“I’m just not sure I’ll ever be the same or find that vivacious part of me that once loved life. That once thrived in knowing life that was so-so-so good! That once had great hope, and great faith. That part of me is now buried beneath the wreckage of damage. And trauma. Regrettable moments. I’m scared, Dr. Neecie! Actually…I’m horrified and terrified.”
That was from my client, who’s married to a wonderful man who has swinging moods. Swings, that to her, felt like a wrecking ball.
She had been patiently working with me to gain understanding about the dynamics of swinging moods. And to have empathy for his side of things.
Now it was time to turn to her, to heal the wreckage.
And it’s the time for you to heal from the wreckage that has been done to you too, my friend.
If you’re feeling like you’re not worthy or guessing it’s all you, your wrecking ball environment that changed you from wonder and peace, to fear and worry, is telling you and convincing you that’s it’s all you. But it’s not all you. And this isn’t the you you’re meant to be or the life you’re meant to live.
Remember the frog? We start in refreshing cool water. Then the slow heat of (did that just really happen) that moves it to lukewarm, then came the memories that moved it to hot and now survival on loop has moved it to boiling! It’s time to pause the gas and turn off the fire…and heal and eliminate ALL the pain!
(A note: The abundant life is not a guessing game. It’s intention then action then blessing.)
So, the question I get asked often at this point in the process is:
“Is it damage…
Or is it trauma…
Is the healing process the same…
Am I too far gone?!”
This week I will be answering some of those questions, as we move toward the healing process you so desperately need…and deserve.
Then, after that, we will begin looking at the healing process for the marriage.
The healing processes for damage and for trauma are slightly different. And I personally believe (and have seen it beneficial in my practice over the years) for people that distinguish which it is.
There’s not a simple definition that distinguishes the truth, but I would rather lead you through the three areas where the wreckage normally occurs: verbally, mentally, and emotionally.
You cannot live with or around someone you love who has severe mood swings and not experience some damage. Whether you have been damaged or traumatized, you need and deserve healing.
You’re not responsible for their swings, or the cause … and neither are they. BUT… it is your responsibility to do what you must to protect your sanity. And to heal.
And THEIR responsibility to realize they need help for something that’s not their fault either. Yes, you’re both living in a no-fault paradox that’s each one’s responsibility. They need help, you need healing.
We will look at what the things are in each area that traumatize. And the symptoms of those who’ve been traumatized. If you fall into any of these categories, we will walk you through trauma healing.
If you know you have been affected, but don’t relate to these things, we will work on healing the damage done.
Either way, if you’ll follow along, you’ll emerge healed!
1. Have you been traumatized verbally?
“I can tell you ‘YES’ before we get started. But I can promise you that if I said I had been verbally traumatized, he would throw his head back in a big sigh, with a dramatic eye roll, and a surly laugh. Followed by mocking: ‘Oh, poor you’,” My client stated from a place of despair!
I nodded with great empathy, but then told her what I hope you’ll hear too.
“It’s not necessary to tell him you’ve been verbally traumatized. He’s not likely in a place where he could own that … yet (unless he’s already working with a counselor, coach or mentor). BUT…this information is for your benefit! So, we clearly know the healing path to take for you!”
She nodded with understanding, but also made a statement I hear often.
“But …” She said as she paused to gather her emotions, “Will there ever be a time when he knows what he’s done? Cares what he’s done? And is held accountable?”
“That’s certainly our goal,” I replied. “But first things first. Let’s find the path of healing for you, my friend!”
(A note … more truths from my friend in AA recovery…
“The best person does the next right thing.”
I’m inviting you to be the best person … and do this … your next right thing!
I walked her through this exercise that I hope you will walk through also.
Here is a list of some of the things (although not an exhaustive list) that verbally traumatize us.
