Where Trauma Hurts the Most

Like with many people who’ve have been privileged enough to have received or experience it, clinical counselling has helped me achieve a better understanding of myself and the trauma I’ve experienced for the past few years.

I’ve learned a lot of incredibly poignant and awakening lessons relating to almost every area of my life as a result of therapy. One the things I’ve discovered is that a lot of the things I previously thought were personal flaws are actually the result of prolonged and untreated trauma-related stress. This new understanding has allowed me a safer space to reflect on the things I can improve in my life and build towards a more well-rounded future, instead of dwelling on the past events that I cannot change.

The discoveries I’ve made about trauma have been both extremely disheartening and incredibly uplifting. I will attempt to describe both.

Photo of black-and white girl surrounded in plastic
Photo Credit: Velizar Ivanov

Why Being Self-Aware about Your Trauma Can Be One of the Hardest Things to Do [and Extremely Disheartening]

Trauma can be incredibly tricky, insidious, and illusive, especially if it goes unrecognised and untreated. But why? By tricking us into believing the lies we might associate with our trauma. Such as:

  • “I must have caused this somehow” or “I deserved it”
  • “My abuser didn’t mean to abuse me”
  • “Because this happened to me it I’m a less valuable person”
  • “I’m just a baby who can’t get over things”
  • “If I just _____, my problems will go away” (i.e. smoke, drink, study, clean, etc)
  • “This pain will never end”

Especially in situations where our trauma stems from abuse, we often have a very difficult time rationalising why certain traumas happened in the first place. When we’re hurt, intentionally or unintentionally, by a friend/colleague/partner, etc. we almost always want to understand the root of the conflict. This can send us into instances of second-guessing our own actions and replaying the situation in your mind even if we did nothing wrong. This can sometimes allow an abuser to gaslight us and cause further and sometimes extreme psychological or mental damage to us.

When we begin to realise the extent to which we may have experienced abuse, we can often become angry and/or depressed. Often, we can feel helpless against the fight of succumbing to the negative symptoms of trauma. Personally, I struggle with the idea that it might be too late for me to fully recover from my trauma. But this too, I know, is a lie I have to sometimes have to work to ward off.

Trauma has real and heavy consequences on the functioning of our brain. It can prevent an otherwise bright and ambitious child from growing to their full potential. It can also take an otherwise physically healthy adult and paralyse their learned skills and abilities. For this reason, realising how trauma affects your brain can be extremely disheartening.

Why Being Self-Aware about Your Trauma is the First Step Towards Healing [and Extremely Incredibly Uplifting]

I’ve been obsessed the concept of neuroplasticity for quite a few years– and this concept is where I first began to feel hope around the ability to heal from trauma. It revolves around the simple idea that we can change the way our brain responds to trauma by training it to.

After feeling like I was never going to be able to achieve my dreams because of how my trauma had changed my brain’s potential– discovering that I could change the way my brain handled trauma was incredibly uplifting.

This idea that around neuroplasticity has gone so far as to allow me to go back to school with confidence. It’s allowed me to continue my art practice even after some pretty negative reviews from art-school teachers. I refuse to give-up my challenging profession because I know I can constantly improve my skills, just by training my brain to understand complex issues and problems in software design.

So Where Does Trauma Really Hurt the Most?

I can sum it up into two words, trauma hurts most because of lost time.

The time I felt like my trauma was too much for me to handle was time I could have used to practise my skills.

The time I felt trauma had robbed me of my childhood was time I could have spent celebrating a happy life.

The time I felt like I couldn’t breath was time I could have spent taking a long and satisfying inhale.

For me, practicing self-compassion has allowed me to regain some of what my trauma took from me. Instead of saying the names of my abusers, I try and take away the power they hold over me by dissociating blame. I recognise that there are some people in this world who lack empathy, compassion and self-control. And I have started refusing to believe that violence, manipulation and abuse is never justified. Especially when one is too vulnerable to defend themselves from these abuses. I can continue to heal from traumas without having to continue to be gaslighted by my abusers and I do this by burying the power they have over me.

How do you help yourself heal from trauma?

Do you take long walks? Escape into the abyss? Eat icecream at 4am?

Share your story with me, I am listening.

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