May 30, 2022

Unpacking Complex Trauma as an Adult is Real—& Messy.

The seductive rocket ships of my thoughts want to take me higher and higher away from the present from now and from what is—the allure of being in another place that is not either my mind or body.

A place of shiny, happy, and sparkly things has been one way of coping with the harsh, numbing, concrete reality that has been so much of my life.

The rocket ships lure me away from the present reality that is safe but not where I want to be—away from landing in the place of contemplating that it is three weeks away from 25 years since Dad committed suicide.

The reality is not pleasant. The anger and grumpiness, the range of nausea from processing feelings and trauma, and the flashbacks to things I would rather forget is not a place many people want to be, yet many of us are there too often. The weight of unprocessed trauma and ungrieved losses sit with many of us heavily.

The process of healing and unpacking complex trauma as an adult is like paying thrice for the trauma: once for the things that you didn’t have as a child, twice for the money, time, and energy involved in healing as an adult in a world that does not really see it or value it, and thirdly for all of the things and the life that you did not get the chance to create and comes for some later in life.

Society is keen to take my gifts and the magic that becomes clearer as I unpack the trauma, the ability to go to places emotionally that many cannot and the humour and ability to bring people together—yet the pain and the long shadow cast over my life as I was left to deal with so much heartbreak is not such a welcome guest.

Our systems don’t seem to recognise that trauma is real, and many people carry extraordinary pain and heartbreak with no easy way out. What looks like mad, crazy choices are generally the resulting demons of unprocessed pain when people reach breaking point.

I feel so often like I have a fiery roller coaster running through my head that takes me on a mad, crazy journey of so many highs and lows—to the place of the pain, of suicide, the numbness, anger, rage, fury, and plain heartbreak that is devastating to process, to the highs of exquisite tenderness, beauty, and the epicness of sitting on a surfboard at sunset watching the magical interplay of light and water and changing colours. It feels at times like I might burst and that I might be out of control as I feel things locked away forever in the deep, dark vault of my psyche.

As the skies become concrete in colour and I process and grapple with the highs and lows of Dad’s suicide, the flashbacks are punctured by the more sinister shadows of the rapes that came the year after he died in a place where I was meant to be safe. These destroyed what little sense of safety or trust I had left in the world.

The complex and messy legacy of Dad’s suicide and the sexual assaults seemed to destroy and take away so much of what I wanted and my ability to function, to be present or safe. My hopes and dreams of med school or law school and a Kiwi OE to London were never to be a thing.

What has followed has been 25 years of anger, crushing sadness, a sense I never mattered, never seeming to be able to get to where I wanted to be, numbness, relationships with people where I was never seen, and lots of therapy.

I am me despite the trauma and not because of it.

My experiences have nearly ruined my life, and yet I have pulled together something resembling a sane, stable, and calm existence; it is also on the way to being toward where I would like to be.

Trauma seems to be the invisible force that binds so much of the pain and toxicity in the world together at the moment with little acknowledgement.

In the shadow of plague as the world rushes back to something that is “normal,” maybe we would be better to slow down and examine what it would mean for society to begin the raw process of adulting individually and collectively and how it could be different.



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