We Must Meet Fellow Trauma Survivors With Compassion, Not Competition

This is for everyone, but I would particularly like to address my fellow trauma survivors.

Recently, I was reading through the comments section in response to an online article on trauma. I came upon a series of posts from several different people. Each of them remarked upon a previous post, minimized the experiences of their peers and essentially, prioritized the significance of their trauma over those of the others.

Allow me to let this sink in. It was as if they were compelled to sing out, “any pain you have felt, I have felt stronger. I have felt any pain stronger than you.” This resulted in a flurry of “No you haven’t” and “Yes I have” retorts that resembled the behavior of a pack of overly-hydrated dogs around a single fire hydrant. It hurt my heart.

Where in our healing journey is the place that would bring us to behave this way? What propels this desire to be the “grand prize winner” of a contest no one ever chose to enter? I’m no psychologist but I’ve spent a great deal of time with several of them and I can hear each of them challenging me to consider the needs this kind of behavior seeks to meet.

Thinking back, I vividly remember when I held everything inside. When I had no “best” confidant, no therapist. I didn’t even talk to myself about the caustic, congested horrors I continually herded back into the corners of my psyche. I was afraid on many levels. I was afraid of stigma, I was afraid I would not be believed, I was afraid no one would think it worth helping me. I was afraid to rethink it.

Perhaps this is all about needing support and validation. Have these “boastful” survivors been able to talk openly to anyone about how they feel? Have they had the chance to explain without fear how, in the worst moments, they are certain they are in imminent danger? Does anyone know how a certain look, smell, face, taste, sound or movement can send them spiraling into an indescribable panic? Are they afraid to sleep near others who might be awoken by their unexplained thrashing and screaming in the night? What if they have never heard someone say “I know. It’s the worst feeling ever.”? What if they are filled with a need to be validated on some level, even if in a string of comments to an online article? Are there any among us who truly cope well without any support?

With a new mindset, I returned to these comment threads, wondering if I could somehow lend support, extend a virtual hand to any of my peers who had perhaps been calling out for acceptance. The string of posts had been deleted. Erased. Ouch.

The Trauma Survivors Foundation states “We heal not in isolation, but in togetherness.” Even when someone seems to be putting their most unpleasant foot forward, there is a struggle playing out, one we are probably all too familiar with. Understanding this gives us another tool to support each other in love and compassion.

If you have experienced trauma and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741

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Thinkstock photo via lolostock.

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