Basic Self-Care Practices to Foster Your Mental Health 2/28/22

“Basic Self-Care Practices to Foster Your Mental Health” comes to us from a guest blogger: Eleanor Wyatt.

Taking care of your mental health is critical if you hope to lead a fulfilling life. And one of the best ways to ensure you prioritize mental health is to create a self-care routine that you abide by each day.

This routine should include habits, activities, and perspectives that foster your body, mind, and spirit. From adjusting your financial goals to starting a fitness regimen, changing your bedtime, to taking a weekend getaway, there are endless ways to improve and maintain your mental wellbeing. Here are a few ideas:

Consider Your Finances

Financial security plays a prominent role in an overall sense of safety and wellbeing in life. If you find yourself worried about finances, you may also see your depression or anxiety rise and perhaps turn to unhealthy or excessive vices to lessen the stress. If that’s the case, it’s time to take some action. The goal doesn’t necessarily have to be wealthy but to not live paycheck to paycheck, with debt lingering over your head.

It is essential to do two things:

  1. Get out of debt.
  2. Save for the rainy days.

One of the most popular ways to get out of debt is the debt snowball method, where you make minimum payments on all debts except your smallest balance owed, which you attack with not only the minimum amount but all extra cash you can throw at it.

When you pay off a debt, you roll over that minimum payment to your next debt until they are all paid off. Simultaneously, you should be saving for a three- six-month emergency fund. If you own a home and have equity in your home, you can refinance for a reduced mortgage payment or free up cash to put towards that savings fund.

Get the Help You Need 

If you find yourself barely keeping your head above water, don’t wait to get some professional help. A counselor can help you see the forest from the trees and work through any mental health struggles.

Check your insurance coverage to determine what options you have regarding receiving mental health services. For instance, Medicare Part B covers some services. Regardless of your plan, it’s essential to review your policy and know what is covered annually.

Schedule Self-Care

Life gets busy, and so quickly, we can find we have neglected to do anything we enjoy for the sake of getting things done. Do not let days pass without making time for the things you love, and that restore you.

Whether you need time with family or alone or like to go for hikes or play a game, make sure to plan for it. Schedule the activities that bring you joy by writing them into your calendar and make sure to prioritize them in your day. This is especially important during the winter months when mental health concerns are on the up and up.

Exercise Most Days    

Very few things have an impact on mental health the way exercise does. Within moments of starting physical fitness, you can notice an instant shift in mood, increased ability to concentrate, and an elevation of low self-confidence. If you exercise most days for at least 30 minutes a day, you can see long-term improvements in depression and anxiety symptoms.

Develop Good Sleep Habits 

Catching some restful ZZZs is critical to maintaining tip-top physical and mental health. Not only is sleep essential to overall recovery from the previous day, but it helps rejuvenate every aspect of your being. Make it a priority to get enough sleep and restful and uninterrupted sleep. Here are some tips to getting the restorative shut-eye you need:

  • Turn off all screens at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Design your room to be a safe, relaxing place.
  • Read a good book, assemble a puzzle, or knit before bed.
  • Stretch before hopping into bed.
  • Practice some breathing exercises and meditation techniques.

Make your mental health a priority. Don’t let things like financial worries, depression, or anxiety overpower your life. Get out of debt, save money, seek any professional help you need, and be sure to check your policy to see what your policy covers. Take bold strides by scheduling self-care, exercising, and getting some good sleep. Keep looking for other ways to bring peace to your body and mind!

Thanks for creating and sending, Eleanor! We are open to guest bloggers anytime. Submit your entires via email to: Mingie Song

May Your Day Be Sprinkled with HOPE,

Melissa Adamchik, MA, LPP, Executive Director, Tristate Trauma Network

My Father Was My Hero; He Was Also a Trauma Warrior – Part 5 – 2/26/22

This part is by far the hardest to relive and relate. Thus, I ask for your grace, if it seems less fluid than the rest of the story. After he walked again, my father lived about 6 more months. He caught a virus in September that year and it was strong enough to put him in the hospital. He wasn’t in continuously, but from that point he was in and out a lot. His body couldn’t successfully fight it; he was too worn down by the cumulative effect of his disease.  We had gone from a super high with the walking to a super low, as the reality of him “not making it” set in.  It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster, to say the least: sadness, hope, sadness, hope; stress, relief, stress, relief, stress; so many stays at the hospital with the problems only partially solved, if at all.  Dad was weak, he couldn’t communicate verbally, he was just hanging on, hoping to make it through again.  When one hospital wasn’t doing enough to help him, we transferred him elsewhere.

