Today’s SameHere Hero Story: Kyle Henry
On September 25, 2021 my two best friends at the time got into a fatal car accident. This occurred a quarter mile from my house and I was the first person to come upon the vehicle. One of my friends had minor injuries, but the other had died in the accident. After seeing him and knowing his fate, I went into shock and fell to the ground. I would later develop PTSD during the critical time in high school where everyone was thinking about test scores and college, I began to spiral in school and in my close relationships.
After pulling myself out of the spiral by my senior year (2003), I met a girl that would become my high school sweet heart and a big motivation for me to clean myself up. We went off to different colleges later that year, but still loved each other. I’ll never forget the day, December 26, 2023, when I got the news of her death by suicide. It was a shock to all of us and a hit that took me into a second, even deeper spiral that would last for years before I would begin to find my own path to healing and my purpose in this life.
PTSD was the diagnosis after these events. What I know now that I didn’t know back then was that the state of my nervous system was constantly hijacked. I became jumpy around loud noises and would easily become upset by other people’s emotions or treatment of me. Any little remembrance or mention of someone dieing would trigger me into a state where I would be in fight/flight/freeze and be unable to connect with those around me or express what I was feeling. A triggered nervous system became my norm and I began to self medicate with alcohol, which would temporarily relieve the stress in my mind and tightness in my body until all of the buried emotions would surface in anger, sadness and extreme risk-taking. Alcohol was just the beginning as my partying got more intense and prescription drugs became a much worse addiction.
I will never forget going to my first yoga class. A friend of mine brought me after I kept asking him about what made him so calm and peaceful. I realized after the class that my breathing had been short and from my chest, not long and from the diaphragm as it should be. I remember feeling that peace and calm for the first time and becoming hooked on yoga. This led me to many different healing modalities (sound bowls, breathwork, meditation, spending time in nature) and a complete shift in my lifestyle from a busy city life to a more balanced life in nature. After going to several therapists and doctors for help to no avail, it was a close friend who helped open the path to healing for me.
What I now understand is that the nervous system is impacted not just by our brain, but also by the trauma that is stored in our body. When I read the book the Body Keep Score, I never felt so seen and understood after so many years of struggling and feeling hopeless.
I have found that most people are very supportive and respectful when I share my story publicly. Most often, people say they can’t imagine going through the tragic events at that age. My perspective is that no matter your experience, if you are human you have trauma and it affects us differently. Two people can experience the same thing and react much differently. I’ve learned not to try and judge less and be more curious to understand people and how their past experiences have shaped them, and what they’ve learned. I believe that my experiences were meant to impact me so that I could heal and be of service in a way that is more empathetic and compassionate because of my lived experience.