I Am Not Who I Once Was: Who We Become after Trauma.

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This past weekend I attended one of the most powerful workshops I’ve ever been to. The theme was, “I Am Not Who I Was: Unfolding Your Own Myth.”

We opened the evening by going around the circle and speaking a little about ourselves. When it was my turn, I didn’t realize I was speaking or know where the words came from, but I heard myself saying with fierce, unapologetic bravado:

I am not who I was 2 years ago. I was a woman who listened to everything others told her she had to do, and never listened to my own inner voice. I hid so many parts of myself. I didn’t like to be seen and I feared being heard because what if people didn’t like what I had to say? I followed all the rules because I thought following them would bring me everything I wanted.

I shared the woman I am today, having gone through my own personal trauma. I’m different. I have a voice. I don’t care what people think of me anymore. I allow myself to be seen—the real me, not the one I think will win people’s approval.

I base my self-worth not on what anybody else thinks of me, but on what I think of myself.

I’m a bit of a rule-breaker now, and I don’t apologize for that.

I will never be who I once was because of what I have been through.

The truth is, challenging circumstances in our lives change us. The death of a child, escape from an abusive relationship, a life threatening illness, an affair that forced you to face who you really are instead of who you were pretending to be, coming out from the other side of an addiction that almost killed you—those things change us.

We pass through them. And we are never, ever the same.

When these things happen in our lives, the experience lifts our energetic vibration and gets our attention. It forces us to pause, reflect on what we have been through and own who we now are, or who we want to be, now that our masks are off.

These experiences happen to us to shake things up. Get us out of our fog. Reveal things that may have been hidden or we just weren’t willing to see.

I wanted to be a better version of myself after my life fell apart. I wanted to be more compassionate, more understanding, less judgmental and more accepting of myself and my own flaws.

I wanted to take my pain and use it to help others.

There was a moment in my own process where I cried to a friend that I wasn’t who I used to be in a relationship. I couldn’t open up—couldn’t give of myself. I couldn’t be vulnerable or loving or affectionate the way I had been. I said, “I’m not this person. Why can’t I be the person I was?”

He said, “Because you are not the same person anymore. You will never be the person you were before this happened to you. You are forever changed from that experience and now you need to discover who that new person is.”

Our job is not to apologize to the people in our lives who knew us before because we can’t go back to being the person before the crisis. The crisis happened for a reason.

We sometimes can’t go back into a marriage after we’ve had an affair, because the affair changed us.

We can’t go back to a partner that supported us through an addiction, because what kept us with them in the first place was the addiction itself.

I have a friend who lost his son, and he told me the entire dynamic of his family changed when his son died. You don’t lose a child or your partner and not have that loss completely change who you are at your very core. And once you’ve changed, everyone around you follows suit.

Your energy changes; their energy changes.

If you are the person trying to support a friend, a spouse, a lover or a family member through a life crisis, understand that they will not be the person you once knew.

Don’t expect them to be.

Expect that they are either going to rise up to their full potential or spiral out of control. They will not fall into line and give in to things they know are no longer right for them anymore, because of what they have been through.

They will not comply.

They will to be forced into decisions or just do what they’re told to do anymore. They have some battle scars.

They will start living their life differently. Maybe doing things you don’t understand or will make you scream, “Why are they doing this? This isn’t who they are.”

Except it is. It is who they are now. They are not who they once were. They are somebody new.

You will have to accept this new version of them if you want them in your life. Have compassion. Allow them to be this new person.

They arrived here because of something deeply traumatic and painful. They are coming into this new version of themselves because of it. It is part of their personal journey and one that may elevate them to a different place that needs to be held and seen with much compassion. Trauma is never easy and we need to honor the person they have now become for having been through it.

 

Bonus: Turning obstacles into opportunities: 

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Relephant Read:

Turning Trauma Into Purpose.

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Author: Dina Strada

Editor: Toby Israel

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Image: Hadis Safari/Unsplash

Relephant Watch:

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jenniferashmore111 Jan 19, 2019 1:45am

This is my story

honey_be1 Jan 17, 2019 5:53pm

This?

tamsherownboss Dec 7, 2018 9:54am

Thank you.

dahlia28 Dec 5, 2018 9:47pm

I needed this.

Carolina Smilas Nov 30, 2018 8:24pm

I really resonate with this seeing as it’s something I’m going through right now. It can be petrifying, frustrating, confusing and heart wrenching not knowing or recognising yourself following trauma. Not understanding your emotions anymore, why you’re suddenly thinking things you didn’t before and you can feel like you’re losing your mind! And you’re right, you have to give yourself time to get to know the “you” you are now, adapt to the changes going on and get to know yourself again. I’m only just starting to talk about my experience, ( I actually just posted my first blog on it two days ago!!) and this topic is something I plan to write about too going forward, to hopefully help my students through this element of trauma recovery based on my own experience and what helped me. It’s taking me a while because of exactly what you’ve spoken about here as I was never one to speak publicly over social media! But I feel it’s part of the “new me” and something I’m meant to do now. Just need to build the confidence slowly and like you say, do what your voice wants to do regardless of other’s acceptance of who you are or what you have to say.

Thank you for writing this- so little is really understood about trauma and how it affects you and it’s often hidden from view. People struggle to talk about it because it’s also really difficult to articulate the feelings and thoughts when you don’t understand them yourself so how can you explain to someone else? I’m sure this article has helped many people get a little closer to understanding themselves or someone they know going through it.

