Karen Hayward not only survived an armed robbery and assault, but out of it she developed a method that would help others deal with trauma too. By Claire Barnardo
In the face of violent crime, it would be expected that a victim may want to hide from any reminder of it. But that was not the case for wellness professional Karen Hayward (46). Instead, she decided to use it as a tool for others.
The fateful day
At midday in October 2009, two armed gunmen entered Karen’s home in Joburg. They tied up her domestic helpers and then locked them in a bathroom. They then tied her hands together behind her back using her shoelaces. ‘They were shouting and making demands for valuables, and they pointed the gun to the side of my temple as they stood in front of me. I managed to slow them down, as I was buying time for the armed response vehicle to arrive. During this time, they hit me over the back of my head with the butt of the gun,’ she says.
Being alone in the bedroom with them, she was worried they would rape her. After what seemed like an eternity of them walking back and forth through her home, the men tied her legs to the bathroom basin and pressed her face to the floor and the gun to the back of her head. The gunmen threatened to kill her if anyone tried to go after them.
‘During the attack, I spoke directly to them and remained outwardly calm. Inwardly, though, I was praying for my safety through-out the attack and I experienced intense feelings of helplessness, shock and fear,’ says Karen. The intensity of these feelings was so extreme that all the saliva in her mouth dried up and she battled
to swallow and breathe.
Dealing with the aftermath
Life after this attack was anything but easy. Karen was living in a daze and felt very shocked and helpless trying to carry on with her life. ‘It felt as if someone had reached deep into my soul and stolen something from the inside of me, ripped it out and I was left with a large void of emptiness and grey helplessness,’ she explains.
Due to the severity of the trauma, in order to survive, she subconsciously entered into a state of dissociation, emotional-numbing and detachment – some characteristics of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
So she would talk about the trauma without feeling or expressing emotions, and recited the facts of what happened time and again without even flinching. ‘I experienced the following symptoms for five months post the trauma: poor concentration, forgetfulness, insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, high levels of anxiety, easily startled by noises and sudden movement, sweaty palms, rapid breathing, an increased heart rate and paranoia of being watched,’ says Karen.
In order to cope, Karen went through life in a sort of default mode. She made changes to the security at her home, but nothing helped to reduce her symptoms. Even conventional talk therapy didn’t work with dealing with the trauma.
‘As we are holistically created, talking can never fully achieve the desired end result after severe stress or trauma. The nervous system has been thrown out of balance, excessive bio-chemicals are evident, the logical brain is no longer working correctly and normal phases of the typical trauma response model have to be worked through properly and holistically,’ Karen says. Having a history of stress and trauma, she knew she needed to find a solution.
A star is born
Karen then started to develop a rudimentary technique after the armed robbery and assault. ‘I had
to get out of the nightmare I was living in in a healthy way – not by turning to maladaptive coping mechanisms. As both a fitness and wellness professional, I had the background, the foundation and the personal experience to explore the field of trauma in more depth, and I enrolled for my first trauma and stress qualification,’ Karen says. It all came together when she took her coursework and then combined it with her life experience of trauma. She started testing it and witnessed real and practical results in the reduction of her PTSD symptoms. It was then that she knew she could start to help others with it too.
What it’s all about
Star 63 is a comprehensive and holistic technique that brings balance to the body, soul and spirit simultaneously. What sets it apart from other therapies is the prophetic releasing technique. It allows Karen to work with people to release the real issues they are holding on to even at an unconscious level. Unlike most therapies today that take the ‘plaster’ approach, Star 63 enables release of trauma. It doesn’t require an individual to talk immediately after the trauma and changes negative thinking while also empowering people to handle life, stress and trauma in an effective and healthy way independently. ‘I don’t believe in treating the symptom but I address the cause without reliving trauma, and I work successfully with cases of stress, depression, divorce, anxiety, panic disorders, self-harm, fear, anger or rage, insomnia, addictions, loss and grief, crime, car accidents, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and more,’ she says. Karen’s dream is that the Star 63 technique will be utilised by many, as well as equip South Africans to handle stress and trauma effectively on their own.
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a diagnosed condition that anyone can suffer from if the following
• Exposure to a sudden overwhelming incident where faced with a death or a
• Sustaining a serious injury and/or where one’s own safety is at risk
• Witnessing another person going through any of
• Experiencing feelings of intense fear, helplessness
Symptoms may include:
sleep difficulties, concentration difficulties, sweaty palms, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, forgetfulness, withdrawing, avoiding, being easily startled, addictive behaviour, anxiety attacks, depression, lack of emotions, uncontrolled emotional highs and lows, nightmares and flashbacks. Symptoms must be present for more than a month post trauma and have resulted in significant impairment in the social, occupational or other areas of a person’s life.
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