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The 4 Things I Wish I Could Tell You About Trauma Recovery

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A long time ago, my voice was silenced. Rather than learning how to express myself with spoken words, I hid inside a shell of perfection and took to writing instead. Being perfect was my protection. If I was the model child and the ideal teen, I thought I could bring peace to my family. No one would yell or hurt me if only I shined bright enough to give them hope, or so I thought. Slowly I became mute to my own thoughts and feelings as I pushed it all down in order to give them the answer they wanted to hear, the answer I thought would keep me safe. But now I find myself wading through the torment of a traumatic past and the words I want to say can’t find their ways past my lips.

I want to speak. More than anything, I want these words swimming in my head to make their way out of my body and tell the world how hard these months of trauma recovery with the accompanying depression and anxiety have been. For once, I want to break the barrier of perfection and let the world see the extremely weak and broken version of me.

But since my voice won’t let me speak, I’ll write it out. Here’s what I want you to know about my journey through trauma recovery.

1. Trauma Recovery is Hell

I never thought it would be like this.

When the repressed memories started to surface, I thought the first ones I saw were the worst-case scenario. As the depression got a little bit darker and the anxiety first kicked up a notch, I thought it was horrible, but do-able. There were hard days at first, but the positivity and energy were still there; I could do it and I would do it. Three months of counseling and I would be free, I told myself. Then it changed to six months. I could do six months, easily. And yet, as the memories came, darker and harder to accept, and more layers of this complex trauma I had lived through were peeled back, the positivity faded. All of a sudden I found myself in muck up to my neck, and there was no hope.

Now the terrifying memories are flooding into my mind beyond what my soul can handle. But it’s not just the memories, it’s the fear and panic that rules in my life as other people look in from the comfortable outside telling me that I’m wrong for not having peace. And then there’s the realization that it wasn’t just the traumatic acts causing this pain, it’s the ways I coped that hurt me, which I also have to change. Nothing works and everything about me has to change. And slowly but surely I realize, this is hell.

2. Almost Everyone Has Left

Everyone has left, kinda. My husband is still here and a few random friends still remain from a distance, but everyone else who started this journey with me has left.

I guess hell is too uncomfortable for some people.

There were friends at the beginning who I tried to trust. After living in a fortress for almost my entire life, keeping people far away so I wouldn’t be hurt, I had to recognize I couldn’t fight through trauma recovery alone. Slowly I lowered the drawbridge and let a few close friends into my life. They were the people who I reached out to when I needed a hand to pull me out of the pit of depression or the ones I slowly let hear my pain in spoken words. But the weight was too much for them.

Some of them cracked under the weight of the stigma, yelling in my face that I was selfish for my darkest thoughts or informing me they thought people struggling were simply weak cowards. One let me know that they had walked beside me out of religious obedience, but it had gotten too hard and they couldn’t do it anymore. Or the ones who I finally found the courage to tell a tiny bit of my story and yet, I’ve never heard from them again.

Now I find myself tempering my words to the amazing people who have stepped up in the past few months to walk with me. Constantly I think they’re going to leave if I appear too needy or too broken, so I don’t tell them the truth of where I am or how I’m doing. I have rebuilt the walls of my fortress.

Trauma recovery is an extremely lonely place where many times feelings of unworthiness are justified.

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3. Letting People See My Truth is Terrifying

My life now isn’t even a shadow of what it once was. There are many days I struggle to function. Lately, the huge, oversized clothes and unkempt hair have returned from their short hiatus. Even if I can get out of the house and look halfway presentable, I stare at the floor and tap my fingers ridiculously fast on my leg, because of the anxiety constantly telling me horrible lies inside my head.

When I think about my worst days, I remember the faces of the people who couldn’t take me as I was on a moderate day.

Attending functions for my kids means plastering a smile on my face and acting happy, but the truth is being around that many people makes me shake. I’m not sure who there might try to hurt me or what worst-case scenario might happen, but because of my past, I know it’s possible.

My brain is so easily overloaded that I can only take in a little about of information before I become overwhelmed. A room full of people only represents a ton of people who will see my breakdown if a panic attack or traumatic memory shows up.

The future is fearful because I once thought it wouldn’t get worse, but then it did.

But then people look at me and tell me I just need to put myself out there and conquer life again. They believe that if only I get back to work, a work that I can’t complete things on time, or try to trust people again when I know people can’t handle me, then I would be able to reclaim my life.

I want to look at people who pridefully challenge me to do better and silently whisper, “if you only knew my truth.”

4. I Didn’t Choose This.

This one thing I don’t just want to speak, I want to scream.

I didn’t choose this and I didn’t do anything to deserve it.

This is not my fault. Children do not deserve evil to come upon them and prey on them. What was done to me was so bad that my mind knew I couldn’t handle it, so it protected me by hiding part of it away until I was stronger. Over two decades later, my body decided I was stronger. Maybe it was motherhood that made me strong enough or the love of my husband, but this showed up and took away every ounce of that strength.

I am so weak I can barely stand, so defeated I want to give up the fight. Trauma recovery has ripped my life into pieces and tossed it into the trash.

I need people to help me, but I don’t want to trust them.

I deserve help. I deserve love. I deserve respect. I deserve to be accepted for the quivering mess that I am. I didn’t choose this and it’s not what I want for my life. More than anything, I deserve support because I’m a human who is fighting for every single breath and no one has the right to take that away from me.

Trauma recovery has wrecked my life. The pain only grows beyond what I once thought was inconceivable. But I am still here. There’s no telling what the future will look like if the 16 months of counseling will be stretched into three more years or even 10 more years. The thimble-sized group of people around me might be the same, or even smaller. More people might have heard my story and judged me as guilty. Yet I can still hope in the tiniest ways. I may not have a lot left in my life, but hopefully I will find that spoken voice. One day I will be able to quiet the fear and audibly ask for help. Until then, I’ll just write.

Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash

Originally published: July 24, 2020
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