Welcome to Trauma Club.
The first rule of Trauma Club is you must talk about Trauma Club.
The second rule of Trauma Club is YOU MUST TALK ABOUT TRAUMA CLUB. Do not keep the maelstrom of emotions coursing through you inside. Talk to a counselor, talk to your family, friends, talk to anyone who will listen on or offline. Hell, talk to the nice cashier at the supermarket or your favorite bartender. There is no shame in talking about your trauma. Not talking is like ignoring an infected wound and covering it up so nobody sees. That crap needs air and to drain. You must talk about Trauma Club. You must write about Trauma Club. You must make art about Trauma Club. YOU MUST TALK ABOUT TRAUMA CLUB.
The third rule of Trauma Club is you are required to understand this wasn’t your fault. You did not ask for your life to be cleaved into a before and after. It was darkness hoisted on you and it’s as much a part of you now as your shadow. Do not blame yourself.
The fourth rule of Trauma Club is you also aren’t allowed to blame yourself for surviving. You’ll want to. This will be a hard rule to follow. You’ll wish you hadn’t survived. You’ll wonder why you were spared and not others. Follow the first rules and talk these feelings out.
The fifth rule of Trauma Club is accepting that life is going to be extra hard until the acute symptoms of PTSD abate. You’re going to have flashbacks, insomnia, depression, panic attacks like you’ve never had before, crippling fear, and a pervasive dread. Sadly, this is all normal, and you will get through it.
The sixth rule of Trauma Club is to give yourself all the time and all the space you need to heal. If you have a panic attack in public, don’t judge yourself. If you’re having bouts of rage, make sure your family and friends are familiar with PTSD so they can help defuse you or give you breathing room to work it out. You have an unfortunate and lifetime membership in Trauma Club now. You and everyone you love will learn how to live with it.
The seventh rule of Trauma Club is knowing you have a long and bumpy road ahead of you, and you will kick that road’s ass because you are a survivor. The road of healing will throw you lots of quick curves and potholes, and you will learn to master them like a boss. It won’t happen overnight, though, and don’t expect it to.
The eighth rule of Trauma Club is you must cultivate patience. Healing is a process, not a destination, and a long one at that. You may feel shattered, but one day you will be stronger at the shattered places. Give it time.
The ninth rule of Trauma Club is you are not allowed to think about the socio-cultural significance of your traumatic incident until the acute PTSD has passed. This can take a few months to sometimes years. Don’t rush into it. You are also not to dwell on, or discuss, or listen to anyone who wants to talk to you about these issues until you are ready and these things don’t intensely trigger you.
The tenth rule of Trauma Club is you must learn how to deal with triggers. At first it is going to be ridiculously hard since the flashbacks will be so fresh and so vivid. The people closest to you will says things, strangers will say things, the media will say things and it will be a kick to your new and open wound. People will be insensitive; some power-trippers might even trigger you on purpose. And it’s going to hurt. A LOT. And your circle of trusted ones may shrink as the callous ones rise to the surface. But just remember that every time you’re triggered, it can be an opportunity to let out some of the pus and infection from your emotional wound. It sucks. And it’s gross. And you’ll hate it. But it’s a sad truth of the process and one of the prices of membership in our unfortunate club.
The eleventh rule of Trauma Club is learning how to set boundaries. This means telling people certain topics or media are off limits for you. You will not watch certain movies or read certain books. You will not discuss certain issues. Your mental health must now come first, and you will need to police your own boundaries constantly. You’ll find out who are your real friends and supporters. Focus on the people for whom you’re grateful, and let the jerks go. The unfollow, mute, and hide buttons on social media are your new best friends so use them freely.
The twelfth rule of Trauma Club is once you are ready you can find ways to help people who are new to the club. Once you are stronger — once there is space between you and the event that transformed your life into Before and After — only then can you begin to look at ways your experience, your survival, your badass drive to heal can benefit others, and maybe even others going through something similar to what you did.
The thirteenth rule of Trauma Club is believing you will get through this. Look around you. You’re surrounded by survivors. Our numbers grow exponentially and daily, and those of us who have been here for a while are also here to help you. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Don’t be afraid to especially follow the first two and most important rules of Trauma Club. You came in here with enough to be afraid of, don’t let healing be one of those things.
If this is your first night at Trauma Club you’ll probably cry. We’re here for you so start letting it out.
You may not feel strong right now, but remember you ARE strong.
Trauma Club member since 2000
This piece was originally published at Huffington Post Healthy Living.