Circumstances make you weak, but it’s only you who can make “You” strong and invincible. When you face a dire situation in life, the goal is to pace ahead without worrying about what’s holding you back. From regular visits to a trauma counselor to tackling the hearsays in society, scaling through the high tides of life can be tough, and I am someone affected by the same. My story does start with struggles, pain, and emotional lacerations, but this movie doesn’t end on a sad note.
In a world where social distancing is the norm, your past can pop up anytime when you are physically isolated & emotionally alone. For people that have dealt with the agony of being alone in the toughest of times, it is important to seek a helping hand. Yes, we are powerful on our own, but talking it out and releasing the stress and pain within surely helps.
I have dealt with my fair share of issues that made me question my existence and limited my true potential. Although I go by the name Tracey Lee Cook in society, I have my identity associated with other tags as well. After my childhood was scarred with instances of sexual abuse, it went on to adulthood, which involved episodes of domestic violence.
This trauma transcends beyond time. You start questioning your decision and motives wrapped up in a parcel of self-limiting beliefs. But, remember, the mind is a strong organ, and it could be difficult to understand it at times. This doesn’t mean that giving up is the only solution at hand. The more you fight, your mind will fight the war with you.
The storm of bad circumstances didn’t just end with that childhood trauma. It made its way to different stages of my life, where I worked around my emotions as an addict, a cancer survivor, and a homeless individual. But, something that helped me carry it all and survive it the best I could was hope.
Remember the story of Pandora’s Box? When Pandora couldn’t control her curiosity, horrible things flew out of the box, including envy, greed, hatred, pain, hunger, disease, war, poverty, death, and whatnot. But one last thing that came out of this mysterious box was “Hope”, which kept the world running and functional.
“When in our life we are overwhelmed by the negative emotions that come with the responsibility or rather burden of being the bearer of Pandora’s box, it is hope that keeps things tied together.”
Even the scientific community has backed the benefits of having hope in the most adverse situations. Hope helps us manage anxiety and stress while contributing to a sense of happiness and positivity that radiates to everyone around us.
This is something that helped me upscale from my doomsday-like situation to a motivator, speaker, and voice for the one dealing with the adversities of life. It was not a one-song hit strike for me. Rather my transition from an ailing soul to a dedicated motivator was slow yet progressive.
“Remember, we are all like plants. If a fellow plant grows within days, it doesn’t mean you need to grow and thrive at the same speed. We all grow and thrive; only our speeds are different from one another. Grass can grow in days while cactus requires months to attain the same height.”
So, if things aren’t working for you, do not push or rush yourself. To establish a base in life, you need to understand yourself first. No one can understand your needs better than you. So, explore yourself, try new hobbies, visit new places, and meet new people. Maybe you might get disappointed at times, but the key is to never give up.
Hold on to the hope, and hope will bring you home.
It’s Okay To Talk
Another thing I learned in my journey of self-healing and helping others heal is to talk about it. For anyone dealing with painful trauma or unforeseen grievances, the easy way out is always to “Not Talk About It”. The impact of mental trauma can be insidious, subtle, or even outright destructive. So, most of us easily assume that not talking about it can help us transition better in life.
Out of sight, out of mind, right? But, that is the worst thing you can do to yourself. That is why support groups exist. If you do not have a family, friend, or colleague you can fall back on at tough times, these groups can help you understand what is happening to you and, more so, listen to you.
Sometimes all we need is for people to listen to us rather than give any advice or solution for the situation. So, it is important for people dealing with emotional trauma to talk about it. Even I was once in a phase where talking about “IT” was the most difficult thing to do. But, trust me, people want to know your story and appreciate you for who you are. How would someone understand what you are going through unless you talk about it? Unless, of course, they have the power of mind-reading!
Victim blaming has been prevalent for far too long in our society. Although people are focusing more on uplifting one another, there still are people that believe the victim is to be blamed. This is another reason victims of physical or emotional trauma refrain from sharing what they feel.
They fear that disclosing their past negative experiences might transition into a situation that makes them the one at fault.
Trauma isn’t tidy and neat. They do not come in neat, nice trauma packages wrapped beautifully in colorful bows.
Rather, they can be confusing and messy. We might want to discuss or talk about our sufferings and the feelings we are going through, but we really don’t know how to say or what to say!
To make things worse, once your mind and body’s natural healing process reaches its plateau, you start experiencing PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This mental health condition can affect anyone regardless of the intensity of trauma experienced by the individual. The symptoms of PTSD include but aren’t limited to nightmares, flashbacks, & massive episodes of anxiety. The core of PTSD is avoidance. You might try and turn away from anything that would remind you of that traumatic episode. Trust me, I tried my best to refrain from thinking about it or even talking about it. My near and dear ones wanted to know about it, but all they got was a plain, blank “No” from me.
So, how would I expect help when I am not ready to open up?
Where do people even know to start when you aren’t ready to give them a lead to where your thoughts, mind, and heart lay at?
Dealing with trauma is different for everyone, and I am no one to judge how others heal, but there is always a start to something better in life. Whether you cope by venting, ruminating, or complaining, it is entirely on you. Talking to someone, whether it is about the trauma or an entirely new chapter that keeps you hooked and happy, can help you supercharge through the recovery process and provide relief faster.
Support doesn’t have to come from an organized group like a support group, it can even come from your friends, family, mental health professionals, or even a hotline volunteer. But, there is something refreshing and naturally healing about being in the company of people that have been there and dealt with what you are dealing with now.
