" How can it be trauma?"
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
I thought this many years ago when I experienced a life changing event. I put my numbness and lack of being able to describe how I was feeling down to the anti-depressant medication. Yet when this was being reduced I still felt numb, I still lacked the words to describe how I was feeling. The only two feelings I was able to express were anger and frustration. I became so tired of saying "I am angry" or "I am frustrated". This in itself made me angry. I became a big ball of anger, I started to shut everyone out, I became lonely and isolated and could not understand why no-one understood what I was going through? I was told to lose the anger so many times, I was told I was passive/aggressive, but this was the only thing I thought, that was keeping me going. If I lost the anger who would fight for me? what would I be? I was Little Miss Angry 😡
The tiredness increased as did the loneliness. "Would this ever end? Why me? What have I done to deserve this?" All these questions kept going round and round in my head, allowing my self-worth to sink deeper and deeper into negativity.
It has only been through seeking help from therapy and learning about trauma have I realised this was what I was experiencing. Trauma has a habit of making you dissociate from life and from what your body and mind is trying to tell you. The mind has this unique way of protecting you from feeling unsafe. Unfortunately this protection causes you to develop this unhealthy coping mechanism, If I cannot feel anything then no-one or nothing else can hurt me.
Trauma does not have to be a soldier returning from the horrific scenes of war. It does not have to be a serious road traffic accident or rape or abuse. it can be all these and many more. I now understand that trauma or as the medical world call it PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), it is anything that is a significant experience to you. An experience that you would not normally experience in your everyday life. For example a difficult birth, a difficult upbringing, witnessing an accident, witnessing a tragic event, an operation that didn't go as expected, an abusive relationship.
Once I had realised that maybe I was suffering from PTSD, I was able to start to recognise the symptoms. This "little miss angry" was my coping mechanism. If I am angry no-one will want to get close to me. (Hence the loneliness), I have learned that the anger is a second emotion. The anger and frustration was because I lacked the emotional intelligence to identify what was going on in my mind and body. I lacked the vocabulary to identify what I was feeling. This was my first step to recovery, I armed myself with a feelings wheel so that, when I started to feel that frustration/anger bubbling up in my stomach, I would take a look at the wheel and try to find an appropriate word for what I was really feeling.
This was liberating, finally having words pop out at me "yes I am feeling irritated, or disillusioned, or abandoned". Once my vocabulary grew I was noticing that the happy feelings were starting to return, I was able for the first time in what felt a very long time, say I was feeling "interested, engaged, respected, amused". I continue to use the wheel to help build my vocabulary but also to help continue my learning about myself. Because the other big thing I have learned is by developing my self-awareness, to learn what makes me tick, what are my triggers, what are my dislikes, what are my needs? I can finally seek what will make me happy and ultimately a better person. By understanding my emotions and feelings I am able to recognise these in others, helping me to understand other people.