Lessons In Trauma

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Written By: Kate Doe

Art By: Kate Doe

I am molded by my traumatic life experiences. Each has taught me a lesson in strength and decision making. From each trauma, I further dug myself into a depressive hole to protect my mind and body from anything else that could affect me. Yet from one incident, I became more alive than I expected to ever be. Now, the remnants remain like bulldozers crashing into my home just to remind me of the painful memories I must continue to live with. I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve been graced with the opportunity to keep living and seeing the beauty in what I have. There is nothing sweeter than breathing the air around me and knowing I’m here.

At thirteen, I had lived in Massachusetts for nearly a full year. Previously I spent my days residing in central New Jersey. My adjustment to a new home and a new town was full of drama and caused serious self-loathing. This move was certainly not the cause for my depression, however, it was one of the catalysts that began my tumble into depression. As that darkness grew and I felt less control in my personal life, I began to self harm as a way to feel alive and in charge. The blade became my coping mechanism, and  I’m left with tiny scars abundant on my arms and my legs as a reminder of what I did to survive.

During that same year I became substantially more depressed and stumbled upon the ultimate form of control: suicide. I did not come about this solution on my own. I had the internet to help me find simple steps towards a successful attempt. The internet is quite the handy tool; there is no answer one cannot find with Google. As eighth grade approached in the heat of August, I began to dwell on how I would go about ending my life. I could have drowned myself, holding onto a simple weighted object in the bathtub. That would have scarred my family away from ever using our bathroom again. The thought of running away and getting myself run over by a car crossed my mind multiple times. My chosen out was to take as many Tylenol pills as I could manage without throwing up or passing out.

There are many memorable dates I cannot remember. My first prom, my first day at college, the day I graduated high school, but there is one date I am unable to forget. On May 6, 2014, I made a decision which could have easily been my last. I chose to end my life by overdose. I had heard it was the easiest and least painful of a variety of ways one could commit suicide. According to the internet I would need to take twenty pills. I tried my hardest and managed to swallow sixteen on my own. I realize now that  I certainly wanted to be found, since my family was home at the time. I’ll spare you the details, but it is quite obvious that I was unsuccessful in my attempt, and I’m thankful for that. I’m also thankful for what transpired there after. From the mistake I made, I became a different person. I changed and evolved to be more resilient and quick witted. I learned my greatest strengths are in my mind and I am capable of anything I put my head and heart into.

I was fourteen when I began what would be a difficult fourteen months living in rural northern Utah. Located in the middle of the Cache County valley, I lived and learned in an average house with twenty other girls who had made the same life-altering decision as I had. Working with my peers in group settings to climb through the hoops of our collective traumas made me feel less alone in a dark world I had become so adjusted to. We functioned together as a large family, guided by therapists and our intuitions and we all made the change we wanted to see for ourselves. For me, that change was self-acceptance. That did not come easily in any way. If it was as simple as snapping my fingers or clicking my heels together, I would not have spent fourteen months working so hard to better myself.

The key component in my turn around toward being my most excellent self was equine therapy. I had thought horses were massive and dull beasts that only knew how to eat and run. I’m incredibly glad I was forced to work with them despite it being the last thing on my self-help to-do list. I was paired with a retired farm horse named Doc. He had one blind eye and a pastel pink nose. We were similar in many ways. I moved slowly, held down by the weight of my depression; his slow moves were  a factor of his age. We spoke different languages and ate different meals, yet we bonded so quickly and changed each others ability to trust and love for the better.

 My trauma left me with scars I cannot conceal. From my brush with death, I got a new hold on life. I never expected to be a full time student in college, living on my own, and feeling so unbelievably good. I cannot be sure if I would have become the person I am today had I not tried to end my life. This action shapes my narrative each day and guides my reaction to life as it goes. I want to thank my trauma for failing to stop me and instead, for boosting me higher towards success.