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The Phenomenon of Post-traumatic Growth

Six years ago, “my life” was completely different while living in Michigan.

I was a stay at home mom and my husband had a great job and a successful consulting business. We owned a beautiful home, my daughter was enrolled in a private school, and we had a very active social life. I even had help cleaning my house every single day. I also had the opportunity to work for fun doing what I loved. I was a local TV star – a host for a TV show on Univision Spanish Network – and if you asked me then how my life was, I would have said, “My life is awesome!”
One day, my husband came home from work and with a lost look in his eyes, told me he was let go. In a matter of months, he lost his job, his business, our house, cars and the daily help in the house, of course. For six months, we lived on credit cards and help from family, until my husband found an opportunity to work out of state. Consequently, I also lost all my long time friends from Michigan and my fun job as a TV star. In a matter of months, that “awesome” life was gone.

On November 15th, 2012, months after we moved to Washington state, I found myself in front of the doors of an elevator at the University of Washington, holding my husband’s hand.

I remember as if it were yesterday, going inside, thinking, “Why us? Why now?” The doors closed and I felt sick. I was sweaty, my heart was beating fast and the air was so thick, I almost couldn’t breathe. I remember clearly walking out of that elevator on the fourth floor. I think I knew deep in my heart my life was about to change forever.
The front office clerk took us to a small room. There were three chairs, a table, and a box of tissues. We sat, and I think I started crying even before hearing from the doctor, for the first time ever, the word “autism.” Our son, our beautiful two-year-old boy, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The doctor continued talking, but I could only see her mouth move. In my head, I was just thinking about that elevator. I understood in that very moment why I felt sick. I knew also that the same elevator that took us there wasn’t going to be there anymore. The doors that closed behind me just minutes before took with them a life that was gone, a life that would never come back. In that room, on that fourth floor, for a moment, I felt completely lost. How could this happen to us? Losing everything, moving to a new place, and now this? All at the same time, in the same year? I can deal with my husband’s job loss, our house, the city, the friends, the financial instability, but losing the health of one of my kids? That day, I learned that my son probably wasn’t ever going to be able to talk or live an independent life. Nothing prepares you for that!

This is the reason why I am here today.

No, this is not a talk about autism or parenting a kid with special needs. Though I have much to say about that, this is not the place or time. My only hope with this talk is to help you rediscover your true life. With all that happened to us, I lost many things and relationships but I connected with myself, and in the end, that is the ONE relationship that matters.
Fast forward to 2016, a few years after that elevator ride. I am so happy to understand why I felt so lost in that moment – why my life was really awesome and then it was not – and how I was able to overcome that feeling and find myself again.

See, when someone asks us how our life is, we always talk about what we have, what we earn, what we do, who is with us: our husbands, our kids, the car, the state or country we live in.

All these things together make our life great and if we have them, we say, “Yes, I have a good life.” And if there is something missing, then we feel our life is not that great. We attribute the meaning of life to the conditions of it without being aware that conditions are ALWAYS subject to change.
Listen, I am not here to tell you how perfect my life is now, even though I am in a great place. Things keep happening all the time. Most of these things we have no control over, and in some cases, one bad thing turns into another and suddenly, you end up feeling stuck in a tornado – powerless and hopeless, trapped in a place you never imagined you would be. I want you to know there is a way out. In the midst of what may seem like complete chaos, there is an opportunity to create a life that makes you feel happy and empowered, no matter what.

Before sharing with you how to turn things around, I would like to tell you my definition of life. I think it’s common to fall for the false belief that your life is the secure job that pays the bills, the house that you live in, your kids that make you proud, your spouse, or your health. You may also think your life is all the problems around you, your challenges and struggles, your finances. Yes, all of these things are impacting your life but they are NOT your life. They are only the conditions that are subject to change.

Your life is your passion, your courage, your faith, your hope, your mission, your purpose and your soul.

Unlike the things that change and pass and fade and go away, your life is with you wherever you go, whatever you do. Your life is the part of you that no one can take away. Understanding this was an incredible awakening for me. When my husband lost his job and we lost everything, what really happened was, for the first time in my entire life, I was able to look into myself and connect with the LIFE that I was meant to live. As a result, beautiful miracles started happening. The circumstances of my life didn’t change. My son still had autism. The difference was that I changed. I started a transformation that stopped me from pointing the finger at life’s circumstances and blaming them for the quality of my life. I let go of all those thoughts that were disempowering my TRUE LIFE.

For me, losing everything was the best way to start living. It allowed me to look at the only thing left: MY LIFE, MY HEART BEATING! That is why I am here today. The most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself. This is your true LIFE.

Preparing for my talk, I found an article. Apparently, my story is just one of many that illustrates what experts call post-traumatic growth: the phenomenon of people becoming stronger and creating a more meaningful life in the wake of staggering tragedy or trauma. Out of loss there is often gain, say researchers. And in ways that can be deeply profound, a staggering crisis can often change people for the better.

I am here today because I want to be that traumatic growth for you.

I don’t think you need to go through what I went through to find the meaning of your LIFE and start living. I don’t want you to wait for that to happen. Today, I want to take you to that elevator and make you feel uncomfortable. I want your hands shaking and your heart beating. I want you to imagine that all the circumstances and conditions that define your life now are gone; nothing is left in that elevator but YOU. Today I want to be that diagnosis for you. I want to be the bad news coming from nowhere, that unexpected change. I want you to leave here today with a transformation that doesn’t require you to live a tragedy, but to create a VICTORY, embracing THAT thing called LIFE.

Enjoy this moment, look inside, what do you see?

I am sure you will find the greatest gifts… boxes ready to be opened. You will find dreams and the passion to make them come true, just like me. You will find the courage to overcome any challenge no mater how big. I am 40+1 years old and I celebrated it on September 19th, 2016 – the first year of my LIFE (show picture). I resigned from my job as a Human Resources Coordinator, started working at FEAT (Families for Effective Autism Treatment) a nonprofit organization that helps families with kids like my son Luca. I started my life coaching business “Feed Your Soul” and harassed Sunday for months to let me be part of this event. I am a transformational life coach and an inspirational speaker, and though I am the happiest I’ve ever been, this is not what makes my life awesome.