Trigger warnings: Eating disorders, suicide attempt
“You have to revisit a place of trauma every single day when you walk through the front door of your apartment,” my therapist told me. I denied this statement. I hadn’t experienced trauma. I was never beaten. I was never in the military or put into war overseas. Trauma was not something I had experienced in my life.
I was very wrong.
My therapist informed me that trauma has many different faces. It’s not always physical. It might not show up on your skin as tangible scars. But it exists. For me, one of the most influential traumas I experienced in my life was abandonment.
I know what you are probably thinking. Daddy issues. Classic.
This phrase needs to go away. Far, far away. People who have had issues with their parental figures in their life are real traumatic events someone can endure. Because of social stigma, people aren’t seeking proper help from this which results in even greater, long lasting effects. It’s also 2020. Let’s move on from dehumanizing people and belittling the effects of their past which affect their mental health as adults, ya dig?
The root of my eating disorder was a trauma that was staring at me directly in the face every single day. I was just woven too deep into my disorder to be able to notice it until I started therapy.
Yes, my trauma stemmed from years of human conditioning between various forms of abandonment. But it’s what happened in 2019 that was the catalyst which brought me to a place that almost made me take my own life. A bottle of red wine to my face and the rest of my antidepressants ready to go down the hatch.
My partner of two and a half years left me. I don’t mean that he broke up with me. I mean he said he was going on a trip to Guatemala that he would return from by Thanksgiving only a few short weeks later. Spoiler alert: He never came back.
That is the abandonment that solidified the negative narrative in my brain to reiterate that I wasn’t good enough. That I was too sick to be cared for. That I wasn’t worth sticking through this with. That I was the equivalent of a water bottle you leave on top of your car when you forget it’s there and drive away. That is how little of a human being I felt. And it broke me.
When I was diagnosed in 2018 with an eating disorder, the relationship became more strained.
I wasn’t perfect. I knew that my disorders were causing me to isolate. To crawl into my bed under the covers and be removed from everyone and everything. I knew that I was leaning too much on him for support because I was too afraid to seek it out from anyone else.
But it’s one thing to have something happen to you and another to react in a certain way to what is happening. His fight or flight mode kicked in. He chose flight. He chose cowardness. He chose abandonment.
I finally came to a point that I felt there was no way to rewrite the narrative. This was it. Leaned up against my bathroom wall, legs sprawled out on the floor with an almost empty bottle of wine to my left and my antidepressants on my right, I continued thinking that this was it. This is all that my life was going to be. A hamster wheel of disappointment, shame, lack of control, and constant sadness.
Then at the bathroom door, I heard my puppy whining. It wasn’t her usual cry for attention, since she was barely a year old. At that moment, it felt like she was trying to tell me to stop. To not do it. I opened the door and she rushed inside, licking my face like it would be her last time.
I picked up the phone and called one person. It wasn’t someone who understood where I was in life. It wasn’t someone that could relate to my problems. But it was someone I knew would answer the phone regardless.
That night, I did what I thought was impossible. I rewrote the narrative. I chose a different ending. I looked towards a support system even if that system didn’t look like the picture perfect one. I took the face of trauma and gave it an alternate title: A Story of Survival.
What someone’s trauma looks like to them will not look the same for you. This is the part I think it’s incredibly important to reiterate:
No pain is greater or worse. We all experience pain in different ways. We all have a different story we are living. Pain is pain. Hurt is hurt. Survival is survival. The important part is that we do not compare, rather lift each other up through the pain, the hurt, and the survival.
We are all simultaneously experiencing trauma whether it seems like it is impacting us or not. COVID-19 has put all of us in a quarantine to some extent. Those with pre-existing mental illnesses, including eating disorders, are that much more susceptible. It’s important that we understand that trauma has different faces, whether we have acknowledged this before or not.
I am not saying that I am 100% healed from this. It’s a long road of recovery and as those in the world of eating disorders know recovery is not linear.
But the fact is, therapy was one of the first things I needed in my life to see that I was being affected by unresolved trauma. I was hurting in a way that needed professional help. I needed to dig deeper. I needed to see what some of the true roots of my eating disorder were so I could call out my eating disorder and my depression out loud with the facts when the behaviors start to kick in.
Now I write. I write through my problems and find my way to a resolution, whatever that looks like. Writing has become my therapy. It started with prompts from group therapy and my one-on-one sessions. It was a way to navigate my way through the issues and complexes I was experiencing.
What was I feeling specifically?
What triggered me to feel this way?
What was I doing the moment I started feeling this way?
What was I thinking about the moment I started feeling this way?
Why do I believe I am feeling this way?
Had I eaten, and if I did, what did I eat? If I didn’t, how long had it been?
What would I say to my best friend who was feeling this way?
What physical things can I do to get myself out of this feeling?
What can I learn from this moment?
How can I stop it from happening in the future?
What is just one small thing I am going to do next to interrupt the domino effect from continuing?
Who can I call?
It feels like I’m working backwards, and in a way, it is. It’s starting with what I know and unfolding it. I’m not saying it’s a cure by any means. There are chemical imbalances that need to be intervened by other measures. But that might be how you answer some of your questions when you start to ask yourself those same things.
For me, the origin tends to provide me reason which helps me set myself free from it—or at least provides me with an opportunity to face it head on.
If you or someone you know is need of support regarding suicide, please call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.