“My name is Ashlee (Birk) Boyson. I started this conference as part of my own healing journey after the infidelity and murder of my husband and years of suffering with PTSD and major anxiety disorder. It started as a blog to journal for my children the story of their past, but has grown into a community of friends who know what it is like to have to write a new story. I thought I was alone—I didn’t know anyone else was silently suffering.
The first time I set foot in the conference I felt like I was home. A room full of friends I had never before met. Each hug filled my cup, and every tear that fell on my shoulder strengthened me. They understood. They had felt broken. They knew the feeling I had lived for so long. They had each suffered a trauma in their life. For the first time in a long time I felt assured that I really wasn’t alone.
I am humbled to be apart of something so much bigger than myself and excited to learn and grow with the many beautiful souls that have held me up, and continue to help me find my reasons to stand.
I want to define my description of the word trauma. In these conferences and on my blog I use this word a lot. To me a trauma experience is a moment of impact in your life where you thought, “I am never going to be the same” or “This is not the story I ever thought I would live.” But trauma, is what plagues us in the moments that follow. The real fight that follows a traumatic experience is the trauma left inside of you—fueling beliefs and causing chaos and fear.
Traumatic experiences range from small to large, and can are unique for every individual. For some, this moment of impact was when their mom left them at a grocery store when they were five years old and in that moment they began a journey of fear of abandonment. Every trigger in their life bringing back up that belief, usually with so much fear that it has caused problems in their relationships, and in finding love for themselves. Others have had a traumatic experience as they watched the lips of a spouse tell them they had been having an affair, and in that moment start down a path of wondering if they will ever be enough. Others it is the moment they are told they can never have children. Many experience traumatic experiences after the loss of a child, parent, or spouse. Some people’s trauma has been created by a disease they have battled or a handicap child they have raised. Every story is unique. But in each case trauma lurks inside of them, leaving every individual wondering why—since the moment of impact—they have never been the same. Some question God, others battle self hatred, and many struggle with the relationships that once came easy. Joy is harder to feel, because there always seems to be a dark fog covering everything that they do. They cannot put their finger on why, but life sometimes doesn’t feel worth living . . . and they assume it is because of an experience that broke them.
Because trauma doesn’t rest. It grows, and is triggered by sometimes the simplest of things and —unless you have experienced it—you will never be able to fully understand. The hard part is . . . the person experiencing the trauma doesn’t even comprehend all that is happening, because that fear that is triggered begins to drive, and they become a victim to its power. Many times resulting in anger, overreactions, and moments and words they wished they could take back.
You see, these moments of impact are remembered in our minds as powerful, but the more research and time I have spent digging deep into—not only my own trauma —but the struggles of others during their trauma . . . I am finding that it isn’t the experience we go through that causes the lasting effects of trauma. It is our view of who we think we must be because of the beliefs that are created inside of us as we experience the initial pain—and the many times our bodies duplicate it, when triggers come. So we begin to think we are broken, alone, and abandoned. And the beliefs only grow stronger the more we try to suppress and run from them.
So it is these findings that have fueled me to share these messages with our world. I have yet to meet one of these individuals—suffering through trauma—who is broken. Each one has been on a hard journey, but nothing they have done or seen has taken away their ability to live a life of grace. Nothing that they have fought to overcome has taken away the truths they were born to live—this trauma has just clouded their view for a while and made it harder to see.
We are not alone—in our fights, in our struggles, in our fears. And we are all looking for “a reason to stand”. The world is going to tell us that we are weak, broken, misunderstood, and alone. But the truth is . . . we are brave. We are not victims. We are survivors. Our battles only make us stronger, and the more the world tries to break us—the taller we will stand.
The past does not have to define us. Everyone has a story, but it is up to us—individually—to decide who we will become. The ending has not yet been written. We know there will be hard lessons, but when we put it all in the hands of God it is not just a life full of mountains and valleys . . . it is a story of grace. Miracles happen even in the dark, they are just harder to see.
The greatest of all the miracles is you. Through those mountains and valleys you haven’t given up.
Thank you to all who have joined this community of fighters. I stand with each of you, wherever you are and where ever you are going. You can never forget this one truth: YOU ARE ENOUGH. Healing, forgiveness, grace, hope, faith. They are all possible. Your life is worth living, your story is beautiful. We just have to keep fighting, and when we win these battles . . . we will be standing.”