Traumatic events are horrible. Often they are the extreme closing of the gap between the malevolence of what I know can happen within the world and what has happened to me within my life. For instance: Many of us won’t maybe say this aloud, but your loved ones are one car ride away from never seeing you again; and you living the rest of your life without them. If that doesn’t stop you for a moment, I’m not sure what could. That would be trauma.
Trauma, especially some of the more heinous events (e.g. sexual abuse, traumatic medical injury, etc.) often happen and turn our lives upside down. How you lived before is a dreamlike aspiration dreamt up by Pixar, in some circumstances, and a new goal you never thought you’d have. Your life becomes much more difficult mentally, physically, and often times financially. When horrible events happen, they are not linear in nature. It’s not as though when you experience a trauma everything else in your life continues on and you’re ONLY changed physically, or mentally, or financially. Often times, these traumas ripple and are exponential in their effect. That singular event, ripples through your life making all levels of your being a struggle. You disengage from family, friends, and other social connections. You lack the motivation to engage in what was a simple task like brushing your teeth, or even getting out of bed. Making it through another day, is the best you can muster.
It’s the best you can muster, and it’s all you need; for today. Accept your lack of responsibility for what happened to you, and accept that your life, MY life, OUR lives, are anything but fair. Anything horrible that can happen in this world, to anyone, at any time, can happen to you. This, as best I can tell, is a great place to start the healing.
Accepting the responsibility for this unfair hand you’ve been dealt, and the challenge of overcoming it is an arduous task, indeed. This, I’m sure might be a controversial statement for some who are struggling with experienced traumas. “Accept responsibility for THIS?!?! I didn’t want this!” Of course you didn’t; however, the past is to never change, the future is still to be written, and all you have is right here, right now. I can find no better place to start. A trauma narrative is a great way to reprocess the events you unfortunately have in your past, but most recent literature suggests at least 18-months before reprocessing, otherwise this may exacerbate the effects of the trauma and additionally traumatize the individual.
There is no changing or taking away of what happened. There is; however, a different way of looking at it, and harnessing that perspective to create a more productive life for yourself, your family, and the people lucky enough to know you in the future.
One way I encourage people to think about trauma is to ask them how their life could have, or would have, been different if that event had never taken place. This is a way of me being able to have them express the goals they have for themselves.
We process why that was important for them, to build motivation, and problem solve with them how they can still have those things. This also achieves another smaller goal: Integral steps we can take, here and now, to get to where we want to go. With trauma, we often have to shorten our reference with regard to time. Like I said earlier, after a severe trauma, just getting through the day is enough. That is the best you can give; but it can’t be all that you ever give, for the rest of your life. You have to be willing to engage in smaller steps to set your life back in order. Each day progress, no matter how small the step, or task.
After enough time, those small steps will climb that mountain of trauma. With each step forward, we can grow and expand our reference in time to something a couple days out, then a week, a month, and so forth. This all starts with you. Today. Doing the best you can. It’s going to take some time, and be the most excruciating thing you’ll probably ever experience, but I guarantee you it is worth it.
If you or somebody you know are struggling with trauma, or other debilitating mental health issues, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at Edmond Family Counseling at 405-341-3554 or go to www.EdmondFamily.org.