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Elizabeth Guthrie is a board certified wellness practitioner who is living with PTSD and Long Covid. She’s an expert in Trauma and helps people use natural wellness as part of a trauma recovery program. There are so many questions around trauma – what it really is, do we have to address all of it, do we even have to know why we have it?

She gets into the nitty gritty and helps clear up quite a few myths about trauma- and also talks about great tools (like being kind to yourself) that can help in any trauma recovery program. We talk about everything from Trauma’s role in chronic illness to the microbiome and how it can pass trauma through generations.

Guest Spotlight: Elizabeth Guthrie

Elizabeth Guthrie

Elizabeth Guthrie is a board certified wellness practitioner with over fifteen years of experience in natural medicine. 

She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Complementary Medicine and a Master’s of Public Health in Functional Nutrition. 

She has helped create research for UAB’s Integrative Medicine clinic, teaches practitioners online, and works as a wellness practitioner and yoga instructor in Birmingham, AL

Elizabeth’s personal experiences led her to begin studying trauma and its effects on the body and mind. Now she helps others to learn how natural wellness can be safely implemented as part of a trauma recovery journey.

Connect with Elizabeth Guthrie:

Get Elizabeth’s book, The Trauma Informed Herbalist

Resources mentioned in the episode:

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NOTE: This podcast was transcribed by an AI tool. Please forgive any typos or errors.

Elizabeth Guthrie

Elizabeth Guthrie
Hi, everyone. Welcome to live your life. Not your diagnosis. I'm your host, Andrea Hanson. Now, I don't know about you. But if I travel for work, my body is going to need to rest. When I get back. It's a little bit of a non-negotiable. And when I tried to push back even like a little bit, like I did this
My whole week gets a bit funky. So this last weekend, I was speaking at a wellness event in California. It was fabulous. It was in Palm desert, which is beautiful. I had never been there before. I was doing the keynote speech for a weekend centered around living well with multiple sclerosis. And I've loved
The people I met were amazing. And then I came home and I needed to crash. But I also needed to do a lot of other things as well. Right. Things that I had put off. Because of all the prep and front end work that I needed to do for going out and speaking this weekend.
So maybe I didn't listen a hundred percent to my body. Look, it happens. I'm not perfect. Nobody But since I didn't give my body, the rest it needed. I've been working on like half a tank all week.
And sometimes it just happens. Right. I've tried to build in rest periods all week. Even if I don't get a whole day off, I still have little pockets. Of time to rest. And I'm starting to feel normal again. And for sure this coming weekend, it's all about me. It's all about the family, right? No work will happen at all.
But the takeaway for me. Is that sometimes we can't build in exactly what we need. But we can always be kind to ourselves when that happens.
So I didn't judge myself. I wasn't mean I wasn't harsh. I allowed myself to work at half capacity and slowly. And I was there for myself as much as possible.
So even if you can't give yourself a hundred percent of what you need. You can give yourself 100% kindness. Don't judge yourself. Go easy on yourself. You're not perfect. I'm not perfect. Nobody's meant to be perfect. But we can be kind about it
Today's episode mirrors that message as well. I'm talking to Elizabeth Guthrie who has PTSD and long COVID, she's an expert in trauma. And she helps people use natural wellness as a part of their trauma recovery program. I think there are so many questions around trauma, What is it exactly? Right. Do we have to address all of it? Do we even have to know why we have that in order to heal
Elizabeth gets down to the nitty gritty and she helps clear up quite a few myths about trauma. And she also talks about really great tools. Like being kind to yourself. That can help in any trauma recovery program. We talk about everything from trauma's role in chronic illness. To the microbiome. And how it can pass trauma through generations.
Please enjoy this week's episode. And visit Andrea Hanson, for more on Elizabeth Guthrie resources that we talk about in the show. And transcripts from today's episode. Welcome to the live your life, not your diagnosis podcast. I'm Andrea Hanson, author, motivational speaker. And master certified coach. When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I was told. I would never reach my goals. But I did. And I'm on a mission to prove that life with a chronic illness can still be expansive and quite remarkable.
Everyone has their own unique path. I'm talking to people, living with a chronic illness that come from different backgrounds, have different points of view and are achieving amazing life goals of all kinds. To you inspire you To achieve what you thought was impossible. These stories are raw. Uncensored and judgment free. Listener discretion is advised
[00:04:03] Andrea: I'm here with Elizabeth Guthrie. She is a board certified wellness practitioner with over 15 years of experience and natural medicine. She holds a Bachelor's of Science and Complimentary Medicine and a Master's of Public Health and Functional Nutrition. She has helped create research for UABs Integrative Medicine Clinic, teaches practitioners online and works as a wellness practitioner and yoga instructor in Birmingham, Alabama.
Elizabeth's PTSD diagnosis led her to begin studying trauma and its effects on the body and the mind.
Now she helps others to learn how natural wellness can be safely implemented as part of a trauma recovery journey. As of this year, she has also been diagnosed with long covid. Elizabeth I'm so glad to have you.
[00:04:51] Elizabeth: Thanks. I'm really glad to be here.
[00:04:53] Andrea: I, we were just talking a little bit before the show. I am so glad to have you on because I really want to get into the nitty gritty of trauma in a fun way.
Like we don't have to be , this doesn't have to be crazy, but just the idea of trauma, what it really means, what it does in our mind, what it does in our body, what it does to the connection between the mind and the body, and what it has to do with chronic illness. So, so many things. Just, , a few
[00:05:26] Elizabeth: Right. Well, it's, it's really amazing to realize and, and people have become even more aware of it because of the stress of the last few years. It's amazing to realize how much our experiences shape. The way that we physically feel. And I began to realize that this chronic illness connection with trauma is one of the most important things that I could do to help people is, is to recognize like, this is something that is exacerbating my illness.
Is it going to cure your illness to, to work on the trauma? No. I'm not promising that I'm not, that's not what I'm saying. But what I am saying is, is that a lot of the times it can exacerbate how you're feeling. And if you can work through some of this and if you can get yourself back to a place where you've resolved some of the things that you've experienced, then you have more energy to start living that amazing life that you want and living in a way that allows you to adjust where you need to instead of spending a lot of time trying to manage those feelings of, of the unresolved trauma.
[00:06:34] Andrea: I love the idea of, of looking at trauma with, in a chronic illness, you spoke to how having trauma can exacerbate the symptoms and what's going on with a chronic illness. Something else that I know, and actually from personal experience, is that for many chronic illnesses, it starts with a genetic marker or.
, some have like 200 genetic markers. It's kind of crazy. And then it's an epigenetic game, right? Like those genetic markers aren't necessarily turned on until it interacts with something in the environment. So it can be something like stress, it can be something like, I mean, I'm speaking for MS because I'm, I'm, that's what I know.
, but it can be things like air pollution, but it can also be things like trauma , For me, I had someone very close to me pass away in a very traumatic way, and within a couple of years I was diagnosed.
[00:07:30] Elizabeth: That's actually very common. So there's research now that shows us that people who have adverse childhood events, so very stressful childhoods are more likely to have chronic illnesses as adults. , I also have had personal experiences with this where traumatic events have triggered certain issues popping up for me or for family members.
My mother was actually the first person that I saw with a chronic illness. She had fibromyalgia when I was a child, and I don't think it was necessarily brought on by a specific event. , but she had a lot of trauma in her past that built up and built up and definitely exacerbated the, the conditions that caused the fibromyalgia to, to appear for her.
Now she's used nutritional changes, lifestyle changes and herbs to help her overcome that. And she lives mostly pain free now. I mean, occasional Tylenol. Right. But as far as the fibromyalgia, she lives mostly pain free now, but that trauma that she experienced as a young adult definitely added to what she was dealing with with her chronic illness.
[00:08:43] Andrea: I've read something recently that I found really interesting. It's looking at something that we've known that trauma can be passed down through generations, and it seems like they are narrowing in on exactly how that is, and they're finding that it's passed down through the gut, through the microbiome because of the makeup of that and I guess the interplay with the trauma.
So I'm kind of out of. Outta my depth now. Can you talk about that a little bit?
[00:09:14] Elizabeth: Yeah. So there's so many different aspects, and I talk about this in my new book, The Trauma Informed Herbalist. I, I talk about the different layers of trauma. So we have our personal traumas that we have directly experienced, and then we have the traumas that maybe our family has experienced and it changes how they interact with us, which may or may not cause trauma.
