I had a good text conversation this morning with an old friend. I haven’t talked to her in years like that. I wish I could say it was light banter, but we both had news to give the other. I started by telling her about my parents disowning me in early January. She was quick to understand, because her father disowned her on Christmas Eve last year. She is a transwoman with a lot of trauma from family and others in her past.
We were able to discuss the trauma of the experiences. I told her about my nightmares, and she told me that it reawakened her night terrors.
She said something about her family that struck me as a deep truth. I asked her permission to share it, and here it is:
I used to believe they were doing the best they could with the information they had but I no longer believe that. It is chosen ignorance, bigotry and hatred on their behalf.
I fully understand these two sentences. My parents deliberately chose to disown me. My father deliberately chose to threaten me as a vulnerable teenager. It is willful hatred on his part.
I still experience nightmares, but I’m grateful they are fewer now than in January and February.
I still experience waves of grief. I am glad to say they come further apart now.
My friend is coping as best she can. She also has a good support system. I am so grateful for the excellent people I have around me.
Today is one more day to choose joy. I’m going to play games online with some friends.
It’s taken me some days to write again, because I came back from my second week of training with a horrible head and chest cold. Thankfully, it’s passing. After one whole day in bed reading, I’m feeling much better.
I learned some frightening things last week. Of the mental health consumers I will be working with, 91% will have experienced serious trauma. The definition for trauma we were given was “extreme stress brought on by shocking or unexpected events that overwhelm a person’s ability to cope, resulting in feelings of helplessness and extreme fear and horror. The survivor perceives the event as bodily violation threat of death or serious injury to self or a loved one. The event may be witnessed or experienced directly.”
All kinds of things can be traumatic. The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale tries to delineate the spectrum of major life stressors. Death of a spouse is highest on the list for adults. Death of a parent is highest for non-adults. It goes on to many other events, and it even includes Christmas as a major stress point.
The most devastating effect trauma has on a person is the shattering of trust and safety leaving a person feeling powerless. Thus, we spent a good deal of time learning about techniques for aiding recovery. Each participant had to face their own trauma, and indeed one person chose to drop out. It was a very sad experience for all of us.
Each of us was given a book that will be enormously useful. Seeking Safety by Lisa Najavits is a seminal text on conducting groups aimed at providing tools for recovery. There are pages of information, but the bulk of it is a workbook for conducting groups. When I am finished with training and during my internship and afterward, I will be facilitating Seeking Safety groups as well as WRAP groups.
The best possible outcome for me has been a personal transformation. I’ve already written about how my negative self-talk has ceased as a direct result of creating my personal WRAP. I have gained a sense of hope for the future I’ve not felt for many years.
I want to help, and now I believe I can do it.
For the first time ever in my 49 years, fear is not ruling my decisions.
I am born anew.