CW: Trauma, Sexual Assault
I was at a conference recently and one of the presenters pointed out that one of the ways to identify the presence of trauma or, more specifically, sexual trauma in a personal narrative is by looking for the moments where the narrative freezes. Where the voice goes cold or omits. Where the details become vague when they once had been deep. That’s where you see trauma rearing its controlling head.
This observation struck me for its poignancy and I also realized that the same could be said for me. Discovering that I have great difficulty writing about my own traumas was a hard pill for me to swallow. Writing is my process of stress release and to suddenly hit such a huge block around experiences that are such an enormous cause of stress made me feel like my outlet had failed me. And maybe, in many ways, the writing that I was doing had.
I am a poet at heart and even when I sit down to write out my experiences in prose, I find myself employing the same structures that I use in poetry to a paragraph form. I wanted to be able to write my trauma like a linear narrative– a reporting– a linear narrative that will help me pick through the dry rot the trauma has created in me.
Finally, I realized that I can’t write a linear narrative because there isn’t one. That is not how my traumas appear to me. They appear in movie clips and words and smells and feelings. They are dreams of a past life and sensations in the present me. I can’t force them to exist as anything other than they are. And if I am going to release them I have to do it on their terms.
So, I started writing my trauma in sensation and color rather than reportage. I am not a journalist of my own life, so I can talk about the way that the air tastes and the grease in my hair. And I don’t have to lie and say that I remember this face or that. I can just release it from my chest as it is and then I can rest.
Now, my purpose for this meditation is not to suggest that my experience of trauma writing is ubiquitous. I just write it to say that it is okay to not have any words for the way you feel or experience. Sometimes our traumas exist in the gaps and we can only use the voice that we have to free them.