narrative by RR alumna, age 21; image of RR alumna during filming of RR documentary, 2023
Trauma entered my life, beating in at an age that I cannot even remember. According to many trauma therapists I have had, trauma can begin as young as the age when we grow in our mother’s bellies. This is because as babies in the womb, we feel what our mom is going through. The first seven years of my upbringing were witnessing domestic violence, until mom left. From 7-14 years old, I was emotionally, physically, and sexually abused at the hands of my father. At the age of 13, I started developing suicidal ideations, even attempting to take my own life. I was self-harming, isolating, and not taking care of myself. At the time, I was lost, and hopeless, felt like there was something wrong with me. My father threatened to admit me to a psych unit, like he did my mom, telling me I was losing my mind. Little did I know that trauma was the root cause, my behaviors were a symptom.
Something that helped me cope with that trauma before I knew it was trauma was mixed martial arts. It gave me an outlet, confidence, it gave me empowerment, community, and something that was mine. Additionally, it brought an amazing woman and mentor into my life. She could see something was wrong with my home, she spent a year and a half gaining my trust, sharing her stories of struggles and traumas. My trust grew for her, and at just the right time as my mental health was taking me down a rabbit hole, I couldn’t breathe. She began to do reiki, a form of Japanese healing, with me. The practitioner uses a hands-on, or near-the-body approach to channel universal energy to facilitate emotional and physical healing. Eventually over six sessions, I began to have an awakening. Immediately after the first session, she asked me if I was safe at home. I paused and thought that was an interesting question to ask, yet still replied with yes. Six sessions later, I couldn’t sleep, eat, or think about anything other than all the memories that were going through my mind like a movie reel of some of the most traumatic moments of my life. When these suppressed memories surfaced, I began to make connections. Connections that told me my father couldn’t be trusted. Ultimately, this energy healing saved my life and continues to help me balance, ground, reconnect, and work through any emotional blockages I may have. Through reiki, meditation, and yoga I have come to some of the most profound, empowering, and releasing epiphanies.
It is important to understand the lasting impacts trauma can leave behind for decades to come. Once I confided in my mentor, shortly after I entered foster care. Here more trauma compounded, while I tried to release and let go of a lifetime of severe and chronic trauma. Let me tell you what this stole from the quality of my life. It took time away from friends, it caused interpersonal relationship issues, trust issues, and years later always afraid of abandonment. Small stuff like seeing a father playing with his children in the pool, would send me into tears and dark memories. For years, I connected only with women and was afraid of most men. Until a foster father showed me, good men exist. Trauma sends me into nightmares still to this day, almost a decade later. When something comes up in a relationship, it often will be closely related or tied to a trauma trigger or response. One time my foster mom found me uncontrollably shaking in the corner of the kitchen, over a kitchen knife, it reminded me of a fight with my father that was never processed. These flashbacks can make it hard to tell what is reality and what is not. Trauma also causes your nervous system to cope through dissociation, which is when you become detached from yourself, your emotions, and even the environment around you. It additionally can leave lasting personality disorders. Recently I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. When my psychiatrist diagnosed me she tied it all back to my trauma. She explained it is a way our nervous system rewires itself through all of those years it tried to help us survive. She further described that this makes being in a relationship with me feel like my childhood did, chaotic, unsafe, and erratic even.
For years, I struggled with shame and guilt, believing my trauma was my fault. Trauma made me believe I deserved it. Trauma followed me every night and woke me before I even opened my eyes. Four years ago, I attempted to end my life, because I thought that trauma would steal everything - my ability to have healthy, stable relationships, my ability to perform well in school. In the public school system, and in my fifth high school in one year, I was failing for the first time ever at this point. Trauma caused me to interpret this as I will never perform well; the symptoms I deal with will always make me a dysfunctional member of society I thought. I believed it so deeply and all my joy and hope was stolen from me. When they found me my heart was barely beating. Yet I lived, I lived because I still had yet to do great things. Our creator knew that sometimes I wonder what are these great things!!?? Then I reflect and see how far I have come from that deeply wounded, hopeless, fighting survivor I was.
Now that we have some awareness of how trauma can impact one in a negative way, destroying their sense of self, creating nightmares that won’t end, endless mental health symptoms, and dissociation. These are only the tip of the iceberg, I can say though that it does get better. That girl a few years ago, who didn’t think there was any hope is now writing this and saying there is so much hope. It has become a realization of mine that healing from trauma will never have an ultimate destination. It will never go away, it will always be a part of who I am. It is the ghost that will never leave me. However, I have made friends with ghosts, it visits frequently, and sometimes I will say hey what’s up, sometimes I will cry, and sometimes they will scare me till I scream. As time evolves and I gain new experiences, longer periods of safety, and unconditional love the ghost doesn't feel as strong. Interpersonal relationships have not been easy, I have made lots of mistakes, but I have grown. Having an awareness of how trauma impacts me and my interpretations of the world around me has helped me create new beliefs and healthier interpretations. Therapy has taught me to challenge distorted thinking patterns, it has taught me to nurture and heal my inner child. It has shown me the power of being grounded, and developing a safe place and in times of distress its shown me the importance of trying to find a wise mind, instead of an overly emotional one. Yoga and ketamine therapy helped me come out of a chronic dissociative state and feel more like I'm living, instead of on autopilot. Yoga helps me find a space where my thoughts can dissipate and the physical tension my body holds from chronic stress can release. Things like learning reiki, spending time with my dog, meditating to a singing bowl, or contemplating and meditating on the energy around and within me have allowed me to find separation from my trauma ghost; that ghost doesn’t feel comfortable in places of calm. For years I was uncomfortable in calm, I had to create chaos to feel safe. It was weird, but oddly enough, it is a trauma response. Today at 21 though, after almost a decade of therapy, and many many types of therapy. As well as just being reconnected to my maternal family, having my own space, and lots of unconditional love, I am ecstatic to say that I thrive in spaces that provide me only peace. That alone proves that healing is more possible than what you may feel is possible when you're in the deepest and darkest trenches that trauma has made inside your experience.
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