By: Lianne Johnson, LPC
I have seen, and personally experienced, a tendency to overlook the impact of relational trauma on our functioning. Why is it that even when our life circumstances change – we live through a relational trauma or betrayal, we are separated from our spouse, we unexpectedly become a single-parent, we go through a divorce, we discover abusive realities in our partner – Why do we keep living (or pressuring ourselves to live) as though these changes haven’t happened? Why do we keep living as though our bandwidth for interacting with life hasn’t changed?
Sometimes when I realize I am pressuring myself to live as though my life hasn’t radically changed, I just sit and shake my head at myself. I ask myself in these moments, “Why am I pressuring myself? What am I fearing?” The answers to these questions are usually the same, no matter the circumstance. Part of the answer is that I desperately want to live like I was living, before my life changed without my permission. I want my normal back. I want what was known to me. The other part of my answer is that it saddens me to feel like I am letting people down by no longer being able to perform as I had been. I fear others won’t understand, or won’t care to take the time to learn, the basic equation I now have to live by: My life radically changing when I experienced trauma and betrayal in my marriage + an unexpected long season of separation and suffering + ultimately getting divorced + being a single mom + running a business = having less bandwidth for life.
For a long time, I angrily fought the equation I now had to live my life by. I didn’t fight it by taking on more than I could, I fought it by being angry with life and retreating. It wasn’t until I started to accept my new normal that I started to enjoy life.
Part of accepting my new normal was learning to like the person I am now. To accept the me I am now. I am different. My traumatic experience changed me. Learning to be a single mom, a divorced woman, changed me. I am not quite sure how I could live through all of that unchanged. But I guess the biggest thing I had to learn to do was accept the new me, my new normal, and learn who I had now become.