I mean, that could cause abuse, but it could just be that they're more anxious and therefore we grow up with a more anxious view of the world. And then what you're talking about, I name it ancestral trauma. You'll sometimes hear people talk about ancestral trauma, and there are epigenetic change. That can affect ancestral trauma, but it's really interesting that you talked about the microbiome and gut.
because yes, that can absolutely be passed down, especially and when you have a vaginal birth, you definitely get a lot of the, the bacteria from your mother. In those moments. If your breast feds, sometimes you'll get some bacteria. Now that does not mean that C-section babies are now less healthy. It does not mean that bottle fed means that you're not as healthy.
You just may not be getting as many of those influence. And we have all kinds of things throughout our life. Antibiotics affect our gut health, stress and trauma in general can affect our gut health. So your microbiome can change due to a lot of other factors, and that's one reason that it could be so important to get good fruits and vegetables into your diet because that will help to nourish the good bacteria.
And of course you can do probiotic supplementation and things like that. But it kind of depends on your situation as to what's best for you. But absolutely, we know that the gut has a direct link to our nervous system and our brain and how we feel. So definitely noticing that and figuring out where you can support your digestive tract is extremely important and not holding any kind of guilt about what you might have done in the past that might have changed.
How the, the gut of your parents or of how they chose to treat you as a child might have changed it. Like, don't hold onto, Oh, I should have done this differently. Just focus on, okay, these things may have affected it, but now I know I can change it moving forward.
[00:11:35] Andrea: I think that's fascinating because yes, fruits, vegetables, probiotics, prebiotics, postbiotics, all of that stuff, right? But the idea of not holding onto things like guilt and not pressuring or stressing yourself out with things like, I should be doing this, that affecting the microbiome, I think is fascinating.
Can you tell me a little bit more about that
[00:11:59] Elizabeth: Yeah. And, and that's, that's so hard. So , I, I sit here and I say, Oh, don't, , don't hold onto that guilt. That is not the easiest thing to do, . And I experienced that when I when I went through my traumatic incidents, I experienced this sense of why can't I get my body to do what I want it to do?
Why can't I toughen up, quote, unquote, right? And in, in my head, if I was just stronger, if I was just tougher, if I was just willing to, to, , put my nose to the grindstone kind of thing, then I would be better. And that's not we, we know. Now research shows that's not how trauma works. And so, uh, recognizing that your body specifically created a response that was supposed to keep you safe, and that it accidentally got stuck in that response through no fault of yours.
Is very important. And sometimes going to a therapist and kind of talking through these things can be a, a good aspect as well. Trying to figure out like, why did this occur? Why did this happen? And then giving yourself permission to release those things. Going back to the, the microbiome stress and this stress hormones that we release when we are constantly ruminating and worrying on things, kill the good bacteria in our gut, so, Not trying to create guilt for those of you who are stressing , right?
But if we can find ways to catch those glimmers of hope catch those glimmers of forgiveness for ourselves where maybe we just have a fleeting thought of, Yeah, but it wasn't my fault. Okay? Grab that and hold onto it for a minute and just think, Yes, I'm going to hold that moment of it is not my fault that my trauma has created this response in my body.
The more that you can bring your focus to that, the better your body will be able to respond. The less stress hormones will be cosing through your body, and the easier it will be to rebuild the good bacteria colonies in your gut.
[00:14:03] Andrea: Oh my gosh. Fascinating. I love that idea. Another reason why it is so important, and this is my own personal soapbox. It is so important to watch how you talk to yourself, right? Like how we, what we say to ourselves, how we talk to ourselves, how, how kind we are to ourselves, or how mean we are. All of those things are so, so important because we can not really pay attention because it's probably how we've always talked to ourselves.
And so it just seems like it's natural and it's normal, and it's not even anything that has like a red flag, but it's creating all of this strife, not just in, , stress and with our, stress hormones, but also actually changing things in your body. Changing things like the gut, which is like we just said, is so very important for things.
[00:14:57] Elizabeth: Right? And as, as you all know, when you're dealing with a chronic illness, it's all about shifting your habits. It's all about changing the way that things work so that you have more energy, more accessibility to do what you want to do. And I struggled with this when I was first diagnosed with long covid.
So the second diagnosis, so PTSD in my mind is my first chronic illness diagnosis. I learned how to live with it. I learned how to function before I got diagnosed with long covid. I was working two jobs while working on this PhD. And I was, , just really like go, go, go, go, go. Making things happen.
The PTSD was under control. When I got long Covid. The main symptom that I have had is severe debilitating fatigue. Which talking about genetics kind of parallels what mom dealt with with fibromyalgia, so I'm not really surprised, but for me, it shown up with this severe debilitating fatigue and brain fog and trying to stay focused was so hard the first few months, and I just, I was miserable and I had a very hard time at first bringing myself back into that place of like, Okay, all you have to do is create new habits.
Yes, it's a little bit of work front, but if I can create these new habits, I can reclaim that energy that allows me to refocus. And once I was able to start getting, like I said, grasping those little glimmers of positive thought process, it's not making every day perfect. I'm not trying to claim toxic positivity is the way to go here, but.
[00:16:36] Andrea: Good because I'd have something to say about
[00:16:38] Elizabeth: Right , but the moments that we can recognize, the positive moments that are happening, the good feelings that are occurring, the more often that we can can catch that, the easier it will be to then shift into other forms of, of habits that are good for us and for me, it. Three or four months to really kind of get this under control.
But guys, remember I had practice with this with my ptsd. I did this entire process with my ptsd. So I redid this once. I had this new set of symptoms with long covid, and then I was able to sit down and write my book. So no, what I wanted to do was I wanted to finish my PT or my P, my PhD, and I wanted to keep working my two jobs to help pay off my student loan debt while I'm also trying to build my practice, right?
Well, instead now I work with people virtually a little bit in person, and I focused on my writing. So it was a pivot. It was a shift. But choosing to shift those habits has really made a difference. In how I have felt. Even though I'm still dealing with long covid, I'm still in the process of healing the, the shifts in those habits has really allowed me to feel like I still live a full life
[00:17:58] Andrea: I, I love it. I because. , as, as a coach, I'm sitting here and I'm thinking, and I was like, Oh, here's what I hear. I hear, So I used to hustle like crazy and I was so upset when I couldn't hustle anymore because my body was telling me to stop hustling. And then I found out that once I stopped hustling, Wow, there's actually so much more to be able to right.
To that we can do. And I, I love it. Cause I mean I was the same way. I was a hustler to no end like it was in my jeans and it was so hard to, to turn around. That's why I love that you went into your process a little bit about how it was that you turned that around. Because we can't, , especially when you're kind of a natural born hustler, you can't just turn it off.
Like it is not a light switch that you can say, Okay, well, got the long covid can't hustle anymore. I guess we'll do something else. Like that's not, that's not what it sounds like.
