How I’m Surviving – Bridges to Recovery

Living With the Aftermath of Childhood Trauma How I’m Surviving

I have always survived my childhood trauma. I never felt like throwing in the towel completely, but it took me years to learn to survive in a meaningful way. These are the things that have helped me live with my past and to begin to actually thrive and enjoy life.

1. Getting Professional Treatment Was Essential.

I cannot overstate this. The single best thing I did to be able to live with my past was get professional mental health care. Ignoring past trauma doesn’t make it go away. The memories and terrible emotions associated with them only fester over time.

Depression was the main reason I initially went in for therapy. What my therapist helped me uncover were all the ways in which my childhood triggered feelings like depression, anxiety, and mistrust. When I realized the full extent of the results of my trauma, I decided to get more intensive treatment. The residential facility provided everything I needed to face my past, process it, accept it, and live with it.

2. I Built Better Relationships.

While my treatment was so much about me, it also helped my relationships. My partner at the time, now my husband, engaged in the treatment process. He came to therapy sessions and went to support group meetings to learn more about how childhood trauma affects people.

His commitment to my wellness and our willingness to learn together how to communicate and build trust was so important. It helped me overcome a lot of hurdles to good relationships. I now have a close circle of friends and family I know I can turn to when things get difficult and when my past memories threaten to overwhelm me.

3. I Found Meaning in My Work.

Meaning in life doesn’t have to come from work, but for me it did. I work at a shelter for young adults who have aged out of the foster care system. It has been so rewarding—and good for my mental health—to be able to help these young people.

Meaningful work has taken me outside of myself and allowed me to focus attention and care on others. I have also been able to see other people trying to make their way in life after terrible childhood experiences. I can help them, but they also help me.

4. Focusing on Physical Health Keeps Me Well.

Physical and mental health are connected, as I learned in treatment. Taking care of my body along with my mind has helped me to remain grounded in wellness. Running several times a week lowers my stress and helps me think through difficult emotions. A good night’s sleep keeps me rested and recharges me.

I have also had to face my issues with alcohol. I stopped using it as a coping mechanism and now only drink occasionally. Drinking had kept me from being my best self, so it had to go for the most part. Without it, I feel better both physically and mentally.

5. I Stay Connected to People With Similar Experiences.

My work with young people has been an immense help, but I also get something out of support groups with other adults. Support meetings for trauma help me connect with people who understand me. They know what it’s like to go through something so terrible. We build each other up and provide a safe place to vent.

I also stay connected with my siblings. It took years for us to come back together, but I’m glad I did. They are truly the only other people who understand what I went through. They have healed in their own ways, and now we support each other.

Childhood trauma is out of the control of the individual child, but as an adult we can take our power back. I learned years later how to do that. Taking charge of my own mental health and facing my past head on has been life-changing in the best possible way.

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