• jess

How it feels "recovering" from Trauma Brain

Found this in my old posts from my older site version of Traumatized Motherfuckers, circa Spring 2019. The long lost works from my early trauma-writing days.

(I wouldn't be a perfectionist self-sacrificer if I didn't create things, tell myself they suck, and abandon them, would I?)

You know, there's some okay content. I'll leave this here. Fuck it. It's proof that I've always been a sassy little shit.

What's it like LIVING with Complex Trauma? Like an impossibly steep mountain climb.

Living on the edge

At most points in my life, it feels like I’ve been teetering dangerously close to a steep ledge. The rock beneath my feet is my mental health, and the free fall is my life as it comes crashing down without a stable base.

Even small stimuli, such as a bad day at work, a shitty interaction with a loved one, or an unexpected bill can push me closer and closer to this edge. After my plummet, you’ll find me reduced to a broken pile at the bottom of the slope, not ready to take anyone’s outreached hand.

The cumulative effect of agitating events, bad luck, or self-doubt flying at me all at once certainly increases my chances of slipping off the rock face, as you would imagine. Sometimes the fall happens just that suddenly; one day of particularly horrific stimuli can nudge that domino with great force. Other times, I can feel it scooting closer to the edge rather slowly. I feel that I’m losing my positive mindset little by little but can’t catch my grip before it’s too late.

In either case, historically it really doesn’t take much to knock me past the tipping point, send me free-falling, and leave me crippled.

These rocky tumbles set my mindset back very rapidly into the dark ages of my debilitating depression, anxiety, and full-powered Trauma Brain. When I hit the ground, I’m damaged. I can’t resume where I left off on my upwards trajectory until I’ve repaired some of the disorganization in my brain and body. I have rarely had the supplies necessary for a quick start. Instead, I start to lose focus, lose motivation, lose control of my thoughts, lose control of my body.

The next thing I know, any progress I’ve gained on my trauma recovery journey is gone.

Bruised, bleeding, and blaming myself, I’ll slip further and further backwards. I’ll retreat through the brambles and crawl through the muck, if I let myself. I might even toy with the idea of hiding out in the dark pits.

Falling into the Pits

For me, falling back into the pits can feel like taking an exploratory dip into low energy, at first. Especially when I’ve been pushing myself hard to crawl through the muck and I’m exhausted by the perpetual effort, I can mistake the familiarity of depression as a moment of respite.

I peek my head over the edge of the dark hole and look inside, finding something strangely attractive about climbing down and settling in for a quick rest. Maybe it feels great to have a dark, slow, and gloomy day. I think there’s nothing wrong with keeping things low energy from time to time. The problem is how magnetic this energy feels to my battered brain.

Once I’m down in the pits, it’s hard to see the light again. It feels small and dark and safe to hide out down there, out of sight and out of mind.

Next thing I know, it’s been 3 days and I don’t feel like I have energy to get out of bed anymore. Then it’s been 7 days and I’m wondering why I bother to get up every day at all. It’s been 14 days and I’m starting to feel wary of everything outside my home. It’s been 30 days and I’ve stopped speaking to my framily.

You see my point. What starts as a temporary break from high energy anxiety and stress becomes a 6 month long sabbatical in actively ruining my life.

At the end of my life decay, I get to start all over again from the beginning of my journey. Developing the mental health tools and mindset hacks necessary to get out of the fucking pits and a few steps up the mountain again.

Mount Complex Trauma is a slippery place to live.

Only through daily practice aimed at developing new emotional skills have I been able to find more stable footing on this rocky face.

I know, I know. it sounds like a lot of garbage. Even I’M thinking “daily practice” and “new emotional skills” – get the fuck out of here. I can’t believe the words coming out of my own mouth (errr – fingers) sometimes. The phrases that are suddenly real to me.

I totally understand if this sounds like abstract nonsense. The words aren’t important, but the message is:

If you commit to working every day on your mental health and recovery mindset, you can achieve more stable living. With the right tools, you can grip onto the mountain and catch yourself before you slip all the way down. With a trail map, you can find the path upwards faster than ever before. With proper support, you don’t have to trek up the slippery rocks relying only on yourself.

Hate my mountain metaphor? Sorry. It’s what I’m going with, anyways.

Becoming a mountaineer

Frankly, I didn’t learn my coping skills through therapy or expert leadership. I just got pissed off with being stuck wallowing in the pits.

After 28 years of this shit-laden rise and fall, I realized that my old hiking tools had never done me any favors.

Instead of following the familiar pattern of tumbling off stability mountain and slowly slipping into the pits, I started experimenting a great deal with my mental health practices. I ditched the old methods (sitting around, self-isolating, ruminating) and I found what actually lead to positive mindset change (getting up, letting people in, organizing my thoughts). I set up trials. I recorded my results. I found what made me feel better. I determined what I could viably work into my lifestyle.

I started enlisting my methods, multiple times, daily. I made small improvements at first. I saw a trail of light. I identified real and imagined challenges in my life. I became aware of new worlds around me. I began to see the open space in life. I stood overlooking my problems instead of running from them.

Like a runner’s high, I got addicted to the way I started to think and feel.

I was moving upwards with greater and greater ease. I started to focus harder and harder on my recovery. I took larger steps up the rockface every day. I never wanted to stop moving higher. It became the main goal of my life.

Now, I can say that my trauma recovery has been the most important thing I’ve ever done.

Because right now, during some of the worst times of my life, I’m still climbing, motherfucker.

Takeaways: I used to write much shorter posts. That sounds nice. Also, I was feeling pretty great, considering I had just lost my home, my friends, and my only social support in Atlanta. That's some motherfucking Trauma recovery high, right there.

Traumatized Motherfxckers

Not doomed. Not damaged.

Not dead yet.

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