Thanksgiving with family didn’t happen that year. Mom was at the hospital with dad. I honestly don’t remember what I did with my family unit. It didn’t matter. I was on autopilot, going to work, hitting the hospital or the nursing home on my way home.  One night, about 4 days before Christmas, we conspired to take dad to UC’s Emergency Room. My sister was sure they’d do a good job helping him.  He only stayed about 24 hours. They told my mom that it was time to move towards preparing for his death, to get hospice or some other pallative care program involved. There was nothing they could do. They, in fact, told her she needed to “let go,” that her expectations of dad improving were unrealistic at this point. Ouch. It was like telling someone to give up hope. Dad was transported back to his nursing home, and we all met with the hospice representative on Christmas Eve while dad lay in his bed, very weak and unable to participate. He looked terrible. I know I held back tears, and my sisters likely did too. We made plans to have our Christmas there at the nursing home, bring all the kids and the presents; it would be his last. All of our children had been around a lot, they knew Pa was in bad shape. They’d been drawing him pictures and giving him hugs and listening to us tell stories, as we sat in his room around him.

And God love him, knowing it would be his last Christmas, and Christmas being his favorite holiday, one where he always played Santa, giving out presents from under the tree, wearing his Santa hat, dad conjured up enough strength to get out of bed. We were all very grateful and joyful that day. And on New Year’s Day, a week later, he was sitting up in bed laughing with some good friends there to visit him for the last time. And we all thought, maybe the doctor was wrong, maybe he’d be okay, maybe he’d pull through again. But he wasn’t being treated for anything at that point and wouldn’t be. The goal was comfort, taking in what food he could, seeing how things went. On Jan. 5th, he stopped eating and drinking, no strength to even do that. He was resting, resting in a way that he hadn’t for 17 and a half years.

I think I was there every day after that. I didn’t want mom to be alone when he passed, and I wanted him to know that he was deeply loved and not alone either. And for all the times he had been there for me, had protected and supported me, I owed him at least my presence in his final days. It was hard as hell to watch him slowly die those last eleven days of his life. It was gut wrenching, when I slept the little I slept those days, I would wake up wondering if he’d passed, but then realized mom hadn’t called, so he must still be hanging on.  And I thought of what else I needed to say to him, and there wasn’t anything else. It was just, “I love you, dad, and I’m here for you” on repeat every day. It was holding his hand, gently touching his head, or his shoulder, or his arm, kissing him hello and goodbye, fighting the same sort of tears I have now writing this, until I left and got in my car. He didn’t need my tears. He needed my love and my calm, nurturing presence which I knew how to keep in tact after 17 years of being a therapist. Maybe I had been given all the skills I needed for moments like these. Maybe it was meant to be that mom and dad had raised a treatment team of women to help, to be all the things needed in dealing with a long term, debilitating illness and death. I took some comfort in that.

Dad passed peacefully on the morning of Friday, January 16, 2015, around 10am. Mom was there, but none of us girls. I was on my way and another sister had recently left. Mom said she was sure dad didn’t want any of us to see him die, even though it wasn’t anything he could verbalize. The rest of my sisters were called to come and we hugged and cried and gave dad one last kiss goodbye. His 17.5 years of struggle had come to an end and we were grateful for that, for him to be at peace. We managed to pull off a funeral three days later on Martin Luther King Day. It was beautiful and there were so many people there to pay their respects. Some that I and my sisters had never met came to tell us about how our father touched their lives. And others who we did know, told us things that he had done to help or touch them too. He had made his work colleagues feel safe and protected; he had inspired neighbors with his fighting spirit throughout his whole illness; he had told such great ghost stories when our childhood friends spent the night; he had been a wonderful friend, brother-in-law, uncle, son, brother, supervisor, colleague, neighbor, and resident at the nursing home. Of course he had been, I knew the type of person he was, but it was incredibly touching nonetheless.

My father has left a legacy that continues to grow. He has 14 beautful and amazing grandchildren, ages 1-20, 7 girls and 7 boys.  He always wanted more boys in the family and after his death, 4 of those 7 boys were born, two almost on his birthday. I feel his presence often, I feel his guidance and influence in a way I never would have anticipated. And I am grateful every day that I am his daughter.

Thank you for hearing his story.

