Many people have experienced trauma in the course of their lifetime. You are not alone in this way. Trauma has many faces as seen on this website and effects of such events are diverse and devastating.
I am no stranger to trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences have taken their toll. As many of you do, I sometimes struggle but strive to move forward and turn adversity into inner strength.
I started life disadvantaged as a 3 lb. 5 oz. premature baby born to a single mother and a not so pretty story continues with more traumatic events but what is important is what we learn from the experiences. I have learned that some of my emotions that seemingly come out of nowhere can be traced to past traumatic events and are often misunderstood by others. I will write about a recent experience.
It was early on Thanksgiving morning of 2009. Ten of us had gathered around the table to share a meal the previous evening. The family was together and life was good. My nephew and his partner who live on our street were with us. My daughter was visiting and staying with them and my son, his wife and three children were staying with us. At approximately 4:30 a.m. my son awoke to what sounded like bowling balls rolling across the front porch. He yelled for everyone to get out. Our house was on fire! Luckily all seven of us escaped through the back door. I then stood outside and watched our house burn down and our car go up in flames. I remained fairly calm and even gave a television interview the following morning though I was somewhat numb, probably still in shock.
I later had spells of devastation especially when I learned that our house had been looted after the fire and all my jewellery, including some heirlooms, had been stolen. We had just lost a lifetime’s worth of our treasures gathered from all around the world and now were being violated again.
A year later, almost to the day of the anniversary of the fire, I wasn’t feeling well and was on my way to the doctor. I was rear-ended by a car and although there was no damage, my emotions were out of proportion to the event. The firemen came to the scene and assessed the situation. In the meantime, I was agitated, I cried, I shook, and became frustrated and angry at the lack of empathy but these men clearly had no idea what had happened to me previously. I believe they only looked at the seemingly minor accident in front of them; that the accident was a mere fender-bender and all was well. They couldn’t see that I was still carrying the events from last year, and how could they have ? They didn’t know that my husband had been in a serious car accident on Christmas eve 2008. They didn’t know that my house had burned down Thanksgiving 2009 or that one of my sons had been in a head-on collision less than two months after this and was still recovering.
We carry these traumatic events in our body and triggers such as the fender-bender brought flashbacks which elicited emotions that were out of proportion to the current event, a clue to responders that perhaps something had happened in the past. These un-processed trauma events can effect the way we feel and behave. I can be having a wonderful day and all of a sudden like the weather, the sun will disappear and a black cloud will appear. I now understand that what has happened in the past has had an effect on me and I want to educate others to ask “what happened,” to listen in an effort to hear what is not being said and to try and understand.
In February 2011, I attended the Trauma Conference in Tarpon Springs. It was like a calling to become involved in this Initiative. Since that time, I have been an active Peace4Tarpon partner on the Social Marketing Committee and recently the Steering Committee. I hope that my experience and work will help others to see that they too can share their story to educate and create an even better community. Just remember, you are not alone. Please “bring what piece/peace you can!”
Sandra J. Robinson