Down in the dark
Imagine you’re in the basement and you come across an old worn box. It looks as if it’s been there for potentially years. Open the box slowly. You can start by ripping the tape off and look inside. See what’s in there and pick one object. It could be an old notebook whose pages are worn. Maybe it’s missing the majority of its pages. You know that you should toss it, but there’s something nostalgic about it. You want to remember the time you bought it. Then it hits you, an ex-boyfriend gave it to you, and that breakup ended badly. You’re struggling to throw the notebook away, but your hands won’t do it. I’ve held that notebook many times, and it was hard for me to let it go. I looked at the yellowed pages and cried, hoping they would show me something, anything, that told me whether to dispose of it or hang on to the thing. Eventually, I threw it out, but sometimes a page whips past me, hits me in the face, and I remember fragments of something that once was.
You’ve opened a box of emotions
When you confront trauma, there are so many different aspects to examine. Your traumatic experiences don’t boil down to one event, but rather a collection of small events that lead up to the traumatic incident. You don’t have to look at everything that happened to you at once, just like it’s impossible to examine all the items in the box at the same time. Remember that your trauma isn’t who you are, but something that impacted you, hurt you or left a lasting mark on how you see specific things in your life. You’re allowed to feel any way you want to about what happened. You’re entitled to feel your feelings, and cope with your trauma the best way you know how. Sometimes, I don’t know how to deal with what happened to me. There are moments where I’m convinced that it will torture me indefinitely, leaving its mark on my soul. In these instances, even though I can’t see hope, I remember other cases in which I thought I would never get over something or someone, and I did – eventually I managed to heal.
Healing the child within us
When I started to look at my trauma, the many instances where I got hurt, I remind myself that these painful experiences happen to many people. The wounds are on the surface or buried underneath the skin. If they’re covered, we work hard in therapy to sift through the layers, becoming more self-aware. We find ways to manage our pain, even if it takes years. I’ve tried to look at everything in the box at the same time, and it overwhelms me. I start to think, how will I go through all these things, these memories, and find out how to heal? The answer is: I can. I need to look at one object at a time. The fear does not have to paralyze me. It can motivate me to find a solution.
Trauma and the symptoms associated with it have caused me to feel shame. It’s paralyzed me to the point of avoidance. I didn’t want to deal with my feelings. I couldn’t cope with the pain of my traumatic experiences and found myself hiding from them. I felt less than, saddened, hopeless even. I think that’s relatively normal to feel when you’re confronting trauma. But it’s crucial to fight that impulse and face the pain. To heal from my pain, I need to look it in the eye and realize it cannot hurt me anymore. Trauma is a bully; it tries to convince me that I’m not ever going to heal. But it’s wrong. I’m stronger than my pain, and the way I can demonstrate that strength is to sit with it, examine it and learn to let it go slowly.