May your day be sprinkled with HOPE,

Melissa Adamchik, Daughter of William Wambaugh and 1st Executive Director of the Tristate Trauma Network as of 5/19/15 (exactly 4 months to the date from his funeral)


Cincinnati City Council Meeting 2/24/22

Good afternoon, Mayor Pureval and City Council members,

I stand before you today as the Executive Director of the Tristate Trauma Network, a grass-roots initiative that developed approximately 8 years ago out of a need for our mental health professionals to better understand, and to provide better care for, trauma survivors. This came from and was driven by the mental health agencies in the Greater Cincinnati area. It has grown from an advisory group to a true network of professionals, not just in the mental health arena, but in all areas of social services: homeless services, developmental disabilities services, juvenile justice, peer recovery support, to highlight a few; and in speech, occupational, and massage therapy, as well as in education. And we didn’t go looking for these folks, they found us out of NEED, a dire need to understand and help the individuals they serve on a daily basis who’ve experienced trauma. You’ve heard the stats by now, over 70% of the general population has experienced an adverse childhood event that affects them well into adulthood. If you look to your right and to your left and then look within, that’s either you and 1 person next to you or both the people sitting next to you. I have always said this is an “us” phenomenon, not a “them” phenomenon. But there are some groups who are overrepresented, as you’ve heard from others here today. If you’ve been through a trauma, you know how that feels. I, too, know how that feels, but I had the “luxury” of experiencing trauma as an adult, not a child. When I think about what I went through, and I think about all the children I’ve worked with as a mental health therapist in my career in community mental health for 20 years, I know the pain it is causing our children in this community. I see it in their eyes, in their behaviors: in their acting out and shutting down, in their tears, in their anger, in their fear that doesn’t go away, and in their worldviews.

Exactly two years ago, I stood before a group in Columbus and tried, along with some others, to put a sense of urgency to declaring a state of emergency on childhood trauma. I told them, “this is the time, we can’t wait any longer, and we are ready.” Throw a pandemic into the equation and two years later, we are ALL worse for the wear. Our children are suffering more and still can’t get the help they need. Additionally, the adults serving them (teachers, mental health professionals, social workers, therapists of all kinds, and parents) are over-stressed too and need more support.

What I know, in my unique position, is that there are thousands of professionals dedicated to this cause, and thousands of others who want to learn more and do better by trauma survivors. We have the formula. But it takes money and time, and we run short on both. YOU have the ability to bring this to the forefront of the city, to make it a priority, to be the catalyst for relief from the emotional and physical pain that comes with toxic stress and trauma. I urge you to use your positions to do just that. Thank you.

Melissa Adamchik, MA, LPP, Executive Director of the Tristate Trauma Network

My Father Was My Hero; He Was Also a Trauma Warrior – Part 4 – 2/12/22

If you’ve  made it this far, you’re a trooper. It’s hard to sit in the space of trauma, but easier when it’s broken up into pieces and not everything that happens is horrible. We were blessed by some good and uplifting/hopeful experiences throughout those 17 1/2 years and this time, I will tell you about THE most uplifting experience, which occurred during my dad’s last year of life. But before that, a few more things to talk about during his years at the nursing home.  The scary, frequent hospital visits started in 2011 and thus in 2011, 2012, 2013, and especially in 2014, time seemed to be marked by those hospital visits.  My father’s body was continuing to break down, to follow the proper trajectory of the disease. The dopamine that used to run like a waterfall when he was young, slowed to a trickle, and this affected various organs and body systems, thus affecting his functioning in significant ways.  He fought so hard during those years to keep afloat.  What do you do when your own body is the opponent in the ring?  Some days, you let it win because you’re tired and worn and the medication cocktail is too sedating.  And some days, you muster up some gumption and say, “I got it. I won’t let this disease take me down.” I wouldn’t have blamed him for doing the first option most days.  But it wasn’t often that he gave up or submitted to the body’s troubles. That wasn’t in his blood. As much as my mom was a caregiver in her core, my dad was a fighter in his core.

