It was exactly a week after Deborah Stathis celebrated her 19th birthday when a near-fatal accident changed the course of her life. She was driving home, when she hit an oil slick and lost control of her vehicle, swerving and colliding on a telegraph pole. The old car had no airbags so there was nothing to protect her head and face as she hit the steering wheel. The injuries were devastating. She suffered multiple severe facial and skull fractures, which caused an acquired brain injury, not to mention a punctured lung and other traumatic injuries. In fact, she was lucky to be alive.
The Greek Australian mother of two, does not remember that day or the crash. As she gradually healed, she got out of the hospital, and into rehab, and went on to defy all the medical odds, creating an enriched, happy and successful life.
Twenty years on, she released her book Beyond Trauma in which she narrates her own story hoping to inspire others not to give up in the face of similar circumstances. Though the story refers to the horrific incident that changed her life, it is more like a guide, providing the methods and tools she acquired along her journey to recovery, and completed with insightful interviews from medical experts and specialists in the field.
“The core of my message and the focus of my training is in creating opportunity where it seems impossible, and facilitating freedom to find the lesson to improve yourself and your life. The freedom to choose what is right for you so you can create your best life,” Ms Stathis told Neos Kosmos in an interview about her inspiring book, but also about everything she does to assist individuals, groups and businesses, to reach their full potential, through her business, Tragic Opportunities.
She is passionate and determined and conveys a power and a deep understanding of life, derived from her own story of pain and healing, when she refused to give up or accept a fate that was described to her.
“From the perspective of a person who has gone through these challenges -which are ongoing […] my advice is, do not rely on someone else or on what anyone else tells you about what you can or can’t do,” she said.
Changing your life
It is not easy, she adds. She often tells her clients how important it is to take one step at a time. “One step forward, every day. Don’t force yourself. Look at what you can do, instead at what you can’t do”.
“So, is it about changing attitudes?” we ask her.
“Absolutely. You need to take it into your own hands. And be brave. Focus on your future. Don’t focus on what you had or what you wanted. Focus on what you want now, on who you are now. […] Don’t wait for someone else to save you. Look outside of doctors and hospitals, and find out what else you can learn to recreate your life. There are always options. We have choice and we have power”.
When Ms Stathis completed her rehabilitation and went home, she remembers thinking that “This is not enough! What do I do now? What do I want from my life? Am I going to give up on that?”
With singular determination she started to look for ways to improve herself.
“I noticed a few things about the way my brain was functioning and I thought I am going to find someone to help me with that. And in fact, I found a few. You look for people who have overcome issues, you see what they did. You look at what the research is on brain injury and what some alternative options are. Acupuncture has been fantastic for me, for example, for my sleep and my immune system in particular.”
She stresses, that if you are not happy with something in your life, there is always something you can do. She has gained those tools, and has experts in her support team such as surgeons, kinesiologists, acupuncturists.
Living your best life
It sounds like these are lessons for everyone as to how to live your best life.
“I don’t deal only with trauma. I have a corporate business training background. I combine my passion for helping others lead their best life and create opportunities (which stems from my own challenges), with my background in professional education to help businesses and teams, individuals, create their best career and succeed. It’s all about living your best life personally and professionally.”
“From your experience, what is often the most difficult factor for people to overcome so they can improve their lives?” we ask her.
“Everybody’s story is their own. And that’s what we delve into. My style is very much about creating the context for each individual person […] I tap into their own story and help them utilise the tools and information I provide for their benefit. Each person is different. We have our own background and the way we perceive what has happened in our lives.”
Ms Stathis continues that there is a large unspoken part in the healing process.
“Mostly it’s all about the injury, but a huge part of that is also the impact it has had on our mental health. It is important to focus on mental health so we can channel that power, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, and then we can create incredible things.”
She has also noticed, that in situations of stress, such as the pandemic, past traumas tend to arise and she can help with that as well.
Living with a label
Another insightful lesson we learn from Ms Stathis is how labels can restrict our freedom to reinvent ourselves. “Breaking free of the victim label and victim mentality is absolutely essential.
Whether you have been physically hurt or whether there is a different type of stress or adversity, labels tend to come with most things. In certain instances, they are useful as they help us understand a certain illness or condition, but if we continue to live with a label we restrict ourselves, creating our own prison. We don’t need to own the label as part of our identity.”
She finds her work extremely rewarding. Sometimes clients might tell her that they never realised that they had more options. Once they make a choice to start a new job or a new course thanks to a decision she helped them make, the feeling is incredible. “Sometimes that is all it is. A pivotal point.”
Her inspiring story and her methods to support groups and individuals through their challenges are reaching an international audience. She participates in various international conferences, and is currently developing her programmes for online health and wellness platforms, businesses and groups, conducting interviews, podcasts and delivering presentations.
Through the cover of her book she wanted to demonstrate visually how by viewing our traumas as strength, we can motivate others to improve their lives.
Deborah Stathis’ book “Beyond Trauma” is available through her website www.tragicopportunities.com, and a kindle version can be downloaded from amazon. For more information on her workshops visit: www.tragicopportunities.com, and follow her on Linkedin ‘Deborahstathis’, Facebook ‘Tragic Opportunities by Deborah Stathis – Author, Speaker, Coach’ and on Instagram @tragicopportunities