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10 Reminders You Need When Coping With a Trauma Anniversary

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced domestic violence or emotional abuse, 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.

You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233.

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

I live with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) and find that I struggle with trauma anniversaries which, for me, occur around dates when certain traumatic events happened. Some impact me more than others. The rape I experienced by my landlord in 2014 is still a trauma anniversary that significantly comes up for me during the month of February, especially the week of and after Valentine’s Day. My anxiety and nightmares increase. My moods are more up and down. And I feel like I am in a constant fight, flight or freeze response. My self-talk also becomes more shame-based and negative.

Engaging in trauma-focused therapy taught me about what I was experiencing and different strategies to cope, heal and move forward. I am a work-in-progress and my healing journey is always in-progress. Being kind and gentle with myself is something I am also still working on. The events of that night — going through the S.A.F.E. exam and being interrogated by the police, and losing my home and having to couch surf for a couple of months — all replay in vivid detail every February. It is hard to feel safe even in my own skin. Being in a marriage with my partner, being a new dad and navigating mental health during the time when the whole country is still being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and social justice issues, has all added extra dynamics to filter through and navigate. Some old strategies and coping don’t really work with a 9-month-old, and some can potentially have a negative impact on my relationships or my own health and well-being. So, this February looks different in terms of coping with this trauma anniversary.

I am trying my best to use grounding techniques, such as breathing, feeling my feet on the ground and holding a piece of ice. Because my self-harm urges increase during this time, I also find myself using the Calm Harm app which helps me cope with these urges. Openly communicating with my partner to the best of my ability about what is happening during this time has also helped our relationship and been supportive. Engaging in different therapies and support groups has helped me have a scheduled supportive safe space and an outlet, which has helped me give myself space for what is happening while also attempting to be present as best I can in different areas and roles in my life.

As part of self-care, I have reminders I tell myself when I am having a flashback, wake from a nightmare, having an especially hard moment or day, and anything else I find myself experiencing during the month of February and other triggering days/times of the year.

Here’s what I remind myself when I am coping with a trauma anniversary:

  • It was never my fault. Nothing I said/didn’t say or did/didn’t do changes that it was not my fault.
  • Be kind and gentle.
  • Seek support. I don’t have to go through this alone.
  • My feelings are valid.
  • It’s OK to struggle, and it’s OK to not be OK.
  • In this present moment, I am safe.
  • My healing from trauma is a journey rather than two linear points.
  • My healing journey is mine without judgment, comparison or expectation.
  • My voice matters. My story matters. I matter.
  • I can continue to find ways to move forward.

Photo by Jurien Huggins on Unsplash

Originally published: February 12, 2021
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