Trauma: Keeping Challenging Events from Defining Your Life

“The finest souls are those who gulped pain and avoided making others taste it.”

–Nizariat , Syrian Poet

In one way or another every person has experienced some form of trauma—there’s no black and white category to designate what event or situation is “bad” enough to impact a person. Most of us can recall specific circumstances in our life that have thrown us, or made us question what this life is for, or worse yet, even worth. For me, growing up in a challenging home environment, plagued with addiction and various abuses, I learned from a young age that trauma can destroy a person. For years I allowed the circumstances in my life to define me and define the way that I treated others. If I felt like someone had it too easy, I would hold a secret grudge against them; alternatively, if I felt that someone had it hard, I would go out of my way to treat them with compassion. I did this for years actively, until I started college—it was then that I realized that my standard for judging everyone else’s trauma was filled with holes, and it made me a very bitter person.

The most impactful moments in my life can usually stem back to conversations with good friends.  A life long friend of mine empathically and genuinely expressed her concern over the way that I was moving through life. She truthfully told me that if I wanted to go through life with the “victim” stamp that it would be acceptable. “The world will understand,” she said. “You were dealt a rough hand, and no one would blame you if it took you your whole life to work through it.” I thanked her and felt a sense of pride over the new amount of self pity I was able to gain from her words…but she wasn’t done. She continued, “The whole world will understand, but Sam really? Is that the way you want to live your life?” Ouch. Those are the honest words of a true friend. I realized that day that no, that wasn’t the way that I wanted to live my life. I didn’t want to judge everyone else’s challenges relative to my own; and I certainly did not want to treat certain people more poorly, or better, based on the life they were born into. I decided that day to do whatever I needed to in order to work through the struggles and become the person that I was born to be.

Through various avenues of treatment, the most impactful being exploring my own sense of self through activity, I have been able to lose the negative labels and not be defined by the moments in my life that have caused me so much pain. Instead, what I have learned to do is take those moments in my life and channel that pain.  They say that great pain and great suffering drive the soul into action—and this has been true for my life. I have used the outdoors as a means of channeling intense energy of anxious thoughts, fear, happiness, and at times anger that builds in my body. Through the long night runs, the constant pain and hunger pangs, I have become a strong enough person that does not allow past trauma to dictate my life. As an adult I have also experienced events that have kept me in bed for days and paralyzed me with anxiety, but I have now discovered what works for me. I have learned how to keep challenges from taking over my life and my emotional and physical health. I have also learned how to take control of my life in a way that will not allow other people’s life decisions to be the driving force behind my own.

In life, we can wear many labels, and can be influenced by various things. Whether it’s addiction, codependency, health problems, sexual/physical abuse, or other damaging relationships.  For many years I allowed my own circumstances to negatively take the driver’s seat in my life; and through this I treated people poorly because I treated myself poorly. But then I decided that I was tired of being controlled by negative situations and other people’s decisions. We have one life, and even though some of us are more blessed than others, we can all learn how to be in command of our own destiny. These are your decisions, and this is your one shot in this world. Remember, you are too important and too amazing to sit in the back seat of your own life.

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