[00:18:53] Elizabeth: it goes along with the whole, , able bodied people have privilege in our society, and we have been trained, at least here in America, we have been trained to believe that the harder we work, the more value we have. And one of the things that I've spent the last few years trying to break down for myself is when are those, when are those moments Appearing for me where I had these internalized biases, and you can do this with racism, you can do this with sexism, you can do it with all kinds of different things.
But for the purpose of our conversation and and disability, there are times where I have internalized a bias against even myself with my disability. And if I can recognize those moments, where, is this really how I feel? Or have I internalized a bias against myself because I feel like I should be more quote unquote able bodied?
That has also helped too. So some of that self-reflection has made a difference.
[00:19:49] Andrea: I think that's really amazing because I think it's, it is something that can happen. Even, , someone like me, I. Have a, I've always had a very invisible illness. Like you would not know at all if looking at me that I have ms. , at the same time, you don't know if I can see with both my eyes or if I actually can feel everything in my body, but you can't see it.
And so I've always that people, , treat you like you're not sick, which fine. It's not necessarily that I want people to treat me that I'm sick, but you can get caught up in that. And so that's where, yeah, we can internalize this ableist mentality and use it to beat ourselves up. And it matches so well with society, which is not necessarily outright, , you have to be able bodied, but it has the idea of the more you hustle. The more money you make, the more output, the more whatever it is that you're doing, the more production, the better it is that you are at your job, the better you are as a contributing member to society, right? The more successful you are, the more highly regarded you are. It's all interconnected in in this big, just enmeshed, , web, and it can start by us agreeing to play that game by internalizing this ableism.
So I think it's really interesting that you bring that up. Tell me, how do you, you say you self reflect to really see , is this me internalizing this or is this really my , my authentic voice? What is that process for you? What does that look like for you to be able , to, to pinpoint that or to look at that?
[00:21:38] Elizabeth: For me, when I sit down to self reflect, it's normally a process of how have I been feeling towards these things? And that can get a little tricky with trauma, right? Because a lot of the times our perception becomes skewed when we're dealing with trauma. But when I am looking at things that I am concerned about from a personal , we, we could call it maybe a higher purpose or just my personal endeavors, the things that I am interested in and that I feel like connect me to others, I will start to be able to feel more of a sense of.
Whereas if it's something that causes me to have a very deep seated sense of anxiety or frustration or worry that I can't really put a finger on like why sometimes that is an internalized bias. Now I have to ask myself, I have to say, is this internalized bias? Does it kind of connect to the things that I see going on?
Sometimes it is, sometimes it's just I need to go, , balance my blood sugar or something. But just taking the time to kind of notice your thoughts and your feelings, and sometimes journaling is a good way to go. So if you notice yourself having frustrations throughout the day, having a time to sit down and just kind of journal through some of the thoughts and the feelings that are coming up, and then taking that to your therapist and saying, Hey, this is what came up for me this week.
Can we unpack this? That's a good sounding board. If you have a therapist that you can trust and you can work with, they are a good sounding board for helping you kind of decipher where these things are , an internalized bias versus something that maybe, maybe it's something you should be working on from a different angle.
So there's different levels to this, right? There's things I do on my own, There's things I take to my therapist's office and sometimes it gets interconnected with how connected I feel to other people. Something that happens with chronic illness a lot, and this actually creates another form of trauma. In chronic illness situations, we maybe aren't seeing our friends as often.
We maybe stop getting invited to go do things. We maybe lose connections to people just because they're busy. It's not necessarily malicious, but they're busy. They're hustling, right? They're doing their thing. And we can't tag along anymore because the energy isn't there to do that. Or in the more extreme situations, maybe we're in a situation where we need help and we can't get it and we can't get it for ourselves.
And that can create over time, that kind of chronic stress of feeling disconnected can also create forms of trauma. And so that's another thing we have to start adjusting. We, , processing internalized bias is very important, but adjusting the way that we connect with our community. Can help us to process through these moments where we feel very alone.
That's, I mean, I know the internet has a lot of problems, right? Like, I won't deny that. But one of the beautiful things of the internet is that you and I are here talking right now. We're talking to you as a listener. We're, we're focusing on the, the connection and the communication that will hopefully help people.
There's Facebook groups, there's, , messaging on all kinds of platforms. There's emails, there's ways to, It's not quite the same as face to face connection. It has a different feel to it, but it does help us to maintain a little bit more of that connectivity between each other that can be lost when you're dealing with chronic illness and.
Not to get too far into technical things, but in the polyvagal theory, which is Steven Porges' explanation of how our body responds to the environment and how it changes when we have a traumatic situation, connection and safety are two of the most important things that we need to be able to feel in order to start overcoming some of the more physical responses to trauma. And that can be hard to do when you have a chronic illness. So if you can start looking for ways to connect and looking for ways to , find your community and find ways to feel safer, then you will find you have more energy to be able to pursue all the amazing things that you're, you're going to be able to do.
[00:26:09] Andrea: I love first and foremost that you went in. Totally get technical go there. . I know my listeners, they want to know the technical stuff because we all have this high, high level understanding of trauma and all that kind of stuff. But I want to really talk about the, the nuts and bolts of it.
And, and I love what you say about the connection. I think that's really interesting because one of the, one of the things that I've seen in myself being an extrovert, like a big high whatever, you want to like off the charts, kind of extrovert. For me, the total shutdown was like, it was nuts. Like it was, it was hard for me.
But I have friends who were like equally opposite. , introverts, , they loved it. , they are totally fine with this whole new world of being able to step back. And so it's interesting that not only do you have to look for the connection, but you have to, to understand your own personal. Ways of connecting and what work.
Because what works for one person is not going to work for the other person. And so you can say something like, Oh we'll get on the internet and get in a chat room or something. And that's a good chat room. Did I just date myself by saying chat room? We have chat rooms
[00:27:24] Elizabeth: tell
[00:27:24] Andrea: I think I did think I did. But I can get into like a Facebook group and I'm like it's not enough
[00:27:30] Elizabeth: right?
[00:27:31] Andrea: I need more. So it's just interesting how that plays into all of it. Like there's just those different levels that you have to be aware of yourself. Like I didn't realize that I was at, it's not like you're born understanding that you're an extrovert.
Like you just don't know this. It took me a long time to realize , so I wasn't even need meeting my needs for a long time.
[00:27:52] Elizabeth: it's interesting that you say that because I feel like I'm a complete introvert.
[00:27:56] Andrea: Mm-hmm.
[00:27:56] Elizabeth: And for me, the beginnings of the pandemic were still difficult. So even though I loved it, so from March till May, I sat outside in a hammock and I did all my work outside and it was amazing. And I didn't have to see anybody, and I just, I just did all this like, it was fantastic.
