By Alice Redfearn
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
When I was younger I used to let the past linger over me like a dark cloud.What I didn’t know was that the past, no matter how dark, plays a crucial role in who I am now. The past is exactly what it is, the past. This is coming from someone who used to live in fear because of her past. Whether it were past mistakes, friendships, relationships,etc. For example, in this generation that we live in a lot of people are afraid of relationships and falling in love because they fear getting their heart broken, or cheated on or lied to. All because of one person who put them through that experience. When you come to terms and accept that things like that are bound to happen at least once in your life then you can move forward.
The past should never be a bad thing; embrace it, learn from it and more importantly grow from it.
Acknowledge what you went through and more importantly forgive yourself.
Don’t live in fear because you think the past will affect your future, it’s all about now.
Everything happens for a reason, don’t let a thing of the past haunt you.
Use the memories to self reflect on the person you are now.
By Clarissa U
The words in which
I once shared
with a crumpled
piece of paper
revealed more about
my inner most thoughts
than what has ever come
out of my own mouth
The blistering navy blue of the pen
with the salt water running down
my puffy cheeks
clutching my heart
as I fell to the floor
I cannot begin to recall
A distorted crack in time
I do not want to remember
for I fear the worst
and I know the end is coming
My demons tried drown me
in an ocean of self-doubt
the tide swept me
under his vicious depth
and anxiety called an order
for the water to be frozen
whilst I was trapped
Gasping for air on the floor
as I read my own words
my sweet girl
what did you do to yourself
Bruises hid beneath your skin like
cuts sunk into the surface
like imprints in the sand
your skin was as fragile
as the remains of your consciousness
I want to protect you
If I could
I would go back
and tell you how it all plans out
you are fighting the storm
when you were
the first drop of rain
in the hurricane
to begin with
an uphill battle with yourself
and the demons you created
My brave girl
grab your armour
gather your unapologetic courage
and throbbing heartbeat
the blood running through you
will get shed in the battlefield
but you will survive
and you will come back
By Rachelle Cox
Well if this isn’t a fitting topic then I don’t know what is. Everyone has a past and everyone has those parts of your life that you just want to keep hidden forever.
Everyday situations from my past play a part in my decisions and how I approach the present. The truth is that you can try to escape your past but it will not work. You can constantly envy other people’s lives from a far but without accepting your own history then how will your life get any better?
If you accept it then nobody else can use it against you – I promise you.
People constantly used to tell me that moving schools wouldn’t change anything – but I wanted a new routine, new faces and distance. I stubbornly went on to do what I wanted and yes it has helped my mental health but at the same time I know it hasn’t. The lasting effects of the actions of some people may always be with me however the difference is that I know that I can’t let them define my life anymore. I am allowed to move on and I am allowed to be happy without them. I don’t blame myself for their actions anymore. I deserve to be living my life to the fullest and I cannot let people influence my own development out of fear. Once I accept my past and take it on board as part of my own story with many lessons to learn from then I know that I will be okay.
A fresh start meant that I got to create a new version of myself – the one I have always seen myself as and I wanted to be seen as to others. It felt so amazing. I also thought that I was exempt from everything bad because I have already had my so called struggle however that is probably the most childish attitude I have ever had because trust me; life keeps throwing things at you but you can handle all of them. My favourite book by Robyn Schneider is called ‘Severed Heads, Broken Hearts’ and it discusses this concept in so much detail and I would completely recommend it.
Ever since year 10 I have suffered with my mental health however mental health is deceiving. You think you’ve moved on by pages and chapters but suddenly one night you just end up experiencing everything all over again – and this time it feels as if it is 1,000 times worse because you are just so shocked its happening when you have made so much effort to distance yourself from it. The only way to move on is self-acceptance.
Please start each day knowing you have a fresh start and you can change the direction of your life at any time as soon as you acknowledge the place you are at now.
For what it’s worth: it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
By Simmy Hoonjan
Seven billion people,
It’s a mind-blowing number.
Human number 672
Sits opposite me on the train,
Hair the colour of pomegranate
Seeds like jewels when the light
Dances at the right angle.
She sings of poetry,
How it will change the world.
Her friend, human number 2091
Talks politics and world peace,
I imagine them at protests
Youthful fire against bitter winds.
Human number 672 pulls out
An anthology I recognise,
We exchange excited words
She tells me of her travels
Reading poetry to
My stop draws near
I exit through the doors
Onto the platform
Fingers itching, head spinning.
Letters to words to lines of poems
Heavy in my chest
Desperate to kiss the pages
To change the world
Seven, billion, people.
The past does not place a
Noose around our necks,
History does not repeat itself
If human number 672 and
2091 and 76 and 812 and 108
Refuse to allow it.