Trauma Can Change Us

Traumatic events can have an overwhelming reaction in our lives. For me, it was the death of my child and the collapse of my marriage to make me want to change. I had been a pushover for a long time. The ironic thing is that before I got married, I gave the perception of someone that you didn’t want to mess with. I came across as strong when inside; I felt weak. I didn’t allow others to see me care what they perceived. I fell into a crowd that accepted me for who I was, and I wanted to freeze time. I could ride motorcycles with the best of them and loved the feeling of the wind whipping my hair against my face and my clothes. I loved the freedom that came with doing what I wanted and when. Ramifications are damned. What took me a very long time to comprehend was that I could still have that feeling and take control back in my life. Instead, I opted for years to let someone else dominate me and what I thought I needed to become. This led to years of unhappiness, and when I had two things happen simultaneously, my world unraveled, and I quickly fell down a never-ending rabbit hole.

Most of us change when something traumatic happens in our lives. I’m sure many of you have had moments in time that shaped who you are today and why. I watched a friend of mine die. I don’t talk about it much. It was a motorcycle accident that happened a very long time ago. I saw how another car clipped him, and the wreck killed him instantly. I’ve never been the same and have struggled to get back on a bike. I keep having that image playback over and over. For a long time, I chose to block out those memories. I didn’t want to deal with losing my friend. I was angry at the people who caused the accident. And it was an accident. There was nothing malicious about it, but at the time, I was 21, and I loved him. When you watch a loved one die horrifically, some scars never dissipate. Instead, they may be invisible to the world, but you carry those scars in your heart.

I met a man who put me through hell. He was the first and only man I’ve ever had hit me. That relationship was turbulent. It, too, caused scars that have never fully healed. When you want to be with someone so badly that the thought of being alone terrifies you, you don’t always make the best of decisions. This was true in my case. I was young and thought I was invincible. I was defiant and fought the world even from myself. I didn’t want to grow up and be responsible. I wanted the freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted and didn’t want to accept those decisions’ repercussions. Talk about a dose of reality knocking me upside the head. I’ve paid dearly for those actions and have learned that some of the traumatic events in our lives happened because we chose dangerous paths. We didn’t think about how our choices would affect other people. When we made choices that were made from traumatic events, those choices determined our future paths.

I should never have tried to get pregnant with that last child. My heart wasn’t in my marriage. I had fallen for someone else, and the fact that our marriage was based on lies and deceit didn’t help matters. Neither of us did what we needed to salvage the relationship. Instead, we hurt each other. He got with the woman who is now his wife. I truly hope he’s happy and that he is honest in that relationship. I doubt he is but that isn’t my issue, and I’m not going to make it my problem. I’ve made so many mistakes in my doing. No one had to help me decide to take the wrong turns. I did that on my own. But had some things not happened that were traumatic, I wouldn’t have the understanding or appreciation I do now.
When I lost that last-child, I can’t explain the emotions I went through. Sorrow, anger, confusion, extreme emotional pain, relief, weakness, strength, failure, and redemption were all intertwined. The relief was because I knew that the child was conceived as a desperate last attempt to keep our marriage going. When you lose a child, there is a part of you that dies. You don’t know how to respond to others who celebrate the birth of their children. You try to be happy for them, but there is a part of you that resents the fact you don’t have the child you were supposed to have. You go through periods of anger and sadness. There’s a little bitterness that creeps upon you, and you strive not to let it overtake you, but sometimes it isn’t easy. The impact of the loss is lifelong. You never forget that child or children. Then everyone around you tells you that you will have other children and when you don’t, you feel like you are a complete failure. You find yourself angry at God if you believe in him. You are angry at the world, and yet you keep moving. You might seek professional help and find that it helps to talk about what happened, but inside, you wanted the family you feel robbed of. It was when I lost that last child that something inside of me snapped. I became an advocate for those who don’t have children. I started standing up for those who didn’t have families and were discriminated against. It took me losing what I wanted to understand there were bigger issues in the world. As long as I didn’t understand where others were coming from, I’d never be able to voice concerns over the discrimination women in the workplace without children faced.

Those of you with children may feel like you are discriminated against because you have children. But think about those women who are told that they don’t have kids, so they should be able to work on the holidays that women with children don’t work. We get told all the time that we don’t have the same expenses that women with kids do, and that’s true to a point. Some people with kids say that we choose to be childless. To them, I ask you a pointed question. How do you know that? Adoption is costly. Parents of foster care children often change their minds and want their kids back before an adoption goes through. Then the foster parent has gotten their heartbroken, and the child may or may not benefit from that decision. It’s not always a choice. Sometimes life throws curve balls that we never anticipated. Surrogacy is astronomical. Then there is a matter of finding the perfect candidate. It’s sad when it’s more affordable to have a biological child than to adopt, especially when many women can not biologically have a child. Assuming you know what a woman is dealing with in her quest to have a family or not have one is demeaning. Don’t assume everyone wants what you do. You have no idea how or what a person is dealing with their emotional issues.

Losing a parent that you have been close to can also leave a gap in your life. It can be traumatic because they were the glue that kept you from falling apart. This was true when my dad died. I still deal with his loss every day. I don’t want to forget what he sounded like. I’m starting to forget how he looked. I remember his impact on people and myself. I go through life now, asking myself if what I’m doing would make him proud. Losing him changed me. I’m aware of how I present myself to the world and become more demure in many ways. I’ve also become more polished in others. I’m learning to fight for what I want while figuring out who I am. That’s not always an easy journey.

The point I’m making is simple. When we go through traumatic events, we make changes in our lives. Sometimes they are positive, and other times, they aren’t, but we are impacted by what has occurred. Assuming that we know and understand what a person is going through is dangerous. We can be empathetic without knowing it all. Listening to each other is a key component to helping one another. Communicating by talking to instead of talking at a person is another big help. Your journey is not the same as anyone else’s. That’s why it’s your journey. You aren’t alone in the trauma world. We all have had incidents that continue to affect us. Never feel like no one understands. Give people a chance to learn from you, and you might be amazed at what you absorb in knowledge from them.

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