Trauma comes in all shapes and sizes.
Often, when we hear “trauma” our mind jumps to the extreme.
Child abuse, rape, seeing someone murdered.
Life-altering experiences that are likely to remain etched in our memory forever. Events that will often need therapy or counselling or even medication to move through and heal from.
But trauma can be more subtle.
Trauma can arise from being bullied at school, being in a toxic relationship, and even from watching your parents shout and scream at each other as a child.
None of these incidents are defined as a crime, which I think makes them appear less serious. And perhaps they are less serious. But trauma is trauma. It’s an experience a person has which causes them physical and/or emotional pain long after.
In the dictionary, trauma is defined as, “a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.”
Trauma can occur at any age, and cause long-term harm. Everyone will react a slightly different way, which is unpredictable.
But quite often, when it comes to more “minor” incidents, our pain is not understood.
We’re told that we’ll grow out of it, that it won’t matter ten years from now, or that it could be far worse.
And maybe that’s true. But you can’t really compare trauma. You don’t know how an experience will effect someone. How it will seep into their bones, wrap around their mind; how it will subconsciously inform their future thoughts, choices, and actions.
Being teased at school for your weight might lead to a future fear of food or an eating disorder.
Having your partner continually make you feel worthless may lead to you accepting poor behaviour from others, because you believe that you deserve it.
Watching your parents screaming at each other as a child may lead to you doing the same thing in your own relationships, or it might make you recoil from relationships all together.
Those seemingly “small” incidents have now transformed into serious issues that effect a person’s day to day life. That’s trauma.
I would like to tell you I’m one of the lucky ones, because I’ve never experienced any major trauma in my life. And maybe I am one of the lucky ones, I don’t know. But the trauma I have come face to face with is most definitely present within me today, many years later, influencing how I feel.
My experience of bullying at school has shaped me into a woman who struggles to trust new people and let them in. And when I finally do, I wonder what they think of me; I mean, what they really think of me. I don’t take light-hearted jokes well, and feel wounded by the smallest dig.
Similarly, seeing my parents have bitter arguments throughout my childhood led me to repeat those mistakes early in my relationship. I would cause friction, then shut down and give the silent treatment, and live for days with this unbearable tension in the air. And I still feel physical pain in my heart when I think of all the nasty words that were exchanged by two people who chose to build a life together; two people who were meant to be showing me what love is.
So whatever you’ve gone through in your past, or whatever you’re going through right now, don’t brush it off. Don’t discredit it, or think it’s insignificant. Because it’s not.
Your experiences and your feelings are your own. Nobody can tell you how to feel or the levels of emotion that should be present.
I don’t really buy into small and big trauma. It’s all just trauma, isn’t it? Moments, incidents, experiences which cause us pain, and shape our future.
I’ve been through my own share of trauma, and I’m sure you have, too.
The best thing we can do is accept that, and give ourselves permission to feel it. Because when we pretend nothing has happened and we’re okay when we’re not, we can’t heal; we can’t move forward in our lives.
And we all deserve to heal, and move on.