In my early 20s, I went through a series of life-changing experiences. Some were great, and others were terrible. Unfortunately, those terrible experiences are a part of life's journey and are unavoidable. Historically, I haven't publicly shared the details of those terrible experiences. While I still won't be getting into the who, what, where, when, and how, I will share enough to understand the way those experiences shaped me.
In my early adulthood, one of my closest confidants was a relative in my extended family. Through a series of dramatic, horrifying, and soap opera-worthy events, I realized that this person had been lying to me and manipulating me for years. Their spouse was no better, at one point threatening me. In addition, they had been trying to set me up with their friend. When everything fell apart, I was being blamed by my relative, their spouse, the man they tried to set me up with, and all of their friends for everything. I attempted to get a restraining order against the spouse of my relative and was denied because "it sounds like this is a marriage problem between the two of them. You just need to stay out of it."
I felt like I was in danger and had no one there to protect me. It was my duty to do what I could to protect myself. I set things up in front of the doors of my home so that if someone tried to break in at night, I would hear it. I scanned every car in the parking lot when I was coming and going so I was aware if one of them would come after me. I was constantly looking over my shoulder and scanning the faces in crowds.
Beyond simply being scared for my life, I also didn't feel I could trust anyone. It was my family that did this to me. If my family could do this to me, how could I trust anyone? I had nightmares every single day. I wasn't even able to escape at night. Work became my sanctuary, and I contacted a therapist to help me get through the horrors I was facing.
For months, I saw a therapist once a week. We talked about what happened. And then talked about it again. And again. And again. The nightmares began to spread out. I was able to have good days mixed in with the bad. After some time, I finally told my mom what had happened. She knew something had happened, but I couldn't bring myself to tell her everything for months.
In time, I could get through talking about what happened without crying. I also began to control my dreams. If the people that caused me so much agony showed up in my dreams, I figured out how to not engage with them or walk away. I felt like I was finally free. I felt like I was finally moving forward. I felt like I was finally able to heal.
After roughly a year of therapy, I felt cured. I felt like I had made it past what had happened to me. And I was able to move on. Of course, I continued seeing that therapist on and off about different life events. But overall, I felt that I had overcome my trauma which was the primary reason I started seeing her.
So color me surprised when I'm having those nightmares six years later, I'm getting names mixed up with those from years ago, and I'm feeling the same way I did years prior. I thought I was cured! So why am I being mentally transported to the past?
At this point in my life, I'm seeing a different therapist than I was six years ago. When I came to him and explained what had happened, I asked him why my trauma had come back. I explained how we talked about my trauma and how I could stop having nightmares, stop looking over my shoulder, and move on with my life.
My therapist explained that not everyone benefits from overcoming their trauma through talk therapy alone. In an oversimplified way, your trauma is stored in the limbic system in your brain. During talk therapy, your prefrontal cortex is activated, but it isn't activating the limbic system to release the trauma. So rather than freeing myself of the trauma, I was packing it away neatly in storage. So when the next storm came to town, the storage door was opened, and my past trauma was activated again.
In other words, while that therapy helped me at that moment, it didn't help me in the long term. And through that discovery, my therapist suggested we embark on a new form of trauma therapy to help me out. It's called brainspotting, and the method releases that stored trauma in the limbic system. I graciously agreed. Anything that could free me from continuous torment would be helpful.
So far, I've gone through one round of brainspotting therapy. The details of how that went will be in a separate post. But for now, this is some background with my trauma, the work I've done to help myself in the past, and where I'm headed.