I wrote an open letter to my trauma anniversaries. I’ve done a lot of growing and inner work in the last year. Thankfully, I am a better and stronger person now.
To my trauma anniversaries,
Each month of every year, I am paralyzed by you. The anniversaries have stacked up quite a bit over the last thirty years. Every few weeks, a new anniversary creeps from its hiding place in my mind, down my central nervous system, and has life breathed into it again. Many times, I don’t know what it is that has me anxious, angry, and depressed until I look at a calendar.
When I put two and two together, all that comes out is, “Oh.”
I resent you. Each and every anniversary temporarily robs me of the peace that I’ve worked so hard to grow. My happiness is stolen briefly while I try to understand why I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach when nothing bad is going on in my life.
You won’t like this, but I’ve learned how to deal with you. I don’t want my contentment and joy stolen by memories that can’t harm me anymore. The physical and emotional pain that accompanies each thought I’ve tried to forget has no power over me.
I learned to forgive. I forgive each man and woman that came into my life, looking to do harm instead of good. They are not a part of my life anymore. The things they did are not things I want to hold onto anymore. I learned to forgive myself. I am an imperfect person that has learned and grown more in the last year than I think I have my whole life. Grace and patience have allowed me to see that everyone has problems. We were all doing our best whether we did good or bad to each other.
I learned to take care of myself, instead of falling prey to alcohol and other things that make the pain subside briefly. Giving myself healthy means of coping with all of the feelings that you bring up has changed my life completely. I am happier when I hear myself actively choose to go for a walk or breathe instead of looking for medications or other means of shutting you out.
I learned to stop listening when you put your hands on my shoulders and tell me all the ways that I’m inadequate or worthless. I am not you. I am more than what has happened to me. It’s taken me until my thirties to understand that fact. You are not me, and I am not you.
I learned to accept that you happened to me. I can’t change that my fiancé left me without telling me what was wrong or why. I can’t change the amount of sexual and physical abuse I’ve endured since I was a little girl. I can’t change that I was almost murdered by a psychopath. I accept that. What I can do, is take what I’ve learned from each of those situations and move forward to continue being a better human being than any of the people that I encountered. And I can keep myself away from people like that in the future.
I learned that I will never have answers to: Why did this happen to me? Now, I no longer need the answers. I have faith in myself that I will overcome all of these traumas to live a happy healthy life. The answers to my pain are happiness and fulfillment in helping others with their grief and suffering.
I learned to let go. The hardest thing to let go of was the man I thought was the love of my life. He’s not the person that I thought he was. Waiting, expecting, or hoping for him to become the person I thought he was would only have kept me miserable, angry, and confused, and I let go of him to make way for the person that I deserve. That person is out there somewhere, and I look forward to the day that we cross paths. Until then, I won’t dwell on what was in order to keep working on who I am and who I want to be.
I learned not to conceal the emotions as they came up. You always had power over me because I tried so hard to hide them. Instead, I walk hand in hand with whatever comes up. Shame, embarrassment, sadness, and anger are all familiar friends now. We know each other well, and they walk with me for a while until they pass. I’m not afraid of them anymore. They are what they are, and then they go away.
I learned that a healing journey is not linear. I had some very good days and very bad days. There were times that I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened and begging whatever deity was listening to bring me peace and help me understand why this happened with tears running down my face. There were days that I willed my heart to stop beating because I couldn’t handle all of the things I’d been through. I asked for guidance to understand why someone that knew my every trauma and promised to never hurt me, did the exact opposite, and hurt me worse than anyone had before. No one had answers. No one knew. The way that I cried ‘til I couldn’t breathe and dry heaved for months after that and tried everything to stop that pain was unlike anything I’d ever experienced.
Slowly, it lessened. I would have days where I could laugh and didn’t think about the pain in my chest. Other days, I couldn’t move and was completely incapacitated by it. Even now, when I have accepted what happened, I have moments where it hits me squarely in the chest again. I know how to handle those moments now. With a deep breath and saying out loud, “Feel it, and let it pass. You’re going to be okay.”
You have no power over me anymore. You may worm your way out of my mind and into the world, but I have built and grown a defense of self-care and happiness to fight you. I don’t need to keep track of what day it is. I don’t have to prepare for these days with boxes of tissues and extra pillows in my bed. I can stand up and continue my day even with you in the back of my mind which is something I was not capable of last year. I am stronger now, and I know exactly what I deserve.
That leads to the last things I’ve learned. Pride and gratitude. I am so proud of myself for every step of the journey that I’ve walked since last year. I am grateful for all the wonderful people that I’ve met online and in real life. I am thankful that those that harmed me are no longer a part of my life and will never be again. And I am happy that you will never grasp my shoulders and control me again.
I am sure of all of the things that you made me doubt. Real love will find me. I am beautiful and strong. I will turn all my pain into purpose. I will have a good life. And I am worthy.
I am not you anymore, and you are no longer me.