Trauma Magnified

When you experience something horrible, something that leaves you scarred and broken, you think, this is it. You believe, naively, that this is going to be the only thing that you will have to overcome, the only thing that you will have to endure. For some this is true, and they are infinitely fortunate that their tragedy, their trauma has only one ending. But for so many of us, the trauma doesn’t stop. There are many additional traumas in our lives that we continually have to endure, to survive. That’s the part that is hard to understand. Why do we have to survive more than one horrific event, why can’t we have a break from all the pain and suffering just for a minute? I am a survivor of the Columbine High School massacre. You would think that’s enough, but it wasn’t. I’ve also been violently attacked at a train station, where my life was in imminent danger. Then I was woken in the middle of the night by my husband screaming that our house was on fire. In the 30 seconds that his alarm allowed me to get our infant son and all of us get downstairs, our lives could have all ended. Because after that 30 seconds, the fire broke through the patio door of our bedroom and filled the room with incapacitating smoke. If my husband hadn’t woken up and seen the fire, we would have not survived. Once our home was put out and we were all safe, I recognized the familiar PTSD symptoms inching their way into my consciousness again. I had fought like hell to heal and to survive after the shootings, and I hoped I would never have to experience the numbing, the flashbacks, the nightmares ever again…but PTSD never goes away. You can control the symptoms, but when you experience another life threatening trauma, those symptoms are right there to incapacitate you again. That’s the thing with trauma. One is bad enough, but even after you heal and move forward in life, that trauma response has laid a foundation in your conscious. Afterwards, you see everything differently, you respond differently, you exist differently. Any trauma after the initial one becomes trauma on steroids…trauma magnified. The magnification of additional traumas afterwards also leads to the magnification of those PTSD symptoms. What this means is that once you’ve experienced trauma, after you’ve fought through hell to reclaim some type of normal existence where you’re more than just surviving, you’re never truly free from the consequences. This is something that is really hard to accept. I really want to be free, to be mentally healthy, to remove the scars of all the horrible things I’ve survived in my life. But they are scars for a reason. They leave a permanent mark on our consciousness and our mind. You have to accept that this is normal and that you are not crazy when those scars begin to show again. When trauma becomes magnified, again, you have to fight back, again. It’s exhausting and it feels impossibly unfair that you have to do this all over again, but you survived once, you will survive again.

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