Practice compassion for yourself. — Processing trauma is challenging. Healing takes time, and it comes in waves. Some days are good, some days are not-so-good and that’s okay. Honoring the “bad” days can be powerful. It makes sense to “get over it” and “be done with it.” Sometimes we put so much stress on ourselves when it comes to doing all the “right” things.
The world seems to be reeling from one crisis to another. We’ve experienced a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, political and social turmoil. Then there are personal traumas that people are dealing with, such as the loss of a loved one, health issues, unemployment, divorce or the loss of a job.
Coping with change can be traumatic as it often affects every part of our lives.
How do you deal with loss or change in your life? What coping strategies can you use? Do you ignore them and just push through, or do you use specific techniques?
In this series called “5 Things You Need To Heal After a Dramatic Loss Or Life Change” we are interviewing successful people who were able to heal after a difficult life change such as the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or other personal hardships. We are also talking to Wellness experts, Therapists, and Mental Health Professionals who can share lessons from their experience and research.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nathasya Octaviane.
Nathasya Octaviane is a trauma survivor, turned Trauma-trained Somatic Practitioner & Coach, founder of AKKU Holistic Health, mental health advocate, and the host of the ‘Resilient Chat with Nat’ Podcast. Her passion for empowering survivors and helping them break the cycle of abuse and trauma was inspired by her journey of recovering from sexual assault, physical, emotional, and narcissistic abuse. Nathasya specializes in guiding individuals, primarily trauma survivors, to release trauma and stress from the body, and expand their nervous system’s capacity, so they can safely come back home to their body and thrive in their life. She does this by combining modern research and science techniques from the West and traditional teachings from the East.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my story and insight. I hope it can be helpful for those who need to hear what I have to share today.
I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, and I’ve also spent part of my childhood growing up in Angola. I attended university in the U.S and Spain, and I’ve been living in Spain ever since. My mother remarried to an American, and I spent most of my childhood under their supervision. Therefore I grew up in a very international environment. I’ve experienced racism toward me as I was living in different countries and learning new languages. When I was a young child, I was sexually assaulted. I lived in constant fear because my environment felt unsafe. Aside from the sexual assault, I was abused emotionally and physically. I was hospitalized many times due to the multiple traumatic experiences that I went through, which caused my weak immune system.
Additionally, the traumatic stress I suffered led me to have intrusive thoughts and suicide attempts by 14. On the outside, I looked “fine” to everybody else. I was a good student and involved in many extracurricular activities. Later on, I realized those were my ways to cope with the actual pain I was hiding within and escape from the unsupportive environment at home.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There have been so many life lesson quotes shared with me, or I came across that applied to me, but I kept returning to “trust the process.” This quote has been so relevant to me in all areas of my life. I wanted to rush my healing and my career. When things went “bad,” I’d punish myself, and trusting the process has been such a great reminder for me. Sometimes if we hit the gas pedal too hard, we miss the beautiful views and the little moments in life. It’s from those little moments, where we learn the most, and we live because life is not about the end of the journey, but rather the journey itself. That goes for healing, career, and relationships.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Open-minded — Growing up in an international environment encouraged me to keep an open mind. Interacting with people from different backgrounds and cultures, I had to learn how to attune to them. Because of that, it sparked an interest and curiosity in me to learn more about us humans, the world, and how we relate. I believe that it’s also one of the reasons that led me to my career. Being open-minded is especially true when I embarked on my healing journey. Healing is trial and error. You’re going to find a modality that works for you and another that doesn’t. We are all unique individuals, and what may work for one person may not work for you. That was what happened to me. I’ve tried so many different healing techniques from Western and Eastern practices. I kept an open mind the entire way while at the same time being rational in making sure that the modality is not dangerous for me and the practitioner is a safe and knowledgeable person in what they do. If I stopped after just trying one approach and told myself, “well it didn’t work, so nothing will work for me,” I would not be where I am now.
