Thinking of adding stabbing to my exercise routines.
1. Trauma permanently changes us.
This is the big, scary truth about trauma: there is no such thing as “getting over it.” The five stages of grief model marks universal stages in learning to accept loss, but the reality is in fact much bigger: a major life disruption leaves a new normal in its wake. There is no “back to the old me.” You are different now, full stop.
This is not a wholly negative thing. Healing from trauma can also mean finding new strength and joy. The goal of healing is not a papering-over of changes in an effort to preserve or present things as normal. It is to acknowledge and wear your new life — warts, wisdom, and all — with courage.
2. Presence is always better than distance.
There is a curious illusion that in times of crisis people “need space.” I don’t know where this assumption originated, but in my experience it is almost always false. Trauma is a disfiguring, lonely time even when surrounded in love; to suffer through trauma alone is unbearable. Do not assume others are reaching out, showing up, or covering all the bases.
It is a much lighter burden to say, “Thanks for your love, but please go away,” than to say, “I was hurting and no one cared for me.” If someone says they need space, respect that. Otherwise, err on the side of presence.
3. Healing is seasonal, not linear.
It is true that healing happens with time. But in the recovery wilderness, emotional healing looks less like a line and more like a wobbly figure-8. It’s perfectly common to get stuck in one stage for months, only to jump to another end entirely … only to find yourself back in the same old mud again next year.
Recovery lasts a long, long time. Expect seasons.
4. Surviving trauma takes “firefighters” and “builders.” Very few people are both.
This is a tough one. In times of crisis, we want our family, partner, or dearest friends to be everything for us. But surviving trauma requires at least two types of people: the crisis team — those friends who can drop everything and jump into the fray by your side, and the reconstruction crew — those whose calm, steady care will help nudge you out the door into regaining your footing in the world. In my experience, it is extremely rare for any individual to be both a firefighter and a builder. This is one reason why trauma is a lonely experience. Even if you share suffering with others, no one else will be able to fully walk the road with you the whole way.
A hard lesson of trauma is learning to forgive and love your partner, best friend, or family even when they fail at one of these roles. Conversely, one of the deepest joys is finding both kinds of companions beside you on the journey.
5. Grieving is social, and so is healing.
For as private a pain as trauma is, for all the healing that time and self-work will bring, we are wired for contact. Just as relationships can hurt us most deeply, it is only through relationship that we can be most fully healed.
It’s not easy to know what this looks like — can I trust casual acquaintances with my hurt? If my family is the source of trauma, can they also be the source of healing? How long until this friend walks away? Does communal prayer help or trivialize?
Seeking out shelter in one another requires tremendous courage, but it is a matter of life or paralysis. One way to start is to practice giving shelter to others.
6. Do not offer platitudes or comparisons. Do not, do not, do not.
“I’m so sorry you lost your son, we lost our dog last year … ” “At least it’s not as bad as … ” “You’ll be stronger when this is over.” “God works in all things for good!”
When a loved one is suffering, we want to comfort them. We offer assurances like the ones above when we don’t know what else to say. But from the inside, these often sting as clueless, careless, or just plain false.
Trauma is terrible. What we need in the aftermath is a friend who can swallow her own discomfort and fear, sit beside us, and just let it be terrible for a while.
7. Allow those suffering to tell their own stories.
Of course, someone who has suffered trauma may say, “This made me stronger,” or “I’m lucky it’s only (x) and not (z).” That is their prerogative. There is an enormous gulf between having someone else thrust his unsolicited or misapplied silver linings onto you, and discovering hope for one’s self. The story may ultimately sound very much like “God works in all things for good,” but there will be a galaxy of disfigurement and longing and disorientation in that confession. Give the person struggling through trauma the dignity of discovering and owning for himself where, and if, hope endures.
8. Love shows up in unexpected ways.
This is a mystifying pattern after trauma, particularly for those in broad community: some near-strangers reach out, some close friends fumble to express care. It’s natural for us to weight expressions of love differently: a Hallmark card, while unsatisfying if received from a dear friend, can be deeply touching coming from an old acquaintance.
Ultimately every gesture of love, regardless of the sender, becomes a step along the way to healing. If there are beatitudes for trauma, I’d say the first is, “Blessed are those who give love to anyone in times of hurt, regardless of how recently they’ve talked or awkwardly reconnected or visited cross-country or ignored each other on the metro.” It may not look like what you’d request or expect, but there will be days when surprise love will be the sweetest.
9. Whatever doesn’t kill you …
In 2011, after a publically humiliating year, comedian Conan O’Brien gave students at Dartmouth College the following warning:
"Nietzsche famously said, ‘Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ … What he failed to stress is that it almost kills you.”
Odd things show up after a serious loss and creep into every corner of life: insatiable anxiety in places that used to bring you joy, detachment or frustration towards your closest companions, a deep distrust of love or presence or vulnerability.
There will be days when you feel like a quivering, cowardly shell of yourself, when despair yawns as a terrible chasm, when fear paralyzes any chance for pleasure. This is just a fight that has to be won, over and over and over again.
10. … Doesn’t kill you.
Living through trauma may teach you resilience. It may help sustain you and others in times of crisis down the road. It may prompt humility. It may make for deeper seasons of joy. It may even make you stronger.
It also may not.
In the end, the hope of life after trauma is simply that you have life after trauma. The days, in their weird and varied richness, go on. So will you."
Catherine Woodiwiss, “A New Normal: Ten Things I’ve Learned About Trauma”
For each there was, and over each they hung, the fruits of trees long left, never loved.
