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.
MAY YOU, TOO, BE MOVED AND/OR INSPIRED BY KELLY’S STORY, AND MAY IT BRING YOU SOME OF THE HOPE WE ALL DESPERATELY NEED IN TODAY’S WORLD.
Melissa Adamchik, MA, LPP, Executive Director of TTN and Ambassador of “Team Hope”