- Empathetic — I think being empathetic has its pros and cons. I’ve always thought that this was my weakness because I would be affected by other people’s emotions. Growing up, I’ve received many comments from people telling me that “you are like a sponge, you are so sensitive.” As a result, I would be bullied, mocked, and abused for it. I thought to myself, “I don’t want to be like this.” I hated myself for being an empath. However, as I began my healing journey and learned deeper about myself and regulating my emotions, I became stronger within myself. I discovered that being empathetic is a gift. It has helped me a lot to understand others, which in turn helps me to be able to help other people. I think many of us were taught by parental/authoritative figures to “toughen up” and be strong. But what does being strong truly mean? Being tough and strong does not mean pushing our emotions and feelings to the side. I believe it is being brave enough to be vulnerable.
- Resilient — I mean, my podcast is named ‘Resilient Chat with Nat’, and I chose it for a reason. In the work that I do, I help other individuals to build resilience. I believe all of us humans are resilient at the core. We were designed to survive because life is full of challenges. But with that being said, we were also designed to thrive. I’ve gone through multiple adversities in life since my very first day here on earth. The hardships that I’ve experienced and the healing process have made me a resilient individual. Being resilient is what keeps me going.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Healing after Loss’. Do you feel comfortable sharing with our readers about your dramatic loss or life change?
Yes, certainly. Although, I have to say there is a trigger warning ahead as I will be explaining my story and mentioning sexual assault, suicide, and abuse.
When I was 20 years old, the trauma of me being raped as a child resurfaced. I have always known it happened, but I always told myself that it’s just a nightmare. All those years of suppressing the memory and the feelings affected my physical and mental health and my relationships. I used to think the trauma broke me. I was in so much emotional pain that I couldn’t pinpoint where the pain was coming from, which then led me to self-harm and to try to end my life.
What was the scariest part of that event? What did you think was the worst thing that could happen to you?
When everything came to the surface, it was so overwhelming, and I was living in a foreign country and did not have any of my close friends nor family nearby. I was hospitalized twice for attempted suicide. The hospital staff put me in the ICU and it triggered me even more because I was not allowed to have anything (my phone, a book, etc.). I was only allowed to receive visitors at certain times, and couldn’t move out of my bed. I felt so alone and misunderstood. That was a terrifying moment for me because my diagnosis of PTSD, CPTSD & BPD, and the attempted suicide was a cry for help, and yet, I did not receive support and care in a trauma-informed and compassionate way. I had all of these uncomfortable feelings, emotions, and sensations surfacing from the trauma, and I was mostly by myself for days in the hospital.
How did you react in the short term?
When the hospital staff discharged me, they put me on even more SSRI medications. For a while, I felt numb. But I knew I had to keep on going forward for myself. I left the country and went back to my home country, Indonesia. My parents suggested that I take a break from university. Then when I arrived in Indonesia and wanted to continue my healing, I sought support from psychiatrists and psychologists. Still, many of them rejected me after informing them about my diagnosis. Tired of the rejection and feeling alone again, I thought to myself “I’m too broken to be healed,” and I attempted suicide once and for all. At that moment, believe it or not, when I received a divine intervention, I needed to keep going, share my story, and help others. I was pushed back into life, and I survived the suicide attempt.
After the dust settled, what coping mechanisms did you use?
I journaled a lot, meditated every day, read many personal development books, ate whole foods, and tried to create new positive experiences by noticing the beautiful little things in life. I explored new places, and met new people because those were the only ways that I knew back then. Although they did not help me process my traumas thoroughly, they did help me to gain a little bit of strength.
Can you share with us how you were eventually able to heal and “let go” of the negative aspects of that event?
First, I wouldn’t use the words “let go” just because it can put so much pressure on people that somehow they need to “let go” or “get rid” of the pain and trauma. I would say to let flow and reframing it to be incredibly helpful and have a more compassionate approach. So, for example, instead of “how can I get rid of this feeling?” try “how can I allow this feeling to flow through me?” This reframing invites you to be genuinely present with the feeling because we need to feel it to heal it, as well as it helps you to approach the issue with compassion. That has helped me to sit with the uncomfortable feelings and allow integration to happen. Trauma work is best done gradually and gently not to overwhelm our system. It takes patience. In my case, I’ve had multiple layers of healing because of the many traumatic experiences that I’ve had.
Aside from letting go, what did you do to create an internal, emotional shift to feel better?
