INVITE HEATHER TO SPEAK
Who Am I? Here's My Story:
I was born and raised in Vero Beach, Florida. I grew up with three older brothers and a fraternal twin sister. The best memories of my childhood are going to the beach, riding horses, and visiting with my grandparents.
Yet, apart from these good memories—memories of growing up with little emotional connection with two alcoholic parents, plus even feelings of being "invisible" within a family system. (And I share this with you because these difficult memories are an important part of who I am today and why I am so passionate about the work that I do). As a child, I found connection and validation through academics and graduated at the top of my class. Following high school, I attended the University of Florida and earned a bachelor's degree in architecture and a master's in construction management.
After working for ten years in the field of architecture, I woke up one morning with this pulling desire to be a parent. Due to numerous health issues and operations in my past (all a result of growing up in a stressful environment), adoption became the way to motherhood. After four long months of countless phone calls and long nights working on paperwork, I found myself in Russia meeting my son, an adorable 2 1/2 year old little boy.
This was a major turning point in my life. Motherhood became the most difficult task I had ever undertaken. I had accomplished any goal I set my mind to in the past. Focus, self-discipline, and pure determination had been my tools to success. Yet, in the first six months of motherhood, nothing I had used in the past was working. Nothing-nothing was working. In fact, it was only getting worse.
Out of pure insanity or complete denial, I was in Russia a year and a half later, adopting again! This time I was meeting my daughter, a beautiful 4-year-old little girl. She was completely different, yet in the back of my mind, I kept hearing, "She's too good...there is something very wrong here."
As you can imagine, I had created quite a situation within a very short amount of time. After late nights of research, consultations with "experts," and at least 200 books on attachment and bonding, I was still at a complete loss of how to bring peace into our home.
Late nights of research turned into late nights of curling up on the bathroom floor, crying in a complete state of helplessness. Yes, I've been there on the floor with you, feeling terrified of the future and feeling as if life was no longer worth living!
I decided that since I was doing all this research, I should return to school and change my career path. Looking back, I was simply returning to the environment that I knew in my early years that had sustained me through stress—academia. I earned a master of social work and sought training in the area of attachment and bonding. It was finally the insight into the understanding of trauma and fear that solved the mystery. My children weren't acting "bad," they were scared, overwhelmed, and living out of a traumatic framework.
After working to first change myself and the interpretation of my children's behaviors, I was then able to parent in a whole new way. It also required intensive healing of my past childhood experiences in order to be able to become emotionally available to my children's pain and fear. I came to realize that if you want to change something in your life, there's only one place to look: inside you. And when you look to make this change, you must do so with love.
It took learning to love myself. First, though, it required a true understanding of the essence of love. We cannot give something we don't understand or something we have not yet received. Loving yourself is the key to being able to love others unconditionally, without requirements. This is especially essential to parenting a child with a trauma history who simply does not have the capacity to receive love or reciprocate love due to the intensity of his/her internal pain and fear.
When unconditional love is put into action, it truly is the "cure" to creating peace in the home. It simply takes learning how to put it into action. Traditional parenting techniques are fraught with fear, disguised as love. Shifting your perspective to allow the light of love to overcome the darkness of fear is the only way.
My children are young adults now and we certainly have come a long way! My children are more emotionally intelligent than most people I know and they understand the dynamics of human interactions beyond their years. Their early experiences of abandonment, abuse, and neglect continue to be a process of integration for them as they define who they are and discover what their purpose in this world is. No matter our struggles as a family even today (as every family will always have), the difference now is that we will NEVER go back to that bottomless pit of hopelessness and despair. What we will always have from this point forward is relationship and hope. Now that's the power of love!
If you are struggling with the effects of trauma in your home, I want this level of healing for you. I am passionate about providing the resources and understanding you need to make your family work for you. It's hard work. It's a journey of commitment and tenacity. Yet, it's what life is about - loving relationships. You aren't living unless you are emotionally attuned to both yourself and to those around you.
I am committed to helping families and changing the false traditional interpretation of how to love and discipline children. There is a way to pull out of the depth of pain that resides in so many families (and perhaps your family). I hope you'll join me on this journey to bring love back into a world that is living in too much fear and pain. Love never fails!