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When Abuse and Trauma Leave You Feeling Broken, but Not Done

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I recently came across someone who was talking about feeling broken and trapped in her past. I’m not sure if her words resonated with me because we’re about the same age or maybe it’s that I should never wander on Facebook at 3 a.m., half awake, after getting up to pee. Either way, this was my response to her:

“I think part of us gets stunted and left behind whenever we face abuse or trauma. It’s as if someone has chipped a part of us off and it’s left sitting there, marking that place and time, that fragment of ourselves we lost because of trauma. The more we’re hurt at any given time, the larger the chunk that is left behind. Little by little, as we go through more and more, pieces of us sliver and break off, until we can legitimately feel the absence of all those missing pieces. We no longer feel whole. All the missing chunks in our heart and soul feel glaringly obvious. We’re missing so much of ourselves that we feel broken beyond repair.

We find ourselves going back to those moments because we want to pick up our missing pieces and be whole again. Somehow we believe if we are able to understand why things happened, to forgive or to move past it, we’ll get that piece of ourselves back. I honestly think there really is no way to reclaim those missing pieces. Our abuses and traumas mark and change us in a very real way, as they should. No one survives something that horrible and comes out unscathed.

We need to leave those pieces where they lie, like bookmarks to those moments that have changed us in life, reminders to learn from the traumas of our past and hopefully not to set ourselves up to repeat them. We then have to learn to be creative and take what pieces of ourselves we have left and build something new. We’ll never be the same person we once were, but we can find a way to become something new, to rebuild our lives and forge something stronger out of our rubble.”

After responding, I sent myself a copy and crawled back into bed. The next couple days were hectic with doctor appointments, pre-op lab work and other errands. Yet, this response sat in the back of my head like an unpopped kernel of popcorn bouncing around in my mind, waiting to grow and be fully realized.

During the lull of a morning free of schedules, I found myself reading over my response from the other night, the words that flowed so easily in my half-asleep state. Tears began to flow as I thought about all those pieces of myself left in my past and of all the people who have tried to break me over the years. Again and again, I’ve been shattered until I no longer even resembled a person.

I had become a jumbled mess of jagged fragments, raw and aching, afraid of letting anyone close enough to get hurt by my brokenness and even more terrified that they might break me further. I sobbed as I realized I didn’t even recognize myself anymore.  I’ve lost so much of myself over the years that I’m not the same person I once was.

A strange thing happened as I sat there crying and mourning the loss of myself. I got angry. It wasn’t the red-hot, fiery rage that leads to revenge and retaliation but rather the steady, white-hot anger of a person who is so tired of other people feeling they have the right to break me. Even more so, I was irate with myself for not being strong enough and letting it happen again and again over the years.

I thought of all the people in my past who own a piece that has been lost to me forever. Family who were supposed to love and nurture but instead greeted me with abuse and dysfunction. Men and boys who touched me in ways a young girl should never be touched because they saw me as an object to be taken and not a person. Exes I had given myself to, heart, mind, body and soul, only to be mistreated, cheated on and discarded.

As I sat here sobbing, feeling both devastatingly broken and immensely furious, I knew I could not continue to live this way. When I looked at all I’ve lost over the years and the jagged, jumbled pile of shards and rubble I had left, I realized I’ve lost more of myself than I even have left. My mind shot back to the tail end of the sleepy response I gave the other night:

“….We’ll never be the same person we once were, but we can find a way to become something new, to rebuild our lives and forge something stronger out of our rubble.”

What only a few days ago was a half-asleep, half-jumbled passing thought sent out to someone else called to me. The truth is those were never just words. It’s a hard truth I needed to face. For years, I’ve mourned the loss of myself, wishing I could just be OK again, regain even a semblance of the person I used to be. I needed to listen to my own words and accept the truth within. I won’t ever be that same person again and I need more than anything to rebuild.

Perhaps, it is the red-hot rage of revenge and retribution after all because I absolutely refuse to let any of those people who broke me without remorse win. I refuse to let anyone ever break me like that again either. I am not quite sure how to rebuild with the little I have left, but I will find a way. I will rebuild and I will continue to grow until I am no longer a small, broken pile of rubble but rather a whole person again. I may have been broken and shattered again and again, but I am not done.

Image via Thinkstock.

This post originally appeared on Unlovable.

Originally published: September 6, 2016
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