You’re going to get a lot of people telling you how “strong” and “resilient” you are.
It’s true– but it’s also not especially news, or especially helpful. to a lot of trauma survivors to hear it.
People are often trying to be nice when they say it. They’re trying to reassure us. They’re trying to compliment us. They’re trying to affirm us.
But the thing many survivors hear when someone remarks upon their “strength” or “resilience” is that the “hard” part of their trauma experience must be over.
If only that were true— or, at least, if only that were the whole story.
The truth is, painful events don’t just create pain when they happen.
They very often create pain for years, even decades, afterward, in how they are encoded in our memory and in the very physical cells of our body.
There are some people who truly don’t understand why trauma survivors continue to suffer— after all, they made it through the thing, right? They’re strong, they’re resilient, and the trauma is behind them…so all that’s left for them to do is heal, right?
What many don’t understand is the pain of living with trauma reactions, trauma memories, and trauma-fueled thoughts and beliefs is a different kind of pain from the original trauma…but it’s no less real and no less hurtful.
Many people reading this have had big chunks of their lives defined by post traumatic symptoms and struggles.
And they’re often reluctant to talk about how hard it’s been to live a life AFTER what happened to them— because there’s always someone there to point out that they are “strong” and “resilient” and the trauma is “in the past.”
Trauma recovery asks us do certain things every day.
It asks us to view the world through a certain lens— the lens of recovery habits, rituals, and precautions.
Trauma recovery asks us to wake up and make the choice to BE in recovery every day— which is different from just waiting for our nervous and endocrine systems to “heal” from what they went through.
Most everybody reading this knows that we can’t count on our “strength” or “resilience” to heal us.
We may very well be strong and resilient— but we are also wounded.
And for as incredible as it undeniably is that we survived, that we were as resilient as we were…it’s also the case that waking up every day and choosing recovery now is incredibly hard for a lot of us.
No matter how “strong” we are. No matter how “resilient” we were.
When a project is as complex and exhausting as trauma recovery, even “strong” people are going to have moments when we don’t FEEL particularly strong.
We’re going to have moments when we don’t FEEL particularly resilient.
We’re going to have moments when we feel tattered. Beaten down. Defeated. Empty.
In those moments, people calling us “strong” and “resilient” may just make us feel worse.
Easy does it. This is all a normal part of recovery.
I assume everyone who walks through my door is strong and resilient. They wouldn’t be alive, let alone seeking my help, if they weren’t.
I also assume that they’re seeking my help— they’re looking for a way to frame and buy into trauma recovery— because that strength and resilience that kept them alive for so long is running on fumes.
No shame. We have ALL been there. I’ve been there.
There is no doubt in MY mind about your strength or resilience.
But there’s also no doubt in my mind that you, reading this right here, right now, need more than that to create a life worthy living.
I am both proud of you— and realistic about the fact that you need more than “strength” and “resilience” to take the next step.