Trigger warning. This article touches upon the subject of trauma. If this subject is triggering in any way, please take care of yourself.
Many of us associate trauma with sexual or physical abuse, but trauma refers to an emotional response to a particularly distressing event that results in intense emotions. It is a much more complex topic to broach. Hence, this article will focus on five signs that tell you it might be time to move on.
Despite the title and content of this article, I want to let you know that you should never rush recovery. Recovering takes time. However, feel free to use this article as a guide and as a source of encouragement.
Now, let us begin.
- Struggling with personal history
For those who have endured trauma, revisiting the event might be triggering. The uninviting moments or flashbacks can be the onset of emotions like anger, resentment, sorrow, or frustrations. The overwhelming surge of these emotions can lead you to engage in harmful behaviors and, sometimes, onset mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD.
Before beginning your recovery process, make sure that you have support by your side. Learning how to override negative thoughts and new coping skills will take time and guidance, so please reach out to a therapist. Make sure you find a therapist you trust, and if you choose to, find some spiritual support as well.
- Perceiving change as impossible or frightening
Trauma can warp your perception of the future. It can make the future seem nebulous and bleak, thus making it impossible to think that the clouds will ever dissipate. However, life is constantly changing, so one day, things will change for you too.
However, change may not always be a welcoming thought. Humans are naturally fond of patterns and afraid of uncertainty, a companion of change. For someone with trauma, change can be even more frightening because trauma has robbed you of the ability to see things in a positive light.
Whenever you find yourself fearing the winds of change or think that you aren’t capable of changing, look for moments when you adapted to an unprecedented situation. It can be something as simple as how found a new faster route to get to work. Once you’ve found those moments, make a list of the pros and cons. You will find that the benefits of adapting outweigh the detriments of staying the same.
- Clinging to toxic people
Trauma often rips us open, and the wounds may be difficult to close. In hopes to patch things up, trauma survivors can try to find refuge in relationships. Unfortunately, some seem to attract abusive partners. They may find themselves creating bonds with people who are toxic or just not emotionally available for them.
If you notice this pattern, I suggest you reach out to a therapist. They may be able to help you identify why you tend to seek emotional support from those who are unable or unwilling to give it to you. You deserve to be surrounded by people who genuinely care for you.
- Falling in love with the wrong people
Similar to the point stated above, trauma or unresolved trauma can lead us into toxic relationships. Unfortunately, research states that female survivors of psychological, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse are more prone to fall into a relationship with an abusive partner. These relationships are not only triggering but also incredibly harmful. Since intimate relationship abuse is likely to occur within this relationship, the trauma becomes exacerbated.
I urge you to please seek help. If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, please reach out for help. Look for safe places in your city and reach out to a therapist for more help.
- Struggling with warped or high expectations
A final sign can be your perspective of your recovery process. Trauma changes how you perceive yourself and your future. Although it typically makes your future look grim, it may make you be a harsher critic towards yourself. The trauma you endured make you perceive yourself as different, but not in a positive way. You may feel the need to compensate or work harder because of your trauma.
This belief may influence how you approach recovery. Many people expect to experience drastic changes after a few sessions. Recovering from trauma takes time.
In the beginning, your therapist might encourage you to open up about things you do not want to. You may be reticent to do so, understandably so. You may struggle to open up or be honest about your feelings. However, these struggles are symptoms of how deeply you were affected. They also mean that you are doing the work– you are chipping away at the walls around you.
Recovery takes time. There will be days where you feel better like you have taken steps forward. But, there will also be days when you think you have not changed. In those days, remember that you have already taken an important step forward– you reached out for help. Now, keep moving forward.
When you feel like you haven’t moved forward, actively look for places where you have. Maybe you feel more energized, more motivated, or better capable to cope with distressing moments.
Wherever you are on your mental health journey, I wish you the best of luck. Please reach out to a therapist, emotional support person, doctor, pastor, spiritual leader, or whomever you trust for support. Reach out to a therapist if you have difficulties coping with your trauma.
As always, take care!
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (US). Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2014. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 57.) Chapter 3, Understanding the Impact of Trauma. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207191/
Hill, T. (2018, August 15). Experiencing Trauma: 7 Signs You Haven’t Healed Yet. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/blog/caregivers/2018/08/experiencing-trauma-7-signs-you-havent-healed-yet#6.
National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health. (2011). Intimate Partner Violence and Lifetime Trauma. National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health. https://doi.org/http://nationalcenterdvtraumamh.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Warshaw-IPV-and-Lifetime-Trauma.pdf
Robinson, L. (2021, July 15). Emotional and Psychological Trauma. HelpGuide.org. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/coping-with-emotional-and-psychological-trauma.htm.