Oh man. I definitely got this message growing up and that is exactly how I taught myself to get through some of the worse times of my life. I discounted my own experience by saying to myself “it isn’t as bad as this other person’s experience so what am I crying about?” And each time any feelings around it came to the surface I would dismiss them all over again with the same thought.
A subsidiary to that is ‘it could be worse’. While that has been helpful in not letting myself fall down a rabbit hole of despair at times, it has also allowed me to dismiss critical feelings related to traumas and other events. Sure I do not want to get all caught up ‘this happened and so now that is what I am’, but I do not want to skip right over the experience with the magic of a fast forward button. No healing comes from that.
We don’t want thinking to keep us down and make us believe we are an eternal victim, but discounting that we have been victimized is not the remedy. In fact, I believe it complicates trauma recovery. There are three places to be in recovery…
1) The place where you talk about it all the time.
2) The place where you don’t want to talk about it.
3) The place where you don’t need to talk about it.
I have known survivors who make sure everyone knows that they are a survivor. Everyone knows their story and many have heard it more than once.
Telling your story is VITAL in recovery!!! Let me make that clear. In the first stages of recovery you need to tell your story to whomever will listen. It is imperative that you tell your story. But that is the first stage of recovery, you shouldn’t still be feeling you need to share your story all the time if you are 5, 10, 15, and 20 years past it. That’s a complication.
“I don’t want to talk about it” is never a healthy place to be. Not on day one. Not on day 10,999. Now, on day one, it is understandable and normal…and actually, maybe it is healthy in that the mind and body and spirit all need some time to process and maybe you aren’t a verbal processor usually. However, the longer you go without speaking about it, the more difficult it becomes.
It is much like receiving a traumatic wound. There it is, fresh, gaping, bleeding and painful. The first thing you do is cover it. And you want to keep it covered. You don’t want the lose more blood. You don’t want anything to aggravate it. You don’t want to see it. But then you have to assess the damage. You have to give it attention before infection sets it. You need to maybe have stitches to bring the edges together so it can heal cleaner.
Same with an emotional trauma wound. You might need to tell your story to the police. To the medical team. To loved ones. To your employer. They will all need to understand the changes that are now in place. Because that is what traumas do. They change us on a cellular level.
But when you get stuck in ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ you are not processing through the pain to get to the healing part. Instead of hitting ‘fast forward’ you are actually hitting ‘pause’.
Lastly, there is ‘I don’t need to talk about it’ anymore. You’ve told the story during the early healing phase. You’ve shared it openly with anyone who needed to hear for their own healing process or with whom you are in an intimate relationship. But you aren’t bringing it up at cocktail parties. You aren’t putting it on job applications. And you aren’t, 15 years later telling all the new people you meet.
In the later stages of recovery and after recovery, you talk about it when it is relevant, when it is helpful or when you are building new intimate relationships. There is a difference between ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ and ‘I don’t need to talk about it’. Initially, those who don’t want to talk about it, might say they don’t need to talk about it, but that is a lie. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but telling your story in the beginning is imperative to getting to the place where you don’t need to tell it anymore.
Those who don’t need to talk about it are in that place because they have already talked about it. They have taken back their power from the experience and now that event has no more power than that day back in high school when they tripped and fell on the stairs.
If you’ve healed, trauma becomes just another event that helped shape you, not define you.
I love you