Dear Trauma Survivor,
I know you may feel cut off from your body, like you can't feel it or you don't even know where it is in space.
I know you may feel like your mind is trapped in a cage, the bars holding you in a life you don't quite understand or want.
I know it’s a battle most people can’t see and that you spend effort trying to shield your loved ones from.
I also know you are fighting with all you've got to get yourself back.
I know you might not even know who that is right now.
And I know you’re afraid you don’t even have a self to get back to.
I know because I’ve been there, in the unknowingness, the confusion, the trying to make sense of the world again. And can I share something with you?
The part no one tells you is that after trauma your starting over, your piecing your life back together, it looks radically different than before.
It looks so different, you probably don’t even recognize it or know what it is.
But I guarantee you that you’re doing it, even if you can’t see it.
Because what changes is that your forward will be microcosmically small. So small you probably don’t even see that you’re doing it.
The microcosm, the small part, that may be all you can see right now. You may not be able to see who you used to be…you can only see Right. Now. Because that’s how it’s supposed to be, it’s how your brain is helping you survive. It’s focused like a laser on the NOW. It has narrowed your focus and put blinders on for you because it thinks this focus is keeping you alive - and maybe it is. Maybe if you had to figure out where that old you went or grapple with this new you, it would be too much.
So dive in, focus on the microcosm. You know that expression you can’t see the forest for the trees? Well, you literally CAN’T see the forest right now, it’s biology and survival instinct. So be gentle and know that a narrow focus, a looking only at the trees, is a normal stage of your recovery.
And then pat yourself on the back for the forward movement. The quick texting exchange with a friend. The asking for help. The coming out from under the covers five minutes faster than yesterday. The pinning of a quote on your fridge. The looking at the gym schedule. The getting dressed when you could have stayed in your pajamas all day. The deep breath you remembered to take once today. The food you got in even though you have no appetite.
Look at ALL the ways you are moving forward. Find them. Seek them. Write them down. Celebrate them. Sure, they’re not your giant moving forward steps of before. Yet, if you take a second to think about it, these small steps likely take much more effort than those giant steps you used to easily take. So celebrate the effort and the small steps! Ask those around you to point them out to you to share in your success, it may help them understand that these little steps are like 500 of your before steps.
And then as you go about your journey remember this: success has ups and downs. And with trauma, in the midst of those ups and downs, there are messy parts in the middle. Dark parts.
Parts where you feel lost. There’s just darkness. But even in that darkness, there’s movement. That finding your up from down, that feeling around for the solid walls in the empty space around you, that padding the walls to find the light switch – THAT’s your forward.
Your whole world has shifted and the world is askew. You now have to find what’s true for you. And that takes being lost and stumbling and fumbling because not only are you healing physically but you’re also examining every single belief you have to see if it still holds true for this version of you.
Those forwards and backs, the darkness, the small steps, you need all of it. Because you’re building yourself a whole new world and that takes experimenting.
And that stumbling, fumbling, taking a breath and stumbling and fumbling again and again for as many times as it takes, that’s your heartbeat, your soul, not letting you stop. Because it wants to be here. It wants to choose life. It’s telling you in every little small step it guides you to take.
And it takes incredible strength and courage to keep going because there is no map, no guide, there is only you. YOU will find your own way, create your own recovery roadmap. And THAT is starting again.
THAT is forward.
THAT is fighting.
THAT is not giving up.
THAT is the new you – the you who knows the darkness but still seeks the light.
The you who knows your small steps matter.
And I know you can find your way because you’re HERE. That alone is no small feat and tells me everything about how strong and determined you are.
So go forward, focus on the trees. You'll see the forest again eventually. With much love and colossal amounts of respect for your journey,