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Life & Philosophy

This Is My Trauma Survival Guide

Here’s my story, from a trauma victim to a survivor to a psychologist

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels

Trigger Warning: Contains some abuse related contents

Let me tell you something about me. It’s a story about me as a child. I had a difficult childhood I would say, although I realized it before but I wasn’t particularly aware of its impact. All I knew then was I wasn’t loved. My father was hard on me and my mother disowned me, and I wasn’t sure if it was due to her mental illness (schizophrenia), or if it was because I chose my father over her when I was young. 

I had a stepmother. I think she was 14 or 15 years old at the time she came into our lives when I was just 5. 

Back then, I felt like they were too concerned about their relationship and had forgotten about me, except when my grades were failing and I was making any mistake. Everything was resolved through a belt, a pinch here, and hurtful words there – all of which they thought was how to properly raise a kid. 

The people around us saw my father and stepmom as good, loving parents, doing everything they can to support my education, and making sure that I had everything a child wants. What they don’t see is that I was in hell. I was always the bad kid, the slow kid, and the needy. 

When I was 9 years old, I tried to end it all by drinking any random pill that I saw in the medicine cabinet, which obviously, didn’t work. What I knew that time when I took the pills was I hated them and that I was unwanted. 

There was also a time when they kept telling me to do the household chores as part of being a responsible person. I get that part and I learned. What I didn’t understand but had to live with though was the gambling or drinking while I do the laundry, cooking, and cleaning the house. There have been times when I was sent away to my grandmother’s just for them to be alone. 

Again, I felt unwanted. 

What I really didn’t understand then was the person that should be take caring of me, guiding me, and protecting me was the one sexually and emotionally abusing me. 

I was lead to believe that what he was doing was for me not to learn sex from other people; that it was better that he taught me early on what it was like so that I don’t end up getting pregnant early. 

(This is what I should’ve said to him back then BULLSH*T!!! You, and your rotten brain.)

It was just so twisted. A big, fat lie. I was lead to believe this lie since I was 8 years old until about 14. I remember being drugged just so he could do what we wanted with me. 

I thought I was loved but I was being abused. I thought I was being given attention but I was being used, by a person who only thinks about his greedy and selfish needs. In my mind, he was rotten as hell, he was damaged and manipulative. People saw him as a saint, I saw him as the devil. When I’ve come to realize that I was being used, I wanted to vomit every time he touches me but he uses his authority and anger to scare me. I felt so shameful and helpless I didn’t know who to go to, or what would people say if they learned about it. I was so scared of him and of what people might think of me. 

When I finally became independent and had earned the courage, I confronted him many times and asked why he did that to me. He only kept ignoring the issue. I would always end up not getting anywhere with him, so I just repressed the pain to show the world that everything is alright. I would always put up a happy and brave face outside but inside, I was so confused and broken. 

He did try to make up for his actions though, yet I never received a single explanation of why he did what he did. Not a single apology. He did the best that he could to make up for his past sins. 

In time, he became the person that he should be, and I thought I had already forgiven him but I was wrong. I just repressed it and tried to move on. 

I did see his agony, his pain, his guilt. He had many broken relationships, no permanent job, always asking for money from people, was arrested because of drugs, and was betrayed by his so-called friends. He even died unprepared. I wasn’t sure if it was the retribution of what he did and that I’ve got to see and hear his pain. 

I cried when he died and I did try to forgive him many times, but the trauma was just so deep and painful that suppressing it and trying to stay positive did not work. 

I get disgusted every time I get flashbacks of what he did. I would have trust issues and afraid to commit in a relationship, I get jitters, triggers, and get frightened with no reason at all or whenever I was reminded of it. My body and mind kept playing tricks on me. 

It was until I started reviewing for the board exam in Psychology that realized what is happening to me. After passing the board exam, I went on Psychotherapy with a Psychotrauma expert who specializes on my case. It was then when I realized and understood everything. There were many repressed thoughts and emotions that came up, intense emotions that I’ve never felt before. 

