A Journey From Survival To Thriving Through Indigenous Wisdom

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This is a continuation of “Suddenly You Realize That You Don’t Remember…Everything.” A piece my sister and I wrote about our CSA in 2021. In this new piece, I share how leaning into Indigenous Wisdom and healing has given me a new life.

It’s been over three years since I started working intensely on my healing. 

Tears run down my cheeks as I type this. I lift my eyes from the screen and picture myself nine years ago…a 26-year-old new mom who started getting flashbacks and telling herself it was just her imagination, only to be contradicted by the episodes of depression and anxiety that ensued—panic attacks in the grocery store’s aisles, unsuccessful therapist search.

And then, in 2020, the weight became unbearable and threw me into an abysm that seemed impossible to escape.

Trauma Healing, Community & Gratitude Through An Indigenous Perspective

The path to healing took time. I started by crawling out of that hole when I finally found a therapist that felt right for me. Crawling led to standing with support, but a weight held me back when I tried to move forward. We carry burdens we struggle to define; weight we wish to shed, yet it clings tightly. My tattoo reads “Survivor,” but was that all? Was merely surviving the utmost I could achieve?

On trauma healing and survivorship

A beautiful thing occurred in that process: my ancestors called to me. Being a product of colonization with mixed ancestry, I was aware of my Indigenous heritage, yet it remained a largely unspoken topic. The prevailing notion in post-colonial society is that the further you distance yourself from this heritage, the better your life will be. Or so I was taught.

But I couldn’t ignore the calling and started asking questions, digging deep, and eventually started the journey to reconnecting. And while that’s a story for another time, the more I learned, the more something about psychotherapy felt confining.

I yearned for a different approach, an Indigenous perspective on trauma and healing.

During this longing, I stumbled upon the teachings of Mandy Kvyen Martini Chihuailaf, an Indigenous woman and educator. Her online presence, captivating videos, and profound teachings lit a spark within me. For months I watched her videos. Then a friend told me she was in her program “The Science of Letting Go” (SLG) and highly recommended it.

When she reopened the program, I took a leap of faith and enrolled. Little did I know that this leap would mark the beginning of a new life. 

As I progressed through SLG, I began to understand the interconnectedness of all things, the cyclical nature of life, and the importance of communal support in the healing process. 

My Life Now: Healing Happens Inside Your Body

Understanding my body’s natural responses has made navigating trauma and everyday life less daunting—surprisingly simple, even. In Mandy’s words, “Healing starts when our natural responses finally get the opportunity to do their job without being interfered with and even stopped.” 

I can’t change my past, what happened to the generations before me or what they did, but I can change my present, my future and the generations that come after me. Mothering without the boulder on my shoulders has given me so much hope for my kids, and I can say I finally enjoy being a mom. I even feel capable of having more kids if it happens – something that I wouldn’t even consider before. It felt terrifying.

The Biggest Change in My Life: Feeling Worthy of Community

Every facet of my life has flourished: spiritually, self-connection, marriage, motherhood, and connection with my parents, Abuelitas, siblings, and other loved ones. My business and handling of finances have also seen growth. However, the most significant has been cultivating genuine, newfound friendships

This is my first time opening up about this; I’ve struggled to form true friendships since leaving my homeland over 13 years ago – feeling deserving of support and asking for help. Transitioning from surface-level interactions to vulnerability without feeling like a burden or abused has felt paralyzing. 

On trauma healing and survivorship

During the past two years, I’ve made two of my closest friends, whom I call Ñañaykuna (my sisters in Quechua). These are friendships I had never experienced aside from my childhood friend in Colombia. We’ve cooked, laughed, worked the land, harvested, and cried together.

My existing friendships have deepened as my feelings of inadequacy and fear of being taken advantage of have diminished.

This may seem insignificant to some, but to me, it means everything.

A Journey Worth Taking

Trauma healing is not just an individual journey but a collective one. The wounds I carried were not solely mine; they were echoes of the collective trauma endured by my people. In acknowledging this, I felt a sense of responsibility to heal myself and contribute to the healing of the broader community.

So, as I stand on the threshold of a life forever changed, I extend my hand to others who may be on a similar path. The journey is not always easy, but it is undoubtedly worth taking. 

On trauma healing and survivorship

Since the beginning, I’ve been enthusiastically sharing Mandy’s work with my closest circle. However, today, in honor of Native American Heritage Month and as a profound gesture of gratitude to my dear Ñaña (Mandy became one of my most beloved friends) and the ancestral wisdom of her people.

I hope this message reaches those who once felt utterly helpless about navigating life and believed they could only strive to survive. We can thrive.  

You can watch a free class with Mandy and find more information about “SLG: The science of letting go” here—doors close on December 14th, which only happens a few times a year.

Con mucho amor, Julieta

Photography: Personal photos by Juanca Studios. We shot them during my last visit to the motherland. He will work in Miami, Florida, this upcoming year if you need an amazing photographer.