Once (sometimes twice) a week I walk into a room where I don’t have to speak French to talk about trauma or “not trauma.” I can walk in and speak about whatever I want, and know that I can be understood.
At times, that is the most freeing experience ever, and at times the most frustrating as I can’t hide anything. I can’t hide my microexpressions, my breathing, nothing.
Trauma is isolating. Survivors are isolated from the world, from non-survivors, and from each other. We are on an island. I don’t get to therapy early because I don’t want to sit there in the waiting room and see other trauma survivors and not talk to them. It’s already so isolating. I don’t even look at anyone in the eyes in the office because I know that they have a story I can relate to, but I’ll never know it. It’s worse to be surrounded by them, and know that you can never know. Being aware these are your people, and you’ll never know them, it’s incredibly hard.
It’s worse to be lonely, than alone.
One day when I walked into Jess’s office there were drawings left over from the previous hour, another client… a drawing of a spider, on pink cardstock… with the words “fuck u.” I saw that and just got them. I got IT. Sometimes that’s just how we deal. We sometimes feel like we are just balloons floating around the world that doesn’t get it.
For me, I often have/had to approach the world with a “fuck u” attitude. You think I can’t make it? Well, fuck you. You think I need to trust everyone? Fuck that and fuck you. (And so on.) The Survivor’s Guide to Life is defense AND offense.
This little glimmer of the Fuck U spider was a moment of the humanity of someone else battling their own war. Jess cut it out for me, and I have it in my wallet, to remind me that even though I don’t see them, somewhere out there, there is someone out there who gets it.
Over time, I’ve formed a music playlist that has been my go-to source of inspiration, and often play it in therapy. I shared it with Jess and she asked if she could share this list with another one of her other clients. Music is a huge part of my soul, and to pass it to another going through trauma was a gift I was thankful to share. It gave me comfort to know that the notes that I curated into this list were being given to another. Eventually, the idea was floated to connect the two of us. This person had no name, it’s like they weren’t real.
Until they were.
I got an email in my inbox, from the same office… different hour.
Subject line: Insert Awkward Subject Line Here.
Right then I knew, Hannah was good people. Right off the cuff she was snarky, fun, and made fun of the therapeutic process, as we hardcore PTSD clients are prone to do. (It’s a coping strategy, don’t judge.) Within days we developed a good rapport where we were able to express some of our challenges (what brought us to our hour) with ease. It was amazing to be able to not only talk about those challenges without needing to interpret why xyz might be complex for us, but also knowing Jess allowed us to understand how that expression might play out in the hour.
My therapist offered a bridge between our two islands.
Suddenly, I wasn’t quite so alone.