I hate to break it to you, but you don’t have to have been physically abused or sexually assaulted to have a trauma. You don’t need to be bullied or have a dysfunctional family, or have a single, major life changing event. For me, my trauma is failure. Or more specifically, whenever my worth as a person is diminished.
Yes, I know, it sounds stupid. Spoilt even. I mean, what kind of pampered child gets suicidal simply from losing? Well, it really depends on how far you take it. Because my fear of failure was something built up over my entire childhood. Years and years of drilling into my mind that my worth is shit.
Trauma: It makes you build a roof-shingled tipi until you pass out from heat stroke.
Trauma, like everything else about mental health, isn’t something you just ‘get over’. It takes years of adapting, learning, controlling, and sometimes, medication, to even be able to simply live with it. Let me share my experience on the subject.
If you don’t realize it by now, I have incredibly low self-esteem. To give an example, a classic movie trope of guys not asking girls out is, “She’s out of my league.” For me, it’s more along the line of, “She can do better than me.”
This mindset came from years of being told I am worth less than a sack unless I earned certain academic and social achievements. I’m not a very talented guy, so these achievements came at me as fast as a bullet, and often left my body from the other end doing the same effect as a bullet.
Failure is what I grew up with. Be it my grades, making friends, sports, games, work, and anything life in general, I tend to lean towards failure. But while I slowly lowered my standings, societal and familiar expectations of me never really declined. It remained an all time high.
I was always expected to be at my best. I was always told to be the best. Overtime, I’ve associated failure heavily with loss. Loss of respect. Loss of opportunity. Loss of friends and family. Loss of financial stability. Loss of self. And even loss of skill.
When I fail, my mind does a dance. It asks the question if I had done enough. And of course, foresight 20/20, hindsight none. When I look back at my failure, I nitpick, tear apart everything I could and should have done. Most of the time, I suffer a mental breakdown. Failure is my kryptonite.
Trauma can force people to do things no one else would otherwise sanely do.
For example, late last year, I had a car accident while driving. And while the insurance covered everything, I could not help but run through every single other positive outcome that could have happened if I had just acted X way in X time.
I blamed myself for not being a good enough person, and my entire existence was called into question by my unhinged mind. I wondered if I ‘deserved’ to live for being such a failure of a human that I could not even get this simple thing right. And at that point, I contemplated suicide again.
Of course, that entire event did no real damage to my life. In fact, the car was about to be scrapped away for a new one, so literally, aside from the 1 hour spent filling up forms, nothing else happened. But I still felt a painful hit from it all.
This side of trauma is what people more commonly know about. The part that acts as a trigger. To put it bluntly, it makes people go nuts. But that’s not the only thing trauma can do to a person.
When I fail, my mind does a dance. It asks the question if I had done enough. And of course, foresight 20/20, hindsight none.
Trauma can force people to do things no one else would otherwise sanely do. For another personal example:
When I was in scouts at 13, we had this thing called a National Patrol Camp. It’s a pretty big deal. In sports, it would be considered a national championship. There was a vacancy, and I was considered to fill the spot. But I was told that to get that spot, I had to build a tipi.
For those who don’t know, the canvas of a tipi generally takes this shape and dimension.
At that time, the teacher in charge had never built a tipi himself. But they expected me to figure out by my own. They gave me a roll of canvas, some basic equipments and some bamboo and left me to my thing. I had to build a tipi with those stuff. Of course, I figured out how to do it. But there was one problem. The canvas they gave me had this dimension.
They gave me a 1:10 meters long roll of canvas. It was not physically possible to make one with that. At least, not normally. But I refused to fail. My brain did not allow me to. I had to succeed, despite the impossibility.
Failure is what I grew up with.
So, after gaining the permission to do whatever I wanted with the canvas roll and being told I’m not allowed a break until I finished, I did everything I could to make the tipi work. I spent 3 agonizing hours under a searing 36 degree Celsius hot Sun to complete the tipi. I cut out meter long ‘shingles’ from the 3 mm thick canvas using a 2 dollar art and craft scissors.
Wrapping strings around the base bamboo structure, I layered each shingles as if tiling a roof. After the 3rd hour and with only three patches left, I passed out from heat stroke.
Oh, I did get the spot for the camp in the end, by the way. Because if I wasn’t given a spot after all that, someone was going down. The experience of the camp itself is a whole other story with great highs and decent lows. I’ve got the scars to prove it.
Trauma, like everything else about mental health, isn’t something you just ‘get over’.
So, yeah. Trauma. It pushes your mind to an unhealthy, self-harming limit. Trauma: It makes you build a roof-shingled tipi until you pass out from heat stroke.
Basically, loads of fun.