Living With A Trauma Survivor

I write a lot about what it’s like to live with a trauma history. I’ve only occasionally thought what it must be like to live with me or to be my friend or partner.

You see, when you have experienced a trauma, the person you were and the person you could have been, no longer exist. There is a grief attached to that, the loss of you and of your past potential, that takes a long time to heal for most.

And the rules that apply to people without trauma, don’t really fit those living with trauma and it’s impact. Trauma breaks people; most temporarily, but for some, permanently.

It changes the way you see the world, and people, and relationships.

When you are abused as a child, you lose trust and a sense of positive self-worth.

As a result, as an adult, you need validation continually that what you are saying, what you are doing, and what you are feeling is okay. You second guess yourself all of the time. Trauma survivors don’t know what the boundaries are and can drive the people closest to them nuts by seeking validation and/or approval constantly. It is hard to live with, but harder to live through.

Remind your survivor that they are safe with you, and that they are enough, especially on the really hard days.

Once a survivor opens up and trusts you, you’re pretty much in for a hard ride. You’d think it would get easier, but it doesn’t.

Because a trauma survivor’s sense of trust has been demolished, when we trust, we trust wholly and expect you to live up to our expectations. It’s not fair, but it is what it is.

We don’t trust easily. We are used to people letting us down, but we expect you to be better than everyone else which sometimes means we don’t allow you to be human, and you feel like you can never win. You can’t. Sad, but true.

Your survivor still loves you, they just need more. Like, if we are feeling something or processing something or working through something, we need to work it through fully. You need to listen. You need to engage. Until it all makes sense in our heads from our perspective, just nod, hold a hand, remind us, “I love you. I’m listening. Keep talking.”

If we express that your behaviour doesn’t help our situation, listen closely, say what you are hearing back, and maybe negotiate a compromise on your behaviour. If that could work.

It’s hard, living or being close to a survivor of trauma. Most of us experience, especially in the early days of healing, irrational rages. If not rages, serious bouts of depression-like behaviours – not wanting to leave the house or interact with others or get dressed or do anything.

We hurt those closest and we try to push them out of our lives before they can hurt us. Even if you stay, we will keep pushing and trying to see how far we can push you, what it takes to break you, because we don’t believe we are worthy of you or your love or your friendship. If there is a chance you can hurt us, your life won’t be easy.

We are damaged.

The world doesn’t look to us like it looks to you.

Where you see sunsets, we see night coming, and that means fear of someone hurting you.

Where you smell eucalyptus, we smell the abuser who wore Vick’s as they hurt us.

We are triggered by the weirdest things at random times, and often can’t access why until we have completely lost our shit. After the release of breakdown, the shedding of another layer of healing, we return to the vulnerable human you know and love.

It’s a hard life for everyone involved. You, the partner or the friend or the parent, well, you need to self-care, you too, need a support network, you need to do what you can for yourself to ensure you cope okay.

You’re right, it isn’t fair.

But it also isn’t fair for the survivor. Healing is a process. There isn’t a one size fits all. And often, healing can take a lifetime as the survivor learns how to live in a world that allowed the damage to happen in the first place. Surely, that, is the ultimate betrayal in trust.

Integrity 🤪

John Demartini says that when you work from a place of your highest values, your life feels better and there is less time for less important/trivial stuff to come in and take your time up. He says, that if you can, you delegate or pay someone to do the less important stuff.

I love mowing my lawn and taking care of my garden, but I’ve become exceptionally time poor. This has resulted in me feeling guilty for not getting the yard done as quickly as I would like to. My yard is tiny – it doesn’t take long.

Guilt, guilt and more guilt.

And I also hating not having a space I love look beautiful.

Just before I left for work yesterday, a post from a local business popped up in my Facebook feed saying that they had availability for mowing today.

I messaged.

They replied.

By 8.30 this morning, my lawn looked beautiful. I supported another small business. And I don’t have to worry about doing the lawn today or tomorrow or Sunday.

Now I have guilt free time to dye my hair.

Everyone’s winning.

