Alishah Parker

Conversations on Trauma and Awakening: Alishah Parker

Interviewed by Gabriella Evans
"Trauma is like being trapped in a room that is pitch black. There's zero light. You might try to escape, but the door is sealed tightly shut. No matter how hard you try to get the door open, you can’t. You’re stuck."

Hello my name is Alishah Lydia Parker. I am 23 years old and I’m from Long Island, NY. I love music, movies and animals. I love my friends and family and the amount of support that I get. I’m in a relationship with the sweetest man on earth; he treats me like a gem. I’m trying to live my life to the fullest in spite of my brutal battles. I’m focusing on myself and only surrounding myself with positive energy.

Describe yourself in three words.

Kind, polite and empathetic.

How would those who love you describe you?

My loved ones would say polite, sweet, gentle, compassionate and beautiful, though I don’t always feel that way about myself.


What helps you feel safe and grounded?

My safe place is music. It’s one of my biggest passions and it’s something I want to pursue as a career. My goal is to get into college and study classical music and contemporary music. I love performing and my desire is to play in orchestras and chambers and to one day do commercial music. I am also fascinated with movies. Going to the movies helps me cope. I really enjoy film scorers, and hearing them on that the big screen always gives me chills. Music and movies always give me that sense of hope despite everything I have been through.


How would you define trauma?

It’s like being trapped in a room that is pitch black. There’s zero light. You might try to escape, but the door is sealed tightly shut, and no matter how hard you try to get the door open you can’t. You’re stuck.

Another way I see trauma is as a molting, like a crab who can’t fit into their own shell anymore so the shell comes off but it is a struggle to find a new shell.


How has trauma contributed to your suffering?

I guess it goes back to my childhood. I have always struggled with low self-esteem. I didn’t learn how to love myself as a child. Being in school I remember always keeping to myself; I never felt like I fit in and I struggled in interacting with others. No one wanted to be my friend, so I realized I wasn’t for everyone. I was bullied a lot throughout my childhood to the point where I asked myself, “What’s wrong with me?”. I really felt that something was different about me. It seemed people didn’t want to go near me. It felt like I was a virus to some people. I was also often compared to my brother. In dance class, for example, I had a teacher who was incredibly mean to me and made me feel like I was inferior, but he absolutely loved my brother. I learned to hate myself. I blamed myself for everything. I constantly felt like I was a burden to people.

Fast forward to 2017: I lost my father the year I graduated from high school. This slowly started to affect me during college and eventually I was battling psychological issues. I was struggling with depression and anxiety and I was very suicidal. I was hospitalized four times and was switched to different meds constantly. I was also in an abusive relationship at this time. I was psychologically abused to the point that I couldn’t function and it started really affecting my schooling. Even after cutting my ex off, I still suffered the consequences and my mental health continued to decline.

I had to take two semesters off from school to take the time to get better. This was one of the hardest times of my life. I ended up going to rehab for support. I was diagnosed with PTSD due to my dad’s death. I was experiencing flashbacks and was constantly having sleepless nights. Every time I would close my eyes, I would see memories of my dad in a bad state. My dad died of a heart attack due to severe obesity and I was the only one who saw him at that stage. It was the most terrifying thing for me. I was also dealing with a severe identity crisis at that time and was questioning my identity (I kind of still do). In 2020, I found out I was on the autistic spectrum and that helped explain some of what I had been through. It helped me understand why I felt so different, why I didn’t socialize well and why I battled with such low self-esteem.

I want to mention that another recent trauma I went through was a very toxic friend relationship. This friend was somewhat abusive, just like my ex. She would manipulate me and make me feel like I was ugly and not good enough. She would make fun of my struggles with food.

All of my past struggles have led me to where I am today – looking forward to the future, but still impacted by the past. Letting go of my past is ongoing work, and the past definitely does still haunts me. I was treated so badly. I never thought highly of myself and I never felt beautiful. These days I try to tell myself I am good enough, which continues to be one of my biggest struggles. I often feel like a burden to people, especially anytime someone corrects me. I experience moments like that as being attacked, and because the amount of trauma I’ve been through I tend to feel like everything is my fault.

October – the last time I was hospitalized – was the first time I experienced a psychotic episode. I experienced hallucinations and delusions, and I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. It was a really scary and painful experience. I’ve also been diagnosed with OCD because of the constant fear I live in.

Despite all of this, I am getting better. There has been tremendous progress lately. I am connected with my music.  Not too long ago, I wasn’t even able to pickup my instrument. I wasn’t playing my flute at all. That was one of the most painful experiences, because music is typically my saviour when I am going through pain.

How has your relationship with music supported you on your journey?

Music has supported me in so many ways. It has allowed me to express what is carried inside. This past April was the anniversary of my dad’s death, so I played a dedication for him and I shared it with others. It felt good to let out the pain that I was feeling.


How has your own suffering allowed for growth?

I see the growth part of my journey as my shell growing back, and growing back even stronger. The new shell is more capable and less likely to break like the last shell did. I see my trauma as a learning experience. For example, my ex allowed me realize the difference between someone who is toxic and someone who is truly loving and caring. I actually have more knowledge now, and I know what to tolerate and what not to tolerate. I know myself and my boundaries better. I am wiser than before and am determined not to let people walk all over me. I am able to stand my ground, put myself first and take care of my mental health. I now focus on people who were actually there for me.


What would you say to your younger self if you met them today?

I would tell them, “You’ve got something special that other people don’t have, and other people might be scared of you for that. They might see you as a threat and try to do things to prevent you from reaching what you are capable of. It’s not your fault – it’s just a reflection of their own insecurities.”