Making Sense of the Broken Pieces
Making Sense of the Broken Pieces

Making Sense of the Broken Pieces

I feel like for people with complex trauma, often times you can’t really pinpoint a time when you realized that you’re traumatized. Of course there may have been a time when a therapist told told you, or maybe you read something that sparked your interest to look further into the subject. But like, did you ever fully process the extensiveness of it and it’s implications? Like maybe at times you understand and clearly recognize parts of it, and other times other parts of the diagnosis speak to you, but then at other times you’re just…confused. I feel like there’s so much to learn and I find that I am making new insights and connections to how I feel and what that’s indicative of all the time. It can be overwhelming.

I would like to give a very brief explanation that may give you guys a small glimpse into why complex trauma can be so confusing to navigate: Every one has two memory systems; the narrative and the visceral. Lets say you’ve just gotten home from a party. Someone asks you how it was. You know what to answer them because the narrative memory collected information as to what happened (1. you got there 2. you saw your friend and went over to talk to her 3. an old friend from school joined you guys, etc. etc.). You can go into every little detail but that would take for ever and is not the kind of answer the person inquiring wants to hear. You instead say something to the effect of “It was really nice, there were a lot of people there who I haven’t seen in a while, it was good to catch up, the food there was really good too.” That’s where the visceral memory system comes into play. It interprets and processes the what you taste, feel, see and experience. So when the narrative and visceral memory are working together, you can confidently make the statement: I ate pie, it was good. The first part of that sentence is the narrative memory talking, the second part is the visceral memory. Of course, these examples are oversimplified, for explanation’s sake. But my point is that for the general, healthy, properly functioning person, these two memory systems link up and consistently work together, interpreting ones everyday experiences. This allows them to feel depths of emotions and to interpret and decipher everyday experiences.

Trauma is when something happens to you that is so shocking an incomprehensible that your visceral memory and narrative memory fail to properly link up. Your memory and experiences become fragmented. Each thing you experience then gets added to your subconscious knowledge of the way the world works. This is especially true for things that happened in early childhood. But you can’t process a traumatic memory properly, so you can’t file it away with the rest of your experiences as you normally would. So instead you just push it to the side so that you could function. But this memory isn’t properly digested. This may cause any of the following:

A) Your memories come back to you in flashes

B) You to randomly feel strong and inappropriate emotions as a result of everyday happenings

C) You are untrusting because you are protecting yourself from further harm

D) You don’t trust yourself and the way you feel

E) You have a hard time knowing what’s real and what’s your imagination

F) Nightmares

G) You can’t remember large parts of your life

H) You remember what happened, but you feel detached

I) You disassociate, and don’t fully experience life

J) avoidance

When you experienced a childhood of traumatic events, especially ones that were facilitated by people who were supposedly taking care of you, and were your sources of food, clothes, and shelter, it really leaves an impact. (No duh, Kara). You may feel overwhelming amounts of shame, responsibility, hurt, depression, self hatred, regret, confusion, and rumination. All these things are normal, it makes sense given what you experienced. Constantly being reminded of what happened is your brains way of trying to prevent it. Feeling responsible is normal because it is a timeless defense mechanism that your brain uses to learn how to do better next time. But what I’d really like to stress is that modern day psychology has gotten to a point where there is enough information out there on how to recover and how to heal, that it is not hopeless. Your experiences may have isolated you and turned you into a helpless victim in the face of everything you feel. Maybe any insight you have that may motivate you to heal is silenced by the all powerful, ‘But what can I do about it?’. You’ve backed yourself into a corner where staying stuck is the only option. This is not so, it may take time to see the big picture but you can get to a better place. How? By speaking to a trained therapist WHO YOU FEEL UNDERSTANDS YOU AND WHO YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH. Not all of them are the same, and lets be real, some out there are awful, or just not for you. You may try many before you find the right fit. In the meantime there is a lot of information on line as well as books on self help and workbooks. You could try expressive writing or meditative techniques, and maybe just taking time for yourself, or a support group. You will get there, like many others like you, and remember, you may relapse, but just know that you are always climbing that mountain. All the while keep in mind all the reasons that can motivate change, and to not give up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *