Rediscovering Yourself after Trauma

I thought I knew who I was after my attack. The same person as before, right? But something so life altering takes up all of your mental space and feels like someone just told you gravity isn’t real, or that the speed of light isn’t constant.

I get bored easily and have bounced from hobby to hobby for most of my adult life, but there were a few that kept pulling me back: caving, writing, reading, gardening, jewelry making, and baking. (In that order.)

But after my attack, I didn’t feel any thrill of anticipation about caving. I’m stubborn as hell though, so I packed my bags and went on trip after trip, searching for that elusive spark. It didn’t happen because caving is an adrenaline-filled sport. Adrenaline used to be fun, but when you constantly have adrenaline surging through your body because of its broken alarm system, extra adrenaline leads to panic attacks. And risky behavior wasn’t as appealing to me after I’d brushed against death and struggled to find my way back.

I couldn’t read or watch TV after my attack either because I couldn’t focus. Reading has been such a huge part of my life that I dug my heels in on this hobby. I kept buying books, knowing eventually I’d want them. My focus came back eventually, but for a while I didn’t know who I was with all of the things I used to love no longer bringing me joy. I wish someone had told me, “You’re a new person now after this attack. In some ways it’s like being a child. Go discover what you like now.” I beat my head against so many walls, trying to love things I used to love.

Writing stayed with me, but gardening became a higher priority. And knitting, which had previously occupied a tiny space, became a shelter for my mind when I couldn’t accomplish much but still needed to learn. My caving became hiking and backpacking.

If you’ve been attacked and can’t find the traces of your old self in the aftermath, don’t try to force it. You’re not that person anymore. But you just might be someone better, wiser, kinder. Be gentle with yourself and try things you were only peripherally interested in before. You will find new interests and bury some old ones.

It’s disconcerting relearning who you are as an adult, but it’s also beautiful and something many adults don’t experience. Trauma brings clarity and intention to how you spend your time.

Thank you for sticking with me through Domestic Violence Awareness Month. And I’d love to hear about any of the changes you experienced after a trauma, especially success stories. Let’s show people that trauma is not the end, but a beginning.

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