It has been a while since I have posted. I maintain blogs and write for other sites, making it difficult to find time to write for my own. Alas, Irony.However, I wanted to write about the Younique Foundation and their work at the Haven Retreat for woman traumatized by childhood sexual abuse. If you have visited this site before, you know that I am passionate about women’s rights and about fighting sexual abuse whether institutionalized abuse, such as was experienced in the Laundries and mother and child homes, or in our everyday lives. If you have read my book, The Diaphragm Blues, you know I was sexually abused as a child in more than one circumstance.
Although I had accepted that early childhood trauma was my normal, and the norm for several family members, what I did not realize was the impact this trauma had on my life and continues to have on my life. Like many other victims of Sexual Abuse, I felt that acknowledging it and forgiving my attackers, because who wants to hold onto that hate, was enough. It wasn’t.
For as long as I can remember, I have had panic disorder, anxiety disorder, and PTSD. After my divorce and my move to Hawaii, my symptoms got worse as I started to feel insecure and unsafe. What I discovered through therapy and the Younique Foundation, was simply that I was wired to live in the fight or flight dynamic because of my childhood trauma.
When children are traumatized, sexual abuse or otherwise, the limbic system of our brain (which seeks survival, pain avoidance, and pleasure), stores and associates those trauma memories with our senses. When trauma occurs, our limbic system stores these memories to protect us later from other potential threats. Later in life, survivors of trauma start to associate every day happens with danger, survival, and pain avoidance reactions that are connected to our memories of trauma experienced. Thus, connections between the limbic and the neocortex (our rational brain) become hypersensitive to danger alerts in situations where no real danger is present (PTSD). Childhood trauma is a bit different than trauma occurring in adulthood, because in childhood our brains are still developing, and these feedback loops, as I am now thinking of them, become programmed during brain development.
The science is complicated, but the Younique foundation does a good job breaking it down for the rest of us. You can read more about “Trauma and the Brain” on the Younique Foundation Resources, but there are scores of studies regarding the brain on trauma, and a bit of simple research offers a great deal of enlightenment on this topic. The key study for these findings originated with the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente’s Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego.
But now I want to tell you a bit about the Younique Foundation. I discovered them through my boyfriend’s sister who knew of someone who had attended the retreat. The Younique Foundation is the love child of Younique, and the Dream of Shalane Maxfield. Younique the company works to empower and validate women through the use of cosmetics, and helping women establish their own business. Founded by Derek Maxfield (CEO) and his sister Melanie Huscroft (COO), Younique the makeup company was formed in the hopes that it would eventually fund the Foundation and heaven retreat, and so it is not an afterthought but the reason for Younique. I had the opportunity and privilege to meet Shalane Maxfield, Derek’s wife, at the end of my time at the retreat. Her passion for helping women is one of pure altruism, and this is such a rare quality nowadays.
The Haven Retreat at Younique is free for women who apply and who were sexually abused before the age of 18. Although you have to get yourself there, travel expenses, they handle the rest. The Younique Foundation specializes in helping women understand their brains and why they may have certain coping behaviors, and why they rely on coping behaviors rather than healing. For myself, I discovered several coping behaviors and PTSD triggers that I was unaware of before. Haveing awareness of how your brain works, your actions and triggers is the first step in being able to confront and heal from a trauma that is literally embedded and programmed in your brain. Programming that can be changed. That’s the key!
Awareness, in fact, is the first of 5 strategic steps in helping a survivor heal from trauma. The other measures include acknowledgment, power through surrender, mindfulness, and faith.
At this point, I feel I need to alleviate any potential worries about these steps in connection with religion. When I first read the steps, I was worried I might be entering some religious establishment wanting to save me from myself. Since some of my trauma happened in the Catholic Church, you can imagine how I was a skeptic.
This concern, however, was not the case. The Foundation bases all they do, the theory, information, and therapy on science and personal spirituality, which is not to be confused with institutional spirituality. If you are religious, no matter what path you are walking, that is fine. But it is also fine if you are not religious. The Foundation does explain how a connection to something larger than yourself is helpful in the healing process, but that something bigger than yourself can be science, the earth, nature, or God. The connection is what is important.
For me, the Foundation’s Haven Retreat was a life changer, hands down. In four days participants are exposed to some intense therapy, classes to help you understand yourself better and why you do what you do, the whys of the traumatized brain. Most importantly, participants receive tools for the road to health: resources, skills, new habits to create, and help for recovery and a successful life.
If you are a survivor of early childhood sexual assault and you are ready to make some positive changes in your life, apply. The process could not be simpler, and you will be provided with a safe environment to start your road to a happier life.