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227 Days ’til 40: Growth from Trauma

09 Jul

Doesn’t matter how tough we are, trauma always leaves a scar. It follows us home, it changes our lives, trauma messes everybody up, but maybe that’s the point. All the pain and the fear and the crap. Maybe going through all of that is what keeps us moving forward. It’s what pushes us. Maybe we have to get a little messed up, before we can step up. ~ Alex (Narrating Grey’s Anatomy)

Today’s post was inspired by this tree, which I found when picking up my daughters.  What interested me about this tree is that almost the entirety of its trunk had been sawn off, yet one smaller branch remained, moving on, growing, flourishing, and bringing new life to the tree.  The tree did not wither and die, it found a way to continue to live.  Perhaps the rest of the trunk was ill, perhaps it had to be removed to save the rest of the tree, or perhaps someone in the city planners office was having aesthetic issues with the tree and wanted it to be shorter.  The tree has a story I do not know, but that tree perseveres and is blooming and growing beautifully.

Many of us have had trauma in our lives, some more than others – some horrific childhood experience, some scary accidents, and others have had a sudden loss of a loved one.  Sadly, some of us have experienced all three (I have at various moments in my life).  In a traumatic moment all we can do is hope that we have the strength to be that twig that bends in the wind instead of breaks……..  we can only hold on and get through.  After the trauma, after the trauma is when the rebuilding occurs and when true strength of character emerges in all of us.

I find that people react to trauma in many ways.  Some ways impress and inspire me, and other ways make me sad and, at times, even infuriated.  To further explain, I have created a few categories about trauma.

What trauma is not:

  • Trauma is not an excuse to not take responsibility for your life and your life choices
  • Trauma is not a reason that enables you to treat people in unkind ways
  • Trauma is not a way to evade punishment or consequences for choices
  • Trauma is not an excuse to never grow up, never engage, never persevere
  • Trauma should not be used to justify permanently stunted growth or development

What trauma is:

  • Trauma is a painful ordeal that needs a healing process and release of grief/ anger and other emotions
  • Trauma is a valid hurt that should be acknowledged and worked through
  • Trauma is an opportunity for you to evolve and not allow a bad situation to win – it is an opportunity to persevere and not let life get the best of you
  • Trauma is a chance to grow and evolve (even when you were not looking for it)
  • Trauma is an opportunity to connect with others who have experienced similar circumstances and join together to form strong support networks

Because I have personally lived through multiple traumas, all very different, I find that I often struggle to find the patience to be around people who use horrible backgrounds as an excuse to be bitter and angry.  My feeling is that I HAVE to enjoy life, I HAVE to live every moment, I HAVE to let go of the anger, because I lived through trauma and I was given an opportunity to make something of myself.  I did not die, so I believe I need to live – and live life to the fullest extent that I can.  I do not want my past experiences as an excuse (in fact, most people in my life do not know the extent of the different traumas I suffered, even those quite close to me) – my past is part of my past, my past certainly had an influence on who I am today, but my past is NOT my identity.  Moving forward, looking ahead, and making sure I can contribute to the world through my career, my family, my life – THAT is my identity.

I am not discounting the need for healing and therapy and I believe that anyone who experiences a trauma needs to go through a healing process.  It is my hope that the healing process will lead to personal growth and a way to move forward….. I have seen too many well-intentioned, but skill-less, mental health professionals get clients stuck in a trauma loop instead of moving out of that loop past surviving and onto thriving.

Today, 227 days ’til 40, I am reminded that trauma is more common than we realize.  However, how we react to the trauma in our lives can set us apart and allow us to live post-trauma lives that are ordinary or extraordinary.  You deserve to be able to put your past behind you and walk into your future with promise.  We never forget, we just take the painful learning experiences and hope that, somehow, they will be used for good in some future encounter in our lives.

~400daystil40

 

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50 responses to “227 Days ’til 40: Growth from Trauma

  1. jensine

    July 9, 2012 at 00:12

    I think your pic says it all … and as trauma happens to us all, in one way or an other, we should all learn to make the best out of it, why wallow for too long it won’t change the past

     
  2. stephenedwards425

    July 9, 2012 at 00:36

    A piece of information I picked somewhere along the way…trees are strengthened due to to their resistance to blowing wind and snow lying on their branches. So no howling wind and heavy snow, you end up with a weak tree. The tree only grows strong as a result of it’s encounter with difficult situations (or trauma).

    Be encouraged!

     
    • 400daystil40

      July 9, 2012 at 23:05

      Wow, what cool information! I am so glad you shared this with me and the readers! :)

       
      • stephenedwards425

        July 10, 2012 at 01:25

        I’ve taught it hundreds of times in talks I’ve given, but like I said, I have no clue where I acquired the knowledge. Might have been on one of those rare times I was actually paying attention in science class…but I doubt it. :)

        Be encouraged!

