18 years seems like an interminably long time. A whole person can grow into adulthood in that many years. I wish I had been born again, with fresh memories and an untouched heart, 18 years ago.
I’ve written about the night my mom died, but what happens after? What happened to me? In that moment, my mom and I, cut the ties between us and drifted slowly apart. She floated out of my reach and I just floated. I haven’t been completely directionless, but certainly the ebb and flow of life has pushed and pulled me, at times, without much resistance.
In all these years, I never thought I needed trauma counselling. I did regular counselling, and plenty of it, but nothing like this. I tried repeating to myself what I’d been told over the years: “Just get over it now”, “You’re still upset about it? What’s wrong with you?”, “You’re just too sensitive”, to make whatever this was stop, but it didn’t work. All along, I thought I was the problem. It took the trauma counsellor a few sessions to convince me it wasn’t just my laziness holding me back. What happened in my early childhood and later when my mom died, was more than just bad luck. More than a terrible experience. It was Traumatic and therefore processed and stored in our brains in a completely different way than something that was just simply sad. She told me that regular talking counselling wasn’t going to help if it hadn’t up to this point. She also told me that if she read to any therapist my list of traumatic events, they would wonder how I was a functioning adult. I never thought I was an avoider, because I can talk about my experiences and be vulnerable. However, this work (and it’s freaking work, let’s be clear) has unveiled a whole system of coping mechanisms that I didn’t realize I did. And I can’t do it anymore. I just can’t.
I’ve avoided a lot of memories of the really tough stuff the same way you would avoid chewing food on the side of your mouth where you have a toothache. You know that tooth that’s really sensitive to cold and you try and eat ice cream? You move everything over and hope that none of the icy cold touches it? Well traumatic memories are much like that sore tooth…you push life aside, avoid the tooth that hurts, and hope you don’t feel that shock of pain. It’s still there, you know it is, but you circle around it, giving it plenty of distance. Unfortunately, if you’re like me, you have a mouth full of trauma and there is no way to eat –live, without hurting somewhere.
Trauma counselling has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, and I’ve done a lot of hard things. It has broken me apart, stripped me bare and shook me to my core. There hasn’t been an appointment yet, that I look forward to going to. Every instinct in me is screaming at me to not to. If I think too hard about where I’m driving on appointment day, all I hear in my head is Siri’s voice saying, “make a u-turn, make a u-turn, make a u-turn”. I function on autopilot and get myself there through some inner strength I didn’t know I possessed and once there, I completely fall apart.
Trauma counselling is unlike any other kind of counselling. There is no hiding, there is no talking about it in a way that is removed and so subtly so that you don’t even realize you’re doing it. I thought I was open and honest and real about my feelings. Apparently not. There is another layer to my mind that I was completely out of touch with. With trauma counselling, there is no way you can avoid the very dark painful parts of you. Maybe, just maybe, you need to shine a light down there and make those places see the light again.
I found this quote after my last session. And I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed that night. And every other night since then. There is no other way to describe it but gut-wrenching pain. And in that pain, the shell that enclosed something about myself I never understood, broke apart. Khalil Gibran perfectly summed up what had happened in that session.
It’s been 18 years since my mom died, but I had already suffered many tragedies up to that point. The moment of her death was almost simple in comparison to all of the other darkness.
So I’ll sit with all of it — in silence? I don’t know, I’ve never been very good at silence. But tranquility I can definitely attempt. Maybe surrender is the better word.
PS: If you think you might need trauma counselling or need more info, visit Drader & Assosicates’ website for more info or private message me. I’ll help where I can.