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Ep. 42: Embracing Trauma for the Higher Good with MaryLynn Hinde

Most of us have experienced something so life-shifting it had a profound impact on who we are, how we operate, and the decisions we’ve made. For some, it could be a divorce or losing a loved one. For others, it could be a mental illness, traumatic childhood event, or toxic behavior. And, sadly, we live in a world where we are often judged by moments of our lives.

Today, we’re going to talk about letting some of those skeletons out of the closet and embracing trauma for the higher good. I couldn’t think of anyone more amazing and more magnificent to talk about this topic with us than MaryLynn Hinde. She’s a mother of three, GrandMarmy of five, and a happy 15-year resident of Frederick, Maryland. She and her husband, Ed, are partners in founding and working their nonprofit, SHIP of Frederick County. She’s a kick-ass social advocate and creative solution leader in the areas of educating, destigmatizing, and humanizing the voices and stories of people whose lives have been impacted by issues like homelessness, mental health, and childhood trauma. And I have to say, as a huge fan, MaryLynn is all around one of the most bold, amazing human beings I have ever met.

MaryLynn, thank you and welcome to The Gutsy Podcast.

Where it began

Laura: So, what we’re talking about today could be considered fairly deep and maybe even a little bit heavy. So just take me back. Give me just kind of an overview of your journey and what really has led you into this space.

MaryLynn: Okay. So, I grew up in an extremely dysfunctional family system. And, um, there were lots of layers of abuse and neglect. Lack of boundaries was probably the description that, you know, there were very few limits put on what adults could do or not do with us as children.

And, um, it’s interesting because I suffered my own drama. There were sexual boundaries crossed, physical boundaries crossed, emotional boundaries crossed. And I kind of dealt with them in a way that didn’t really display themselves until I was a teenager, other than stifling who I was as a young girl.

But what really caused me to begin to understand the impact and the depth of what happened to me and my two sisters, um, was when my little sister, I witnessed her being allowed to be abused; abused by another adult under my parents observation, so to speak, um, them giving permission to another person to kind of have what they wanted from her. And I was old enough at that time to think like that isn’t right.

Again, I never told another adult. I wouldn’t know what to explain, uh, rules are rules. And I know that there were times you just tell people what’s going on and you often aren’t quite sure whether it’s preposterous or whether it’s a terrible thing. So, you know, kind of waiting to grow up a little bit and being able to kind of observe the world and go, yeah, that really was shitty and that was horrible.

That resounded with me in my way of recognizing what happened to my sister and then going back to my own experiences and realizing that these factors, these experiences, this pain, and trauma inhabited me in a way that didn’t really come forward until my late twenties, early thirties. Unrolling itself and kind of like knocking on the door a little with bits of information. And then when I was in my early forties, I just, I had a breakdown and everything came flooding forward and it was like this huge mess and I just froze and basically wanted to die.

So I found some help for myself and I started on a road to unwrapping all of that and recognizing how embedded all of that trauma, darkness, memories, and feelings just really walked with me through all my life.

ROCK BOTTOM

Laura: So, one of the things I heard you say is that when you were in your forties was really when everything hits you. I know trauma can be really challenging to deal with and it’s often perceived as being easier to just lock it down and behind rather than to face the emotions that come with it. So, as you were growing up, was the trauma presenting itself in your life or was it just like locked away?

MaryLynn: I didn’t look upon it as trauma as much as I did damage. So, I put them in a different category because I thought, well, this happened and this happened and this happened and that’s why I feel so shitty about myself. And that’s why nobody likes me. And that’s why my parents didn’t love me. And that’s why, you know, the damage equaled all of the difficulties that I was dealing with in my life, as far as finding my place in the world.

So, as I approached my forties and got into a healthier relationship place and also was free from some of the spider webs of my past that kept me a little bit frozen, my big breakdown was a revelation to me of some of the things that had happened to me physically.

I chose, as that was unfolding, that death was better than then dealing with it. And I remember I was in California driving to work and I would drive down the Five — we lived in Southern California — and I remember wanting to drive into the barrier on Highway Five on my way to San Diego, to my job from San Clemente. And just thinking, well, this would be so much better. And at one point in time, something clicked in and I thought, I think that I need to get some help.

Like my fear and the darkness that I felt. I was able to find just a sliver of light to say, maybe you should call somebody, maybe you need to talk to somebody, maybe there’s a solution. And I did find somebody that would talk to me. I did find somebody that would hold me in place until everything kind of opened up and they could tell me and help me understand what was going on at that moment.

