I’m Thankful Your Trauma Isn’t Mine
No, I’m not being selfish. I’m simply being real.
Early childhood trauma and its devastating effects truly suck.
That’s right, they suck the life out of an innocent child. Hundreds of thousands. In every locale – urban, suburban and rural.
And don’t tell me it doesn’t happen in your community.
Because it does. Silence gets us nowhere.
Then those same children spend their school years trying to make sense of their rough start in life.
Wasn’t I good enough?
Am I blame?
Why didn’t anyone help?
Does anyone understand my feelings today?
Never-ending anxiety and shame. Too often labeled as ADHD.
Sadly, most survivors of childhood trauma exert tremendous emotional energy for the rest of their lives. Staying one step ahead of specific situations.
Situations that trigger past trauma. Dozens of them.
A smell. The tone of a voice. A locked room. Certain foods. Indifference.
Each can create emotional dys-regulation that one has to witness firsthand to believe. Completely overwhelmed. Fight or flight in the amygdala.
A meltdown erupts. Usually at home where children feel safe to unload their immense baggage.
I’m thankful your trauma isn’t my own.
But it is. I inherited the trauma from my sons and daughter. No amount of prayer would make it go away – nor explain it.
And for more than two decades, I’ve dealt with it the best way I can.
Some days better than others.
Over the years my children didn’t mince words.
You haven’t lived it. How can you possibly understand?
They’re right. I don’t.
I quickly learned never to say.
I understand how you feel.
Instead, I listen. I wait for the right time to speak. I offer support. I wait again.
The choice to move forward had to be theirs – not mine, as I learned the hard way.
It can’t be forced. Too much push creates instant pull – away from me.
Moreover, healing from past trauma has no timeline.
Although the road for my six children has been long and bumpy, I don’t pity them.
Rather, I respect them greatly – and the long journey each has made to find balance in their lives.
You see, a child with a history of early trauma doesn’t get over it – because someone tells them. They don’t just move on.
Stuck is an understatement.
I’m thankful your trauma isn’t mine.
Yet, each has made incredible progress. So have I in my understanding.
And in the process, we’ve learned to be family.
And for that I am thankful.
As long as I can remember, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. Most of my children too.
Our hectic pace slows for a whole day. The smell of turkey triggers pleasant memories. The family meal reinforces the importance of connection.
We enjoy the moment.
At the same time, we show gratitude as we reflect upon the past year – taking nothing for granted.
Thankful for improved self-control. No police calls.
Thankful for less impulsive behavior. No unexpected credit card charges.
Thankful for the right cocktail of psychotropic medications. No mental health hospitalizations.
Thankful for no damage to our home.
Thankful for regular communication.
Thankful for responding to texts.
Thankful for a willingness to try.
Thankful for a willingness to forgive.
Thankful for relatives and friends who not only tolerate – but embrace us.
Most importantly, thankful for the family we’ve become – in spite of the obstacles along the way.
No doubt, we love one another. DCP
Craig Peterson publishes EACH Child every Tuesday. To subscribe, open this link and “Like” the page. EACH Child is Special: Working Smarter Not Harder to Raise Every ONE
To follow Craig’s journey in raising his six children with special needs, click here: Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love
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To watch Andrew’s amazing ESPN 14-minute documentary, click here. Andrew Peterson ESPN Documentary