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How Therapy and Meditation Helped Me Navigate Birth Trauma as a Teen Mom

“I never understood why I couldn’t just be happy. I would beat myself up over it, wondering why I couldn’t be content with my beautiful home and fulfilling life. But my PTSD and trauma had a profound impact on my happiness and the happiness of my family.”

Hello! Who are you?

Hi there! I’m Stephanie, a photographer based in a small town in Wisconsin. I’ve been running my own photography business for 10 years now, and my number one passion is capturing life’s moments through my lens.

I also love reading and learning new things, and I consider myself a happy person. For me, happiness is a choice, and I’ve worked hard to overcome my inner critic that tells me I’m not good enough.

I am in a relationship with a wonderful person. He is also a photographer, so we have lots of fun together. I live with my son and our cat Leo. 

I love books and learning new things. One of my favorite topics to read about is mindset training. Being in charge of my thoughts- versus, letting them consume me. 

Being in charge of my thoughts means that I have more control over my life- and that means that I get to decide if I want to be happy or not.

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

I was diagnosed with PTSD around the age of 40, but I had been struggling for much longer. I was aware of my symptoms, but I didn’t know the extent of my trauma until a friend told me about Brainspotting. I found a therapist who specialized in Brainspotting, and we began working together.

The first step in Brainspotting is to assess the client’s symptoms and identify any underlying trauma. My PTSD stemmed from the trauma I endured when I became pregnant with twins at 16.

They were born prematurely and both struggled with ongoing health problems. One of them developed cerebral palsy, and the other struggled with ADD and a nonverbal learning disorder.

At 16, I was ill-equipped to handle a pregnancy, let alone a traumatic delivery, and having twins in the NICU for three months. While the focus was on the babies, as it should be, I was struggling with the shock of an unwanted pregnancy and the premature birth of my children. The stress, fatigue, loneliness, and isolation took their toll on me. I had no outlet, no community, and no support.

I lived with this trauma for many years, and it held me back in many ways. I couldn’t develop deep relationships with other people because I couldn’t develop one with myself. PTSD impacted my entire life.

Now, looking back at the trauma and fear I experienced starting at the age of 16, my heart hurts for that girl. She was literally living with the trauma of the preterm labor, the medical issues, the family issues, and everything else. There was no way even an adult could handle that on their own. It affected my entire life.

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

I never understood why I couldn’t just be happy. I would beat myself up over it, wondering why I couldn’t be content with my beautiful home and fulfilling life. But my PTSD and trauma had a profound impact on my happiness and the happiness of my family.

I tried to hide my anxiety and fears from everyone, but they often left me feeling depressed, tired, and isolated. I was always trying to be better than the person I thought I was.

My trauma was buried so deep that it had become a part of my identity. I really thought I was a bad person and that I was unworthy of happiness. I didn’t realize that there was a different way to think or live.

All the things that should have made me feel better – a gym membership, hiking in nature – made me feel worse. I felt numb and empty, and I was angry at myself for not being able to enjoy them. Trauma and my inner critic ruled my life.

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

In March 2022, I decided to take a month in Santa Barbara to figure out my life. Being in a new town gave me the space to see who I really was and what I wanted.

I went to Zumba, joined a meditation group, and went for walks on the beach. I finally felt safe, and I began to heal the fear and trauma I had accumulated over the years.

During that month, I realized that I needed to get divorced and move into my own space. It was a difficult decision, but it was the right one for me. I was finally ready to be myself and to live the life I wanted.

After I left my marriage, my life began to change rapidly. I started to understand the books I had read about mindset, joy, and gratitude. I realized that I was in control of my thoughts and feelings and that I could choose to focus on the things that brought me joy.

I now feel free to express myself, and I am using my voice to help others feel good about themselves, to make a difference, and to make choices for themselves.

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

Being a teen mom was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I felt insecure, alone, unworthy, and ashamed. It breaks my heart to write this because I can still feel all of those emotions.

If you’re struggling with these feelings, for any reason, I want you to know that I love you. I don’t know you, but I know your struggles, your heart, and the strong love you give out. You just haven’t found a safe place to receive that love back yet. But I love you.

I know the courage it takes to just be here, to show up every day. I know how hard it is just to be you. And even if you think your strength is gone and you want to give up, you have to keep going.

There are good people in the world who really do just want you to be happy. You have to use your strength to find those people. But first, you have to find a safe place to be yourself.

All the therapists, walks, hikes, and motivational books in the world won’t help you until you’re in a safe place to receive the love and kindness you deserve.

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

A single piece of advice I would give is that don’t worry about what other people think. You have to do you. Until they have walked a mile in your shoes- they cannot give you advice or judge you. The second thing, learn meditation. It’s a literal lifesaver.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

Where can we go to learn more about you?

You can read more about me here, or on Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Is there anything else you think we should have asked you?

I would love to talk about my morning routine for happiness and abundance! It is a huge part of who I am and why I am able to choose happiness.

Every morning, I stay off social media and write out my day hour by hour on paper. This helps me silence my overactive, judgy, and critical mind later in the day when it’s at its loudest. After taking my son to school, I walk my dog and then meditate for 10-15 minutes, usually with a guided meditation on YouTube or with relaxing music.

I schedule time into my day for walks with my dog, coffee with a friend, or an afternoon hike. And every day, I try to do at least one thing that will make me happy. I literally ask myself, “What could I do today that makes me happy?” And I do it!

I had a marketing coach who would always say, “What makes you happy? What makes you joyful?” I really appreciated that question because if you’re not happy, you’re not going to attract clients!

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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