To The Survivor of Trauma

Published: July 28, 2022



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To the survivor of trauma,


I hear your agonies: I hear your excruciating pain and your silent cries for help. I see your struggle: the struggle every day to get out of bed, the struggle every day to smile at work, the struggle every day to hold it in without bursting into tears or a full-blown panic attack. I feel the despair haunting your soul, the terror residing in your mind, the anger over it all coursing through your veins. I can’t even begin to imagine how demoralized, how despaired, how tortured you must be.


As you read this letter, you are in a safe space where harm befalls you not. A sanctuary, where your cries are heard, where your pleas are acknowledged, where your personhood is consecrated. A place where I will judge you not, where I will speak not of a traumatic event being “not that bad” or you “overreacting”. Trauma doesn’t have to be caused by an acute, shock-inducing event such as a car accident or medical emergency to qualify as trauma. Trauma can be an emotional death by a thousand cuts: homelessness, chronic illnesses, racial microaggressions, bureaucratic structural violence, prolonged loneliness – any degrading, emotionally scarring experience can be a form of trauma. Who am I to meddle with your beliefs, and decide for you on what is and what is not traumatic? Here is a sanctuary for healing, not a chamber for judgment and trivialization.


In a sense, the experience of trauma is akin to a torpedo striking your beloved ship at sea. As the shock of the impact wanes, your vessel begins to flood from the cavity created by the explosion’s impact. Water seeps into the belly of your vessel in swashes — the salty, frigid waters of fear, of depression, of guilt and shame, of numbness and despair. You feel trapped, infinitesimal, as if you are drowning under the weight of all the emotions you are living through. That vessel — it is your soul.


Healing is a messy, nuanced process that varies from individual to individual. We all sail in unique ships, with their eccentricities – hence the torpedo of trauma impacts us incongruently. Oftentimes, healing starts with acknowledging that a hole in the hull may not be fixable by the efforts of one person. You can be the most proficient captain in the world and yet, at times, require a team to patch up the gaping cavity in your ship. Ergo, you need not be ashamed of enlisting the support of those around you.


Healing then consists of devising a strategy to repair the hole in the ship’s hull – for one can utilize a variety of tools and protocols to patch up a vessel at sea. Analogically, one can attempt to process their traumas with a variety of coping mechanisms: therapy, music, art, dance, meditation, writing, volunteering, pursuing a long-lost dream, the list goes on and on. Healing also involves draining the residual water from your ship – the water of fear, of resentment, of despondency following a traumatic event. For it is paramount you express and get these emotions out of your vessel, lest they remain inside and cause it to rust. Cry, scream into a pillow, hit a punching bag — do whatever is needed to hold space for how you are feeling.


The process of healing can be a confusing, chaotic, sometimes downright painful journey for you. You will encounter setbacks, enigmas, novel challenges along the way —-- yet you will also find peace, joy, and fulfillment. As you mend your bruised vessel, you will deepen your relationship with it and provide yourself all the more reasons to treasure it. It is paramount to understand there is no correct or incorrect method of healing – for each unique circumstance, each unique vessel warrants its own sensitive and tailored approach. Heal in the manner which speaks to your heart, which liberates your soul from pain, which honors your own personhood – for it matters not what others think, as long as your ship’s hull is made whole once more.


I believe in you. The captain with her messy, beautiful, unique ship. The captain who endured hell and back with her vessel, and refuses to let trauma define her. The captain who yearns nothing more than to watch the waves go by on her ship’s deck, her mind free of woes.


May you and your vessel heal.


Warmly,


The Zestful Writer.