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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Georgiou

My trauma did not make me strong: the impact of invalidating personal experiences of trauma

 

 


Whenever I am going through a difficult period in my life, or not feeling my best, I am so tired of hearing phrases like 'What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger', Your trauma has made you who you are today' 'It either makes you or breaks you' etc etc. I know most mean well and systematically saying what they think others want to hear, but what this boils down to, is just another way to put ownership and blame on victims rather than giving them credit for the experiences they have survived. This also can lead to victims comparing themselves in how to respond and react to a multitude of situations, leading to ignorance of how to support people as individuals! So if it doesn't make you and you 'break', are you now to always be though of as weak? Are you less worthy of your experience because you didn't find the perceived expectation of strength from being subjected to abuse and keep going through horrible stuff in your life?!


I believe all animals can experience immense psychological trauma. However, we do not judge them in the same vein as we judge victims. We do not look at elephants for example and stereotype them as being weak or strong due to lives in domination-based captivity, or social traumas, natural disasters, or horrific human violence towards them. We generally see elephants as strong, intelligent creatures regardless, with communities, who may display appropriate responses to fear. Elephants communicate a range of emotions, and as one of the most empathetic, emotionally intelligent land mammals, are not seen as broken or damaged, or weak for any trauma they have been subjected to. So why do we do it to each other?


Some traumas experienced are a series of unfortunate events, but the evoking of rational trauma responses is still as valid as being subjected to abuse. Yes, our experiences may create lessons and memories. They mould our outlook of life and the relationships we hold, with others and with ourselves. It can impact our behaviours and create trauma responses that if are neglected and unsupported, and so often are, can result in both mental and physical challenges. This can leave people feeling disadvantaged, vulnerable, and often pessimistic and feel a variety of perceived ‘negative emotions’ -often which are crucial in our survival to embark on new opportunities and help safeguard ourselves.


I don’t want to have to keep being accepting and ok with traumatic experiences. I am exhausted. I choose to embrace an attitude that works for me personally and work from a perspective of gratitude in areas of my life, but this has taken years of self-healing and education. Some days I feel I am good at handling my emotions and other times I am not. It DOES NOT however mean that I must appreciate any traumas or negative experiences that I have been subjected to.


The trauma in my life DID NOT MAKE ME stronger. I MADE MYSELF STRONGER. I gave myself strength when no one else showed up for me or couldn’t understand what I was going through. A lot of the trauma I have experienced in my life has been the cause of other people-they absolutely do not get credit for my choices of positive mental wellbeing or being able to navigate my way successfully through challenges.


My trauma responses have equated to decades of crippling anxiety, low self-esteem, hypervigilance, feeling the need to overexplain myself all the time, body dysmorphia, eating disorders, wanting to fawn and people please, being nervous and jumpy around what some people think are ‘silly things’ but then called a brave/risk taker in what some people say are dangerous situations. I have disrespected my personal boundaries to try and fix people, injured physical injuries and pain, have immune system complications and disabilities…the list goes on. Does having all these parts of my persona make me weak or strong in societies vision of strength?


I work with myself to try and overcome the things I want to change. Whilst I have been fortunate to find and surround myself with likeminded people, some by chance-mostly through choice, I have been the one to keep working hard for myself and build resilience, understanding, empathy and acceptance-for myself. Not for my abusers. Not for me to embrace forgiveness. Why should victim’s feel the pressure of having to forgive people who have hurt them. Where is the same pressure of accountability of the abusers? Yes, I believe in holding my power now and by not carrying their trauma and bullshit around with me, but this does not mean I am accepting of their previous harm towards me or others.


I was already born strong. That’s why abusers take advantage, to weaken who you are, to break you down, so you lose your self-worth. We are all born strong, this is how we evolve physically and mentally. People need to stop with this connotation of someone having to experience or be subjected to something traumatic to be strong. Everybody’s strength presents different and is subjective to their own personal qualities. Comparing coping mechanisms, responses, and trauma in general invalidates anyone trying to live their life.


So next time someone is finding their strength and maybe just wants to vent and release their experience, be mindful of your response. Feel privileged that they have seen you as someone as a safe space to talk to. Ask if they are looking for advice, solution suggestions or active listening. Do not invalidate them with blanket phrases which give power to the trauma or abusers. The power is in their voice and their feelings. It is theirs. It is mine. Support them through acknowledgment and empathy. Be more elephant.

 

Have a lovely weekend,

Love, The Feminist Ambivert. x



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