I mean, there was the, the underlying stress of oh my gosh, what's going to happen,
Right? But right from a social aspect, I really liked a couple of months of it, but we are social creatures, even those of us who are introverts and over a long period of time, this two years of, of struggling to know is it safe, is it not?
And, and some of that may still, we may have another wave at some point, not trying to scare everybody, but we might have another wave. And there's other things that could happen. and it wears on you. And even as an introvert, there's still a need for connection on occasion, and there's still a need to be able to feel like you're part of an important, , like, like you're an important part of a community. So the internet side of things is not going to ever replace human connection, but it can help in those times where we are so fatigued or, or we're so unable to be able to get out. It can help keep us from getting even lower. It's just like animals. Animals can help us feel safe and connected. I have a dog who is laying over in the corner right now, and thank goodness, I don't think you can hear him snoring, but he is currently asleep and snoring.
But that dog has helped me feel safe and connected. Is it going to replace in person human connection? No. But is it going to help on those days where I'm really unable to do something, then? Then yes.
[00:29:46] Andrea: I think maybe a little bit Dogs can replace human connection.
[00:29:50] Elizabeth: Just a little.
[00:29:51] Andrea: just a little. I am a huge dog lover and I will choose my dog. I will choose my dog over a lot of people
[00:29:59] Elizabeth: Right. No. Like I, I have to admit, I love my dog very dearly. But there, there are still times where, , it is important to have that right And it's like that. So, to talk a little bit from an herbal standpoint, there are herbs, there are plants, and we, we find that there are um, if you work with plant spirit communication, which may be getting a little esoteric for some of you, but there are some people who believe that being able to connect and commune with the plants can help with that feeling of safety and connection and whether you believe that there is a tangible spirit there or not, which I do, but some people don't.
We still see the effects of forest bathing or sh in yoku as it was called originally in Japan when they discovered it. Forest bathing helps people to be able to come back from, from that disconnected space and back into safety and connection. So there's all kinds of different ways that you could tap into this based off of what you have around you, what is going to work best for you in your environment.
And and of course, , you could talk herbs and nervous system support and digestive support from an herbal standpoint. There's all those things too that can come into play. And it's just a matter of what works for you where you are in this moment. Trauma is very vast. The responses to trauma are just as vast as the different types of chronic illnesses in the symptoms that people have in chronic illness.
So you're going to find that certain things work for you and certain things don't. And if you look at my book, The Trauma Informed Herbalist, I go through a chapter on herbs, I go through a chapter on autoimmunity, discussing that aspect. I talk about um, Flower essences, aroma therapy. I get into yoga meditation.
This is because everybody is going to need something a little bit different to find that connection. So you and I love dogs, but some people may say, Ooh, no, no thank you. I want my cat . , there's all kinds of things like that,
[00:32:01] Andrea: Yeah. And, and I think it's, it's interesting that, , it's like the hierarchy of needs, right? You've got the Maslow's Triangle, like at the bottom is always, always safety and connection. I like having that in there too. How is it that I almost feel like, and I know this is a big question that may not even have an answer, so to speak, which is kind of weird, but I feel like we need to like bring it back to the basics.
Like what is trauma? , what is just the basic level? And I know this is like a huge nuanced question, but is there a way just to say
[00:32:39] Elizabeth: Is it though
[00:32:41] Andrea: Oh, I don't know, Maybe
[00:32:42] Elizabeth: Um,
[00:32:42] Andrea: maybe it's a fantastic genius question and I don't
[00:32:45] Elizabeth: it it is a fantastic, amazing question, but it's actually a really good point and it is something that we have to consider because people think of trauma and they may think of this huge event that's occurred , September 11th, or people who live through Katrina.
There's all kinds of different things that could be considered traumatic events. But the experts agree that trauma is the response that your body has to an overwhelming event. So trauma itself doesn't necessarily have to be something that the next person that comes along is going to experience trauma when they have that.
It is your body recognizing an event as something that could cause you to be harmed, and then it has a response that is meant to keep you safe. Now, sometimes we get stuck in that response, and that's where that unresolved chronic trauma issues start to come into play. That's why number one, it's not your fault because you didn't decide to have that reaction.
And number two, because it causes our body to become wired for fear, wired for withdrawing and disconnecting, we can actually rewire for connection. So short answer is trauma is a response the body has to an event that it feels was overwhelming.
[00:34:12] Andrea: I love hearing that specific definition that trauma is a response because I feel like, and I don't love it, but I feel like in a world that tends to have that comparative suffering situation going on, people look at events and compare.
Like, how are you responding to that event? Thinking that the event is what's supposed to give you that response. And if you're not responding that way, then somehow you're not sensitive or you're not, I don't know what it is. So I love breaking it down and saying, Look, it's not the event. It's how your body based on a gajillion of factors,
it's how your body's responding to it. That is where the trauma is. And that is why certain events for some people are, I'm not going to say no big deal, but don't create such a big stumbling block.
[00:35:03] Elizabeth: Yes. There's all kinds of different pieces, like you said, like you could have adverse childhood events that have created an environment in which then it makes something later in life create a trauma response. You could grow up in a lower socioeconomic situation where financially you don't have the same security that somebody has, and that can create a trauma response to an event is somebody else who's never had to think about money can have.
And we have the same thing happen with racial discrimination, that the chronic discrimination that people see, especially in this country, in this systematic world, right? It's very similar to what we deal with with disability and chronic illness. There's systemic issues that make it harder to get what you need that can create a trauma response that somebody else might understand.
And of course, the parallel there is for chronic illness. The systemic things that we may be up against. When it comes to like, , getting driver's license renewed or there's all kinds of different weird little things that can become a stressor and that can create a trauma response that you're able bodied.
Best friend may not know what to do with because they're like, Well, I do this every day, and it's not a problem. And so it's really important to recognize that just because you have had a response to something that somebody else thinks should not have been a problem, doesn't make them right. Your trauma is a reaction.
I almost like reaction better than response. I know I've been saying response, but I almost like reaction is a better word there because it's a reaction. There's not a thought process that created it, it's a reaction. Your body had to try to keep you safe, and so your body is trying its best. The poor little thing is trying.
Its best to keep you safe. And it just, it just glitched. Just had a little bit of a wrong response. Now it can take time to work through that and it can take time to, to rewire for connection and safety. But to recognize and acknowledge that it is a reaction that is not your fault can go a long way in that process of taking those first few steps to heal.
