February 17, 2014

Trauma Survivors and Thrivers
(Life After the Veil Has Lifted)

My friend Raina* just encountered a trauma in her life…for the very first time.  

(To preserve her privacy, I am not sharing any of the details whatsoever, including what type of trauma. I share only non-identifying parts of our conversation to illustrate the point of this post.)

As we talked over coffee , with tears streaming down her face, Raina  shared that up until this point in her life she has led a relatively uneventful life.  Even a sheltered life...

Luckily, she has encountered nothing tragic, to speak of. There were little bumps in the road here and there. At times she'd deal with work or parenting stresses like we all face. But never in her life has she experienced ANYTHING like what she’s going through now.  At mid-life she suddenly faces a traumatic event that has shaken her world to it's absolute core. 

Raina is a very strong woman of faith, but I can tell she is forever changed by what she has just experienced.

Eyes filled with tears, Raina took a few shallow breaths and voice breaking, looked at me and said, “This is how you felt when you went through the situation with your natural mom…isn’t it?” 

I nodded. 

“Deanna, I didn't get it before. But I think I get it now. I really do. I understand for the first time, what I could never fathom prior to this happening. I see how people come to the place of turning to drugs, or alcohol, or even suicide." 

 She quickly reassured me that she has no intention to make any of those choices.  And, she is receiving professional help for what she has suffered.

But she went on to say...

For the the first time in my life, I've actually experienced these temptations for myself. I just want the pain to go away. I wouldn't wish any of this on my worst enemy! And, it's a whole different world than I ever realized! I understand this place of indescribable pain that people are coming from when they make these choices...they just want relief, so much...I get it, I really do...I see everyone and everything differently than I did before."

 I nodded, knowingly.

Forever altered

Raina is not an adoptee. Yet, she has undergone a life-altering event that leaves her at a place of having critical decisions to make in order to move forward. 

I explained that once you encounter trauma, it's like a veil is lifted from your eyes whereby you see the world differently. 

You can no longer go back to the way you were, in your sheltered, unaffected and silent place.

Many find they  must speak, and they must do, to make an effort to affect change so that others don’t have to go through the same thing. Or, they want others to have more help than they did when it happened to them.

When the Veil Lifts...

It’s popular in adoptionland to use the term, “in the fog” or “out of the fog” to describe adoptee and first moms being stuck in an unclear view of, or coming into the full realization of, their experience.  

When it comes to those who have experienced trauma of any kind versus those who have not, I would describe it as, "life behind the veil." Behind the veil, you are shielded from an aspect of the human experience that forever marks those whose veil has been lifted. 

Some people look at me quizzically when I try to explain the trauma aspect of what we as adoptees go through. I realize in a vast majority of cases, I’m talking to people who are living life behind the veil. They may have experienced the loss of family members in natural ways, or a friendship that grew distant, or burned their grilled cheese on the stove last night, but having not experienced trauma, they are simply unaware of a huge part of the human experience.  

Where To, From Here?

Trauma changes you. 

And it forces you to make a choice as to where to go from there. 

To not make a choice is to make a choice. 

In my own experience, there were temptations when facing the worst of the pain to turn to things that would bring temporary relief and permanent destruction. 

I received help.

With the veil lifted,  I clearly and quickly notice others who have experienced trauma.

Once I identify them, I feel waves of compassion so strong – a force that compels me in such a way that I simply cannot fail to act!  As a trauma survivor and more importantly, a THRIVER – my experience has not caused me to be bitter. 

I was once broken but now I am shaped.

Empty of secrets, full of compassion, set on fire with passion to create positive change in the world.  

Many of you reading this have experienced the lifting of the veil.  

You now know.
You now see.
You have experienced.

How will you respond? 

*name changed 

Photo credit: Deanna Shrodes