On Processing the Anniversary of Your Trauma
When we think about anniversaries, we often imagine happy celebrations of events and milestones. Birthdays, weddings or perhaps the commemoration of institutions being created. However, when the anniversary of a traumatic event looms it can often cause someone to feel a sense of absolute dread. I am writing this article as around this time last year, I was sexually assaulted. Recently, I have noticed that I am exhibiting the signs of not doing entirely well. For me, this means dissociating and getting into bed in the middle of the day because of mental fog. It will be different for everyone, but it is important to be aware of the signs so that you can catch yourself from burning out later.
Here are some things to do when going through a stressful time*:
Tell your friends and be honest with them about how you’re feeling. Your friends probably don’t remember that this time of year might be hard for you. Be open about what you need from them. If you need alone time to reflect then tell them that you want this. But perhaps have them check up on you in a couple of days so that you don’t get too isolated. However, suggest a fun and light-hearted activity like getting pizza or the going to the cinema if you need to be around people. This way you can take your mind off things in the company of people who you feel safe around. The point is to just be open about what you want because your friends love you and want the best for you, especially during this tough time.
Journal. This one really works for me. You probably have a lot of thoughts. “Am I making a big deal out of this?” “It’s been x-number of years, I really should be over this by now…”. Write down these thoughts as it will help get your head straight. For me, there is something cathartic in scribbling down my train of thought (I have a secret Tumblr blog for this. Yes, I am still stuck in 2011). Once your thoughts are all out on paper (however messy they are) they are there and they can’t hurt you. You can look at them, throw them away, do whatever you want! This is not for anyone else. It is for you to clear your head and process what you’re feeling.
Do not blame yourself for feeling the way you do. Oooft, this is a hard one. Especially if you have been assaulted or abused. It is very common to have self-doubt, shame or guilt about what happened. For me, these feelings arose immediately after the event took place. However, I am beginning to feel these thoughts come into my head again during this ‘anniversary’ period. I am learning that this is an understandable process and therefore should not blame myself for feeling the way I do.
Reflect. This one could be hard. Especially if you’re not the sentimental type. Thinking about the ways in which you have moved on and healed can be extremely powerful as it proves to yourself that this event does NOT define you. Think about all the cool things you have done since the event. For me that was starting my year abroad, pursuing stand-up comedy and being closer to finding my career path. These things do not have to be major. It could just be making a new friend or learning how to perfect the ultimate brownie recipe. Try not to compare your growth to others. The fact that you’re still here to enjoy your life proves that you have lived through this.
I want to note that this type of self-care can be hard. It can be work. Dealing with trauma is even harder for those who are marginalised because the System is always stacked against us. However, looking after yourself is an act of “self-preservation” (thank you, Audre Lorde) and should be prioritised.
This does not define you and you’re living proof of this.
*Just to stress - I am not a psychologist, therapist or a professional of any type! I just want to lend some handy tips for getting through this. Please see the links below for more information: