After spending years in traditional therapy and even more years reading self-help books, I finally realized something: when it comes to designing or changing one’s life, trauma victims are not like non-traumatized people.
How? Let me count some of the ways, using myself as an example:
1. I have virtually no understanding of this idea that I can, in fact, change my life.
2. I cannot relate to the notion that my life, and how it is, is a result of choices I made, because most of the choices I made were completely influenced by the trauma/PTSD. They weren’t my choices; they were “trauma’s” choices.
3. I cannot uncover my passions by doing assignments with lists and so forth. I have trouble keeping a bead on my own inner voice for more than 30 seconds at a time, because I’ve been so conditioned to be aware of people and things outside of myself.
4. I don’t know what I really want. My personal period of self-discovery was cut off before I even had a chance to start, at age 22. So don’t ask me what I really want, because I have no idea.
I could continue writing this list until Christmas. What I learned through the right kind of therapy — and it was right because a) I had a great DV therapist and b) because I was ready for it — is that I have to stop listening to the self-help gurus. It’s great that they can help other people. But they can’t help me.
And you know what? I’m not going to complain about it. Do I wish I were like non-traumatized people who can follow a step-by-step process for reinventing themselves? Of course. I would give anything to not be a traumatized person. I can’t even imagine what my life might have been like. I could have been a published author, or a music history professor at a great university. I might have been a successful lawyer or public speaker.
I’m none of those things. I’ve barely managed to keep my head above water, emotionally, financially and every other way, for the 30 years since I was first raped by my ex-husband.
What I need is a new way to actually LIVE, because I have spent 30 years existing, not living. And now that I’m 51 years old, I have no time to waste.
Can I find fulfillment through my new adventures in fiction writing? I don’t know, but I’m going to keep at it.
I’m also going to do self-help my own way. Stay tuned to this blog to find out what that is.