Interview with Shyla Cash: Narcissistic abuse and emotional neglect survivor, and a coach at Grow Heal Change
Shyla Cash is the life coach behind Grow Heal Change Coaching, a coaching practice that helps high-performers and creatives heal mind, body, and spirit. She believes childhood trauma can be a portal to experiencing our full potential. Shyla loves to witness the process of transformation as she guides her clients through the amazing journey into the life they desire. Her own trauma history involved a childhood filled with narcissistic abuse and emotional neglect. Through her own healing, she discovered the amazing ability for humans to transcend the pain of family dysfunction into confidence, personal power, resilience, and responsibility. Shyla just got married to her amazing husband Nathan, she loves to cook in her pass-time and describes herslef as a stand-up comedy junkie!
Here are Shyla’s own words:
Tell us a little bit about your life journey.
My journey has been a beautiful one. I probably wouldn’t have described it that way in my younger years. Early life was filled with dysfunction, confusion, and abuse. I grew up in a fundamentalist religious environment with a mother who was manic depressive with symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Schizophrenia. She homeschooled me for the first 5 years of schooling, and that time was really dark and scary for me as a child. I spent those childhood years frozen in fear with a deep undercurrent of sadness and despair running through me.
But, as I grew into adulthood and gained a bit of distance from my family of origin, I was able to begin the scary but wonderful journey of healing and allowing my true, deep self to emerge. It has been amazing and I am so filled with gratitude for our ability as humans to heal and transcend the pain of trauma.
Three words that describe you most accurately.
Ambitious, Intense, Spiritual
What set you off on your journey of transformation and healing/recovery?
When I moved away from my parents, I still was very unaware of the patterns I was perpetuating in my life and I was unaware of the trauma I was carrying within my body and brain. I created a lot of chaos around me, my ego was extremely fragile and I was in a deep state of “freeze”. I felt that high-achievement would bring me fulfilment so I “pushed through” in unhealthy ways to be viewed as “good”. I neglected my true self and my true feelings in those late teen years.
My relationships involved trying really, really hard to be liked, and to prove myself. I struggled with attachment, depression, and paranoia. I really worked hard at compartmentalizing and suppressing my feelings. It was exhausting.
I reached a point when I looked around me and saw what I was creating. It was hard – very hard – to come to grips with my own behaviour and take responsibility for how I was living. But, I did it. I really took a good inventory of myself and realised that I needed some help to change. I felt ashamed and alone. At that point, I enlisted the help of a highly attuned therapist, and I read extensively. I educated myself like crazy – about trauma, codependency, addiction, developmental trauma etc.
This allowed me to begin the process of cutting ties with my mother and I was beginning to understand what living independently, with my own identity meant. I haven’t spoken to my mother in years. In those first years of no-contact, the distance gave me the time I needed to make some extremely important changes within myself.
I did experience rage, disgust and hatred for both of my parents. It was healthy through the journey of processing the trauma of childhood because for the first time I wasn’t directing those feelings of rage and hatred toward myself.
But, eventually, I became willing and ready to love them again. I was able to authentically be empathetic after I had given myself time to feel my true feelings about the situation. I still am no-contact with my mom (I have a decent relationship with my father), but the emotional charge is one of understanding, rather than one of hate for her. I simply understand that there is no room in my life for a relationship with her at this time because she is not safe.
What made you start sharing about yourself and your experiences with others?
I don’t share a whole lot about my experiences actually. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. I think there’s a time and a place to share, and it can be extremely important to have your story validated and to own it. And, I’m sharing a bit of my story now.
I believe that in the context of recovery, the past is certainly helpful for information and for context. For naming what was wrong, what was hard, and heartbreaking. And of course, the past is certainly helpful for dissolving the shame around family systems and secrets.
But, what I’ve found for my own recovery, and for others, is that sometimes too much talking about trauma can actually have adverse effects and be re-traumatising if there isn’t a big enough window of tolerance.
If the body and brain have been stress-sensitised (as Dr. Bruce Perry discusses in his book “The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog), then talking too much about the trauma in the beginning can trigger that sensitisation and cause a person to regress in functioning.
In the context of recovery, I am more interested in what the body and soul have to say right now, in the present. How have our body systems become compromised by the trauma and the experiences? How can we bring some goodness and safety into the body right now, to decrease stress-sensitivity and send the right messages to the brain and nervous system so we can build a firm foundation to explore the more painful elements of the past from a grounded place.
Woah – That was tangent! Maybe I’ll write a memoir some day ☺
I suppose what prompts me to share when I share, is if I see a true value in sharing the experience for someone else. To show them they are not delusional, and that their experience was real. That families can really be places of pain instead of places of refuge. I like to share my story so that people understand that they don’t have to stay in denial of a traumatic childhood. I like to strike that delicate balance between the past, present and future. But, I suppose, I’m slightly biased toward the present.
Did you have a particular “aha” moment during your journey?
My biggest AHA moment would have to be learning about the brain and body’s structure and how it is compromised by trauma in childhood.
The work of Dr. Allan Schore, Dr. Peter Levine, Dr. Bruce Perry, and Dr. Stephen Porges opened me up to tools for resilience that bring lasting change by working with approaches that focus on the physiological states of trauma first and how we can shift these states to promote healing without re-traumatisation.
I find that working with the body first, helps the cognitive focused strategies for trauma healing stick better. For me, personally, connecting with my body was a major portal for lasting change.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced and overcome?
I think it’s important to say that life itself is a challenge. Whether we have had severely traumatic childhoods or not, we all will encounter difficulty, struggle, grief, stress and trauma throughout our lives.