I committed to my wellbeing every day, and I still do. But it wasn’t until I discovered somatic therapy and practices, I was overjoyed — I felt so seen and understood for the first time in my life. Somatic therapy is working with the body in relation to the mind. I’ve tried breathwork, bodywork, somatic movement, TRE (Trauma Release Exercises), yoga, and Somatic Experiencing. And wow, it blew my mind. The effects from those practices have helped me to cultivate a more profound connection within myself and expand my nervous system’s capacity to handle what life has to offer.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to cope and heal? Can you share a story about that?
I am grateful to all of the healers and practitioners I have worked with and a few I still work with today for their energy, knowledge, and wisdom. I am also grateful to my sisters — non-biological and biological, who listened to my painful stories and still see me for who I am on the inside. I am most thankful to my husband, who has stood by my side in my darkest and my brightest. He is my number one cheerleader and the first person who truly believed in me and my potential when I didn’t believe in myself.
Were you able to eventually reframe the consequences and turn it into a positive situation? Can you explain how you did that?
Absolutely. When I began my healing, I became inspired to turn my pain to power, which I encourage others to do now. I accepted all of the traumatic experiences I’ve had. I can’t change what has already happened to me. Trauma is a part of my story, but it is not who I am. My traumatic experiences empowered me to speak up and help others break the cycle of trauma and abuse. After speaking with so many people who have dealt with adversities and learning the science of trauma, I know I am neither alone nor broken.
What did you learn about yourself from this very difficult experience? Can you please explain with a story or example?
I learned that we don’t pick or attract what happens to us. Life can be difficult, but the courage to heal is within ourselves. You have to be ready to heal and take action to do so.
I have also realized that many of the world’s problems are primarily due to a lack of education — the lack of education about consent, emotional regulation, communication, and parenting. For instance, in my case, my abusers abused me because they have also gone through difficult challenges in their life, did not receive good parenting, and did not know how to regulate their emotions or nervous system. I’m not at all trying to excuse their abusive action because abuse is abuse, and no one deserves to be abused. They took a conscious effort to abuse. But, you know that saying “hurt people hurt people”? Well, it is true. That is what happens. However, this is why I am passionate about helping others break the cycle of abuse. Because we may have been hurt, but it doesn’t mean we have to pass the hurt on to others. I say this sincerely from my heart; we can work through our traumas, rise above our pain, and be conscious and mindful of our actions.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experiences and knowledge, what advice would you give others to help them get through a difficult life challenge? What are your “5 Things You Need To Heal After a Dramatic Loss Or Life Change? Please share a story or example for each.
- Cultivate awareness of yourself and the environment around you, and build capacity.
For so long, I thought I was broken and was sure that there was no way to “fix” me. When I started to learn and cultivate awareness of how our brains and bodies function, I then understood that I am not broken — none of us are. Our brain and body are doing everything they can to keep us alive. They are there to protect us, and sometimes their ways of protecting us may manifest in specific survival patterns. For example, I was disconnected from my body. I would take care of how my body looks externally, but I did not listen to my body’s biological impulses, such as going to the bathroom when I needed to, and I would harm myself. Due to the trauma that I experienced, it makes sense why I felt disconnected from my body, because living in and being connected to my body was scary. Therefore my brain and body were trying to protect me, so I did not have to relive the uncomfortable and overwhelming sensations held in my body. When we cultivate awareness with ourselves and the environment around us, we deepen the compassion that we have for ourselves, and we learn how to work with our mind and body rather than against it. And from awareness and expanding our nervous system’s capacity to heal, we can have a deeper relationship with ourselves, our minds, and our bodies, which can help us to experience life differently.
2. Give yourself the permission to feel the discomforts.
This is something that many of us often avoid, which is understandable. However, when we allow ourselves to feel the discomforts, the pain, and the fear, we allow our experiences to move through rather than letting them be repressed, which can then affect our mental and physical health. I suppressed the traumatic memory from the sexual violence for about 13 years, and in those 13 years, I went through more traumatic experiences, and I just sort of pushed through with my life. I was told many times that I had to “be strong” and “be positive.” Little did I know that was not good advice and ended up hurting me more. The accumulated traumatic stress in my body affected my mental and physical health, studies and relationships. My immune system weakened over time, and I would get sick easily. I also struggled with chronic back pain and eczema. Now, more and more evidence-based research talks about how trauma can get stored in the body. So we need to recognize our pain and feel it to heal it, but at the same time, it makes sense why it can be challenging to do that, and this brings me to the next point in number three.