Dad would go to the hospital and just when we thought he was slipping away, he’d gather some of his strength back. The hospital experiences were terrible for all of us, and especially dad. He wanted to be there even less than he did the nursing home. For me, it was an emotional roller coaster and I’d go into a heightened mode of stress and vigilance quite frequently. I always wore my emotions on my sleeve and it was easy to see I was affected.  Sometimes I’d fight by gathering more information and pushing for things that might help dad more; sometimes I’d flee by taking long drives; and sometimes I’d freeze for a bit with overwhelm; always I flocked to my mom and sisters so we could support each other. Those frequent hospital visits did afford me and my sisters opportunities to support dad in ways we never thought about when we were younger.  He had a care team of his wife and six other women now, and this included a lawyer, a psychological practitioner (me), a doctor, a teacher, a social worker, and an insurance agent. I was so happy to serve him in this way with my psychological expertise and my understanding of trauma and sensory issues. I had a sixth sense for his suffering and what he needed. I’m not entirely sure how, but I’ll call it a gift. There were many times I happened to call my mother when they were headed to the hospital.  And because I had been given that gift of sensing it, I knew I needed to be there. My sisters and I would all show up at different times at the hospital and do our things. One time, I had to tell the nursing staff that dad was having a panic attack; I also saw him be triggered by various things; he wasn’t being non-compliant, he was reacting to something that felt dangerous. Several times, I rubbed his feet for some soothing touch & relief (he loved it), and I remember how he let out sighs of relief and noises of content when we washed his hair in a special cap that had the shampoo in it. When your body is causing you mostly discontent, you relish those times when body experiences can be taken in the opposite direction. My sister the doctor kept an eye on the medications they gave him in the hospital, told my mom when one wasn’t a good idea, and asked informed medical questions.  My sister the lawyer made sure mom had all the living will and regular will pieces put together. She advised on all things legal. My 1st grade teacher sister and my social worker sister were warm and gentle like you are when you spend lots of time with children; all of us were, we’d been taught well to care for others.  The social worker sister was also a good advocate, right alongside mom. Remember how my youngest sister was 13 when my dad got diagnosed and still lived at home for many years into his  illness? She and my mom developed a very close bond because they had been through a lot of the trauma together. She had that sixth sense about my mom that I had for my dad, and still does. She knows when mom needs something and alerts the rest of us. People have told me how fortunate my dad was to have my mom and all of us to help him during his illness. And I feel we wouldn’t have been good at it had he and my mom not raised us well. I am aware daily how fortunate I am to have had my father and mother as parents.  The next piece of the story will undoubtedly demonstrate that.

In July 2014, my son Myles turned 8 and we had a birthday party at the pool in our neighborhood. Mom brought dad in his wheelchair.  He still came to all the parties, even if he was tired. And this time, as he sat in his wheelchair watching the kids swim and jump into the pool, he managed to eek out of his shallow voice, “I just want to walk again.” That was his wish on my son’s birthday, to get up and walk, after about 7 years confined to a wheelchair. His wish was barely perceptible to my mom and my sister who were right next to him, and they more or less said, “Oh, you want to walk? Okay, let’s do it, let’s get that figured out.”  This is how we approach challenges as a family. Not “that’s a terrible idea that will not work and be way too dangerous,” rather “okay, let’s figure that out.” I can’t tell you how many times that philosophy has come in handy in my work and my life. My son’s birthday is July 5th and although I don’t remember the date of his party that year, I do remember the day my dad walked again: July 28, 2014.  I also distinctly remember the day he stood up again for the first time because I was on the beach in Florida for a family vacation and mom sent photos and video. That was July 14th. So what we have here is a seemingly impossible wish spoken in early July that was fulfilled within the space of less than 30 days.  Say what??  And how in the world did this feat, and we are truly talking medical miracle here, get accomplished?  The power of the human spirit, the power of faith, the power of love, and the power of support…

Enter another person who believes in the power of all those things: the new physical therapist at dad’s nursing home. A young, strong, bright-eyed, faith-filled man. Also know that my mother’s job had been suddenly eliminated one month prior to where she could spend many more hours a day at the nursing home supporting and caring for my father. Then realize that all the necessary pieces for a miracle to occur have been put into place: my dad’s fighting spirit and strong will; the faith of my dad, my mom, we his children, and his physical therapist; the support of all the people around him cheering him on; and the love I talked about in Part 3. Then you will see how a man whose muscles have atrophied extensively, whose body doesn’t know how to support itself anymore, and whose ability to walk in a forward fashion was stymied many years ago by the reduction of dopamine in his brain CAN FULFILL HIS WISH of walking again.  I still get chills thinking about it. If you could have seen the video, you’d have chills too. If you could have seen him walking at different times for the next couple of months, you’d have been witness to this amazing feat and probably called it a miracle too. When we told everyone we knew, they celebrated with us and with him. We were as elated, if not more so, as the time after his first brain surgery, because this wasn’t a scientific or medical procedure that produced this. This was will, this was faith, this was love and support. This was divine intervention and this created hope. My mother later said, “God worked a miracle through dad and the timing was perfect; we all needed it to happen before his death.”