- and twixt there lie, in broken mold, the heart rich blood in gallows seed.
For whom we drink, for whom cards pulled, and out for each in each heart rent - a dollop, tear, and lover’s swoon
From whom hands mend, for which hands bleed, in gallows seed — seared skins screaming - a monster’s cry, bye love’s keening
To each in whole, and on each in none, we scrawl the shapes and sip their tongue,
While over naught - in summer’s cleaving - while unto yours, we pour their dreams.
In gallows seed.
A ghost hairdresser greets her client with a soft cheek kiss and a squeal of delight. Death has done nothing to lessen her joy.
She sits the man down, purrs gossip to him, runs her fingers through his brown hair, and fetches her tools. They have been friends for decades.
With ancient sheers and without even questioning his preferences, she gets to work. The man’s hair grows white and gray at her touch.
Snip snip clip clip hair flip gel swirl style style snip style slick.
"If I were two hundred years younger," she begins with wink, "you still wouldn’t be good enough for me!" The man’s laugh fills the room.
Guys, I’ve already said this, but I’m gonna say it again…
Why the hell are you critiquing the Ice Bucket Challenge?
It is probably the only internet campaign/trend in recent memory that has made any significant amount of money for its cause!
Not only that, but it is one that doesn’t fall prey to the faults of sooooo many other ‘slacktivist’ campaigns:
It doesn’t make inspiration porn out of people suffering from ALS.
It doesn’t sexualize them in any way.
It doesn’t tote ALS sufferers around so we can sigh wistfully at them and mutter “so brave….so brave.”
It doesn’t trivialize their lives.
It doesn’t laugh at them.
It was just some weird internet thing that got traction once it was co-opted by a supporter of ALS research (the first few celebrity videos show them not giving to charity at all, because that wasn’t part of the deal and was just them being silly, or giving to different charities because it was open to the person who got tagged).
If you want to comment on slacktivism, then pick a campaign that isn’t currently making, like, 6billion times the previous year’s profit for the foundation it is supporting.
Talk about how Bono’s Product Red cost more to fund and advertise than it actually ended up making for its charity.
Talk about how I <3 Boobies sexualizes and then dehumanizes people suffering from breast cancer.
Talk about how the No Makeup Selfies ‘to spread breast cancer awareness’ (“women going through chemo look like shit, let’s show solidarity by looking like shit too!!”) trivialized the pain and countless complications faced by people undergoing chemo.
Talk about how Cock In A Sock was a failure because it was highjacked by buff guys who wanted to show off, and eventually not a single person even knew it was originally meant to raise money for a particular foundation.
Talk about how KONY was mired in politics that half of the people screaming and crying about it didn’t even understand. Talk about how it was ill researched, and terribly executed.
Talk about how Katrina Relief and Haiti Relief funds were bogged down with corruption and white-collar crime.
Talk about how sharing a photo on Facebook that says “I hate testicular cancer!” makes you feel good, but doesn’t actually do anything to stop the cancer or help those suffering from it. In fact, it makes so many people feel good about themselves without actually doing anything helpful that donations for many foundations have subsequently decreased.
Talk about the things that make trendy, sensational campaigns problematic, and then highlight the parts of campaigns that worked. Teach people what they should be looking for when they support a cause or jump on a bandwagon to make sure that they are giving effectively and safely. Teach people what slacktivism is and why it hurts people and communities.
But stop bitching about the only one that is actually doing anything good right now!
The articles that i have seen ‘critiquing’ the Ice Bucket Challenge have spent most of their word space talking about all the good it’s done, and then one paragraph talking about how slacktivism is bad. No space is given to examples of why it is bad, or how to avoid it. No one is talking about more effective ways to engage people without trivializing the cause. It’s just a bunch of people complaining about how annoying they find it, or how people are just “showing off”. Worse still are the people saying “most of the people doing it didn’t even know what ALS was until last week!”.
You realize you’re just being concern-hipsters, right?
"I was totally concerned about this cause way before everyone else was. Gawd, now everyone is just doing it because they just found out about it. It’s so mainstream. I’m gonna go campaign for squiggly eyebrow syndrome now. No one has ever heard of that!”
My name is Arden, and after a few days of thinking I’ve decided that I’m going to ruin video games.
I’m going to be doing everything in my power to destroy them completely. Walking simulators about feelings and emotions as far as the eye can see! Guns that shoot kisses! Lady characters that aren’t designed to cater to the whims of straight men! I’m hiding loving queer couples in every treasure chest instead of new armor. Every game will now be required to have at least one section that can be described as “too” personal. Fuck, if I’m feeling really bold, I might even throw some non-white characters into a game or two! I’ll magically replace every copy of every big-budget first person shooter with either Gone Home or Dear Esther and listen to the agitated shrieks of gamers.
Non-men have been “ruining” games for a long time, of course, by virtue of existing and trying to make the medium and the spaces around it more inclusive and less festering garbage. I’m just owning up to it now, so there can be no doubt: I’m here to ruin games. The space gamers have carved out is broken and vile, and I’m done with it. This is not their hobby anymore, it is our art.
I’m ruining video games! Join me! Make a personal story in Twine, nothing pisses gamers off more than interactive fiction sharing experiences that don’t cater to them! Make something in RPG Maker! You don’t even need to put combat in it! Make a dating sim or a visual novel in Ren’Py! Ruining games is easy, I know you can do it too!