Surviving trauma: What it sounds like and why it’s so difficult to face

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Published: Thu 8 Jul 2021, 7:51 PM

Last updated: Thu 8 Jul 2021, 7:56 PM


By Kavita Srinivasan

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I shouldn’t be alive right now. Sometimes I don’t know how I am. I marvel at myself — did I really face that and come out alive? How did I do that? Just because people have magically faced things and come out on the other side doesn’t mean it hasn’t killed them.

I had to kill parts of myself to wake up every day and function. The little me, the worried me, the anxious me... the parts that drag me down and make me see endless dark trails of hopelessness and pain. I ignored those parts. They were too hard to see. They were too hard to feel. I know I’m not alone. We are the walking wounded, hiding open wounds in plain sight.

Most of our unbearable pain comes from childhood. We were powerless and stomached more than we could... and we didn’t have the language to process everything, so we stored the memory perhaps for a later time, when our brains would catch up with our bodies, and let ourselves make sense of the madness.

I didn’t know how much pain I was in when I was a child till I faced my trauma as an adult. Thank God I didn’t have the language to process it when I was younger. To feel pain like that and not have a parent soothe you... it’s unthinkable.

Maybe forgetting the trauma is survival. Not acknowledging it is survival. How else do you live? If we could lock the memories away and live without ever touching them, then the forgetting would work.


It stops working. Forgetting your past, forgetting your trauma, forgetting those countless moments in childhood... it stops working. I’ve tried everything to forget it. Food, work, friends, escapism... self-sabotage, lies... I’ve tried it all.

And I started getting sick. My blood sugar was higher than it should have been, I lost my voice for six months, I was grossly depressed and nothing seemed to shake the trauma off me. My dirty secret would not be hidden anymore.

So, I stopped running. Falling straight into everything that happened to me has been unbearable.

How did I survive that?

How am I alive?

Trauma — it lives in your body like it owns it. And it doesn’t leave till you listen to its needs.


I’ve said this before and I will again.

Living life is not easy when you’ve endured deep childhood trauma. Waking up, getting dressed, facing yourself in the mirror, putting on a face and going through the motions... it’s arduous. People sugarcoat everything we battle to have the chance to breathe. The battle to live life can kill us. But when we face the trauma, when we feel and relive every past blow again and remind ourselves that we are safe, we rise... because we are meant to survive.

Someone called me a survivor the other day but said it in a way that sounded scornful. You do everything you can to survive, you grab onto anything to survive... it was a criticism, it wasn’t praise. And I thought she was on my side till I saw she wasn’t. This will happen when you start facing your trauma. There will be envy. Not everyone will be happy to see you free.

Yes, I survive.

I’m a survivor. I face my pain and I feel it. I endure battle, I excavate painful memories. I breathe deep, full breaths... even though the pain has sliced clean people in my life and parts of myself I used to depend on.

I am alive. I choose life because there is a beautiful, blazing light on the other side of pain. It’s worth fighting for, it’s worth keeling over in pain for.

Survival is not only facing your past, it is also living despite heartbreak. Those who break you are giving you the very pieces you need to live life the only way it’s meant to be — with your brokenness becoming the glue that makes you whole, that makes you stronger.

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