i managed to make it to 36 without real trauma in my life.
oh, i had things that i thought were traumatic.
my grandpa died – of old age, mainly. and i was about 30 at the time. and my other grandpa is still alive. sad to lose a grandpa, but not traumatic.
the process of adopting my foster daughter and raising her was certainly challenging. difficult, but not traumatic.
i’d been getting migraines since i was in elementary school. really painful, but it turns out that they weren’t traumatic.
so then what’s trauma? merriam webster says, “a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury.” i think that “severe” is the key word. it’s so relative. before my medical drama, i would have described my foster-parenting and my migraines as severe. now i know better.
there’s a secret society of migraine sufferers. when we tell someone that we get migraines and they respond by saying that they get headaches too, we smile and nod. we’re glad that they don’t know what a migraine feels like. behind my nod i’m thinking, “well isn’t that quaint. he thinks that migraines are like headaches.” but when you meet someone else who gets migraines, there’s something unspoken. it’s a look.
soon after my medical drama, my friend’s roommate was one of the hikers lost on mt. hood. it turned out that what i was going through helped me to understand what my friend was going through. i was able to relate to her, and she to me. losing a roommate and losing the ability to walk are clearly two very different things, but there’s this underlying piece. “severe emotional stress.” i guess that trauma is like pornography – you know it when you see it. and i saw it in my friend.
since then, i’ve seen it in a friend who went through a very difficult parting from her child’s father, a recovering alcoholic, a friend whose significant other was killed, a mother whose daughter went through some serious medical drama, and many other people. just yesterday i was minding my friend’s boutique and i saw it in a breast cancer survivor who came in to pick up a bracelet and ended up striking up a conversation with me.
so by choosing my attitude i managed to survive my rookie trauma rookie year. and i guess i’m a life-long member of the trauma club. the trauma club is like the migraine club: you don’t want anyone else to join, but it’s a relief when you find out you’re not the only one.
side note: somehow when i joined the trauma club i gave up my membership in the migraine club. not one since my medical drama, and before i used to have 2 or 3 a month. a silver lining. please note that i’m not suggesting that you have a bunch of brain surgeries and a stroke and stuff to get rid of your migraines. there has to be an easier way.
i guess that my advice for any trauma rookies out there is to talk about it. and not necessarily only with people who might have been through something similar to what you’ve been through. other folks can help you. and you help them by giving them the opportunity to put what they’ve learned to good use.