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The Thing About My Trauma

I had an entire post written about a traumatic set of experiences that I had during my sophomore year of teaching overseas. It involved workplace bullying, and the kind of psychological/emotional/social alienation and abuse that you'd see in junior high or the Mean Girls movie. It was dramatic and ugly and every bit as devastating to me as a twenty-something as it was when I was 14 and dealing with it.

I'd love to regale you with tales of how unjustly I, and some others on staff, had been treated by this group of female workplace bullies, but it serves little purpose except to assuage my still-bruised ego and self-esteem. A decade and a half later, bringing it up just to elicit some sympathy from my online friends seems kind of petty. Really petty.

But the trauma remains. It doesn't go away. Somehow the name of the "ringleader" of this group crossed my social media yesterday, and even the mere sight of it made me freeze. A lump started forming in my throat at about the same time rage began to creep into my heart. My body was physiologically reacting to the trauma, to the idea of her. She had made my life miserable for a full year, and the impact of her actions, as well as others in her little group, had caused me long-term damage.

I can't say that I've ever dealt with any PTSD from that awful year. I kept on keeping on, focusing on the blessings and amazing things that were happening in my life. Marriage, another degree, moving, traveling, new jobs and having a baby preoccupied my time and thoughts. She and her accomplices simply didn't take up any real estate in my mind or my heart. At least, that's what I thought, until yesterday. That's when I realized that the trauma that left me emotionally bruised and scarred hasn't actually healed in the last 15 years.

I've recently learned that we hold trauma in all sorts of strange physiological ways. One way is in the eyes. Another is in the muscles. The body retains the stress from those distressing experiences and when triggered, immediately seizes into a fight-or-flight mode of self-preservation. I'd say that my visceral reactions to seeing a name on an iPhone screen would certainly qualify as being triggered. And unless I find a way to address the root trauma, with the help of professionals, I don't think that I will ever really truly be "over it." It has been a decade and a half and I'm still raw.


PS - In a God-has-a-funny-sense-of-humour ironic twist, the person to whom I refer actually lives in my area, and is not only an educator/administrator, but also a counsellor specializing in trauma therapy. Yep, that's right. I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry here. Suffice to say that I will be certain to seek out services that don't collide with her spheres of influence. And hopefully, just as I've changed in the last 15 years, I sure hope she has, too.


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