You Are Not Your Trauma

Trauma invades areas of our lives we never thought possible. It leaves physical scars. It leaves mental scars. It leaves emotional scars. It halts you in your tracks at the smallest of memories. Your body tenses in response and you are suddenly alert, acutely aware of every noise and movement around you.

The effects of trauma don’t always show on the outside. Someone walking past you may not even know that your heart is racing, that your throat is dry. They may not see your clenched fists or tight jaw. Your physical scars may be hidden beneath clothes. You may not have physical scars, just those etched into your mind, onto your soul.

Trauma can be an extremely lonely experience. How do you find someone who understands when you don’t know how to explain it? How do you find someone who will understand why you are quiet for long periods? Who will understand why you are fidgeting and looking nervously around at nothing? How will they understand how real the nightmares are? Who will understand why you want to stay in bed today?

Recovery from trauma is hard. Being a survivor doesn’t mean you forget. Living your everyday life doesn’t mean you’re healed. Being able to laugh all night with friends doesn’t mean you won’t be crying on the way home. It’s not something that goes away. It stays with you for life. It burrows deep inside of you.

Trauma is like your shadow. It follows you everywhere even when you are completely unconscious of it. The memories, the feelings, the emotions…they can be as easy to trigger as a light switch. It’s frustrating and painful. It’s agonizing and stressful. It’s paralyzing. It’s impossible to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it. It’s lonely. It can’t be erased. It will never be forgotten.

Yet, as a survivor, you take that step forward. You get up in the morning. You shower. You get dressed. You go outside. You go for a walk. You go for a drive. You head to work. You hang out with friends. You grab a coffee. You go to lunch. You keep up with the news. You read your favorite books and watch your favorite movies. You do everything that is “normal”. 

You are a fighter. You carry the weight, but in silence. You know you will have lapses and you know you will have bad days, but you don’t let it stop you because you are stronger than your trauma. You are stronger than the memories, than the scars, than the triggers. You are not your trauma and your trauma is not you.

You have dark days when all you see are the images playing in your head. You hear every sound that takes you back to that place. You smell those familiar and hateful scents. Those dark days do not define you. You know they don’t. You will let them run their course and then get up and carry on.

You will carry on with your life because you are strong enough to know that you can continue on one more day. You are strong enough to take another step. You can live a normal life. You are not your trauma and your trauma is not you. 

You are strong. You are brave. You can hold your head high. You can be proud of every small step you take. You don’t have to explain anything to anyone. You can carry on because you are not your trauma and your trauma is not you.

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Jackson – A Fleeting Inspiration

“For the love of Christ! What are you doing?” Jackson yells as Allen’s foot tries to slam a hole through the car’s carpeted metal floor. Allen says nothing, but a smile slowly creeps into his cheeks. Jackson is holding onto the “oh shit” handle and braces himself against the leather back of his seat.

“If you want to die, that’s on you, but you don’t have to drag me with you.” Jackson’s Brooklyn accent is not something he has been able to completely drop. When he’s calm, he can tuck it away neatly. But when stress put the pressure on him or when he was heated, he didn’t even realize how much it was changing his words.

He had come to Ohio to get away from the city and the noise. That’s what people did, right? They grew up in the city and would either love it or try like hell to leave. Jackson had tried like hell and had succeeded. He had found a little backwoods home in the middle of nowhere. When he told people the name of the town he now lived in, they gave him confused looks so he started using other towns to describe it.

“It’s about 20 minutes north of Juliette. You ever heard of Ross?” They would nod vaguely aware that it sounds familiar. “Yeah, it’s just before that.” It was true that the town was nothing more than fields and trees with a few houses or parishes scattered here and there. Sometimes the quiet would keep Jackson up at night. He missed the city sounds at times, but also smiled when he thought about how infrequently he heard sirens. His town didn’t even have a police station. Every two months or so you may see a state trooper cruise through, but that’s really all he did; he cruised through and didn’t pay any attention.

He was wishing this was one of those days that the trooper may cruise by, see the speeding car, and do something about it. Allen’s foot wasn’t letting up. That smile was still eerily plastered on his face. Jackson turned to face the road. He could feel the car slipping on the loose gravel.

~~~~~~~~

I’m looking for inspiration. I had it in one brief moment during a ten minute break almost two weeks ago. Before I got a chance to finish what was sure to be at the very least interesting, my break was over. I have opened this post a few times since then and could never find the same fire that started the first paragraph. I wrote the last paragraph this morning and something just feels off about it. I also have no idea where to go from there.

It’s heartbreaking to have lost the words that only a couple months ago came so easily. I don’t know why I can’t summon words with the same ease as I did before this wretched concussion gripped my brain. I feel like the words are all jumbled and I have no idea how to unscrambled them.

I want to write again. I miss it. It’s like a part of me is in a coma and I don’t know how to wake it up. It’s lying there, I can see it. I see it’s even breathing on its own so why won’t that part wake up? I feel like it’s trying to fight the condition; a brief moment here or there where movement is detected. Yet in the end, that part of me is still sleeping. 

I want my writer self back! She needs to wake up! I can’t feel the release my soul needs without her. I feel couped up and like the words are building up inside me. I fear the pressure will build too high. I fear she will be lost forever if that pressure should finally cause an explosion.

I try to use prompts, but end up deleting the post because it doesn’t make sense. I can’t do it without my writer self. Without her inside my brain feeding me the lines deep from within my soul, I am nothing but a shell. My soul is resting inside her body and I fear it may just disappear.

Guardian Angel

The day’s nightmares are haunting me as I try to fall asleep. Noises echo in my head. They bounce from cell to cell in my brain. The rush of the car as it passes me. The horn that’s blown across the intersection. The two coworkers arguing over whose fault it was that the report didn’t get filed. The TV show characters replay their crisis for me. The doctor telling me that these cells that control all this chaos aren’t behaving the way they should be.

The ever-present pessimist living inside me yells that I’m not good enough. She persistently badgers me and complains about how terrible things are always going to be. She’s aggressive and argumentative. She paces back and forth, demanding I just give up. “There’s no point in fighting it. It always gets worse!

The optimist, who I know is somewhere in there, huddles in a corner. She whispers that it might not all be bad. “Maybe this time things will be different.” she says in hushed tones. The pessimist frightens her, intimidates her. From time to time she can be strong, but I think this most recent series of events has finally cracked her. I don’t understand why she doesn’t fight harder.

I squeeze my eyes tighter trying to block out the sounds. I just want to fall asleep. The noise is so loud. My ears are ringing. My head aches. My heart is pounding. Just go away I scream to the ghosts lingering in my subconscious. Why don’t they just let me spend my night in peace? They torment me enough during the day that they should have the decency to let me sleep.

Please” I’m begging. “Please just let me sleep.” I feel my eyes warming and the first start of tears sliding down my pink cheeks. It’s too much for my soul to bear. It’s too much for me to take. “Please God do something.” I squeeze the pillow over my ears in an attempt to shut them out, but there’s no shutting out what’s already inside.

You’re a failure and you know it!” miss Pessimist says. “Not a complete failure.” Miss Optimist whispers weakly. “Of course she is! Look at her. She can’t even silence the voices in her own head!

I’m transported into my mind. My body drops on the dirty, dark gray cement ground. I curl into a ball as the bodies of the voices come closer. They are on top of me. They will consume me. I’ll have no choice but to give in. Their dark figures loom over my head. “Please God. Please. Please.” My plea fades softly until I’m just mouthing the words, my face now wet with tears.

Through the dark figures, a single soft light makes its way toward me. She’s found me once again. She is wordless. She is silent. In the midst of all the yelling, angry bodies, she is quiet and calm. There is a soft smile on her lips. Slowly the darkness is pushed back. A white, shimmering force is pushing them back. The noise is fading. The darkness is being pushed away by her light. Her fingers graze the soft shield she has made for me.

I watch the angry ones beat against the shield, but I hear nothing. Silence and warmth wrap themselves around me. She sits next to me and gently smooths my hair. As peace begins to fill my soul again, I hear her soft, gentle humming. It’s so faint I wouldn’t expect it to be coming from the being next to me. My guardian angel has saved me from my demons once more and I sleep.

Words

I hate that words have failed me. I lost…I…I can’t even articulate. This is my life, my dream, my pain. There may have been times when inspiration had left me, but never a time when my words have just disappeared. I start to write what I feel, but then the words just stop. My mind has become silent. I’ve struggled before, but never like this. It’s taken me 7 minutes to write one short paragraph. A paragraph that would normally take a minute or less.

What do you do when the words just stop? What do you do when you can’t even express… When you can’t even express…I could take lessons from Porky I guess. Didn’t he just change the sentence entirely? If I were to write the words as they come to me, my sentences would make no sense. I get partials, bits and pieces, tidbits.

Maybe I can… Maybe…fuck. Do I just give it time? I hate words. I miss them. I feel betrayed by them. They’re like a friend who just stops calling or texting. Why aren’t they there? Why did they stop visiting me? Where did they go? Fuck it… Maybe one day they’ll come back.

Every Night

Up in the middle of the night.

Every night.

Toss and turn.

Roll this way and that.

Sleep for a moment.

Wake for a lifetime.

Dreams of chaos.

Dreams of darkness.

Death, murder, despair, anger.

Dreams which cease to be a source of pleasure.

Dreams no longer a delight.

Tired, I’m so tired.

Every night.

No rest for the tortured.

No sleep for the broken.

Heart pounding.

Head pulsing.

Where has the night gone?

Where has my rest gone?

It disappeared without a trace.

Exhaustion and restlessness is all I have.

Every night.

Strength Within

I’m so scared it will happen once more
Fear shakes me to my core
I’m terrified
I’m petrified
I cry alone in my car
The images are never too far
I’m alone and I’m lost
I’d do anything, no matter the cost
To rid my mind of these thoughts
Peace and silence is all that’s sought
Take my frustration, take my pain
The sound of metal on metal is my bane
I’m tired of fighting
My lips are raw from biting
What can I do
Memories stick to me like glue
I don’t want to die
I wish I could fly
I want to find the strength within
Maybe then I can win

Choose To Be Happy – A Personal Experience

Ten years ago I was in a car accident. I was a passenger and it was out of my control. I ended up with broken and shattered bones, a life-long scar, and some emotional struggles that come maybe once every few months.

A little less than a month ago I was in another car accident. I was sandwiched between two other cars. I was the driver of my vehicle, but was not at fault. I walked away with a concussion, a few bruises, and a burn. Although this accident was less serious physically, the emotional toll it has taken on my mind has far surpassed the first.

I have lost all faith in other drivers. When on the road, I live in a constant state of fear, tension, and paranoia. I have to constantly remind myself that no one wants to get into or cause an accident. I am constantly checking my rearview mirror to see if the person behind me has left enough distance between us. When I’m coming to a stop, I brake gently and long before I need to just to make sure the person behind me knows “hey, there’s going to be a stop ahead”. I leave more room between myself and the car in front of me but still find myself slowing down to give even more room.

When the car behind me is following too closely for comfort my heart starts to pound. My entire body unconsciously tenses. My fist clenches. My breath catches until they back off. Even at speeds of 25 MPH I find myself fearing for my life. I have to remind myself to relax. I have to remind myself that “I am safe. I am centered. I am grounded”. I try to focus on 5 things I can see, 4 things I can touch, 3 things I can hear, 2 things I can smell, and 1 thing I can taste.

After a lot of thought and analysis, I’ve figured out why this most recent accident affected me more than the first. It all falls down to control. I didn’t have control in either accident, but the first was preventable. The first happened because a driver ran through a stop sign. That can easily be avoided. I can control how I handle stop signs. For ten years I have made a full stop at every single stop sign. For ten years I have watched any cars at or approaching the intersection for any sign that they won’t adhere to the rules of the road. In ten years I have had no problems at stop signs.

This most recent accident was caused by the driver behind me not paying attention. He didn’t brake. He didn’t slow. I saw him in my rearview mirror. It’s amazing how many things can go through your mind in a matter of 1-2 seconds. “This is really happening. I’m going to be in another accident. He isn’t stopping. Oh God! He isn’t stopping!” How do you stop something like that from happening? How do you prevent it? How do you tell the driver behind you “Hey! Pay attention! We’re all suddenly stopped up here!”

I keep quite a bit of distance between the car in front of me and my own, but I’m always reminded that that distance won’t stop the person behind me from hitting me. It only stops me from being pushed into the car in front of me. I can never control the person behind me. I can’t keep him or her from hitting me, I can only have faith that they will be paying attention.

How do you learn to trust strangers again? How do you learn to put your faith back in people when day after day you see people swerving over lines, speeding, passing in no passing zones, blowing through stop signs? How am I supposed to let go of this fear when people keep reinforcing it?

I find myself sitting at a local diner during lunch. I’m relaxed, enjoying my favorite food. Suddenly, without warning, I have a vision of a car crashing through the window and slamming into me. I’m sitting at a red light. Humming along to my favorite song when I see the car behind me coming up too fast for comfort. Suddenly I’m hit with a flashback. I see a silver bumper. I see white air bags. I see smoke and smell sulfur. I’m driving on the highway. My cruise is set to exactly the speed limit (who would have known this speed demon could be tamed) and I’m enjoying the sunshine. The car that’s passing me inches to side and nearly crosses the line. My mind is now filled with images of my car spinning out, of blood, of choas. 

My ears ring. My heart pounds. My chest tenses. My grasp on the wheel tightens. My eyes grow wide. No car crashes through the diner window. The car stops in time. The car passes me without incident. I let out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. I tell my body to loosen up. My ears slowly stop ringing. My heart finally slows to its normal rate. 

How do I stop this paranoia and fear? How do I make people understand I have no control over it? I feel like I’m not me. I feel like someone else is inside my head. I feel crazy. Why does the choice to be happy have to be so hard?

Choose To Be Happy

My mother always taught me that happiness is a choice. This was mostly brought up when I was mad about something and being a grump. She would tell me that I need to choose to be happy even if things aren’t going the way I want them to. She was absolutely right. Being happy is about attitude and how you react to things that are out of your control. 

What she never told me is how I would have to make that choice over and over in the same day. How I would have to struggle to push away invasive and unwanted memories. That once I had made the choice in the morning to “be happy” today, I would be presented over and over with an overwhelming push to tell “be happy” to go fuck itself.

When you have no control over traumatic experiences in your life, choosing to be happy is very hard. It’s not about the co-worker who is irritating or the stranger who bumps you in the supermarket. It’s not about the weather changing from gorgeous blue skies to blackened clouds and pouring rain. It’s not really a matter of fighting outside sources of fear, frustration, and anger. Instead it’s about fighting your own mind.

You lay in bed trying to think only of positive things (like your niece’s smile when you try to get her to say your name or the sweet thing your spouse said to you earlier) so that you can maybe go one night without nightmares. While you think of these sweet memories, the ugly ones creep in like water falling through a crack in the ceiling. First just a drop comes through so you brush it off, but slowly as the pressure builds and the ceiling weakens, the water comes slamming through and now you have to fight to dry the room again.

I choose to be happy. I start out every morning vocally saying the words “Today is a day of happiness and peace”. I literally say out loud that I’m going to have a good day. The morning may go well. Hell, I may make it all the way to the end of the work day without needing to make the choice to be happy a second time. Then there’s a trigger. One small moment, something almost undetectable, and I’m faced with a decision; do I try to push through the memories and fears and choose to be happy or allow myself to be swallowed up by them?

Making that decision multiple times a day is daunting. It’s exhausting. Sometimes I feel I have no choice but to be lost in the flashbacks. When that feeling sinks in, it takes every bit of strength I have to find the happiness again. It takes my entire focus, my entire mind and soul to remember that there are good things in my life and I have nothing to fear. 

I’m honestly not even sure I’m doing the struggle justice. I know there are people out there who understand the point I’m trying to make, but if you’ve never experienced it…I’m not sure how to help you understand it. Sometimes it doesn’t even make sense to my own brain.

Maybe it’ll help to explain my experience. To keep my posts a reasonable length, I’ll post that separately and insert a link here once it’s done.

She’s Never Called Me Mom

She is my daughter, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve changed her diapers and taught her how to use the potty, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve cooked her breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but she’s never called me Mom.
She’s fallen asleep in my arms, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve wiped her tears and calmed her fears, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve picked out her outfits and helped her put them on, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve listened to her stories and laughed at her corny jokes, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve kept her secrets, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve sacrificed time with friends to be with her instead, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve cleaned up after her and wiped food crumbs from her face, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve brushed her hair and teeth, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve buckled her in and tied her shoes, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve zipped up her jacket and spread sunscreen on her skin, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve caused good of giggles, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve given her hugs and kisses and snuggles on the couch, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve given her baths and helped her put on her PJs, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve watched her shows and learned the names of her friends, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve attended open houses and school concerts, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve thought about her every day, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve thrown birthday parties and sleepovers, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve picked out gifts and placed bows on special wrapping, but she’s never call me Mom.
I’ve baked blue cakes and lit candles, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve tucked her into bed and kissed her goodnight, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve taught her to love herself, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve loved her with every ounce of love I have to give, but she’s never called me Mom.
She is my daughter, but she’s never called me Mom.

This is the struggle I believe many stepmothers go through. We love a child that is not our own and give them our all and do it without expectation of a return. I don’t need my stepdaughter to call me Mom, but I used the wording as a demonstration of the thanklessness that the job of stepmom can be.

I hope she understands she has my entire heart. I don’t want to replace her mother in any way, she needs her mother. I just want to be a second set of arms to run to. I want her to always know she has my love no matter what happens in life. No matter where she goes or who she becomes, she will have my heart forever.

In The Night

Night holds no comfort for me.

She holds no solice from the torments of the day.

She taunts me.

She haunts me.

She sneaks into my dreams.

Her spiny black fingers creep into the corners of my mind.

The corners that are reserved for rest.

They clutch at my tranquility and rip it from my mind.

Her wicked thoughts replace the sweetness of my dreams.

Violence and terror.

Fear and horror.

Loathing, hatred, war, suffering.

These are those things which she leaves behind.

Where once peaceful light filled my nights,

Now thick blackness invades.

I can’t escape.

I can’t run.

I can’t hide.

I can’t stay awake.

My eyes and body betray me.

They give in to her sultry whispers.

Her promises of warmth and comfort.

My mind slips into that sardonic grasp.

I’m lost.

I’m broken.

She has me.

She won’t let go.

At my most vulnerable,

In the night.