I recently returned from the Healing Together conference in Orlando, sponsored by Infinite Mind. Actually, I just came back from Denver, where another conference (Creating Change, sponsored by the National LGBTQ Taskforce), took place right after the former. It was not ideal for me to travel to two big things like this back to back but that is just how things happened this year. I had set a goal of buoying my recovery and my activism this year by attending these conferences so I was determined to do them both. It was very challenging as they were both intense, in different ways, but all in all, I am proud of myself for walking through my trepidations and returned home all the better. This post is going to just address Healing Together (HT) and my time in Orlando, FL.
I’ve spent the last week slowly getting back to my routine and not specifically digesting the conference material. Partly because I caught a cold as soon as I arrived home and partly because I was emotionally overloaded. I can tell I have been getting to my breaking point because I found myself snapping at people and struggling with irritation over petty things. I also found myself partially dissociating a few times with strangers when I heard myself sharing too-candid and vulnerable information in a young voice. Opps. So, the cold was no surprise. My defenses have been stretched thin.
I ended up solo at the conference as a friend I had hoped would also attend had a medical emergency. So I had the all too familiar experience of being alone in a crowd all weekend. This was most evident when I took myself to Disney World the day before the conference opened. It is something I’ve wanted to do for years, and not having a wide social network to mine, I have never found another adult who also wanted to indulge their inner children with me. I am happy to report, that while I did not stay long (it’s just not that much fun to do Disney alone – you want another person to chat with in those long lines), I accomplished a gold star experience for one of my younger parts. It was truly memorable.
The adventure I refer to is the aptly named ‘Tower of Terror’. It is basically a haunted hotel in which you get trapped on a runaway maintenance elevator only to soar high above the park – and they open the doors to reveal panoramic views of the park at high altitudes and then plummet several stories repeatedly. The wait is amusing as the hotel ambiance of a decrepid building suspended in a forgotten time, complete with hotel personnel in character, puts you in the mood of the story. Now, I normally do not like scary rides. In fact, as a child, many times, my father and sisters would try to get me to go through a haunted house ride, but I would always jump out of the seat of the moving ride, just as the doors were opening, forcing whoever was my partner to ride the ride alone, as I ran to hide behind my mother. So I was surprised that I kept getting an animated and energetic impulse to go on the “Tower of Terror”. After doing some internal communication, I realized that one of my younger parts really wanted to prove herself by going on this ride. I was lucky to find a safe way to let my young part that endured the home invasion I suffered as a child play with the haunted house motif in an exciting and thrilling way. She has lived in a real haunted house ever since the home invasion, the period at which she stayed stuck. Indeed, I heard over and over “I’m not afraid of that, that’s nothing!” inside. I was moved and tenderly held her inside me front and center throughout the whole experience and then indulged her bragging and dramatic replaying. Something so simple, but the experience was deeply gratifying.
I’ve only just recently found this young part. Frozen in terror, she was replaying the home invasion over and over before I brought her to the present,. Whenever I was/am triggered with stories or memories of home intrusions and violence, I would suffer time losses and later find peculiar hints of her involving my phone (I was the one who called a neighbor for help). I have now brought her to the present with me and let her know she is a child and does not have to be the one to face the home invasion anymore. It is over and I (grown me) am now in charge of home safety. But she wears her bravery like a badge of honor and the “Tower of Terror” was a vehicle for her to prove her toughness. So I was so glad to be having a great time with her and that she got to “play” with the image of haunted house. She truly was the brave one, the hero for the afternoon!
If all I had accomplished as far as internal communication goes was the triumph of that young one that weekend I would have been happy. But this happened before the conference had even started! Registration was followed by a survivor small group, led by two therapists. Hats off to the organizers, they built-in several support structures for attendees. Other supportive features included ‘Chat and Chews’ that occurred during lunch. Here you could either meet up with other survivors or other supporters to share in a facilitated discussion. There was also a quiet room to de-stress, a walking Labyrinth to engage in moving meditation and a ‘Creative Corner’ that had three stations that were always busy. All these areas were staffed by volunteers, most of whom were mental health counselor interns. There was also a small vendor area that was informative to peruse.
I will continue this conference report in the next post.