Welcome to part two! Thank you for being here and braving through this tough subject with me.
Now that we've gone over some misconceptions and I've bared my soul to the world, we can talk about healing.
** T/W trauma, mental illness **
**I am not a licensed mental health professional (yet) I am simply sharing my journey through struggles and my own studies. Please contact your doctor or a mental health professional if you need help **
I wrote in the last post that my journey is not the golden standard of what it's like to live affected by PTSD, and I want to emphasize this because healing is so subjective and what might work for one person may not work for another. I found my solace in hiking nearly everyday after my divorce. I learned to breathe deeper, to count and to notice the small things, and to drink in the view at the top of the climb. Or to put simply; breathe, be thankful, and celebrate victories.
As great as the benefits are, this would be a terrible healing strategy for someone who hates to hike, which, in the PNW, is right up there in rarity as seeing a local use an umbrella. If you know, you know.
There is no "golden standard" or "one-size-fits-all" when it comes to healing in a healthy way, but there are unhealthy practices in a healing journey, namely, making assumptions.
The worst of the worst of things that someone can do is assume, and unfortunately assumptions run rampant, and have really deep roots. The thing that makes assumptions so dangerous is they are divisive. Like lies, they fool many people into thinking they're not loved, that there's no hope, and that things won't get better. Some assumptions are honest mistakes, or they're made from the heart of wanting to be helpful. But many times, because of misinformation, the assumption will ultimately keep one stagnant in their healing journey, regardless of who is making them.
*You know what "assume" does right?*
The biggest mistake I see when people talk to someone who is healing and working through a trigger, is they assume the traumatized individual needs a hero. This can go the other way too, where a traumatized individual feels like the only way they can get better is if someone else does the heavy lifting because they feel like they're not strong enough. How great would it be to have someone step in and take all the weight, offer the greatest advice, and solve all the problems so they aren't triggered anymore? Sometimes, admittedly, I wish this were plausible. But there's a wonderful alternative that yields even better results and the opportunity to grow.
It all starts when you realize that you have a choice.
I can choose to heal and do the work and heavy lifting, to be my own hero, because to not choose is to choose misery. To have someone else do the heavy lifting is being robbed of the opportunity to refine your character, becoming stronger, and having the satisfaction of saying "I did that."
I'm not saying that you can "think" your way out of a trigger, because there isn't much one can do when the brain is reacting in its rewired way. But you absolutely have a choice in how to respond to your trigger. The beauty of it is that in making the choice to heal over and over — to breathe, be thankful, and celebrate — your beautiful brain creates a new breathing, thankful, celebratory pathway and it becomes easier to make the choice each time. The pathway eventually becomes second nature. It's really this simple.
When I say simple, I don't mean easy. Nothing about healing is easy. But it's as simple as making the choice to show up and be willing to feel weak as you sit with your pain for a while, so you can walk out as the warrior you were made to be.
This is why it's absolutely silly to assume that triggers are weaknesses, because they aren't. They are purely a response from a brain rewired to be hypervigilant. Essentially, the amygdala, a small almond-shaped part of the brain, is conditioned to react to any stimulus that it perceives as threatening by throwing out the stress hormone cortisol, in abnormally high quantities. It isn't a matter of whether someone is "really healed" but rather how the person is literally at the mercy of their altered brain chemistry. Because of this, triggers make for poor indicators as to where a person is in their healing journey. A traumatized individual can make the decision to forgive, go to counseling, practice mindfulness and other prescribed exercises, but it takes a very long time for the brain to adjust its chemistry.
It's all brain science folks.
The only thing assumptions have ever been good at is robbing someone of the chance to connect on a spirit-deep level. Assumptions fuel the fire of pride in the individuals that want to help, while simultaneously watering down the hope of the hurting.
"I can fix them. I give great advice."
"If people knew what I really thought about, they wouldn't want to get close to me."
It is imperative to cast assumptions aside. Instead, focus on these truths:
Triggers do not make you weak, nor are they indicators of failed healing. The progress is evident in how you handle your triggers and the choices you make, not in how your changed brain chemistry reacts to stimuli you can't control. Don't bleed on others just because you're cut. Your triggers do not make your choice to heal counterfeit. Your decision to forgive your offender is genuine, even on days where forgiveness feels so far out of reach. Trauma validity is not a matter of opinion, because what happened and how it affects you is real. Healing has its good days and bad days. One bad day doesn't mean you aren't healing, it's all a part of the process; there's a reason why it's called a healing journey.
You cannot "fix" someone who is hurting, but you can love them through it; choose to listen to their story if they feel comfortable sharing and make an effort to remember their triggers. Love them by waiting for them to open up in their own time, because it isn't about you. Choose patience over the need to know. To do otherwise is to rob them of important growth moments.
It's hard to heal and it's hard watching someone you love heal, but regardless, you are not alone. Refuse to make an island out of yourself, because there are people who have gone through things you have, and they do understand. Let people in and watch them surprise you with their abounding love, and let it soften your heart.
There is an exception to the rule, and I've said it before, but if you assume anything, assume you don't have the full story. You can absolutely be helpful to someone without knowing every detail. Choose grace when emotions are high. Choose gratitude, especially on the dark days. Above all, choose compassion; trauma is painful and a little compassion goes a long way.
I know this is all much easier said than done, but the beauty of it is that it does get easier the more you do it. Healing takes time. Healing is a practice, there will be ups and downs. It is not a destination, it is a journey. It takes lots of love, especially for yourself. There's a lot more healing found when you're vulnerable with the people you trust. I've found that to be true.
Really, it all boils down to making the choice.
~Listening to Healing by Riley Clemmons