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How Much Trauma Can One Soul Hold?

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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.

Recently, I’ve had to figure out how to navigate several difficult things: more spine surgery (in my neck this time) for a problem that could be potentially catastrophic, changes in one of my support groups, and conflicts with both a good friend and my therapist. I get so frustrated when I feel like I get “dumped on” with another new trauma… again and again. This is too fucking much! How do I get through more trauma? Dammit!

Then I realized I inadvertently “wrote a little gift to myself” — which is curious since I actually wrote this poem six months ago! How could I possibly write something that will help me in the future? Because this poem echoes what I felt six months ago, when I was struggling with a different new trauma, and the process I went through back then! Isn’t it strange how we can keep going in circles, repeating these patterns over and over? There are many hills and valleys of our lives, and I embrace the hills, but dread the valleys, hoping they will never happen again, but they do… unfortunately. So as I read my poem again, I remembered the process that I went through, and how difficult it was. Since I’ve been here before, this is a good reminder that I can make it through it again. That eases the burden a little, and I can work through that trauma just a little bit better, a little bit faster, and it doesn’t weigh me down as much. So I guess I’m learning how to face these challenges better, more effectively, and learning important skills in this process that I will be able to use again in the future!

As an additional note: In my journey through recovery, my faith has been extremely important to me, even at times when my faith is weak. I know there are people who don’t have this kind of faith, and that’s OK. You may look to a higher power, or to the universe, for direction and meaning, and I’m glad you have that, and the reassurance you gain from it.  Please, do stay with me on this strange journey! 

How Much Trauma Can One Soul Hold?

OK, this makes me wonder…
I’ve heard people say
‘God will not give us anything that we can’t handle’
Well, that’s not exactly correct…
1 Corinthians 10:13 says “but God is faithful,
who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able,
but with the temptation will also make the way of escape,
that you may be able to bear it.
Yes, that is true…
But this doesn’t really address what I’m talking about here
I’m talking about the crappy things that constantly happen in my life
That seem to ‘dump’ on me over and over and over…

So how about this one:
“God will not give you more trouble than you can handle
because God is not the giver of trouble.
God is the giver of life and the source of love and blessing.” (1)
We will always have some kind of trouble happening in our lives
And God does help us navigate that trouble
So yes, I would agree with that
But is that really what I’m talking about here?
I don’t know… this is getting closer…
Let me ponder this for a moment…

Danielle Bernock addresses these topics:
“God does give us hard things.
He does this in two ways: God gives us tests and commands.” (1)
Yeah, tests can be intimidating and scary – and they’re hard!
Kids feel that every day when they take a test in school
Then Danielle goes on to say that God tests us for a good reason
“They expose what’s inside of us. This shows us where our need for growth is.”
Sometimes those are painful truths that are hard to face!
Could I even say it exposes my weaknesses? Ouch!!

“When he tests us, he wants to see if our faith in him is real.” (2)
Yikes! Is God really testing my faith in Him?
“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but the LORD tests the heart”
Proverbs 17:3
Is my heart where God wants it to be?
I honestly don’t know!
My faith has been faltering off and on for a couple years
As I stumble through this crazy, mixed up thing called Life!
“Being tested by God is simply part of the process of becoming more like Him.
The more we lean into him, the more grace he can pour on us.” (2)
Well, I guess I’m getting ‘drowned’ in the ‘testing’ from God!
But I also like the idea of ‘leaning into Him’
It means that I can rely on Him in those tricky, challenging situations
That does start to give me a sense of relief…

Now, commands… that is the “hard thing of obedience” (1)
Yeah, aren’t those like ‘orders’ from God Himself?
It’s not like I can ignore them, or shoo them off!
But there’s more than just ‘giving me orders’!
“I am the vine; you are the branches.
If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5
It means He’s counting on us doing this work together!
God doesn’t leave me out there alone!
We’re a team! I’m not on my own!

So does this really get down to the root of my original question?
‘How Much Trauma Can One Soul Hold?’
Ok I have physical things going on…
Back injuries, followed by several surgeries
Accompanied by 24/7 pain that is often debilitating
Then, because of this, I not only lost my job and my career
But my ability to even work at all!
Then memories of childhood sexual abuse came back
Echoes from 50 years ago that had been blocked from my conscious memory!
That totally rocked my world!
To the extent that I’ve attempted suicide four times altogether
And I’ve gotten dangerously close too many other times

Ok, then there have been several trips to the ER because of gallbladder issues
That’s gone now – I had it taken out
Shoulder surgery, and then re-injury when I fell out of bed a month later
Oh, yeah, I’ve had several surgeries on both wrists too – yuck!
Pelvic rehab for three years – because of the trauma of the sexual abuse
Have I mentioned how many times I’ve had fights with my husband?
Or how many times I’ve been triggered?
Or how many times I’ve had scary as hell flashbacks?
Or how many times dissociation has ripped me away from reality?
Yeah, too many times to count for any of them!
Which ends up setting me back each time they happen
Physically, mentally and emotionally!

So recently I had a brand new very traumatizing memory come back
It’s like – what the fuck???
Haven’t I had enough crap for one lifetime?
I guess not…
This memory felt like a whole new trauma – and it was!
I had already remembered when I was raped at 15 years old
It was scary, painful, traumatic, terrifying…
But I also felt good sensations… pleasure!
What the fucking hell???
That is NOT supposed to happen!
It was bad enough that I was raped to begin with!
Now to have this memory come back?? WTF??
Haven’t I had more than enough trauma to last a lifetime?

So now I have another new memory to haunt me!
Another layer of trauma… upon trauma… upon trauma
That 15 year old part of me
Felt that she had ‘invited’ him to molest her
That she deserved it because she was ‘bad’
He told her to keep it secret…
She can keep secrets, can’t she?
He was threatening…
And she didn’t know what to do…

Yeah, I know, there’s the ‘physiological response’
My brain and logic and reason try to rationalize it…
But still…
I can’t wrap my head around this!
It’s just too surreal!
What do I do now?
I’m working with my therapist on this one
Because surely I cannot navigate this on my own
Not. One. More. Fucking. Thing.
This really isn’t fair!
No, I don’t expect life to be all springtime and flowers!
But why does it have to be filled with so much
Pain. Heartache. Triggers. Bad Memories. Isolation.
Trauma piled upon Trauma!

So, back to the beginning…
‘God will not give us anything that we can’t handle’
Well, dammit God, I can’t fucking handle this!!!
It’s just too much!
It’s just too painful…
Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Spiritually.
I’m afraid my body may collapse!
My brain may burst into flame and turn to ashes!
My heart may break in two!
My soul may disappear into nothingness!
How do I navigate this trial, this test?
God, my trust in you is seriously lacking
My faith struggles to stay alive
My mind has turned to mush…
Please tell me what to do now!
Cause I can’t do it on my own!
God, please give me some guidance!
I’m reaching to you for answers!

(1) “Is it True That God Will Never Give Us More Than We Can Handle?” by Danielle Bernock, 6/17/20
(2) “Why Does God Test Us?” by Danielle Bernock, 5/1/20

Originally published: April 8, 2022
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