Trauma should be a 4 letter word

Trauma. In my personal experience trauma should be a four letter word. My trauma has strengthened my faith & it has shown me how strong I truly am. But it has also brought me to my knees, it has brought me irrational fears & it has made me go through the past ten years just surviving & not living. Recently something has triggered my trauma. I’ve been having irrational thoughts about dying & causing my own death. When it starts to get dark outside I go into complete survival mode. My chest tightens & I feel I’m on the edge of a panic attack. It’s now gotten to a point where I cry. I start crying because I just want it to be morning. I cry because I just want to survive the night. I cry because I don’t want to be like this. I know this response is caused from trauma. I also know these thoughts are irrational but that doesn’t make them feel any less real. I also know this response is strengthened when I keep my thoughts secret. But it’s hard to admit to these “secrets” when you are a 33yr old woman who cries when it gets dark. How do you tell someone that at 33years old you cry because you want it to be morning? How would that not cause shame? Wouldn’t you hesitate when thinking of talking about this out loud? It seems only right to keep these thoughts secret.. right? No it doesn’t.

This current battle I am battling does not make me “weird” or “weak” like the thoughts in my head try to tell me. This current battle is unfortunately completely normal for someone living with PTSD. I know there are others out there who experience irrational fears & thoughts that are brought on by their trauma. It’s hard for me to write this but I know I’m not alone. But at the same time it’s not hard at all for me to write/confess this secret because what do I have to lose? Nothing.

I’ve learned over the past 10 years while recovering from a traumatic brain injury that the most important thing for us to be as humans is vulnerable. It’s in our vulnerability that we reach others & we can offer community. If we kept our secrets or our “shame” hidden then we would all feel alone. We would all end up feeling like the only “weirdo” or person who has ever dealt with struggles, irrational thoughts/fears & well that’s just simply not true. We all have our struggles & hardships. And it’s in these times that we quietly try to reach out or mention what we are dealing with while not completely outing ourselves because we are scared if others heard or saw how “broken” or not okay we are they would judge us. But that’s not true. When we show others our strength by being vulnerable they will respond in kind. It’s in these times that we find & build a community. If you are currently struggling or battling through hardships know you are not alone. Today is the day to open up to someone & start building your community.

Finding connection

Connection. Human connection is so important & it’s also something that I lack. I have people I can talk to or see but I have come to realize I don’t allow myself to connect with others. I’m scared. I recently realized that even after the years of therapy I still remain behind the wall I built for myself. For protection. My work in therapy has allowed me to tear down my wall a bit but what’s left of it still remains as a barrier between me, people & life.

I know one of the fundamental reasons behind my wall is fear. Fear of loss. I’m scared of connecting with life & people because I know what it feels like to lose it all. Sometimes it feels “better” & “safer” to remain detached because yes it is lonely but it is a loneliness I can tolerate. A loneliness i know I can live with. The feeling of heartbreak is something I’m not sure I can survive again.  Coming back from multiple heartbreaks was the hardest thing I have ever done. I mean that literally. There is a lot of weight behind that statement considering I have recovered from a severe traumatic brain injury, broken hip, broken pelvis, broken ribs, broken sacrum, broken shoulder, the list goes on, but even overcoming all of that was much simpler than the heartbreak. 

Emotional pain is a different beast than physical pain. Physical pain is something I have mastered but emotional pain, well I’m not sure I ever want to get good at that. Becoming good with emotional pain would represent surrendering to me. Surrendering to the pain & just giving up. I’m proud that after everything I have overcome I still feel deeply. I’m proud to know that my heart & soul are still alive. Still have spirit. But I also think that’s what makes my lack of connection with others & life so much harder. I deeply want to feel a connection to someone again but even writing that causes my heart & stomach to tighten because they both remember the pain. The blank spaces that were left in me when the ones I had a deep connection with just disappeared.

