On Processing Trauma

Today is a weird day. I had class, then work, then I had to see Dr. White again (which was kind of a mess), then my regularly scheduled therapy session. I think it was just too much stimulation or something. My brain feels like it’s in a fog. Too saturated.

I was planning to call my “Mom” tonight just to check in. I sat on my couch for about 90 minutes, holding my phone. I didn’t call. Then she texted me to say “Just checking in…:)” and I texted her back to say, “Thank you for checking in. I’ve actually been sitting here on my couch with my phone since about 5:45pm, planning to call you to do the same. I don’t know why I haven’t called yet…just being weird, I suppose. How are you?” but …nothing back since. Trying not to read too far into that.

Also, it’s another “traumaversary”, which is always tough. I brought this particular trauma up in session with Zooey last year, but we never processed it (shocker!). She did manage to tell me that she believed me and could “picture” something like that happening, but that’s the beginning, middle, and end.

I mentioned it today in session. Therapist asked what the anniversary was of and I sorta told her. I said, “It was just this really bizarre and horrific incident that happened in a hospital 15 years ago.” I think she sensed my hesitancy around being more explicit because she said, “Well, without going into detail about what happened, can you tell me more about how you’re feeling about today being the anniversary?”

Great question.

But I dodged it and instead told her about last year with Zooey and we spent most of the time talking about how things with Zooey tended to just get sent out into the ether – never to be spoken of (or processed) again.

I’m not a trauma therapist, but I think there’s this idea that just speaking or naming something is enough. It’s not. It’s a really good start, but you need to go back over it. I think what heals trauma is not simply the naming of it, but the shifting and reshaping that happens when you really think (and talk) about how it impacted you and how it changed the way you see yourself and the world around you. That doesn’t necessarily mean going over the graphic details over and over (in fact, that might end up causing more trauma), but it does mean asking questions and really examining the role that trauma played (and continues to play) in your life.

I suppose that’s an important part of what I want from therapy. Specific to my trauma, I want someone that can really exist with me in that space and stay with it long enough to help me push through it. I don’t just want to throw it up and say “See!” and then call it done. As someone who has mastered the art of distancing oneself from reality, it’s not very hard to name things in therapy. That part is easy. It’s everything that should come afterwards that’s painful and difficult to work through.

Therapist agreed with me and said this was really important stuff and we should spend more time talking specifically about the space we want to create around trauma processing. She doesn’t want to “drop” things, but she also said she’s mindful of bringing something into session herself because that might not be where I’m at that particular day, so it could trigger me. Fair point.

(Also: good information to have. That helps me understand why therapists don’t bring up stuff I know they must be dying to ask about!)

I’m not ready to go there yet, but I think we’re building a really solid foundation with which to do the work…for when I am ready.


20 thoughts on “On Processing Trauma

  1. Anxious Mom says:

    Whew that sounds like a rather draining day.

    This may sound odd, but I enjoyed reading your thoughts on how trauma therapy should work. It’s helpful to kinda get an idea of what to expect. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

      • Andi says:

        As in, tomorrow morning? (Sorry if this is on your blog, school makes it hard to keep up as well as I’d like). Good luck!!! Sending ALL the good vibes! 🙂


      • Anxious Mom says:

        Yup, it’s at 10:30 (haven’t mentioned it yet since I’m actually not freaking out about it, what a surprise). Thanks! 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  2. luverley says:

    Gosh this is such a hard subject. Parts are so wanting to talk but I’m not ready but they think I am. I hoe you find a way of processing these memories. It must be very hard, I’ve done the throw them up and run away. Not good help. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Similar here. Some parts are not ready. Still not trusting her. I go to talk and then I feel a strong pull to stop. It’s urgent and seems to come from a place of fear. I hope we can eventually work together. And I hope you eventually find a way to process your memories as well.


  3. alicewithptsd says:

    I think you are so right about processing trauma. It’s not enough to just name it. You have to be able to look at it from all the angles, explore it, feel the feelings, whatever it is you need, peel back the layers of the onion. I don’t like messy things, but Bea tells me messy is good becasue it means we can look at things from other viewpoints, see all sides, and truly reshape and reframe the way you view things in the world. I’m glad you and your therapist agree on how trauma should be processsed and the type of container that should be created to do this work. It’s really awesome how you talk to her about these things. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Cat says:

    From experience, it’s not just enough to name trauma. There are times when we’ll go over the same thing, but I tend to find it’s always from a slightly different perspective. You will know when you’re ready to open up, take your time.

    Liked by 1 person

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