A lot of guests have asked (in one way or another) me to expand on what I wrote in my About pages. (no I am not linking them here 🙂 you know how to find them)
Specifically, they want to know more about my thoughts on life after surviving trauma and why I believe that rebuilding a life after surviving the trauma sometimes feels harder than surviving the trauma that created me.
All of my posts address these topics indirectly as I share parts of my life and personal experiences in them. But I have not yet written a full post about either topic. My reasons are same as with writing about my mother’s abuse or body memory coping strategies. Creating posts about these topics, writing about them (not sharing), brings up a lot of triggers and flashbacks I am not always prepared to cope with later.
Today, though, I will share a little about the purpose behind each About page and the topics underlined above. They are intertwined.
My Thoughts on Life After Trauma
As my counselor told me in session yesterday – and I am paraphrasing because I don’t remember the exact wording, “You have to be looking for, open to and ready for (insert activity, experience, etc. here) in order to bring it into your life.” If I am open to the change, but not ready for it, the change won’t take. If I am ready, but not open, the change will pass me by.
I share this with you because I truly believe that surviving trauma and getting out of that environment is only part of the battle. My body can leave physically even if my mind is still stuck in those old patterns and putting me into similar situations again and again. My mind might be in a better place, but my body experiences illness or pain that brings me back to dangerous situations because I used past coping strategies that worked fast.
On a spiritual level, I might have got my mind and body out of the toxic or abusive environment and on healthier tracks, but I lack faith in myself and belief that I deserve to live and feel happy. That lack of faith puts roadblocks on achieving my goals and sabotages my efforts to learn new or different coping strategies. Even if I have faith, feeling undeserving of joy, success, and a “good” life undermines everything I work for because it prevents me from learning, being curious, and succeeding at any task that brings joy into my life.
When I talk about living in darkness, gray spaces and light, I’m talking about the journey and struggles to feel deserving of living a life on my terms when everything in my past taught me the exact opposite.
I went back into the darkness often because I felt safest and most comfortable there. I knew the rules and how to relate to that environment. While I wasn’t happy or safe, I had a place that offered some security and belonged there.
The transition into gray spaces occurred when I started caring about myself and believing I did not have to punish myself all the time with a job and living environment that made me do, act, think, talk, live in ways opposite to my personal values. At first, the difference between darkness and gray were unnoticeable. I had done everything possible to remove myself from the external (environmental and physical) danger and now had to work on the internal (mental, emotional and/or spiritual) danger.
That is where counseling, nutrition therapy and alternative medicine helped the most. Through these resources, I found safety and a support network willing to teach me how to help myself. Counseling and alternative medicine also put me back in touch with my spiritual self and interest in spiritual practices around the world. From there, the gray spaces got lighter and lighter until I stepped into the light one day.
The light blinded me. It felt so uncomfortable because I thought I had to be perfect all the time. Felt so much pressure to conform and fit in that I rebelled and went back into the darkest gray areas I could reach. That was about the time I remembered the truth about what happened with my mother and started feeling emotions for the first time – about 10 years ago.
It’s also around the time I met my first trauma specialist counselor. She deserves the credit for helping me realize I could live in the lighter parts of the gray and still be myself because not everyone is meant to live in the light all the time.
Four years into my work with her, I started feeling more secure living life on my terms as my authentic self and started this blog.
But that whole process took 10 years of falling, struggling, and getting up again.
And this is why I believe that learning to live and thrive after surviving trauma sometimes feels more difficult than surviving the trauma.
Why I believe Rebuilding a Life After Surviving the Trauma Feels Harder Than Surviving the Trauma That Created Me
No matter the type of experience(s) an individual survives, trauma changes her or him from the inside out because it affects perspective about life, belief systems, and sense of self. Nature (through our physiology) blessed us with our physical and mental capabilities through the unique combination of our parents’ and ancestors’ genetics. Nurture showed us how to behave, modeled belief systems to help us fit in with our community social structure, and informed our developing sense of self as we grew up.
One did not occur separate from the other. They worked together to to help us learn (through modeling and experience) who we were, who we are, who we want to be, and who we could be.
Then comes change. With change comes different perspectives, new experiences, and knowledge. Some change is easy to accept and incorporate into our lives. It doesn’t shake up our belief system or sense of self while opening us up to different experiences. Hobbies, sports, school and jobs are some examples.
Other changes are more difficult to accept and incorporate, but do not permanently alter anything. Moving to a new neighborhood, getting fired, going to college, first boyfriend or girlfriend, getting bullied or being a bully are some examples.
Finally, there are changes that affect all parts of our self in a permanent and life-altering way. One we experience these changes, we can’t go back to our old lives as if nothing happened. Everything feels, looks, sounds, etc. different and new…maybe even scary. By everything I mean, what or who we believe in, about ourselves, about the people around us, and so on.
This is like being at a crossroads. We have choices and options – born with free will even if that doesn’t always feel true – and different paths to take. Or we can choose to stay on the same path, pretend the changes didn’t happen. We can stay with the same routines even though they make us feel unhappy and hurt us because it’s easier than making another change with unknown consequences. Or maybe we believe what others say about not having any other choices and change being impossible.
Change is part of life. Free will is part of life. No matter what anyone or anything tells us, we always have choices.
Survival is difficult. We do, say, act, react in ways that keep us alive while hurting us in other ways. I know this from personal experience. The shame and guilt of that knowledge still affects me; probably always will.
Yet, if I had to make those same choices again, I would not change anything. Back then, my choices were:
- Do/be/say/(insert verb) what we want and survive
- Rebel and get abused, tortured or killed
- Keep rebelling and causing trouble and your loved ones will get abused, tortured and killed
Once I got out of that, my choices changed. I was and am responsible for how I treat myself and others. I could continue behaving as if I was living in my old community and communicating with my parents, peers, relatives, neighbors, etc. Or I could change from the inside out and find people who loved, accepted, and supported me for being me. Not having awareness of how my words and actions affected other people put me in some serious negative spaces as I learned how to blend in with the outside world and conventional society again.
I still fall into those spaces as I spread my wings and try new activities and experiences. The difference now is that I have more tools and coping strategies along with a support network to help me when I fall.
These days, I am a lot happier and feel deserving of all the positive experience life wants to offer me. Joy, peace, kindness, unconditional love, and radical acceptance make up most of my foundation these days.
A Wish for My Guests
This blog was created to provide a basic support network and safety net for others who found themselves in situations like mine – without obvious support or resources and with a determination to make different choices.
I hope this post helps you understand why I created the About pages and do not update or change them often. They share the blueprint or outline of my journey. A journey whose structure hasn’t changed much even though the details and experiences change often.
My wish for all of you is that you learn to believe in yourselves and believe that you deserve all of the positive experiences life offers you.
Thanks for reading.