[00:37:13] Andrea: One of the, the best ways I've heard it described that the response was, I was listening to Joe Dispensa talk about this, and he was talking about the trauma response coming up and like you said, like it's no fault of your own. It's not even going through a thought process. It's almost like muscle memory.
So if you are practicing like a sport or , you're learning like your golf swing is always the classic, right? I don't golf, but we all know that that's something that you have to practice over and over again because eventually your muscles will learn and you'll have muscle memory to where you don't have to think about that perfect golf swing anymore because you've trained your muscles and he paralleled that to trauma.
And how sometimes you're, your trauma is like a muscle memory.
[00:38:05] Elizabeth: Right. Your body says, Ooh, this kept us safe last time. Let's do that. I mean, that's really what's happening. It's going, Oh, when I went into the dorsal vagal response, which we, we hear called freeze, right? The freeze response, it did it last time and we came out of that alive. Let's do it again. Or the fight or flight response, right?
When you go into the sympathetic state, that is your body going, Last time we got wound up and wired up like this and right and it kept us safe, so let's do it again. That's all that is. And so there's, and there's so many steps to healing from trauma and obviously what I do as a complimentary practitioner compliments therapy, but there's so many different ways that you can respond to that to try to help go, Okay, I feel the response coming on now.
Let me use the tools in my toolbox to help remind myself that I am safe. I am secure and I can come back into the ventral vagal state, which is the calm and connected place that we, we like to live our life in. Because it feels best,
[00:39:15] Andrea: Yeah. I'm glad you went there. Cause I was going to say, like we've talked about what it is and how, how many different ways it can come up. And of course one of the ways that we know that I talk about a lot is when we get a diagnosis that can create a trauma reaction.
And so let's talk about unwinding that.
I think first and foremost, is it possible to completely resolve a trauma response? Did I say that right?
[00:39:48] Elizabeth: Yeah, no, that, that's, that's, that's a good question. That, that is the complex question in my mind. and maybe not so much that we would like to think so, yes, you can completely resolve it and go on about and have a very normal life. That does not mean that another traumatic event might not retrigger that and bring you back into that place where all of a sudden that trauma response is happening over and over again.
That's actually happened with me with my long covid. So I was, I had finally gotten to a point where I was fine. I was functioning very well. I was doing a lot of, like I said, I was working two jobs. I try to help with student loans, , and I was trying to finish my PhD and I was seeing clients on the side just trying to get through to a point where I could do this full time and.
The long covid, even though the diagnosis itself wasn't what set it off, the fatigue I began having that actually left me feeling like I was going to die. I, I was going to sleep every night trying to make myself right in my mind with my religious beliefs in order to prepare to die because there was a while where I just thought I was that ill.
Um, Luckily that's not the case. I'm happy that I'm still here. , , when my time comes, it comes. But for now I'm happy to be here. But that really set off another round of PTSD for me. And I was having very severe symptoms that I haven't seen in years. And it was very difficult for me because this was something totally different from what caused my ptsd.
I was a 9 1 1 dispatcher and then before I met my husband, I was in a relationship where the person was physically and emotionally abusive, so I was being abused and then having to go to 9 1 1 dispatch and take calls all night and then come home to, So there was this, all this building up and that's what created my diagnosis to begin with and my trauma symptom set this long.
Covid was a very different scenario that re brought all those things back to the forefront, but. I knew what I needed to do to get it back under control. This time I had my toolbox. I knew what worked for me. That, does that mean that everything worked? No. There were some things I tweaked based off the new symptom set, but because I had taken time to understand, , for me doing a, a stress relief tea in the afternoon and just checking in with myself makes a big deal, it, it's a big deal for me.
Because then I can kind of see like, am I going to be able to do my evening plans? Do I need to adjust? Like, what do I need to do to have enough energy to get through the day and, and still feel good tomorrow? There's certain, for me, now, this isn't for everybody, but lemon Balm combined with elthianine, was a fantastic thing to help me sleep at first.
So I had these things already in my back pocket that I was able to pull out and start sorting through, , do I need some more emdr? Do I need, , and I was able to see, based off of what I had learned before, what was going to work for me. So for those of you who are dealing with this kind of thing, I encourage you to start finding things that work and maybe even keeping a list if you're worried about, , brain fog and things like that, keep a little list of like, this really worked well when I had this symptom, or when I was too tired, I was able to use this.
And it made a difference. Because then even if you do resolve everything and you're living your life and you're going about your day and you're starting to really make a difference for things, even if then all of a sudden things fall back apart because of a new traumatic situation, you are already empowered with what you need to get back on the right track and figure out what's going to work for you.
This time.
[00:43:45] Andrea: Is there a way to, to resolve it enough that it doesn't get retried?
[00:43:52] Elizabeth: There might be. . I, I don't know. For me it was, it was, I would've told you a year ago that yes, I absolutely, a year ago would've said, Yeah, absolutely, I'm healed.
[00:44:06] Andrea: hmm.
[00:44:07] Elizabeth: And now I say, Hmm, maybe, maybe not. I think if I had not gone through such a scary event again, then I probably would never, like, I don't know that I would ever realize that it's even a thing.
And, and this is not just like you have PTSD and then you have complex PTSD and complex trauma, so things , are a little bit different. It's possible, even though I have a PTSD diagnosis, it's possible. Mine's technically complex, which is a little bit different and how it responds to things all it really means is that it takes a little more rewiring to get back to normal.
But yeah, a year ago I would've told you that, yeah, you can resolve it and you'll never have issues again. Now, I don't know, because again, it's a reaction your body has to keeping you safe. So my body has felt safe for years at this point, but then because of what happened in January with my long covid symptoms, I no longer felt safe and I was not in, I didn't have the energy to get back to feeling.
And so there was a minute there that I was, I, for lack of a better phrase, I was retraumatized even though it was a completely different type of trauma. And now I've got the same symptoms that I had almost a decade ago now. And I don't know if, I don't even know if technically you would say it's the same thing, or maybe it's a new ptsd, maybe it would be considered a new one.
But from practical standpoint, it doesn't really matter. You can get to a point where you feel really, really good and you can get to a point where you would call yourself healed and, and the trauma's resolved and you can go forward not having to worry about it, but also recognizing that you have those tools if it does happen again,
[00:45:56] Andrea: . I think at the end of the day, that's what it is. , there's so many different types of, of trauma responses or trauma reactions. I'm trying to say it the right way, , but there's so many different levels. There's so many different I don't know. I don't want to say some are more serious than others, but there's just different levels.
But at the end of the day, it's all about practically speaking, , how are you feeling it in your life? And is this something that you feel comfortable, that you have your tools and they work? Are you living in fear of being retraumatized? Right? I know some people who, can be stuck in that.
And it's just a matter of how are you living going forward?
[00:46:39] Elizabeth: Right.