Photo: My mom took my dad to Dairy Queen to celebrate. This is him showing his pride and elation, as best he could with his facial muscles being what they were at that time. This, my friends, is what triumph over trauma looks like. This is precisely why my father remained my hero through his illness. This is how he earned the title trauma warrior. This David Bowie song “Heroes” sung in a slowed, deliberate fashion by Peter Gabriel, captures the wish and the fulfillment of a hero.

Until next time, which will be the conclusion of the story, may your day be sprinkled with HOPE,

Melissa Adamchik, Daughter of William Wambaugh, Trauma Warrior & Hope Ambassador

My Father Was My Hero; He Was Also a Trauma Warrior – Part 3 – 2/5/22

Sorry, if you’ve felt “left hanging” for a couple of weeks. My life got very busy and frankly,  I took a break while I was on a mini-vacation.  We all need those breaks from trauma stories, and trauma itself, if we can get them. I’m reminded of the times my trauma survivor clients would come in with other things to talk about, and then they’d admit after a while that sometimes, they just couldn’t “go there”/didn’t want to talk about it that day. It felt like “too much” and I could tell their internal resources were worn.  I’ll admit that too. I tried to start this story about 2 years ago during that trauma storytelling workshop. I was emotionally ready and had a good framework to use after that training, and then when it came time to put pen to paper, I wasn’t ready…because other things happened, including a global pandemic.  My resources were tapped and I had written some things in the workshop journal I received, and then it gathered dust and I moved it out of view. All good, you do what you need to do in processing trauma when you’re ready. I will always honor that. You can be on whatever timeline you want. No need to hurry and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Back to the story…if you’ve been paying attention, you may realize that there are only 7 years left in this story.  My father fought Parkinson’s for 17 and 1/2 years, from age 50-age 67 1/2. And let me tell you, the last seven years were a doozy. In March 2008, there was another defining moment.  I had a 6 yr. old and a 1 1/2 yr. old. I was working in a community mental health center running an early childhood mental health initiative that had recently received a new grant.  My husband was working late every night, kids were in daycare until almost 6pm by the time I picked them up, and we’d have some short, precious time at night after dinner and before bedtime to be together.  My plate was full and I was emotionally and physically pretty well tapped. Then one morning, mom called to let each of us know that she’d decided to put dad in a nursing home.  She’d struggled with this decision, but couldn’t take care of him any longer at home without risking further injury to him or her. He had fallen again.  She couldn’t pick him up, she had hurt her back doing that 2 years prior and had needed back surgery.  She wanted him to have a chance at a longer life. He wanted to live longer, he was sure he could tough it out while the cure for Parkinson’s was found. He believed it was within reach. He believed in lots of things still despite his condition. At that point, dad was low functioning physically and was spending mom’s work day at St. Charles Nursing Home where he could be attended to and socialize. He would be switched to full time care there.

It hit me like a ton of bricks, like a punch to the gut. I understood the reason, knew she’d kept him home too long, totally supported her decision, but still it STUNG. It stung like an actual bee sting in my heart and in my eyes, which filled with tears and turned into a sob as soon as I got off the phone. In my mind, this was “the beginning of the end.” Those exact words came out of my mouth to my husband and to a friend. Once dad went into the nursing home full-time, he was on the path to death. He was 60 years and 9 months old, and that was just too early. Why didn’t he get a life to enjoy after retirement? Why did someone who worked so hard and did so much good for others get dealt this hand?  It was too much sadness for me to bear and I knew it was way too much sadness for him too.

