Recognizing Trauma and healing from it.

People who have suffered from trauma do not necessarily look the part. They can seem completely cool on the surface like they have everything together, but there are tell-tale signs that one can watch out for if you know them and desire to do something for them.

I suffered from different kinds of trauma at different times in my life. From abuse in teens to sudden dislocation of me and my family due to war, to an emotionally abusive relationship, alcohol addiction and finally dealing with separation and divorce. Mostly I held back and maintained a calm surface. But water finds its course. It came up in so many other ways.

In the absence of a visible breakdown, trauma actually changes the person at a cellular level. If the trauma is severe, intense or repetitive over a period of time, the person may even block it out and have no memory of it or collapse from it entirely. Most people suffering from trauma, be it old or new tend to have a natural fear of what they went through recurring in their lives at some point. There is an all avoidance of that situation or those people. People who undergo trauma tend to be self-destructive or self-sabotage their life. Things they work hard for, they will thwart unconsciously. There are some compulsive behaviours, obsessive behaviours. They may resort to substance abuse in more intense cases. There is a loss of trust in people, in themselves, in life and ultimately in god/universe. There is a low-grade anxiety constantly bubbling under the surface of almost everything. Sometimes if there are triggers present, then it can go into a full-blown panic attack. They may have issues with intimacy in relationships or are averse to relationships in general. They have a very hard time finding and keeping love. They have deep feelings of insecurity, can be defensive in conversations, argumentative or even offensive. There may be a sense of being high strung or over-sensitive if the trauma is still fresh in their minds.

Trauma, even if it is emotional, spiritual, psychological, financial can affect the body just like a physical trauma. In a physical trauma the emotional and mental body takes a hit along with the physical. But if you ask a person who has undergone non-physical trauma, where, in their body do they feel it, they will pick a spot on their body where they do feel is the centre point of trauma. It can be the solar plexus, the heart, the lungs, lower belly, back and pretty much any part. Therefore, all trauma is physical.

Now, I have never spoken about this to anyone, but I feel ready to share this with the world as my healing in this area is done and I for one have seen and deeply known that whatever happened has been perfection. I see it no other way. And there is not an iota of blame on anyone for anything. I had a good marriage. We were known for our deep bond and love for each other by everyone who knew us. I distinctly remember the night in October 2015 when my then-husband was sharing about a trip he had just returned from and about some thoughts he had during and before this trip. He concluded that he didn’t want to be married anymore and it just was not for him. He also didn’t feel that way about me anymore and could not go on with a charade. This came out of nowhere for me. I was completely unprepared. I clearly remembered time slowing down. I first thought I had not heard correctly. Then he repeated it but I heard it in a muffled voice. I felt like the wind had been knocked out of my lungs. My lungs have been my trauma centre before. All the prior traumatic experiences I felt in my lungs. I developed asthma as a result of it for many years and had successfully beaten it for over a decade until that night. Then this random thought floated in “well at least he is honest”. Then emotional pandemonium ensued within. And I remember nothing post that. Just a feeling of overwhelm accompanied by deep hollowness and a sense of being plunged into darkness. My memory has blocked the conversation that followed that night. I remember bits and pieces from the days after. I barely ate. Barely slept. I refused to meet anyone, talk to anyone. I went into a shell. I felt paralyzing fear and everything around me felt deeply intense. The trauma had hit me so hard that I felt deep shame and a feeling of death for days that followed that I could not tell a soul for 2 months. I could not bring myself to find the words to admit what was going on. When I finally opened up to my parents and 2-3 close friends, I realized I cried for the first time in 2 months. But no amount of talking, venting, raging helped. The only thing that helped was when I was alone, listening to my own chattering within, and finding my way forward literally one waking hour at a time. This entire thing had forced me to begin to understand what it meant to live in the Now. The future seemed too bleak; the past was traumatic. The Now, seemed to give me respite. There I felt grace.  It’s been close to four years and today it’s barely a memory and I can narrate it with no emotion. Almost like it happened to someone else or a lifetime ago.

If you have undergone trauma and you cannot seem to shake off the memories of what occurred, and they plague you intermittently, it’s imperative to take time off to heal. Healed trauma should be nothing but a story of something that occurred that feels like it happened in another lifetime with zero emotional charge to it and a step further would be to be at a state of being grateful for the way you evolved from it.

Unhealed trauma needs you to step up to yourself differently. If you have never practised self-care and self-love, it is one of the first learnings in trauma.

To be. To allow. To witness. To understand. To accept.

Not to fix. Not to force. Not to try. Not to ignore. Not to hide.

Allowing yourself to get to the deepest levels of you and staying there. Is it uncomfortable? Heck yes. But what it will give you will be far beyond and above anything you learnt from any guru or books or TED talks. To know oneself at the deepest levels is an opportunity that trauma alone can gift you. This includes everything from abuse, addiction, grief, death, loss, separation, divorce, abandonment, accidents, illnesses, loss of a bodily function, major surgery, and so on. In healing trauma, you are at a crossroads. To lose faith, trust, power, confidence and your mind. Or to actually gain it all and never lose it again. Every trauma is an opportunity to awaken to the greatness that you hide within. I know it does not seem like it at all. But that’s how the best things are. Seemingly hidden gems in unlikely looking clothing.

Spend time with yourself and unravel. Trauma creates a sense of helplessness, going deeper and meeting all your emotions unflinchingly and compassionately can restore your sense of power and self. To know and understand that you are greater than the sum of what has happened with you.

What happens when you have someone you love suffering from trauma?

I want to share some pointers with all those people:

  1. Be available. Always. No matter what.
  2. Don’t try to calm them down.
  3. Give them space to be as insane as they want to be at that moment.
  4. Don’t try to talk them out of anything or convince them of what you feel is right.
  5. Do not give false hope about things turning outright. It does more damage.
  6. Deeply.
  7. Do not offer advice unless asked.
  8. Accompany them to a natural place, beach, park, lake for a walk or stroll.
  9. If they are confused when venting and all over the place emotionally, just ask them, “what are you feeling right now and it’s ok to feel that. I am never going to judge you for it”
  10. Ask if they’d like to see a professional. But beware of when to say this. You don’t want to set them off like something is wrong with them.
  11. It is important to engage people undergoing trauma into some sort of gentle physical movement. People with severe trauma can feel disconnected from their body. Suggest breath work, yoga, tai chi, walks, flow movement. Nothing strenuous.
  12. Meditation can be suggested but if the trauma is very fresh and they are new to meditation, it may not help, unless you are a trained meditation teacher.
  13. Have no directed expectations from them to heal anytime soon.
  14. Be the empty space of compassion for them. Don’t fix. Don’t cajole. Don’t attempt anything.

If you have a chance to be there for a trauma ridden loved one, you too have the opportunity to create a new version of you. There is so much to learn from everyone and everything. No wonder we live an entire lifetime just for it.

Aditi Nirvaan

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