I’m living this new me. Giving myself permission to do what I need to be happy and balanced.

It’s the small things that make a difference.

An Unexpected Lesson

I think this will crack you up.

I was sitting on my lounge, mindless TV on, and Max, my six and a half year old Maltese/Shih Tzu/Mini Poodle cross cake and sat right in front of me.

When I got Max, I had failed IVF cycles behind me and giving up on children, decided to buy a dog. We get the dog we need, not the dog we want.

Max has always been an obsessive dog. He gives and gives and gives love. He struggles to receive it back.

So, I’m sitting on the lounge, trying to give this kid a hug, and he is trying to lick me (hate being licked). I turn to him and I say,

“Max, it’s okay to give as much love as you do, but it’s important you also learn to receive love.”

Anyone who knows my story knows how ironic this tale is. It wasn’t lost on me. I laughed and said,

“Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black.”

And I’m still wryly smiling.

Hilarious.

Max is the black one – he’s a human trapped in a dog’s body lol. Aka very spoilt.

It’ll be alright

I’m an over thinker. I’m also an over feeler. If both get me at the same time, the walls go up and I become cold as ice. As a result, I teeter between being empathetic and compassionate, and frustrated and cranky. After frustrated and cranky, usually comes guilty and shamed.

It’s not a pattern within myself I’m happy with or proud of. I work hard at keeping the balance. I don’t always succeed.

Yesterday was such a day.

They usually occur, these days, when I’m tired or feeling overwhelmed.

At the moment, because I’m out of balance, my body is also out of balance. I’m having repeated migraines, waking up with head colds (today a blocked nose and sore throat) and basically feeling like I’ve been hit by a bus.

I feel a little sorry for myself and then wryly smile.

Fear brought me here. A fear, now that I no longer have a stable job and have to generate my own income, of not having and not being enough.

Another layer to peel from the healing onion.

A recurring layer – I’m sure I’ve seen this one before.

I have created this reality. I need to restore balance. I need to put my needs first. If I don’t, I’ll become too sick to work and that’ll teach me lol.

I think a lot of us seesaw between loving ourselves and not feeling we are enough. I wonder if I have this wrong which is why I’m here again. Maybe, it’s more that I do love myself but I don’t know how to break the patterns I’ve subscribed to my whole life. And the clash between those two is what makes the ill-ness.

Maybe I need to merge or integrate the two opposing thoughts, make peace with the girl who didn’t love herself and not feel guilty that I do. In our society, we expect women to be humble and to not, out loud, like themselves just as they are. We are expected to fit into neat little boxes.

I don’t.

And I don’t want to.

Even as childhood trauma survivors slash victors, the idea is that we stay messed up forever. That we embody the trauma for as long as we breathe.

I don’t want to.

I want to be free of it. Own where I was and who I was, but embrace where I am now and who I am now.

I feel like new experiences are challenging the new ways of my being, ripping them apart, and my fight to stay me has brought fears back that I might not be accepted if I don’t fit into the box.

Fear again.

I speak freely now. Some call me arrogant. In that ‘arrogant’ mode, I speak truth. People label it arrogant so that they don’t have to hear the truth. I’m fine with that. Or maybe I’m not.

Meh. This could go on for hours so I’ll spare you the never ending circle of argument here and I’ll ponder it on my own. I think I’ve hit the core of the issue though – that trauma impact of fear saying I won’t belong if I stand unashamedly in my truth.

I disagree, fear.

We Are All Different But The Same

Ridiculous title really. At our cores, I think we all just want to be loved and to live a happy life. I’m fairly secure in making that generalization that it’s true for most people, if not all.

Where we differ is how this looks in our lives.

For me, I’m busy building a business and running another one.

My healing business is a slow grower. People want advice and strategies, but most people don’t want to pay for that. Or can’t afford to. Or don’t believe they are worth the investment in themselves.

I get that. It took me a long time to believe my needs were worthy investing in. At the end of the day, I realised, I need to heal and to grow and that money is an investment and will come back to me in some way.

We are worth the investment.

