One very important thing I’ve learned about experiencing repeated traumas is something that’s never discussed. It’s about how when you go through trauma after trauma, you don’t have the time to heal, so eventually it resurfaces, & often many years after the fact. This is absolutely NORMAL! Yet, many people tell those experiencing this that something is wrong with them, they’re living in the past or they need to get over it because that was such a long time ago.
If you’re going through this, this information is for you.
When you’re in a situation where you experience repeated traumas, your mind has no choice but to kick in to survival mode. Survival mode is when you are faced with not knowing what will set an abuser off, so you become hyper-vigilant. This means you become extremely aware of your surroundings & the emotional state of those around you in an attempt to prevent any abuse before it starts. This takes over your awareness of your own needs, wants & feelings. Survival mode is a very helpful way of thinking that helps you to survive traumatic situations.
Once the relationship with your abuser ends, that doesn’t mean survival mode is over & you automatically return to normal. Survival mode usually continues for quite some time after the abuse is over. It can last a few weeks, months or even years. Eventually though, it does stop or at the very least, lets up a great deal. As great as that is, it doesn’t mean you are ok.
After survival mode ends, it’s as if your brain decides that now is the time to deal with the trauma & it forces you to do this. This is often when you start having nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts & memories.
This time can be incredibly painful. It can make you feel like you’re crazy. After all, the abuse is done, you survived, so why now after all this time are you having these nightmares, flashbacks, etc.? There are three reasons for this.
Reason #1: when you were in the abusive situation, there wasn’t time to process your trauma & survive. Trauma happened over & over. You didn’t have sufficient time to process one trauma when another happened, then another & another.
Reason #2: surviving the situation is top priority during abusive relationships. All of your focus had to be on surviving, not how you felt about that.
Reason #3: emotions demand to be felt. If they can’t be felt at the time, they don’t simply vanish. They wait until a time that the environment feels safe to manifest. If you don’t deal with them in a healthy way, they’ll still manifest somehow.
If it’s been a while since the last trauma, yet suddenly you’re faced with a flood of emotions & pain related to it, I want to assure you that you’re not crazy. You are in fact quite normal! Your response is normal to a very abnormal situation. I firmly believe that people who don’t react this way to situations like this are the ones with the problems. How can a person not be affected by trauma?! That is what is abnormal! Being damaged by trauma is very normal.
Rather than ignoring the emotions, nightmares, etc. you’re experiencing, it’s time to deal with them. Ignoring them only makes things worse. It’s much like having a stomach bug. As yukky as vomiting is, if you can, it helps you to get better. If you don’t, the bug has to go through your system & drags out how long it takes you to get better. Dealing with what you’re experiencing is yukky too but it really will help you heal. So pray, journal, talk to someone safe… do whatever helps you to process your pain. You will survive this & you will be ok!
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