We all go through hard times in life. It might be as a child, getting bullied or picked on. Your parents might go through a major trauma to their marriage, addiction or infidelity or abuse. Divorce may suddenly and permanently alter your world. A parent, sibling or loved one may become terminally ill. Generally, I would say it’s rare that childhood trauma is actually caused by the child. It’s almost always external influence. This can easily cause a child to feel hopeless to control their environment and get to a place of physical or emotional safety.
As a young adult, you may struggle with all those same childhood issues, only now you are able to make choices that bring about bad situations that are in large part of your own making. Though often having a predisposition to poor life choices is a direct result of childhood trauma. As a young adult most are unaware of this and can still lead to a feeling of hopelessness, that you are doomed or cursed to suffer pain forever not realizing the pain is a direct result of your own choices. Or, for those that are aware of this, it’s common to feel like a bad or broken person who has no control over your bad choices and feel hopeless to ever get control over your life.
By the time you mature into full adulthood, all those past traumas have compiled on you. You are dealing with any past trauma from childhood, and young adulthood. The older you get; you again start falling victim to external causes of trauma. You are seeing more and more loved one’s with health problems and dying. You are more effected by economics’ and social stigmata. You might have children or teenagers that are out of control and you don’t know how to save them. As a mother myself this can truly be one of the hopeless feelings. Maybe your spouse had an affair or left you. Of course, there is still residual effects of past trauma’s the influence the choices you make in life bad or good. Only now, you are much more likely to understand that about yourself. As you age, generally, your self-awareness grows as well.
Hopefully, these bouts of hopelessness are minimal, few and far between. For some, especially those who started their lives with major childhood trauma, these events tend to be more extreme, and more often. Regardless of which situation applies to you. Trauma is a part of being human. We all experience it multiple times in our lives. Some of us are better at dealing with it than others. Most people have a breaking point. That can look different for everyone. Some turn to drugs and alcohol. Some develop depression. Some end up in a full psychiatric melt down. Some go numb, become almost robotic, cold, and unfeeling. Some look at it like a launch pad. When your drowning, in a pool for instance. You must push of the bottom of the pool to launch yourself back up.
Usually, most survive these situations. Then there are the tragic and heartbreaking cases where people are in such despair, they take their own lives. This might be directly by planned out and intentional methods, or indirectly by making dangerous life choices. Choices such as heavy drug usage or alcohol related car accidents. The determining factors in if you do or don’t survive difficult situations and trauma in your life is one simple thing. Hope.
Initially you may disagree with me. For instance, let’s look at a situation where a suicidal teenager is placed in a hospital mental facility and is physically prevented from self-harm. At some point that teen is going to get released. During their stay in the hospital, they more than likely got treated usually by both medication and therapy which gave them a baseline of emotional stability. Due to that, they God willing, leave the hospital with hope. If not, they are back at square one.
Hope can come from any number of sources. It can come from a strong faith, religion, keeping you believing in something “more” giving purpose to your life, guiding and guarding you. A higher purpose. Hope can come from a solid sense of self-worth. Installed perhaps by one of those magical unicorn childhoods. The ones that are filled with nurturing empowerment. It may come from years of counseling and self-help. I may just come from an inner sense of sel. Somewhere inside of you, a natural gravity towards optimism.
More often than not, trauma, especially that which is put upon us from external sources hat have control over or seem to be “choosing” a behavior that directly or indirectly brings trauma, abuse, and distress into your life tends to put you in the most hopeless of mind sets. It would seem that the opposite would be true. When you are facing something like cancer, or a natural disaster, you would think, having no control to prevent it or to fix it, would be the very most hopeless of situations. Truth be told, it absolutely is. Now you would think on the opposite side of the spectrum, a cheating husband for instance, you should be full of hope. Why? Because you have some control over that situation. You can get out of that situation. You can leave, he can potentially change his ways (I’ve heard it happens). You don’t have to stay in that pain, in that situation, right? All kinds of hope!
Coming from a woman who has been through both those scenarios and more, let me explain why that isn’t really the case. At least it doesn’t always FEEL like it is, not at the time anyway. I have cared my terminally ill child. Buried her at 18 years old after a battle of cancer that started when she was 13. My father, my daddy, my gravity, battled for almost 20 years before he lost his fight a few years after that. I’ve been through a husband cheating, to put it mildly, among other behaviors that caused my whole world to spin out of orbit and it still has not re-entered our solar system. Letting go of all of them, one a year basically, just about was the end of me. I was saved by a miracle. That miracle, is called hope
The pain of facing death, the pain of a broken marriage, are clearly not comparable in most ways. I would never dream of a heart break, a divorce and the trauma leading up to it, no matter how bad, could compare to losing a child, or a beloved parent. There is something fundamentally different in the way both of those grief’s manifest themselves. Due in no small part to society. Everyone handles these situations differently but being in close relationship with other women who have been through one or the other, I can speak from a more experiences than just my own.
