Trauma maybe the most relative term in the English language. And funny enough, ‘trauma’ is spelled the same in English, Spanish, German and Italian. However, I bet if we asked 100 people what trauma means to them, we would get 100 different answers.
For me, trauma is anything that stains my soul. Maybe that is gibberish to you, but it makes perfect sense to me. You don’t have to understand my trauma for it to be trauma. You may even think my trauma is no big deal. That does not negate the fact that it is trauma to me.
In my not-quite-40 years on this earth, I’ve lost my father, my brother, all of my grandparents, twin babies and my nephew. Throughout my almost 18+ year career as a social worker, I’ve witnessed, heard and carried the stories of victims of violent crimes, sexual assault, child abuse and neglect. (this is not a trauma resume – just bear with me). My soul has been stained by all. Some stains I was able to accept, process and move forward in a healthy way. Others – not so much.
What I have learned through all these experiences is the single worse thing I can do is be ‘fine’. When I am in pain and I am experiencing loss, I am far from fine. When I don’t give my experience and the stain it left on me the dignity of a name, and rather say ‘I’m fine’ my stain spreads. The original impact of the trauma is much worse if I can’t call out the fact I am hurting and I have been effected by what happened to me or what I witnessed.
I’m not suggesting you have a full-on therapy session with the next person who asks how you are. However, instead of lying with ‘I’m fine’, chose something else. Literally ANYTHING else, because being ‘fine’ is not living.
Life has not been promised without pain. We do not get to skip through Candyland shooting rainbows out of our ass while riding a unicorn. Though, if we can be honest with ourselves and with those we love and trust, we have the ability to come back from anything and find peace in the most troubling situations.
Tell someone you trust you are struggling. Admit when you are in pain. Ask for help when you need it. The holidays are difficult for MOST people. This is not a Christmas movie where everything is figured out with a beautiful bow tying up the end. But, we can take better care of ourselves by being honest and finding the people we can trust with our stains. Stay mindful of your soul and stay away from being ‘fine’.
Photo Credit: Photography by Angela Gross