 I’ve recently put my toe in the water when it comes to connecting with life again & it has felt amazing. But when the joy of reconnecting with life crept back into my heart it left the door open for my trauma. My anxiety has been very high the past 2-3months. Thoughts that I haven’t had since coming home from Jim Thorpe have come back. The unwanted memories have resurfaced. I know this is just my trauma rearing it’s ugly head but that doesn’t make those thoughts, memories coming back less scary or difficult. I know the only way out of this season of life/recovery for me is by going through it. I know I’m getting close to the peace in my heart & soul that I’ve always wanted but I’m just tired of fighting & pushing through these scary times alone. I just want someone to be there with me holding my hand & giving me the reassurance that this difficult step is worth it. It is real that sometimes people stay.

 To anyone else out there who can relate to what I’m currently going through & dealing with just know you are not alone. Your fears & worries are real, are valid but don’t let them hold you back. Like I keep telling myself, once I get through this difficult period everything that I have endured & battled will be worth it. Keep moving forward one baby step at time because it is during the tough times when we continue moving forward & think we can’t that we build our confidence, find self love & learn to see ourselves through respectful loving eyes. Today is the day to continue your journey. You know what you have already overcome & I know you can keep going. You are not alone. 

Alone

img_6518She is all bark and no bite. Just like a china doll with a tough exterior but so fragile and empty. Trying to fix her broken pieces with duck tape, patching up the wounds from her past. She is alone. Alone in the worst way because no one understands. Do you see her scars? Do you feel her pain? Nobody understands the pain she feels inside her head everyday. She puts on a smile and a brave front to keep out the cold, she must protect herself. Her past has proven trust no one. Smiles, tears and words tend to all mean nothing in the end. She hates feeling so isolated, unloved and weak. Each day chips away another piece of her soul. How long can she last? She doesn’t know. She is overwhelmed with pain and her quiet rage grows inside everyday.

I guess this is how it happens. It doesn’t happen all at once, it is a slow fade. You lose a piece of yourself here and someone takes a piece from you there, until there is nothing left. You slip, stumble and fall countless times just trying to find your grip. Trying to find your balance so you can continue on. Until one day a piece gets taken from you that’s so big everything crumbles around it. Just like a game of Jinga, there are certain pieces that must stay intact or the game is over.

You never realize you are broken until you already are. You don’t realize how bad off you are until the blinders get ripped off and you see everything with a new perspective. Every next level of your life will demand a new version of you, as long as you can make it through the transition. If all you can do is crawl, then start crawling. You can’t give up and stay at the bottom. One day your heart will stop beating and you will draw the last breath from your lungs. When you have reached your end none of your fears or worries will matter. Don’t reach the end of life with regrets from the missed chances that your heart was urging you to take but your fear overpowered your heart. The only thing that matters is how well you lived. People may forget what you say but they won’t forget how you made them feel. Live out the rest of your days in such a way that you enhance and influence the lives of those around you. Don’t be the last man, who’s sole desire is his own comfort.

As time goes by I realize the things that cost nothing hold the most value. Don’t be afraid to keep trying. You will get knocked down over and over again but I promise you can always get back up and stand tall. Believe in yourself. And if there ever comes a time where you are too afraid to continue, just remember to be scarier than whatever it is that scares you. You must be unshakable in the belief that you are worthy of a great life. I promise you are never too far gone.

Hidden Secrets

img_6050A part of her died that day. The day she realized what had been taken from her. There is now a part of her that’s off limits. Don’t take it personally, that part of her was unbelievable hurt. She was sure the pain was going to kill her. But it didn’t. She still doesn’t understand what truly happened. But that piece of her is now off limits. She will not bargain with it. It will forever remain a secret. No matter how happy she is or how much she trusts you it is going to have to remain off limits for the simple fact that if she breathes it back to life she is not sure how she will handle it. How will the flashbacks effect her? How much of the memories still remain? How will her mind repaint the pictures? Questions she doesn’t know the answers to and is not willing to risk her sanity for. In the end she learned how to be strong on her own. She learned the path isn’t a straight line it is a spiral. You will continually come back to the things you thought you understand about life and see the deeper truths. Wait, hope for and expect the Lord. Be brave and of good courage and let your heart be enduring. You never know how strong you are until it’s your only option.

