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The Top 5 Things I Learned About Trauma:

Recently I walked through a traumatic event and have spent the last few weeks coping, trying to make sense of it all, while still carrying on with everyday life. Through all of this, there are 5 things I learned about trauma. Maybe they will be helpful to anyone else walking through similar circumstances or bring understanding to those that know someone who has.

1. It comes from nowhere.

I think what makes these events so traumatic is the fact that there is no warning. You go about your day, thinking that each day will be routine. You have an expectation of what events will be like that you attend or what interactions will be like with people that you haven’t seen in a long time. You think you’re going to spend the day reminiscing about life and catching up. Only for those expectations that you built in your head to come crashing down.  The reality that you think you know, no longer exists. There are no hints, no clues, and you are left in shock. 

2. Life doesn’t stop.

In these moments of trauma, it feels like everything you knew or cared about just stops, but you still have responsibilities. Sometimes with trauma there are extra details added to your life that need to be worked out with everyone involved. There are a million emotions. Physically, you just want to shut down. Honestly, avoiding people, eating copious amounts of chocolate and ice cream, and watching endless amounts of Netflix seems like a good solution to everything. But life doesn’t just stop. You still have responsibilities, bills to pay, jobs to do, and engagements to attend. You have to pull yourself together and go through the motions of life, even when you don’t feel like it.

3. It’s ok to not be ok.

With trauma, comes a million different emotions all at once and they hit you at any given moment. In order to get through the responsibilities of life, these emotions usually have to get shoved down inside until they won’t stay down anymore. You go through your entire day at work, trying to survive, trying to not have an emotional breakdown, and trying to not offend anyone in doing so. We think we have to be strong. We think that crying in public isn’t ok. We think that we just have to keep it together until we get home and can unravel. We think that it’s not ok to be upset. But really, it’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to unravel. It’s ok to let it out, it’s actually really healthy. And if your friends don't understand, then maybe they aren't really friends.

4. Emotions make people uncomfortable.

I’ve learned that people don’t know how to act around those that aren’t ok. They don’t always know how to be compassionate or they think that you’re mad at them because you want to be by yourself. It leaves others feeling insecure because you are the unhappy one. They want to fix you or want to relate, so they tell you their own story. “Oh that happened to my best friend.” They mean well, but they have no connection to the years of hurt and pain that have been stirred up through this trauma. They think that because their friend also experienced a similar event that you will be reassured or validated. It’s not true. If anything, it makes us feel more alone and more misunderstood, because you don’t really understand.

5. Support is important.

Finding someone that can relate to what you’re going through is important. Walking through pain with others also going through the same is encouraging and validating. They are often the only other people that will understand the trauma without having to retell the story from the very beginning. It’s hard retelling the story, and still not being understood. Family is important and supportive husbands are incredible but you really need to find someone who can relate 100%. Find a support group. Just find someone. In this case, I couldn't be more grateful for having a sister. Her support is the best thing in the world.

I hope that whatever your journey is in life, you are spared from any trauma. But if life throws you a punch, know that everything you feel is ok. Emotions are real, they are normal, and you are not alone. 

Mikael Sundin

Mikael Sundin