Broken Brains Can Heal
I am sad today. It’s a very melancholy kind of sad that I cannot shake and at this point I have given up trying to shake it. I watched 3 hours of Netflix, went for a run, played with my dog, called my sister and my mom and still sad. It’s the type of sad that is just hovering over me. I am conscious of the emotion and trying to dismiss it, but it won’t leave. My sadness is determined to stick around until I feel the entirety of it. This type of sadness typically follows an anxiety attack and doesn’t leave until I have gained the wisdom necessary to move forward and hopefully away from reliving the initial trauma. Sometimes I am so deep in the trauma I don’t see, feel or hear the learning and I become depressed. I am sharing this with you because, as a society we are afraid to speak about this type of break in the brain. We have not normalized the conversation surrounding mental health and because of a lack of awareness and willingness to say out loud, “I hurt” or “I am sad” we all suffer. We lose the opportunity to truly feel all of our emotions. Today, I am sad and my heart hurts.
Tomorrow I may or may not feel sad. The broken and empty feeling may dissipate, or it may remain. What I do know is I will keep trying to do things that put a smile on face. If I don’t allow the light inside me to shine through with a simple smile or joyful task, it will be blocked by darkness and heaviness and I will sink. I know this about me and those I have helped through anxiety and depression. If we do not have the awareness, or the tools and strategies to continue to see and feel our light we see nothing, and nothingness is exhausting. Nothingness tells us we are worthless and unworthy. It is fueled by our trauma and the longer we let that trauma live in our bodies, the longer we suffer and believe in nothing.
Every day I wake up and I want to believe. I want to know that my life makes a difference, and my work has helped someone to believe. At this point in my life, I understand what it means to live with the possibility of anxiety surfacing and depression taking over. I understand my trauma and how it has manifested in my body and continues to manifest. I understand my triggers and my reactions to them. I have a deep knowing, love and appreciation for who I am. This does not make the trauma magically vanish. Mindfulness practices, awareness, self-love, forgiveness and gratitude help manage the trauma, but the memory of it stays. My trauma has helped shape me into the woman I am today. I know I am an amazing social worker and professional coach because of the awareness and wisdom I have gained from experiencing my traumas. For this I am grateful and continue to embrace the learning and consciousness brought to me from feeling sad and hurt.
The little T traumas we experience can have a significant impact similar to the big T traumas. Many of our traumas come to us in our youth and find a place to live in our bodies because of our lack of awareness and capacity to confront the traumatic occurrences. Can you think of a time when your younger self was let down by someone, was embarrassed by an incident at school, caused the opposing team to score a goal or basket, did not come in first or failed a test? The language used while trying to make you feel better could have added to your trauma. For example, “you should have stopped that goal/ won the race”, “why did you fail the test, is the material too hard?”, “I didn’t make it to your game because I had something more important come up.” These responses add to the already traumatizing event, the little T and enforce that we are worthless and unworthy. These little T traumas over time impact us in the same manner the big T traumas do. We don’t need to experience an assault, major accident or abuse to feel the physical and mental effects of trauma. When we are unable to effectively process the trauma and work through it in the moment it occurs, it finds its way into our bodies. We unknowingly allow it into our bodies when we try to hide or downplay it. It gets buried in our bodies and manifests as physical points of trauma and emotional triggers. We think covering up the pain, not acknowledging it happened and its impact on us will make it go away. And when it doesn’t go away, we hide ourselves, we don’t show up fully and we create self-defeating dialogues and practices. Unprocessed trauma is stored in the body and until we are able to make peace with the trauma and our response to it, it will remain stored, and we will remain hidden. If I could share one thing with you about healing trauma, it would be the following. In the moment you were experiencing the trauma, you did everything you could do. You did not make any mistakes, nor do you need to undo or replay the circumstances back in your mind over and over again. You are beautiful and whole and whatever small T trauma or big T trauma you have experienced; it can be released. It may never fully leave your mind, but you can release it from your body and make peace in your mind.
I can’t promise you’ll never be sad or hurt, these emotions come with being human. And when we are able to embrace ourselves completely and feel all there is to feel whether we can make sense of it or not, we will truly be living into our aliveness. I am still sad, and I developed a migraine as I typed which is my body affirming the sadness. I am going to honor myself now and rest. Typically, I would have written a poem while in my sadness. I would have felt better and increased my awareness of how I experienced my anxiety. Writing to you and sharing my feelings has empowered me. I desperately want to help normalize the conversation around mental health. I want to be able to say I am sad and not have my friends and family feel bad for me or try to distract me from it. I want to know if a brain has a break that we can speak about it just as we speak about broken bones. We know the bone will heal, so we tell the adventurous or clumsy story of how it broke. In the same manner, we need to know the brain can and will heal when it experiences a break. Our minds, bodies and souls are powerful. When we combine this power and utilize the connection between them, we heal and move forward. We are able to live our messy human lives, learn and get better. So, allow yourself to feel and if it helps start talking, I guarantee someone else feels the same.