For the last three or four days, I dreaded writing this post, but I promised myself I would do it. Instead of writing some fluffy intro or fun anecdote, I am following the advice of my eighth grade English teacher, “Just get straight to it.”
Chronic trauma defined the majority of my childhood, teenage years, and young adulthood. I developed major depressive disorder and panic disorder as a preteen that waxed and waned into college. Because of it, I always felt like something bad was going to happen to me and that I was not allowed to be happy for long. I longed to possess intimate and close relationships but struggled to let anyone in.
Young and naive, in my early twenties, I finally separated myself from toxic individuals and their accompanying environment. That was it! That was all I had to do. Remove them, and the problem was solved. Looking back, I was a rookie in the game of life. At the time, I did not realize I also developed poor coping skills such as avoidance, denial, and impulsiveness. Specifically, with feelings, I took on an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude. It could not bother me if it was not there or did not acknowledge it, right? I also latched onto anything that made me feel good and took it to the extreme (i.e. playing video games, sex, etc.).
Generally speaking, I functioned well overall even with these few quirks. It really was not until my mid-twenties that I realized how much lasting damage my trauma left. Some major shit went down between my ex-girlfriend and me, leading to a three-day stint in the psych ward. In the months following, I explored the long-last effects of my trauma. I reflected on how it instilled behavioral and thought patterns in me that interfered with my life.
I will admit that I greatly disliked talking about my trauma though, even in the most private of therapeutic settings. There were countless sessions where I felt tightness in my chest or tears building up and all because of the discomfort I felt talking about “that side.” It was an ugly side of me. It would take over and turn me into someone I was not. That part of me was characterized by poor decision making, anger, guilt, and pain. Some straight Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde shit.
The part I could not get over was how at one point I thought I overcame this beast. However it had different intentions. The trauma ultimately shaped my perceptions of the world, my relationships, and myself. It would take a lot more than pushing it to the side to resolve it.
Recently, yours truly dealt with serious emotional tragedies with a death in my family, work stress, COVID-19, and arguing with loved ones. The barrage of traumatic blows instigated my trauma response. Without getting too personal, I made some bad choices, nearly drowned in a sea of guilt, and then experienced an emotional numbing afterwards.
I once again started feeling shitty over the fact that my trauma and “that part” got the best of me. How could I have let it win…AGAIN? I brought it up to my therapist this week. I was furious with myself. There were so many times where I beat down the little bitch, but it always seems to win eventually. When it does win, it creates major problems. My therapist made a good point and one I already knew but refused to acknowledge.
It would be an ongoing battle.
It was unrealistic to think that I would come out of decades of trauma unscathed. Unfortunately, those events fed into who I am today, and there were going to be plenty of times in the future where my trauma response would be triggered. What I had to remember though was to keep working at it. Keep talking about it in counseling. Store it in the back of my mind. Write blog posts about it. That was what was most important. I needed to know how to manage it when it wanted to battle and then following through on it.
It will be back.
-The Caring Counselor