10 Things I'm Doing to Help Overcome My Trauma
Hi Mighty readers. I wanted to start by sharing a few facts that are not always apparent to many:
Trauma can be big or small; this doesn’t dictate the level of pain it will have for someone.
Trauma can hurt even when it is not full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or complex PTSD (C-PTSD).
Trauma may affect one person, but not another.
Trauma can manifest physically, in the body, as well as the mind.
Trauma can happen when someone is watching or told about a traumatic event — even if it did not directly happen to them.
Trauma can occur many times (often resulting in C-PTSD) or it can be a single event (typically PTSD); regardless, it can leave a person unfocused, depressed, angry and dissociative.
Trauma healing takes time and patience, as well as resilience.
Trauma is real.
So, now that I’ve shared these things, I want to explain my story (without any excess detail of course).
My life started traumatically, in a sense. I was born 10 weeks premature, alongside my twin sister. I spent the first six weeks of my life in a NICU incubator, unable to breathe on my own. I was separated from my parents and sister, something that I think impacts my daily life as a 26-year-old today.
Later in life, as a child and teenager, I would experience bullying and sexual assault, as well as an accident where I was hit by a car. All of these things were extremely traumatic for me, even if I didn’t acknowledge it at the time.
As an adult, I’ve experienced further traumas, including my own actions impacting me, such as harming myself. These memories have grown traumatic, and today I treat my body well, with those times haunting me.
Additionally, I have experienced trauma around the traumas of the loved ones in my life. This is known as secondhand trauma. It is when the pain of those I love feels so strong it enters my own body and psyche, causing me to feel afraid.
I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD a couple of times, but I personally didn’t believe I could really be struggling from this, as I’ve never had what has been described to me as a “flashback.” On the other hand, I’ve had intrusive memories and images regarding the traumas, alongside intense, unbearable emotions — even nightmares at times. I’ve also dissociated — moments when I blank out, space out, zone out, feeling unreal.
I am hypervigilant as well. As a person with anxiety and trauma, I am startled easily. I struggle to focus, although this could also be due to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or depression and anxiety. I avoided memories and reminders of certain traumas for many years. I walked around with my past haunting me, even subconsciously on the good days as well as the bad.
Now, to what I really want to get at: How am I overcoming my traumas, my past?
I went to a treatment facility in March to May of this year for PTSD and depression, among other issues. There, I engaged in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), a type of therapy for trauma. While this did help, the real work began once I returned home, where I’ve since made daily choices to face my traumas and remind myself they cannot hurt me.
The only person hurting me today is me, and I’ve decided I’m done with that, to the best of my ability.
Today I am overcoming my traumas by:
1. Radically accepting they happened and that I am safe now. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills are particularly helpful here.
2. Facing the trauma rather than avoiding it and its reminders. For instance, crossing the street despite anxiety around my memory of being hit by a car 10 years ago.
3. Talking and processing with a therapist.
4. Journaling/creative writing.
5. Talking to my “inner child” or the younger version of myself from the time of the trauma(s).
6. Taking my medications for other mental health disorders.
7. Light exercise, mainly walks with my dogs.
8. Being kind, doing something for someone else.
9. Finding new hobbies. For example, I’ve taken up foreign languages, making art, going hiking, even watching silly shows like “90 Day Fiancé.”
10. Socializing, connecting with others and finding laughter and joy outside of trauma.
There is probably more, but that’s what I’ve got for now. Thank you for reading my story, and I hope you can gather from this that you are not alone. Loneliness breeds anxiety and trauma; coming together and processing our demons is what helps us move forward.
Unsplash image by Paola Aguilar