We can’t ask why things happen to us in life, only how we can grow from them.
But as a survivor of trauma, you’ve likely spent far too many days asking yourself over and over again why you were hurt. What about you made this happen? Why weren’t you enough to deserve better?
We’d like to start by saying that no matter what your abusers told you, or what trauma you carry today, you have never been more worthy and deserving of love, acceptance, support, and happiness.
No matter how many people have misunderstood you, or how many times your trauma has caused you to act in a way you regret, you are still worthy, and you still deserve to heal and move forward.
Trauma does not speak the same language as love, but sometimes, those lines feel blurred. This is especially true for those of us to survive childhood abuse or relationship trauma that skews our perception of what love feels like.
Processing trauma and overcoming it is not easy, and it may not be something you ever completely do. That is to say that there likely will never be a period in your life that you won’t remember what happened or how it affected you.
But that does not make you broken or hopeless.
Instead, you can learn how to grow from your trauma and heal in such a beautiful way that it ultimately becomes a part of your story. You can look back on your experiences and, without being glad it occurred, feel proud of the person you’ve chosen to become in spite of what happened.
Where Does Trauma Come From?
There is no right way to be traumatized, and anyone who tells you differently is likely someone trapped too deeply in their own pain.
Trauma comes in many forms. In the psychotherapy world, there are two main categories: acute and chronic.
Acute trauma stems from a specific event that took place in your life, such as a car accident or sudden death of a loved one.
Chronic trauma can be more subtle, but it is also ongoing. This type of trauma plants deep psychological roots that can feel impossible for us to overcome. Childhood abuse, emotional and verbal abuse, and ongoing patterns of abuse throughout life all culminate into a collective trauma.
You may also have experienced both types of trauma, which is completely valid and highly likely if you have lived in abusive environments. There may have always been issues, but there are also probably specific instances that left incredibly painful, scarring memories and emotional wounds you deserve to heal from.
Relationship Trauma – What Is Abuse?
So many survivors of relationship trauma doubt themselves. They think that because their partner didn’t hit them, or because they gave consent to sexual activity, they aren’t entitled to calling their pain trauma.
This is not true.
Abuse comes in many variations, from obvious physical and verbal attacks to more sinister emotional manipulation, gaslighting, and sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse, by the way, does not have to be entirely forced to cause trauma. You may have had your boundaries continually violated, been repeatedly coerced or manipulated into sex, or felt like you couldn’t say no to a partner’s advances.
It can be difficult to identify exactly where trauma begins and ends in some cases. It can be so deeply rooted in your experience that you struggle to even differentiate traumatic relationships from healthy ones.
This can, understandably, lead to depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
If you are unsure what trauma looks like in an abusive relationship, here are some symptoms. All of them don’t have to resonate with you for your experience to be valid. This list is here to provide a framework for you to evaluate your own feelings.
You Experience Flashbacks or Intrusive Memories
One of the hallmark symptoms of PTSD is flashbacks. These are intense memories that can come out of nowhere, forcing you to mentally relive a traumatic experience in vivid detail. It can make you feel as if you’re actively living in the moment the trauma occurred.
These flashbacks can also be accompanied by intrusive memories, however fragmented, that force you to repeatedly think and recall events that you lived through.
You Experience a Lot of Negative Emotions
Survivors of trauma often carry a number of heavy, negative emotions such as anger, fear, and shame. These emotions tend to color their self-image, and, over time, they are more likely to manifest into full-blown depression and anxiety disorders.
You might also find yourself having a very short fuse and low threshold for any time of mistreatment or criticism. Even perceived rejection or certain actions can send you into a rage or cause you to break down in tears.
These events can often reinforce shame, since a lot of people will likely react negatively to your outbursts. This pins you further into the space that trauma has made, and you may struggle more and more to see yourself through the darkness.
(But you’re still there.)
You Struggle With Chronic Guilt
Abuse twists your perception of yourself, and you may often take the blame for what happened. You’ll run through the past, think of ways you could have stopped it, could have left, or could have stood up for yourself.
