Finding Faith Community, Nature, Exercise, Nutrition, and Mindfulness to Heal Intergenerational Trauma

Finding Faith Community, Nature, Exercise, Nutrition, and Mindfulness to Heal Intergenerational Trauma

A Catalyst Conversation with La Tausha Wade
Transformational Life Coach, Anxious for Nothing, and Mental Health Coordinator, Lincoln Families

Catalyst Center held a series of conversations with diverse providers and trauma survivors from varied sectors to discuss how to address Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), human-centered approaches to healing, and cross-sector collaboration to mitigate the toxic stress response and curb the cycle of intergenerational trauma.

How ACEs show up in our everyday life

Q: What do ACES mean to you?

A: It took me into my thirties before I knew that I had an ACE score. I couldn't understand why, when it came time to take the test, or why, when someone behind me just opened up a package of potato chips during a lecture, or there was movement, that I could not function, I was easily distracted. And in college we started to learn about how our early childhood experiences, those adverse childhood experiences, they not only show up in how we function in the world academically and socially, but they also show up in our health. ACEs gives the explanation as to the why.

Q: You mentioned a few examples of personal triggers. What are triggers, and how do they impact you?

A: I always am careful to speak from my own perspective. For me, triggers are those things that take you back to the trauma, in an instant, they will take you back to exactly where you were and exactly how you felt when that trauma was taking place, the helplessness of it. And so, breathing becomes really important. Inhaling and exhaling. And a lot of times when we don't know our triggers, we shut down, because the world is coming at us. Whether you're speaking to a healthcare provider, whether you're in the community, everything begins to sound like noise because you're in that space where there was so much pain in your environment. You can't function, but the people around you don't know that you're not functioning, they don't know that you're back in that space. And your reactions and your responses may not necessarily be true of you. It's just a result of survival.

The way that I handle my triggers is with mindfulness. I have to have it. I have to breathe. I think we have to start teaching deep breathing because cleansing breaths, like yoga, has been kind of like a white woman's thing, something that is only accessible to certain socioeconomic communities. And it's not true. When I feel a trigger, I just inhale and exhale. I remind myself that I'm okay. I've learned in conversations, no matter where I am, to say, excuse me, I need to breathe. I don't have to say that I'm being triggered, but I need to breathe. I need to meditate. I need to connect with my higher being, my greater source for me. That's God. And it allows me to be okay. And to know that I am well and that this, too, will pass.

The “a-ha’s” needed to heal from ACEs

Q: How did you discover your triggers, and how did you discover what to do on a day-to-day basis that has helped you?

I wanted to nurse my son. It was so important to me. I was a new mom. It's something that I had always wanted to do. Well, I brought home my son and got ready to nurse him and realized that I was being triggered. I am a survivor of molestation. I was four years old. So going into kindergarten, I knew that I was different. And I thought as an adult, I was okay, because I talked about it. I'm very transparent with my life. I work with children and family services. I am a certified rape crisis counselor. I thought, oh, I'm fine. I had my son and I wanted to breastfeed him—the most beautiful thing that I should have been able to do. And I couldn't put him to my breast. And I became angry, sad, and depressed. I checked myself into therapy because talking is therapeutic.

I had a therapist who jumped across the table. A black therapist. I had never seen that before. I think she was an angel. I said, “Well, I had a great family, a strong family, but things happen.” And she jumped across the table, and she said, “You're as sick as your secrets.” And in that moment, I hated her.

And I didn't know that she was liberating and setting me free. Growing up, there are things you just don't talk about. It's family business. That's dangerous to our mental health, as a community, it is so dangerous. And that psychiatrist prescribed me Paxo to deal with anxiety, and saved my life by telling me the truth. I knew then that [this moment] correlated with scripture because I've always lived off of “The truth will set you free. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

And when she did that, she had the nerve to write me a prescription. I grew up seeing alcoholism, drug abuse, my extended family members, and my sometimes drug addicted baby cousins. I have an aversion to pills. It took me a long time to even enjoy wine and learn that I'm not going to go into addiction. Her prescribing me a pill was very serious. And I just remember thinking, “I'm not taking this.” And then there was the other side, where it was like, “But you probably should, because you're not okay.” And I prayed and I walked out of there and I said, “Okay, what can I do in addition to this?” I prayed, I meditated. I didn't know, but I was really doing yoga. I didn't have a label for it. I just knew that I didn't want to be addicted. And that's not to say that we shouldn't take our medication when we need it, but I just knew that at that moment, I needed something else.

I started meditating and researching everything on meditation. I started affirmations. You know, Socrates, the secret of change. It's not in focusing on the old, it's on building the new. So that's what I started to do. I started with my parents. My dad had always introduced me to nature. My family introduced me to God and nature. So, I started spending more time outdoors.

Healing ACEs through buffering protections

Q: You made a beautiful connection between recognizing the adversities of your relatives while also celebrating their resilience. Thank you for pointing out that protective factors, like faith and access to nature, can buffer the effects of intergenerational trauma and build resilience.
Let’s rewind back to when you were talking about a mental health professional, who first reached across the table to reach out to you. In those interactions, did she ever talk about programs or services that were available to you, and provide you with a variety of healing options?

