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5 Ways I Won’t Let My Trauma Define Me in the New Year

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I am more than my trauma. I am more than what has happened to me, and you are too. This is one of the most important realizations I have come to this year. For over three decades, I based my sense of identity on what I endured rather than how I overcame it. Now I know that I am way more parts warrior than victim. Here are the five ways I won’t let my trauma define me in the new year:

• What is PTSD?

1. I will use self-awareness as my most powerful tool.

Being aware of what triggers me has helped me keep those triggers in check. On a deeper level, being in touch with myself in a really honest way has allowed me to cut through my own nonsense and realize when I’m standing in my own way. How can you increase your self-awareness and use it to combat your symptoms?

2. I will show up more in social situations — literally and figuratively.

I don’t always follow through with plans, especially if the plans involve a large crowd. Hello, social anxiety! On the other hand, when I do show up, sometimes I struggle to participate. Groups are intimidating and anxiety-inducing. Though early experiences have taught me that groups and families are not always loving and safe places, I do not need to project that onto every group and family. How can you “show up” more?

3. I will participate in more non-trauma-centered activities.

I spend a good deal of time reading and writing about mental health and trauma. Don’t get me wrong; healing is a wonderful thing but it’s not all there is. Work on your mental health every day but also make time for other activities. What activities bring you joy and/or relaxation?

4. I will leave my trauma out of my relationships.

I can’t guarantee I’ll always get this one right, but I can guarantee I will be making a better effort. I know the world isn’t against me because it doesn’t revolve around me. If you look closely, the majority of people are rooting for you. Good, loving people want to see you succeed and heal. How can you improve your interpersonal skills and have more meaningful relationships?

5. I will plan ahead and not allow my trauma hold me back.

Loud and unexpected noises often startle me. With proper preparation, I will go to that upcoming hockey game with earplugs, a comforting squeezy ball and a bag of self-soothing items. If you can’t make it through the triggering event this time, think about how you might take steps to tolerate your discomfort in the future. What steps can you take to preemptively manage your triggers?

We are more than the sum of our negative experiences. We are more than our trauma. We are all people inherently deserving of happiness. What steps can you take in the new year to tackle your trauma and not let it define you?

Photo by Devan Freeman on Unsplash

Originally published: December 28, 2019
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