But abuse is never your responsibility to stop. You are not responsible for your abuser’s choices, no matter what they may have said to you.
Abuse is never healthy or justifiable, and it’s never anyone’s fault except the abuser’s.
As for all the things you could have done, you weren’t able to do them at the time. This was either due to your physical abilities, emotional state, or mental health.
All of these factors were heavily influenced by your trauma. You could only act in the immediate moment, which was often forcing you to just survive.
Now that you have made it through the immediate risk, you are more capable of seeing warning signs in the future. If you choose to enter a relationship again, you will be able to set boundaries, recognize red flags, and keep yourself safe.
It’s Difficult to Trust Anyone
Understandably, someone who survives relationship trauma doesn’t trust people easily, especially potential romantic partners. You might be highly suspicious of others, always looking for signs that they’re unreliable or dangerous.
You could sever ties quickly, cut-and-run to protect yourself, or even feel like you don’t even trust yourself anymore.
Childhood Trauma Survives – What Does It Look Like?
Just because you grow up doesn’t mean trauma disappears. Something that happened to you at 4 can be just as painful at 34 if you haven’t been afforded the help and opportunity to heal.
Many adult survivors of childhood abuse also experience shame for still carrying the weight of their trauma.
You may think I’m an adult. I should be able to fix this myself.
But healthy adults come from healthy childhoods, and if you weren’t given what you needed to grow and develop emotionally, you likely struggle with many emotions that are difficult to handle solo.
There are many different kinds of trauma, and just as many ways for it to manifest in adulthood. What’s most important to know at this moment is that your expression of trauma is not invalid if it doesn’t align with someone else’s.
We all have an idea in our mind of what trauma looks like, especially if we read survivor stories. We may think that because we lack a certain emotion or thought process, then our trauma somehow doesn’t “count.”
Just like mental health disorders vary from individual, the same is true for trauma. Your personality and lived experience will all influence how your symptoms express themselves in adulthood.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it can help you get an idea of what type of emotional patterns and behaviors childhood trauma can create in adulthood.
As a child who felt like you were not enough, you may have taken on a perfectionist attitude toward everything. Getting praised for high grades made you a quintessential overachiever in school.
However, perfectionism is so harmful because the praise you relieve only reinforces the unhelpful behavior. All the stress, pressure, and anxiety you experience is deemed worthwhile when the response from others is favorable.
Perfectionism for childhood trauma survivors tends to come from a deep feeling of shame and worthlessness. Through external efforts and, in turn, external validation, you constantly try to “prove” yourself, but every achievement is only followed by another intense need to succeed again.
Difficulty Having Fun
Children who survive trauma may be forced to take on the role of caretaker in their own lives.
Even if your parents physically provided for you, you may have emotionally been an island, forced to survive however you could best manage alone.
This, in turn, can result in a deprived inner child who never got to experience the joy of fun, play, and freedom. As an adult, this results in what many may describe as a “serious” or even “boring” personality.
You may always feel like you have to be one step ahead of everything in life. You could always be focused on finding something to do or organize, and you may even feel restless or anxious if there isn’t anything for you to take care of.
Free time can feel like a punishment as you struggle to focus on anything that isn’t productive or somehow linked to a responsibility. Taking on adult roles as a child can cause you to feel extremely disconnected with your intuitive self — one who is both responsible and capable of relaxing and being playful.
Denial of Abuse
Children need to keep the image of their parents perfect in order to feel safe and secure. This can result in idolizing their abusers and internalizing their actions. The result is a deep-rooted sense of shame that makes you assume full responsibility for any action your parents took toward you.
Denying abuse does not make your trauma any less real or worthy of treatment. Rationalizing what happened may bring comfort in the short-term, but it only tells your subconscious that you are unworthy and, deep down, only deserving of the worst people choose to give you.