         
  3. TheDeeZone

    July 9, 2012 at 00:45

    Well, said. 40 isn’t so bad.

     
  4. walkwiththerabbi

    July 9, 2012 at 01:04

    Excellent post and great counsel. Well done!

     
  5. Jan Deelstra

    July 9, 2012 at 01:26

    Having been moulded by traumas, beginning in pre-verbal adolescence, I can add my affirmation to your post. I also want to add that I would not trade even one horrific day of my life, as all the events, despite how nefarious, have taught me well. The secret is to use the trauma as the most effective learning tool in the shed. There are always blessings in the mire.
    Keep up the GREAT work.
    jan deelstra, author, Blessings in the Mire (yeah, I know!)

     
    • 400daystil40

      July 9, 2012 at 23:04

      Yes, I agree with you so much, Jan – thank you for your great comment!

       
  6. Kim

    July 9, 2012 at 01:51

    Not just like, LOVE. Especially the “what trauma is not” and “what trauma is”. It’s hard work to get to the point where we can see it as a chance to grow and evolve, but when we can, life opens up.

    Thanks for this post!

     
  7. Jaen Wirefly

    July 9, 2012 at 02:11

    I do like this post. However sometimes does stunt your growth and depending upon your circumstances it might leave scars that don’t have a chance to heal.

    Right now, I’m in a pretty decent place in my life so I have the luxury of time and space to do my healing. But that wasn’t the case. There were plenty of years where there was so much chaos and confusion everywhere that I couldn’t even describe my past trauma because my life was in such turmoil. There were points in my life that just getting through the day without losing my mind was a huge achievement. Everyone has their own story and their own ability to handle conflict. I’m so grateful for this time and hope the ground doesn’t shatter under my feet.

     
    • 400daystil40

      July 9, 2012 at 23:03

      It is true that trauma can have very lasting effects….. Yet, I have also seen people with scars they did not believe would heal (emotional) and a determination that really pushed them through and they did overcome, but it was a painful process – it was not easy, but the outcome at the other side was amazing. Yes, I agree, there are different stages and phases in our lives, and particularly related to trauma. There are times when are are in survival mode, and times to move into healing mode, etc. Hang in there and I hope that your path will become a bit easier for you.

       
  8. livingforjackie

    July 9, 2012 at 02:12

    very well said! I too get a bit impatient with people who use trauma as an excuse to hurt others or to not be all that that can be! I have suffered more then my fair share of trauma in my life but that didn’t stop me from having a full and good life…..yes sometimes the trauma we go thru is not easy to get over …..but healing comes with time and healing starts from within you!!

     
  9. Laura

    July 9, 2012 at 02:53

    Excellent post! Far too many blame their past for their present troubles and bad attitudes. Trauma is a challenge, to be sure, but can also be opportunity. It can provide motivation for self-improvement and compassion to serve others.

     
  10. Karen

    July 9, 2012 at 04:58

    I LOVE this post.. I can totally relate! thank you for posting this …

     
  11. Sid Dunnebacke

    July 9, 2012 at 06:01

    There are a handful of blogs I’ve found that just seem to have an uncommon wisdom about them – yours is most definitely one of them. Thanks for sharing it.

     
    • 400daystil40

      July 9, 2012 at 23:00

      Thank you so much, Sid, what a compliment!

       
  12. Ahmed

    July 9, 2012 at 10:59

    No comment, inspiring !!!

     
  13. narf77

    July 9, 2012 at 12:14

    As a horticulturalist I know that you can’t get much more traumatised than that poor tree has just been through. It has also started to grow from the base…It took itself back to the beginning…to where it had to go to be sure that it would recover and started over again. People could learn some real life lessons from the world around them. One of the first and most important is once the grieving process has passed…its time to look outward and move on.

     
    • 400daystil40

      July 9, 2012 at 22:59

      Yes, so very true, isn’t it…… I looked at the same street today and saw other trees that they did the same thing to – all started their new growth from the base, as you mention….

       
      • narf77

        July 10, 2012 at 00:16

        The problem with a lot of that new growth is that it isn’t very strong at first and has to be watched. I guess thats the plant therupy? ;)

         
  14. The Quiet Borderline (back in hospital)

    July 9, 2012 at 16:52

    Love your attitude and your point of view as always!

     
  15. stilllearning2b

    July 9, 2012 at 19:22

    I, too, have been through many traumas. I think I’ve had enough “growth opportunities” for a lifetime! Regardless, I refuse to give up or gove in. I choose to be a student of life rather than a victim of circumstance, even when I don’t like the lesson!