When your child is sick, dying, for example. You have (usually) an entire community supporting you and your family. At least in my area that is the norm. If you don’t have their support, you at least have their undivided sympathy. In my experience and I know this is true for most communities at least in the U.S., there are countless charities, family, hospitals networks and support groups that come together to help you navigate the waves of overwhelming emotions that crash over you, often relentlessly. They do their best to keep the flame of hope alive in you. Just feeling supported is a gift to be cherished.
On the flip slide, when you face something like divorce, a broken marriage, an out of control teenager, or say an instance of sexual harassment in the workplace, support is often inconsistent at best. There is so much guild and shame and plummeting self-esteem issues that even if there is help available it’s hard to ask, the embarrassment alone has you hiding in the closet. For me, literally, I had a big closet. These emotions and isolation send you on a twisted and dangerous roller coaster of emotions that just won’t start. Those in your life may be confused, unsure of how much validity there is to your claims, your part in it. (Please note, there is never a “your part” in abuse or betrayal, ever.) In the back of their minds though, they may wonder still. Most people aren’t very educated when it comes to abuse, emotional and psychological abuse in specific. They can be very closed minded and judgmental. I won’t even tell you what some of my closest family members said to me, the pain and anguish I endured from them was almost more painful than what I was going through with my husband. Or with a child who is out of control, not doing well in school, on drugs, or any other rebellious or dangerous behavior, it’s all your fault of course, in society’s eyes. Judgement from everyone is almost as bad as the judgement you put on yourself.
When those situations arise, you don’t find community support. You won’t find your church putting on charities to raise money to send your kid to rehab. There aren’t charities that will make sure your kids have clothes, food, childcare or make sure they have Christmas presents under the tree. Let me tell you, when you are up night after night, heartbroken, desperate and a literally live wire of pain, wondering who’s bed your husband is in at 3 am, while your 1,359 text messages and 246 phone calls go unanswered, so weak and shaking the next morning feeling so worthless, nauseated, filthy and yes, hopeless, that it’s no small wonder you are even able to get your kids to school, let alone feed them. Pulling off a Christmas miracle? Good luck. Of course, when you can’t, it’s all your fault and you’re the worst mother on the planet. You should have put your kids first, you should have put your “big girl panties on” you should have stopped being human, sold your soul and ripped out your heart, right? Of course, that’s not possible, but that’s what the world expects of you, and worse, that’s what you expect of yourself. Where the F are we supposed to find the hope in that??
Too many times these types of situations leave you drowning in those waves of hopeless misery. Those waves that crash and crash and seemingly never end. Only in this case, you’re on an island, alone That flame of home, you can see it, out there, somewhere, but it seems to get smaller and smaller with every passing moment. Eventually, it seems to fade until nothing is left. It isn’t gone through; the hope is there. You have to break through the isolation, the solitude, the guilt and the pain. You need someone, just one person to look at you and see more than your situation, to see more than your pain, your misplaced shame, your brokenness. Think of it this way. Your best friend, your kid, your coworker, comes and tells you all about their struggles. You suddenly possess all the wisdom in the world, their situation, the answers, the right course of action is so clear. Every day you hear this person telling you the same saga, and every day you roll your eyes in your mind and shake your head. You talk with another friend, and tell them, you don’t understand why this person just keeps complaining, keeps themselves in this situation with such a clear and simple answer. Then next week you find yourself crying to the same person you were counseling about your situation, and though you’re getting the same sage advice from them day after day, you find yourself thinking that they just don’t understand. We can’t always see the hope in our situations. That’s clear. Sometimes we need the mirror of another’s eyes to ground you, to remind you who you are. It’s in other’s you find the miracle. The miracle of hope. There is always one of these miracles around, waiting to be there to blow oxygen on that little flame of hope you are losing sight of. When you open yourself up, you might find it in the most unlikely of people. The miracle of hope is people. Hope is the difference between surviving, and not. Be a survivor, hold on to hope, hold on to people.
The Calé Princess