The Thing About Trauma: How to Embrace and Release Pain?
By definition, trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.
I know the word trauma can carry a lot of weight and it should! However, I think trauma can also come about in the simplest and smallest of forms. Short statements made to us when we’re young can completely alter our identities. Painful embarrassments from kindergarten can infiltrate our psyche and make us insecure or spiteful for decades to follow. The thing with trauma is it’s something we carry. We carry pain and we carry suffering. We don’t want to feel it, but we also don’t want to let it go.
Releasing trauma and pain means having to deal with it. Having to deal with it means having to feel it. And feeling it… well… that’s the reason we bury it in the first place.
I have a harsh truth that I had to recently accept, “Pain does not dissipate by simply being ignored.”
We fear being vulnerable. We fear feeling pain and by doing so we become immune to ever healing from it.
We have so many painkillers, pain relievers, and more in the world of medicine today, but also simply in our everyday lives. You feel upset, go get a drink. You feel insecure, buy yourself something pretty to wear that makes you feel expensive. You feeling down, pop a pain killer.
Painkillers… you cannot kill pain. You can only hide from it. And even that you can only manage for so long.
Now, this is not to be a piece ripping on people who take pain killers or medicine for their mental or physical health NOT AT ALL!
However, I do want to talk about my own pain and what I had to go through to heal from it. You may have already guessed… it had to do with feeling it.
I struggled with anorexia for over 7 years, followed by about 3 years of disorderly eating/binging/emotional eating and you could say that I have a pretty well-rounded understanding of eating disorders and the pain that comes with them.
You feel pain as the person experiencing it. Your parents feel pain from not being able to cure it.
Your friends carry pain from being unsure of how to handle it. Your significant other feels pain from wanting you to never experience it.
There’s a lot of pain.
And the entire time, I never actually felt the pain.
Surprising, I know.
Because as a survival mechanism, I had actually created and utilized my eating disorder over the years to cover up the pain and to never have to feel it. That was the whole point.
I was in a lot of pain before. Pain that a normal teenager goes through when she feels insecure in her body or in her own self-esteem. I felt pain from the boys at school never liking me. I felt pain from stressing about grades and never feeling I was smart enough or accomplished enough in my academics or extracurricular. I carried pain when I was called ‘heavy’ by my doctor in the seventh grade.
Aha, for whatever reason, that was the final straw of pain. The pain I could no longer continue to handle. The pain that I had to distract myself from feeling. The pain I never wanted to face. The pain I felt with my body and my own value/worthiness.
So, when the doctor called me heavy and I felt that instant prick of pain, it hurt like f***ing hell and excuse my French, I never wanted to feel that pain again.
So, I became numb to it. I refused to ever feel that discomfort again. I began to heavily diet, exercise, restrict. I spent every waking moment, trying to eat less, lose more, and run further and further away from that pain.
I became very good at creating my own distractions.
Which is what addictions are.
Addictions are distractions you put into place to protect yourself from feeling pain.
They’re a scapegoat; a safety net.
They’re something that removes your present mind from the experience you really don’t want to be experiencing.
So, I made my own crutch and I made it a VERY sturdy one.
I was obsessed with my new distraction.
I spent countless hours, days, weeks, months, and years being distracted and disconnected from me, myself, and I and coping by controlling my food.
Because I believed the moment I let my guard down, the moment I let go of my new identity with all the mental diversions a girl could ask for, I would be the saddest, most depressed, broken and shattered human in the world. I would never live a happy life. I would never feel good about myself or my situations. I would constantly fail and feel like a failure more specifically and my life would be over.
However, I now have to ask myself, “Did I ever experience life with all my distractions in place anyway? Was I not all those negative emotions and more during my eating disorder?”
I most certainly was, in fact, I was worse off than that.
You see the key to happiness is solving problems. The key to solving problems is facing them and the key to facing them is feeling them.
Had I not shoved down all my insecurities in middle school, had I talked to someone about how I was feeling, had I faced my true fears and began to grow out of love and not self-hatred, I would have found happiness back then without ever having to go through the winding maze.
I know this because I have finally finished the race.
I believed that I could run from my pain. I believed I could shake it off. I believed I could interrupt the emotions I was feeling with a bit of a twist, a bit of an addiction, a bit of a self-loathing and self-sabotaging agenda, which in turn brought me more pain that I had in the first place.
Pain is like a snowball rolling down a hill. It doesn’t get smaller if you ignore it. You have to interrupt it. You have to work through it. You have to stop it from rolling down its intended course. I had to face my own problems. I had to take responsibility for my own confidence or lack thereof. I needed to be vulnerable and admit I was struggling, so I could work through them. So I could feel them, release them, and make space for happiness, which is what I had wanted the entire time.
The other thing with trauma and pain is that it rots. The longer you hold onto it, the more foul it shall become and you have to take out the trash EVENTUALLY, everyone does. Why not take it out now before it makes your entire house smell? Why not take it out before it’s causing chaos in your kitchen? Because leaving it there SEEMS easier in the moment and most of us would rather light a candle than do the dirty work of taking the bag actually out back.
My eating disorder was my candle.
My trash can was my insecurities and lack of worthiness I needed to work on.
I like candles, don’t get me wrong, but the trash will not go away by being ignored.
It will only get stronger the longer it sits.
I encourage you to take that shit out back where it belongs. To really deal with your pain and ask yourself how it’s affecting you.
Become aware of your baggage, aka trauma, from when you were a child that we all write off as being silly or stupid, but carries more weight than any of us would ever want to admit.
What makes us weak is our inability to be vulnerable and work through our own shit. What makes us strong is admitting we forgot to take out the trash, for like 10 years maybe, and it’s time we buy some gloves and start shoveling.
You deserve a life without pain.
You deserve a life without trauma.
You deserve a life of happiness.
Which comes from solving your problems, releasing your pain and realizing that trauma doesn’t disappear being shoved deeper within ourselves, it can only disappear when we release it outwardly otherwise we will carry it around forever.
So, let’s work on letting that shit go!
“Don’t let the door hit you on the way out! I have no more room for you here.”
This small, strong soul whispered to herself as she kicked her old pain, doubts, insecurities, and fears to the curb all the way across the street.
Sincerely, XO Emily