noun: trauma; plural noun: traumata; plural noun: traumas
a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.
“a personal trauma like the death of a child”
synonyms: shock, upheaval, distress, stress, strain, pain, anguish, suffering, upset, agony, misery, sorrow, grief, heartache, heartbreak, torture;
There are times when it can get too much. It rises from its place of rest and decides to taunt you. It laughs as it reminds you that it’ll always be with and in you. That until you can accept it as a part of yourself, you’ll never be free.It’s not uncommon. If you look closely enough into almost any person, you’ll find it suppressed into a small, confined area. But it seeps out. Spreads through the body, lining the psyche. The quirks of a person, their little mannerisms, decisions they make, all come from it. It’s made of moments. Critical, hopeless moments that pain one to even to think about. I know that you know what I’m talking about.
For me, that time was New Year’s Eve – the most optimistic day of the year. The streets of London counted from ten to one in synchrony, millions of couples leant in to each other to share their midnight kiss, fireworks painted the sky, and every club, stage and bar in the country was packed tight with happy people, whilst I sat on my second hand sofa, panicking.
2016 was the worst year of my life. If I told you what happened to me over that year, you’d think I was unlucky. If I told you about 2015 you’d think I was a liar. All the bad shit that has supposedly happened to me, it can’t all happen to one person in two years, you’d say. And I’ve told myself the same. But it has. And though it no longer haunts me, it cast a dark shadow over my celebrations at the end of the year.
My family did the same as we do every year – we invite another family to stay over and have an open house to the rest of our friends. The same people, the same place, the same night. Every year. We cosy ourselves in a bubble of love, and each time, I look forward to the future, and vow to bring happiness to my family.
This year, I watched my mum dancing to Blondie the same way she did exactly a year ago, two years ago, three years ago. I thought about all the horrible shit that followed on from that moment. How spectacularly happiness had avoided our family. How I’d give to be someone who would hear about my year, and react by saying “Jesus, that sounds awful.”
Neurosis. I examined everything we did that night. We didn’t drink the champagne exactly on midnight – what if that’s what brought us all the bad luck last year? But wait, what if drinking it on time brings us bad luck? Or was it because I swore? Because I made a joke about God? How am I supposed to be able to deduce this? Trial and error won’t cut it. There are too many variables and not enough years. What if it’s already decided, and every year from 2014 gets progressively worse and there’s nothing I can do about it?
Things go wrong, and when it doesn’t make sense it’s normal to look for answers, but I feared what would happen when things went right. It began with one thought. I just want my family to be happy before one of us dies. This grew darker. What if literally the moment we become happy, one of us develops a terminal illness, and we die only knowing what pain is like, and the rest of the family feel awful and empty for the rest of their lives?
I warded these thoughts off. The future holds infinity, and worrying about something that might not even happen is irrational. Rather, I should take what I can from everything I’m faced with, and make the best of it.
My mind was cast back to who I was before all this crazy shit happened. I remember wanting to help people for a living, by being a doctor or going into research. I avoided hurting people in almost extreme measures, because I feared them and was desperate for their approval. I placed justice and fairness above my own feelings. I saw life as an opportunity to maximise good.
And now? I hope for a career in investment banking. There are a few people whose needs come before my own, but mine closely follow. I don’t care about other people enough to fear them. I try to do the right thing, but only if it doesn’t cause problems for me. I have no problem lying, even to friends, if it benefits me. I see life as a game with winners and losers. I want to maximise good, but I need to win.
As much as I hate what’s happened to me, it’s changed me for the better. I’m by no means perfect – I’ve become selfish and arrogant – but I now have the tools to become successful and happy, and can regain some empathy as I do that. The world won’t change in my lifetime, but I can. And I’ve coped with the worst of it. Anxiety and trauma have been such integral parts of my life that I can deal with them now, so even on nights like New Year’s, I can distract myself, rationalise my thoughts, and recognise that bad feelings will pass.
And despite all the horrific things that have happened to me, the end of the year was pretty sick. University was one of the weirdest and best things I’ve done, I’ve had some mad nights out, and my sister and I have shared some fantastic moments. I enjoyed Christmas immensely and grew closer to my younger brother. In between the bad parts of the year, I met some brilliant people, fell in love, and gained confidence of the most solid form.
I can’t say what my life will bring. I don’t think anyone can. As I move forward, I’m not excited, but I’m not anxious anymore. I’m numb and calm, and I believe that I’ll cope, whatever happens.
By Maya Kearney