I was one of those people that you would look at and never think that what was going on in my head, right? Like, oh, you’re perfect. You’re this, you’re that. And so nobody would ever believe what I was carrying in my head and body because I looked okay on the outside. And even therapists would say, well, I think we’re done here, MaryLynn, you’ve done a good job. And I would leave going, oh, they still didn’t see me. Who’s gonna see me, you know? Like, who’s going to see beyond my exterior. And then I found that person and it saved my life.

ask for help

Laura: So, I just want to pause there for a second and make sure that we’re providing steps and resources. What do you recommend for people that may find themselves in that space right now or who may have someone in their life in that space right now?

MaryLynn: Well, for me for a long time, I did not want to share anything that was about the way my head worked. So reaching out and getting help. People can call their suicide prevention hotlines. We have in Maryland 2-1-1 that you can call and ask for help and get referrals. Telling one person, will you listen to me for a few minutes while I tell you something and not go away? I’m not trying to scare you, but I want to tell you how I’m feeling and can you stick with me. Because it’s very easy for people to be dismissive, right? And think, well, that’s just too big for me. But having one person or one hotline or one resource that you line up when you know that you have issues is so important.

And telling one person allows you to then move on to another person. You build that safety mechanism. You realize that people aren’t freaking out and running away from you and you look in the mirror and you see yourself and you’re still here. You’re still okay. You haven’t morphed into something awful. Asking people for reassurance, do you still see me? Um, you know, can you hold my hand?

So whatever kind of rescue sort of emergency system that you can find set one up. Mine was always one person I could call and say, I really feel like hurting myself today. And I always, for the last eight years, I’ve had a therapist that I could call and go see within a few days.

FROM SHAME TO HIGHER GOOD

Laura: There’s a lot of shame that comes with having dark areas of our pasts, right? So what I want to do is just kind of transition into, you know, we’re busy people, or busy professionals or mothers or fathers or friends. And we’re going on and on and on about our days, but in the background there’s this element of our past that comes along. There is a trauma that’s not yet been resolved.

What have you found that holds people back typically from opening up? Because on one end of the spectrum there is what we just discussed, which is a very serious topic of suicide prevention. And then there’s the other level of, you know, shits gone really crazy in my life and it really bothers me, but I’m pretty high functioning and I’m carrying on my day to day.

MaryLynn: Right. Well, I’ll speak for me. I just got tired of not being who I was and I just recognize that it wasn’t the people outside of it that were making me feel ashamed. That shame resided in me. And because I would portray myself in a certain way, nobody knew the big ole backpack of shame and guilt I carried around with me.

But it did present social barriers, for instance, because I would only go so far sometimes. And being able to socialize, um, I would compare myself to other people and imagine that they were in so much of a different space than I was. And when I was able to recognize that I couldn’t bear to carry that backpack anymore, it was just too heavy that I did want to live, that I did want to take advantage of some of the wonderful bright spots in my life and that I felt like my journey and my history had a purpose.

One of the things I learned is that that there’s a difference between regretting behaviors, but recognizing that although you regret and have pain and suffering, that imagining it any differently you would not be who you were at that very moment in time. I also began to listen to people and paid attention to them when they said like, I think you’re great. You are really brave. You’re really courageous. You look great today.

And I began to think, I like this person and she’s telling me something nice about myself. Maybe it’s true! Maybe, besides all the darkness and all of the ghosts and things that I carry, I could maybe set that backpack alongside of me because it is my partner in life. And all of those things belonged to me, but I don’t have to carry it everywhere.

Its got a life of its own for God’s sakes, and so I don’t have to carry all my shit forward all the time. I don’t have to show people and apologize for what I fucked up and all my shit before I could be an okay person or before I could have permission to be in their lives.

And slowly but surely, I began to just move away from that disguise and having to be this person who you couldn’t really see through to being a much more transparent human being. And using the gifts and tools, from having made the journey that I did, to be able to maybe impact somebody else positively. Because it impacted me positively and to share that experience and to allow other people to take off their disguises to be transparent and open.

set your bag of shit down

Laura: I love this concept of, you know, you can set the backpack or bag of shit down. You don’t have to take it everywhere. You don’t have to like go to a new party or networking event and be like, hi, I’m MaryLynn or hi, I’m Laura. Oh by the way, here is all my shit first.

MaryLynn: Right, right. Exactly. Sometimes you want to bring your backpack and you want to say, I brought my backpack with me and you could put yours right next to me and we’re going to be good. Or sometimes you say, I left my backpack in the car today — and that’s okay.

And tapping into our ability to, you know, we are all other personas of ourselves on a spectrum. Right? So you don’t have to bring everything out into everything every time. You can tap into your talents and bring what might be helpful.

