinthians, Chapter 13 (verses 4-7)

Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous: love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth: bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Forever in my heart & always on my mind – miss ya, bud! – Philip Kent Church

Philip K. Church, you are forever in my mind and heart, just as Brad is in yours. Thank you for your courage, your persistence, the inspiration and gifts you brought and shared with the world despite your suffering, and the trust you placed in me to be your therapist for 7 years.  

Wishing you all a day sprinkled with hope,

Melissa Adamchik, Executive Director, Tristate Trauma Network

Hero Highlight #1 – Soft Rock & A Warm Blanket 10/17/21

Introduction to the Hero Highlights category of the “The Hope Chest” blog: In our Hero Highlights posts, we will be focused upon trauma-informed “heroes” in our community.  Professionals and/or agencies that exemplify what it means to be trauma-informed or trauma-responsive will be written about. These can be posts from consumers receiving their services or posts from the agencies or professionals themselves,  sharing stories about what they did to be more trauma-informed or responsive in their practices and what impact that had upon those they serve or upon their fellow employees.

For reasons I don’t yet fully understand (and won’t until I receive the results), I was referred for an MRI earlier in the week after a doctor’s appointment.  I took the first available appointment and found myself in the waiting area at St. Elizabeth Healthcare at 8:15am on Saturday morning with my husband.  Needless to say, getting referred for an MRI is scary. These tests aren’t the go-to for most health issues, but they are able to reveal things doctors are unable to see with their own eyes and instruments. I’d like to share my experience with the Radiology tech, and it’s the same thing I wrote on the “Care Gram” I asked for upon the completion of my MRI service at the hospital. I walked away from this experience thinking, “now there’s a hero story” for the blog. The following are the words I used to describe my MRI experience with a wonderful technician named Brett M.

“From the moment Brett greeted me and my husband, he created a sense of calm. He presented as a caring, competent professional, asking questions with care and compassion about my background and any current health issues that would need to be taken into account when administering an MRI. He really took care to create a safe space with physical and psychological comfort by asking if I wanted a warm blanket and what kind of music I’d like to listen to, if any, during the procedure.  (Side note: I said, “yes” to the warm blanket and “yes” to the music. They are both comforting to me in different ways and it was actually a little cold in the office. But I may have asked for the warm blanket anyway because warm blankets aren’t just for warmth. They’re soft and cozy, and perfect for times of stress and anxiety, which bring cold, tense, tight uncomfortable feelings. )

“Throughout the entire process, Brett was calm and caring. Even the directive to squeeze the bulb if I needed him during the procedure was more than simply following protocol. He genuinely wanted to let me know he was there to help me if needed.  MRIs are scary because they aim to reveal the unknown pieces that are creating concerning bodily responses.  Brett made the entire process not only less ominous and daunting, he took away my fear to the point that I found myself just enjoying and singing along in my head to the music he chose for me,  when I had given him a pretty vague category of “soft rock”.”

My Care Gram concluded with the following: “In my professional life, I run an agency that promotes trauma-informed care, the Tristate Trauma Network. I wanted to not only praise Brett, but to lift up his approach and behavior as a prime example of what trauma-informed care truly looks and feels like.  Thank you, Brett, for reducing my anxiety and fear about this procedure.  Thank you for being a caring human being who exemplifies proper treatment of patients during medical procedures.” I stopped my Care Gram there, but I do have one more acknowledgement to make as I know that it’s very much about the agency and not just the individual when these things happen: Thank you, St. Elizabeth Healthcare, for seeing and nurturing in Brett his capacity to replace fear with comfort and safety. It’s what we all need a little more of in life, especially right now.

Melissa Adamchik

And to all of you reading this, I wish you again, a day sprinkled with hope from your own or someone else’s “Hope Chest.”

A cover of the soft rock song “Stand by Me”

Welcome to “The Hope Chest”! 10/15/21

10/15/21 – Welcome to “The Hope Chest”!  I’m thrilled to welcome you to the official launch of  Tristate Trauma Network’s blog, “The Hope Chest”.  I chose this name with quite a bit of intention, which I’d like to explain.  At TTN, we’ve always promoted hope.  It’s in our logo tagline: “Building hope through system transformation” and on the banner that runs across our website’s Home Page, touting “Hope….Heal….Thrive” with images chosen to evoke those notions. But why a hope “chest”? Why not “Hope” and some other word or phrase?  The answer to this lies in my family history and a treasure I hold very dear: my great grandmother’s cedar hope chest pictured here, which I acquired after her daughter’s (my paternal grandmother’s) death 4 years ago.  This hope chest is over 100 years old and looks like it was carved in the last decade.  The wear on it is minimal and, in all honesty, primarily my fault in the moving of it and placement of it in a common area of our house.  This valuable treasure was not going to be stored away, I told my family.  And as I presented it to my 16 year-old daughter Madilyn, and told her it would be hers one day, her eyes lit up so very brightly, and I could see her heart melt with the emotional response it brought. I knew then that she knew how valuable this was too.

So for me, this particular hope chest, and the traditional idea of a hope chest, has good meaning and a positive connotation.  It symbolizes hope for the future.  Many years ago, when filling a hope chest was a common practice in some cultures, families kept prized possessions in them; things they’d bring into the future to help it be prosperous; things of meaning and value that were willing to be shared as part of a commitment to a long-term relationship. These are the types of things I wanted to be shared with you here.  The traditional concept of a hope chest may be outdated now (and I certainly don’t mean to offend anyone with this historic, specific cultural reference and practice that may not carry the same meaning for others as it does for me).  However, I firmly believe that the concept of hope, the treasuring and even “tucking away” of hope in a safe container to draw upon when needed, or the sharing things of meaning and value that may lead to “prosperity” in life for self and others, is not outdated.  On the other hand, I did feel it necessary to explain the personal significance behind this choice, and how it really does connect to the work and overall aim of the Tristate Trauma Network, an agency I’ve been honored to lead for the past 6 years.

Our goal in this blog is to share stories of hope, healing, and transformation in this contained space, “The Hope Chest”.  Content will be geared towards both an industry-related professional audience and a general community member audience. We will also be highlighting both the incredible professionals and agencies in the industry, and the community members, both inside and outside the industry, who are survivors of trauma and toxic stress.  Our goal will be to motivate, educate, and encourage, and we hope our content will be engaging, inspiring, and thought-provoking. While our approximately weekly blog posts will include a range of topics, we plan to put special emphasis on:

  • Survivor Stories
  • Hero Highlights
  • Issues That Matter
  • Helpful Services and Resources

I sincerely hope that you will follow us along this journey, as we commit to adding stories, information and resources through “The Hope Chest”.  We will eventually be reaching out to you, too, for suggestions and perhaps to submit a post related to one of our key areas.  In the meantime, you can always reach me at: to share suggestions for possible story ideas or posts.

May your day be sprinkled with hope,

Melissa Adamchik, Tristate Community Member and Executive Director of the Tristate Trauma Network