A Hard Reset to Cope with Complex Trauma

I really appreciate my friend who sent me a GrubHub gift card in lieu of a casserole. That’s a classy move.

So I’ve just returned home from therapy – it is a difficult bit for me right now so I’m going 2x week now and trying to figure out what has triggered me. I feel like shit, to be honest. My therapist has suggested that we postpone the EMDR treatment and spend some time on more basics to help me get a bit more stable.  I wrote about the diagnosis of complex trauma here. 

This is what trauma does, more specifically – this is what facing and dealing with trauma does. I’m plagued by a lot of horrific memories which I used to be able to just turn off or stuff down. I anticipated Lent would be a bitch for me and that’s proving to be the case.

My main symptom is that I get upset really easily. I weep and cry about the most banal things that in my mind are associated with horrific actual experiences. It isn’t really anxiety or a mood issue, it is my body and brain doing the “knitting work” of getting my memories and feelings and coping mechanisms and survival skills aligned how that are supposed to be. It is actually positive, but painful work.

So I’m going to do what my therapist calls a “hard reset” by avoiding bad stuff or complicated stuff or upsetting (to me) stuff for several days and giving my mind a chance to just catch up with the work. No intense streaming series, no news, no necessarily responding to email/messages, etc. It is a form of self-care to opt out for a few days and just allow myself a chance to breathe and heal.

I’ll still be here, but may not respond to you immediately. I use a scheduling software to share links so you’ll see my social media accounts active as usual but I won’t be jumping in on threads – I’ll just delete problems areas so I can stay focused and be able to once again engage people in a meaningful way when I’m reset.

If you have something you need urgently, your best bet is to text me. If you don’t have my cell phone number, it probably isn’t that urgent.

I’m really hurting, friends. No one talks about trauma so the one good thing I can do right now is be honest about what’s going on and use the words – I am an adult who survived a viciously traumatic childood and young adulthood and here I am trying to build a healthy, meaningful adulthood for myself. Nothing you say bad about my intentions, my fuckedupness, my likeability, my intelligence even touches the terrible things I say to myself. I have to correct that or I’m going to traumatize myself again.

Just for reference, here are the ongoing efforts I should be diligently promoting during this time.

Here are some things that work for me

  • Ask me before you disclose to me. Please don’t just do it because I cannot promise I will be in the emotional space to respond appropriately. Please do not assume that my disclosing to you, however remotely, is an invitation. Tread carefully so it is a constructive exchange for both of us. And by all means, stop me from my own disclosure if its unsafe for you.
  • Think about the language you use. Am I an intense, demanding person? Yes. Is that useful language to have a conversation? Probably not. Are those silencing terms? Sometimes. If your goal is to accurately describe how I move through the world, you do need to acknowledge my trauma. If you goal is to control what I say or how, you can use that trauma to help you along the way. That’s the double-edged sword of trying to talk about difficult issues, you give your critics ammunition and rely only on their decency to hold them back.
  • Helping someone cope with isolation doesn’t always mean deep meaningful conversations about heavy topics. You can suggest lunch or even a quick FB messenger chat on important, but not heavy matters.
  • Living in a region that is in early days of wrestling with a vast conspiracy to cover-up the sexual violence inflicted on thousands of children and young adults (aka the Catholic Church) is really hard, no matter your background. Further disclosures about other Christian denominations is going to require that we have some ugly, painful conversations about religion and trauma, things that often underly the other hard conversations about sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, child abuse, and religion, especially Christianity. That’s going to be a decades long conversation. Buckle in …
  • I am a “rip the bandaid” off type of person because the silence throughout my life protected the abusers from the consequences of their choices – the priests, the teachers, the family members, the neighbors, the older boys, and as a general rule, the white folx who refuse to talk about the realities of our anti-Blackness and racism. I am not exempt from that scrutiny, but I am also a believer that shining a light on the ugly and vicious and hurting parts is an important healing tool.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of the casserole – the universal symbol or gesture of support for someone struggling with a health crisis or a family crisis. Casserole might mean doughnuts, a Starbucks, a GrubHub gift card, etc.