What is trauma? And, how do you know if you’ve experienced trauma?
Is there a certain line that determines what trauma is or isn’t?
Well, to use the words of Panjat Deshpande; “Trauma is in the eye of the beholder.”
What this means is that trauma is whatever you feel is a traumatic experience.
There is confusion around this and, oftentimes, a lot of resistance by telling ourselves that we didn’t experience trauma because someone else had it worse than us.
This is what we all do, we compare our experience to someone else who experienced trauma. It’s how we’ve been trained to avoid the pain of our own experience.
So, it’s important to remember that there is no one else who has been in your body at the time you experienced your trauma. Sure, there may have been people with you, People you know well and people you don’t know as well. They all have their own trauma benchmarks but not one of them is you.
What people say!
You might even start thinking that it might not have been trauma because everyone keeps telling you things like “At least your babies are alive,” or “Someone else lost one of their babies so you should be grateful.”
You know what I’m talking about because you’ve probably heard them all too. After my girls were born at 28 weeks gestation, I had a woman say to me, “At least you didn’t have to push two big babies out.”
With each comment like this, we tend to push our trauma further away and find a way to lock it up in a vault. We try to throw away the key but that bloody lock keeps flipping open.
I’m telling you now, that if it felt traumatic to you then you experienced a trauma. That’s all there is to it. It doesn’t matter if someone tells you it’s not as bad as you’re making it out to be. It’s your trauma and you’re allowed to own it. No apologies. You don’t need anyone to validate it for you.
The simplest way to start healing from pregnancy or birth trauma is to gently lean into it.
It needs to be worked through and released because it won’t go away on its own. You might think the pain will go away if you just look away, bury it, or ignore it. You’ve probably heard the saying ‘Time Heals All Wounds’ and you might even be putting all your faith in this notion and waiting for ‘Time’ to come and take away your trauma.
Unfortunately, ‘Time’ isn’t coming to save you. I learnt this the hard way.
Now, I’m not saying that it won’t get better, don’t get me wrong; however, the trauma doesn’t go away on its own. It just sits in your head and your body until it starts to manifest itself in various ways.
What are the signs of unresolved trauma?
It’s important to note that I don’t diagnose clinical conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, only a clinically trained medical professional can do that. I will say; however, if you’re ready to start healing and you want a diagnosis please find someone who has experience with birth trauma, prematurity, having babies in NICU etc.
It’s also important to not self-diagnose. I really want you to move into your healing gently and with the right support for your journey.
Now, signs of unresolved trauma can show up a year, two years, five years, even 20 years after you have delivered your babies. Unresolved trauma can last for decades.
Signs of Unresolved Trauma:
Suddenly develop panic attacks when you haven’t experienced them before
On high alert or hyper-vigilant all the time
Shame and feeling like you’re not worthy of joy, happiness, or anything good in your life.
Developed depression or depressive symptoms such as feeling low, sad, or disconnected, numb
Avoiding people or places which remind you of the experience
Body memories regarding the event – touch, smell, foods
Addictive behaviours – alcohol, drugs, excessively exercising, compulsive behaviour
Disassociation from your body
Uncontrollable anger all the time – snapping and picking fights
Suicidal thoughts and plans
Ask yourself – Do any of these resonate with me? Is this unresolved trauma? Is this something I need to look at?
What if it is?
What can you do about it?
Straight up, you’ll need support and guidance. You can’t do this alone.
And, before you start to heal there are four things that need to be addressed.
Acknowledge that you had trauma.
You have to be able to acknowledge it. Say out loud – “I experienced trauma.”
Acknowledge you have signs or unresolved trauma without judgement and without shame.
You have to be able to say out loud:
“Strong people experience trauma too.”
“I’ve been through a trauma and it’s still unresolved.”
Give yourself permission to heal and believe that you deserve it.
We tend to punish ourselves if we can’t find anyone or anything to blame for what happened to us. We know we need to heal, we know we should heal; however, we don’t think we deserve it, so we don’t. You have to feel worthy of healing, of feeling better, of feeling joy.
Integrate your trauma into your story, your identity, and your journey.
What this means is that you need to include it in your story, so you can recount the story without it being emotionally overwhelming and without wanting to hide from it. Of course, there will be days when you’ll still get emotional, that’s to be expected; however, it shouldn’t derail you for days, weeks, or months.
No amount of meditation, therapy, or deep breathing will work long-term until you move through these steps first.
You need to own your trauma. You need to know that you’re still lovable, you’re still strong, you’re still confident, and you’re still the gorgeous light-filled being you once were.
Of course, you have changed; however, your true essence is still there. You need to allow yourself to own your trauma and step into your power to start healing.
If done with love and light in a gentle way your healing shouldn’t be more painful than the traumatic experience itself. It will take time, I won’t lie to you. But it’s worth it.
Do You Deserve To Heal?
Even recently, I spoke to a group of medical students at the University of Newcastle about my pregnancy and birth trauma, which was 11-years ago, and there were times during my speech that I had to stop and compose myself because going so deep into the details still brings up those emotions. The difference is that now, after following these important steps, I can carry on without spending days, weeks, or even months reeling from the memories.
The healing will happen if you allow it.
However, it’s up to you to decide if you deserve it or not.
If you need more guidance, please pop over to my FaceBook Group The Pregnancy & Birth Trauma Healing Lounge.
I run regular meditations and healing challenges, and it’s a great group of ladies to connect with.