Sometimes, I get a short stab of ego pain if someone chooses a different healer. I hate saying this and owning it, but it’s true. And it only is a short, two second stab. I am human after all.

So, I cut myself some slack and I remind myself that there is never a finite number of people that require healing. The people that are supposed to come to me will find me when the time is right. And I have my bread and butter business where the books are closed and I’m trying to reduce my client list.

All in good time …

Ekhart Tolle’s work taught me how to focus on the now, be in the present, alongside meditation. It is easy to get caught up in perceptions of fairness and equity, but at the end of the day, perceptions are just that. They aren’t truth or fact, well, not broadly.

I seem to be having a week where it’s important for me to reveal my shortcomings lol. I’m okay with that – I’m a work in progress, as we all are. And owning my shortcomings empowers me to work through them.

After all, ego doesn’t have to rule us and only can when we don’t acknowledge it.

Be mindful today in your interactions with others and in your thoughts, does ego dictate your choices or do you.

Boundaries After Childhood Trauma

A difficult post to write and to own; cuts to the heart of vulnerability and shame for me. I’ve been writing it in my head and processing the truth of it since my workshop on Wednesday night when I realised I had unresolved business for myself. It’s taken a few days but I think I’ve managed to focus on the heart of it.

It might trigger some people – childhood abuse and adult content.

One of the very long term impacts from childhood trauma, for me, focuses on boundaries. I’ve had to, and am in the process, of re-learning them. By boundaries, I mean social, sexual and self boundaries, what is appropriate behaviour and what is not, for a myriad of reasons.

When you experience childhood trauma, it changes you – the way you perceive the world, your place in it, the people around you, everything. You no longer quite understand the way things are meant to work and you spend a lot of your time scanning your environment and the people in it to determine what is normal, what is acceptable, and how you should be behaving. If your environment is dysfunctional, well, no other way to put it, but you’re screwed.

This week, I’ve realised that I’ve been trying to work out the boundary thing my whole life.

It starts with me, just being in the world. My perception as a child was that I wasn’t worth very much. Rightly or wrongly. That perception, unchecked until much later on in my life (last five or so years), really governed how I fit into my world.

Because I perceived I wasn’t worth much, I found my value in giving to and doing for others. Most of my life I’ve been a fixer for and supporter of others.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s a good way to be, but only if it is who you are and not because you’re scrambling to belong, to be accepted, to be worthy. I had no real boundaries – I didn’t know when to stop giving or doing or being. I just gave and gave and gave – not altruistically – and that makes the giving unhealthy.

It is also unhealthy because I did have the expectation that because I gave and gave and gave, others needed to give back.

What they gave was never enough though.

And it wasn’t enough because I was really wanting someone to rewrite my narrative and tell me I was worthy. I was filling a hole inside my soul that only I could fill. Only I could rewrite that narrative of misperceptions.

And I now know, you can’t belong with others until you wholly belong to yourself. Ooh, that pricks tears.

I always felt a little betrayed in friendships – by myself mostly – because I didn’t maintain them well. I could walk away easily – never really fully invested – until about fifteen years ago. And even still, I’ve been relearning all of that time what it means to be a friend, relaxing unrealistic expectations, and understanding what is healthy. And understanding that friendships don’t have to be suffocating – I don’t need to be in their faces or on the phone all of the time.

It’s been, at times, very painful, very vulnerable, very shameful work. I’m still learning the boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not. I’m just blessed to have beautiful friends who cut me slack.

And then there are the boundaries of intimate relationships. I’ve fallen for quite a few married men – yep. Safe in one sense because they are unattainable in a holistic sense. And because I was so thirsty to be loved, desired, and found to be worthy, would follow blindly and become hurt eventually.

I’ve also fallen for people who are like me and can’t commit emotionally – the reality of emotional connection sounds great in theory, but in practice, completely untenable between two broken people. Too much vulnerability, no understanding of boundary, and god knows what else lol.

So, I’ve found myself in situations I haven’t known how to handle in any way, shape or form.

