Trauma is not something that can be erased overnight. You cannot forget the things that broke you the same way that people forget their keys or what they had for breakfast. Trauma wedges itself so deeply into every tiny corner of your life that even the most mundane activities can become too much.
You will meet people who will tell you to just move on and to be happy. They will speak to you about your trauma like they are reciting back a grocery list, instead of the horrific experiences you have survived. Some people believe that to be happy, all you have to do is think happy thoughts and write about happy things. They believe that if you stop thinking about the abuse, the painful memories will just disappear. They want so badly to help you and to see you happy again, but they have no idea how to actually help you.
What these people do not realize is that the people and the events that have caused you this trauma turned those simple, happy, everyday carefree things into pain. You can’t brush your teeth and meet your own eyes in the mirror anymore without seeing them. They are always there in the back of your mind every time you get dressed in the morning, as you subconsciously fight the urge to choose the clothing items you know they would approve of. You have stopped going to certain stores out of fear that you will see them there. You can’t read books the way you used to or go out and enjoy your favorite activities. Everything just makes you feel numb now. You stare into your coffee cup like it has all of the answers to all of the problems you are now drowning in. You push your food around on your plate, while you sit and wonder how it could have gotten this bad. One wrong word can transport you back to the worst moments in your life, so you do your best to stop listening. Eventually, you do your best to stop speaking. You live your life in constant fear of the giant “what if’s?” hanging over your head. This is not a feeling you can just shake off. You cannot just sit down and decide that your trauma is no longer a part of you. You cannot erase it or pretend it never happened, no matter how much you or everyone else in your life wishes that you could. This pain found its way into every aspect of your life, and you cannot go on living by pretending that it is not there. You have to face it and see it for what it really is if you ever want to truly move forward from it.
You can only push your pain away for so long. When you refuse to acknowledge your trauma, you are basically just saving it for a rainy day. And I promise you, when that day comes, it will not be a small sprinkle or a short shower. It will be a monsoon, and you will feel like you are drowning. All of a sudden, you will be crying in the shower, and you won’t understand why. You will check the time, and it will be 6 am, and sleep still hasn’t come. All of the pain you spent so long trying to avoid will have finally caught up to you.
This is why we cannot run from the horrible things that have happened to us and expect them to just disappear. I know it is tempting to do so and that facing them will not be easy. It will take all of the strength that you have left and some you didn’t even know that you had. But once you are standing there, staring them down, you can begin to remind yourself that what you see before you is not the same as who you are. You are not damaged goods. You are not the bad things that have happened to you. You are someone who has survived more than any person should ever have to survive in a lifetime.
And you will be able to survive this, too.
Remind yourself of who you were before you met them and before it happened. Maybe you cannot be that same person anymore, but you can still come home to yourself. You can become acquainted with the person you are now and the person you can and will become in the future. You can move forward, but sometimes that means having to look back at what you have left. After all, without recognizing what you’ve been through, how could you ever know what you need to move forward?
This is why it is so important for you to face your trauma in every small task that you do. You have to remind yourself of who you were before the pain settled in. You have to remind yourself of how you used to look in the mirror and see only your own eyes looking back at you. You have to remember the way that getting dressed each morning used to bring you so much joy instead of this crippling anxiety. You have to reteach yourself how to love the things the trauma took from you.
You cannot do this overnight. You cannot do this in days or maybe even just a few years. It will take the time that you need. Never be ashamed of that fact. You are learning how to live again, and the only correct timeline there is to follow is the one that is right for you.