After surviving trauma, you may feel that just getting out of bed is an achievement. In many ways, it’s easy to lose your ability to seek joy or even feel joy about anything after a traumatic experience with loved ones or traumatic event you can’t forget. PTSD can cause you to live in fear and become focused on staying safe. It makes good sense. If you’ve lived through bad experiences or any form of a traumatic event, you know the world can be scary and unsafe. People with a trauma background will often stop cold in a panic when something triggers terrifying memories – one of many trauma symptoms. For these survivors, the idea of doing anything with reckless abandon is unthinkable and can strongly effect their mental health.
Finding ways to feel joy again is part of the healing process
Experiencing trauma is bad enough. Letting the traumatic experience prevent you from having joy in your present or future life, however, is adding insult to injury. The problem is, feeling the pain over and over is what your mind naturally wants to do. There’s a lot of science behind it that I don’t understand, but the amygdala changes after trauma, and it doesn’t just change back. That trauma sticks like superglue, so you have to learn how to change your thinking to survive. For me, part of healing from trauma was choosing the life I wanted for myself and taking the necessary actions to get there. You can choose a different path. You just have to think new thoughts.
Surviving traumatic events means now you can choose the life you want
I saw a great meme recently with an infographic showing how to figure out who you are after trauma, and I thought it was genius. While I had to do a lot of this work, I never thought about it in terms of actions for trauma recovery.
What are the actions for surviving trauma
Here are some questions that help inspire a new way to think that can launch an action plan to bring happiness back despite that traumatic experience.
What are your glimmers – the opposite of your triggers
A trigger is something that reminds you of past trauma. Maybe you hear an argument, and it makes you feel upset because it reminds you of fights from the past. A glimmer is something that happens that makes you feel good. All warm and fuzzy inside. Early in our relationship, my partner came over one night and brought me a bag of groceries from a place I love. He’d been traveling overseas and had been at work that day, but he still went and got me the food without my even asking. For the rest of the week, whenever I ate I felt warm and fuzzy inside. Someone cared enough to make sure I was fed all week. It’s the small things.
What brings meaning to your life
A life without meaning and purpose is a boring and depressing life. Helping other people find recovery, being creative, and saving animals are the things that bring meaning to my life, so that’s what I do. I’m deeply invested with a few animal rescues or sanctuaries. I watch their videos, I know the animals I help, and I feel happy when I’ve done something that helps. I’m writing this blog right now, hoping that someone will find value in it. That someone will hear my story and know that you can heal from trauma, and here’s how.
What brings joy to your life and lights you up
We all need to feel joy and find people, things, and activities that will light us up regularly. Here is a list of the things I found in recovery that enriches my life: Spin class, hot yoga, hiking, nature, one special funny friend, in particular, funny animal accounts on Instagram, animal rescue videos, my dogs, travel, delicious food, going to movies and eating popcorn, binge-watching a great show, sound baths, and more.
What do you do for fun that makes your inner child happy
This one is weird. I remember being asked what I do for fun and not knowing how to answer. Then being told to do fun things and not knowing where to start. Fun comes in all sizes and shapes. Sometimes a good time is as simple as having a lovely day with a friend or loved one. Sometimes I find myself at a concert I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go to, and it feels like a carnival, and I’m overjoyed. Then there are days where staying home nice and cozy and just getting out for a manicure feels as fun as it gets. Some of the things I do for fun today are things I did when I was young and have brought back into my life. Think back and remember what you liked when you were a kid, and maybe that’s a place to start.
What are you passionate about
One of my closest friends is passionate about making art. She does it all day long, and it brings her so much joy. Another close friend is passionate about music–going to see shows, listening at home, reading about favorite bands. For me, it changes. I don’t always feel passionate about work, and I don’t have one hobby I can claim is my joy. However, there are many things and people I care about. Sometimes feeling passionate is working for a cause, sometimes feeling passionate is helping a friend, sometimes I don’t feel passionate about anything, and that’s OK too. Occasionally, I have to force myself to find something to feel passionate about. This all takes work. It does for me, anyway.
As much as all these things will help you find your way back, if you are struggling with PTSD, you may need to do more than make lists. I personally have gone through many therapy techniques, including talk therapy, CBT, coaching, EMDR, and, most recently, havening. I would not have recovered without some professional help, so I highly recommend it. Websites like Psychology Today list mental health professionals with their specialty. If you’re in a major city, there will be many facilities that offer trauma counseling.
There is life after trauma and PTSD. There is happiness and love to be found again, even when you think it can’t be possible. Find support groups so you can talk to people who have been through it too, take the time to invest in yourself and recovery by any means possible, and open your mind to the possibility that it will be OK.