You are more than trauma.
I couldn’t sleep. My mind ran restless laps around last week’s events. As much as I wanted to put it all behind me, my brain had other ideas.
I lay there with eyes open and then shut. Again and again, open and shut. I attempted to slow my breathing. I felt my toes and fingers. I added the weight of an extra blanket. I used a mantra and when that didn’t work, tried another.
Exasperated, I willed my mind: Stop. Please stop.
I waited. Should I get up? Should I turn on the light and read?
But before I could do anything, a whisper of a question broke through. It said:
What did you accomplish last week that was unrelated to trauma?
My mind still and I heard an answer, my answer:
I ran for fifteen miles.
In the dark, my eyebrows peaked. Fifteen miles? That’s a lot!
The swirling thoughts were quickly replaced by thoughts of this accomplishment. In my mind, I felt my feet pounding the sidewalks and paths. I remembered my wary movements on icy patches followed by the freedom of longer stretches on dry side roads. I calculated the two-and-a-half hours it had taken me to accumulate the mileage.
Then I thought of something else.
In one month, I generally run between 48 and 60 miles. Over a year, that is a huge amount of miles! I do that! It has nothing to do with trauma!
A sense of calm filled me. I fell asleep.
The next day, I pondered my inner discovery.
The weight of the prior week had lightened. I felt energized to face whatever challenges the coming days held.
During this reflection, my thoughts turned to the many partners and survivors in similar situations. There are so many who personally accomplish big and small things unrelated to trauma every week.
Some coach sports teams, draw or paint, landscape beautiful outdoor spaces, knit and sew, hike, cook, teach a class, or design websites.
Small accomplishments count too. Some make a yummy sandwich, read one or two books a month, or take fantastic photos on their phones.
Sometimes, these skills bring in additional income, which is amazing. But most don’t. People are doing them because they love to. Their lives are richer and fuller.
Of course, one benefit is that engagement in a passion or skill (big or small) helps you feel stronger. It helps you feel nurtured. Any area of competence will support wellbeing and recovery from trauma.
But as you can tell, the focus of these activities is most often not trauma-related.
I encourage you to think about one thing you do that is non-trauma. Make a mental note of it. Celebrate it.
Remember, you are more than your trauma.
A little afterword:
And if you can’t think of anything right now, that’s okay. There are times and seasons for everything. The message of this post still applies to you too!
If you are looking for more ways to stay connected to yourself, please learn more in the book Strengthening You.
In this unique guide focused on supporting partners, friends and family members, Heather addresses the importance of caring for the emotions of those who support.
“Heather has a gentle and compassionate way of offering complex information in understandable language. Her writing continues to be very beneficial to individuals and families needing support and resources to address trauma and mental health challenges.”
— Laura Reagan LCSW-C, Host Therapy Chat & Trauma Chat