I may be an unlikely member of Elephant Journal, but that is precisely what makes me the perfect person, reminding the person on the other side of the screen reading this that, yes, emotional trauma happens to the best of us.
However, how we choose to respond to it is what defines us, and no matter how many times we break apart in the process, only to put the pieces back together, it is absolutely normal.
The emotional trauma happened in varying degrees and at different phases of my life—loss of loved ones, experiencing unfavorable conditions, and whatnot (putting it mildly, of course). However, my undoing was not being able to recognize my internal suffering to start the healing. Over time, it kept building up, only for my life to finally crumble. I felt lost, like a child.
It was only when I decided to confide in my good friend about my recent emotional breakdowns that it was brought to my attention that I, in fact, had unresolved trauma hidden underneath all those layers that defined the very being that I was. For many, it has to do with childhood trauma as well.
“It gets worse before it gets better”—this was rightly said, as it became even more apparent when I started reading up on the subject matter and realized the severe degree of emotional pain that people have suffered due to situations that were well out of their control. I also realized that my trauma only became worse because now, I was not just thinking about myself—I was also thinking of the injustice that has been done to many.
All in all, what we can do for ourselves before it gets too late is try understanding how, what, and why we are feeling what we are feeling. The ideal situation would be to seek professional help to get the ball rolling. However, there is no harm in trying to find answers ourselves as well.
Let’s first discuss the many signs that indicate we might be experiencing emotional trauma but are unaware of.
Subtle signs of emotional trauma that we might be missing:
>> We go in a trance or simply check out from reality
>> Unknowingly start negative self-talk
>> Experience loss of self-esteem
>> Have difficulty sleeping or feel the need to keep sleeping
>> Feel the need to have music on to battle the thoughts within
>> Losing the need to be around people and isolating oneself
>> Having trouble developing intimate relationships, be it romantic or platonic
>> Having sudden bouts of nervous breakdowns and feeling unable to function
>> Having triggers that we are unaware of, leading to a rush of negative emotions overtaking us
>> Feeling a certain heaviness over our mind that affects our productivity and an otherwise sharp version of ourselves
>> Sabotaging healthy and well-meaning relationships out of fears or clinging too tightly
>> The constant lingering feeling of hopelessness and negativity
>> Losing a sense of direction and goal in life
>> Slowly losing confidence and developing social anxiety
>> Having trouble communicating clearly with coworkers
>> A dramatic change in appetite
>> Increased new sensitivity to loud noises, smells, or other things
>> Having trouble finding joy in things we once felt alive in
Remember that trauma is felt differently for everyone, and these signs are just a few of many that could be experienced by people. So, do not write these indications in stone, but they are felt on varying degrees by everyone suffering, nonetheless.
Overcoming trauma and beginning the healing process:
The healing is surprisingly more painful, as it pushes us to confront our most vulnerable self and, above all, come face-to-face with the events, instances, or circumstances that have pushed us to the edge of something we never knew could exist in our life.
So before we dive into some of the ways that allowed me to crawl my way out of the misery that kept breaking me down and transforming me into something I didn’t want to be, we need to understand that this process will ask all of us, our energy, and willpower. We will experience several breakdowns and mind-numbing moments, but this is necessary; it is a must if we seek to come out victorious.
Shall we begin?
>> Sit with yourself and decide once and for all that enough is enough.
>> Remind yourself of the amazing human being you are and that you deserve to live a better and happy life (one that only you can create for yourself).
>> If you hold religious values and believe in higher powers, you should indulge in prayers, asking for guidance.
>> Find your center through meditation, yoga, or therapy.
>> Once you feel in control of your emotions, remind yourself of everything traumatic that has transpired, leaving you tattered. This will be hard, but it is necessary. Because if you don’t address it now, then you are opening more dangerous ways for denial and a constant loop of running away, finding escapes in unhealthy things or people.
>> Evaluate yourself and how you can do better or bring change within you to become emotionally strong.
>> Build a close-knit circle of supportive family members and friends—your safety net.
>> Connect with nature—it is the most beautiful of healers.
>> Bring nature into your home space and nurture it.
>> Be mindful of your triggers, and if you cannot avoid them, then work on your response to them—one that does not include losing yourself, but nodding at it as you go about your day.
>> Immediately exit situations and shut down conversations that make you feel bad about yourself or make you uncomfortable in any way—practice boundaries and exercise them religiously.
>> Acceptance—accept all things that have occurred or happened to you. This is one of the most powerful ways to your healing.
As I wrote this, I realized how far I have come. There was once a time when I would break down speaking about such a matter, and today, I feel like I have to pay it forward. I stopped worrying about things that I cannot change; I stopped exhausting myself with obsessive thoughts about what has happened and how differently I could have handled it; I stopped.
In the end, it is all about how gracefully you let it go.