Left Behind

Do you know what it’s like to be left behind? It’s a gut wrenching feeling. It hurts to be left behind by the people that you loved but it’s even worse when life leaves you behind. Unfortunately I’ve been left by both. I can’t say which one hurts worse or which has been harder to cope with but I can say it has made me into a much wiser person and has taught me so much about life. When people leave you behind it teaches you about character. Yes they will shatter your heart but they will teach you a very important lesson. You learn from them and then you can take the lessons they teach you and use them to sculpt yourself into a better person. You then use these lessons when you deal with others in your life. You can make sure you don’t make anyone feel left behind or unworthy. Now when life leaves you behind well that’s a totally different story. You get to watch everything continue on without you. Everybody else’s life continues but you feel as if you have been paused. You are trying to put yourself back together piece by piece and friends are getting married, having babies and finishing school.

The sun will rise and set regardless of you and what you are dealing with. This life lesson teaches you that you have to take care of yourself because when it comes down to it you are all you have. You learn that you can’t control what happens around you, you can only control the way you react to what’s happening. Make sure you react in a way that others can look up to. Don’t react with emotions because emotions are only temporary. React to every situation in life so that others can see the goodness in you. God has a plan for your life but so does the enemy. Be ready for both. Be wise enough to know which one to battle and which one to embrace. It’s hard to decipher between the two but trust me God has a way of showing you as long as you keep an open heart and mind. Remember you hold the power to your life. Nothing can take that power from you. No matter what is standing in your way you can conquer it. Trust me you can. Ive learned how to get out of my own way and Ive learned how to open my mind to the fact that opportunities are only out of my reach if I stand in my way. The real question in life is not whether life exists after death but rather are you truly alive before you die. I believe I am coming alive.

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Fighting Back

There are no shortcuts in recovery. You either fight like hell to try to get everything back that you lost or you are complacent and get back the minimal. Own who you are. Know you are worthy of getting back what you lost. Don’t let the voice in your head saying “It’s too hard” win. Dissect that voice and find out what inside you it is feeding off of because it’s not too hard and you are worth fighting for. The fears we don’t face become our limits. After a traumatic brain injury you are already limited enough, don’t do yourself a disservice and further your limitations. You can conquer anything. I was an athlete before my wreck and I got a high off of lifting weights, running, biking and being active but my strength doesn’t come from any of those things. My strength comes from within. It is defined by how I continue to get up after every time I am sucker punched and knocked down. You have to keep getting up because staying down gets you no where. During these hard times you find out what your made of. I’m made of steel but I still have my softness. You have to have mental strength and toughness to get through. You must know nothing is going to beat you and if one day you don’t do well in therapy then you have to make a promise to yourself that tomorrow you will win the battle you lost today. It’s a war and in war you have many battles. You will win some and lose some. BUT if you are mentally tough I promise you will win more than you lose. You just have to tap into that reserved strength and take back your life.

I am my grandfather’s granddaughter

There will come a time in your life where you have to make a choice. Do you stay on the path you’re on or do you decide to pave a new one?.. Well I decided neither. I decided it is time for me to break out of the cage that I have trapped myself in. Yes I have my issues and I struggle daily but does that really mean I now have to forfeit the future I had planned for myself? No it doesn’t. I am letting go of everything that has tried to control me or beat me down. I am redefining myself. I have been given this great gift of being “new” and starting over. Yes it could’ve come in a much nicer less painful package but that’s ok I’m pretty tough. I have been like bamboo during my storm.. Constantly bending but not breaking. Even when the strong gust of wind comes out of nowhere and I was for sure I was going to snap I didn’t. I snapped back better than ever. I am now taking my true form. Like a Phoenix I have risen from my ashes of despair and now I’m ready to rise above the shallow ruins of my past life. I no longer fear. I have hidden life inside me and I have made my own light while I waited in the darkness that threatened to swallow my soul. Death wanted to take me but I fought back. I escaped his grasp. Now I will rise. I will shine. Don’t underestimate me because I promise I am more powerful than ever before. I am unstoppable.

