Hailey V Martens

Conversations on Trauma and Awakening: Hailey V Martens

Interviewed by Gabriella Evans
Trauma, for me, has caused a lot of hurt. I think it’s something that has deeply impacted my life. It feels not fair to have experienced trauma. At the same time, I see that trauma often has deeper meaning behind it. I know that it has propelled me onto a path of wanting to share my mom’s story, my own story and other people’s stories who have experienced similar things. I think the sharing of our experiences is extremely important for the expansion of personal and global awareness, empathy and catharsis. My trauma has meaning now, but it doesn’t mean I should have experienced it.

Hailey V Martens who goes by YV as her creative alias; is an ever evolving being. She is an expressionist through the arts, her favourite being poetry and written word. She is an advocate for what true love means, how to obtain it within the self, and seek it out in connection to the world.

She aims to set an example for universal love and be a safe space for others to come to with their stories, expressions and experiences - to be held in confidence or shared in collaborations through various artforms.

You can connect with her more on Instagram: @haileyvmartens

Describe yourself in three words.

Loving, compassionate and – at times – impatient. I often battle between living in the sweetness of life and being in the present moment and then the complete opposite state in which I get very stressy and have to get everything done and don’t have time for b.s.

How would those closest to you describe you? 

Stressy, very nurturing (I do a lot of taking care of people), responsible (I get things done), supportive and loving. 

I love that you named almost the exact same qualities but in reverse order. Before talking about the impacts of trauma, let's talk about safety. What helps you feel safe and grounded? 

This is my favourite question in your series and I believe it is the most important question to ask. For me, what makes me feel safest is having compassionate people around me. I very much need gentleness, kindness, sweetness and peace. A safe environment is also very important for me.

In which environments do you feel safest and most grounded? 

I feel safest and most grounded when I am in or near water. There is this place – a farm where I used to live – and I would walk down this little trail and walk through a beautiful field and sit by the water. Most times, the only other beings present were the sheep in the field and the guard dogs. It was so nice to sit there and be surrounded by all the animals and nature, especially the river. I would listen to the river flowing and would often even jump into the river. I notice that when I am in the city my stressy nature kicks in a little bit more. When I begin to feel that stress, it is my signal that I need to take more trips to the woods, to be near water, open spaces and in the mountains breathing fresh air.. starry skies also bring me that sense of peace, which is something I miss when living in cities full of lights.

Something that gives me access to safety and grounded-ness while in the city is to have a bath while the shower is running. I will make it a little bit cold and will close my eyes, and it almost feels like I’m in a little oasis with a waterfall. It washes away stress and anxieties, and when I close my eyes, I can almost see plants – purple flowers, blue flowers and big pink trees. This kind of visualization helps a lot; it’s almost as if I am transporting myself to another world that feels safe for me, while in the middle of downtown. 

Going now into the territory of trauma, the definition of trauma for you is…?

Trauma can be anything to anyone. Trauma, for me, has caused a lot of hurt. I think it’s something that has deeply impacted my life. It feels not fair to have experienced trauma. At the same time, I see that trauma often has deeper meaning behind it. I know that it has propelled me onto a path of wanting to share my mom’s story, my own story and other people’s stories who have experienced similar things. I think the sharing of our experiences is extremely important for the expansion of personal and global awareness, empathy and catharsis. My trauma has meaning now, but it doesn’t mean I should have experienced it.

Thank you for naming the hurt that trauma has caused in your own life and the feelings of unfairness. Could you speak more about that as much as you’re comfortable? For you, how has trauma hurt?

For me, trauma has affected the way that I’ve been able to experience love. 

When I was a little girl, I was full of love, and so loving. I smiled all the time and was not afraid to show my love. But as I got older I began to witness and experience hurtful things. Specifically, a lot of hurt was caused through my step father. Him and my mom had a very negative relationship; there was physical abuse and emotional abuse that escalated and got worse and more dangerous over time. It escalated to the point where my mom had to file a restraining order. After that my step-father moved out of the house, it was just my mom, myself and my two little sisters. At that time I remember experiencing peace in the house again. 

That relationship took a toll on my mom though; she battled with addictions and low mental health after being in that relationship. She had already experienced a lot of loss throughout her life, and then being in an abusive relationship brought her down to a new low. There was a little more safety during the time after my step-father left, but there was still a lot of fear. 

