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Overcoming trauma narratives

We often understand stories that have a beginning, middle, and an end. A coherent trajectory of personal triumph, growth and sacrifice, and redemption. Or the fall of the hero - the rejection of Lucifer from heaven - they're all equally prevalent understandings of how our stories make sense to us. A rise to grace or fall to disgrace. But in all cases of life, our own experiences don't fit into a beginning, middle, or end. The surprises between those words are where life truly exists. A beginning is as true as an ending.


When I started writing, I imagined my life within these three markers to make sense of the suffering I experienced as a child and teenager. I started writing poetry at 15 and at the time, it was about my childhood love leaving me to move overseas. In hindsight (with the clarity of therapy) I now understand that fixation as a reflection of the rejection and abandonment I had grown to fear from intimate relationships. Writing and poetry, for me, was about making sense of my trauma - from the very first poem. I had rarely written about joy, although I wrote a lot about what I thought about love or being loving within the context of romance. I think I can count, on one hand, how many poems I have written about happiness.


As December approaches, I've fallen to introspection, particularly about where I am as a writer; who I am as a person. The last ten years have been cataclysmic - apocalypse after judgement after genesis. Just when I thought I built something, the tower fell each time. The illusions of who I thought I wanted to be failed me at each and every turn. But for that, I have endless gratitude for believing the sun would rise every morning. My faith had to be stronger than my fear. My fear had to transform into love.


While I don't pretend to have any answers, there are some things I have grown to accept as true. I no longer live (or should have to live) in the past. The old adage that suffering makes us stronger is too simplistic. It didn't make me strong - it made me anxious, depressed, reactive, self-destructive, selfish. But what it did do what present to me a clear choice; to be kind or to choose power.


When we are made powerless through people or situations, it seems almost logical to consolidate insecurity and fear by gaining power - through association, wealth, and status. In many cases also, by making others feel powerless. I thought it was possible to be powerful and kind. These ideas cannot live in co-existence. These ideas cannot live within a person. You can be powerful and benevolent, which is its own brand of cruelty.


Choosing kindness and joy were radical acts against the odds. Generational trauma is coded into DNA. Generational healing is a present moment of alchemy - literally transforming each essence of your being into your own image of happiness. Healing unlocked scents and touches that I thought were only possible through memory. I could live presently in heaven. I could exist within my own body as someone made, and acting, in love.


In the beginning, my parents abused me. In the middle, I began abusing myself. In the end, I became cruel.


A trauma narrative is a psychological technique that survivors use to make sense of their experiences - it functions as a salve for painful memories. In many ways, I was using my poetry to explore my trauma - and this is a perfectly valid way to honour my feelings. But only writing about trauma has meant I have stagnated my own craft, my own love of writing and locked it to a time where I saw cruelty everywhere.


Except I didn't want to become cruel. I didn't want to hurt myself or others, not anymore. So I decided that I was going to write about joy - or at least, the complexities within moments of joy.

I'm still working on it. But each day, the sun still rises. Each day, I blur lines between a beginning, middle, and end. Each day I exist. Full of love.




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Gloria Demillo © 2020

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