I personally don’t feel I have more than a normal level of sadness anymore. I’m not denying there are still parts that are grieving inside me. However the other day I thought, what if I am deeply sad? Perhaps everyone else can see it and I am in denial. I decided to write this post having zero idea of the outcome. My aim of this blog post is to work out if I am still living with feelings I need to resolve or seek help with. Finally, how I will know when I’ve healed enough?
How do you start with working out if you’ve healed from your childhood or adult traumas? The best way I thought to approach this question was by comparing the mental pain to physical injury. We can all relate to what a physical injury feels and looks like when it first happens. The smaller the injury, the less the longer term impact. The big cuts can leave physical scars forever. They say the mind and body is in tune and linked, so I feel that its healing could also be compared in a similar way.
1. You Cry About It.. Perhaps Even A Lot
I guess the first stage to knowing you’re still deeply sad about your traumas and may need help is if you cry about it. This same would apply to both physical pain and mental traumas. If you still cry about it at all then it’s not fully healed yet. The less you cry, the more healed you are on your journey.
In my case, whether this is just due to sheer exhaution with raising 3 toddlers and still being woken frequently at night, but I haven’t cried in at least a couple of months about my traumas.
2. You Can Still See Blood
With physical injuries if there is still blood there even if in scab form, you’ll know that you haven’t healed yet and need to be extra cautious around the injury. With mental pain, this can be compared to still having flashbacks, overwhelming memories and thoughts about the event.
For my personal traumas, I have dealt with many of them. Sometimes my decisions over my narcissistic Mum do pop into my head and I’d rather they didn’t. So yes, perhaps this section would indicate I have intrusive memories and I need help to allow them to not be stirred so often. I also feel, similar to physical injuries, that time is a natural healer over frequent thoughts over something sad like going no contact with your Mum.
3. You Can Feel Pain or Numbness Over It
Physical injuries are unlikely to still have numb or sore parts if they were fully healed. Mental pain is no different. In my situation, I don’t feel numbness over any of my childhood or adult traumas anymore. If you’ve not heard it and are going through pain, listen to the John Mayer ‘Shadow Days’ song. I genuinely feel this song summarises the turmoil that mental hurts cause. His words include:
“Had a tough time, got a rough start, But I finally learned to let it go…” – it can take time to let pain go. I’m not sure what psychological reasons there are to clinging onto the hurts people or situations have done to us, but there must be some reason or other.
“My shadow days are over now…” – mental pain follows us round like a shadow. But eventually the sun rises in the sky just enough that the shadow virtually disappears. Hold on until this moment when you’re just able to be you, without being followed around by the trauma shadow.
“Well it sucks to be honest, And it hurts to be real…” – people tend to withdraw from interactions with you if you talk openly about the trauma you’re going through. In contrast, if you are open and vulnerable it can hurt to talk about it and even cause anxieties later about whether you should have trusted that person with that information.
“Hard times let me be…” – this is so true. Can’t hard times just leave us alone? In the thick of hard times, they can literally overwhelm your emotional system. When someone very close to me died a few years ago, I was so traumatised that I don’t think I had a minute for the first year after his death without him haunting me. I sobbed and sobbed to a friend that I would never get rid of this pain. He said time would. Well, it did. I still think about this person occasionally, not so traumatically, maybe once a month instead. It’s only a fleeting thought too.
4. You Can Feel Pain Elsewhere in Your Body
Sometimes it can feel like your tooth pain has gone but it’s actually moved up the nerves into your head in the form of headaches. The same applies to mental pain, it can be transferred from the pain in the mind to pain in other parts of your body. I once read that tension in body parts such as the stomach can be caused by anxiety and stress.
Sometimes pain can disrupt our sleep as it can wake us up or be too painful to fully relax to be able to fall asleep. As a parent of babies and young children, we have to remember sleep is deprived anyway. If we then deprive the few hours of opportunity with mental traumas spinning around our minds, it will mean we still have room for healing.
6. You Talk A Lot About It
When physically or mentally struggling, you feel others need to know what’s happened to you. You feel they need to know as you’re unable to do the things you could before, or because you feel it’s obvious there’s something wrong with you which warrants explanation. This urge to explain yourself to everyone may indicate you still have healing to do.
7. Loss of Connection
Healing Trauma by Peter Levine points out that trauma is:
“The loss of connection – to ourselves, to our bodies, to our families, to others, and to the world around us. This loss of connection is often hard to recognise, because it doesn’t happen all at once. It can happen slowly, over time, and we adapt to these subtle changes sometimes without even noticing them.”
What a hugely valid point this definition makes. For a long time, my trauma was showing through not eat healthily on a regular basis, inspite of wanting to eat healthier. I also would react to my husband in dramatic ways, assuming that a simple argument was the end of our relationship. Recently I have changed my bad eating habits significantly and am on route to becoming healthy. I also found healthier ways to communicate with my husband too – see my previous post about this. I’m finding it easier to improve my eating this time round as I’m not overwhelmed with negative feelings about traumas that have happened.
8. You Believe You’re Fine But Never Actually Expressed Emotions
Several major things have happened to you emotionally, such as an abusive relationship or death of a loved one. You have shown a brave face through it all, having a wall up and pressure not to let your emotions take over. Some children are raised that expressing anger, frustration, sadness or crying are bad. If you are one of those children, now grown into an adult, you may be suppressing emotions. Suppression of emotions may come out in the form of other health complications in time, so if this may be you then it’s worth seeking medical help to deal with your emotions to maximise your health and life.
9. Your Loved Ones Tell You
Finally, if loved ones are either urging or politely asking you to seek counselling or psychotherapy of some sorts, or saying that you don’t seem yourself, this may be another sign that you’re not fully healed. Another key sign you have traumas that are not dealt with is if you react immaturely or angrily towards your children or spouse. This may indicate that they are triggering a subconscious reaction from your past. See my blog post about how to heal yourself from childhood trauma here.
If you feel comfortable in your responses to most of the points above, then that must be an indication that you’ve healed. Some things may never fully return to how they were before an event happened. With a really hurtful situation there may be some numbness that doesn’t pass or there may be a scar that reminds you when something draws it to your attention. Sometimes you may feel you’ve reached your own maximum healing, to the best of your capability. The scarrings from the deepest traumas remain there to remind me it’s made me who I am, helped me make the better choices I’ve made since starting my healing journey, but subtly remind me to protect myself or my family from similar situations.