The Healing Power of Relationship
Blog by Chris Baeza
“We are better together in healthy relationships,” said Renae Dupuis, our Trauma Specialist and RESPITE Program Director. Our 2nd Annual RESPITE Conference concluded last Saturday and our attendees spent a whole day at Granada Heights Friends Church in La Mirada. Conference attendees listened to speakers and were equipped to better their communities by creating a more trauma-informed community. Renae’s opening session introduced listeners to the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, or ACEs Study, by Dr. Robert Anda and Laura Porter and the effects it has had on the most vulnerable people in our communities. According to an ACEs Study Handout,
“The ACE Study confirms, with scientific evidence that adversity during development increases the risk of physical, mental and behavioral problems later in life. The ACE Study and other research using the study’s framework have taught us that ACEs are the leading cause of health and social problems in our nation and the most powerful determinant of the public’s health.”
On my first day working for OC United I sat in on one of Renae’s ACEs Training. It was quite the introduction to the organization that I was going to be interning for, for the next six months. While some people may have been overwhelmed by this experience, I welcomed the newfound information that was being presented to me. I was so excited, I took my ACE packet back to my home and shared with my wife what I had learned. I encouraged my friends to begin educating themselves on the ACE study. But when the stress of life hit, it was like I had completely forgotten everything that I had learned on that first day.
Months have passed since then and I have started working at a part-time job for an organization that works with children in low-income communities. Working in this community, I have seen the impact of childhood trauma more than I had ever seen it before in my own life and in the lives of the kids I work with. If it were not for that first day at OC United, I would not have had any language (or the understanding?) to communicate what was going on in the community around me.
Becoming aware of the trauma around me has also helped me to see the trauma that I have experienced in my own life and how it affects my behavior. I am in my last semester of college, recently married as of five months ago, work a part-time job, and intern at OC United. All of these responsibilities have contributed to overwhelming amounts of stress that have been plaguing my life in the last three months. I have come close to breaking down multiple times – and in just October alone!
After working at the RESPITE Conference, I was reminded that this behavior was not strange, but rather my brain responding to the stress I was experiencing. There have been multiple times this month that I have allowed my stress to take over my life. I pushed away anybody who would try to help me because I thought I needed to run away from them and everything else, in order to get to safety. However, hearing Renae this last weekend reminded me that there is hope. She said, “in order to be fully functioning humans we need relational connection.” I forgot that the one thing I was pushing away the most was the thing I needed more than anything else – relationship. The process of healing my trauma was not running away but rather running toward the people in my life that wanted to help me heal.
“Healing occurs within the context of relationships within trauma-sensitive environments,” according to Renae. Because of the RESPITE Program and RESPITE Conference, I have been reminded that I am not in this life alone. When I am in need of relief and try to run away from everything, I can remind myself that there is hope and there is a way out. There are people around me who want to walk through my trauma with me and that want to give me a different ending.
For those of you working within trauma-affected communities, know that you are not alone. There are others who want to give you compassion so that you can continue to spread compassion to others. OC United and the RESPITE Program have been so encouraging and understanding towards my situation and continue to walk with me through this stressful time of life.
Please remember that you are not alone in this.
For additional resources and information regarding the RESPITE Program visit us at www.ocunited.org/respite
OC United, Intern