Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘I started this personal journey of what I now call “coming home to me.”’

Point Lookout

“My life of loss began the day our young mom left due to childhood wounds of her own, and though her choice deeply impacted us, I have come to understand how losing her own mom at a young age traumatized her. When I was 23, I became a young widow and a single mom resulting from a tragic accident. Later in life, I remarried and gave birth to my third child. Unfortunately, we ended up in divorce, leaving me a single mom of three children. Fast-forward to around my early 40s, and I met somebody new. After five years, we were engaged. It was everything I could have ever wanted at that point in my life: to have family unity in the home and in love. The wedding didn’t come to pass. It threw me into a tailspin, becoming the catalyst in saying, ‘Enough is enough’ and wanting to understand how this loss, along with all other past losses, impacted me.

“I started this personal journey of what I now call ‘coming home to me.’ I went to therapy and also started doing my own research. After watching a video on childhood trauma, everything began to click. Since my 30s, I’ve always written. I don’t have a journalism degree, but I am published, and it’s a part of my journey that I cannot explain. As I started to write about what I was learning, people would reach out to me for information on mental health. Next thing I know, I found myself unemployed. I had nothing to lose.

“There were so many people looking for resources, so I spent the next couple of months working on all the details for our first mental health community resource event at a local library. I did everything for it: I coordinated it, I contacted people, I made the flyer. We had 32 agencies show up. It was more than I even planned. I didn’t have any experience with this. Once I saw how well it worked out, I started coming up with other topics and did 10 presentations over the years. Originally, when I introduced the topic of trauma, the library was hesitant because trauma is not an easy topic to discuss, but I knew it was something I wanted to talk about. It was the most well-attended event. There were no open chairs left. You could hear a pin drop. The speaker had their full attention.”

Because of the wounds we carry, we sometimes hurt people and we don’t mean to do it.

“What I’ve learned, unfortunately, in my life, is that when we have trauma that’s not addressed or healed, we walk around with it. Because of the wounds we carry, we sometimes hurt people and we don’t mean to do it. It’s not an intentional thing. We don’t realize. That’s why childhood trauma, or generational trauma, is prevalent throughout the world. I come from a family of generational wounding, and we were all too young when these traumas happened, and we had no support. Generational trauma can take generations to heal. I want to see families be connected, not detached from each other. We’re getting smarter and starting to understand how the brain works, especially in a child’s developing brain. We need to heal ourselves and our community members. Nobody should have to wait until their 60s to get their act together and understand who they are.

“The last column I wrote was really about how meditation helped me to connect with my inner self, the disconnected part of myself. I did guided meditation, and each time, I became very emotional. That’s when I realized I was connecting to my feelings. I’m coming home to knowing myself again – like really, truly knowing who I am. I’m feeling a love for myself that I haven’t felt most of my life. There’s always been something missing, and that thing I was missing was me. It brings tears to my eyes. Now, I could feel and love myself. I take each day as it comes. I think the beauty of having a voice is to use it to help people. I have nothing to gain by helping other people, except knowing that maybe somebody will be spared some of the pain that I’ve had to live through. It’s a very strange feeling to not know who you are.

“You can go through life not being connected to yourself and feel fine, or believe that you feel fine, but it takes time to reconnect with yourself. Everybody’s journey is unique. I’ve seen peoples’ resilience and other people’s journeys. I know for myself that I took too many hits and too many losses, so I wanted to really understand all of this because I didn’t want to hurt people. Life has taught me the hard way, but this is my journey.”

Instead of faulting each other for the traumas we carry, we should have compassion for the ones we carry, and do whatever we can to help each other. We always have to have hope.

“For those of us who have lost ourselves in childhood, it wasn’t through anything we did. It’s a survival mechanism that takes place. We disassociate and disconnect from ourselves because we were just in survival mode. As a child, we needed healing resources, and that’s what trauma-informed care is about. That’s what I want to focus on going forward. That’s what this journey has been about – learning about traumas and how the brain works and how healing works. It’s a very complex thing. It’s about realizing the power of these unhealed wounds and how they impact our lives. Everybody deserves to be happy, to have self-confidence and high self-esteem and to believe they are worthy of love. People have every right to feel it and to learn how to do that for themselves. People who have childhood trauma and wounds grew up believing that they’re unlovable, and then we make choices based on that without even realizing it’s all subconscious. It’s an issue of trust. We have to learn to trust ourselves first before we can trust any other human being.

“When you’re not available to yourself, you can hurt people. That survival feeling of having to self-protect is always there. I have to try to find ways to bypass that feeling, and I have to take care of myself. That’s why awareness is key and to understand the choices you’re making and why you’re making them. The wall is always there. That doesn’t go away, but now, I don’t want to stay behind that wall. I’m going to try to climb over it to get to the other side because I know there’s something better there. It’s not easy to let that go. It’s been an armor all your life, but it’s not the kind of armor that helps you grow. Some people are suffering so much that they can’t find it, but I just want to see people have happiness. Instead of faulting each other for the traumas we carry, we should have compassion for the ones we carry and do whatever we can to help each other. We always have to have hope.”

Interviewed by Melanie Gulbas