Writing last week’s post stuck with me. I touched on our how tumultuous social climate presents as a chronic, collective trauma. Day in and day out, we get hit with more bad news without any time to recover.
In talking to my therapist this week, I understood why reflecting on this issue lingered in the back of my mind. For the vast majority of my childhood, I experienced chronic trauma through the emotional and mental abuse I took through young adulthood. Without getting into specific detail, a lot happened and mostly between my parents and me. It was just one thing after another though. When the dust would settle, someone came along to stir it back up.
As a result, I developed a survival instinct. My trauma left me in a perpetual state of shock. It was my defense mechanism. I remember my grandmother describing one scene to me that pretty much sums this up:
I remember you sitting at the kitchen table, while your parents fought. You would sit there red in the face doing your schoolwork and your hands on either side of your face. Your grandfather and I wanted to take you out of there.
I did everything in my power to ignore and avoid what happened around me. If my parents fought, I often went outside to play or hid in my room. I wanted nothing to do with it, but I thought it also protected me.
When I got older, I obviously realized that avoiding it became problematic. Unresolved trauma causes all sorts of distorted perceptions and affects all facets of your well-being. It was not until a young adult and free from my trauma’s constant grasp that I had the chance to process it.
In the coming years, I noticed that my initial reaction to any major trauma was shock. I did not react. My heart numbed itself and went into autopilot. Usually, it took me a week or so to “shake it off.” This is the “freeze” part of the “fight, flight, or freeze” adrenaline reaction.
Thankfully, through several years of counseling, this intensity of this reaction significantly decreased. It just comes to show to you how much your life experiences stay with you though. In the words of Taylor Swift, “shake it off.”
-The Caring Counselor