When I was little, I worried about monsters being under my bed. I never expected them to be the ones tucking me in at night. To become aware at such a young age that my soft spot to land in life was nothing more than a rocky cliff didn't lessen the pain. This realization merely made the separation between my normal and everyone else's normal all too clear.
Trying to keep myself from being engulfed in the chaos that surrounded me every day sucked up all of my energy. Without any left, how could I grow and thrive as a child when I was too busy just trying to survive?
I grew thick skin to shield myself from the distress of my emotional needs consistently going unfulfilled. I grew numb to the abuse and turmoil that I had to exist in every day. I grew angry that my cries for help were ignored. I grew resentful of a childhood I was worthy of but would never have. But most of all, I grew lonely. The hardened shell trauma had given me put the whole world at a distance.
Taking that first big step to untangle myself from the traumatic events of my past has taken years to prepare for. Admitting to myself that what I experienced was real and validating my pain doesn’t have a timeline.
Healing wasn’t something that I could push myself into and others couldn’t force me to confront my wounds. I had to wade through guilt and shame that what I experienced just wasn’t bad enough to be deemed traumatizing. My belief that others have experienced worse discounted my own suffering and became a barrier I had to scale before I could begin to heal.
Once over that wall, I was able to see that there isn’t a grading system for trauma. Whether I drowned in ten feet of water or fifty, I still drowned. The details aren’t as important as the impact. Whether I was affected and if I continue to be affected are the measures by which I should focus on.
As I begin to unravel myself from my trauma, I've relied on three things:
1. Acknowledging the pain and struggle my younger self went through. It's real regardless of anyone else validating it or apologizing for it.
2. Accepting that I can't go back and fix what has already happened. The best way to rescue that little girl now is to allow myself to grow and thrive in the present.
3. Realizing that my trauma shaped me into a strong, courageous, and independent person, but it does NOT define me. I will not allow my past to stifle my future. I am not a victim. I am a survivor.
The memories of those scary monsters may remain, but their ability to afflict further damage ends with me. I know I possess the power to step off the rocky cliff that my childhood had me hanging onto so delicately and land firmly on soft ground.
I know I am safe now. I can finally put down the armor that has weighed me down for far too long and begin to flourish. The right to peace in my life does not have to be earned, and I will tell myself as many times as is necessary. I will continue working towards regaining the life I deserve, while knowing it will be there waiting for me to embrace it.
Written by Vanna Winters
Vanna has also written about her experience recovering from an eating disorder. Follow this link to read her original narrative.