One day in 2003 – Valentine’s Day – my mom, my sisters and I spent the day having fun together. I remember it being a loving day full of quality time. The next day I woke up to banging on the door. My mom went to answer the door and my sisters and I peeked around to see that it was police officers and a social worker. My sisters and I ran into the bathroom and locked the door to hide away. We could hear my mom crying. We could hear that she was distressed and confused. It sounded like chaos. The police then came in and took my sisters and I. They forcefully grabbed us and dragged us out of the house. We were so confused. We knew what was happening wasn’t right, but we didn’t fully understand what was happening and we had no idea why it was happening. We saw our mom crying and being held back. The cops threw us in the social worker’s car and we were driven away. I remember being so confused. I was 11 years old when this all happened. I remember my mom had previously told me that they were trying to take us into foster care and I vaguely remember social workers previously having done check-ups on us, but I didn’t think it was ever actually going to happen, especially after it was just the four of us and my step-dad was out of the picture; especially after we had just experienced a day so full of love. The authorities took my sisters and I and we were all put into a foster home. No one ever explained it clearly to us beyond saying “your mom has to get better.” 

I experienced the foster homes as a lot worse than living with my mom. They moved us around a lot, the parents didn't seem to genuinely care and the other kids would harass us, physically and sexually. At some point my dad got custody and took me in to live with him in another city. This was a safer place for me but it separated me from my sisters, and I remember feeling guilt for not being there to protect or look after them. 

Living with my dad wasn't easy for me, as it wasn't something I was used to, and I felt very lonely. Nothing in life felt right at that point and all I could think of was wanting to be with my mom and sisters, which was all I knew and my only sense of home. I ended up at fifteen leaving my dad and returning to my mom's place, which – at that point – social services allowed as I was deemed a mature minor. 

During the time my mom was separated from her children her addictions got worse; she struggled a lot with different types of drugs and with alcohol. When I came back to live with her, she nonetheless went through a process of fighting hard to get my sisters back. She went to court and was thankfully supported by The Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society in her battle. I had witnessed a lot of people turn her down when she sought help and support. She was not often met with compassion. The police officers and social workers and people who I thought should have been taking care of her would often put her down and tell her that she didn’t deserve to have her kids back. She was called a druggie and not often offered real support. 

The Friendship Society on the other hand took my mom in and showered her with true support. My mom ended up winning my sisters back from foster care, so we were able to be reunited as a family. It definitely wasn’t the same, however. At this point there was a lot of hurt and anger. My sisters were so young when it all happened and none of us knew who to blame. We all had behavioural issues and our mom continued to struggle with addictions. We also moved constantly. I actually ended up dropping out of school in grade seven as there was so much going on in my home life and with moving every few months I couldn’t adequately focus on education. At one point, we lived in a motel room for eight months, the four of us sharing a queen sized bed. 

At this point, with all of the trauma and hurt, it became hard to see love, trust, or safety in anything. I grew up feeling like I had lost the sense of love that I had experienced as a child and it was so hard – if not impossible – to get back. Things just weren’t the same after experiencing all the trauma. My mom struggled a lot and I just wish she had more people in her life to support her. I also wish she had a little more responsibility when it came to supporting herself. I can empathize with her; I do know she lost the love of her life in a car accident, she lost her sister to an overdose and lost her father to cancer. I know all of these losses took a toll on her and then getting stuck in an unsafe relationship made it all worse. She is one person, but there was a ripple effect. 

What comes up as you share this story and revisit this history of tremendous loss? 

I feel a lot of grief and frustration combined with a little bit of hope. It is important to me to share this story, but it still feels unfair. The hardest thing of all was that I lost my mother. She got better, but then she relapsed around a group of people who weren’t there for her the way they should have been. She went missing and her body was found in a lake shortly afterwards. The exact cause of death is still unknown to me. I never felt ready to call the officers and find out. I feel a lot of grief and unfairness. I have to grow up without her and that hurts. 