[00:46:40] Andrea: Dealing with things like, and we might have touched on this a little bit earlier, one thing that I know is, and I've heard a lot, is that trauma lives in your body. And so in my, my, I have such a, I'm such a visual person, I kind of think of that and being like, okay, it's always there.
And it's just a question of is it activat? Like what does that even mean? Cause I think sometimes we can fear like, Oh, it's just going to come back.
[00:47:04] Elizabeth: Right. So, again, I do want to reiterate that if you get to a point where you generally feel good, but the fear is that it's going to come back, that's a good time to start taking stock of like, what coping mechanisms do I have? What do I have in place if it does come back and trying to gain some confidence that if it does come back, it is no longer a matter of feeling helpless because now , what you could be doing.
And to your point, trauma does live in the body, but that's unresolved trauma. So, so you'll hear me call it unresolved trauma symptoms because, and Dr. Peter Levine, who wrote the book, Waking the Tiger, but actually he has a newer book that's called In An Unspoken Voice. And I really like that book for discussing this because it's not a matter of it's not a matter of the trauma staying unresolved forever.
It's a matter of there's some unresolved trauma and we can work through it, through somatic experiencing, through therapy, through some, sometimes the other things like meditation and herbs kind of depends on your situation, but you can work through that to resolve the trauma. So you're finishing the trauma cycle.
And Dr. Peter Levine explains this really well because he talks about the fact that when we go through the trauma, the, that scare moment right of, ooh, something's happening. A lot of the times where we get stuck is that we have suppressed the bodies response to try to finish that cycle. So a lot of the times after an event you may find yourself shaking or crying or , several things that can feel scary in that moment.
But if we allow our body to go through that, a lot of the times that trauma will resolve and we won't have the ongoing symptoms. So that's one thing that he talks about is like, when, like why do the ongoing symptoms occur for some people and why do they not for others? And that's what we see is it's that that stress cycle needs to complete.
So a lot of the times you can complete a stress cycle, complete another one, complete another one, and eventually resolve it. So I almost don't like to think of it as like a, like visually you were saying that you see it in your body. I almost see like a little minion that's like hanging out, like waiting to be like, ha
[00:49:29] Andrea: is not what my visual looks like.
[00:49:32] Elizabeth: in my mind that's kind of, but it's not an object as much as it is a wound and wounds heal.
right? And so like you may have a wound and you may have a response to that wound, but it heals up. Now you may eventually have another wound, and I mean, when you cut yourself, you bleed. The next time you cut yourself, you bleed again. Right? Like that's going to happen. But you can, what to do. where the Neosporin is, how to heal it up.
And so that trauma's the same thing and it doesn't feel like it because it's emotional, right? There's, there's a psychological component to it. There's things on that front we need to do, but it is a wound and it can be healed up so that it's not just gaping and open and forever a struggle for you.
[00:50:15] Andrea: It's really interesting because you're actually the second person in like five days that has talked about completing the stress cycle, and I had never heard of the stress cycle before, and so now I'm like, I've gotta read this book because
[00:50:28] Elizabeth: There is this
called, Yeah, there's a book called Burnout.
[00:50:33] Andrea: Mm-hmm.
[00:50:34] Elizabeth: See if I can. I think the Nagaski. Yeah, so there's a book, it's called Burnout Completing, or The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, and it's by twin sisters, I believe they're twins, Emily and Amelia Nagaski, and they talk a lot in that book about completing that stress cycle and some of the things you could do.
Now, it's not exactly trauma related, but that stress cycle is part of the, I mean, it's just a much more exacerbated form of the stress cycle when you're dealing with trauma.
[00:51:06] Andrea: I think anytime we talk about moving energy in our bodies and completing cycles and letting it play out, I think that's really important. Because I know in, the society we grew up in, you're not really taught about that. You're actually taught that, , energy, whatever.
Energy's like all woo, like, what does that mean? buck up, , . And it's like, so this idea of, of letting energy, whether it's stress, energy, or trauma energy or, or just emotional energy, which is just normal emotions. It is all energy in our body. And anytime we can let it. Flow and I guess complete it cycle, I think is so much healthier than what we normally do.
, I work a lot with emotions with , with my clients and, , we're kind of taught to just push it down or deflect away or to ignore it, and that bottles that energy too. And there's a very different feeling in your body and access really to your, , inner guidance when you let this energy flow through.
[00:52:13] Elizabeth: Right. And it's interesting because it, that's almost a different, I mean it's not quite the same as a discriminatory bias, but there's almost a bias in our society to not be as emotional to, to not show those moments that I remember as a child picking up on that and my mom and dad had never fussed at me or, , I remember my dad crying over the death of friends.
Like, I feel like my parents were trying the, their best to, to be open about the grief process and things like that. But when my great, my step great granddaddy, he was the only great granddaddy I knew. But when he passed away, I remember looking around at the funeral and seeing that nobody was crying and I felt shame for the fact that I wanted to cry.
And when I got home I crawled under my bed and I sobbed and , dad came in and talked to me about it, but, and that helped, but it does kind of nod to the fact that. As a society, we tend to want to stuff away the uncomfortable. And there is a time and a place to where the uncomfortable needs to be addressed.
Back to the whole toxic positivity thing, right? We can't gloss over everything with sunshine and rainbows. Wish we could. It'd be fantastic. Well, it might not be, but anyway, , I mean, it, it just, it's something that we do have to face on occasion and when we can allow ourselves the chance to work through some of these things and to face the, the, the feelings that maybe feel overwhelming, it can make a difference.
But that kind of thing starts to fall into therapy and that kind of thing starts to fall into, and this is why I like to work alongside somebody who's in therapy. So if you're in therapy, you're working with your your therapist on these things, The natural side of things, the herbs, the meditation, the yoga can help you to notice what's going on and start to process things on the physical front and on a, on an emotional level to some extent, but then to really talk through why that's happening.
That's what you take to therapy, and it can actually speed up the therapy process because you are becoming more mindful of what's happening in your.
[00:54:19] Andrea: Yeah. And I always like to. To take a moment to talk about the differences. Because I am a huge fan of therapy. I think therapy is amazing. I was actually, before I was diagnosed on track, PhD in, in psychology. But going to therapy is really digging deep into like, why is it like this opposed to something like what I do, which is like, hey, let's just start feeling our emotions because , we were never taught to feel our emotions and emotions are totally normal and let's not fear them and let's get used to them so we can really complete that mind body connection.
And then what you do is, and I'll let you expand on it, but it's, you're looking at the nutritional side of things, but you're also looking at more healing the traumatic side of things.
[00:55:08] Elizabeth: Right? So when I went to therapy, I found, and I did what I call therapists shopping, where I looked at several different therapists in the area and I went to a couple of them and then picked somebody based off of what I felt resonated.
[00:55:21] Andrea: I don't see how you would do it any other way,
[00:55:24] Elizabeth: I know some people that go to one person and they're like, No, this is not for me. And, and I encourage you before you find yourself. And of course, if you're already struggling, then definitely go find somebody. But if you're not in a situation where you're struggling yet, go look and find somebody that can help you before you get into a space where you're struggling significantly.
