Recovering from trauma

It’s been a slow process and I’m not entirely there yet. I’m a lot better than I used to be. Here are some things I’ve learned about recovery along the way, and what helps, and what doesn’t.

I could not start to heal until I got to a place where I was not routinely being triggered and terrified. This might sound like a no-brainer but I had a fair few people expecting me to get well when I was still not safe. It’s only since I’ve had time feeling reliably safe that my body has started to respond to life like safe is normal and threat isn’t.

I have not gone at the pace some people thought I should. Being told (by people with little or no experience of trauma) what I should be like, and what kind of medical interventions I should have, etc has done the exact opposite of help. What I needed was time feeling safe. People pressuring me to fix at a rate that suited them have not made me feel safe- quite the opposite. Getting these people out of my life has helped me heal.

Focusing on the small scale stuff has helped a lot – rest and time outside, good food, things that work for my body. Being supported in this has been a great help. Not dealing so much with people who have felt the main thing was to get me back to work, not to get me well again.

Surrounding myself with people who are kind and supportive, and who only challenge me in ways that help me to grow. I haven’t always made the best decisions about who to spend time with, and looking back at some of the connections that dragged me down, demoralised and exhausted me, I can see they really weren’t helping. Again, it’s taken me a while to learn how to pick my people. Gentle and supportive environments are best for healing. With gaslighting in my history, I am a lot better off when I don’t have to constantly try and second guess the people I’m dealing with nor worry about what they might imaginatively infer from what I do and say.

As my life and my environment have become gentler and kinder, recovery has become easier. I don’t trigger as often as I used to in no small part because there is so little in my daily life that could trigger me. A key piece of learning for me around this is that people who are dismissive of what I find difficult and can’t be bothered to find out what might be ok for me, are not people I owe anything to or need to spend time with.

I think if you’re trying to help someone recover from a traumatic experience, the best thing to do is not to try and fix them. Attempts at ‘fixing’ can be really invasive, and make the recipient feel like they don’t have control of the situation. That loss of control contributes to trauma. People need to heal on their own terms and in their own time – and too often the people who self announce as healers and rescuers and try to force changes on their own terms and timescales aren’t helpful. If the person being ‘rescued’ doesn’t heal fast enough they can face anger and blame, which does not help with the healing. If the person being ‘healed’ doesn’t want to do the thing, or take the thing the ‘healer’ is adamant about, this too can get nasty. Not everyone who says there are here to help is actually helpful.

What best heals a person, is safe space. Having a kind, supportive environment where you won’t be told off for failing to miraculously recover, makes all the difference. To help someone heal from trauma, it’s best to do very little – show up, be friendly, be kind, be interesting, accept any limitations, be patient. Give people the time and space to fix themselves, and that tends to be what happens.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

6 responses to “Recovering from trauma

  • neptunesdolphins

    These are good ideas. I had a wall fall on me, whilst shopping, and sustained a brain injury. What the brain injury community focuses on is not to blame yourself for what happened i.e. fall, car crash, hockey puck in face, etc. They focus on what is that you can do to help yourself – i.e. what you can and cannot do. And don’t blame yourself for not being able to do things that you formerly could.

    I am lucky that I have a family that gets it – what I need and don’t need.

  • Adele Marie

    I resonate with all you say, having trauma myself. So true words. I hope you continue to heal well, at the pace which is right for you. xxx

  • paramisonenigmas

    Thank you for writing and share this;

    I am in a situation where i sometimes feel bad because I can’t do all I want to help my girlfriend to be better. She’s suffering depression and OCD, she has lived several traumas, including great violence against her, the tragical death of her mother and addiction to drugs. I have seen a recovery in her along 4 years: she’s now more active than before, but she falls once and again in depression. She can’t go out to the street alone or be with other people alone because of the terrifying obssessions in her mind. But I am at her side always and I have a full trust in that she will get to be free and do her own life. And is true all you say in the article: thanks that she has had time to think, to be at home, to relax, she is getting better. Even like that the situation is still hard, but I don’t matter how many time it longs because her life is more precious than any slave work in the society and any money earning.

    Sorry for my english, I write from Spain and I Know I should improve.

    • Nimue Brown

      Just being there is so powerful and it does make a difference. people can come back from what you’re describing, but it isn’t simple. But, falling back into depression doesn’t mean she’s not getting better, and its important to hang on to that. Sometimes we have to break a bit to heal, and it can take a while, and multiple rounds to deal with it all.

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