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Updated by Juliet Abram on Jan 28, 2020
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9 Ways Grown-Ups Cope Creatively with Past Trauma

Any therapist worth their salt will say there's no way to completely get over it. Promising everything will magically get 100% better is only going to add more stress and limit real life-changing progress. The key is to replace negative coping skills with positive coping skills. Sometimes, that's not so easy. I hope this list might shed light on how I connect my issues today to then. I made this list to help sever the neurological connections with being cognitively aware of and participating in breaking the thought patterns created in childhood when my brain was still developing.

1

Telling Me to Relax Makes Me Tense

Telling Me to Relax Makes Me Tense

Being still clears the mind? Balderdash! For about twenty years I avoided yoga on the principle staying very still and taking deep breaths made me feel the least safe version of myself possible. A symptom of PTSD I have is feeling like a target so I'd rather be a moving target. To further complicate the issue, my belief in hard work tases a person forward led to a belief sitting still was laziness. Today what helps me is taking a few deep breaths and zoning out just for me. It's a healthy form of selfishness that feeds my inner-strength and connects me to me. Just me. Apparently there's even trauma-aware yoga. Being still actually clears the mind.

2

If I Can't Hurt You, I'll Hurt Me

If I Can't Hurt You, I'll Hurt Me

This one was the trickiest coping mechanism to undo and correct. Letting go of using intoxicants including cigarettes as a form of self-soothing or a remedy to distract was chemically ingrained into my subconscious. When addicted thinking gets an override by the chemical programmers in whatever you are ingesting. I quit smoking and actually lost weight; I quit smoking at age 37 in the middle of the summer and now it's January and I've lost 20 pounds by taking up regular exercise.

3

Suffering from Brutal Honesty while Knowing Truth Hurts

Suffering from Brutal Honesty while Knowing Truth Hurts

The main reason a child conceals trauma is the hardwired lesson telling the truth will hurt whoever hurt you. It will upset others who like the person who hurt you. Your truth makes the other person look bad which makes you the bad person. Two wrongs do not make a right. Sometimes my inability to hold back on the full truth and nothing but the truth is too fierce a brand of brutal honesty. My passion for truth and justice makes it hard to enjoy professional sports, for example, since I know too much about domestic violence facts and players who have gotten away with sex crimes. Although I'm telling the truth, this ruins the fun others are having watching sports. Deep down, I am really resentful my former tormenters still have friends. Deep down, I struggle enormously with forgetting what I can't ever forgive.

Most egregiously, recently, as the news eked out hour by hour, the news of Kobe Bryant's death startled me. Initially, I knew only he had been lost as TMZ had reported and little else was known while my brain immediately began processing how I felt. The majority of people I know are passive or major NBA fans. Basketball is one of my favorite sports. The year Kobe Bryant was accused of rape was in 2003, the same year when I was 21 years old. Instantly I am rushed backwards in time where "I don't have the physical capacity to push him away. But I don't want this to be rape" ... I was unable to stop an adult kidnapping and the consequences for that has permanently scarred me which you can read more about here.

Similarly, I did not want to press charges for rape because it was clear to me my sexual past would be on the witness stand and I was not a virgin and I had already had a baby. Then, it took 13 years for courts to prosecute my attacker for physical assault charges I did press. 13 years. I did not know this year, 2020, 9 people were on Kobe Bryant's helicopter. It was not the time to discuss what he admitted to doing in his own apology --- There was a lot of hurt inside of me while processing information about someone considered a hero by so many. And since my trauma began in childhood, and led to more later on as a result, I fear the day the biological father who molested me dies since I know many in my family who know what happened and still associate with him. I fear the day my uncle who also molested me on my mom's side passes away a little less since he estranged himself from nearly everyone.

4

Déjà Vu Can Feel Life Threatening

Déjà Vu Can Feel Life Threatening

It is similar but different than bipolar disorder in the sense there will be hours maybe days of being productive and then a fast sweeping depression starts to set in making everything pointless. It can be a word heard years ago from someone long ago that reminds me of fear and panic, then suddenly panic and fear becomes real and present tense. The only thing to do is freeze. It can be a smell, a song, a memory._ Is it real? _ I must ask myself to identify what is causing my inability to do anything. It's frustrating because there is so much I want to do, but I can't, and causes resentment at this interruption to my productivity. The frustration is part of my depression.

