Well, hello trauma. There you are again. It’s been awhile. I’ve missed your not-so-gentle reminders that I’m not who I once was.
But you don’t visit as often. Why? Are you noticing you don’t have the same hold on me that you once did? That you’re losing your power?
But I still need you.
I need glimpses of you when I’m driving late at night to remind me that I’m in control.
I need whispers of you when I’m walking alone, nudging me to stand tall, alert and confident.
I need you to wake me so I can take comfort in my safe, warm bed and drift off again.
I need to feel your damp, cold touch so I can be grateful for the warmth of the sun on my skin.
The most empowering lesson I’ve learned is that the harder I fall, the farther I climb. In fact, I’m getting so comfortable in the midst of turmoil, that I almost get a high because I’m so damn excited to meet the girl who will emerge on the other side. But it hasn’t always been this way and it took time to get here.
We all live through plenty of terrible shit and our experiences are not the same. Not even close. You may be reading this having faced an abduction, rape, physical assault, or witnessed horrific violence. You may also have survived an illness, the death of a loved one, neglect, abandonment, an eating disorder, divorce, or bankruptcy. The list goes on.
I don’t care where you think you rank on the “traumatic experiences” scale but trauma is trauma. Most of us have felt it to some degree. Hell, just being born is a traumatic experience. Your first interaction with the world was trauma. You were made to be able to fight through it.
I’m not here to serve you a platter of fluff about the process of recovery or tell you that everything will be fine if you just smile your way through your day. I’m here to tell you that, regardless of what you may to believe, trauma WILL impact your life. You WON’T ever be the same. But I’m also here to say that you shouldn’t want to be the same. Be stronger. Be better. Be braver. Own your story and don’t be afraid to share it.
If you’ve ever been in a situation where you thought you might actually die, ever had to tell yourself that your loved ones-your own child-will be okay, and then felt the wave of peace that surrounds you when you surrender to the inevitable, then man, you’ve been there. You’ve been to the darkest of places. You know how it changes you. How you think. How you feel. How you behave. But it makes you very, very grateful for the light. It makes you cling to the light.
But recovery is a bitch. Once you’re able to move past the initial shock, your brain sort of turns on in places you aren’t used to. All cylinders are firing at once and it’s exhausting. The energy it takes to heal from emotional trauma takes a toll on your physical body, as well. Emotional energy is still energy and you’d be surprised at how much of it we need to regulate what goes on in our mind. Because what happens in there affects every part of our body. It’s all connected. I think this is where a lot of us fall into the darkness. Sometimes for days. Other times, years. Some of us make it out on our own. Some are pushed out.
I want to impress on you how absolutely critical it is to have a support system. This is where authenticity becomes so important. You’ve got to be honest with yourself about where you’re at and why. Without judgment. Without questioning. I remember asking so many different people questions like:
Am I supposed to be feeling like this?
How long will it take to stop feeling this emotion?
What should I be doing?
What’s wrong with me?
What did I learn? There are no should’s. Your experience is not like anyone else’s. You’ve gotta just surrender to your process and let go. Do what you need to in order to heal. You have everything you need to survive today. Just start there. Don’t think about tomorrow. Tomorrow isn’t ready for you yet. Have a SOLID support system and USE it. Talk about what’s going on. Write out your thoughts. Paint. Make music. Get a tattoo. I don’t know. Just do crazy – safe and legal – shit to purge it out of your system. Be selfish. It’s about you right now and that’s okay.
On the one year anniversary of the most significant and horrific trauma I’ve experienced, I put my phone away, put on some relaxing music and isolated myself from the world for about four straight hours. And I wrote. I wrote figuratively to the person who hurt me as an exercise for healing. I detailed every single moment and every thought and feeling that I experienced during. I allowed myself to remember and to relive. To feel everything. I published it online and released it to the world. It was no longer my burden to carry.
I still remember closing my computer afterwards and feeling as if a sumo wrestler had physically jumped from my chest. And then I slept. I slept so well. Things continued to get better from there. I had my ups and downs. There were still triggers and I still had some thought patterns to rework. But I learned to be patient with myself and, gradually, the gaps between my periods of suffering grew wider. I learned that life really is a journey and it fucking sucks sometimes but we either move forward or we die. And I truly believe that if you’re given the chance to move forward – if you survive – you’re meant to. And you have to do something with that.
I say this often now, and it may seem insensitive, but I really do feel like bad shit that happens to us just adds credentials to our file. Our experiences arm us with the ability to truly understand a particular struggle. A specific type of pain. To empathize with another. So what do we do with that?
Do we live in a victim mindset, blaming our problems on a broken world, and wither away into empty shells of what-could-have-been? Fuck. No.
Do we try to forget what happened and push it into the repressed memory abyss, put on our big girl panties and pretend we’re fine? Fuck. No.
We own our shit. We get out there. We connect with the universe and figure out why we’re here. We love ourselves more deeply. We learn to take more time for self-care. To respect our vulnerabilities. We remember that moment when we came to peace with the prospect of death and we hold our loved ones closer because we have them for another day. We get the fuck out there and do life. Because there is no other option.
You were given this life. It’s all yours. You are the owner. You are responsible for taking care of it. So go on. Hurdle the barriers and sprint forward. Live the shit out of your life.
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