I don’t regret anything, but I am developing a clearer understanding of how my lack of understanding of boundaries, has shaped my life.

I feel that some people have, consciously or unconsciously, taken advantage of the broken person throughout the years. It’s a given. Some ‘friends’ have used me for money, for connections, for support to fix their own brokenness, for their own agendas. They provided lessons for me. More friends have not.

As a child, I felt I had no power. To function, to survive, I learned to do as I was told. As an adult, until very recent years, I was still doing this. I felt and expressed an unreasonable, child-like fear of getting into trouble. The thought of doing something wrong and getting into trouble paralyzed me – hello, 2016.

There is one that I’m still processing. It resulted in me losing people I thought were friends, again the need to be loved and to be badged as worthy, and whilst the behaviours made me feel ‘normal’ and like I could belong, I now realise it was all far from that.

I was trying to recapture the experiences of youth, of normal adolescence, of that rite of passage of doing dumb stuff before you start to mature and grow up. I never had a normal adolescence and it stunted my emotional growth. Ultimately, to move forward I had to experience this time in my life. I’m grateful for it. The last bit of anger is trickling away.

Sometimes, without clear boundaries, we make snap decisions that enable us to think we are normal and do things to belong, or because we feel loved in the moment, or for both reasons, and it’s just plain unhealthy. We end up in a deep pit trying to find ourselves and understand what happened. It’s important to make peace with that and to understand it’s a process in healing. It takes us to where we are meant to be.

I think I’ve made peace, now, with a lot of my adult behaviours and decisions that were or were close to inappropriate. I can see the drawbacks and the benefits in each one, at the time, and for me now.

Still some work to do – we are all works in progress.

A Perpetual Work in Progress

Massive lessons being learned by me at the moment. I am in transition again. So much movement in my life, and so much trying to be and do everything. You can only ever disappoint when you try to be everything to everyone.

Hmmm … I didn’t mean to underline, but there you have it. The first salient point in this post lol.

My whole life, I felt small. I felt like I had no worth unless I was doing and being for others. As I reflect, that core belief is what has always landed me in trouble during my adult life. And it is ultimately the belief that has lead me here to be able to smash through it. Gingerly lol.

Obviously, that belief started in childhood. I don’t hold others responsible for it – it was my perception (mis-perception) of the trauma I encountered. The same trauma that has made me who I am (who I like – an empowered, resilient, and beautiful woman – a little proud I can say that without any challenge or awkwardness).

Last weekend, I hit a snag on Sunday. I forgot I had organised to go to the beach and then catch up with one of my very closest people. I was too tired. Soul tired. I slept ALL day.

I knew I had to make changes.

I couldn’t keep watching people live their lives – explore the world, see family and friends, do stuff – whilst the vast majority of what I did was work. Don’t get me wrong, I love my work. I just realised last Sunday, that I also love not working. It’s as simple as that.

I am most present and most liberated when I am doing any sort of healing work, be it with others or on my own self. Healing, and all that means, is my highest value and the reason I am on this Earth at this time – to empower and inspire others to be their best selves.

When I am not engaged in this work, I am not as buoyant.

This work takes many forms: tutoring, workshops, clients, writing, videos with Renee, and connections. And I’m sure there is more. It is my whole self.

But there needs to be a balance within the healing work.

And because of my ‘fear’ of disappointing people, my inability to say no for the same reason, all connected to my belief that my worth is connected to what I do for others, I have run out of mojo already this year.

When I’m working in my balance, I am energised. When I’m working out of balance, I become soul tired.

I’ve made difficult decisions this week, had difficult conversations, and the world hasn’t imploded. I still woke up this morning. People are managing to live their lives. Not much seems to have changed.

However, I have. As someone said to me yesterday, “It’s good you are setting boundaries, Tina. We would keep taking as long as you were still giving.”

As a person who has experienced trauma, standing up for what I want and being supported in that and not being belittled or punished, has been empowering.

The world didn’t end when I set some boundaries. People are disappointed, but we are all still functioning. The difference now, my needs are being met too.

And I AM worth that.