The Trauma of it All

It is a long and rocky road that me and my family are on right now. We’ve had some ups, and a whole lot of downs. So much has been discovered, and we have many changes to make. This refining season is challenging. It is wearing on us and we are exhausted. Yet, we also have so much hope. We know this process will move us toward wholeness. A life even better than we could have imagined. And it will all be worth it.

Not too long ago, we learned that the depression I’ve been experiencing is only a symptom of a deeper problem. Turns out, I have complex PTSD. No, I haven’t been in the military. I didn’t have a horrific upbringing. It didn’t happen because of a single terrifying event. It was caused mostly by what’s known as developmental trauma. That can encompass a lot of things, but generally it’s about relational practices in childhood that cause all sorts of problems. And a majority of people today suffer from it at some level.

In my family’s history, we haven’t really done well with feelings. My emotions weren’t understood or validated, and I wasn’t taught what to do with them. Just as my parents weren’t taught, and their parents, and their parents… At the same time, being highly sensitive, I felt things even more strongly, and the book on that hadn’t even been published yet! My parents had no idea what to do with me. And so, they reacted from their own places of hurt, doing the only things they knew how.

I would be very easily overstimulated and was considered “strong-willed.” So letting that out and being met with a variety of unpredictable responses, I never knew what to expect when expressing my emotions. I could have been punished or left alone, either physically or emotionally, as my meltdowns were overwhelming and triggering for my parents. From this, I developed what is known as a “disorganized” attachment style.

Let me just say here that I do not blame my parents. Or their parents. Or their parents. I believe we all do what we feel is best at the time. This kind of stuff gets passed down so easily from generation to generation. And it’s not a topic our culture is very well versed in. I would never want anyone to think ill of my parents, and this is one of the reasons I haven’t wanted to share too many details. I, their first child, was born highly sensitive. And they didn’t have the tools to know what I needed.

There was no Google then; no Facebook groups. Doctors, the authority of the time, were telling parents things that we know now are detrimental, like leaving a baby to “cry it out.” Even the Christian parenting books preached love alongside “breaking” a child’s will and forcing obedience through inflicting pain and creating fear. We know better now, but they didn’t then. And so they did what they could with what they knew.

Please hear my heart in this. I don’t share to put an emphasis on what someone else did to me. My parents love me. And I know they wish they would have done things differently. I do too. But they are good people. People who were themselves hurting, who had pain they hadn’t yet worked through. Imperfect people just trying their hardest to raise little kids into great adults. And I believe they succeeded in that. We are pretty great. 😉

I want to share this with you because I am realizing how significant it is. It is something easily overlooked, but it is of the utmost importance. This is why I am so passionate about the way we treat our kids. Because, even more than we know, that is what shapes our world. So many health problems, disorders, and mental illnesses can be traced back to developmental trauma.

Our society tends to focus primarily on behavior management. We look at parenting in terms of teaching right from wrong. An admirable goal. But when that becomes priority over relationships, the effect can be the opposite of what we intended. When our goal is developing good relationships with our kids, we treat them like the human beings they are, and the undesirable behaviors tend to take care of themselves. Because behavior is communication, and when we receive the message and meet the underlying need, the behavior doesn’t need to continue.

Kids just need to be seen, heard, and understood. They need to know that their feelings are valid. That what they are experiencing makes sense. They need to know that they do matter. That the things they care about do matter. That the things they think about do matter. They need to know that they are loved. That someone cares for them. And when they do, those core beliefs will take them to incredible places. They will thrive.

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I just finished reading the book The Body Keeps the Score, which is all about trauma. I have learned so much and it is spot on with what I am experiencing. It’s a book I would recommend to anyone, as I’m seeing that trauma, especially developmental trauma, is way more prevalent than we recognize. It has been really helpful in finding out more about why I am the way I am, and what I can do about it.

At this point in my journey, there are times I am doing really well, and moments where I feel I’m going crazy. It’s all a part of the healing. Though we are trying to avoid falling apart at the same time, my husband and I are actually both going through the same process. His story isn’t mine to tell right now, and thankfully he can function in the midst of this better than I can. But we are definitely in the trenches. And it is rough. It’s nice to be here together though. We’re learning more about each other, growing closer, and connecting even deeper.

We have a super knowledgeable therapist who is equipping us and leading us through this healing. I just started EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) with him for my trauma, and I’m really hopeful about what it will do for me. It’s kinda weird, not being something I’ve experienced before. And honestly what I hear about it sounds too good to be true. But I think it’s gonna help me a lot.

I’m excited for where I’m headed. It will take time to get there, and it will not be easy. But I have a fresh vision for my future and my family. I love the me that I’ve been finding behind all of this baggage. She is going to be a strong person once she emerges from this chrysalis. And I am enjoying getting to know her better.

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