Every Trauma is Unique
My trauma isn’t your trauma. Even if we experienced the same traumatizing event, my life experiences and coping mechanisms will paint my perceptions with a different pallet of colors than yours. Though we’ll ultimately have to go through many of the same steps in the healing process, I’ll go through them in a different order, spending more time on some and less on others. My needs are different and defined by how much I’ve stuffed down, released, denied, or revisited from previous traumas. They’ll also be impacted by whatever else life throws at me in the meantime.
My process isn’t right for you, nor yours for me. But it’s exactly right for each of us with no set timeline nor point when you or I will be completely healed from the event. I will simply keep traveling on my healing journey as will you with many triumphs and setbacks along the way.
Still, I see so many similarities as I read articles and posts from others who are at various stages in their healing process. It doesn’t really matter whether the trauma is old or new, dealt with right away, or held deep inside for decades. Once the process of healing and releasing begins, the road traveled has many common stops along the way.
Not only does the process share components, but so does the way we coped with the trauma initially. Personally, I can only speak from the “holding it all in until you burst” camp, and as such, relate well to those who suffered childhood trauma, or years of abuse before they finally made the break, realizing they did not deserve such treatment, eventually learning they didn’t bear any responsibility. Those people opened my eyes to how emotionally bankrupt my own childhood was, not because my parents didn’t care, but because it was the only thing they, themselves knew.
Peeling Your Own Coping Skills Onion
Healing from trauma is like peeling an onion, but never reaching the very center. Often, in the process there are layers which go back to previous generations. In my case, my family’s primary coping mechanism was to stuff things down and try to ignore their existence. I don’t know if any of them realized (or realize, depending on the generation) how destructive it was and is. I believe when it originated, it was more of a survival mechanism than a choice. Unfortunately, when it was no longer a matter of life and death, the pattern was so deeply ingrained as to be considered normal.
I’ve always been a rebel in my family. Never really fitting in. Never trying to conform to familial patterns. I was always too sensitive or too outspoken, and in hindsight, made people uncomfortable by overtly questioning what was considered appropriate behavior. To me, it never made sense to bottle things up or pretend I didn’t feel something, though I truly did try to conform, much to my detriment. It took me years to figure out why. I just assumed I was some kind of misfit. In a way I was, but I see now it’s not in a bad way.
Failure to Fit In is a Red Flag
If I don’t fit in with my family and their attitudes, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me. In fact, I’ve come to understand it means there’s something right. Coping with trauma by stuffing it all inside wasn’t healthy for me, and probably isn’t for anyone else, but I can only change my own approach. If anyone learns something by my example, that’s great, but it’s not my purpose. It is, however, my purpose to break a dysfunctional family pattern, if only in my own line, and then, only a part of it. You can lead a horse to water, as it were.
Part of the process has meant cutting ties that no longer serve me, and creating new ones that do. Too many of the ties I’ve cut are blood, but we can’t help who we’re related to. In fact, I believe I chose them in order to drive me to the point where I had to learn the lessons and cut the ties if I wanted to do more than just survive. I’ve learned I deserve to have supportive people around me; people who have my back as I have theirs. I deserve to thrive.
My life is, in it’s own way, no different than anyone else’s. I’ve had traumas and triumphs, but mostly long periods of living, learning, and coasting along. Sometimes I’m oblivious and others, sharply and sometimes painfully aware. I put time and effort into healing, then step back and allow things to settle into the newest version of me. If I get too complacent, something or someone comes along to shake me out of my complacency, forcing me to put some effort into releasing more that doesn’t serve me to replace it with something healthier.
Triggers Get Me Moving When I’ve Become Complacent
I “get to” experience triggers periodically. Triggers like the murder-suicide at my favorite dance club, or hearing a friend lost a family member to suicide, and being asked for my insight. Those triggers often set off a visceral reaction; tears, sadness, and a general withdrawal into myself. It doesn’t last long, but reminds me there are layers I’ve yet to uncover, much less, heal and release.
Worse is when family members have felt they had the right to be cruel to my daughter or me. Despite knowing what they’re capable of from long experience, and recognizing they’re only venting their own pain on what they think is a safe target, I can’t help feeling a level of disbelief that people could treat their own family badly. I also know they came from the same place I’ve been working hard to heal and leave behind. Still, it’s where abuse starts, and if boundaries and barriers aren’t set, often escalates. Even so, my heart aches for all the broken people out there who think causing pain to others will ease their own. They never learn how to heal themselves, and will come into their next life with many of the same unlearned lessons.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as I allow myself to go through an often painful process towards healing is compassion for others, including those who mistreat me or the people I love. I know they aren’t coping with their pain, but trying unsuccessfully to fling it outwards. It isn’t always easy to avoid the initial feelings of anger, but ultimately, those feelings degrade into pity. It’s not exactly compassion, but I’m not adding negative energy to their own in the process. It’s more of an energy void. I strive for forgiveness, but frankly, there are some with whom I have to settle for pity and leave it at that. Maybe in my next life I’ll be able to forgive. For now, I’m focused on learning how to handle trauma in a healthier, more productive manner.
And when all else fails, I fling imaginary heart-shaped confetti.
Gratitude Reminds Me How Far I’ve Come
My gratitudes today are:
- I’m grateful for the traumas I’ve suffered, the coping mechanisms I’ve put in place, and the lessons I’m learning from both as I continue to heal.
- I’m grateful for people I meet who are willing to be open about their own traumas and the challenges they’ve faced in trying to heal.
- I’m grateful for vulnerability. Without it, there is no healing.
- I’m grateful for a new moniker, “Holistic Ghostwriter” which was given to me recently.
- I’m grateful for abundance; friendship, choices, love, challenges, lessons, trauma, healing, forgiving, imaginary heart-shaped confetti, dancing, health, harmony, peace, philanthropy, and prosperity.
Love and Light
About the Author
Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward