How Trauma Affects Me (+ You)

We are living during a moment in time where people are displaying more and more comfortability with being vulnerable and feeling more comfortable coming forward with their stories. Maybe it’s the vulnerability of others that have given me ‘permission’ to share my story as freely as I have lately or perhaps it is the need to heal through the written word. Whichever it is I feel in control of my story (and the story I tell myself) when I share it with you.

Paralyzed and Highly Emotional

Recently, without warning, I have felt paralyzed and highly emotional on several occasions. The pattern goes a little something like this; Thayne will say something, and a rush of emotions will wash over me. In an instant, I feel deadened; frozen. I can’t breathe, and I start to cry uncontrollably. Sobbing really, and this poor man has a look of worry in his eyes as he helplessly watches me.

The morning after my last breakdown, I tried to get a run in; to clear my head. While out on my run, I could feel myself slowly (then extremely quickly) losing my steam. I couldn’t catch my breath, and it felt like I was going to faint. I stopped, slowed my breathing and started typing everything I was feeling in my notes on my phone. What came to me was eye-opening. In a matter of a few minutes, I recognized that the years of never feeling like a good enough wife or mom had a profound effect on me.

A Constant Battle

I am discovering that PTSD is a thing. Not just for those in war but for those living through a war in their day to day life. For some people, these physical responses emerge or re-emerge later in life in response to triggers and stressors.

My marriage felt like a constant battle. As a wife, I walked on eggshells in fear of upsetting him or making a mistake. When the mail came, I swiftly snagged the 407 and credit card bill so my spending wouldn’t be questioned. Most of all, I feared the interrogation every time I added a new travel date to the calendar. Every breakdown, disagreement, or argument ended in me apologizing for hurting him, for not communicating well enough or for needing to work harder at making myself better.

Past trauma has begun to paralyze me, and it’s been my reality twice this past two weeks.

In one instance, I had had a little bit of wine, and I’ll admit I was having fun! I was laughing so hard that a bit of drool came out of my mouth; I know probably TMI, but I vowed to myself to be vulnerable and tell the whole story, so there you have it. Thayne laughed with me and said, “did that just happen?!”. In that light-hearted moment, I broke down. I cried without warning. Uncontrollably. He held me, not understanding how at the drop of a dime, the mood changed.

The Need to feel fixed

And then it happened again, more profoundly

I was worried, feeling insecure about not being enough. Where this feeling came from, I couldn’t tell you, but it was intense. I felt like I was not enough for Thayne. We lay in bed for hours discussing why I was feeling this way. Without resolve, I snuck out of our bed at midnight to journal. Journalling has become my way to understand why I think the way I do. Journalling has become the way I know how I can fix myself.

Almost as soon as I tip toped out of our room, Thayne followed. I’m so grateful for him. He came, hugged me, and continuously told me I was more than enough. Thayne spent the next half hour holding me while I sobbed and reassuring me that I didn’t need fixing. He repeated “Katie; you are more than enough just as you are.”

During the walk back from my run, I figured it out. I cried because of the countless times I was told not to drink, to get a hold of myself, or to act differently (less fun, more subdued). All the reasons that attributed to how I was a bad wife. All the reasons I needed fixing. When I finally made it home, I felt the urge to google the effects of trauma on a person’s brain. Here is a sentence that explained what was happening.

“Sometimes, people can actually feel as though they are reliving traumatic moments in the here and now; their past intrudes painfully into the present, over and over again.”

Simply put, I was reacting to the trauma I encountered for more than a decade.

The Refiners Fire

We often don’t feel the effects of trauma until it’s over. The man who goes to war and wakes up screaming in the middle of the night. A woman that triple checks the locks to make sure abuser can’t get in after she’s escaped him and the humans that consistently question themselves after years of emotional and mental abuse. Years after it’s over; even after they’ve found love.

Thankfully, research also shows that we can forge new connections between brain cells, building and strengthening healthy pathways with different experiences after a trauma. The work I am focusing on now is to rewire the old and accept the love I have found.

I pray that if you have experienced trauma in your life, you can find peace in these words. And as Thayne tells me; you are more than enough. You don’t need fixing. You are in the refiner’s fire and will come out of this a little smoother and stronger but just as perfect.

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