A: I was not offered other alternatives. My provider didn't do that. She did jump across the table and tell me the truth, but she wrote me a prescription and I just knew that wasn't for me. I just knew that there were other alternatives, and I could get back glory to God and to my community, especially my dad, because he would always take us to like lake Chabot. I remember just being in spaces like that with him. I felt alive, even as a child, and I didn't know what it was. I knew I had to get back to that. I remember watching my dad ride a bike, and thinking, “He's a survivor, you know, a thriver and a survivor.”

When we exercise, we release happy endorphins. When those endorphins come out, we want to eat better. Even if we make one small change, maybe I'm eating an orange today, and I haven't had a piece of fruit in a month because I don't see it every day in my community.

I needed to know that I can go to the park and buy a yoga mat for $6 and just sit there in the sunlight.

I have a hiking community. I meet beautiful people who are on the trails for all sorts of reasons. I'm learning every day, sometimes the same lessons, the importance of coexisting and being inter-connected.

I needed to know that I could pray. I happen to be Christian, but whatever your higher being that you can tap into, we all need to know that we're not in this alone. I needed to know that those options were available to me.

Breathing, exercise, eating well, drinking water, sunlight, nature, God healers. That's all healing. That's all essential. It's imperative. We need the options. And as service providers and healthcare providers, we are in a powerful role in terms of healing as it pertains to the masses.

I created a community where I allowed others to heal me. And then I returned to heal others, and it began in truth. And that's what ACEs is. It's about truth. And that's why it's essential because people don't know why. And when you don't know why, you fall into all sorts of harmful behaviors, just trying to cope. We repeat the patterns when we don't know the why. We feel inadequate. When we don't know the why, we don't show up in all of our greatness. I feel like had someone taken the time, or had known… How can you combat something that you have no clue exists? It's harmful to you, but when you know, you can become a champion in your life and an overcomer. And that's what I do.

Spreading the gospel through sharing and mindfulness

Q: How do you use your practice as a Transformational Life Coach and Mental Health Coordinator to help others heal from their adversity?

A: I take tools and supports that I've learned in my life, and I share it. It's the gift that keeps giving. We have a scripture in our faith that says, “[S]he who refreshes others will also be refreshed.” When I'm doing my work—because it's a journey, we're always doing our own work—I'm sharing and I'm helping others to do their own work. Then we are healing, and we are overcomers. It's not about just surviving. It's about thriving. ACEs allows for our communities to thrive. We don't want to survive anymore.

ACEs allows for our community to be mindful. Mindfulness begins with an understanding of who you are from the lens of constructing a plan to win. Now I can take charge of my life. Now I can look at my children with fresh eyes. When we can breathe for a second and say, “Wait, maybe there's something behind this, this chronic asthma,” or “maybe there's something going on with my child who can't sleep throughout the night,” or “maybe I'm not able to digest food.” Maybe instead of parenting from a perspective of “You better eat that on your plate. You better eat it!” Maybe now I can be mindful and say, “Wait a minute, what is my child experiencing? I wonder if something's coming up that we're not talking about?” ACEs makes it safe. We don't have to point the finger at anyone. We don't have to throw anyone under the bus. We can just say these adverse circumstances happened and now we can do something about it because we know. And knowledge is power.

Spreading awareness requires cross-sector partnerships to treat and heal!

Q: Thank you for making the connection between mindfulness and positive parenting to help prevent the continuation of intergenerational trauma.  
Tell me about your thoughts on the power of cross-sector collaboration in healing adversity from trauma.

A: For the people who have been the arms and hands to pour into me to have these hard conversations, where there's a healthcare provider, a social worker, a teacher, a counselor, I am grateful.

I've learned that the world is beautiful, but that attitude is everything. I've learned to partner. As I mentioned, I wear many hats. I've learned that we need doctors, social workers, the faith based community, change agents within the community. Whether it's the receptionist at the desk, whether it's the person behind the counter at the local grocery store, I learned that we are all members of one body. And when we operate from a holistic space, we heal our world, and we allow room for everybody to win. I've learned the importance of community. I've learned the importance of diversity. It is essential. I have learned that without a vision, people perish, and when we have knowledge, that is power, that we can create a new vision for ourselves.

One of my favorite scriptures is that “We are all members of one body.” I can't do what you do. You can't do what I do. We're all members of the same body when we show up and we provide wraparound care. Now we're doing the work!

I learned that there are people who will stand and fight with me in the community, and healthcare, and church. I've learned that through adversity, we can create something very beautiful when we have the tools that we need.

The following diagrams on evidence-based buffering interventions, provided by the California Office of the Surgeon General through the ACEs Aware initiative, summarize seven “stress busters” that reflect some of the evidence-based healing options that La Tausha mentions above, as well as the clinical evidence to support them.


For further information on the findings that ground the implementation and science behind the ACEs Aware initiative, please review Roadmap to Resilience: The California Surgeon General’s Report on Adverse Childhood Experiences, Toxic Stress, and Health.

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