5

Daily Routines are (Almost) Superstitions

Daily Routines are (Almost) Superstitions

Ever walk into a room and feel unable to remember why or what for? I wake up and have to literally remind myself where I am and that I am safe. I have to coach myself with pep talk or even bribery. If I wake up there's coffee. Or if I wake up early enough we can get a nice work out in. Or, maybe I can sneak in a couple episodes of that new show I like so much. Getting right up to me might feel like being thrown off a cliff without a bungee cord. Although I personally cannot get rid of the fear, I can trick myself into not feeling that way by having a wake-up routine. I just know if I don't take at least 5 minutes to get my bearings I start my day off wrong in my outlook and attitude.

6

Telling Me to Get a Hobby

Telling Me to Get a Hobby

Some people have one hobby, I cannot decide what I like to do more. This is not a bad thing, necessary, since I have developed a life on principle that classes must change every 40 minutes like they did back in grade school. I absolutely need to have a variety of healthy and constructive passions and chores, errands and activities to keep me sane.

There's a different type of book anywhere your eyes can see: yoga, memoir, comedy, history, non-fiction, fiction... An art table at the ready in case today I want to paint. A pile of yarn and knitting needles and crochet hooks. Thread just in case today's the day I want to mend our more salvageable favorite socks, pants, shirts. I am in charge of bathroom cleaning duties because it makes me feel integral to the functionality of the home since my cooking is not the best beyond making sandwiches, salads, smoothies, and basic noodle recipes. I ride a road bike but it terrifies me so I'm often switching from flat pedals to clipless pedals. I try to play beginners piano, for what feels like the thirtieth year in a row. I am brushing up on my French, learning Chinese and Spanish. There is a stack of poetry, short stories, novellas and novels and plays that are rough drafts I can look at again and choose to work on if I want to. I also love to go shopping but I don't always have the cash. In a way, hobbies help me stay grounded in a sense of how interesting the world is and therefore, helps ease my depression.

7

Social Media is a Necessity to Ease Introvert Tendancies

Social Media is a Necessity to Ease Introvert Tendancies

Social skills and social habits start early in life. Traumatized children often isolate and become extreme introverts who develop imaginary friends or live inside other worlds through stories in books, on TV or in movies.

A lot of actual social interaction develops as a child with hiding parts of your life from others, lying to your friends, keeping secrets, and pretty much laying the groundwork of not trusting other people. I had no textbook on when or how to tell my closest childhood friends my darkest secrets. All I could do was talk about other topics, and become as smart about as many subjects as possible, and develop the best sense of humor I could because people like that to some extent. When I did get break down or cry I always said I had no idea why I just had depression. I'd love to have closer friendships from childhood, but to be honest, it is almost impossible to enter adulthood with close friends when trauma prevents those close bonds from forming. Today, I learn to brush up on those skills through online social media. It is not a substitute for actual face-to-face socialization- however- as someone who is ok with being an introvert this helps remind me friendship is valuable and important. It was also the first way I began to share, on social media, about my past trauma. I use social media to bring me closer, not farther, away from people I care the most to see if we were in person.

8

The Fear from Then is Tenfold Now

The Fear from Then is Tenfold Now

Because during childhood trauma downplaying, dismissing, and ignoring fear helps a kid to survive, today I have fears that come and go, that can be so irrational I would laugh if they weren't debilitating at times. Today my fear level is low probably because I know I will likely not encounter the triggers but the list is: Making phone calls, public speaking, ordering food at a restaurant, ordering off a fast food menu, riding a bike up a steep hill wearing clipless pedals, tree branch impalement, driving on highways, generally getting lost and having no phone power left.

Then there's cooking, loading the dishwasher, ironing, parking the car, parallel parking the car, falling down stairs, other people dying, letting others down but not on purpose but they think it is on purpose, not finding a publisher for all this unpublished stuff, not knowing how to publish stuff even though I write all the time, not understanding how to market, advertise or promote my own stuff. Well... I will stoop there so I don't have to add to that list.

9

Working Until I Get Burnt Out

Working Until I Get Burnt Out

The idea of taking a break still feels like not studying during recess. If there is a way to get more done, I will multi-task, of course. I only discover new music while working. I have to still rewind and rewatch the same scenes of a show to make sure I have not missed part of the dialogue. Making this list has forced me (compelled rather than forced) to sit still but I'm watching The Morning Show starring Jennifer Anniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell, Billy Crudup, Mark Duplass... I do not have more free time than others- I am just about paying only 20% attention to the TV to make sure it doesn't stop playing because I literally cannot deal with complete silence while I am writing. Unless I am editing. And I don't do much editing with my own online blogs I must admit. Mathematically if I rotate my activities and do not put in 100% all at once then maybe, just maybe, I'm taking hundreds of mini-breaks per day instead? I did not create a spreadsheet for that- yet. Anyway, taking a break, to me, is giving the invisible monster of racing thoughts time to come ruin my productivity.