After the second session the real emotions came out, I felt rage and deep hatred towards him. Many questions were also answered and a realization of what has happened.

I finally had resolution and acceptance. I would say I still hate him and I’m glad he is dead, but I don’t let it consume me. 

I bet you’ve also experienced something like this. Not exactly like it, but could be similar to it. 

We all got deep issues and past hurts. Issues and pain that weren’t resolved and probably ignored. We always thought that it will be alright if we just shrugged it off and let time do its thing. 

But just like a wound or illness, if we keep ignoring that it hurts and don’t give that much attention to it, it would become worse or harder to treat. And this is why we have uncontrollable emotions, intrusive thoughts, triggers, and mental issues. 

We also blame other people for what they did, yet we never tried to look deeply within ourselves. It is one of the reasons why the cycle of pain never stops. We pass our unresolved issues and pain onto other people who are usually weaker than us, like our kids, spouse, and even our staff. 

Here’s what Psychologists have to say about this and here’s what I also learned. 

People suffering from trauma have symptoms instead of memories and can persist up to thirty years or more. Women are also twice likely to develop trauma disorders than men. Trauma can cause many psychological reactions like anxiety, depression, somatic reactions, and worse post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to Dr. David Grand, trauma is not only in the brain but it is also registered in the body, it is the reason why the symptoms, triggers, and intrusive thoughts won’t go away even as time goes by. 

According to Dr. David Barlow, trauma survivors frequently report highly constricted lifestyles, and when faced with cues associated with the traumatic event whether actual or symbolic the individual may exhibit intense psychological reactions (e.g. terror, disgust, depression) or physiological responses (e.g. increased heart rate, perspiration, rapid breathing). Trauma survivors commonly state that they no longer have strong feelings or they feel numb a great deal of time, and may also experience hyperarousal or in a constant state of “flight or fight” mode. 

Aside from the traumatic event there are also invisible attachments to trauma like stressful events in the relationship, poor quality of relationships or parenting, and loss experiences. The impact severity of the trauma also depends on the personality, support system, and coping mechanism of the person. 

Here are some steps on how you can solve this.

My journey in overcoming trauma started when I decided I needed to change – to be free of the intrusive thoughts, uncontrollable emotions, and be able to form healthy relationships. To move past my fears and love myself more. I reached out to seek Psychotherapy from a mental health professional who specializes on trauma and told everything happened in the past. I let down my defenses, inhibitions, and rationalization to my therapist. I went to a number of Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy and talk therapy sessions, and was guided on my healing process. 

The therapy was like a brain surgery without anesthesia, yet after only a couple of sessions and with the help of my Psychologist colleagues and friends as well, I felt lighter, full of hope, and almost symptoms free. I’ve never felt like this before, for the first time in many years I’m not hard on myself and on what I look, I’ve accepted my past, I have clear sense of what I want in life, and I’m brave enough to face life whatever it may bring. 

The most important thing after the therapy, I finally found a sense of purpose and meaning in life. I am FREE! 

Imagine how better things would be if we only stop this cycle of pain. 

We can choose how to live our lives, and we can be whoever we wanted to be. There is no shame in seeking mental help, and you are no less than a person when you ask for help. Everyone does get hurt, and everyone has issues needed to be addressed. 

The impact of trauma can be daunting and even debilitating. It can break relationships, damage a person, and even end up committing suicide. 

If we are all aware of what is happening to us from the inside; the hurt that we inflict in others, the pain that wasn’t addressed, and the constant negativities in our minds, if we properly address these, we can stop the cycle of pain. We can have better future, better lives, and better generation. 

#SublimationnotRegression 

I wrote my story to come to a full closure of my healing process and to encourage all women suffering from trauma to seek proper mental help. I dedicate this also Kirsty Bonner whom I looked up to and admired, who had committed suicide due to PTSD. Let’s stop the cycle of pain!

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Charlene Lucas, RPsy

Charlene is a Registered Psychologist, focusing on work-related stress, issues, burnout, trauma, depression, anxiety, and stabilization of emotions. Follow her on LinkedIn.

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