Some thoughts about developmental trauma and my healing process

CN: this is /my/ story. I think it probably contains some problematic tropes, but I’m not going to change it. Why? Because where I’m at right now /is/ problematic; it’s a stepping stone in a long path of healing. Sometimes on that path, we’re wrong. Sometimes, we’re right. Sometimes, we’re both, because we learn as we go along. It takes time and patience to transition from one way of thinking to the next. So, I want this to exist as evidence of where I am in the process of healing. Your mileage, as always, will vary, disclaimer about not being a therapist, blah blah blah. Here goes…

Developmental trauma requires a continual process of healing. This is my (vague) story; many who know trauma might understand or relate.

Me in my teens: wanted a savior; attracted to all possibilities; driving factor was wanting to stop being confused, scared, and in pain.

Me in my early to mid 20s: wanted to conquer the world; attracted to what was attracted to me; was on a quest to be independent, or else.

Me in my late 20s to early 30s: wanted to not need anyone; attracted to unattainable possibilities; goal was to be numb and impervious.

Me in my mid 30s: I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t know what I want, but by god, I’m still alive — and I plan to improve my life.

Do you see the patterns? After all these years and much therapy, they have become clear to me. Underneath all the symptoms, all I’ve ever wanted was to have control over my own life and all that life entails, including health, relationships, and finances.

When I didn’t feel like I had control, there was nothing but terror, denial, and self-medicating. When I felt in control, I was brutal in my drive to keep it. After 25 years of these fighting opposites, I began to learn that neither are healthy.

I can’t always be in control of the entirety of my life, but that doesn’t mean I need to self-medicate to not feel the terror. A certain amount of terror, in my situation, is normal and even healthy.

I’ve learned gray thinking, as opposed to black and white. Which is not to say that I don’t still catastrophize — I do, and it still keeps me from doing things — but I’ve learned to balance the possibility of the worst with possible back-up plans.

I’ve started to learn the difference between red flags and false alarms (emphasis on ‘started’).

I’ve started to admit to myself and others that as competent and functional as I may appear (and admittedly, encourage this appearance), I lack stability and stamina.

And as I’ve learned these many things, I’ve started to learn to not blame myself for being this way, thinking this way, acting this way, and how that’s impacted so much of my life so far. I’ve started to learn to not think of that impact as negative, but as a thing that happened– and it might happen again, but if it does, I’ve learned how to pick up the pieces.

I’ve learned that being a mess, while not ideal, is okay, because not being ideal, not being perfect, not being in control, are all okay. They’re hard, but so is life. And life is messy, but it doesn’t have to be as hard or as messy as mine has been.

Yeah, life didn’t “just” shit on me and folks haven’t hurt me out of nowhere — I played a role in a lot of it, unknowingly and also sometimes, embarrassingly, knowingly. That doesn’t automatically absolve me from occasionally being an asshole, though! Just like it doesn’t absolve the handful of people who hurt me out of nowhere, especially not the adults who hurt me when I was a kid. All of that, particularly the stuff that’s only a hinted wisp of a memory? That is absolutely on those adults and if I believed in hell or karma, I would pray that they rot, slowly, in as much pain as I’ve ever felt and inflicted. And that is a hell of a lot of pain.

But, one of the things I’ve really learned over the years is that a reason is not an excuse, only a probable causation.

I got tired of probable causations having control over my life. I got tired of feeling like everything happened to me, with me having no power or active role in what happened. It’s not that I gained superpowers of control, and it’s not that change happened overnight — it’s happened over 25 years and it’s still happening — it’s that I finally learned that I’m not the game master of my life (and yes, I had to look that term up). I’m not even the storyteller.

But you know what I am? What we all are? We’re the narrators in our lives. Each of us, we get to narrate our own stories.

I realized that if I can’t control my life, I want to narrate it. I want it to have less tragedy and more laughter; less violence and more love; less fighting and more friendship. I want a happy ending, dammit.

You know what they say about happiness, right? You can’t really know it until you’ve known sadness. So, my story? Full of trials and struggles and hard times? It’s a happy story, damn it, because it’s going to have a happy ending.

And I guess this has been slightly more personal about my own particular story regarding healing from developmental trauma, but… I’m the narrator here.