‘I wish there was a manual’ – Coping with Trauma

Coping with trauma can be difficult. If you are reading this, it is likely you have experienced your own sort of trauma.

We often feel like nobody understands us, trapped within our bodies with no way of expressing our innermost struggles, in a world which often feels unsafe and full of threat. It’s time we understood that experiences of trauma are incredibly diverse, as are our reactions and responses to those events which may have harmed or hurt us in the past.

There is no right or wrong way to feel.

Often in my life I wished for a handbook, some sort of manual, that would teach me how to cope with trauma. Unfortunately, no such thing exists. This meant I had to navigate the aftermath of my trauma alone, without a guide, wading through the depths of so many frightening thoughts and memories.

– I wished for a handbook, some sort of manual, that would teach me how to cope with trauma.

You may sense that when you try reaching out to people, you are met with well-intentioned yet detached responses, since it can be difficult to understand the effects of trauma without first-hand experience. Your family/ friends/ mentors/ teachers/ instructors/ doctor/ religious leader etc may try to help or ‘fix’ you, or ‘fix’ you, but might not understand feelings such as shame, guilt, or anger.

Whilst often not deliberate, insensitive responses to trauma from those around us can make us believe we must behave, react or think in a certain way – and that if our inner voice does not align with those behaviours then we are somehow ‘broken’ or unworthy of help. Society has taught us to be afraid of talking about trauma, to shy away from conversation, and thus we can find ourselves at a loss of what to say.

Phrases such as ‘although it seems bad now, you will eventually get over it’, or ‘I went through something similar and it wasn’t that bad’, ‘leave the past behind’, ‘focus on the positive’, and ‘have you tried yoga/ meditation/ mindfulness/ etc?’ can aggravate hurtful feelings, because they imply that healing is linear and time-limited. Some suggest we should be ‘over it’, or shame us for talking about past trauma. That increases the isolation and shame survivors often feel.

The reality is that everybody deals with trauma in their own way – some may perceive the ‘healing process’ as a lifelong hurdle they must constantly work with, others may overcome it relatively quickly with minimal distress. You may be anywhere on this spectrum. It is different for everyone, and there is no right or wrong way to cope.

You deserve to be heard.

If you received a response which invalidated or negated your experience of trauma, please know that whatever happened to you was not your fault and you deserve to feel respected, believed and validated. It is okay to feel hurt, angry, sad, ashamed, guilty, frustrated, confused, frightened, vulnerable, anxious, irritated, troubled, disgusted, miserable, hopeless, lonely, bitter, defeated, vengeful, offended, tired – the list goes on and on. Or you might feel none of these things – you might feel hopeful, optimistic, proud, triumphant. You might feel numb, or empty. You might feel every single feeling there is to feel. That is okay. Allow yourself to feel however you mind, body and soul want to.

So… how do I cope?

Really, there is no one universal ‘manual’ that can help us cope with trauma, because each experience is individual. Although, there are things that do help some people navigate trauma. These can involve: connecting with people online or in-person, seeking professional help, learning about the effects of trauma on the body, finding an outlet to express experiences, thoughts and emotions (whether that be creative, academic, physical, rhetoric etc), and reading books about similar situations. If you would like to explore some of these, please visit the ‘Resources’ page on this website.

Though it can be difficult, you can still live a healthy, fulfilled life. Please remember that.

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