“In the crises of life, when we are overwhelmed by joy or sorrow we see our surroundings with sharpened senses, and they remain forever afterwards indelibly part of our experience” Balzac Grandet
Tuesday Talks: Trauma and Survival with Lisa Hunt-Wotton
Today I will attempt to begin to talk about my story. It won’t be easy, it may not make sense. But as any writer knows, you just need to start.
After 15 years of constant counselling by psychologists, psychiatrists and counsellors, medication, lots of prayer and lots of tears, I can confidently say one thing upon which they all of them agree: I have been severely and extremely abused. This may sound strange to you. However part of my story involves very deep brain washing so I actually believed that the things that happened to me were normal and for my good. I have been: spiritually, emotional, psychologically and sexually abused. The product of this type of abuse is dissociation.
For those of you who are unaware of this term, dissociation is an inbuilt survival mechanism. When we are confronted with severe or extreme trauma we dissociate. All of us have dissociated to some degree at some stage. Did you ever pull into the driveway after driving home and think, “I don’t remember the last three turns, or going through that roundabout”?
It is ‘the action of disconnecting or separating or the state of being disconnected’. “In psychology, the term dissociation describes a wide array of experiences from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experience. The major characteristic of all dissociative phenomena involves a detachment from reality, rather than a loss of reality as in psychosis” (Wiki).
For those who have had a traumatic life, specialists tell us to separate the events/years into segments, bite size pieces so that we are able to deal with pieces one at a time. Sometimes it may just be one event. So the last 15 years for me are called the healing years. This is the part that I want to talk about today.
One of the most difficult things for trauma survivors is to find words for their experiences. For many the story is never told. Shame and fear keep us locked in silence. It is the most difficult thing to find words to explain, especially when most people, do not understand, or have no frame of reference to comprehend. There are maybe a handful of people who have heard my story. Pieces escape from time to time but its hard to build a scaffolding to hang them all on. This has been the work of the last decade and a half for me.
So for me the last 15 years has been a journey of:
- Bloody hard work
- Integration – putting together the dissociative pieces and connecting them to reality
- Understanding – understanding that my experiences were not normal, they were not okay
- Finding Words – finding language for me to understand myself, and for me to help others to understand my journey
- Healing – coming to a place of forgiveness and rest
- Comprehension – of the golden threads that ran through my life, that on the back drop of darkness there is a thread of gold which shines even brighter
- Thankfulness – for new friendships and new experiences
- Release – of the past and release of the things that I can’t control
It is a season of coming to terms with darkness and light. Understanding that experiences shape you but don’t define you.
Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence. Simon and Garfunkle
I’m beginning to wear my scars with with ease and understanding that they are part of me but I understand now that the transformation of the heart and the soul far outweighs the disfiguration.
I am a valley dweller. I love the valley. I have lived there for a long time and it is home now. It is a place of rest and solitude and of coming to a place of peace with my lot and with who I am.The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul
And guides my path in righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Surely goodness and loving kindness
Shall follow me al the days of my life.
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever and ever and ever.
Though I walk through the valley
Of the shadow of death
I will not fear, Thou art with me.
Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table
Before me in the presence of my enemies.
Thou anointest my head with oil
My cup’s overflowing
That beautiful Psalm 23 is my testimony. I can truly say that:
- He is restoring my soul
- I need never fear
- He is with me
- The one enduring golden thread that has faithfully woven through my life has been His presence and His love for me. He didn’t remove the abuse, but he was right beside me and never never left me. Each time the psychologist has asked me to go back to a certain event and to describe who else is with you in that room – every time I would say – ‘Jesus is here’. Now that I am gathering all those threads together, the healing is faster because of that powerful common denominator.
- He prepares a table in the presence of my enemies.
- Yes there were enemies.
- But He always fed my soul. His supernatural provision was always there.
- There are still enemies that I face every day: anxiety, depression, fear, trust issues, hypervegilance, triggers, flash backs. But Jesus always gives me a feast of peace, love, joy, rest, comfort to draw from.
- (Hypervigilance is an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviors whose purpose is to detect threats. Hypervigilance is also accompanied by a state of increased anxiety which can cause exhaustion).
- Goodness and Kindness has followed me all the days of my life. This has come in the form of beautiful friends and family who have loved, cared and accepted me in all my insanity and craziness.
Part of the process of restoring my soul was connecting to my emotions and coming to a place of forgiveness. This is complicated process when you suffer from dissociation. When you dissociate its hard to connect to the experience because the whole point of dissociation is to separate from the experience. If you ever hear a person describing a horrific event but they seem calm and unaffected, they most likely have dissociated.
My friends would say: “Yes I remember you telling me that but I thought you were making it up because you were talking like you were reciting a shopping list”.
The emotions become severed from the experience. For me it was like describing a movie scene. I could see it, it happened, but it was out there – not really part of me. Therefore to fully understand what has happened you have to reconnect to those emotions, its very very hard. Then you start to get angry (very healthy), because your realise the enormity of what has happened. Then you need to forgive.
Forgiveness is a whole other HUGE topic for another day. Let me just say that without forgiveness you become bitter and toxic. If you don’t transform pain, you transmit it. I don’t mean you should forget what happened. I also don’t mean that you trust that person. I mean that you come to terms with it and let it go.
If you can do this you can have a sweet spirit and you can live in love. That has been my goal. It’s also very important if you wish to recover relationships, keep relationships, or restore relationships. Without forgiveness its a lost cause.
Anyway dear ones, this is a start and this is enough for me. If you are resonating with this because you have had trauma, grief or pain in your life. I encourage you to get help. Start talking, find someone that you feel safe with – that is the first step, and the hardest step. 50% of healing starts with the telling of your story. Your story is powerful, your story is important and so are you.
Love Love Love Lisa.
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