Updated: May 21, 2020
Hey, I'm back to beating this dead horse. Have you developed your trauma narrative yet?
Previously, I wrote about the practice as a useful piece of the trauma journey. Now, I'm encouraging members to share their inspiring tales of trauma domination and true motherfuckery on the Contribute section of the site. To help out, I thought I would provide two quick examples of Trauma Narrative approaches; the birdseye and the granular methods.
If you ask me, you should do both. But you might feel more inclined or more safe approaching one before than the other. Maybe you're drawn to a particular unsettled event right now, or maybe you need to pull your head out of the clouds to take a larger view of your life. You decide. Ask your therapist. Don't on too much.
Here, I'd like to share a birdseye trauma narrative as a quick example. Let's wrap up some of my worst memories into one uplifting tale. Remember: This is a personal exercise, and you can write your narrative however it would behoove you! There is a form located here with useful prompts, but this is meant to suite your needs and your processing style.
Before I was born, I was surrounded by trauma. My family was toxic, abusive, and damaged before I entered the picture. My childhood was not safe or stable. My parents and brothers were abusive, and addiction ruled the household. It was violent and chaotic. I didn’t know how to react or how to feel about these people who were supposed to protect me. I started to isolate and internalize what was happening.
Throughout my childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, I met adversity time and time again. There was never a sense of stability, security, or calm. Still, I kept my head down and worked hard. I earned great grades at school without any provocation because I learned that this was a "safe" behavior. Years later, thanks to my high achievement, I left the shit town where drug addictions sprouted and put myself through college. I worked my ass off and wormed my way into cellular cancer research, where I was given new opportunities and acknowledged for my determination.
Unfortunately, in the midst of my academic prime, I overworked my body into an autoimmune stress response and overworked my shitty attitude into pushing my closest friends away. I fell into a year of near-bedridden living mixed with social isolation and unending self-shame. In the subsequent 3-4 years, I fell into a pattern of self-isolation, self-shame, and self-sabotage; often swinging between binge/purge eating patterns, drinking unhealthy amounts, and agoraphobia. I maintained my day job and appeared fine externally, but internally I was a total wreck.
After years of working successfully but unhappily in science, I left the industry and moved several states to be with a man who turned out to be more similar to my childhood upbringing than anticipated. Life became very frightening and insecure. I was met with all-new challenges as my anxiety, depression, and trauma responses went haywire. Without social support, I crumbled, and became an anxious shell of a human being. In financial desperation, I picked up a job that brought new abuse and harassment into my life so I could be assaulted on all fronts.
I wasted many years in this toxic environment before finally getting the strength I needed to leave. I hit the road with a bag of belongings and nowhere to go; I lost everything we had built together and all false-security. I entered a new phase of financial and social void. And here I am, still in it, today.
The hard lessons:
My scientific and academic successes were undoubtedly tied to my prior life experiences. I never would have been so determined, vigilant, and responsible to thrive in competitive environments if I hadn’t lived through the past 20 years of chaos. I learned to be diligent, prepared, and strong because of my experiences. I was a different beast than my peers.
My abusive relationship is a point of pain and shame in my life. I gave up everything and lost it all. It set me back and pulled me lower than ever before. However, it was this connection that brought me away from home and necessitated making room for mental health recovery. From this misery, I finally felt that I needed to seek professional help. Getting personalized trauma education put the pieces of my disorganized life back together, and empowered me to visualize a better future. Enduring increasing violence and emotional abuse pushed me to dive deeper into learning about trauma and creating something positive for the world. This site only exists because of my suffering.
The integrating narrative:
Trauma has always impacted my life, and it has certainly held me back at times. I've made mistakes, but they have usually been directly caused by my honest survival attempts. I was an innocent little kid, and I didn't understand how to cope with what I saw. Because of the abusive pieces of shit in my distant past, I am a changed human being and I have many difficult days. But I don’t feel powerless and I don't let assholes decide my fate anymore. I’ve already proven that I’m more powerful than my abuse. I don’t need to live in fear or relive old memories.
As a kid, I didn’t let abuse, addiction, or financial restrictions determine my fate; I found a way out of my hometown and my familiar patterns. Although there have been setbacks since and along the way, I built a better life for myself. No matter how many times I was pushed under water, I always rose to the top. And I always will.
As an adult, I have the insight, the power, and the agency to create a better world every day. From my past experiences, I've learned too much to stay quiet. I'm uniquely equipped to become a mental health supporter in the modern era - sharing my own shit for the purpose of improving our larger society by impacting individual lives with community and open ears.
I'm not perfect. I'm not infallible. I'm not free from future mistakes. But I'm integrating my past with my present every day to create an intentional life, aimed at helping others do the same.