Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Survivor Superheroes

Survivors of trauma often develop pretty amazing abilities and traits as a result of what they have endured. We tend to be more compassionate, less judgmental, extremely self-aware and mindful, and incredibly strong. If we were superheroes our capes would likely be made of steel and be embossed with a brilliant shining heart. I am proud to be among these superheroes, though I am quick to denounce that I am one myself, and proud to know that an entire army of victors over trauma exists in a world that continues to dish out more.

We tend to be more compassionate than those that have never stared into the dark abyss that is recovering from trauma. We know firsthand how harsh life can be and we are the first ones to extend a helping hand to those struggling to stand. We are quick to be caretakers of the sick and ailing, which at times can become too overwhelming and exhausting. Our desire to save the world from suffering is a powerful driving force in our lives. 

We want justice for ourselves, for those that walk beside us in survival hood, and for those that will eventually join us as fellow survivors.

It is important to remember that compassion fatigue can happen to caregivers of any type and survivors are among the most at risk. Remember to pause and take time for yourself. Practice good self-care and recognize when you are doing too much. Learn to say no. Learn to set boundaries. Listen to your own mind and body when they tell you that you are over fatigued. Take care of you first and your ability to care for others will triple as a result.

Because we know that life isn’t simply black and white, we are not as quick to judge others that have struggled in life. We all make mistakes, fall victim to circumstance, and have life events happen that are out of our control. A survivor knows this and recognizes the pain in another person’s eyes long before they notice what others would judge about their current life situation. We know that life changes in an instant and that it can take years, decades even, to bounce back and heal from what we experience.

Survivors are extremely self-aware and mindful of other people and their surroundings. Part of this is from PTSD which can create hyper alertness. But mainly it is a side-effect of recovering from trauma. As we heal, we are forced to look inward and reflect on so much in our lives at ages when other people are carefree.

Self-awareness hopefully leads to learning to love and accept ourselves while being mindful of our role in society and society in general. We pick up on the vibes of others and are usually the first ones to notice when someone else is giving subtle clues that they are hurting or experiencing trauma. This makes us great caretakers, first responders, therapists, friends, significant others, teachers, parents… anything that involves caring for and being sensitive to the feelings of others.

Last but far from least, survivors are incredibly strong. We have survived what others didn’t, what others couldn’t. We have bounced back from depths only we understand- some of us time and time again. We are filled with compassion, empathy, self-awareness, and a strength that could rival the toughest of metals. You see, surviving trauma isn’t all about the bad- the scars, the side effects, the lost years. Surviving trauma is also about the good, the amazing, the loving person it has helped you become.

So wear that cape with your big shining heart and go out there and show the world what kind of superhero you truly are.