Packing Up The Trauma

Moving Day

When I was growing up, I never grew up. I grew upward. I grew taller as most kids do. But many aspects of my development stopped at a very young age. While my brain grew intellectually, my unprocessed emotions from my traumatic experiences thwarted my reliance on emotional intelligence and intuition. I had shut all of that down. And while I grew taller, I hid most of my unprocessed experiences in my body which resulted in chronic bouts with pain for many years.

There is much discussion in the therapeutic community about how much recovery is possible when acute (one time) trauma becomes complex (chronic and inescapable) trauma. Most trauma experts are convinced that recovery can be extensive, but may never reach “full” recovery (whatever that may mean). As Dr. Bruce Perry stated in The Boy Who Was Raised As a Dog, “she [his patient] will always love with an accent”.

I have always been optimistic about my recovery. I am willful and not afraid to go to the dark, shadow places in my psyche. For years, I have thought I could erase the affects completely, living a life that is untouched by my previous trauma. I have been told I am asking for too much by more than one trauma-focused clinician. But I can’t help it. I see the affects of my work. I see the emotional, mental and physical symptoms of my trauma falling away. I know the person I was before recovery and I know who I am now. So while I will keep my expectations in check, I can’t help but reach for the stars. And I keep looking for the signs that I am, in fact, beating trauma.

Sometimes, those signs come while I sleep. Over the years, I have had some horrible dreams and nightmares. As a novice dream-interpreter, I have learned how to use those dreams as steps in my recovery. They have provided great insight. So when I dreamt about a house the other day, I knew it was supposed to represent me. This is not my first dream about this house. It is vast with many rooms and people. They aren’t all pleasant people as you might imagine. And in the past, many of the rooms have been locked, burned, flooded and otherwise left unusable. I have never been able to fully ascertain the full number and size of the rooms in this house. But the other day, something was different. The house was a bit quieter than I have experienced before. Some of the main rooms were empty. Other rooms had open doors for the first time. It looked as though it was moving day. As I went to the front door and peered outside, there were hundreds of boxes on the sidewalk in front of the house.

These would be the boxes I packed as a child. Back then, I didn’t know where to put things. Nobody ever taught me how to process trauma, and if they had, I would not have been able to fully grasp the concept. I was too young. So I took my nasty experiences, packed them in a bunch of boxes and shoved them away in rooms. I locked the doors and swallowed the keys. I made them inaccessible (or so I thought). As a kid, it was the only thing I could do.

So now, it is moving day. The boxes are on the steps and the rooms are open. A large portion of my house is ready to be redecorated using my new adult-understanding of who I am and who I will become. As I walk through my house, it is a beautiful opportunity for me to become the self I was intended to be, without the trauma. But it is scary. As the old “stuff” slips away, I feel … empty. The old identity, the victim identity, the worthless identity, is moving out, but the new has not yet come. It is as though, there is nothing. It is as though, I am nothing.

And nobody wants to be nothing. It is ok when we are children. We are supposed to be a blank slate when we are children, even teenagers. We are supposed to be discovering who we are and what we want to be. But at 42 years old, it is a little late to be nothing. It is a little late to begin again.

Or is it? Is there really another choice? I guess I could stay the victim. But if I want to be something other than the victim, and believe me I do, I have to clear it away. I have to move it out. I have to make room for the new. So I could have done it in my twenties or thirties. Or I could do it in my forties, or even eighties. But it must be done if I want to move forward.

So I sit with my empty house and I contemplate what it means to have nothing in so many of my rooms. I think about what I would like my life to become. I think about who I would like to be. But I don’t know how it will manifest. I can’t know yet. I have to wait with my nothingness, my emptiness.

Because the truck is coming with my new stuff.

And I get to put it wherever I want.

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33 thoughts on “Packing Up The Trauma

  1. I love hearing about your dream.

    Reminds me of one of mine…

    For over a decade, I’ve dreamt of a little girl in a dress, drowning.

    And I can’t save her.

    I know she is me. I know she is my inner child.

    The other day after a phenomenal therapy session and a letter sent to one of my abusers..

    I saw that little girl trip off the dock and fall into the water. I dove after her and this time, I caught her by the ankle. And I pulled her up to the grass.

    I’m so happy, I have tears in my eyes.

    I finally caught her.

