How I Am Changed in the Aftermath of Trauma

Morning sun radiates its warmth into my skin.

There is only me in this place where gentle waves caress my feet and golden sand stretches for miles, untouched in soft light and daybreak silence.

Once, I would have reveled in a moment like this. My hopeful blue eyes would have taken in every remnant of the scene before me, my heart unable to do anything more than burst wide open at the delight of it all.

But today, I am unmoved by beauty. Just as I was yesterday. As I have been every day for longer than I care to remember. Where beauty would have once soaked into my bones and renewed my soul, it no longer reaches me.

I am untouchable.

This is the aftermath of trauma; the way it has changed me, broken me.

My life now exists behind a glass pane. I see the world around me, but it is muted, dulled. Once upon a time I felt too much; I now feel too little, if anything at all. Emotions overwhelm me; I am not able to process them anymore. Behind the glass I am protected from the onslaught of them. I observe them. But I am not ready to feel them. Not yet.

I try to hear the words my heart used to speak, but they elude me. My heart remains silent, as does my mind, both of them worn out from the fight, loyal soldiers who spent too long on the frontline and no longer have the will to persevere. “Courage, dear heart,” I say, but my heart is not ready to listen. It is not ready to trust. It is not ready to once again believe the world is good, people are good. In the absence of its voice, I hear only the faint murmur of disconnected beats. Though not dead, I am anything but alive.

Disoriented, I find no rest in the spaces my presence once filled. I wonder who this woman is. She is no longer who she used to be, yet does not know what she is supposed to become. I am lost and confused as I wander through this no-man’s land, homesick and in search of a place to find shelter and rest. Yet I continue to find only paths lined with thistle and thorns, and my soul longs for a place that is not promised to me anyway.

My heart no longer lies upon my sleeve; I am a patchwork frame, gaping holes roughly sewn with clinical sutures. No longer will I wear my heart for the world to see. No longer will the world destroy it with razor-sharp tongues and cruel-intentioned hands while I am left to pick up the mess though I can barely pick myself up off the floor. I am withdrawn. Insular. I trust no one, let no one close, reach out for no one in the night when the silence becomes so frighteningly loud I cannot stand it.

I have forgotten how to create, for my creativity was nurtured through beauty. And while beauty no longer touches me, neither can creativity emerge. My page is filled with scrawls and scribbles, useless words with no heart and no meaning, angry lines drawn through even angrier words.

I am exhausted but never sleep, instead caught in this bitter paradox that only exacerbates my inability to function. I am preoccupied by thoughts that lack clarity, distracted by fears that lack certainty.

Trauma. The emotional response to an extremely negative event.

Those around me are uncomfortable with my response. They would rather I just find a way to deal with it, get over it. Mess on the floor makes people nervous. But I refuse to force myself to smile to please a world that likes everything to look pretty.

Trauma has no rules. We grasp our way through the darkness and reach for whatever we can to steady ourselves. We cannot rush the work of healing. We cannot rush our hearts to find their courage once more.

For now, life behind the glass pane is where I cannot be touched, hurt, broken. It is where I watch the world with cautious eyes until the day comes when I feel safe once more to exist within it. And on that day, I will step out from behind the glass. The sun will warm my weary limbs and beauty will graze my tentative soul.

And in that moment, I will know the healing has begun.

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