As they say,
If you have never faced it, you can never know what it feels like.
Call it understanding, validation, empathy, being seen, or whatever you may, talking with a group that has suffered and survived gets you away from the cobwebs of isolation. It will help you make sense of things that have happened to you and process the trauma in a better way.
When Your Trauma Becomes A Roar
Post-traumatic growth can be transformative and powerful when you counsel yourself the right way. Trauma can set you on a path that would have never made it into your life under normal circumstances. So, instead of being gloomy about the past, it is important to focus on what lies ahead of us
Empowering myself through my traumatic experiences wasn’t a decision I made overnight but a journey that had its ups and downs. With the right support, you won’t just heal yourself but also others in the process of self-realization.
In the process of understanding what I was going through, I found substantial growth in different areas such as personal strength, life appreciation, spirituality, a new perspective on life, and developing deeper relationships.
Trauma isn’t a good thing, but life doesn’t stop here. We need to live and live like there is no tomorrow. Sure, you cannot get rash in your decisions, but the key is to make lemonade when life gives you lemons. Remember the truth of life. A traumatic episode will make you more vulnerable yet stronger as you explore your strength and weaknesses.
Document Your Story For Others To Get Inspired
From Most of us have a habit of documenting what happens to us on a daily basis. But, this action is more important for individuals that have a lot on their plate. However, it can be difficult for one to relive that experience while documenting the same.
It might not be easy for one to revisit the sounds, sights, & psychic memories, but it can be the start of something new on your journey toward a better tomorrow. More so, your experiences overcoming these incidents and emotional rollercoasters can help others draw inspiration. Trauma recovery starts the very second you overcome your past experiences.
When you are dealing with your trauma, you don’t see things the right way. Your mind might play games with you, and you won’t be able to derive a perspective from the same. However, when you proceed onward on your healing journey while documenting the events that occur along the way, you can look at things when you are emotionally stable.
This will give you a whole new perspective on your past and make sense of what you experienced. With time, you will start feeling that those experiences cannot hurt you anymore, and it doesn’t hold any power over you or your future. It helps carve your pathway to a healing journey that gets stable as you move ahead.
The step I took as a podcast host helped me come out with my story while helping me relate to others that have dealt with similar problems in life.
Remember when your parents told you to do something right, and you rebelled, but when the same thing was delivered in a story-like format, it helped you understand things better and draw the right perspective. Our brains are wired to respond better to stories than simple statements. Anecdotes and metaphors help provide a texture and richness to events in our life, making them more relatable. Stories bring you & your listeners into a multi-dimensional world that is rich in sights, colors, emotions, and smells. In essence, documenting your story makes you feel as if you are actually living the story.
Healing Shouldn’t Be Forced But Gradual
You cannot put a date or time on healing, it differs for every individual.
For some, healing starts within days, and for some, even years can fall short. There are several phases of trauma recovery, and each one adds a layer of strength to your physical as well as emotional well-being. You simply cannot compare your problems with others and expect the healing to be as perfect as others or as smooth as others. Your journey could have some glitches, could be slowed down by unexpected events, or even backfire at times.
The key is to keep going and never look back. Healing is a journey and not an instantaneous choice. In your journey to heal, you will undergo several phases, the first of which is deriving safety and stability in your situation.
For me, that safety and stability came as I connected with others. My podcast helped me connect and learn more about life each day. My goal became to help others deal with their trauma by sharing it with the world. I learnt that trauma is accompanied by the feeling of helplessness, loss of control/power, and the feeling of being isolated.
Channeling my thoughts for the betterment of others helped me restore my safety and helped me feel empowered at the same time. Also, I understood that recovery doesn’t actually mean achieving complete freedom from your past trauma. Rather it defines one’s ability to be able to live in the present without being overwhelmed by the feelings and thoughts of the past.
Trauma recovery is a process that is worked on overtime & in multiple intentional stages. Imagine you are inside a soda bottle, and someone shakes you vigorously. How would you come out of this bottle safely? Would you simply pop it open and let everything release, or would you turn the cap in a slow and consecutive manner?
The safest and the best way to go about it is to release the pressure in a cautious, slow, & intentional manner. This will prevent any possible explosion. The same thing happens with your mind as well. If you force things way too fast, you might end up causing an emotional burst that takes to 100s steps back in your healing journey. So, be slow, but be consistent.
I have every reason to not be a success, yet now I am supporting and giving voice to others through my podcasts. My goal is to help others wear their stories like a superhero cape and not an anchor that drowns them in the river of sorrow and pain.
If you are ready to share your story, the time is now! Take action and take on that driver’s seat to catch that expressway to healing and being the leader and achiever that you are.
Lastly, all I would want to share with you is crying is okay, but choking on your tears is not! Feeling fear is fine, but letting that fear haunt you isn’t! So, let it all out and promise to never let those feelings overwhelm you. Seek help when you need it, and do not shy away from talking about what ails you. Remember, the road to success is always under construction but be the builder and make it as smooth as possible. You aren’t a machine with broken parts that need fixing. Rather, you are a sentient being whose process of healing is elaborate and far more complicated than we can comprehend.
So, stop trying to fit into someone else’s healing journey. Break out of your comfort zone and find your own pathway to become a fighter, achiever, and a guide to others in need!
Wear your story like a super hero cape and NOT an anchor!
Katie’s Mission would like to thank Tracey Cook for her contribution to this blog and to the world. Your story is an important vehicle and can help you impact others in a positive way. We are dedicated the ending the stigma around mental health.