- Being sworn at
- Being spoken to disrespectfully
- Yelling with volume
- Yelling with charging (moving toward you aggressively in a threatening way)
- Being threatened with separation or divorce
- Being threatened with unfair consequences
- Character attacks
- False accusations
- Being told you are crazy
- Being humiliated
- Bing talk down to
- Being mocked
- Being forced to sit and listen to ranting
- Being spoken to from rage
As you consider the list, I am not speaking of something that has happened a few times. I’m speaking of a consistent presence of these things as your partner’s moods swing.
In case you’re vacillating, here are some of the symptoms (again, not an exhaustive list) of symptoms seen in people who have been traumatized verbally.
- You are told you are just too sensitive when you express feelings about how you are spoken to.
- You have experienced a significant drop in your self-confidence.
- You have experienced a significant lowering of your self-esteem.
- You find yourself walking on eggshells.
- You avoid unnecessary conversations.
- You carefully plan and labor over anything that you may need to talk about, particularly if you think might upset the other person.
- You find yourself taking responsibility for what was said, and/or how it was said.
- You seem to be the one making all the apologies after a conversation goes south.
“I don’t want to sound dramatic, and I don’t want to be a victim. But honest to goodness, he does all those things. And I match all of the symptoms,” my client said this in tears.
But I also saw a bit of relief. Finally, she knew that somebody knew, and understood.
As if she had had an a-ha epiphany, she quickly added: “But what you said is right! It’s only 50% of the time! The rest of the time he is amazing and fun to be with.”
She paused and I could see this coming. I’ve seen it many times before.
“But my resiliency is failing. I can’t seem to bounce back like I once did. And enjoy the good times,” she bemoaned!
I quickly responded: “That’s the problem with swinging moods!”
I waited for it to sink and then I went on to assure her.
“But … If we can get you healed from these unfortunate moments of trauma, and get him on board, all of this can be very different. Not just different, but loving, joyful, peaceful, and fulfilling!”
I would like to assure you of the same thing. It is not a losing battle. At all! But…you must get some healing on board for yourself! You deserve that. And I promise you that your partner would want the same!
2. Have you been mentally traumatized?
“Since I feel like I’m a mental case so much of the time, I’m assuming I have experienced mental trauma. But I hope I’m wrong,” My client stated as we began this part of the evaluation.
“Being mentally traumatized is sometimes hard to recognize because it’s not always as evident as being verbally traumatized. I hope you’ve experienced none of this, but let’s look at it, because it really can signify that our brain has been severely affected,” I informed my client.
I hope you have not been mentally traumatized either, but let’s look again at a checklist. Not exhaustive by any means, but enough to see if you have experienced it.
- Excessive pressure to admit to being wrong
- Being judged for things you did not do (and often they did them)
- Being blamed for things you did not do (and often they did them)
- Living with addiction
- Having your reality challenged
- Being pressured to think the way they think
- Being blamed for their mood swings
- Continuous interruptions
- Grandstanding (they have the floor, and you are expected to listen for long periods of time)
- Being used to meet their needs, but having your needs ignored or belittled (“you are so needy …” or “no one could possibly be enough for you …”)
- Different rights, rules, expectations for you than they hold themselves to
- Being harshly criticized
Again, we are not speaking of this happening occasionally. We all have “less than ideal moments …” But if you have experienced several of these on an ongoing basis, you likely have been mentally traumatized.
(A note…stop the loop! You and I are here at this moment, me writing this… you reading it, to free you from what never did belong to you in the first place. You have the power to unload this baggage that belongs to somebody else. You’ve just lost ‘the how’ to tap into that power because you’ve been propping up somebody else’s. BUT…we can do this! So, YOU first, and we’ll get to them in a bit.)
So…just to double check, here are the symptoms that we see often see in people who have been mentally traumatized. Contemplate which of these you might see in yourself:
- Feeling unusually “foggy” with nothing else to attribute it to (example: the morning after taking Benadryl)
- Feeling confused about your life, about how to respond, about what to do next
- Difficulty keeping perspective
- Feeling “brainwashed”
- New difficulty with making decisions (not experienced previously)
- Increased fear and/or dread
- Difficult time remembering things (not previously experienced)
- The need to withdraw to feel “sane”
- The need to withdraw to feel “safe”
- Afraid of having a “breakdown”
- Developing neurological challenges (eyesight, hearing, tremors, etc.)