     
  16. ocdtalk

    July 9, 2012 at 20:14

    Great post with a lot of wisdom…my son’s therapist often commented that Dan never “self-handicapped,” but always faced his OCD head on. It’s how we deal with the rough times that shapes who we are.

     
  17. livingvoraciously

    July 9, 2012 at 21:28

    Reblogged this on Livingvoraciously's Blog and commented:
    The blogger summed it all up nicely in this one para: “Because I have personally lived through multiple traumas, all very different, I find that I often struggle to find the patience to be around people who use horrible backgrounds as an excuse to be bitter and angry. My feeling is that I HAVE to enjoy life, I HAVE to live every moment, I HAVE to let go of the anger, because I lived through trauma and I was given an opportunity to make something of myself. I did not die, so I believe I need to live – and live life to the fullest extent that I can. I do not want my past experiences as an excuse (in fact, most people in my life do not know the extent of the different traumas I suffered, even those quite close to me) – my past is part of my past, my past certainly had an influence on who I am today, but my past is NOT my identity. Moving forward, looking ahead, and making sure I can contribute to the world through my career, my family, my life – THAT is my identity.”

     
  18. Spider42

    July 10, 2012 at 10:15

    I completely agree with you on this matter. I’ve seen my share of the same, though I consider myself luckier than most I suppose, definitely so on a day-to-day and for that I’m always grateful.

    The thing is, I’m a cynical person in a lot of ways, I’m an arse in my own way (so I’ve been told) though not the bad kind and I’m often on my own trip and not a people person or an emotionally available one most of the time.
    But, that said, I do believe some relationships are worth fighting to maintain and are among the things that see us through. I also believe that most anything is possible and though the worst could well happen, one must hold on to hope, an idea, an ideal and dreams for something better – because to me if we don’t have these then we are flawed and will become nothing and likely die when that moment of truth comes. Not all hopes and dreams coincide, but they keep us alive just as surely as fear and survival instinct do, in some ways more so…

    All trauma and grief needs time to heal and some take longer than others and all that. But everyone needs to make that choice to realise life goes on… I borderline despise the people who let their emotion so overwhelm them that they go into depression for months on these things (people who are depressive due to a psychological problem/imbalance and need medication are not included here) and piss and moan and blame everyone and/or themselves and make the lives of those around them harder and toy with suicide and the like… I pity you… a part of me wishes it could just be that selfish and crawl into my own dark pit inside and let everyone else deal with the real world, but life is more than one persons problem and such.

    Personally, like with a lot of things, especially today we need to (and a lot of folks get put off by this but that doesn’t make it less relevant as a line) man up and get on with it sooner or later. By that I mean simply to take some time when possible to grieve (sometimes you can’t right then and there) but never remember that it’s no different than celebrating (like your kid being born for eg.), you make it the focus for a short time and then get back to life.

     
    • 400daystil40

      July 10, 2012 at 17:44

      Great comment! Glad my last few posts have sparked you to write again -I always love your responses and your thoughtful commentary!!! :)

       
      • Spider42

        July 11, 2012 at 09:20

        Glad you do and many thanks. :)

         
  19. mountainmaemountainmae.wordpress.com

    July 10, 2012 at 19:57

    Pictures like this strong tree give me the strength to believe that I can also continue my life, leave the past behind and continue finding new light and fresh energies. Amazing find.

     
    • 400daystil40

      July 10, 2012 at 21:32

      Thank you so much! And keep on keeping on!

       
  20. Donkey Whisperer Farm

    July 10, 2012 at 23:00

    re-blogged on my blog. Outstanding job explaining Trauma!

     
  21. Mike10613

    July 26, 2012 at 00:32

    My traumas lasted for nearly 40 years. Then I was given a medicine almost by accident and then the healing process began; I expect it to last the rest of my life. Never give up, but it’s OK to have regrets…

     
    • 400daystil40

      July 26, 2012 at 14:16

      Yes, we need to continue to persevere…. I am glad something worked for you to help you heal.

       
  22. mymagicalescape

    July 30, 2012 at 20:59

    Very inspiring!

     
    • 400daystil40

      July 30, 2012 at 23:27

      Thank you so much, my magical escape!!! :)

       
  23. Annette

    August 6, 2012 at 02:35

    Well said! I haved lived through traumas too and seen my children go through terrible traumas (which all become my traumas also). Perhaps one positive outcome can be the growth of greater compassion for others. Hmmmm…. If you figure out life by 40 you’re doing well! Some of us are trying to figure it out by 60!

     
    • 400daystil40

      August 6, 2012 at 23:27

      Yes, definitely – when we live through trauma we do develop a greater sense of compassion and empathy.

       

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