People are not meant to endure trauma. In fact, the original design of this world and humanity did not include pain and suffering. Unfortunately, that did not last and we are left in a world that is filled with hate, evil, and violence. The atrocities perpetrated by evil people and the things that people have to do to survive in order to defend this country and our families, causes deep and painful wounds. These wounds ooze and bleed into our souls, poisoning our lives, our families, our jobs, and our very existence. The sad fact is that no one can ever be fully prepared or trained to handle some of the things that are thrown at us in this life. Because we are not fully able to understand the concept of dealing with pain and trauma until it happens to us or a loved one, we are usually left ragged and suffocating with the weight of what we are experiencing. This overwhelming sense of chaos, the heavy weight that sits on your chest all day and creates horrific nightmares when you try to get some sleep to drive away the demons, can destroy us if it’s not dealt with.
In this society, there is a stigma towards mental health needs, leading to so many broken and hurting people trying desperately to chase the demons on their own with no real sense of how to do it, searching for anything that will bring temporary relief. Because of this, often people turn to self-destructive and self-harming behaviors to numb the pain or to feel “something” even if it hurts. There are many ways that people try to “handle” the emotional turmoil that they are experiencing. One of the problems with self-destructive and self-harming behaviors is that they are usually addictive, create even more chaos in your life, and never truly fix the pain that you are feeling. Because people are experiencing trauma at younger and younger ages, children, especially are at risk of this as they do not have the cognitive or emotional maturity to understand and deal with pain and trauma. I have seen and experienced this additional struggle and destruction in both my personal and my professional life. So many men and women who have not been able to find help or even know that they need to ask for help, have spiraled out of control into a dizzying cycle of destruction that began with untreated trauma. Some of these men and women were are so caught in their spiral of self-destruction and self-harm that they do things they would probably never do were they been clearly and been able to heal from what they experienced.
I want to talk a little bit about what I mean by self-destructive and self-harming behavior. I think society has done a pretty good job of illuminating drug and alcohol addiction, and to a lesser degree, behaviors like cutting. However, these are just the beginning of what can be destructive to your soul and your life. People who are struggling with untreated trauma reactions and emotions that are overwhelming, engage in many other behaviors that cause harm. Addiction to food, gambling, sex, pornography, anger, perfectionism, control and order, are some of the behaviors that come to mind. This list may surprise someone, especially if they see something there that they recognize in themselves. This is because our defense mechanisms come into play when the behaviors we’ve engaged in to escape from the pain and emotions of what has happened to us are pointed out to be destructive. Any behavior that you engage in to escape from reality that interferes with your personal or professional life, or that causes harm to yourself or someone else, is a self-destructive and self-harming behavior. Some on that list, society has even managed to convince people is healthy, normal, and an acceptable solution or behavior for when you are struggling. I wholeheartedly disagree, these behaviors take a deep suffering and add more fuel to that fire, resulting in significant harm and sometimes have fatal consequences. That is why these behaviors are so enticing…the mentality of the “everyone else is doing it so it must be fine” belief is what allows us to continue hurting ourselves or someone else. But beyond that, escaping from the demons in your mind is a lot easier than turning around and beating them down for good. It is much easier to give into to what temporarily makes us feel good than it is to endure the temporary discomfort of treating the trauma that haunts you.
But that is the thing with trauma, no matter how effectively you temporarily distract from your pain, as soon as you sober up, as soon as you stop cutting or watching pornography, or the anger explodes, you are still left with the trauma and emotions you couldn’t deal with in the first place. Escaping from the pain is not the answer, it is part of the problem. In order to truly make the pain go away, to “numb” the pain that you are feeling, is to deal with the trauma. In order to find permanent relief from the demons that haunt your steps, you have to turn around and fight back. If you continue to give in and escape rather than fight back, you will never truly be free. Self-destructive and self-harming behaviors leave you lonelier and more broken than you were during the trauma. We must choose to fight this battle everyday. If we do not choose to fight for our lives and our sanity than no one else will do that for us. Hurting yourself and others is not going to fix the pain, it won’t make the memories go away, it will just temporarily numb the suffering. Beating this demon requires you to choose to not hurt yourself because of another person’s actions towards you. Continuing to hurt yourself and others because of the things that you experienced lets the perpetrators win. Stop letting those who do harm control and defeat you long after the trauma has stopped. Choose to let go and love yourself in spite of the fact that someone else didn’t. Self-destructive and self-harming behavior can be defeated, but you have to decide that you are worth the battle and that you will no longer let the evil perpetrated against you win. Choose to love yourself and choose to fight back…Don’t let them win anymore.