Trauma always leaves a scar.
Trauma is personal. It does not disappear unless it is validated. When someone is finally willing to share our pain and to hear our screams and cries for help, that is when healing can finally begin.
But the journey to healing is a hard one, and sometimes along the way, we can be re-traumatized all over again. When that happens, it is just as painful living through it the second, third or forth time as it is the first.
As I sit on the floor of the Rape Crisis Centre, I surround myself with big cushions and my grounding tools. I know I will need these today. Giving statements always sends me back to that dark place, as does therapy.
My ISVA – Independent Sexual Violence Advisor – sits in the room with me. She is calming, she helps me feel safe.
I sit facing the door. Logically knowing that he cannot get in here, but emotionally being ready to escape when he enters my head once more. For he always enters my head during statements and therapy.
My hand shakes as I begin to write yet another statement. This will be added to the many I have already given.
Slowly, I write line after line of what that monster did to me. I hesitate as I struggle to write the words that I still struggle to say; “rape”, “penis”, “vagina”. For the police need every single detail.
One page after another; rape, abuse, torture, pain.
My hands begin to fuzz as I start to go back to that place. I cannot help but close my eyes and in an instant I am back in that darkness. I shudder as I feel his hands around my throat. I roll my neck trying to get him off of me. Dissociating, I am back there. He has me. He is hurting me all over again. Help!
Even though my abuser is not physically here, my brain detects a threat and my fight or flight mode is activated. I am triggered and my physiological responses are the same as if my abuser were in the room. My blood pressure rises and adrenaline surges through my body.
I am unsafe and want to retreat and run for cover. I squirm and gasp as my eyes dart around the room, trying to place where I am. Trying to figure out if I need to escape.
Luckily my ISVA knows the signs of my dissociation, for this has happened several times before. Slowly she works to bring me back to the here and now, grounding me, calming me.
Gradually I begin to realise I am safe. I am in the Rape Crisis Centre. The doors are locked. He cannot get in here. He cannot get to me. I am safe.
My eyes fill with tears. How many more times do I have to relive my childhood? Will I ever be free?
Re-traumatization occurs when events or dynamics replicate the original trauma.
For many victims of abuse this occurs when reporting the abuse and giving statements and/or when receiving therapy to help us heal.
We have wounds that never show on our body. They are deeper and more painful than anything that bleeds.
As survivors, we live in a constant state of self-preservation. We live on high alert, ready to fight or flee at any moment, for the danger may return at any point.
Nightmares send us back there and we wake in cold sweats, unsure if we are safe, ready to flee.
Flashbacks make us relive everything that happened. It plays out in front of us like an old home movie. Except we don’t just see what happens, we feel it too; every touch, every emotion, every fear. Our bodies and minds react as if it is happening today.
We relive our trauma over and over. It is a lonely place full of pain and sadness and darkness. Depression sometimes enters in, bringing with it anxiety and a whole load of other emotions.
We become tired even though we haven’t done anything. We cry alone after pretending to be OK. We wake up to muddled thoughts, wanting to go back to sleep but too afraid to sleep because nightmares take control.
Sometimes we become lost. We lose ourselves in our past, unable to see a way out, gradually becoming numb until we feel nothing at all.
Then in an instant we are triggered once more and the cycle starts all over again.
There is no getting over trauma. However, with help from a good therapist and a good support network, we can work through it and we can heal.
My whole life my trauma has been minimized. I was called a liar by those closest to me. Those who were meant to help and protect me, instead chose to stand by my abuser. They silenced me. Trauma stole my voice.
My worst enemy is my memory but finally I have people who want to hear my voice and help me heal. Finally my trauma is being validated but it will always leave a scar.
Eventually though, instead of taking me back to that scary place, it will remind me of how strong I am. It will remind me of what I have overcome and will not be where I am going.
Reliving my trauma is a horrible part of this journey, but it is a necessary part of this journey. Telling my truth is the only way I can heal, no matter how painful it is.
This journey to healing is scary and the most difficult path I have ever been put on, but it is giving me a new strength that I didn’t know I had. It is giving me a new courage to begin to let go of what is hurting my heart and soul. I am finally finding my voice.
Trauma leaves a scar.
But gradually that scar will fade.
Thanks for reading.
** The above image is my own **