Defying Gravity: A TTN Intern’s Reflection on the 2022 Annual Fall Conference – 11/2022

I asked my Fall Intern from Gateway to write a blog on her experience at the 2022 Fall Conference on 10/10/22, and below is what she sent me. I hope you feel as moved as I do by her experience. It illuminates EXACTLY why I do this work, and why the community needs agencies like the Tristate Trauma Network.

“My name is Kelly and I have been interning at the Tristate Trauma Network since August. This was my very first conference; I really didn’t know what to expect. However, my experience was enriching. I’m not sure if this is how all conferences are, but I was expecting to be bored for most of the time. I had a prior engagement, so I didn’t arrive until 11:15 am. I then sat at the TTN table in the Vendor Room, just answering questions and directing people. There was a conference lunch break coming up and a little before noon, a woman who was volunteering came to sit with me at the TTN table who was genuinely nice. You could tell she wasn’t just being nice because she felt obligated too. I exchanged contact information with her to hopefully stay in touch.

There were so many different agencies at this conference in the Vendor Room. I was able to walk around and learn more about each agency and what they do for the community. I am happy to report that there are more helping agencies that are in our community than people realize.

Natalia Rachel, a somatic therapist from Singapore, was one of the guest speakers at the conference. I had noticed her book, “Why Am I Like This? Illuminating the Traumatized Self,’ near the TTN table and read the brief synopsis on the back of it. I was intrigued, so I decided to attend her afternoon session, as Melissa, the Director of TTN, told me I could attend a session in the afternoon to have a learning experience at the conference too. A friend of hers was also interested in that session and joined me. We walked in the room and the session had already begun. We found a vacant table toward the back of the room. Natalia gave us a little background information about herself. She then spoke about the power of touch, where she had learned her skill set, and how anyone can utilize it.

Before I continue, I want to say that I believe in laying hands on people in prayer. For example, if someone were sick, I would lay my hands on them and pray for them to get better or to be healed. That being said, I’ve only ever done this with my family members. I would feel so awkward walking up to a stranger and asking them if I could do that. Anyway, that is close to what I was invited to do in the session as an experiential activity. The Director’s friend and I had never met before, we didn’t know anything about one another.  For privacy’s sake, I will refer to him as John.

Natalia demonstrated the power of touch on a volunteer from the audience. Now it was our turn to try it for ourselves. I went first as the “client”; John had to stand behind me and put his hands on my shoulders (with my permission) and then on my arms, for 10 minutes each. I’m not going to lie; it was strange at first. My heart was racing, I was very aware that there was a stranger touching me. Then after a few minutes, my mind and body got over it and a calm swept over my body. I thought, “this is actually kind of nice.” When my turn was over, I told him what I had felt: going from nervous and scared to calm. He said that it wasn’t the first time that he had heard that, apparently people have told him before that he has a calming presence. Coincidence, maybe.  Now it was his turn to be the “client.” I put my hands on his shoulders and then his arms (with his permission), for 10 minutes each. I remember that he literally jumped when I first put my hands on his arms. When his turn was over, he said that it felt nice, after the initial shock of a stranger touching him, of course.

Natalia then demonstrated the 2nd part of the exercise for the group. The person that volunteered from the audience started tearing up during the exercise. I mean, can you imagine coming to a conference and then having this kind of reaction? I don’t know what else to say, other than it was intense. Now it was our turn to try the 2nd exercise. This time John went first. I first put my hands on his shoulders, then arms, then chest and back simultaneously. When his turn was over, we had a minute to talk, and he said that it felt nice and went into detail about what he had felt. I had a feeling, that I can’t describe, that he didn’t have a mother. Call it motherly instinct, or maybe God was speaking to me. Whatever it was, I didn’t know if I should ask him or not. I thought, “is this too intense for a conference?” Well, I ended up asking, but first I asked if I could ask him a personal question. It turns out he had lost his mother and wasn’t close to his father. I was blown away; how did I feel every bit of that just by touching a stranger? Amazing, just amazing. Then it was my turn again, only I didn’t feel the calming sensation that I had felt the first time; this time I found it hard to breathe. I felt as though a weight was on my chest. I kept envisioning one of those 10-ton anvil weights made from lead. I have a lot of past trauma, and I have not dealt with it in a therapeutic setting. I feel like that, combined with my current lifestyle, work, school, family, was the reasoning for my reaction. After this experience, I decided to seek therapy for myself.  This session was very intense, very eye opening, and very tranquil. I am glad to have been apart of it. I can’t wait until my next TTN conference.”

My thoughts: If we can create this type of eye-opening, yet caring and tranquil experience for trauma survivors, we are doing exactly what the founders and I set out to do with the Tristate Trauma Network.  It gives me chills and tears of joy when this happens. Kelly found her “inner healer/therapist” in her very intuitive experience with her session partner and then FELT HER BODY TELL HER what she needed to hear, which was, “I am holding in a lot of stress and pain and need help with this.”

I want to thank Natalia for creating the environment and having these skills to share with our conference attendees, and I want to thank Kelly for being vulnerable enough to share this, as I had no idea what to expect from her. I now know that she is a brave and strong trauma survivor who began her path to healing that day. Wow. I am so proud of her and my friend who was her partner; and both amazed and humbled by this work that so many of us are doing to help trauma survivors.

You may have noticed that I like to put a song to each of these experience-based blogs, to reflect/symbolize  the content. The one I found for this one, after much thought, is “Defying Gravity” from the musical “Wicked”. Take a listen and see if you agree.


Melissa Adamchik, MA, LPP, Executive Director of TTN and Ambassador of “Team Hope”