It’s difficult to escape trauma. Trauma comes in many forms – divorce, the death of a child, sexual abuse. For me, it was literal. A car accident at age 28 left me almost dead with a severe traumatic brain injury. I wasn’t expected to live. My medical team described my subsequent recovery as a ‘miracle’. Yes, physically it was a miracle but I returned to work 6 months later determined to return to exactly the way my life was before the trauma. I chose to ignore my feelings of despair, sadness and loneliness and ‘fill’them with activities of endless travel, study, alcohol and toxic relationships.
I refused to accept what had happened to me or acknowledge the trauma that had been present in my life before my accident. Eventually, that Band-Aid solution caught up with me. My life became unliveable and I was completely devoid of joy and lightness. The choices I was making for my life were leading to constant feelings of unease. So I sort out help –conventional and alternative therapy. First I went to a wonderful psychologist to help me navigate through the emotions of my trauma. Meditation enhanced that therapy as I learnt to be ‘present’with uncomfortable feelings. It hurt like hell to sit in feelings of shame, guilt, hatred and despair. I learnt to feel those sensations in my body without judgement. The reward was that feeling of lightness that I had been craving. I felt enormous relief. It can take practice to sit with your emotions and I made it a daily habit.
Next, I learnt the practical skills that helped me transform those emotions. I learnt that when I pushed my feelings down, they just kept popping back up in an atmosphere of frustration. I spoke words out of anger not assertiveness (they are very different things) I had no boundaries with people so I felt constantly resentful not empowered. I couldn’t articulate what I valued most so other people dictated them for me.
Emotions need a voice. They need you to speak up. 10 years after my brain injury and trauma counselling, I went back to a therapist to learn about assertiveness and boundaries. It transformed my life in every way.
In 2016, I moved back to Newcastle with my new skill set of emotions with boundaries. That combination profoundly changed my experience of life. My heart was open but I was honest with people about my wants, needs and values. I slip up because I’m human.
First survive trauma, be present with trauma and watch it transform. Thrive.