An article written by Kim Savige, Coach / NLP Practitioner, Oaktree Coaching
Can a person who has been hurt, terribly and deeply, use their own lived experience to help others? This question resonated with me for a long time before I realised that the answer is yes, with some caveats.
When I was diagnosed with PTSD two years ago, I thought I was broken; a failure. I believed that I was beyond repair, stuck for life with the dreaded career ender I’d seen colleagues suffer. In my mind, my career and my life as I knew them were over.
I discovered through some extremely hard work and some amazing supporters that I did not have to wear that hat. I tried it on though… Just like the paramedic / I-am-my-job persona I wore for 20 years prior to becoming ill, I tried on that PTSD hat. I tweaked it, tilted it sideways, slept in it, stared at myself for hours on end while wearing it. And do you know what I discovered? It’s bloody uncomfortable, and it doesn’t suit me or bring out my hazel eyes at ALL!
Surely if I felt this way, so did others, and maybe my purpose was to help them remove their hats too! I could make a difference! I could help others with my own experience. I knew the job, the organisation, the stressors, and what it was like to be spit out the other end. I’d be perfect! People would know me, respect me, come to me and feel better with me helping them…
It wasn’t until I was almost completely well that I realised I wasn’t ready and that I was at risk of not only re-traumatising myself, but also vicariously traumatising others. How could I even consider trying to help others heal when I wasn’t yet fully healed myself? I was still hurting. I was still undecided on my path forwards. I was still living my own trauma.
I have had experience with healers (psychologists, doctors, counsellors) through my own story who have not faced nor fully processed their own hurt. It shows. It is detrimental to both the healer and the person looking to them for help. It can be traumatic.
Only when a person has fully dealt with and healed their own hurt can they utilise their own experiences and perspectives to help others. It cannot be done any other way. If you are hurt, you must first heal before you can attempt to genuinely help. Only then can your own experience be of use to others.
About Kim Savige
Kim has had an extensive career including: Paramedic (22 years); Ambulance Educator, Specialist Family Violence Clinician, Parent and pre-natal Educator; University Lecturer (paramedicine) and Bra Fit Specialist!
After being diagnosed with PTSD in 2019, Kim believed her life was out of her control and that she would be forever ‘broken’. After completing training in 2020, Kim qualified as an NLP Practitioner, Eriksonian hypnotherapist and Coach. This initial program turned into a combination of training and therapy, where she was able to shift some significant challenges related to her mental health and perspective.
In February 2021 Kim assisted with the delivery of the same training program and has chosen to move into coaching and NLP work as a career, using her past experience of PTSD and associated depression and anxiety to assist others. This would not be possible without all of the hard work and healing Kim was able to achieve in the last two years or the support of amazing mentors and friends.
Kim will be presenting alongside Lisa Westgate at the National Conversation on PTSD 2021. Buy your tickets here.
About the session:
You’ve had a traumatic experience. You want to help others going through similar challenges. Admirable, but helping others can take a heavy toll. We have seen individuals passionate about sharing their wisdom, fall in a hole and ultimately disappear from the space altogether. Lived Experience is recognised as valuable, but can it be sustainable?
This session is a live case study presentation where Lisa and Kim will discuss how and why the Trauma Community must move past the ‘wounded healer’ phenomenon and leverage Lived Experience to discover a new life purpose and help others with integrity and healthy boundaries.
1. Insight into a Hurt. HEAL. Help. experience.
2. Key Elements to sustainably being a Lived Experience Informed Practitioner.
3. A unique opportunity to ask questions of people who have ‘outgrown’ PTSD. Yes, it is possible.