It seems like everywhere you turn these days someone is talking about trauma. And I think that’s a good thing because trauma really is something we will all deal with, sooner or later.
I grew up in a chaotic household. My parents split up when I was only 2 and my first memory is of my mother sleeping on a mattress in the corner of my room. Even at that tender age, I knew something was wrong. She remarried when I was 6 and things were good but eventually there were financial problems and my mom’s drinking became problematic. I was cared for and fed, I had a nice house and pretty clothes, but there was a level of uncertainty to my day-to-day life that has had a lasting effect on me. There were big emotional events, like the time my stepfather threw my brother through a window and the police came or the time my mother and I got in a car accident when she was driving after drinking too much. There were also daily events, like fights that lead to tears or stony silences, dinners that went uneaten because someone said the wrong thing, and early bedtimes to escape the tension in the room. In other words, I never quite knew what to expect and I walked on eggshells. A lot. The uncertainty of what was about to happen, the anxious feeling of always waiting for the other shoe to drop, impacted my view of the world immensely. The trauma of my childhood experiences has been long lasting and is something I work constantly to understand and overcome.
I’ve also had trauma in my adult life, like the time my husband got hit by a car while he was mowing our lawn. I’m so grateful that when that happened, I was already under the care of a therapist and we immediately worked on how I was processing the experience. And when I say immediately, I mean that I had a phone call with her the same day as the accident. And I talked with her daily for several days afterwards. I still had panic attacks and incredible anxiety but we dealt with it quickly and the lasting impact of that trauma has been fairly mild.
I shared with my therapist recently this analogy: dealing with trauma is like dealing with weeds. If you get to it quickly, before the roots have gotten deep and had a chance to really take hold, you can get rid of it. If you don’t get to it quickly and it’s allowed to grow and spread inside of you, it’s much harder to remove. Those roots can be so deep and incredibly difficult to eradicate completely and sometimes, even when you yank one hard enough to pull it up, it multiples into a bunch of new (smaller) things that you have to deal with instead. That’s what dealing with childhood trauma has been like for me. Deep roots. Widespread damage. Problematic regrowth.
And yet, there are times when I feel like the weeds of trauma are gone and I’m flourishing like a beautiful garden. That the weeds that are left have shallow roots. That maybe this consistent digging and yanking we’ve been doing is actually working.
And I’m filled with the hope that one day the flowers will outnumber the weeds for good.