Trauma doesn’t have to win + how do we heal?

Chasing sunsets in Koh Phangan, March 2022

I fell off my scooter yesterday. It wasn’t a bad fall but it did split my knee open and because the wound was deep, I needed an X-ray and stitches.

And throughout the entire hospital stay, the only thing I could remember was how painful it felt during my last traumatic incident. And then I asked myself – why is that always the first thing I think about? Why does my mind always pull me back to that?

I remember before the divorce, my last traumatic memory was of my Uncle drowning in a ferry accident about 10 years ago. It took my whole family a good 6-7 years of not quite talking about it to heal. We got a dog, Pepper, who was the best therapy dog. And all of us just kind of buried our sadness and pain into him. We loved him and he loved us dearly. And interestingly, the year my father finally found the courage to go back to fishing, Pepper developed a tumor in his brain and had to be put down because of his constant seizures and suffering.

Since the divorce, whenever something painful happens, my mind immediately pulls me back to how it FELT – when things happened. Whenever that happens, it’s like I’m experiencing everything all over again. All of the emotions. All of the flashbacks. All the colliding impulses just come crashing in again.

Then I started reading about the effects of trauma and how it does leave semi-permanent/permanent damage to our brains. It majorly impacts the way we react to triggers or incidents in life. These last longing effects don’t give us much of a warning before they swing by and hit us like a wrecking ball.

And that’s just one episode. It affects me in ways that are so stupid. I can’t sleep well, I can’t eat well, I become severely depressed. But I refused to let it change who I am. So instead of focusing on how painful each episode felt like, I focused on healing. I told myself, that a series of things must happen if I want change. And 2 years on, I can proudly say that I can FEEL the healing happening.

Even when I get episodes nowadays, they don’t last more than a few minutes. I now understand why people say “Vibrate higher” because healing takes you to an elevated level of consciousness and awareness of who you are and what you’re made of. And because of that, even if the episodes happen again, you can acknowledge that the person who experienced all of that has grown up already. That person has evolved and so the past hurts no longer indicate anything of them.

Quite often, people write in to me and ask me some questions. And I thought I’d answer some of them here today, just in case anyone else was reading too.

“How did you heal from such a traumatic event?”

Traveling helped me the most. I needed the distance away from my loved ones. I was really wounded and really vulnerable, and being away from everyone allowed me to find my own truth and answers to the burning questions I had. I know alot of you who are going through tough breakups now are plagued and hammered day and night by these questions. And I would encourage you to just write these questions down. Not to answer them but to keep them on your mind so you can get a sense of which questions really intrigue you versus which are just there to hurt you. There are certain questions that don’t need to be answered yet, so leave them aside. Try to focus on questions that really bug you. And importantly, focus on questions ONLY YOU can answer.

There’s no point trying to get your ex to answer these questions. It’s very rare that they will give you honest answers, especially when now, all they want is to get rid/get away from you. Also remember, they don’t owe us anything. I know it feels like they do. I know. But they really don’t. They themselves are also on their own journeys to figure out what went wrong.

Just because they’re the ones who chose to leave doesn’t mean they’ve got their lives sorted. Many times, they leave because they’re equally if not more lost than you.

The other things that helped – going for long walks / exercising/ picking up a new hobby/ talking to new people/ THERAPY!!! So important. I’ll write another post about why and how therapy/life coaching can really help.

“How did you forgive your ex?”

You don’t need to forgive your ex to heal. You can just accept that their actions hurt you and there’s nothing they can do or say to ever make that go away. But remember that a marriage takes two to break and I’ve always said from the start that I have my fair share of blame to account for. My ex is also entitled to his own feelings and doesn’t have to forgive me.

Neither of us ever need to forgive each other. And that’s okay. At some point of your healing journey, you will be able to accept that that bond you had with your ex is poisoned and broken already. Because of the pain each of you feel (everyone’s feelings are valid), it’s something almost impossible and also unnecessary for both of you to like each other again – even as friends.

You don’t have to be liked by your ex and neither does your ex need to ever seek forgiveness (and vice versa)

The more critical thing to focus on is your own healing – and leave your partner to heal on their own terms. (I learned this from the hard way, and so might you. But I hope that in sharing my story you’ll know you’re not alone)

“How do you trust yourself again?”

You trust yourself by getting to know yourself again and most importantly, forgiving yourself.

It’s just like with anyone you first meet. The more you get to know someone, the more you trust them. Because you understand and trust that they would never hurt you intentionally. The reason you end up losing trust in yourself is because you don’t understand how you got yourself in a mess like that. You also have guilt and so instead of solely blaming the other party, you recognize there’s a part of you that wasn’t exactly sure of your own actions or intentions.

I lost complete trust in myself because I think I always knew deep down that I was lost in life already. Even before the marriage. But I waited until something big happened like my divorce, to finally shake me out of my coma and say LIVE YOUR LIFE. Stop staying unhappy and just go out there to search for what you’re looking for. We underestimate the effects of not living a fulfilled life. Bitterness sown into our hearts will only bloom into more bitterness. It will show in the way we treat people, the way we treat ourselves. The way we fall sick very easily. The way we get bored with just about anything. There are many symptoms that will show us we’re not happy. But unfortunately, we don’t fear being depressed as much as we fear getting cancer.

“My ex and his family/friends keep talking shit about me. How do I stop it?”

You don’t. Remember that no one will ever know the full truth, other than the people directly involved in the relationship. Anyone else is receiving third party information. Your ex’s family and friends HAVE to stand by them because they’re gonna be in each others’ lives. You’re not. They don’t need to sympathize or understand the basis of your actions.

