The Survivors Speak Interview series is dedicated to amplifying the voices of survivors by providing a platform to share our stories and connect us through experiences and healing. Read stories of childhood trauma as survivors share their pain, their hope, and their healing.
Amanda’s Story, Chicago IL
Please share what inspired you to share your story.
I am a trauma psychotherapist as well as a survivor.
Introduce yourself: tell us about your passions, interests, family life, favorite quotes, etc.
I’m a psychotherapist, national speaker, and author. I’ve worked with trauma survivors for 15 years and have provided individual, group, and family therapy in outpatient and residential settings. I’ve devoted my life to helping trauma survivors, particularly those who’ve experienced complex trauma. I’ve been published in Psychology Today, Psychotherapy Networker, Psychotherpay.net, and Chicken Soup for the Soul. I live in Chicago with her partner and I’m raising a sassy black cat named Mr. Bojangles.
Please share your story in as much or as little detail as you are comfortable.
How does a child know they exist if their parents cannot see them? They don’t. How does a child acknowledge their value if their parents do not show them their value? They can’t. Without others, a child doesn’t truly exist.
At 7 years old, my parents disappeared yet their bodies remained. They rarely spoke to me. They stopped cooking meals and cleaning. They stopped being parents. The reasons were a combination of the impact of their intergenerational trauma, an affair which produced a secret child, and financial and sexual abuse in their marriage. They never received treatment, never recovered, never divorced, and never reappeared. Sometimes, I think it would have been easier if they would have died. At least, I would have had the opportunity to grieve and maybe I would have found new parents.
What are some of the challenging ways your trauma has manifested in your life?
At 13 years old, I had limited emotional capabilities, as I couldn’t feel intense emotions.
My brain and body could only tolerate mild-to-moderate short-term emotions. This meant that I rarely felt furious, fearful, or sad. Yet, I also didn’t feel much comfort, joy, or love. Dissociation is an automatic and unintentional survival response that impacts thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. When I didn’t have enough food to eat, my body shut down, so I didn’t feel the hunger pangs. When I didn’t have warm clothes, my body went numb, so I didn’t feel the sting of the cold. When I was ill, I didn’t feel much pain at all.
Dissociation has many benefits, but it also left me feeling as if I did not physically or emotionally exist in the world; it made it difficult for me to know when I was seriously ill or injured, and it prevented me from connecting with others. When people physically touched me, I rarely felt it. I went through the motions of life mechanically as if I was not fully alive, but not yet dead. I was neither truly present nor wholly absent; I was a ghost.
As a teenager, I’d developed full-blown avoidant attachment.
When did healing begin? Was there a catalyst moment and how did you reach this point?
When I was 32, I watched a man die in front on me in a motorcycle accident. I felt no shock, anger, or grief – nothing. The same reaction that I had when my father died a decade earlier. I tried to cry, but once again no tears would come.
This sensation of emotional nothingness, of utter numbness, was familiar and comfortable, but I knew it was wrong. Was I a sociopath? A monster?
I did know one thing: I couldn’t continue to live this way. I wonder whether a part of me felt that the biker died so that I might have a chance to live, or perhaps this was my way of ensuring that his death wasn’t in vain. In any case, this was surely my “rock bottom.”
Two months later, I abruptly left my emotionally and financially abusive husband. He came home one day, and I was gone, never to return. I quit my job at a residential treatment facility where I worked with teenage trauma survivors. This position consumed every part of my life and contributed to my self-neglect. I took a less intensive position at a community mental health center, which gave me the time and space I needed to begin my recovery.
What has your healing journey looked like day-to-day: techniques, modalities, practices, tools you use?
You’d think that a Master’s of Arts Degree in Counseling and five years working as a trauma therapist would give me some indication that I was a trauma survivor, but that was not the case. Fancy degrees and clinical licenses provide little internal insight. Being incapable of love -or, as my clinicians called it, being “insecurely attached” – was normal for me; it was all I’d ever known.
Once I realized that I was survivor, I began intense trauma therapy.
I participated in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Somatic Experiencing, Internal Family Systems therapy, animal-assisted therapy, and talk therapy, engaged in support groups, and took anxiety medication. After five years, I’d made significant progress. I began to feel like I existed in the world and had value. I learned how to experience emotions and physical sensations. I rekindled my relationship with my older brother, began to build authentic friendships, and married a safe, loving man. As a clinician, I continued my work with trauma survivors with renewed vitality, empathy, passion, and insight.
What are two or three things you have learned as you heal that you believe are important for survivors to know as they heal?
1. You don’t have to forgive in order to recovery from trauma. If forgiveness helps you, do it. If it does not, you don’t have to. Forgiveness should be elective.
2. Be aware of people who have conflicts of interest when it comes to your recovery. Family members might not want you to recover so that a dysfunctional family dynamic can continue. People might want to silence you because your story makes them feel uncomfortable. Yet, there are many people who either have no conflict of interest or they are interested in what benefits you. These are the people to involve in your recovery.
More Information About Amanda
I am writing a book about forgiveness in trauma recovery called: You Don’t Need to Forgive: Embracing Elective Forgiveness in Trauma Recovery.
I’m giving away a free eBook, 25 Trauma and Anxiety Coping Hacks: click HERE to sign up.
Facebook and LinkedIn: AmandaAnnGregory
Thank you for sharing your story Amanda!
Share Your Story
Sharing your story is a powerful part of your healing journey. It helps you find and reclaim your voice and it helps others who are trying to find there’s. It lets us all know that we are not alone when we can connect through shared lived experiences.
If you would like to share your own story with the Surviving Childhood Trauma community, please use the link below to submit it.
Looking for Ways to Connect With Other Survivors and/or Receive Support as You Heal?
Survivor’s Circle Peer Support Groups might be just what you need.
These small groups meet on alternating days of the week via Zoom. In these groups, survivors connect, share, and support each other through the ebbs and flows of healing. Attend a session and experience the magical healing that happens when survivors connect and support each other through shit only we can understand.
You can also book individual 1:1 peer support sessions with Shanon for private support in a closed space. You deserve support as you heal, and I am here to help. You don’t have to heal alone.
On the Journey Peer Support Monthly Package
As a part of this monthly support program you will gain access to all Survivor’s Circle Peer Support group support sessions every month as well as individual 1:1 peer support sessions with Shanon each month.
Hi, I am Shanon
I am a trauma informed, trained, and Certified Peer Support Specialist in the state of Wisconsin. I am also a survivor with years committed to my own trauma healing after being diagnosed with (C) PTSD due to childhood abuse. Additionally, I have a professional and personal history of community facilitation and peer work.
I specialize in helping survivors like you make connections between real time experiences and past trauma wounds, identify and communicate boundaries, create self-care plans that work, navigate big emotions and trauma responses, reparent your inner child, and embody your own self-worth through the healing process with confidence and personal empowerment.
These support groups and 1:1 peer support sessions should not replace professional therapy; they will however provide additional support and information.