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The lake

I recently witnessed a minor fender bender while I was waiting at a stoplight by my house. It happened close enough to my car that I could hear the tires screech and the crunch of metal. I take pride in the fact that I am a strong person and I don’t let my emotions easily break me but on this day I completely broke. I was immediately engulfed with flashbacks from June 11, of the chaos and everything spinning as my car flipped before everything went black. I don’t remember much from that day but those few seconds I do remember are enough to break me when they return. Once I got a green light I immediately pulled into a McDonald’s parking lot so I could calm down, except I didn’t calm down. I started crying like I never have before. It felt so real. Everything was completely raw, as if I had just had my wreck. After I stopped crying and composed myself, I drove to the lake. The same lake I was headed to on June 11, the day of my wreck. It’s funny but this is the one place where I truly feel at peace. It’s the place where I should’ve lost my life but for some reason it calms me.

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Querencia is a place where a person draws their strength from, where one feels at home; where you are your most authentic self. I believe the lake is my querencia. Obviously God is where I draw my true strength from and when I am with Him in prayer that is when I truly feel at home. But for me the lake is where I go to pray and think about life. So the lake is now like my church. I go there to thank God for everything he has done for me but to also appreciate life, the life I should’ve lost. Even though my life is now different, I still have breath in my lungs and by a miracle I was able to get back my cognitive functions at a level the doctors said was impossible. But like many other times over the past 4 years God intervened and showed me He isn’t done with me yet. Hope is still rising for me.

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Fear can keep us focused on our past but if we acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Today we are still alive and our bodies are working. This is something I acknowledge and appreciate everyday. It is easy to take things for granted when you have never experienced life without but I was given the gift of new life and new appreciation for this life. I almost lost everything. My life should’ve been taken from me and now I know what it is like to be without the simplest cognitive and bodily functions. We have to appreciate that today our eyes can still see the beautiful sky and our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones. He has commanded us to not be afraid and to not be discouraged, because He is always with us. Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live. I told myself from the beginning that the first chance I had to drive I was going to, I was going to get back on the horse and not let fear stop me. And the first time I had the chance to drive through the intersection, I should’ve lost my life in, I took it. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I had God’s protection and I knew He wasn’t done with me, so I had to start defeating the demons of fear that stood in my way. So I did, one by one. Stop letting fear rule your life. Go out and seize it.

Unyielding faith

It’s said that God can change your life in a moment well I fully believe that he can because he has profoundly changed mine. It’s all about His timing. I feel as if now it’s too late for me to do the majority of things I had planned or pictured for my life. I’ve had many disappointments in the things that I thought were Gods plan or the reason why the wreck happened but I’ve learned to embrace the uncertainty of life. I’ve realized we all have chapters in our lives that we don’t read out loud or we only share those chapters with the people we truly love and let down our walls for. In the end though some of the best chapters don’t get a title until much later.

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Every morning when I wake up I make the choice to continue. I make the choice to find the silver lining in every situation. Happiness is a choice. We have the right to pursue happiness but it is not a gift given to you. It’s incredibly hard to wake up every morning and have to be reminded of what has happened and then to make the choice to continue and not have the story stop here. The good news is it has gotten a bit easier thanks to my short term & long term memory loss. See silver lining. It gets a bit easier every day because some things I slowly forget or I forget the real impact they once had on me. Yes this may sound twisted but unfortunately that’s my truth. This is how I have survived.