So sometimes you spill your guts and sometimes you just show who you are just by being like a great listener and being able to help somebody. It’s a balancing act. I tend to be much more of the, here I am.

you’re not alone

Laura: There’s such power in knowing that you’re not alone in every aspect of every corner of your life. Like, I’m not the only one that’s going through X, Y, or Z scenario. I’m not the only one who is a new mother and I have this baby and I’m freaking out. I’m not the only one that has just started this business and I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m not the only one that is struggling mentally, but I don’t know what to do with it. There’s power in numbers.

MaryLynn: Oh, there is so much power in numbers and being able to touch other people’s lives and to invite them in to be able to work on things together. Like I did the play Calling Dr.Freud about mental health issues and we invited community members and we invited people to come in and talk about their stories and share among a very safe group of people who were committed to allowing each other to bear their souls. And then we took that to the public and we impacted people in a big way because we became raw, honest, human beings.

There is always somebody in the audience or somebody sitting in the same room as you that you can relate to, and being honest about your dark sides, your light, your shadows, your brightness, your gloominess, and your happiness — we all have all of that rolled up into the beautiful human beings that we are. We are not just one thing. And to allow people to see those different parts and to still be moving forward and to still be loving and compassionate, it’s contagious.

vulnerability is huge

Laura: I have found every time I have the courage share something that has felt icky, gross, or a heavy backpack thing, the support and resect that is reflected back to me blows my mind. I think that when you’re vulnerable and you open up to areas of your life where people may not necessarily guess, or like you mentioned earlier, sometimes it’s invisible diseases or feelings, it is impactful.

It’s literally just having the courage to open up.

MaryLynn: Yeah. Vulnerability is huge. And I think it takes a while to be able to trust yourself enough to do so. I mean, I trust myself now to be vulnerable. Even if something happens that maybe gets thrown back in my face, I still feel that vulnerability and transparency are my best outfit.

That is me at my best because I’ve used all of those things to create the opportunities for me to have a bold voice, to be outspoken, and to allow other people to be able to take what you want, don’t take, don’t listen, listen — it doesn’t matter.

I feel like my ideas that I get sometimes and things that resonate with me, I don’t own them. I really feel like I’m this, for lack of a better words, vessel to be able to share. So if I get something that really resonates with me, but it’s not mine, I know I need to share it. Maybe nobody wants it? But I know that it’s not mine to keep. And so I feel my experiences, my gifts, and the things that I believe in are not just mine to keep. And I think that’s how I have found so much healing is I give it away. I give it away.

UNRESOLVED TRAUMA

Laura: How do you feel unresolved trauma shows up in long ramps as adults? Particularly businessmen and women? Like, if we’re not talking about these things, we’re not dealing with them, and we’re just really pushing them down. How do those typically show up for people?

MaryLynn: I think for me, I can get triggered at a social event from somebody inappropriately touching me. And I don’t mean that someone is actually coming onto me sexually, but if there is a swoop in of something, that can trigger me. And I recognize that resonation of that trauma inside of my body.

So for me, those little things will trigger. Certain conversations with people can be triggering. And once you begin to learn what some of those triggers are, you can begin to, or I’ll speak about myself, I can preempt some of that. If I know I’m going into a situation, I can ask somebody not to talk about something or not to do a specific thing because that could be triggered.

For instance, for years, I couldn’t go into a church and sit and be okay. I would just freak out and run out. So I didn’t do that anymore. And sometimes, like I have a friend that I just talked to on the phone the other day and she had a conversation with somebody that really set her off because they told her she was overreacting and feeling too emotional. Words like that can can trigger a thought of like, Oh yeah, that’s what I used to hear all the time and dammit, no, I’m not. But now I feel like I’m four and I’ve done something wrong.

So I think learning what each person has a different things that will trigger them and being prepared and understanding what they are. And if you do get triggered in a certain situation, you can excuse yourself. I have said I need to go, this is difficult for me, and take myself out of it. And then look back and say, you know, what could I have done or was there a warning sign that I might be getting into something over my head?

Certain things trigger me today as much as they did 25 or 30 years ago. I will react very, very quickly. So I think it really makes a difference if you learn what they are and tools to cope with them. And be prepared and have a plan.

What Does Gutsy Mean to You?

MaryLynn: Oh, well, when I think of gutsy I think of just being really clear within myself and determined and just saying, just do it. Don’t ask questions, don’t ask permission. There is nobody better to tell me and to guide me what to do than I am right now because I have done the work and I have learned and I have schooled myself and I will do it.

Thank You, Gutsy Tribe!

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