3. Connection and support.
We heal through safe relationships. As human beings, we were born to connect with others, which in turn supports our survival. Moreover, sitting with discomfort can be difficult, which can be helpful when having guidance and support. Support helps us learn to co-regulate, teaches us that it is safe to connect, helps identify the things that we might have overlooked, and receives practices/tools that we may not have yet. Know that you are not alone. You deserve support. I am forever grateful that in my healing journey, I received support from healers, professionals, practitioners, therapists, coaches, a few people who were close to me, and other survivors. They helped me by sharing their insights, their care, their compassion, stories, and supportive tools for my healing. Reach out to someone that you trust and feel safe with because you see; there’s usually a lot of shame that goes hand in hand with trauma. And shame thrives on secrecy.
There was a study where researchers took a look at a community in the U.S town called Roseto in the 1960s. A team of researchers were trying to find out what was the reason behind the town’s exceptional health. The town consisted of Italian immigrants who ate rich Italian food and many smoked cigars. They later discovered that the Rosetans were a close-knit community, and their connection with one another promoted a level of support and comfort. We are wired to connect. So, don’t hesitate to ask for help, especially from safe and supportive people.
4. Practice compassion for yourself.
Processing trauma is challenging. Healing takes time, and it comes in waves. Some days are good, some days are not-so-good and that’s okay. Honoring the “bad” days can be powerful. It makes sense to “get over it” and “be done with it.” Sometimes we put so much stress on ourselves when it comes to doing all the “right” things. I used to shame myself for still crying after having done so much inner work and having spent a lot of money on healing. I felt frustrated. Until at one point, I realized that healing is about trial and error. My brain and body are not going to respond well to one modality, and they might respond well to another. We are all unique. It takes time and discovery. Also, sometimes we have to bring in compassion and acceptance to the fact that “yes, today, I’m not feeling good, and that’s okay.”
5. When you’re ready, create a plan of action and rewrite your story.
Write down actionable steps that you can take to help you move forward and rewrite your story. This can look like: going to a new café, doing that task that you’ve held off for a long time, spending time in nature, sign-up for that dance class that you’ve always wanted to try, or visit your best friend who lives in another country. They don’t have to be grand if you don’t want to, but they can be small steps that will allow you to create new positive experiences in your life. As I was getting back up again after being at my lowest, I was not sure that I would be making the right decisions for what’s next, but all I knew was I did not want to stay stuck in where I was. Every day, I would create a small list of tasks that I knew I could complete. Reading a few pages of a book, going to the gym, trying a new restaurant by myself, and learning a new cooking recipe. Then, I felt called to move to another country, where I did not know anyone, and start a new chapter of my life. We did not choose the family that we were born into, nor did we ask for the horrible things that happened to us, but with loving awareness, we can determine what action we will take next.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I can think of two movements that I would like to bring about.
The first would be a movement against sexual abuse and for survivors to reclaim their bodies. There is the #metoo movement that exists, and I am so glad. I want to add for survivors to be empowered to reclaim their bodies and their power because trauma can make us feel disconnected from our bodies and power.
The second would be a movement for promoting emotional regulation for children. Some children may not have parents or caregivers that can attune to them and teach them how to regulate their emotions. For that reason, as they grow up, they may develop certain personality disorders and not know how to manage their feelings. I feel that if we want to create a better world, we have to take better care of our children. The ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study talks about this and demonstrates how a difficult childhood makes it more likely to develop mental and physical health problems as an adult.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
For years, I have wanted to meet Tony Robbins. His story of how he had a troubled childhood and went from being a janitor to a successful motivational speaker and life coach truly inspired and touched my heart. I’m sure many people feel the same as I. He is one of the first people that inspired me to be where I am and do what I do now. If given the opportunity, I would love to sit with him and have a conversation about life in general and how his personal and professional journey has been like — working on himself while at the same time hearing other people’s pain stories and helping them.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Following me on Instagram @nathasyaom is the best way to learn about the trauma education I share and stay updated with my work and my personal life.
You can also find more information about my work at www.akkuholistichealth.com. Additionally, to listen to my podcast, you can search for ‘Resilient Chat with Nat’ on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or any other podcast channels.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Thank you so much for having me! I am honored and grateful to be a part of this series!