On the Anniversary of Your Trauma


[NOTE: I published this yesterday but had to repost it because something weird happened in my computer.]

Two years ago today, something awful happened to me. Something that I rarely talk about, even to my close friends. Something that I’m still dealing with the repercussions of to this day.

It’s not like this trauma follows me around constantly anymore. I used to think that living with what happened to me would be much harder. But two years later, I’ve graduated from college on time. I didn’t move back in with my parents. I have a job. I have a serious boyfriend. And I have a general idea of where I want my life to go. I’ve also ended the habits that got me into the bad situation in the first place. (Am I talking about drugs? Yes. Am I talking about a guy? Also yes.) In general, I’m a much happier person than I was two years ago.

But occasionally I’ll get down on myself, and have flashbacks to that trauma. I’ll beat myself up over what I should have done differently that day. I’ll feel unmotivated. And I’ll have to resist the earge to lash out at anyone and everything that comes into my path. Naturally, it’s easier to fall into this awful pattern on the anniversary of the day of your trauma. Which for me, happens to be today.

Weeks ago, I told myself the same thing my mother said a few years after her mother passed away from a stroke: “I don’t miss my mother more on the day she died, or on her birthday, or Mother’s Day. It’s just like any other day to me.” I was about 13-years-old when my mom said this and couldn’t really relate. But it makes sense to me now.

For me, I like to try my best to think of the anniversary of this particular trauma, and of any other bad thing that’s happened to me, like just a regular day. A day when I might be more volatile, but a regular day nonetheless. Long ago, people made up the concept of a year and a month and a day etc. based on the movement of the Earth. Other cultures have entirely different calendars than we do. And because time only moves forward, there’s no real similarity between November 3, 2015 and November 3, 2013, other than the way we think and talk about the day.

And that it seems the same, you might say. It looks the same. It smells the same. People are doing similar things today than they were last year/2-years-ago/whatever. True. But you can live with these triggers. Most psychologists agree that the best way to get over your anxieties is to expose yourself to what scares you. Don’t feel like you have to do it all at once. If you don’t feel like going to class on the day of your trauma, at least go outside and get some fresh air. You can’t go to the place where it happened. But maybe you can walk by it with a friend, and then talk with her about how this day makes you feel. You hate the smell of Fall because it reminds you of what happened. Make a list of everything you do like about Fall. Take it in baby steps, and focus on the progress you’ve made, not on how you wish you could recover faster.

And of course, don’t just take my word for it. Talk to a professional and ask her what she thinks you should do.

Does this mean good annivesaries don’t really matter? In the grand scheme of things, no. But I believe that in the grand scheme of things, nothing matters. Unless we give it meaning. I’m in control of which things in my life I assign meaning, and which things I don’t, and so are you!