If you notice at least three of these in yourself, there’s a high probability that you’ve experienced mental trauma.
I know how scary this feels, but I promise we can heal the trauma. Don’t give up on yourself. The best is just ahead!
3. Have you been emotionally traumatized?
“I’ve been told I’m an emotional basket-case (regularly) over the past few years. Is that evidence that I can skip the checklist and assume he’s right?” my client asked?
My heart broke for her. I know how awful it is to feel your emotions are pulling you under like the undertow that comes with some waves in the ocean.
“Just remember, when you are in the ocean and you feel an undertow, if you just relax into it, it will release you. But if you fight it, it pulls you under,” I explained to her.
She took a minute then shared: “I think you’re right. I fight it. I want to just be level, but he just won’t stop sometimes. Then I lose it. I assume if I just relaxed and politely excused myself and went for a walk or something like that…I wouldn’t get pulled under, drowning in the moment?” my client inquired.
“Well said,” I responded.
But let’s go through an abbreviated list of what emotional trauma looks and feels like. Remember, we are not looking for a few times these things have happened, but a pattern that occurs with the mood swings.
- Shaming you
- Mocking you
- Presenting themselves as “better than” you
- Passive aggressive behavior, then claiming to not be upset
- Denying displays of anger or BLEEP
- Threatening abandonment
- Being blamed for their addictions and/or mood swings
- Being told your feelings are “over the top” or “make no sense”
- Being told you are impossible to understand
- Being faced with defensiveness continuously
- Lack of empathy for their impact on you
- Refusing to take responsibility for their dysfunctional behavior
This one is particularly difficult to assess as trauma, because often…we are very emotional as a result of being traumatized emotionally. But often, the one with mood swings is adept at pointing out our emotional responses as the problem.
If you have experienced a number of those on an ongoing basis, you have likely suffered from emotional trauma. But let’s double check by seeing which of these symptoms you may have noticed in yourself:
- Heightened emotions
- Withdrawing to avoid emotions
- Feeling ashamed of having any feelings
- Self-neglect due to extra efforts to stabilize things
- Loss of confidence
- Fairly severe depression
- Horrible panic attacks
- Feeling that you’ve “lost” yourself
- Feelings of losing your identity
- Feeling unsafe on an ongoing basis
- Getting a knot in your stomach when they come in the room
If you see some of these in yourself, it’s highly probable that you have been emotionally traumatized.
“I’m a little relieved that there’s a reason I’ve become all of that. But I’m also scared I’ll never be ‘right’ again,” my client commented with tears flowing!
“You WILL be ‘right’ again,” I promised! “We will begin the healing next week. It’s your time to heal!”
Whether you have been damaged or traumatized, I know that it has affected you deeply.
I wish I was with you right now.
To take your hand.
To look into your eyes.
To assure you that we can find healing for you.
I love what Maya Angelou says about healing from trauma:
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
“Lift up your hearts…each new hour holds new chances for new beginnings.”
When I was working through healing with Dr. John Bradshaw from being mentally, emotionally, and verbally traumatized as a child…I was resisting some of the work. After examining it, I said that I didn’t want to “go to hell for dishonoring my dad.”
With great empathy, he nodded, reached out and took my hand and said: “Hell is never telling yourself the truth about what happened to you, and then never really connecting with the innocent wonder, the powerful potential, and the purpose for which you were created!”
Through the tears and sobs, I poured my heart out. With a clump of wet tissues in my lap, exhausted, after an hour of pouring out truth, he nodded, smiled, and assured me: “I’m proud of you. You just released years of trauma buried deep within. Today, new life begins.”
I am grateful for healing from the trauma. And today, I live my purpose by writing to you. There’s nothing more fulfilling than giving you the ability to heal from your trauma.
Yes, my friend, you can heal.
You will heal.
Your relationships will heal!