Hope Burns

The world is new today, and it has nothing to do with the beginning of a year. It is new because I have taken a fork in the road. My journey now is different from ever before. It is  fresh snow and a path not taken. It begins with hope and a dream.

I am a trauma survivor. I have complex PTSD from 4 years of being trafficked when I was young. I have reached a point in my recovery where I am more healed than damaged. The problem with being healed is it is new and untried. My brain in all of its glory is familiar with the other way, that is what it knows. It’s the down hill trail with fewest obstructions. The fact that I am attempting to take a new path to end with a different result is often inconsequential to the normal functioning of my brain.

There is a battle waging each day within my heart and mind. This battle is different from ever before because it is not a fight for survival. I am no longer awakening each day to talk myself into living, breathing, and working. I am now fighting for the permanent changes within myself. At times I find this battle as complex and heated as the fight to live.

I had a really good Christmas this year, and I could not enjoy it. Through the trauma therapy, I came to realize that I expect bad things to happen in direct proportion to the good things that happen to me. So, if I get a compliment I expect at least one if not more insult and tear down. Every gift is followed with a loss. My trauma brain does not trust goodness and kindness for it cannot last. I am going back to school starting next week. I am going back to pursue a dream that is mine and not someone else’s. For Christmas, my parents bought me a laptop. I got to watch my niece and nephew open their presents and be so very joyful. Inside, each good thing that happened to me and that I witnessed hurt and felt like I was being lashed.

With my counselor, I was able to sit and explore what was going on inside. My abuser/trafficker used to make me pay for every compliment or good thing that happened to me. There was a cost for every lollipop from a bank teller to every present from unknowing parents and grandparents. The cost was taken from me in secret, but I had learned that I didn’t deserve good things. I also learned to only accept the good I was willing to pay for. But the people in my life now are healthy and wonderful people, they don’t expect a return on a meal bought, gift given, or laugh shared.

My trauma brain, in an effort to keep the scales balanced would give me a cup inside for the good things. Anything that overfilled the cup resulted in an internal shut down. I could only be so happy, so joyful, so delighted every day. The size of the cup would change based on things that I do not comprehend. Some days my cup was large enough to encompass a full day of good things big and small. Other days my cup would be filled with a sincere thank you. This Christmas my cup was so very small that is filled days before the holiday began, and I did not even realize it.

I am choosing to pick up hope for the first time since I cast it aside at the age of 6. I haven’t faced what made me give it up yet, and I am sure I will someday. I don’t need it for today. I just need to pick it up first. It’s like a piece of driftwood that has been washed up on shore after spending years beaten by the waves. The letters can barely be seen, and they are almost too shallow to be felt by the softest touch. The simple act of picking it up burns away the rotting wood and reveals the metal inside. The heat radiates into me, glowing with the warmth of a new day in early spring.

I know what my brain is trying to do, and that means I can deal with it. I can fight the lies that say that I have a limit on goodness with the truth that there are no such limits in existence. I can love others without limits as well, though I imagine that will also involve more battles as well. I must stay present first. When I feel the welling desire to run and flee, I must stand and be aware instead. Hope and kindness burn, but not with the fire of damage. They burn because they are awakening what has been long dead inside. Jesus is my savior, and that does not stop with my salvation. He redeems it all.

 

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