Of course, it always sucks when we’re being painted something we’re not. And it also sucks when lies are being spread about us. So if you feel the need to say your truth, boast it loud and proud. And eventually, words don’t matter as much as your actions. People around us are not dumb as well. Actions always speak louder than words. If what you say and what you do match, people will eventually figure out who’s lying and who’s not. Not that it will matter by then. The more they hurl insults at you, call you names, spread rumours about you,(take you to court lol), the more you know you’re winning. Because they’re betraying their self worth to put another human being down. Only severely insecure and very helpless people do that. Answer to no one but yourself. As long as your conscience is clear, the truth will always prevail.

Plus, sometimes people just rub each other the wrong way. We can never please everyone and we never have to justify ourselves to people. Focus on you. Focus on your healing. Leave everyone else out of your mind because trust me, you’re not on theirs for very long.

If you still care about their opinions, ask yourself why? Maybe the truth is that they’re right and that you DID actually do some horrible things. But this feeling of guilt or shame is a signpost to tell you something. Everyone has the choice to live differently and be better people.

Choose then, from now on, to become a better person and vibrate higher so that your past mistakes no longer weigh you down. Instead, they serve as lessons and memories for you to look back upon and say “Yeah, i’ve grown and I’m proud of myself for it”

“How can my ex say they loved me but then eventually leave me? Did they never love me before?”

Here’s an unpopular opinion. You can love someone and not be able to live with them. I think we always feel that love is all it takes. But a relationship takes alot of WORK. And love is simply just not enough.

Say for example you have always enjoyed working in an industry. And the first few years turn out great and you feel happy and lucky you’re working there. But years go by, the company stays stagnant and you don’t feel yourself growing anymore. Would you consider staying just because you once loved your job so much?

I really don’t consider a successful relationship to be one that needs to last forever.

There are just so many factors that can change a person and that’s completely fine.

I always don’t believe in getting married to have a false sense of commitment. The high percentages of divorce all around the world should already show us that it doesn’t do shit. The only reason I would ever get married again is to have a legal child together or to be able to live together in a country.

Even if you really do find the love of your life and end up getting married, it still takes years of work and commitment (not just being faithful to each other) but willingly compromising so two of you can have a better life than without each other.

The last reason you’re asking yourself this is because it hurts to be abandoned. I get it. It hurts when someone who promised you an eternity just walks out on you. It’s worse when they abandon you for someone else.

But I’m happy that you’re now free because even though you’re in a lot of pain now, this pain will not last forever. This horrible ache, this tremendous sense of betrayal….It will not last. I promise you. How long will it stay with you? I don’t know. But I know that our value is not based on whether someone else wants us or not.

Similarly, if we ever start dating someone and we eventually find that we’re not as in love with them as they are with us, they will feel rejected too.

The chance of finding a person who’s for you and who will always choose you is as unpredictable as gambling. So you already know what I’m gonna say……

Make your own happiness. Be happy on your own first, and if someone else comes along, you’ll be even happier. But not dependent on them for your happiness.

“He physically abused me and I cheated. Technically we both did something wrong so how do I fight for what I want in the divorce?”

Ps: before some people get overly excited and think that this is related to me. It’s not. It’s a question I get from other people who have gone through this scenario before.

This is really up to you to figure out what you want.

The tricky thing about marriages….is that finances are often mixed up during a marriage.

And more often than not, someone was contributing more than the other financially. But let’s also not forget that a person’s life is not valued based on money. If you can’t put a price on your life, or your time, then know that it’s very hard to split anything equally in a marriage.

As much as possible, focus on the main goal. To be divorced as amicably as possible. No one wins in a divorce. Only the lawyers do. If you can afford to lose some money but get divorced quickly, why not? You can earn money back again but you can’t put a value on peace. It’s gonna take you a while to regain some peace in your life so try to focus on that instead of the money you’re losing.

But if you really feel that you suffered more than them, and you deserve to get what you want…then fight for it. And when you finally get tired of fighting, you’ll know then…how valuable peace is.

Lastly,

How long does it take to heal?”

It took me 2 years to feel 90% healed. But I know it’s not dependent on time. Healing is a process. And the definition of a process is “a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.”

It took me a combination of active reflection, meditation, long walks, sessions of therapy, talking it out with friends, relying on family for support, breaking down, feeling better, breaking down again, meeting people, dating, breaking up, dating more, breaking up more, but always coming back to asking myself ‘ what kind of a person do I want to be? what kind of life do I want? and how can I heal to live a more meaningful life?’

In this process of healing, I also realized where the root of my negative attachment patterns came from. I figured out where during my childhood – my inner child felt hurt and abandoned. I sought to seek her wounds so I could heal us both. I sought to be the caregiver she didn’t have. I sought to give her the love and freedom she always yearned for.

I knew I was healing well when I started agonizing over other problems instead haha. And it dawned on me one morning that I was no longer so tightly chained by the misery of my trauma. Once in a while, I still get pangs of anger that surges through me……especially when triggers occur. I’ll sit with those emotions for a few moments….breathe in…and then breathe all of that out again.

Lol Mr M

And then I’ll remember how fucking awesome my life is now. I’m really grateful for it.

I tend to forget how lucky and privileged I am to be living this life – but then again, I saw an opportunity, reached out and grabbed it. So GRAB YOURS TOO.

Back when I was 25, I never imagined my life could be this amazing. But I really am living my dream life. And If I had to go through all I did to get here………………well. It was worth it.