Re-triggering Trauma Again and Again- trigger warning: death and sexual abuse
It's been a while since my last post. . . there has been a lot to digest and mull over the past few weeks. I'm not interested in writing about politics or this virus. What I am interested in is talking about the effects of what is going on. Unfortunately, we are going to see the effects of this traumatic event for many years to come (increased suicides, substance abuse, homelessness, physical, verbal, and sexual abuse and increasing mental health issues.) This is my first hand experience, which may be different than yours, but it is mine. Wholly and completely.
Before this virus became the focus of the world and its inhabitants, I was dealing with my own loss. I found out mid-February that my 21 year-old nephew died in 2016, as well as his father (my half-brother) who died earlier that year. My connection with my Dad's side of the family is non-existent, so of course I learned of their deaths through Facebook. I was stunned. Shocked. This young man who had so much life to live was taken; wiped off the planet due to a motorist not paying attention to a young man on a motorcycle. After I learned of his death, it brought up all of the past deaths that affected me greatly. I was in mourning; not just mourning over my nephew and brother, but of my Dad, my Great Aunt Mimi, and another young man that died by his own hand in September. I was grieving hard for these lights who had been extinguished. This doesn't always happen, but lately I've been quite connected to my emotions and how they fluctuate. I'm learning that each new death, triggers old deaths. And each new birth or pregnancy announcement, triggers my miscarriage and our loss. Let's just say, I've been feeling all the feels. It seems that's all I can do right now; just feel.
At a different time in my life, I probably would have poured myself a bottle of wine and tried to ignore the feelings. More likely than not, that would backfire, and I would sink into a deeper depression because that's all I could think about. It was one or the other; completely ignore it or dive right in to the deep end. Now, the emotions feel more like waves. The emotions begin to rise and I see the wave approaching and I brace myself. I sit. I feel. I breathe. I let the emotion overcome my body and then. . . it passes. I've never been able to observe my emotions like I can now. I would typically just react without processing the experience. My current method of allowing the emotions to pass through me with my breath feels like a much healthier way to manage the ups and downs of life.
Another traumatic experience that has been plaguing me lately has been of my sexual abuse from childhood. I am now realizing how much it has impacted my life. I thought I had that all squared away since I went to therapy as a child and felt I was mostly "over it." I forgave my perpetrator when I was still a child. I knew that he was sick and he needed help; so even at the tender age of seven, I was able to exercise my empathy and compassion muscle. This path that I have been on for the past seven years has given me tools to help me handle the emotions that I am experiencing right now. I've been experiencing flashbacks from childhood which I have never really experienced before and it seems I am finally allowing them to come to the surface to breathe. The light is being shed on them to heal. The more I've pushed them away, ignored them, or drowned them with alcohol the deeper they went. Without alcohol to suppress the emotions, I can finally release them from my body and allow the issues/tissues to heal. Exposing these dark moments of my life has given me strength to speak for those who have no voice right now. The ones who are still in the middle of their shit or are still being abused by their perpetrator.
Now more than ever, (when able to) I want to help those who have had to endure sexual abuse or multiple adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and to show them there is a way out and it is possible to heal and live a healthy life. I can't imagine where I'd be without yoga and all of the tools I've learned on this journey so far. It's amazing how breathing deeply, hiring a good therapist, and allowing yourself the space and grace to feel the range of human emotions can help to heal. Even though the emotions are messy and hard. . . I wouldn't change a thing. I wouldn't change or delete my traumas. I wouldn't change my choices. All of it (good, bad, ugly) has shaped me into this woman that I always wanted to be, but was perhaps a little too scared and a little too unsure of herself. The graphic that I included at the top of this post reminded me that my suffering was part of my journey. Now, I can use it to help other young girls and women like myself.
Sharing my truth and honoring my story are things that I feel compelled to share. I do not share my story for pity or for attention, but to show how damn strong I am. And if I can be this strong, so can you. Allowing yourself to crack yourself wide open for the world (or 12 people,) to see is scary. But like Glennon Doyle says, "We can do hard things." Can we find meaning in our suffering? Can we take a trauma and turn it around? Can we see the silver lining in our cloud? I think we can. But it will take work, hard work. We can do it, I have faith we can.
Stay well and just keep breathing