Nobody expects to find themselves there. But then there you are. Alone and full of toxic emotions that shift inside you. Sometimes anger, sometimes fear, sometimes sadness, but mostly anxiety. The smallest trigger sets you off, spiralling into another cycle that’s happened since this all began, since whatever trauma got you there; childhood abuse or neglect, domestic violence, sexual assault, workplace assault, a violent attack, emotional abuse, death threat, or motor vehicle accident. Sadly, there is no limit to the list of ways we can cause each other trauma.
But the good news is, we can help ourselves out of the cycle. There is hope.
For years growing up I suffered emotional abuse and trauma from my older brother. When I got older I was able to view his behavior from an educated perspective as a psychiatric nurse, realizing he had a mental illness and addictions and did my best to protect myself, set boundaries and lowered my expectations of our relationship. There was even a time things were going so well we attended counselling together, as he did with other members of my family, with the intention of building and supporting him and our relationship.
But that lasted only a short while, and before too long things went from ok to bad to terrifying.
While my husband was away on business, my brother called and threatened to kill me.
For the next seven months I feared for my life. I had a restraining order placed on him but expected to find him in my home every night. His anger towards me wasn’t rational, his threat of my life was irrational, so the irrational action of taking my life didn’t seem to be a far stretch to me.
But seven months after threatening my life, he took his own.
His suicide stirred up all the bottled up anxiety within me. I had been containing it just to survive and care for my children. So two months later I started counselling with a therapist who specialized in grief and trauma. She said I had post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and we worked together, very slowly and gently, on exposure to triggers. Some I have overcome, some are a work in progress, and some are put away until I want to work on them at a later date.
“Overcoming abuse doesn’t just happen. It takes positive steps everyday. Let today be the day you start to move forward”. Assunta Hannis
What I noticed and learned with the help of my therapist, is that I became hypersensitive with my emotions, in particular regarding further traumatic events. For example, there was a lock-down at my son’s high school a couple years later. Although this was a very scary situation because there was a potential gunman in the area and there was a SWAT Team at the school searching, I knew that my shaking hands and tear-streaked face in the middle of my kitchen was not my normal pre-PTSD reaction in intense situations. Although never having been in that particular situation, of course it’s impossible to know for sure.
If YOU are reading this and have yet to begin your journey of healing after trauma, I encourage you to start today. Take a small step by giving yourself permission to heal, to overcome, to move forward.