Learning to yield:

There are certain things I will fortunately never forget. Some things, and some people, are written in my soul and on my heart with permanent ink. I’m grateful for this because it has helped me slowly evolve into the person I believe I’m supposed to be. It’s been a slow evolution but I think I am on the right path. I’ve done so much thinking and reading during this time trying to find the answers but I’ve come up blank. I’m giving everything up to God and trusting in Him because clearly I don’t know the future anymore. The future I had planned didn’t turn out and now it’s time for me to repaint the picture in my mind. Every time someone hears my story and what has happened on my path of recovery they usually make a comment about it not being fair. Well the thing is life is not fair. If you expect the world to be fair with you because you are fair then you have some rough days ahead of you. Trust me I know. The only person who is going to give you security and the life you want is YOU. You must have confidence in yourself but more importantly confidence in God and his plan for your life. He created you in His image so therefore you should be confident in Him and yourself. He made no mistakes when creating you. That’s probably one of my biggest breakthroughs during the past 4 years. I can’t control anything. As hard as I may try its out of my hands. Everyday is full of choices make the right ones. When the roots are deep there is no reason to fear the wind.

Fully exposed

Once you are stripped down to nothing what’s really at your core? Who are you? What do you stand for? I don’t know the answers. Do you know the answers for yourself? These are some of the questions I have asked myself during my time of recovery. I’ve just been trying to get a grasp on life again. Trying to reset myself so I can understand. Can you imagine your life with out certain people? Without past memories? Certain material things? Or without a healthy body? It’s difficult to imagine. I was for sure the loss of certain people who I loved more than myself or with the loss of my old “normal” I wouldn’t survive. But I have survived. There is a place in all of us that is used as a reserve of strength. We can tap into this reserve when we have reached our edge and we are looking over the cliff debating whether or not it’s time to step into the darkness.

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When we question ourselves we must identify where we are headed and who or what we are holding on to. Do you prefer to be in solitude so you can firmly plant your roots and grow into the person you wish to become or do you want to completely bare your soul to someone and risk your heart on love so you can have a companion on your journey through life? Someone to be there and support you as you grow into the person you are meant to be. I choose the latter. I want to have someone who I can enjoy life with. I believe it takes courage to risk your heart on love but there is a major reward that comes with it. You have someone to share life with and someone who strengthens you. What defines our strength? Is it giving second chances to people & learning to forgive or is it overcoming seemingly impossible obstacles that stand in your way? I have yet to find the answer to this question because I have learned a person’s mental and physical strength is much more complicated than to be just defined by one situation.

Love conquers:

Unfortunately I think pride and selfishness get muddled in together with strength. But that’s simply not true. Selfishness and pride coincide with cowardliness. Cowards are weak. Don’t let your weaknesses consume you and who you really are. Cowards are scared to love and that is a true loss for them because if there is one thing I have learned during these past four years it is you have to have love to survive. Love can conquer anything. It strengthens you and helps you become the person you want to be. Love is the safety net we all need. I have had to learn how to remain sensitive yet still have a tough exterior. I must keep my softness and remain sensitive because that’s truly who I am at my core and I don’t want that part of me to be changed. I refuse to let my hardships make me bitter, instead I want to create beauty with these ashes by helping others. But I have to wear my tough exterior everyday so I can survive and protect myself from anymore harm. I feel as if I am standing on the edge and there isn’t much more I can take so I must protect myself. I wear my scars the best I can. I try to hide my fear with a smile and a brave face.

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If or when you come to the point of not knowing if you can continue to move forward know you can continue. It will be hard. It will be the hardest thing you will ever do but you can do it. I have struggled with it but I have learned to release the control I thought I had and I have given my struggles to God. Do not be afraid or dismayed at this great multitude; for this battle is not yours, but God’s. You can overcome any obstacle, loss or heartbreak as long as you refuse to give up. Embrace your struggles, embrace being on the edge and not knowing which way you are going to go from here. Out on the edge you can see the true beauty of life and see all the wonders that you can not see from the center. Embrace this new perspective. Put your armor on every morning so you can continue to fight because your story does not end here. Your time is now.