TRAUMA: IF WE DON’T PROCESS IT, IT WILL WEIGH US DOWN AND HOLD US BACK…

My memoirs, I wrote about trauma yesterday. 

My friend, my good friend, my mentor, motivator, Britt Sevitt (she doesn’t know that she is my mentor/motivator but she is, she just is), she has been talking to me about trauma, trauma in childhood. Until we got into this area, I thought that childhood trauma meant stuff like child abuse, not ‘simple’ stuff like, hypothetical examples, being left to cry for a few hours in your cot or being made to wear clothes that you didn’t want to wear, clothes which might have caused you, as a kid, major embarrassment. I never linked ‘trauma’ with minor stuff like that!

But when we talk about trauma, trauma in childhood, it does encapsulate stuff like that, it does relate to events which might seem like nothing to us as adults but, which, to a 5 year old, or a 10 year old, might have been traumatic! 

If we don’t face the traumas we’ve suffered in the past, if we don’t process them, however minor we might think them today, they will hold us back – we might not be aware that they are holding us back but they might very well be doing just that!

I had never, before yesterday, seen trauma as featuring in my past nor having anything to do with my depression. Britt got me to thinking about trauma, stuff that happened to me at school – yes, there was, I guess, trauma there – example, just one of many: me, 10 years old, being ordered, in front of the class, during the lesson, being ordered out of the class and ‘kicked’ downstairs to the class for, well, less academic kids. I was not ‘less academic’, less academically able, than the kids in the A-stream, I am convinced that I shouldn’t have been labelled lazy, naughty nor disruptive, that I was suffering from ADHD!! That was a major, for a kid, public shaming event. I know, from dreams which I still have, that incidents at school still play on my mind, still play a role in my subconscious today, that they still inform my poor sense of self-concept.

Excerpt from my book:

“EVERYONE in the room turned and looked at me, the me who had undiagnosed ADHD, the me with depression and anxiety disorders, they all turned and stared at me. Another public shaming!

All my school traumas, the public shaming, my feelings of failure, my disappointments, my feelings that I could have done so much better, all culminating in my meltdown in that City law firm on my first day at work there, my first day at work as a qualified solicitor, it has definitely resulted in long term damage. To this day, I can have dreams, night after night, dreams in which I’m at school, exams round the corner and I’m terrified that I’m going to fail, I do fail them, in the dreams, I can dream that I’m back at university and I’m not ready for exams which are round the corner, dreams which have the same theme, failure, all the same theme, just different settings. This is clearly a large part of the reason why I see myself – I mean, is it any wonder? – as a failure, as incapable. I’m 54 years old and I can have dreams, night after night after night, dreams which reinforce my sense of failure, dreams which reinforce my subconscious, and conscious, image of myself as a failure, dreams which take me back to school – BACK TO SCHOOL! – in the 1980’s, back to university, as a ‘mature’ student, in the 90’sand it’s 2020 now! I don’t know how I missed this damage, these injuries, I don’t know how it escaped me, how, so perceptive, most of the time, in the matter of my depression and associated mental illness, how I could have overlooked the damage done by traumatic experiences in my past!

Of course, my clinical depression doesn’t help! A symptom of clinical depression is often a feeling of worthlessness and that has been a sense I have had for as long as I can remember and no amount of success can, when that is bubbling, shift it. When I’m going through a full-blown depression episode, that is how I feel, worthless, like an utter failure. When that is going on, I shun, recoil from, praise, I feel unworthy of it. People saying “well done” to me, it’s like finger nails screeching down the blackboard. It’s painful! I make excuses for my successes, I say that it was someone else, that it wasn’t me, or that I was just lucky, that I was just in the right place at the right time and whatever it is that I did, anyone could have done it. Aside from in my running, I have only very, very rarely accepted and embraced success, only very rarely have I acknowledged it.

I have to process this lot. It’s an anchor, weighing me down… I won’t be able to move on until I process it! I’ve had two mental breakdowns, one in 1999, the other in 2001 (although, really, it was ‘just’ one big breakdown) and I haven’t addressed them! I’ve been on prescribed meds all this time, I have been able to function (thanks to running, able to live) but instead of talking it through with a psychologist, I have, all these years, just been kicking the issues under the medication carpet. Just knowing that I have to process this, THAT, IN ITSELF, has helped me to feel some sort of release. I now know that I’m halfway there (more, probably). Thank you, Britt Sevitt, for pointing out the bleedin’ obvious! 

Unless I exhume the buried trauma, exorcise my demons, unless I process it all, I won’t be able to move on, and I do want to move on… It’s exhausting living like this, it’s draining! I do believe in myself, I do believe that I have some inherent talents in some spheres, I do believe that I have something to offer, I do believe that I can use my talents, such as they might be, to touch lives, to better other people’s lives, to put smiles on faces, I sometimes even sense a destiny – I don’t often feel it but I’m feeling, sensing, it now – but I need to face the stuff from the past, I need to process it and get rid of it first. And I need to do it now because I’m getting tired and I need to move before I get too tired to move! As things stand, these buried traumas, the living shrapnel from the mental breakdown(s), it’s poisoning me, and I need some serious detox sessions!”

Coffee, Britt?

I do believe that my running is a big help, that it has moved me from just functioning to living. It has got me out of my comfort zone – and that is necessary for anyone who wants to grow and squash feelings of inferiority and failure, the mindset of “can’t do”. I run in my “impossible zone”, that place which, only 18 months ago, I would have thought it impossible for me to enter. This has been very good for me, for my facing my demons.

Writing my memoirs, my journey into the pit of depression, my recovery, that’s hugely cathartic and it’s giving me a sense of self-confidence and self-concept. Britt gave me the honour of allowing me to read her book manuscript, she invited me to proof read it and to make suggestions (not betraying confidences there, Britt has allowed me to say this), that has been a real boost to my self-confidence and just being in Britt’s presence, being in her orbit, that has given me a real sense of ‘can do’. Britt is a lot further along the curve of recovery than I am at present but she has shown me, and she will show many people in the future, that there is light at the end of the tunnel – if we are courageous and want, really want, and know the importance of, if we really want to live honest and authentic lives.

I have a few other ideas but they are new ideas so, before mentioning them, before committing myself, I must do some more research. But, yes, I feeling pretty chipper at the mo, pretty positive, awake…

I’m also going to return to meditation (thanks, Britt, for giving me the push!).

I’m on the case, I know that I have issues, I know that the meds won’t deal with them, I know that I have to address and process them, I know all that, and I shall do it. I want to do it. I want to get better, I want to be my best, authentic self, I want the peace of mind, the feeling of joy that comes from getting there. It’s a process and I am in that process now.

Taking stock of yesterday, and today, positive, meaningful, productive (I didn’t think that when I sat down to pen this blog!) and I’m looking forward to the future, to the dawning of a new day…

I’m making things happen…finally!

Carpe diem, grab the day, don’t let the day grab you!

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