There is a strange understanding of trauma. Or rather, a strange stigma.
Trauma is not always from whiplash in a car accident.
Trauma is not always sexual assault.
Trauma is not always domestic abuse.
Trauma is not always emotional manipulation.
Trauma is not always a one time thing.
Trauma is not always recurrent.
Trauma is all of these things—whether they be all of them or another one not mentioned at all or even one that no one else has ever experienced.
Trauma is pain. And it’s a pain that is somehow very often seen and interpreted as drama—as airing of dirty laundry once spoken about, as attention seeking, as unfair to the accused, as shameful of the victim, as hypersensitive to situations deemed unworthy of said pain.
This exact interpretation is how trauma does not heal or even come close to becoming helpful to victims.
And yes, victims. Say it out loud: victims. Victims are not just characters on Law & Order SVU or people subjected to unlucky circumstances like the wrong-place-wrong-time verdict. They are all of these things and so much more.
As a creature with feelings, it is critical to observe, absorb, and be open to the true reality that ties together these many very separate entities.
It is possible for a person to be devastated by something another person seems unworthy of such pain.
It is possible for a person to be traumatized by a relationship that another claims was different from their eyes.
Trauma among two parties can also very much be traumatic for the person thought to be the perpetrator AND for the person feeling as though they are abused. Every single trauma is absolutely separate from another, whether it be caused by the very same individuals in the very same circumstances.
Invalidation of trauma is another trauma attached to the original trauma. And for me, it will always be the culprit that suffocates the ability to come forward about or feel worthy of releasing.
Invalidation is its own trauma caused by a domino effect from the original. This invalidation is contagious because it infects all other aspects of the victim’s life.
Trauma is not drama. Trauma is pain. And pain is exactly what we, as humans, strive to feel least and give just the same.
So, take the time. Take the time to think about your pain. Think about your worst pain—not just to heal or confront it but to recognize it in others. To recognize that there’s no person—literally not one person—that you will ever meet, walk next to, see on the subway, pay at the cash register, see at the dentist, smile at, frown at, cry near, embarrass yourself in front of, console with sympathy, stay close to forever, or lose abruptly that has never felt the most painful thing that you have. No matter what the details of either trauma happened to be.
Mark Twain will have always said it best: “Nothing that grieves us can be called little: by the eternal laws of proportion a child’s loss of a doll and a king’s loss of a crown are events of the same size.”
My doll matters as much as your crown—for my doll is what your crown is to you and your crown is what my doll is to me.