My name is Karen Hellman and my story started on 9/11. It was a normal day for me, beautiful, warm, sunny and another long commute into Manhattan. The day before I planned on going into work early but that day I decided to sleep in for a few extra minutes and took a later train into the city. That choice, and not getting on the first subway train that approached to take me downtown were literally what may have saved my physical life. You see, I worked in 1 World Trade Center. I witnessed many horrific things but many details are a blur having lost track of blocks of time, but the visceral experience was embedded in my being in ways I couldn’t begin to understand.
The days following 9/11, I was numb. I knew I was physically alive but felt dead inside. I wondered why I didn’t die? Every day I watched TV. I needed to know the people who perished. I was compelled to know details about every single person. To honor them. Needed to know their name, who they were, their age, their family and who they left behind and where they worked. It became my obsession.
Anxiety. I never understood it until I experienced it. It was paralyzing. I was triggered by any little sound, sirens, fire engines, police cars and ambulances were the worst. Being in small spaces created so much fear and panic. I didn’t know how to catch my breath and make the shallow breathing stop so I could breathe normally. Most days I laid in bed and sobbed. I didn’t want to shower or get dressed and could not eat. I couldn’t work, engaging with friends or family took too much effort. I’d have a very small social window before I fell into a dark place. I had repetitive nightmares about what I witnessed. Sleeping was impossible and I often prayed when I went to bed that I wouldn’t wake up the next morning. Living was unbearable. I wanted my life to end, only I couldn’t take my life.
A few weeks post 9/11 I was involved in a 9/11 survivor support group in conjunction with talk therapy but they barely scraped the surface. I opted for prescription medication, a cocktail of anti-depressants, anti-anxiety and sleeping pills because it seemed like the only option in the moment. I was numb in a different way than immediately following 9/11. Years later I decided to get off the medications. This caused me to feel my feelings which was uncomfortable. I began having physical health issues as my mind and body reconnected. My relationships began to further disintegrate. I would snap at my family – often. Everyone wanted me to “get past it and get over it” and that set me off. While I understood I was suffering I didn’t realize how much everyone else had been suffering watching me suffer.
Seven years later, a turning point came. My sister intervened, introducing me to her friend from law school who had been practicing Nichiren Buddhism. This Buddhism teaches that everyone can become enlightened, can overcome any obstacle and become happy through chanting. I had nothing to lose, so I started chanting to be happy and, for the first time post 9/11, I was able to experience some relief — the anger and rage weren’t as intense and there were moments of peace.
Chanting led me to hands-on energy healing. The premise of energy healing is that we are not just our physical bodies but surrounding our bodies is an energy field. In the energy field is where trauma and blocked emotions are stored and by clearing the energy field the trauma and emotions can be released. It was a new concept to me but one that I was open to exploring. This led me to train in One Light Healing Touch hands on healing and, through the process, it revealed that my pain was not just from 9/11 but ran deeper. It brought up deep family wounds that needed to be healed that I’d been ignoring my entire life.
This led me to training in Family Constellation. This work explores and heals trauma within the family system. It highlights behavioral issues, experiences and patterns of ancestors from prior generations that are impacting current generations. There is a subconscious energy that remains in the family line, resulting in similar experiences causing suffering from generation to generation. I was intrigued. I examined the traumas on both sides of my family and could identify and literally feel in my body my ancestors suffering and pain and noticed a similar pattern in my own life. Through this work, I was able to shift my perspective of my parents and grandparents due to their traumas and wounding to one of deeper compassion and understanding. This work shifted my relationship with my parents in a beautiful way, one that I never thought possible.
I was intrigued to explore more about blocked emotions and the mind body connection which led me to train in Myofascial Release and Trauma Touch Therapy. Myofascial Release is a very gentle technique used to release emotions and experiences, as well as muscle tension held in the fascial tissue of the body. While attending a Myofascial Release training, I was paired with a classmate who was gently touching the sides of my neck. As she did, I was releasing memories and experiences from 9/11 — 18 years later. My body remembered inhaling the smell of diesel fuel and toxins and it was releasing through movement and using my voice to express the fear and uncertainty that was stuck, deep in my body, on a subconscious level. This work created for me freedom, release and peace in both my physical and emotional body. This work has profoundly changed my life.
Similar in some ways to Myofascial Release, Trauma Touch Therapy is very gentle technique that allows the body to have a voice. It bridges the connection between the mind, body and present moment. Guiding the client using breath work, conscious contact and movement, the client connects to sensations in the body, tuning into the body’s natural wisdom. It brings new awareness to the body’s physical trauma, allowing the client to integrate new ways of being. Trauma fragments and disconnects us from our body, from feeling. This process allows the opportunity to reclaim the body from trauma’s influence.
Today, my mission in life is to help people transform trauma using the same tools I found to be the most effective for me. It’s not one issue or trauma – there are layers and they can be addressed in many ways and through different vehicles.
I am also here to offer hope and encouragement. To know it is possible to find joy again, even when it seems impossible. I know I am alive for a reason and I am fulfilling my mission, by helping people transcend trauma and achieve peace in a non-traditional way. This work is powerful and effective, yet, unusual to most, but I am a living testament, that it works. This trauma could have ended my life or I could have chosen to end it but instead it was a catalyst for my awakening. My life was dark for many years and it’s not to say I don’t have challenging days, sometimes being triggered but through my journey of healing I have learned what I need to do for myself when I get triggered — having no shame about what is needed for my self-care.
I encourage you to find what soothes and nurtures you when the pain feels overwhelming. Honor those feelings and allow yourself to feel the feels. We live in a world where there is so much shame and judgement about expressing our feelings or being sad or depressed. Its healthy to feel the those feelings, because if you don’t, as I’ve learned, they’ll build and will manifest in unhealthy ways. I was raised to not feel, cry or express my emotions and it was detrimental to my health. I don’t want you to suffer the same way. Transformation happened for me when I was ready to commit to my healing, on ALL LEVELS. This gave me freedom, allowing me to have my life back and live it unapologetically and authentically.
If you want to learn more about what I do or to schedule a session, you may contact me or book a session on my website: SpiritualWarriorWoman.com