My words stem from the deepest wounds and grow out of the reality of trauma.

It has been a roller coaster of a holiday season; I live in a confusing world, one that’s full of tug-of-war. Trauma tends to do that.

I went through sexual trauma as a child and developed PTSD as an adolescent, which means an ability of my mind was to disconnect from the trauma by repressing those unwanted memories into my subconscious. The more severe the trauma, the younger the victim, the closer a victim’s relationship to the perpetrator, the greater the impact trauma has on the brain. The brain protects itself and its person. The brain wants to protect itself from the knowledge of trauma, and causes gaps in memory and even denial. It is a survival skill, a defense mechanism.

And I have the double-whammy.

The first time my brain protected me from my childhood trauma, it repressed memories, restrained them to a shadow behind gates. When it thought I was ready and I faced a trigger, my brain opened the floodgates. Floodgates, noun, “a last restraint holding back the outpouring of something powerful or substantial” (Google). After learning about trauma and the brain, I learned it was because my brain thought I was ready to handle those memories. I certainly didn’t feel ready. I felt out of control.

Still, my brain had other floodgates. When it thought I was ready and I couldn’t stay in denial any longer, my brain opened a second floodgate. I remember desperately asking why my step-uncle couldn’t be the end of my trauma story. “Your brain thought you were ready,” my counselor later said. I certainly didn’t feel ready. I felt heartbroken.

Memory is both a gift and a curse. I know my brain meant well. It wanted to protect me, to help bring me to a safe reality until I was ready to cope. And now it thinks I’m ready again.

It is something I so desperately wish wasn’t true, that my story yet again did not end with the last floodgate. I begged for it not to be true; but there is more to my story of sexual trauma that my brain once tried to protect me from, and now it thinks I’m ready. I certainly don’t feel ready.

Now I have to learn how to grieve from the beginning all over again. Events and memories are replayed in my mind and I’m desperate –there’s that word again—to hold onto the good some, the happy some because I have lost so much. I’m scared to lose what little I have left. When everything seems to be tainted by this shadow of sexual trauma, how do you learn to let go of a reality that never existed in the first place. How I wish a place existed where healing was linear and instantaneous.

My words stem from the deepest wounds and grow out of the reality of trauma.

I live in the landscape of the shattered heart.

It is a shared territory with those of you who have lived through your stories of trauma; what we carry, our new reality after trauma. Though my story isn’t yours, nor yours mine, we recognize each other there. We bring validation, acknowledgement, and understanding. Grief transforms to pain again and again. We know this landscape too well; we try to express in words what are deeper than words still. As such, I cannot fully express the grief that swells my heart.

My words stem from the deepest wounds and grow out of the reality of trauma.

Later I am celebrating my anniversary with my husband. We’re going to dinner at the same place we do every year. It’s a tradition that is all our own. I am so incredibly grateful to have found a love like his. That in all the world there is no love for him like mine, and there is no heart for me like his. Our love has jumped hurdles, leapt fences, and has recognized no barriers. (shout out to Maya Angelou there) It took hard work, and we are constantly trying to navigate our relationship under the lens of trauma. But we’ve made it to this amazing anniversary day.

In two days it will be Christmas Eve. We’ll enjoy being together and lounging around. Then we’ll cook a little something to bring to my mother-in-law’s house for dinner. Later in the evening we’ll open gifts together; it’s a tradition that entered my life with David. David and I will go home and stay up watching holiday movies and snacking on treats. In the morning we’ll sleep until our hearts are content and then exchange gifts. This year I forge new traditions. This year I am spending time with people I trust, being real.

David is a very tangible reminder of the good in life. I am reminded of hope, love, and happiness (as cheesy as that seems). The bite of steak I’ll have tonight is a reminder of the good. Forging family with those I trust and who support me is a reminder of the good. Holiday movies, treats, and other self-care practices are all a reminder of the good and a facilitator of inner peace.

My words stem from the deepest wounds and grow out of the reality of trauma.

I live in the landscape of the shattered heart. Landscapes shift. I try to bring out love from grief, to search for meaning and for hope. Sometimes I do. Every now and then peace shifts its way into the landscape. I know this landscape too; I try to express in words what are deeper than words still. As such, I cannot fully express the peace that swells my heart, too.

Because for me to feel this deeply sad, I must have once felt so happy. And each time I do feel it again, it is beautiful.

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