Braving the Holidays

Traveling home for the holidays always fills me with excitement as I look forward to spending time with my family and friends that I do not get to see often. There are so many wonderful memories that outweigh the difficult ones. However, if I’m honest, the excitement of returning home intersects with a fear of the reminders of my past. Traveling home for the holidays can be difficult for anyone, for a person with a trauma history- it can become even more complicated.

Navigating the excitement and fear can create an inner chaos that is tough to put into words. Emotions can range from pure happiness of being surrounded by those you love to profound sadness or anger when you see a place that reminds you of trauma. It can feel like a rollercoaster that does not stop. This week, I traveled 15 hours to my home state. I have been piecing together this post for some time now. It was not until I passed a restaurant that used to be a Western Sizzlin’ that the pieces of this post felt like they connected.

As I drove past the restaurant, my thoughts immediately went to the many times I rode in the “big truck” to this restaurant on Friday nights with my family, which included my abuser. However, as I continued driving I remembered a hilarious moment inside that restaurant and I was able to smile. I feel like the story deserves sharing because even in the midst of ongoing abuse- there were many “happy” moments in my childhood.

So, I was probably 9 or 10 when we stopped at the Western Sizzlin’ to eat before we went to the port to pick up the next shipment. After eating my dinner, I filled a bowl with Cool-Whip to eat as my dessert. Nothing else- just Cool-Whip. As soon as I put a large spoonful of it in my mouth, I knew something was wrong. I remember saying “I think something’s wrong with this Cool-Whip.” Initially, we thought maybe it had spoiled or something. Upon closer inspection, I was asked where I got the Cool-Whip from. I innocently pointed to the hot bar for potato fixings. Apparently, I was so excited for the Cool-Whip that as soon as I saw what resembled Cool-Whip I rapidly fixed my bowl without taking into consideration I was not at the dessert bar. I had indeed mistaken sour cream for cool-whip.

I share this story because when it came to mind I realized that the triggers and reminders from my abuse as a child no longer hold the power they once held over my life. I will not say they are gone because I don’t think I will ever be able to travel around my hometown without the nagging thought that there is a possibility I could run into my abuser. Today, I feel much more apt to handle that situation in a healthy manner if I face it. I am thankful the physiological responses to these triggers are no longer paralyzing as they were for many years. I contribute this part of my healing journey wholly to my faith in Christ and my time spent in counseling as a teenager. 

If you are currently in the process of battling triggers as a result of trauma, I hope that you will trust and know that you can overcome them. It is not an easy process and it certainly does not happen overnight. But hold on to the hope that one day, you will be able to pass by that restaurant or see that person that resembles your abuser or that vehicle that looks like the one they drove, and you will not experience the heart-stopping fear that you may feel now. One day, you may even be able to recall a positive experience and smile. aircraft-1362586

When What You Remember Isn’t Enough


Throughout the court process, my case was always referred to as a “he said, she said” case because there was no physical evidence to corroborate my disclosure. Hearing those words always stung.

During some of the initial interviews, I was asked questions such as “when did the abuse begin?” A bulk of the investigation took place around my 14th birthday. When I was asked that question I struggled and began to feel like a failure because I could not remember the date my abuser hurt me the first time.

As a child, time does not consist of hours, days, weeks, or months. Time as a child equals memories, holidays, vacations, playing on weekends, birthday parties, and ball games. The summer flies by, the school year drags on, and Christmas and birthdays can’t come fast enough. A child generally will not recall that on x/xx/xxxx, her stepdad tried to french kiss her in the kitchen. But- what she can tell you is everything that surrounded that moment… where she stood in the kitchen, who was in the house at the time, what her abuser was wearing, what she did immediately afterwards, the fear and confusion she experienced, etc. Unfortunately, the court of law needs cold, hard facts to prosecute offenders.

Not only could I not recall the date the abuse began, but Ialso could not give investigators an estimated number of times it happened. Later in my healing journey I remember thinking, “if only I had carved a tally into the wall at the back of my closet every time my stepdad abused me.” It is really easy to get caught into a cycle of blaming yourself for not keeping the “data” of your abuse so that you can have a strong enough court case with evidence to get justice. The way I am able to overcome those negative thoughts is to remind myself that I was just a little girl trying to survive. I also reflect on the knowledge I have gained in college and graduate school about the way the brain grows and develops and the impacts of trauma on the brain. In a future post I will share more about that.

Being somewhat of a perfectionist, more left brained than right, and a fan of math, the inability to precisely answer the important questions left me with a burden of guilt. The “if-then” statements used to rattle my mind regularly. I continue to strive to find peace in “not knowing” the answers to the questions that weighed so heavily at one time.balls-1284418_960_720

In exciting news, North Carolina has passed a law that prohibits sex offenders from frequenting parks, libraries, arcades, recreation areas, pools, and amusement parks. These places are now safer places for our children. You can read all about the new law here. There is also a section that talks about the petitioning process for offenders and how one Assistant District Attorney may appear in court 10-20 times for these petitions.