Mental Health Disorders
Childhood trauma survivors are far more likely to suffer from mental health disorders in adulthood. These include a range of psychological conditions and harmful behaviors, including but not limited to:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Substance abuse and substance use disorders
- Relationship problems
- Anger management issues
Ultimately, these disorders tend to be the result of unhealthy coping mechanisms you picked up throughout childhood and adolescence.
For example, someone who struggles with their temper may have learned that anger was a “safe” emotion. By being the loudest, most aggressive person in a conversation, they could spare themselves the potential of getting hurt or abused.
Others may have learned that screaming is the only way to be heard. Others, however, may have developed a deep fear of their thoughts and emotions being rejected, so they struggle to express themselves and tend to say or do whatever they think will garner acceptance from others.
How to Start Healing From Trauma
No matter what type of trauma you carry, healing has to start with an honest acknowledgement of the pain it is causing in your life.
You did not choose what happened to you, and you do not control the emotions and thoughts you experience today.
Learning, however, to nurture yourself, speak kindly to yourself, and heal from trauma by developing self-love and respect is possible.
It can be harmful to think that healing from trauma means completely erasing any memory and effect of what happened to you. This would be a futile effort, and it would likely only leave you feeling more helpless than you do now.
Trauma already took enough from you. You don’t have to try and remove more just to feel “normal” or whole. Instead, you can work on adding to yourself.
More understanding, more compassion, more empathy, more confidence — all of these things can gradually help reduce your negative symptoms while making your life feel fuller and brighter.
Seek a Trauma-informed Therapist
All psychotherapists address trauma at some point in their education. Trauma-informed therapists, however, have chosen to specialize in helping people who are living with all the effects of trauma, including mental health disorders that stem from traumatic events or relationships.
Trauma-informed therapy is not a set of techniques but a unique approach to therapy where your counselor focuses on your unique emotions, triggers, and needs.
There are four key elements of emphasis in trauma-informed therapy:
- Physical and emotional safety at all times.
- A collaborative approach between you and your therapist.
- Openness and honesty so you feel completely secure in dialogue.
- Competent therapists who are well-versed in the nuances of trauma and the best therapeutic interventions for treating it and any associated disorders.
Reconnect With Your Body
Trauma can create a sense of disconnect between you and your body. In order to fully heal, you need to learn that your body and mind are wonderful, safe spaces to be in.
The process of resensitization, especially among survivors of physical and sexual abuse, is crucial in connecting with yourself and healing from old wounds.
Trauma is not just emotional or psychological — it is a physical act that traps energy and feelings in the body. This is why a flashback or panic attack triggered by your trauma can feel just as intense today as it did years ago.
Some practices you may explore to start reconnecting with your body in a healthy, safe way are:
- Gentle yoga and Pilates
- Gardening and spending time in nature
- Deep breathing exercises
- Tai chi or other guided movements
- Body scanning to build awareness
- Progressive muscle relaxation
Explore Alternative Treatments
Magic mushrooms’ primary ingredient, psilocybin, may be able to help reduce your experiences with depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research found that psychedelic treatment benefitted patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) for up to a year after they initially began taking a microdose of psilocybin.
Psilocybin may help PTSD by promoting the growth of new nerves in regions of the brain tied to emotion and memory. This can help you literally outgrow the current pathways that force you to relive your trauma with seemingly no end in sight.
A 2013 study by the University of South Florida found that low doses of psilocybin actually erased conditioned fear in mice.
Professionals have found that psilocybin has widespread applications, including easing anxiety, reducing stress, and reducing distress among terminally ill cancer patients.
Could Microdosing Help You Heal?
We believe that working with a therapist to heal trauma is always an important first step. But we also believe in the power of psilocybin and magic mushrooms in spiritual growth, mental wellness, and personal development.
Our microdosing guide can help you get a feel for what microdosing magic mushrooms could look like for you.
If you ever have any questions, feel free to send us a message at [email protected].
Wishing you all the love, strength, and courage you need to start healing your trauma and harnessing your inner light. It shines brighter than you even know.