So dad went into the nursing home to live, and that’s where he spent the remaining years of his life, at St. Charles, then at Rosedale Manor when St. Charles needed to make major building modifcations. He didn’t want to be there, who does? In the beginning, he would plead with all of us girls to take him home, to go bring the car up and “break him out” of there. This usually happened when mom wasn’t around. She was his security, his safe base. If she was out of town, which she only did a couple of times in the first year or two, he panicked. He was fully serious about being broken out and I wanted to laugh it off like he was joking, but I knew that was just me trying to set aside the pain of that reality. Within a couple of years, he had to be put permanently in a wheelchair so that he wouldn’t fall, another tick down the path. We all know what happens in nursing homes: there are more residents than the staff can handle, people get left alone, they wait long times for someone to help them because of short staffing and/or lots of needs from the residents. The staff do the best they can, but much like when babies are young and need 1:1 help, people with extremely deteriorated functioning often need and always do best with 1:1 help. In addition to increasing physical mobility issues, my dad had lost much of his ability to speak due to muscle deterioration in his mouth. This was a huge blow for him and for us when he couldn’t communicate well and it got harder and harder to pick up words and decipher sounds.

Mom knew the plight of nursing homes and she didn’t want him to be neglected, especially due to his communication and mobility issues. Her new routine, from day one of his admission, was: go to work in the morning, leave work at 5 and head to the nursing home, have dinner with dad every single night, then hang out with him, take care of him, and put him to bed every single night. Ok, she missed a grand total of like 10 nights in 7 1/2 years. But to me that’s still EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. When she needed something, she’d ask the staff for help. But she didn’t need much; she knew what he needed, that’s what happens after close to 40 years of marriage. So she more so befriended the staff and made them feel good about themselves, because that’s how she operates, the ultimate caregiver. It was in her blood and she truly enjoyed taking care of people. And she trusted the whole time that God had a plan, and that last piece is one of the main reasons that in 17 1/2 years, she never fell apart over this. The other piece that held her together was social and emotional support. And that has borne out in the scientific research of adverse experiences for many, many years.  What I witnessed in her and in him inspired me and kept me from completely falling apart myself, but I did fall apart and get put back together many times with the help of others, including a couple different therapists over the years.  And I adjusted, we all adjusted.

In early 2011, we finally figured out why and how dad had Parkinson’s Disease. Oh it had been a veritable Sherlock Holmes mystery trying to figure that out for the 14 years prior. Was it the pesticides mom & dad had used gardening all those years or some other toxic component in something else that was deemed safe then found later not to be safe, was there a genetic component yet unfounded, was he just unlucky like people who get cancer out of nowhere?  The answers to all of those questions were: “it could be.” I’ll never forget the night my physician sister who was still in the military told us a report had come out from the government letting people know that Agent Orange had been found to be tied to a list of 27 neurological diseases, 27, you bet I counted, and guess what one of them was. I was relieved for about 5 minutes, we finally knew! Then I was angry, very angry at that decision made by someone (or ones) to expose their own people to debilitating chemical warfare. They knew what they were doing, it was meant to adversely affect the enemy in the war. How could they not know it would also affect the soldiers? So they took some responsibility to make it right 40 years later. Gee thanks, that’s great of you. My father is dying after sacrificing his life for his country and being exposed to terrible things in the war, then working 30 years for the same government that, in my mind, betrayed him. And it wasn’t just him with this life sentence.  I shuddered to think of all the families that felt the same. I went to D.C. with my family in 2014 and wouldn’t visit the Vietnam memorial. It was too much for my empathic self.

Speaking of frustration and anger, one of the most interesting and perhaps one of the most awe inspiring things that I learned during my dad’s illness was that strong emotions can supersede depleted functioning.  I saw both ends of the spectrum. The smile he usually couldn’t make with his mouth and facial muscles, would actually appear when someone made him laugh or when the grandbabies came around. And when he was angry, the words somehow formed in a way they usually couldn’t. It was like a light in the darkness. I was happy for that anger.  I didn’t want him to be angry, but I wanted him to function better and for those moments, he absolutely could! And then I saw the best thing of all during this prolonged time of overall sadness that was his disease; I saw how the love of my mother sustained him and how his love for her and us sustained him. How did he stay alive for 17 1/2 years when one year into his diagnosis, he had gone all the way to an advanced state of the disease? How did he survive 7 1/2 years in the nursing home?  LOVE. And mostly their love.  I had witnessed the power of true love first hand, the kind that’s in wedding vows and in fairy tales, the kind that doesn’t change even when your loved one drastically changes, the kind that allows a weak, dying man to squeeze a hand and to form a kiss with his lips to kiss his wife, his children, and his grandchildren. I discovered how love heals and how it lights the darkness.  I’ll leave you with that thought.  We have some more to cover and one thing I learned about treating trauma was that you don’t leave someone wallowing in sadness or with an exposed wound, you leave them with something to hang onto, something that helps them cope until the next session, something to believe in.

