Bankruptcy as Trauma (and a Healing Meditation)

Photo by Brittani Burns on Unsplash

I’m feeling very grateful that my family and I are together, live in a lovely home, and are able to put food on the table. This wasn’t always the case in my family of origin.

People don’t necessarily think of going through bankruptcy as trauma. But, not understanding U.S. laws, my parents didn’t even know they could file for bankruptcy and get some help. They struggled, scared, and alone. I remember my mother, tears falling down her face, crying day after day, saying, “I don’t know how we’re going to feed the children tomorrow.” The only option was literally eating our profits – the chickens and the eggs. I remember my father, eyes glazed, muttering over and over again: “I want to kill myself.”

I was thirteen years old, just starting high school. Adolescence is a time when children begin the process of transitioning from childhood to adulthood. It is a time when peer pressure is at its highest, when one learns where they fit in the larger world. Instead, I had to work to help put food on the table.

That’s what my mother and I were doing one Christmas. She found a job as locker room attendant in a resort hotel and boarded there. I spent Christmas with her, helping her in the locker room and babysitting for extra money. My father and younger sister stayed home, taking care of the small flock of chickens we retained.

This was the first and only time our family was apart for Christmas. There were no presents that year. But, because my mother and I worked, we had enough to eat. The hotel where she worked fed and housed her. I stayed with her in her room, and she shared her food with me while I was fortunate enough to get babysitting jobs.

We lived with this trauma for several years, my mother going out to find work, my father at home with suicidal ideation because he felt so powerless. But, still, he purchased 800 chickens and a new automatic feeder, both costing us every last cent we had. Even as a child, I knew that this was an act of a desperate man. With everything else he had lost in escaping to the United States, he couldn’t face another failure and live with himself. So, he held onto what he knew, scared to go out into the world to find work. When friends asked him why my mother worked, he told them it was because she wanted some spending money.

Over the years as an adult, I have faced times when my bank account started to dwindle.  Whenever that happens and there is no job in sight, I immediately go into the freeze response, a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  I feel paralyzed, I can’t think, and I feel as though I have no options – just like my parents must have felt. This reaction is so automatic, I don’t even know it’s happening.

It wasn’t until I learned qigong meditation that I could combat this reaction.  After taking several deep breaths, I could immediately calm down, then realizing that I was had flashbacks to a time that no longer existed. The slow movement exercises correlating with the slow inhale and exhale of the breath, It brings me back to reality, and my brain begins to work again.  I  remember  that I have options that my parents didn’t have.

So, here’s an example of a meditation that can help you calm down when you are anxious, upset, or feel numb. However, please note that this does not take the place of seeing a professional if you have recurring flashbacks, nightmares, etc.

Sit quietly, both feet flat on the floor, with hands palms down on your thighs. Sit a little forward in the chair, and do not lean against the back of the chair. Sit up straight, lowering your chin slightly to straighten your spine.

Place your tongue gently on the roof of your mouth against the top front teeth.  This activates the immune system. Close your eyes and deeply and gently breathe through your diaphragm.

Gently blow your stomach out like a balloon as you inhale, and contract your stomach muscles as you exhale. Try doing that several times, each time going a little deeper, taking in and exhaling more breath. Remember, don’t force the breath, let it come naturally. The most important thing about qigong is not to force anything. Take smaller breaths. That’s perfectly o.k.

Each time you breathe, be aware of your stomach extending and contracting. At the same time, notice what’s going on in your body – do you feel warmer or cooler, or nothing at all; do you feel tingling; are you feeling more relaxed than you did before you started  – just notice, no need to question or figure anything out. Whatever is happening is fine. The whole idea is to get to know yourself.

Start with five rotations, increasing in 5-minute increments after 7 days of meditating. To come out, let each breath bring you back into the present moment.  At the same time, slowly start moving your hands and feet, your legs and torso, moving your head from side to side. Then, open your eyes and make eye contact with an object or someone in the room.

And, most important, notice how you feel.

For this position, sitting as described above is best for optimum qi circulation. The  tongue position activates the immune system, and lowering the chin straightens the spine, allowing  free-flowing qi internally and externally.  The diaphragm breathing allows the greatest amount of air in and out of your body.

Any qigong position activates certain acupressure points that promote the flow of qi throughout the body.

This simple qi meditation helps to calm the body, mind, and spirit. When there is a feeling of calm, your ability to act improves. You feel in control of your life, you’re happier. And, that happiness extends to those around you.

I have tears in my eyes as I remember harder times and also knowing that I have come through yet another trauma in my life. So, for this I have hope that I will continue to overcome whatever challenges come before me and that others can as well.

You might want to tape the meditation so that you can follow it more easily.

Please give feedback on the meditation in the Comments section, if it helps you or not, how you feel, and if you would like more meditations. Also, please contact me with any questions.