It has moved me a little closer today towards embracing my new self and my new life. Thank you again, Carolina

babamarci Nov 27, 2018 10:24am

Assuming that you are excluding Childhood trauma from the examples. There is ample evidence that childhood trauma changes brain function and can interfere with healthy brain development, causing not only psychological problems but physical as well,linked to diabetes, obesity, chronic illness, depression…. and if an adult who suffered childhood trauma has a traumatic event, ( the number of adults with childhood trauma is huge, btw….)chances are they will not be able to view it as a vibration elevating experience.

elephantjournal Nov 26, 2018 11:30pm

I think this is total bullshit in regards to loss of a child.Seriously? To compare and addiction or an affair to the loss of a child. I mean. Really? Heartache for a breakup or someone cheating on you, or being an alcoholic/loving an addict, just does not come close to what it feels like to lose a child. Trust me on that one.
“These experiences happen to us to shake things up. Get us out of our fog. Reveal things that may have been hidden or we just weren’t willing to see.”
I have to disagree, and let the writer know that to write such a thing is just offensive. Horribly offensive, and insensitive. After seeing many therapists after the murder of my child by drunk driver, I can sum it up. You will never get over the trauma, but you can live after the trauma. That’s about it. I live, and love, and smile, and laugh, but man, I hurt, all the fucking time. 16 years later.

Rebecca Anderson Nov 25, 2018 1:16pm

We are often admonished to be kind to all, because everyone is fighting battles we know nothing of. I propose that the same kind actions should apply to previous battles as well. Thank you for your refreshing perspective.

anonymous Mar 5, 2016 10:11am

I needed to read this. I lost my only brother and sibling to a murder/suicide 6 years ago. I ended my marriage of 10 years last year. I met someone while I was married and I’m now remarried to this same man and have a baby with him. He brings a different light into my life. I was addicted to prescription medications after losing my brother. I’m certain those pills are why my marriage lasted for as long as it did. I filed bankruptcy and foreclosed on my first home during my marriage. I can’t go back to who I once was and I’m learning to accept that. I know I’m harshly judged but I don’t mind because i was that way once. I was the golden child growing up…

anonymous Oct 28, 2015 11:54pm

You have put into beautiful words and given us insight into what people are going through after trauma and why they need our support in moving through it.

It’s important that we stop using the rationale that everything happens for a reason. There is never a reason for a child’s death. It just happens. It implies that something horrible has happened to us because we were flawed and needed to learn and grow. The universe doesn’t kill your mother, so that you can become a a better person. It smacks of religious condemnation and guilt that you weren’t living a good and holy life, so god gave your baby cancer to punish you and teach you a lesson. The world is full of tragedy and accidents that alter our lives, but let’s not tell victims that it happened for a reason. We may find meaning for ourselves in order to come to terms with tragedy, but no woman is raped in order to learn a lesson or become a better person.

I appreciate your honesty about not being the same person anymore. Sometimes friends fall away after tragedy and I hadn’t considered that the reason for that might be the changes and growth in the person who lost that friend. You explained that beautifully and gave me new insight.

anonymous Oct 25, 2015 1:47pm

A good friend of mine passed away today. Whenever tragedy hits I try to get lost in writing like this… But after reading “the death of a child” and then at the end of the article, “celebrate it.” It doesn’t sit well with me, makes me feel worse. Chloe’s mother, who couldn’t wake up her only child today.. She will change, yes… But nobody will be celebrating anything. I can understand this article if it were after abuse, but not after the death of a child.

    anonymous Oct 26, 2015 12:18am

    Shiraz.. after reading your comment, I agree. And I am sorry I used that word. I cannot image the horrific pain of losing a child. And it would never be a reason to celebrate. What we need to celebrate is the moment we can move past the horrible trauma of something like that and simply move forward. If we are even able to do that. Some people never can. My prayers and condolences go out to you and your friend's family.

anonymous Oct 25, 2015 10:31am

Trauma doesn't bring an automatic raising of spiritual vibration. One of the things that happens to people is that they can descend into a spiral of negative energy that is extremely destructive for their spirit. The entire dynamic of my family certainly changed when my son died, but it wasn't necessarily for the better. There is a great deal of truth here, but many, many people get stuck in trauma and don't know how to move on to the self they were meant to be. We should be mindful of the fact that they may need a great deal of help and they may not be able to accept it from the people they relied upon previously.

    anonymous Oct 28, 2015 1:49pm

    Well said. I think that it is easy to get caught up in the pain and suffering and forget that we need to fight our way out of it. The entire idea that we what we’ve experienced can be catastrophic. We can overcome so much with learning forgiveness, self evaluation and plain hard work. But it’s not easy. There are no quick fixes in life.

    anonymous Mar 26, 2016 10:37am

    Your statement added the finishing touches to the article that spoke to my heart and still what I am going through, lurking in the fog of trauma and clearing it one self-awareness moment at a time. Thank you.

anonymous Oct 23, 2015 1:14pm

This is so true. I find myself changing so much and some of those who were in my life just aren't willing to accept the new me. There's some of the old me left, but I'm not the same person I was and I never will be again.

anonymous Oct 22, 2015 3:55pm

So true. Thank you for elucidating my feelings.

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Dina Strada

Dina Strada is an LA based Event Planner, author and Intuitive Coach specializing in relationships and empowering women.  

A former featured author and top writer for elephant journal, her work has also appeared in multiple online publications including Huff Post, Thought Catalogue, Elite Daily, The Good Men Project, Your Tango, Medium, Chopra, Simply Women, Rebelle Society, Tiny Buddha and Thrive Global.  Download her FREE GUIDE on Breaking Unhealthy Relationship Patterns, subscribe to receive weekly relationship tips on her website , or stalk her on Facebook and Instagram