Trauma. It Can Save Your Life.

I don't know about you but I've always pretty much lived my life like danger was always lurking just around the corner.  Probably because I've experienced a number of traumatic things, but as Mark Epstein writes at The NYT, you can grow up all you want, but "Trauma never goes away completely."

He adds that it changes perhaps, "softens some with time, but never completely goes away."

Epstein, a psychiatrist, says an undercurrent of trauma runs through ordinary life, "shot through as it is with the poignancy of impermanence."

There is no way to be alive without being conscious of the potential for disaster.  Not my words.  Epstein's.  But exactly the way I feel.  "One way or another, death (and its cousins: old age, illness, accidents, separation and loss) hangs over all of us,"he writes. "Nobody is immune. Our world is unstable and unpredictable, and operates, to a great degree and despite incredible scientific advancement, outside our ability to control it."

Have I totally bummed you out yet? 

But Epstein holds out a, if not wonderful reason, at least one that makes sense, when he says, "In resisting trauma and in defending ourselves from feeling its full impact, we deprive ourselves of its truth."

Many of the things I went through as a child were horrible, inexcusable and ultimately soul-crushing, but it wasn't until I confronted it all -- and admitted to myself that it had all happened and was not something I'd made up, as relatives who couldn't deal with it, accused -- that I was slowly able to start to heal.  That was my truth.  The trauma, and the memory of the trauma, as God awful as it was, had a reason.

Is there a way to make trauma livable?  Bearable?  "The healthiest way to deal with trauma is to lean into it, rather than try to keep it at bay," Epstein writes. 

Now, if you're thinking, I've never experienced trauma, this doesn't apply to me, Epstein says, "Daily life is filled with endless little traumas. Things break. People hurt our feelings. Ticks carry Lyme disease. Pets die. Friends get sick and even die."

And even if those don't seem all that traumatic, wait and see how you feel when it happens to you.  Some of us ARE lucky and don't have to experience the death of a parent, when we're young, or God forbid, a child, or warfare, or a serious illness, or divorce, or so tragically, and unimaginably, the plane today that crashed into the Connecticut mother's home, setting it on fire, with her two children inside, the wing landing on top of the one-year-old's crib. . .whatever, you name it.  But trauma is there, and I guess what Epstein is saying is, don't be afraid of it. 

I'm going to leave you with his final words, because they are so beautiful, and true. "The willingness to face traumas — be they large, small, primitive or fresh — is the key to healing from them. They may never disappear in the way we think they should, but maybe they don’t need to. Trauma is an ineradicable aspect of life. We are human as a result of it, not in spite of it."


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