“You were a kid when that happened – you’re an adult now. It’s time to move on.”
“Everybody’s had terrible things happen to them.”
“Everyone’s been wounded at some time in their life.”
“You’re not the only person who has suffered pain.”
“You can’t let that stuff get you down.”
“Snap out of it.”
“Laugh it off.”
“That’s life. Get over it.”
These are things people have said to me over the years. Some, I know, are trying to help. Others invalidate what happened to me. When people say these things to me, I try to address them with patience, and understand that they just don’t get it. I do my best to educate them.
Some people will come to understand what I go through with compassion and empathy. Some will insist that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and trauma-related issues are something I can get over if I choose to do so. Some people will remain in denial. All I can do when this happens is to allow them to feel and think as they will.
I agree that every human being has suffered pain and loss in their life, and that some people are able to move forward without much difficulty or thought. This is not the case for me as a survivor of violence, rape and incest.
Like many trauma survivors, trauma caused by violence and sexual violation remains trapped in my body. My experiences have burned a scar deep into my psyche. They have damaged me at a core level.
It would be wonderful if these violations that were thrust upon me were something I could just “get over”, but this is not the case. They continue to influence me on an emotional, psychological, physical, social, and spiritual level.
To help you better understand, let me describe for you what I, and many other trauma survivors, experience:
I often struggle with the false underlying belief that I am unworthy and unlovable. I wear self-loathing and shame like a second skin. My ability to feel love or joy has been stolen. Trust issues, fear of abandonment and rejection, my intense perfectionism, and need to people-please make it difficult for me to have healthy relationships.
For decades I struggled with bulimia and I continue to struggle with emotional binge eating and a poor body image.
I startle easily. I have nightmares and flashbacks. Sometimes I have angry outbursts when I get triggered. My hyper-vigilance causes me to live with fear and anxiety, always on edge, always on the lookout for danger. To this day, I triple check the locks on my doors and windows at night, and sleep with a knife beside my bed.
I constantly second-guess myself, and berate myself relentlessly. I struggle with a fear of conflict. I live with feelings of being fragmented and damaged. It is often difficult for me to feel centered and grounded. I dissociate and “zone out” during conversations, especially if I feel threatened.
These are just some of the things that I, and many other trauma survivors, experience. I don’t think that, in this lifetime, I will ever fully recover from the trauma inflicted upon me. But, as I work toward healing, I am better able to navigate life from a place of personal power.
Photo by Ariel Lustre on Unsplash