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Traumatic memories like to hide. Or, we like to suppress the memories because the risk of facing them full on and feeling all of that emotion is threatening. I bet you’ve already discovered, though, that it can really hinder your recovery if you don’t address trauma’s lingering effects.
I’m not going to lie to you: facing what needs to be faced in trauma recovery usually makes things worse for a while, that’s just a fact. In my trauma memoir, Before the World Intruded: Conquering the Past and Creating the Future, I write about when and how this happened for me:
I was given a grant to spend a month at an artists’ retreat in the summer of 2002. In the idyllic setting of a one-traffic-light town, I read and wrote and spent time with poets, novelists, painters, and sculptors. And I discovered the sonnet. A form of poetry dating back to the sixteenth century, sonnets are composed of fourteen lines metered out in strict rhyming structure. In the controlled context of the form I felt secure enough to approach the topics that most frightened me. Through a heavy reliance on metaphor, I began writing about my trauma and my shattered identity afterward.
Almost immediately, my world began to unravel.
Insomnia was the first thing to intensify. I would be awake for twenty-four hours straight. I wrote all night. When school reopened, I wrote all night and then wrote and taught during the day. Eventually I’d crash and sleep for a few hours before bouncing awake and starting all over again. Finally, I broke down and begged my general practitioner for sleeping pills. I was too afraid to take them, and then too desperate not to. When I summoned the nerve, the pills allowed me to sleep for three to four hours.
It makes total sense that it would be challenging (and often we’re unprepared for it) to acknowledge, accept and act upon the things that most hurt, frighten and stall us. The gift of having the bravery to do it anyway is that eventually, letting all of that stuff come up and out can lead to enormous peace, resilience and recovery – one step at a time.
You have enormous healing potential. The goal is learning to access it.
Dig deep. You can do this. I believe in you!
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