Some of us, like people with complex childhood trauma, need look at depression and anxiety like any other chronic illness that can be successfully managed through consistent monitoring and utilization of internal and external resources.
It’s not like you got cancer and then beat it. With complex childhood trauma, you start with it. It’s all you know.
Over time you can get really good at creating and maintaining a holistic environment that supports and nourishes you. But storms can still roll through. You know what to do. You neither overreact nor under-respond. You know better now what is soothing instead of merely stimulating. You know the amounts of solitude and connection that are required to weather it. You can still get tangled in the seaweed from time to time but you don’t panic as much as you did in the past. It’s painful but it’s no longer terrifying. You can talk and walk yourself through it. You’ve already looked under the bed. You know you are actually safe despite how it feels. There is a truce now. Peace talks worked. Meds helped. You don’t ask what’s wrong with me anymore. You have accepted that every feeling you have is valid and every choice you have made, even the ones that didn’t serve you well, make sense because you know the whole story. You have integrated context. You have connected all the dots and arrived at a coherent narrative that allowed you to shift the story of yourself from being one of contamination to one of redemption. The hero’s journey.
Forgiveness turned out to be the very hardest thing. Forgiving them felt like saying it was ok or that it never happened. It felt like losing something that defined you, protected you. Protected them, the ones that let you down and hurt you. To let that go felt like you’d lose all over again. You’d be unmoored from the only self you ever knew. You had hidden any remaining innocence or sense of wonder and awe deep inside you. You hid it so well you forgot where you put it.
But over time you felt something new in yourself. Like waking up after a really good and long overdue sleep. Now you sometimes feel bratty instead of brooding. It’s like happiness snuck up on you. You never knew happiness could be alternately so majestic and so boring. You’d have known that if you’d had a different childhood. But you didn’t. You accept that and have let go of the pain that defined you.
The story of yourself is different now. You have arrived at something else after all the trial and tribulation, an intersection of what you think and what you feel. You have learned to distinguish between what you fear and what you intuit. You can trust your gut now, your felt sense, and you check it against what you know and what you feel and the alignment and agreement of these is wisdom. Hard won. Real.
Rebuilding a traumatized nervous system is choice by choice. Every time you do the thing that you know is healthy but doesn’t yet feel natural you fortify the new neural pathway you are creating…the pathway that affirms and validates you. One day you realize that has become the new default and it not only benefits you, it benefits everyone around you.