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  2. Dear Elizabeth,
    My heart does leaps and feels the queasiness hearing this portion of your journey! We (my being multiple) understand you clearly and can relate to the rooms in the house and the fear of letting go into the vast nothingness re-integration of life. What a gift you’ve been given!! A DO OVER, MAKE OVER and full on house renovation!! You get to paint the rooms of your life with a new story of rejuvenation, love, joy and comfort and fill those rooms with confidence, renewed insight to your giftings, your dreams, your love and hope! I’m so encouraged by this and yet understand your fears perfectly as I forge on the path to healing and finding that place where I too may have a house of horrors turn into something beautiful and what I deserved! My many rooms house alters that have suffered horrendous abuse and I hope that one day I can reach a place in healing where we rend our heart un barricading, un flooding, unpacking the years of torture, abuse and pain to live again. Thank you for your beautiful message and I have something to share with you. Often times when I feel nothing at all, I dwell on quotes, verses and things that remind me we’re human…EVEN IF I might not feel it. You blog does that for us for us also and I’m so grateful!

    “A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown.” ~Denis Waitley

    You are an inspiration Elizabeth to all survivors, but to us especially as I forge a similar healing journey and look to your insight and wisdom in the process.

    Blessing in this New Year filling those spaces to overflowing with all good things! May all your hope and DREAMS be realized the heartbeat of this day and always!
    ~K and Destany;s House

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  3. I’m hoping for a full recovery in my wife too as the other girls join her and add so much to her that was always missing in the past. Good luck and I hope your truck arrives soon.

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  4. The greatest work I have ever done is to take my baggage out and start going through it. ❤ I look forward to dreaming of my now empty house as well!

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    • If you are aware of your baggage and are not afraid to go through it, you will be starting over too. Its only a matter of time. Good luck on your journey and thank you for connecting with me.

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  5. This brought tears to my eyes. I know it is possible to fully recover because I hear these stories, and though it can take many years, it is so worth it. I too had so much chronic pain for two decades, so many symptoms I never understood. It has taken body work three times a week, for free from a friend, to release chronic tension in my body and I can’t believe how I was supposed to feel, now I feel so much better. I had a dream last night I was in a beautiful room, not a scary or confusing room at last and I opened the door and outside was the most beautiful countryside I’d ever seen! Steps every day ..thank you for sharing, sounds as if you have many exciting things coming your way.

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    • Thank you for your message. I too stopped growing emotionally at about the age of a 1 year old. During therapy I went back to being that 1 year old and was mothered as I grew and developed to being an adult now. I too had many dreams. God spoke to me in dreams. My therapist interpreted many of my other dreams. I had migraines but not chronic pain like you. It must be awful. I was labeled as being mentally ill and am still fighting to be seen as healthy and well, even by my own children. I had breakdowns caused by the trauma of the past. I wasn’t mentally ill. It will take years for my children to see me as well even though I haven’t had a breakdown for 7 years.
      Regards
      Rita

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      • There is such a stigma to mental illness and it is hard to break. But the reality is that most breakdowns are caused by trauma. We are focused on “what is wrong with you” but the focus should be “what happened to you”.

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    • Thank you Jane. That dream sounds absolutely wonderful. From our discussions, I have some sense of how much recovery work you have done. You are on a remarkable journey and I am glad to know you.

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  6. Yes, I love that you reach for the stars Elisabeth! I believe in a full recovery. Transforming trauma into powerful healing energy is possible and
    It’s our goal.

    I too had horrible nightmares for so many years. I haven’t had one in 4 years. Not one! I know I’m healing and I’m so grateful. My dreams also guide my healing and provide insightful clues about my progress. They are a great insight tool.

    I also love your accepting being a blank slate so you can step into your power & light in your own time. Your openness & willingness to look at possibilities without limits is inspiring. Thank you.

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    • Thank you Donna! I love hearing how far your recovery has taken you too. I am so inspired by all the comments on this blog post from survivors who are doing amazing things in recovery.

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  7. There are probably kinds of trauma that can’t heal: neglect that is so total a child can’t develop language or cognitive skills, for example. Lack of connection that’s so extreme, the child never develops a conscience or the capacity for empathy. That is not us. We can heal. I’m convinced.

