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4 Surprising Effects of Trauma Recovery

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My nerves are fried, my stomach shot. Every movement makes me queasy. The lights are making me jumpy. So I sit here in the dark, every light turned off except for the dim light from my laptop which is almost too bright. My bedroom door is closed to ward off the distant sounds of the dryer and the tiny glow coming from the front windows. The kids couldn’t go to bed fast enough as each bit of laughter or noise pierces into my head, jamming my brain until I can’t think.

• What is PTSD?

This is trauma recovery.

This is what happens when years of pain and hurt are jammed into the past and locked away until they have no choice but to come bursting out, ripping up my life in the process.

It’s almost been a year since I fell apart as I finally had to face the memories I hid from for so long. One year of turmoil and pain worse than I’ve ever felt as I’ve had to walk through the hurt again and again, learning how to overcome it. The worst part is not only having to overcome the past, but accepting how those memories affect my daily life and the things I do to continuously run from perceived danger.

Everyone’s journey is different, I’ve learned this. But there are a few things about my own personal journey through trauma recovery that have shocked me.

1. Realizing I hated myself.

It shouldn’t surprise me that years of being neglected and abused pushed into my soul the thought I was worthless, but it did. When I first started counseling, my therapist asked me to make a list of 40 reasons I was worthy of love. That was ten months ago. I still do not have a complete list. In fact, there are days I rip up the tiny list and find ways to dispute every reason I previously listed.

A new therapist this week tried to ask me questions about my greatest qualities that were meant to empower me and it was so painful I haven’t been able to function since that appointment. When you go through trauma, your soul and inner-self take a hit. My trauma told me I was worthless. Therefore, I still believe that. And even more so, I hate myself. I am trying to overcome that belief but as I go through the process of healing, some days I am successful, but there are a lot of days I am not.

2. Realizing I am afraid of everything.

If you met me a few years ago, you would have thought I was fearless. If a reporter called needing someone to speak on-air about a subject last minute, I was game. If the sliding door to our van needed to be repaired or a piece of drywall patched in our home, I pulled out my pink toolbox and I did it. I can recite the scriptures to you that talk about not having fear because God will provide, and I used to recite them regularly.

But then, through therapy, I realized I am afraid of everything. I do not speak up when people hurt me because I’m afraid they will get angry. I do everything I can to keep the peace because I am afraid of conflict. I do not take care of myself because I am afraid someone else will suffer if I take the time to do something for myself. Loud noises startle me, day-to-day life actions terrify me and I hide from responsibilities because of fear. I am afraid of everything and it’s all rooted in past trauma.

3. Realizing the effect that trauma has on my body.

Because post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression are considered mental health, very few people realize how much of your physical body is affected. Before I started seeing a therapist, I thought I had the flu because of the body aches I was experiencing. Now, sometimes my arms hurt so badly I have to ask my kids to carry my purse. I am constantly tired and because of the anxiety, there are days my heart races or it’s hard to breathe. If I’m in a crowded public place or stressed, I have to fidget and move. I can no longer sit still and just relax.

There are also times I can’t tolerate light or sound. Usually this happens on really rough weeks when I’ve had to battle my thoughts and emotions so much my body can’t handle anything else. My physical body reaches a point where it is so overstimulated, I can’t take any more physical stimulation.

4. Realizing very few people in my life truly understand the effects of trauma. 

There are amazing people in my life. I’m blessed I have people who have dropped everything to be there for me in a second. But no one understands. It’s not because they don’t want to, it’s because no one talks about it. Until I started walking through this journey, I didn’t understand it either or know anything about it.

People hear about flashbacks and think they looks like they do in the movies, but very few understand the power of them or that they can be physical feelings, mental pictures or emotional reoccurrences. Flashbacks and traumatic memories do not always look or present the same. Very few people understand fear from trauma develops harmful behaviors that haunt survivors. And less people understand why trauma from years ago affects our worth today. No one understands because it’s not talked about.

Trauma destroys on the day it first happens, but then it continuously wrecks everything in its path again and again. It’s not one-and-done or easily defeated. The most courageous thing someone who has experienced trauma will do is turn and face it head-on. But dealing with trauma takes massive support from loved ones and therapists because healing from trauma is extremely difficult and involves every part of your body and self — mental, emotional, physical and changing behaviors.

Healing from trauma is different for everyone. Some people will share these same battles I fight. Other people will have their own experiences when facing their past trauma. Hopefully, if more people talk about trauma, less will be surprised by the effects of it in their own lives.

Getty image by Jorm Sangsorn

Originally published: December 11, 2019
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