My childhood home was full of dangers. As I was growing up, I spent a lot of time afraid and became hyper-vigilant as a way of keeping myself safe. I remember my sister and I locking ourselves in our room for hours, waiting for the fighting to stop, watching the door and praying that it didn’t open. To survive in my home required me to develop trust issues, isolation tendencies, and constant anxiety. Fear became my default and as an adult anxiety attacks seemed to come out of nowhere. So, I came out of my dysfunctional family a little prickly. How could I not? My environment had an impact on me. I wished I could run away from it, but I could not.
For example, I’d be at a music festival and get a whiff of a cocktail in the air. All of a sudden I would feel scared, sad, and angry. I would have to leave in a fit of tears at the dismay and confusion of whomever I was with. For me, the smell of a screwdriver still brings me right back to some of the worst moments of my childhood. Before I understood that I had PTSD, I just thought I was crazy. I would “overreact” only to later be filled with shame for acting out. I have so much compassion for the person that I was, and the person I am now that has been deeply impacted by my experiences, traumatic and all. The very survival traits that kept me alive as a child, became the prickly, anti-social behaviors that hindered all my adult relationships from becoming the healthy, intimate connections I desired. I thought I was doomed to a limited social life, that being a prickly person was my destiny, that I was no good.
So what does all this have to do with my joyful cactus? Well, If I were a plant in the Garden of Life, I would have to be a prickly cactus. No doubt. If you think about it, cactus are a great symbol for what it’s like to be a survivor of childhood trauma. Hardy, it’s almost impossible to kill a cactus because they have learned to survive in the harshest environments. Cactus need space, if you over water or get too close to it, one or both of you will end up hurt. Yet, cactus are gorgeous plants that grow into amazing shapes and produce beautiful flowers of all colors. People love cactus, and after some thought, I’ve decided I do, too. I may be destined to be a prickly cactus, but that might just be a wonderful thing! Like cactus, I am strong, resilient, beautiful, and a resource to anyone thirsty for healing and lost in the desert of despair.
As a result of my healing journey, I have evolved to embrace my cactus archetype. By allowing what is true about me to be ok, it frees me to start the important work of meeting my needs and celebrating my beautiful self. I now know what to do to avoid unnecessary triggers and how to take good care of myself when they come up. My logo exemplifies the utter joy and freedom I feel when I embrace the truth about trauma, my journey, and my true self. The story of the Joyful Cactus is a story of full self-awareness and how that awareness can lead to acceptance and love. It’s a symbol of hope for every survivor of trauma and fellow cactus. We can heal our pain. We can embrace ourselves as we are. We can be joyful people, too! That’s what the Joyful Cactus is all about.