    But I’ve given up on the approach you’re working on. It might work for you, but it didn’t work for me. I packed up all that stuff, and I can’t get rid of it. What I need to do is make it a part of my life. I am reminded very often of that expression: I won’t die of it, but I will die with it. I don’t know if that’s true precisely, but it’s a long process and in the meantime I have to find a way to live with it. I felt worthless as a child, that’s true. People saw me as worthless, I noticed, I felt that. It hurt. Sometimes, I’m going to be reminded of that and it’s going to hurt again. I’m going to get a little flood of worthlessness, just like other people get a little flood of happiness when they are reminded of a pleasant memory. Fine. I’ll be patient with myself when that happens. I’ll be kind. I’ll be everything my parents who did not parent were not. Eventually, the floods of it might get smaller, but in the meantime I am using my worthlessness to learn how to be kind.

    The memory of worthlessness will remain there in my livingroom. It is a reminder that everyone needs basic human dignity. It is a reminder of how much it hurts when someone is deprived of it. It will stay there, and I will try to use it to make something beautiful out of it. I’ll try to use it to help me become someone who is kinder and more compassionate–to myself and to others–because I know more than most people how much suffering is involved in life and how much all need kindness.

    I can’t become the person I would have been without trauma, but I can be the best person I can use my trauma to make myself into.

    I think society holds up the untraumatized person as the desirable person to be. We are told implicitly, that we need to be like people who haven’t seen the kind of evil you and I have seen. I don’t agree. We need to be our best selves, and that involves being people who have experienced trauma. It’s what we can make out of it that is healing–not getting rid of it.

    Just some thoughts. I don’t know what you think of that approach.

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    • I think the imagery from my dream may be misleading in a way. I believe the physical and emotional impact of the trauma can go, but the process is more of an integration. In my case, I integrate the parts of me that separated because of the trauma. As they integrate, they can let go of the dysfunctional affects of the trauma, but keep the good stuff, the strength, the courage, the compassion, the understanding, the patience. I know what you are saying about society desiring an untraumatized person, but I believe someone who has been traumatized and has recovered is much more valuable. Just like you said above, you have compassion on a different level than an untraumatized person and you always will.

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      • You said neglect was so damaging and could leave permanent damage. I found being abandoned one of the worst traumas to overcome. Being abandoned many times and taken in by carers, some of whom abused me too, led to my not wanting to be too much trouble in later life in case I was abandoned. I then just presented with no needs.
        Regards
        Rita Duncan

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  8. This was very close to our hearts to read. It put into words what we never could. We sat with an empty house for years. It is just now that we learn to fill it back up. It was really hard to shed that we are survivors. Not that we still aren’t but that it no longer makes up the entirety of our being.

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    • I completely understand that. I think it is about shedding the bad and keeping the good. While I don’t know how to do that intellectually, my system seems to be able to do that organically as I increase my awareness. I am glad to connect with you.

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  9. I see a clear vision of my healed self. I call it the Vortex. Abraham Hicks. Law of Attraction has had a huge impact on my recovery. Lists of positive aspects. Gratitude. Getting in touch with your desires and needs. Getting into the “feeling” place of what is wanted. HUGE. I now know I can have anything I want, and that my life is a manifestation of what is inside. That I am the creator of my reality. My feelings about things fuel my world and create what happens to me. If you can believe it, you can achieve it. If you’re not achieving it, it means you don’t believe it. One must only focus on what is wanted, and allow abundance to flow. The resistance is the negative core beliefs–the wobble. Anything that is aligned with source is positive and good. When you feel negative emotion it is because you’re not aligned with source, in fact, this is a key indicator. Negative motion is anti-source, anti-truth. For the truth is you are love and you are light. Unconditional love. And as child abuse survivors, our task is to remove the barriers to the truth that is within… If you don’t know where you’re going, you never get there… you are in default. Knowing what you want and getting into the vibrational match of it is the ultimate way to get out of the shell, in MHO.

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  10. I often have a dream about being in a large house and always one of the upper rooms is haunted. I’m always terrified of that room and know that terrible demons and ghosts live in that room…. Thank you for sharing your dreams. My story is similar to yours yet I grew up in Baltimore, the daughter of a Biker gang (the Pagans). Now that I’m a Mom, the triggers are daily. I’m a work in progress. Thanks for your blog. I wish I knew of a group where one could talk about these things to people without the inevitable “mouth hanging open in disbelief” that I often get.

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    • Thank you for commenting Faith. It is nice to meet you. I am sorry to hear that your story is similar to mine. I have a virtual forum which is still in growth mode, but you are welcome to join that. There is a link on the menu bar.

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