themighty logo

To the Student Coming Home to the Place of Their Trauma


Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

As I stared out the window on the bus home, I could feel the wall of denial and dissociation crack, ever so slowly, to let in the reality that these places I keep seeing in my dreams and in my daytime nightmares are real, and I will see them in three hours.

Through these roads, these stops and these unpleasant bus smells, my body does not exist. I am out of it and floating along. Two hours remaining. I loop back through denial. It happened? It didn’t happen? I’m making it up? My muscles tighten. My body feels unsafe, my mind once again under his control. Every single person on this bus looks like him and I sink back into my seat.

One hour remaining. These places I’m so scared of come floating through my mind like I am watching a movie. Maybe, just maybe, if I go back to those places again, I will feel something… something different. And maybe it will go away. I can date again. Fall in love. Get married. Flee.

Thirty minutes remaining. His face is in my head again and I can feel him in my own thoughts and words. Overwhelmed, I stop caring about anything. I have arrived at my stop. I grab my baggage and leave the bus.

To the student coming home to the place of their trauma, you are not alone. And I wish I could give you some advice that would make these three months of summer break easier. I wish I knew how to make them easier. I know that when you are away at school — be it 30 minutes or 15 hours away from the place of your trauma — at least when you jump 10,000 feet in the air at a loud noise, you can remind yourself you are far away. Those reassurances go away when you aren’t, and the survival mode you know too well kicks in again.

If there’s one thing I’ve found from all of this that could even be remotely considered good, it’s that your body and brain will do whatever possible to protect you. They will completely dissociate, deny or fill you with hypervigilance to watch out for yourself. No one will ever know why they survive things like this — things other people sometimes don’t. There’s no easy answer for any of this.

To the student coming home to the place of their trauma, give yourself some credit for how damn hard this shit is.

To the student coming home to the place of their trauma, know this is only temporary. Three months of summer will pass.

Photo by Tanja Heffner on Unsplash