There’s that old saying: “Time heals all wounds.”
Yet, you know better. In fact, in your case, time only added to the burden you carried from past trauma.
That’s because, as with many adults who experienced child abuse or neglect, the complex trauma your ordeal had caused may have happened many years (even decades) ago, but it continued to wreak havoc in your life up into the present.
Now, though, you’ve turned the corner.
You’ve sought out help and treatment to recover from the trauma of your childhood. And therapy has been a powerful step forward for you. Yet, there is more to recovering than going to sessions with a trained therapist.
Consider how you can play an active role in supporting your own recovery from complex trauma.
Give Yourself Permission to Feel
As an adult, you have most likely developed many barriers or walls over the years. These walls shielded you from your troubling emotions or feeling the pain associated with the trauma.
However, you now know that recovery calls for these walls to come down. Yet, it’s hard to break down barriers that you have spent a lifetime building.
One way to start deconstructing the walls is by simply giving yourself permission to feel all of those emotions you’ve buried for so long. Yes, it may be difficult, but you are no longer a child. You are grown up.
Some ways to begin dealing with your emotions:
- Keep a journal
- Write down what you’re feeling, then destroy the paper (such as burning it or ripping it up)
- Create a music playlist that reflects what you’re feeling
- Draw or paint
- Write a song
These techniques can make it easier to feel and experience emotions that you might have kept bottled up for years. It is a very important step for healing complex trauma in adults. And, if you use one of them, it’s important to track the effect any technique has on you. Balance is the key. Adults with complex trauma can tend to either feel too much, or too little. They tend to over-react or under- react.
Your therapist can help you gauge the usefulness of any particular method, and track whether it’s helping you move towards balance or needlessly stirring up hurt, fear or anger.
Remember to Keep Things Simple
Now that you are actively in recovery from childhood abuse, it helps to keep things simple.
Do your best to clear your calendar of obligations or projects. Granted, having a hobby or other recreational activity to keep things in balance does help. However, this might not be the best time to start that big outdoors project you’ve been stalling on. Instead, try to stick to the basics while you are working towards supporting your recovery.
Indulge Yourself, Within Reason
As an adult, you might be used to putting other’s needs ahead of your own. This is especially true if you have children.
Yet, when coping with complex trauma, it’s helpful to allow yourself some indulgences too. For example, taking a warm and relaxing bath or making time to go to the gym and work out. These things can help you feel good and are great self-care practices.
However, make sure that you don’t use the need for occasional indulgence as an excuse to binge drink or engage in substance abuse in order to “unwind.” Using substances to cope only creates more problems and adds more complications to an already complicated situation.
It’s hard to look back as an adult to those traumatic childhood experiences and ask, “Why did that have to happen to me?”
That’s why it’s so essential to find opportunities that add meaning and fulfillment to your life. For example, volunteering is a great idea. It doesn’t have to be trauma-related. But it ought to be something that you find meaningful, where you know that you’re making a difference.
Some example of meaningful volunteer activities are:
- Working at a homeless shelter
- Helping at a food pantry
- Chipping in at a community garden
- Mentoring young people
- Completing a conservation project
The added benefit of volunteering is that it helps you stay connected and engaged with other people. And that’s crucial as you work through your trauma recovery.
Clearly, complex trauma in adults poses many challenges. The years between those traumatic events and now have left you with a lot of pain. But please be assured that it’s possible to recover from child abuse. What happened then doesn’t have to define you now!
As you’re working through your trauma with a professional, make sure that you are supporting your own recovery through positive means of coping. And if you have not started treatment yet but are considering trauma treatment, please contact me if you would like to know more about my approach. It would be my pleasure to support you on your journey to healing.