It took me a while to come to terms with my trauma. I had always associated trauma with big events like war, natural disasters or assaults. I didn’t think the emotional abuse I experience counted, but it does (emotional abuse is a big event, just in my mind at the time it was not). A large portion of my intimate relationships have been traumatic. For me, I needed to own that fact in order to begin to cope.
Before I could cope with my trauma I didn’t do well. All reminders of past abuse would send me spiraling. I was mentally transported back to that moment. I could hear the person and feel the pain I felt at that moment. I lived in the past and expected it to also be my future. I was constantly in fight mode, ready to unleash hell on anyone who may try to hurt me. My threat and fear perception were extremely high. My relationship with my partner was at risk because I couldn’t trust him and I couldn’t see a future that didn’t involve emotional pain. I needed to change, for him, our relationship and above all, myself.
While the trauma I experienced was not caused by me, I had to forgive myself. I had to forgive that I had blamed myself. I needed to validate myself and acknowledge that what I had gone through was horrible and that I didn’t deserve it. I needed to give myself a hug and love myself through the pain.
When I am triggered and transported back to a traumatic moment I frequently do safety checks. This involves a great deal of mindfulness as I need to bring myself back into the moment, when my first response is to be consumed by the past. I remind myself that I am safe and that what I am remembering is simply that, a memory. It is not actually happening and therefore cannot hurt me. If I am struggling to reassure myself that I am safe I reach out to my partner or friends to support me.
I work up the street from where I used to live with an ex who emotionally abused me. When I go into work I run the risk of seeing him. To prevent a meltdown I prepare myself ahead of time. Before I leave the house I make sure I feel confident in how I look. Before I step off the subway, I stand up a straighter and turn on music that pumps me up. While I walk to work, I look straight ahead and tell myself that I am strong and nothing is going to bring me down. I also plan that if I do see my ex that I will just ignore him and keep walking. Fortunately, I have yet to encounter him and coping ahead increases my confidence in handling the situation if I ever do.
With each passing year, I am more successful as confronting and coping with my trauma. It is my hope that some of the skills I use may help you or give you an idea of something different that may help. What are some skills you use to cope with your trauma? I would love to hear about them!
About Kristen Bellows
Kristen lives in Southern Ontario with her partner and their new baby boy! She identifies as Mad and believes that her emotional differences are a part of who she is. Kristen is a registered social work, working as a dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) skills group facilitator. She is also training to become a birth and postpartum doula. Since giving birth, Kristen has become interested in exploring how mental health issues intersect with motherhood. Kristen identifies as Mad and believes that her emotional differences are a part of who she is. She loves cats, reading, singing, pickles and learning. You can read more of Kristen's blog posts on her personal blog www.prideinmadness.wordpress.com