Because one of that's one of the best things that I have done is having a therapist that knew me before something struck and because. There was already an understanding of my baseline and then what had changed instead of me trying to, in the heat of the moment, explain to somebody brand new what I used to be like versus what I am now.
So therapy is really good for that. Right. Processing some of, some of like what, what's happening now, but also childhood, if that's something you're interested in. And then what I do tends to fall, like you said, more into the processing, what's happening in the body, like what am I feeling? And from a nutritional angle it is kind of important because our body has the capacity to heal a lot of things on its own.
If we give it the right nutrients. So a lot of the herbs and the supplements that I use and a lot of the nutritional stuff that's available, it doesn't have to be about knocking a bunch of stuff outta your diet. I mean, we could talk gluten sensitivity. We could talk about, , are eggs something you should eat?
Depending on what you've got going on. Maybe you are more sensitive to that kind of thing. But even just adding in fruits and veggies and finding some herbal teas that you like can start to bring in really good vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, which are essentially just a fancy word for chemicals and plants that are helpful. phytonutrients that will help your body to have what it needs to heal itself. Now, obviously, I'm not saying don't go to to conventional medicine doctors when you need it. Don't , I'm not saying stop talking to your rheumatologist because obviously our endocrinologists or whoever else you have to see because there's a a time and a place for that as well.
But if we can give our body what it needs to be healing and doing some of these processes, then we're going to have more energy and we're going to be able to see what, , what we can work on ourselves and what we can almost, It gives us a little more autonomy to be able to, to heal a little bit faster.
And that's what I love about this.
[00:57:55] Andrea: So we've talked about a lot of things, there's been fantastic information. Cause I know there are listeners. Listening right now that are thinking, Okay, what? I actually think I do have a little bit of unresolved trauma.
I think there's something going on that might be why I, I blew up at my partner the other day and I had no idea why, maybe that's it. It hasn't necessarily been like a big blow or a big event or anything, but they just, they just have that hunch that after listening, like maybe this is what's going on.
Where does somebody start?
[00:58:29] Elizabeth: Right. So I have a book, The Trauma Informed Herbalist that has, oh, well as of as of this recording has not released, but it will release on October 12th, 2022.
[00:58:41] Andrea: Okay.
[00:58:41] Elizabeth: And it discusses a little bit about what trauma is, a little bit about the different types of trauma, and then it gets into several complimentary therapies that you can explore to see is this something that maybe I find helpful that can be a good place to start for some personal things that, that you may find are helpful little tools in your toolbox coping mechanisms that can help you as you start this journey.
Obviously therapist shopping is great. Find somebody that you can talk with that you feel comfortable with. If you can find somebody who does have some experience with trauma informed care. Even better if you happen to live in an area where somebody has specific training around your type of trauma.
, adoption trauma is going to be very different from , trauma that's happened from a car wreck. , these, there's different types of trauma and they, they are present slightly differently. And so if you have somebody that has training in that, that can be really helpful. And then just do some research and educate yourself on, on how trauma happens in the body and what your trauma symptoms are.
Because once you start to be able to have a language around what it is that's happened and. Maybe not even necessarily the event. You don't have to necessarily remember the event that's created, the trauma, but you can notice when I say language around what's happened, notice when these symptoms are coming up, and then how you feel when those, , like what events it was that caused you to feel those feelings right now and what those feelings are, and that can help you start to kind of figure out what you might need more help in.
[01:00:25] Andrea: Fantastic. Thank you so much. I could continue talking.
[01:00:28] Elizabeth: Right.
[01:00:29] Andrea: this , like I said, huge extrovert. So I'm like, let's keep talking , but I think that's fantastic. I will have all of your information in the show notes, but tell people where they can connect with you.
[01:00:43] Elizabeth: If you're interested in the book, you can go to trauma informed to find out more information there. If you need to reach out to me, my email address is elizabeth empathic and you can find me on Instagram under Empathic Herbalist
[01:01:01] Andrea: Fantastic. Thank you so much for coming on and diving in with me and helping to define and talk about things that I think that, like I said before, a lot of us have this high level understanding and sometimes understand just enough to be dangerous . So thank you for sorting some of this stuff out and, and helping us understand more about something that I think , is really important.
[01:01:24] Elizabeth: Thanks. I appreciate it. I'm really glad that I was able to come and speak on this and even if you just have a couple of questions as to how to get redirected, y'all, please don't hesitate to reach out.
[01:01:34] Andrea: Fantastic. Thank you so much.
[01:01:36] Elizabeth: Thanks.
okay. How great was that? Elizabeth went into a lot of nuances on trauma that I didn't even know existed. I liked that she dispelled a few myths about trauma like that. We have to know what caused it in order to heal or that the event itself is what's traumatic.
I also loved that we touched on internalized bias when it comes to ableism. I've always found this topic. Interesting. I think it's one of those really sneaky ways that we can be hard on ourselves without really realizing it because often that mean harsh dialogue in our head. Matches what everybody around us may expect of us.
Internalized ableism can make us expect our capabilities to match. The capabilities of those around us. And it can mean that we're hard on ourselves when they don't match the capabilities of other people. Elizabeth post. A really good question that I think we can all benefit from asking ourselves. Is this really how I feel. Or have I internalized a bias against myself? Because I feel like I should be more quote unquote able-bodied. How can we recognize those moments in ourselves? When we're acting on an internalized bias rather than what we truly want.
And what's truly good for ourselves.
A really fascinating question that we can all ask ourselves.
Next week. We have a great discussion with Dr. LJ Johnson that you don't want to miss.
She's a women's hormone coach specializing in endometriosis PCLs and fibroids. And her energy is contagious. So check out the podcast next week and Hey follow the podcast. So you don't miss an episode.
And if there's somebody that you want to hear on live your life, not your diagnosis or a topic that you want to know more about, let me know. I love hearing from you. Email me at hello at Andrea Hanson. That's a N D R E H a N S O N C O. C H I N Until next time, take If you like the show, don't be shy. Please give us a five-star rating and review. Follow us on apple podcast, Amazon music or wherever you're listening right now. To see complete show notes and resources mentioned in this episode
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About Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis

Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis podcast

Hear inspiring discussions with people living with chronic illness. These people went after their passions and big goals -even when everyone told them they couldn’t. Listen to stories of resilience and gratitude in the face of uncertainty.

I’m your host, Andrea W. Hanson, Author, Motivational Speaker, and Autoimmune Rebel living with multiple sclerosis. You’ll not only fall in love with these guests, but you’ll soak up positive mindset tips and ideas to find your own unique path to success.

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