09 October 2015

trauma memory

Trauma memory can be different for everyone; for me, they are disconnected pieces that make very little sense.  Sometimes I dream, sleeping - as in my first trauma memory experience - or waking.  Sometimes I have sensory memories, like physical pain somewhere in my body, or a swirl of strong feelings that I can't explain.  There are times when I get little flashes of picture in my mind that have no emotion or words attached to them.  Often there are triggers that throw me into one type of memory or another.

When I first began to experience trauma memories, I felt frightened and alone.  Even though I had been aware of the high probability of abuse in my childhood, I wasn't prepared for the reality of it.  Because these memories were so disconnected and isolated, with no story/picture/emotion knitted together, I couldn't understand how they could be real or how they could have happened to me.

I have been so hard on myself through this process, and this is one of the things I want to share with anyone and everyone who needs to hear:

oh friends, be gentle with yourself!

Don't waste time berating yourself, disbelieving what you experience, denying, beating yourself down, trying to be someone you just can't be.  No matter where you are in life, understand that you are in process and be kind to yourself.  If you have already reached this place of extending grace to yourself, I'm so, so glad for you...continue in that way and share that message of grace with others!

Here are two different examples of trauma memory that occurred early in my process:

Trigger event
We served as missionaries in Nigeria for two years, and in March 2004, our compound was robbed and terrorized for an entire night.  Even though we weren't on the compound at the time, I shut down for about ten days. I had no energy, couldn't focus, and experienced insomnia.  I didn't understand why I would be so affected since I wasn't present, but later I realized that I had been terribly shaken by the fact that women were held hostage and a rape occurred during the robbery.  Soon after the rape and robbery, there was a seminar about responses to rape, and I remember feeling physical pain and being emotionally distraught.  I didn't understand the strength of my emotions or the physical sensation of pain I had.

Emotional memory
I would be doing every day things, and suddenly I would have this flash of terrible emotion:  panic, confusion, terror, wanting rescue.  They were accompanied by the feeling of being in a dark place, surrounded by people who meant harm.  My adult mind recognized that they were child feelings related to a bad situation, but I didn't understand why I would be experiencing something like that.

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