There are so many parts of my life I keep hidden, from myself and from everyone else. I try to talk as openly as I can about mental health and trauma, but there are some things that are easier to talk about than others. I can now mostly say ‘I have been through trauma and it has had a big impact on my life’ but it’s easier to talk about the trauma people can easily have empathy for. The sexual abuse and assaults. Although I still hate to even use those words, when I do people can mostly show compassion for the things I have experienced. But what about the other stuff? The things I feel like I have to hide completely.
What about the things I did? The alcohol issues, the drugs, the involvement with the police, offending, fighting, and the damage I have caused to other people’s lives. It is easier to understand when the victims of trauma can be thought of as purely victims, but what about when they haven’t just been victims? People are not good or bad, we are both. But are we really able to talk about both sides of the story?
I feel like a fraud sometimes. People call me inspiring or that my story helps them. But they are only seeing the bits of the story I am choosing to tell. The impact of trauma has been so damaging to myself and others around me, and the ways I have learned to deal with the trauma have not been ‘inspiring’. I struggle sometimes to integrate those parts of me into who I am as a person but my past is who I am, the good and the bad bits.
I see the term ‘trauma informed’ everywhere right now. And I wonder how much people truly understand what that means. It means seeing the trauma in people who don’t want you to see it and make it difficult for you to show empathy and compassion towards. No matter how many professionals have been involved in my life, they didn’t see the trauma until I was able to communicate it to them myself. A social worker once wrote a court report about me calling me ‘sullen, brittle and uncommunicative’. She didn’t see trauma, she only saw was what I wanted her to see at the time.
So now, people see the trauma and the inspiring story. But when they hear the parts of the story that are harder to understand and show any compassion for, will they still see the trauma then? Will they understand that a victim of trauma can not just be treated as a victim. That we all have good and bad bits to our stories. That we aren’t always inspiring.