For me personally, the biggest hurdle to get over was understanding that I was responsible for my life and my choices. I realised that I was neglecting my own life by focusing on trying to save and fix others. I realised that trying to save or change others does not work. And I had the realisation also that no one was going save me but me. I finally understood that I had the power and agency in my life and only in my own life.
Once the shock of understanding that wore off, it became the most freeing and beautiful revelation. It meant I could make my life into whatever I wanted, and I didn’t have to believe my inner-critic, or follow my past maps for reality. I could actually transcend my trauma and make my life into whatever I wanted it to be.
Is there something you struggle with on a day-to-day basis?
I wouldn’t say it is a struggle, but I am constantly working with my capacity to have a big huge life. There was a time in adolescence when I had tunnel vision, I kept my life small and I hid. That is the experience of trauma – everything narrows into survival. In the present, I am always expanding what I want for myself. I feel it’s my duty to my younger self, to show her how far we can go together and lead the childhood me into unimaginable heights to exceed my own expectations. It’s my reminder of my own healing and how far I have come – constantly challenging the limits and moving myself forward to new challenges outside of my comfort zone to get new results.
What practices & tools you lean onto to get yourself up and running again?
When I feel my system has taken a hit, I stop. I stop and really feel and sense what’s happening within my body. Whatever comes up from there, I allow it to flow up and out. Tears, stress, anger, fear. Whatever it is. A lot of the chaos I experienced in early life was from an inability to really feel and sense what was happening with me. I ran from it.
Now, I take the time to experience it. Over time, my resilience has increased as my body and brain become confident that it is safe to feel. Another tool is a simple social interaction and engagement. This can be asking for a hug or sharing with my husband when I’m having strong feelings. Talking with a coach/therapist, or simply going for coffee or wine with my girlfriends and laughing our heads off. Authentic, safe connections are the nectar of life. They help our brains and bodies feel regulated.
I also spend a lot of time exercising, journaling, playing piano, singing, writing poetry, creating content for Grow Heal Change Coaching, and listening to music.
How do you define “healed”?
Well, I believe the desire to heal comes from our soul. Our higher self who is already healed and whole, and worthy – our essence.
So, in a way, we are both healed and healing all the time. We are bringing that vision of wholeness into right now, and using that to move forward.
We are always healing; the journey is never over. But I’d say a true mark of trauma healing to me is, the ability to expand. Expand how you live your life, expand your relationships, your desires, your ability to handle emotions and body sensations, and your ability to go after what you want and experience the fullness of life with all its ups and downs.
How does the process of healing look for you?
After 10+ years of doing this work, I’d say that now I am in a place where my process is creative and very much about allowing whatever is there to emerge, rather than looking for something wrong or something to fix. I have also become a lot less analytical. By that I mean I don’t need to figure out every sensation or reaction. My attitude now is that “it is what it is”. So, whatever comes up is what needs to come up and I don’t put focus on figuring it out. Instead, I trust myself, my body and brain to do what is needed to heal. I think when we start our journey we can become obsessive and fixated on becoming “healed” or “perfect”. Or, we can talk incessantly about our past. That is all natural and a part of the process. But now, it’s really about tuning into my body and my sensations and allowing myself to be led by that without questioning or doubting. Following my impulses has been a key factor in feeling more contentment and gratitude.
Is there someone you look up to or who lifts you up when you feel down?
Who do you dedicate your work to?
I dedicate it to my younger self, and to my future children.
Is there something you wish you can change about your life circumstances?
Not right now. Any changes I would have wished for myself, I am focused on creating.
If you can ask three wishes, what would they be?
What a great question!
I’d wish for children who are in abusive homes to have safe homes.
I’d wish for everyone in the world to completely know and understand the impact of trauma on children.
I’d wish to meet Stephen Colbert.
Where do you see yourself in one year?
I see myself continuing on with trauma-education, Somatic Experiencing Training as well as Masters in Counselling Psychology. I also see myself continuing to grow my coaching business, having put more digital programs into the world that provide people with education and tools to heal developmental trauma, attachment trauma, and complex trauma.
What is the one thing that never fails to put a smile on your face?
What is the one thing you never make a compromise with?
I don’t compromise with what my body is telling me. If I’m getting messages from my system, I trust those messages because I trust my body. From there I take actions to prioritise safety and goodness within my system.
What is your message to others struggling with trauma and/or mental health issues?
First, if you grew up in a dysfunctional home that was abusive and neglectful understand that your brain and body partnered up to keep you alive throughout a time when you were frightened and your needs were not being met. That was not a conscious process. That process occurred as a result of an evolutionary development of the human nervous system over many, many years. It happened because your body did what it needed to survive and there is no shame in that. Absolutely no shame in that.
So, meet yourself where you are in your development and recovery and be honest with yourself. I know how vulnerable it feels to really assess where you are. But knowing where you are and what you want to change will help you enlist the right help from others and from yourself.
Healing is a practice and a discipline. Just like any other discipline, it’s a little awkward and uncoordinated and messy at first. But, if you continue to give yourself what you need along the way, you will refine your healing practice, and you will experience life from a completely new place. Don’t give up!
If you get to write a book what would you title it?
Were can others find you/contact you?
Email: [email protected]
Free Facebook Community: https://bit.ly/2VvBAzB (I go live every week)
I truly hope you enjoyed today’s interview and that it inspires you to continue healing, growing and sharing your story with the world.
Do you resonate with Shyla’s story? Have you faced any of the struggles she’s had? Which part touched you the most?
To me, Shyla is a Light which shines in through the clouds and darkness. Her wisdon is so deep and I soaked up every word of hers. I can honestly say that I strive to be like her in the future on my healing journey!
Reach out to Shyla in the comment section below or via her contact accounts. Help spread the healing – share this post!0