I think that Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up” perfectly captures their relationship at this stage. Listen if you like.

Until next time, may your day be sprinkled with HOPE,

Melissa Adamchik, Daughter of William & Genie Wambaugh, Ambassadors of True Love


Issues That Matter: How is Trauma Tied to Substance Abuse? 2/4/22

This entry comes to us from Heidi Bitsoli at Sunshine Behavioral Health. Thank you, Heidi, for sharing your research on this topic!

How Is Trauma Tied to Substance Abuse?  

Numerous studies and scientific reviews confirm the well-established connection between trauma and substance abuse. Much of it has to do with how the brain responds to traumatic events such as an accident, abuse, or the death of a loved one.

What Is Trauma?

The general definition of trauma is an emotional response to a distressing event that is dangerous, frightening, or violent. The response can be triggered in the person who directly experienced the distress or someone who witnessed it. Trauma can result from a single emotionally disturbing event (acute trauma), repeated exposure to the ordeal (chronic trauma), or multiple distressing events (complex trauma).

How Trauma Affects the Brain

In an attempt to protect you from the distressing emotions of a traumatic event, the brain shuts off certain functions. Brain functions also become dysregulated and interfere with your ability to cope following the event. Important parts of the brain affected are the amygdala, medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), and hippocampus. These regions are responsible for functions such as memory, learning, and response to stress. Swift protective reaction by the brain to suppress memories often makes it difficult for survivors of trauma to put their experiences into context.

Signs of Trauma in Adults

Children and adults experience and encounter traumatic events, but studies show that children are far less prepared to deal with them. That means the long-term effects of unresolved trauma often continue to play out in their lives into adulthood. While acute physical effects of trauma are short-lived, the emotional and psychological effects tend to persist. Common signs or symptoms seen in adults include:

  • Flashbacks (associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD)
  • Re-living the event repeatedly, leading to retraumatization
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Nightmares
  • Dissociation (mental escape)
  • Negative changes in behavior, e.g., social isolation, avoidance, or loss of emotional control
  • Feeling ashamed, guilty, afraid, emotionally numb, or worthless
  • Psychological problems, e.g., anxiety, depression, PTSD, or chronic insomnia
  • Difficulty with attachment in relationships or turbulent relationships

You can experience these symptoms whether the event recently occurred or happened during childhood. But everyone responds to trauma differently and some show a great level of resilience.

Ways People Cope with Traumatic Events

There are adaptive (healthy) and maladaptive (unhealthy) ways of dealing with trauma related to physical or sexual abuse, neglect, losing a parent or child, or witnessing a homicide. Positive coping skills include asking for emotional support from your family, confronting your feelings, practicing self-care, staying socially connected, and accepting that the trauma happened to you.

While some individuals make progress with these coping strategies, others find it difficult to get past the trauma. They may resort to substance abuse to escape emotional pain. These are unhealthy ways to cope and can lead to substance dependence and addiction.

Correlation Between Trauma and Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse is described as using illicit drugs, misusing prescription drugs, and drinking too much on a frequent or long-term basis. Negative thoughts or feelings and mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression, are risk factors of substance use. Incidentally, all these factors are associated with trauma.

A high percentage of people battling substance abuse suffered trauma in childhood. Furthermore, the rates of alcohol and drug use disorders are higher among men and women reporting sexual abuse.

Many of these people have yet to process the memories and feelings concerning the event. Unprocessed trauma is an underlying reason why people who suffered such an intense ordeal drink or use drugs to cope. They self-medicate with substances to numb emotional pain.

Drinking and drug use are also associated with euphoria that comes from the release of dopamine in the brain. However, drug and alcohol abuse does not resolve trauma. The pleasure these behaviors provide is short-lived. If anything, it can lead to heavier substance use and addiction, worsen the symptoms of mental disorders, and leave you less able to cope.

Healing with Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Trauma and substance abuse are two different things. One is an emotional experience that is psychologically damaging; the other is an unhealthy coping behavior that can turn into a substance use disorder (SUD), or addiction. It’s not unusual for these conditions to co-occur and relate to each other. They are also jointly associated with PTSD.

Because of the strong correlation, it is necessary to receive comprehensive treatment tailored to your needs. While individual treatments are available for trauma and addiction, you can receive them simultaneously. Doctors call it dual-diagnosis treatment. If the inability to cope with trauma is the root cause of substance use, then processing the disturbing events may help curtail the need to self-medicate with addictive substances.

Therapists also seek to help you manage triggers of substance use, such as negative thoughts and feelings about your experience. You’ll also learn positive coping skills to manage PTSD. Treatments and therapies used to accomplish these goals are as follows:

Addiction treatment

Starts with medical detox to eliminate harmful chemicals and toxins in the body. Treatment continues with behavioral therapies, mainly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is an effective science-based therapy for anxiety and depression. Family therapy may be initiated to counsel loved ones on how to provide you with support.

Trauma therapy

Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is a standard treatment for PTSD associated with childhood trauma. Another crucial aspect of recovery is processing the memories of the traumatic experience. Your therapist can try to accomplish this using eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). There’s also trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT), which involves combining trauma-sensitive techniques with cognitive-behavioral techniques to promote healing.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

The unfortunate event that left you traumatized does not have to define the rest of your life. Healing from it can seem impossible at times, particularly when addiction is involved. Through self-compassion and seeking treatment, there’s hope for putting your life back together.

Sources – Substance Use, Childhood Traumatic Experience, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in an Urban Civilian Population – Coping with a Traumatic Event – How Can Trauma Affect the Brain? -Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – Self-Help and Coping – When Trauma Slips into Addiction – Traumatic Stress and Substance Abuse Problems – Dual Diagnosis Addiction Treatment – Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD

*Notes from Melissa: If you need treatment, please consider using our Agency Members (logos and links to their websites are on our Members page), who have committed themselves to practicing more trauma-informed and trauma-responsive care. You may also consult our Trauma Therapist Listing found on our Resources page. Your care and wellbeing is important. Always research a provider or agency for goodness of fit with your needs before engaging in services.

May your day, no matter what part of it you are currently in, show you that there is HOPE around every corner and sometimes it’s right in front of you, perhaps in the eyes of the person you next meet!

Melissa Adamchik, MA, LPP

Executive Director, Tristate Trauma Network

Agency Hero Highlight – Central Clinic Child & Family Treatment Centers 2/1/22

The Child and Family Treatment Centers (CFTC) is a division of Central Clinic Behavioral Health providing trauma-informed mental health services to children 0-18 years old. We offer bi-lingual mental health prevention, intervention, consultation, assessment, testing, and treatment as well as medication services, case management, and therapeutic mentoring to help children be emotionally and developmentally prepared to succeed in school and home. This is achieved through our evidence-based practices, our direct-service programs, and our school-based prevention services. Central Clinic Behavioral Health’s mission is to provide choices and options through a compassionate approach to behavioral health services that results in lasting recovery and resiliency for children, families, and adults.

What Makes You a Trauma Hero in our Community?
The impact of early trauma is profound as it occurs during the period of the most growth and development for the brain. We strive to identify children as early as possible, thus, a trauma screening tool is implemented at the intake appointment before the onset of treatment. Clinicians use the information to inform the treatment planning, so it is trauma informed and trauma focused. In addition, we regularly remind staff of the need to take care of themselves to help avoid burnout as well as vicarious trauma. Our agency has a Trauma-Informed Committee as well as a Wellness Committee who help get our messaging out. We aim to not only provide trauma-informed services but also to provide a safe space for the children and families we serve. We are a certified Trauma Informed agency and believe in the importance of all aspects of our agency to be trauma-informed – from our policies and procedures, to our waiting rooms, to how we answer the phones. We are committed to the work and recognize that this is ongoing work. As we onboard new staff it is essential for all to receive trauma training and we are proud to have made changes to our training and onboarding of staff across the agency. We continue with this work throughout the agency as the work is never done.

Is there a call-to-action you’d like to make?
Call 513-558-5878 to schedule an intake appointment. Or visit Central Clinic’s website at: for more information about all the services provided by this agency.

Thank you to Central Clinic Child and Family Treatment Centers, headed up by Maria Piombo, Ed.D./LPCC-S, for being a TTN Member since the beginning (2016) and for providing specialized services for trauma survivors and the staff who treat them.  Maria had the vision to sign her agency up for TTN’s First Trauma-Informed Care Learning Community in partnership with The National Council for Mental Wellbeing (formerly The National Council for Behavioral Health) in 2016. They have maintained their Trauma-Informed Care Committee ever since, which is super impressive!

Wishing you a day filled with HOPE and with resources like this to find the services you or someone you know needs!

Melissa Adamchik, MA, LPP, Executive Director, Tristate Trauma Network