This is probably my most vulnerable post to date. But with all of the holiday and end of year madness, there is no better time than the present to lay it on the line and remind the world that we all struggle!
Trauma is a beast. A nasty beast. Seriously, like a 5am morning with screaming kids and no coffee in a house that’s on fire kind of beast. It’s also a sneaky beast. Trauma often creeps us on us survivors/thrivers/overcomers (whatever you want to call yourself!) and makes us believe that we may just be anxious or depressed. Which, don’t get me wrong, we probably are anxious and depressed, but we cannot fully be understood without a deeper appreciation of where that anxiety and depression is stemming from.
I recently stumbled across an article (link below) from “The Mighty” that really resonated with me. Specifically these following words.
For those who have experienced trauma, anxiety comes from an automatic physiological response to what has actually, already happened. The brain and body have already lived through “worst case scenario” situations, know what it feels like and are hell-bent on never going back there again. The fight/flight/ freeze response goes into overdrive. It’s like living with a fire alarm that goes off at random intervals 24 hours a day. It is extremely difficult for the rational brain to be convinced “that won’t happen,” because it already knows that it has happened, and it was horrific.
I spent nearly my entire life in fear of what has already happened. And in the process of regaining the meaningful life that I was robbed of, I have had to learn that safety is the answer. And it wasn’t until I dove, unknowingly, head first into almost 3 years of trauma-focused therapy that I realized that all I have needed this entire time was safety. I didn’t need to “calm down” or “just smile.” I didn’t need to be skinny or smart or a punching bag to get my needs met. I needed the one thing we all crave and the one thing I was deprived of as a child.
So just like anyone who grew up in a chaotic environment, I had to find my own safety. My Eating Disorder. Or as my therapist refers to it as- “old faithful.” And as annoying as it is, she’s right. I found comfort in my disorder. It was the coping skills to end all coping skills. It was my way of getting to hear the words “I love you.” And it was the one thing that I felt could keep me safe from any and all abuse that may reoccur.
And so when times are tough and stress is high, the draw to go back to old behaviors is often overwhelming. I mean, how else am I going to manage seeing one of my abusers at Christmas dinner? I am expected to eat, not purge, AND cope with all of the traumatic memories this time of year is filled to the brim with? Yes. Yes, I am. And not because my therapist told me to or a dietitian is monitoring my every meal. But because I have worked too hard to recreate real safety for myself. I value the safety I feel when I am honest with my loved ones and the strength that comes from choosing to not be held captive by an eating disorder. I allow myself to make mistakes. And even more so, I do not allow those mistakes to overshadow years of active recovery.
So to all of you out there battling the holidays, an eating disorder, and trauma, FIND YOUR SAFETY. Reach out to a friend. Talk to your therapist. Do things that make your body feel loved and comforted. And trust me when I say, your safety will not be found in “old faithful”, it just won’t.
Written and contributed by Megan Rose.