Hearing your trauma story, in your own voice, has to be one of the most difficult and perhaps one of the most powerful experiences one can have. This past week in Trauma Recovery group, it was my turn to record my story aloud in front of our small group and to then take this recording home to re-listen to daily and re-record at least a couple of times.
During the class, I was so scared. I was anxious. I felt embarrassed about my story. I was comparing my pain to others and thinking that maybe it was unjustified for me to have such a severe experience (flashbacks and reactions, for example) when others, according to my evaluation, had been through so much worse. I felt it was very important to talk about these issues before recording so that they didn’t interfere with the process. The doctor reminded me to have compassion and to never compare your trauma with others’, as each person is unique as far as their sensitivity and reactions to events.
With a greater sense of acceptance, I moved forward. I spoke my story. We were supposed to speak for about 20 minutes. Although I don’t feel that I rushed, my story came to under 12 minutes. I realized after we stopped recording that I had forgotten a couple of details, and I spoke about those.
I got very anxious about midway through my story. I began to feel all of the physical sensations and emotions that I had when the actual trauma occurred. It was overwhelming, but I also had the awareness that I was in the room at the clinic, on the floor, in a safe place, and it was so many years later. That was then, this is now. This is for my healing. At one point, I remember shouting out, “I’m so nauseous right now!” to which the doctor replied, “You’re doing a great job.” I kept going forward.
After the group, I felt quite emotionally dysregulated, which was to be expected. My plan was to go home and watch Xfactor to distract with some entertainment that had very low potential for emotional triggers and to soothe through taste with some biscotti. When I got home, I ended up putting on the show Parks and Recreation on Netflix. By some bizarre stroke of chance, the topic was so closely aligned with the neglect/trauma incident that I had just spoken about, as it was about people having the flu so severely that they were in the hospital for dehydration.
I wondered if I should watch it, especially before bed. I felt I was strong enough and that maybe it would help me laugh at the situation, as I often find this show so quirky and funny. So, I watched it. I felt a bit anxious at parts and I also did get some giggles. It helped me make light of my fears a bit.
That night and all day yesterday, though, I noticed that I was experiencing physical symptoms like those that I described during my recording: feverish, chills, and such. I kept taking my temperature, but I in fact had no fever. It seems I was generating these symptoms as part of PTSD flashbacks. Our minds are so powerful! I am determined to keep going with this process so when future flashbacks happen (and hopefully the will diminish) I can handle them as flashbacks and not interpret them as present danger. This will help me live in so much less fear, which will be wonderful.
I kept comforting myself through the experience, reminding myself that the incident happened long ago. I am safe now. It helped a lot to continue grounding, as in the past when I would have these vivid flashbacks, I would run to the emergency room.
I am proud of myself for this. I am not going to sugar coat it: this work is NOT easy. Who wants to remember and put a magnifying class on past trauma? It’s not something that most of us want to do, and that’s what makes it so hard, but I am determined to overcome this aspect of my pain and further heal on my journey.
For homework, we have the following assignments this week:
- Listen to the recording everyday (I skipped yesterday, as I was too overwhelmed), and re-record it at least a couple of times before the next class. While listening to the trauma story I became very anxious, but I also noticed something else: IMMENSE compassion for the eight year old child I once was. When I heard myself crying on the recording over how scared I was, I shook my head and imagined holding and comforting that child part of me. How frightened she must have been. My embarrassment went away. I understood that as an eight year old, that experience must have been terrifying. Compassion for one’s self is very healing.
- Do a writing assignment on The Split Self ( I actually made this post with a video for you explaining “split personalities” in BPD and PTSD). I still need to do the writing assignment. The assignment is from this book: Seeking Safety: A Treatment Guide for PTSD and Substance Abuse
Thank you so much for being by my side and witnessing my journey. I’m half way through the group at this point.
To Read Week 5, click HERE.