Have you ever experienced something that shook you up? Did it frighten you enough that it left your heart racing? Where you afraid for your life? Maybe you had dreams about it later on or became scared to go to that place again or do that activity in the future? Or maybe it didn't?
If you found yourself rethinking your experience and wondering if it is trauma, let go of judgment and remove yourself from the situation to have a more objective eye. Would you support a friend going through the same experience? Maybe you want to share your feelings about it but think your friends will "think it's stupid" or "not a big deal"? You may have thought, "what if they make fun of me?", "am I being dramatic?" , or "maybe it was my fault?"
Regardless of the experience, we as humans have a tendency to process meaning uniquely over time. This means that two people can be in the exact same incident and experience it completely differently from one another. Rather than judge yourself, what if you accepting your feelings as real and validated them? What if what you went through was "really something traumatic"? What if to others it may be perceived differently?
At the end of the day does it really matter if you perceive something one way and others view it differently? What ever happened to the idea that we are all entitled to our own feelings? Social media and constant exposure to violence has led us to minimize our own pain, as it creates a platform for us to constantly compare ourselves to others.
But what makes one person's trauma more traumatic or worthwhile than another's? The answer may surprise you:
NOTHING- Everyone has a right to their own experience. Furthermore, if it is affecting your life negatively or meaningful to you in some way then it matters. Let me say that again for all of the times that you may have been told otherwise. YOUR FEELINGS MATTER!
I have a friend, we will call her Leah*, who unfortunately was flashed by an exhibitionist when alone in her college parking lot. While some may have thought this was funny, to her it was anything but. She was by herself, not expecting to be confronted by anyone and felt quite powerless in her ability to react in a protective manner. Some would definitely describe this as traumatic. In fact because it occurred on a college campus, when she told police about the occurrence they described it as a sexual assault and referred her to the Crisis Counselor at the School Counseling Center.
She struggled to sleep for days, but when she came to me crying about what she had been through she justified every reason why it was not trauma rather than acknowledging it for what it really was for her. She explained to me, "It was my fault, I shouldn't have been walking alone in the parking garage." Leah* went on to minimize her experience by telling me "He didn't even touch me and at least I didn't get hurt." Whether she wanted to admit it or not, this was traumatic to her. And furthermore, she kept herself from healing longer than ideal because she denied herself the validation that this was real for her.
Have you ever minimized your experiences in a similar manner? What if you sit back and explore what it may be like to validate yourself and what you have been through? There are people that want to support you, but first you must recognize that you need some more support in the first place. I challenge you to tear down the barriers of judgement and allow yourself to just feel because again, your feelings matter.