*I want to preface this post with the fact that everyone’s trauma is different. Please, please don’t compare your trauma to someone else’s. It’s not a “who got hurt the worst” game. And everyone deals with trauma differently, this is just one viewpoint.
My trauma started with our infertility and losses and really culminated when my oldest, Lainey, was born at 24 weeks gestation and spent 4.5 months in the NICU. I was in full on survival mode during that time. I have seen my counselor for almost 5 years, and began seeing her shortly before our second miscarriage. I highly recommend seeing someone if you’ve been through trauma. It has been the best way for me to process.
Anywho. Here are a few surprising things I’ve learned about trauma.
The trauma response was not automatic.
While I was still in survival mode, it lasted several months after Lainey came home. I kept waiting for some sort of big moment where I fell apart but it never came. Gradually I started to notice changes and it really came to light when I was pregnant with Emmy. Thoughts that I couldn’t keep away. Scenes that haunted my dreams. Compulsions that I had to act on – it didn’t matter how ridiculous they were. And then I started to notice that those things were becoming more frequent and disturbing. I had the hardest time understanding why it took so long, though. I mean we were out of the NICU, Lainey was fairly healthy, I was pregnant with another little girl – I should be happy! But that trauma response is not automatic and it make take time before effects begin to show.
Surprising things will trigger you.
At some point during therapy (I honestly can’t remember if it was before or after Lainey was born), we came up with an “only happy things” rule. There was too much going on in the real world, that I didn’t need to subject myself to sad or scary books, movies, music, etc. That was a firm boundary I set and it helped immensely. At the beginning of the year, I started experimenting with my “only happy things” rule (albeit, subconsciously). I was feeling better (aka suppressing my emotions) and knew there were some books that had been on my to be read list for a while. While these books weren’t inherently sad (well, most of them), they did include death and hardship and, ya know, LIFE. Couple that with getting lazy on my meds – remember, I was feeling *better* – and it makes for lovely nightmares and raging OCD.
This frustrated me to no end. I should be able to read a story that is not about death but has a death in it AND BE FINE. But I’m not. And I’m learning to be ok with that. Not happy about it, but ok with it.
When I told my therapist I wanted to read other genres she said that my life is a horror genre – LOL.
Just like the response is not automatic, the processing is not automatic.
There’s no end date here. It’s not like after a year, 5 years, 10 years, you’ll magically be healed and have processed everything you need to process and you’ll be good to go. Again, super frustrating. I would love for this to be something I can just check off of my to do list, but it’s not. Bryan reminded me that there will be a day where I’m not as affected. That day will come. That day is not today.
Welp. That was super uplifting. But hopefully something in there resonated with you. Actually hopefully not because I would not want you going through this too. But if it did, you aren’t alone.
Give yourself some grace and self love – I’m telling this to myself too.