It is scary and daunting, and is a word that we are sadly too familiar with. But also one that brings extreme discomfort and is often avoided. For many, it is too scary to face, it is too deep, too raw. However, failing to address it can leave us with wounds that seem impossible to heal. I can give you a personal example of this:
My brother died, 8 years ago tomorrow. This was unexpected, it brought about unbearable pain, and I had feelings that could make me crazy – literally! I wanted to pull my hair out. I tried speaking to two counselors about this event that forever changed my life, and they did not meet my needs whatsoever. They sat staring at me while I was barely able to get my story out. I was met with no response to this LIFE CHANGING event, except, “So, how does that make you feel?” HOW WAS I FEELING?! Was it not apparent through my uncontrollable sobs? So, after that, I decided that counseling was not going to work for me, and I could supress this horrific event and move on in my daily life. My trauma began coming out through anger, in ways that I did not even realize existed within me. Throughout the years, my wonderful husband saw my true colors (what an incredibly patient man, how was I so lucky?). It wasn’t until he encouraged me to give counseling another shot, that I truly experienced healing. My wounds were nursed and I could actually be happy in life. This in no way takes away the pain that I am reminded of every December 13th, but it does allow me to find happiness in life, knowing that is what my brother would want for me.
Trauma is vast, and covers a wide variety of situations. We as a society have unfortunately experienced trauma during and after events such as 9/11, Columbine, Hurricane Katrina, and the Aurora Theatre Shooting. These are just a few of the events that we have been forced to face, but have forever changed us as a society, and have made us see the world differently. We start to wonder if the world is actually a safe place, and if we can trust to go out into these public situations and not have to worry about our safety.
As an individual you have probably experienced trauma as well. Have you experienced the loss of a loved one? Has any one you care about been diagnosed with a fatal illness? Have you experienced physical or sexual abuse? Lost a job? Or maybe divorce? Even if you haven’t been directly affected by one of these or similar events, chances are you’ve probably been close enough to them to feel their effects. When we or someone close to us faces one of these, we find our selves wondering, “why us/why me?” We never thought that it would happen to US – those things only happen to other people, right? The unfortunate thing is that you probably have faced some Trauma or another in your life, but know that you are not alone. Trauma can feel very lonely at times, but it is not something that has to be lonely. Because of the world we live in, someone else has probably experienced a similar Trauma and would love to be there with you while you are going through it.
I want to explain a little bit about the different kids of Trauma and why we have all experienced some aspect of it. As I mentioned above, there are many different types of trauma that one can experience and they are often categorized into “Little t” Trauma and “Big T” Trauma. To differentiate between these two, a “Little t” Trauma might be the loss of a relationship or the loss of a job. “Big T” trauma is usually a greater trauma, such as: going to war, losing a loved one, or experiencing a natural disaster. What is important to recognize though is that one trauma is not more important than the other. When I say that, I mean that if you have experienced a “Little t” trauma, is doesn’t make your experience any less important than someone who has experienced a “Big T trauma”. Your trauma greatly affected you and it is vital that validation is given surrounding that. Often times, we compare our situations to others and feel that if we have not experienced a situation “as bad” or “as hard” as someone else, we often do not give ourselves validation and our trauma loses its importance. I just want to take this moment to recognize your experience and validate you in whatever you have experienced because of the event.
What I love about trauma is the fact that it is relative to your experience and is so individual. No two people deal with trauma the exact same way and trauma has no comparison. If you feel as though you have experienced a terrible situation which caused you trauma, validate yourself in that. Give yourself care around that. Life is all about perspective and we only know life through our perspective. What other’s feel about our situation does not change how much it has affected us. Others are sometimes quick to judge on how your experience should be dealt with, or whether or not your trauma is valid. But it is important that you decide how to go about your healing and figure out the best way to work through it.
Trauma is an area that is SO close to my heart and what I am looking to focus on throughout my counseling career. While I am not going to limit my clientele to only those struggling with trauma, it is definitely an area that calls me. Because of my own life experiences, I have come to realize that this is an area of life that most people are not willing to go to with you and it is something that has lasting effects. It truly creates who you are as a person. What I also love about Trauma is that it inevitably brings about such genuine deep and raw emotion. These emotions that are felt are nothing like any other emotion that you feel. Sharing your experience with trauma requires vulnerability and trust, which those two things within themselves are difficult. I did not get into counseling to purely talk to people about life, but to truly sit beside them in the muck and grime of life and support them in a way that no one else has. So to share the experience of true, raw life with someone is one that is unbeatable. I am naturally drawn to people who are willing to be raw because they are truly one of a kind. It is often the people who have experienced these horrific events in their own life that are willing to go to a place with you that is not often addressed in everyday conversations.
The last aspect I love about Trauma is that your healing requires a process of depth that is truly empowering. When you are willing to face the experience and grow from it, it shows such strength. This strength allows you to look inward and understand yourself in a way that you never knew existed. It is absolutely impossible for us to remain the same person that we were before having experienced the traumatic event and that is okay. I believe that it is the events that we have experienced in the past that make us who we are in the future. We as humans are resilient and strong and have the ability to work through whatever life throws our way.
What trauma have you experienced and how are you validating your experience today? I would love to hear from you!