When I reflect back I just see that it was too much separation, too much loss and too much change for anyone, let alone for a child to go through. I had to adapt too many times. It all made me feel very unstable in life and it has impacted me deeply. To this day, I have trouble staying somewhere for too long or getting too close to someone because I’ve had a belief that when I love something or someone, I will lose it. I try to stay detached and in flow. I’ve done a lot of healing work around this in the last two years, but it still hurts to this day. I crave the stability that love and home brings.

What allowed you to get through all of the separation and trauma? How did you make it through? 

From the time we were taken to foster care up until I lost my mom at 19, I was operating purely on survival instinct. I woke up every day and did what I had to do to survive. I took care of my sisters. I took care of my mom at times. I was also very lucky to have a couple best friends and a boyfriend who were the safe and supportive people that I needed in the hardest times. As the years went by, there were definitely times when I didn’t know what I was living for. I struggled a lot with depression. I struggled with eating disorders. I felt like I had no control over my life at all. I was scared to get too attached to any person or place, so I continued to move around. 

My big question became, “why does stuff like this happen?” I started looking for answers. The more that I looked for answers or asked the universe this type of question, the more answers I began to receive and the more understanding I had of why relational traumas happen. I really started to pay attention to human behaviour; I often went to parties and just sat and watched people or listened in on conversations. I became incredibly curious about humans and relationships, and I also started to get into psychology and mental health. The more that I dove into these topics, the more I could begin  to make some sense of what happened to me. I also began to see that what had happened to me with being put in foster care also happened to a lot of kids. 

Have you found satisfying answers to why this happens? If so, what is your understanding or conclusion? 

What I’ve noticed in human behaviour is that when people are hurting, they often hurt others. I often see a lot of disconnection between human beings. When there is a lack of empathy between humans, it can become really harmful, and there is that ripple effect I mentioned earlier. Our egos create a big separation from what really matters in life. 

What really matters in life? 

The most important thing is that every single human being deserves to feel safe and deserves to feel loved. There’s nothing wrong with having a nice home or fancy car or luxurious tastes and there is nothing wrong with experiencing pleasure in life, but there is something very wrong about doing that at the expense of others. I recognize that even if I were a millionaire I couldn’t help the whole world – it takes a community – but I would do as much as I could, and I think that’s important. One person can’t save the world, but one person can make a difference in one other person’s life. I believe that loving energy needs to be exchanged more and flow more in this world. There’s a great imbalance.

What comes up when you reflect on how your suffering may have contributed to an expansion of consciousness? 

The joy that I experience these days is embedded with gratitude. My suffering has also created beautiful works of art; I am a writer and a poet. I think that the sadness and sorrow have a lot of beauty as well. It hurts to have experienced what I did, but when I’m in a safe place and when I feel loved and I’m self-loving, there’s a lot of sweetness in the sorrow and a lot of freedom in being able to sit and cry and grieve. My heart is full and feels a lot.

I think back on when my sisters and I went to my mom’s grave. We put a blanket down and we were just listening to all the songs that we used to listen to together, the four of us. It’s so sad and morbid in a way for three daughters to go to their mom’s grave like this, but feeling that and crying and the three of us being together in this – it was absolutely beautiful. I’m glad I’m able to take my suffering and sadness and turn it into beautiful moments. 

I aim to use what I’ve learned to connect and heal more and more. I have a lot of determination to break the cycle of trauma and make better decisions, surround myself with people who are safe and healthy and create healthier relationships. I’ve learned how to set my boundaries, communicate, give love, receive love, and be kind to people; it’s hard to do it all the time but that’s what I strive for.  

Thinking about the seven-year-old you, back when you started to feel that hurt, what would you like to offer to her? Notice perhaps what she most needed that wasn’t there?

I want to give her a lot of love and safety. She grew up thinking that every time she loved, she would experience loss. She grew up believing that she wasn’t good enough, so I know love and safety and reassurance are exactly what she needs. I know that little girl is still a part of me, and I need to offer her love – offer myself love – daily. I aim to treat myself with love and compassion. I recognize that I’ve given that out to others much more than I’ve given it to myself. I’ve taken care of others more than I’ve taken care of myself and that’s caused a lot of hurt in me. When I feel drained and am lacking what I need, I spiral, and that’s when I become stressy and snappy. That’s what I want to be now – self-loving for my past, present and future self.

This is the key to healing.