This is a submission by meeresbande to the #by ace survivors for ace survivors project, originally posted here. See the submissions post or our contribute page for more information.
Trigger warnings: CSA, multiple assaults (mentions)
When there never was any “before”…
In a lot of discussions and advice and narratives about healing from trauma and especially the intersection of trauma and mogii identities, there’s this “before and after” thing. For example lists of possible trauma symptoms that directly reference a “before” state (“loss of interest in activities you previously enjoyed” or something like that) or questions about whether or not trauma can cause or change someone’s (gender) identity or orientation. Sometimes the latter is even braught up by non-survivours distancing themselves from survivours by saying things like “We’re not like this because of trauma!!!1!”
And to me this is always very troubling and makes me really uneasy, no matter how these questions are adressed. Just the assumption that there even was a “before” (and sometimes even the assumption that the trauma was one singular event as opposed to countless events during a long period of time, as in my/our case).
Not every trauma survivour has had a life before the trauma/s. It can have happened/started in early childhood and/or there may be no memories of a life before or independent of trauma.
And if that’s the case – I know it sucks! But you’re not alone. You’re not the only one.
And it’s possible to get better. I promise.
Even for people where there was a “before”, recovery is not about going back to that state, especially not if the “before” was a long time ago, in childhood or in a completely different stage of life.
We know it’s hard. Having to figure out everything new, what is a healthy coping mechanism and what’s not doing me good, how does a healthy relationship work/feel, what are my likes, interests, needs, skills, beliefs. What is my personality, who am I and what is really me and what is “just” due to trauma. This is hard to figure out and painful to even have to adress in the first place.
But it’s possible.
Try not to figure out who you would have been without trauma. Try not to prove that you would have been ace anyways or any other thing that you are. It’s enough that you are, that this is part of you and that’s valid. Full stop. Even if it changes as a result of/ during the recovery process. It’s still valid.
Take small steps. Celebrate every victory, even small ones! Make a habit of recognising and celebrating every little thing that makes you go “this is me”! Make a self-care list of things that you know are good for you and try to do something off that list when you feel bad, struggle with trauma symptoms, are triggered or feel like you don’t know who you are. These can be small things like “take a deep breath” or self-affirming sentences like “I’m allowed to be myself. I am a real person.” or big things like “take a whole day to do [favourite thing]”
Slowly, you’ll find more and more of what makes you you and what makes your life your life and the questions of what you were or would have been before/without trauma becomes less and less important.
And this process, like everything in recovery, is not linear. You’ll have ups and downs, days where you feel really secure in yourself and days where you really struggle, and you may go through phases and your likes and dislikes and interests and personality traits and so on might shift, even your identities might change – and all of that is OK. It’s not a bad thing. It’s part of recovery. Part of growing. Or just a part of life itself.
Sometimes to go up a steep hill, you need to go in serpentines and come across the same place several times instead of going straight up. Sometimes you’ll slide back down a few steps, but you’re still on your way. Sometimes you’ll need a break. Sometimes you’ll need to go in circles so that you have seen the area from all sides before you know how to go on. Sometimes you can use advice from others, especially those who’ve been there or are on the same path as you.
All of that is OK. You can make it. I promise.
And to stay with the metaphor: You don’t have to reach “the top” before you can enjoy your life. In fact, for most people, there isn’t even really one. And your life is worth living even while you’re still on that uphill path.