The burden of trauma

Content warning: mentions of abuse and trauma

When I was sixteen, right before she became one of my best mates, Angasa told me I was mean. Actually her exact words were:

“Sometimes you can be cruel and not because you are unkind. It’s like you’re so mean to yourself that it overflows to other people.”

I can’t remember what had caused her to say it, but I remember the way she looked at me- upset over something I had told her that had hurt her feelings. I remember how she said it- with a certain gentleness that I lacked. And in that moment I had to reevaluate a few things.

Beloved, my tale is the typical one of “hurt people hurt people.” You see, as a child I had such a ridiculous number of bullies I might as well have been the main character of some wattpad indie young adult novel on a journey of self-whatever.

One bully in particular was someone whose approval I wanted so badly and outside of them being very physical, they were also quite verbally abusive. (A terrible combination for anyone’s mental health, really). This person said the most hurtful things when they were angry- things that I still internalize until today- and each time they apologised it was something along the lines of, “Sorry for saying those things but can you blame me if they are true?”

I was a child so I failed to fault that logic. I had been told my whole life that honesty was a desirable trait and it should be something I should always strive for. Surely there was nothing cruel and ill-spirited about it, right? In my mind, as long as someone was telling their truth then they had a free pass to say whatever they like with no repercussions. But beloved, the day Angasa called me out I learnt that some truths are unnecessary and those that are can be delivered with softness even if they are unpleasant.

When she said what she said I was confronted with the fact that on many occasions I had been downright awful to the people I loved. I thought of all the times I had been callous under the guise of being “honest.” In reality, I wasn’t truthful. I was mean and vindictive. I was angry at myself and everything that had been done to me and I was using everyone else as a verbal punching bag.

I was utterly sick with this realization and for the first time in a very long time, I felt ashamed of the person I was. In that moment I could not run away from two truths: One) Honesty and brutality are not mutually exclusive. Two) If I continued being the way I am, I’d be no different from the very sort of people who made me like this. People I did not like.

Right then and there, I had to come to terms with the fact that someone I loved had hurt me, that I would forever carry the trauma with me and that I had to move on. I am the product of another person’s pain passed on and the depression of the aftermath will cling to my skin forever- at different intensities throughout my life. I cannot run away from that. That is my burden to carry, but it doesn’t have to be everyone else’s.

It is so easy to choose cruelty in a world that offers nothing but. Even now I struggle with trying to be a better person- a kinder person- to everyone and to myself. My words can still be blunt but at least they are not brutal. Maybe with time I can learn to be just gentle. I have made the decision to no longer be an intentional conduit of hurt and anger. This is the active choice I make every day: That the pain can end with me.

9 thoughts on “The burden of trauma”

  1. This was so important to share (and to read) as we are often, at times, a reflection of what we’ve internalized over years. The amazing this here is that you’re open to growth and that is what sets you on a more hopeful path forward. I know I have much to reevaluate myself — this was so helpful.

  2. I’m sorry you were treated badly. You’re right when you say hurt people, hurt people. We all end in lashing out in one way or another but thankfully a lot of us learn, as you did, that our pain is not an excuse to hurt other people, or ourselves any more than we have been already. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Pingback: Jenga | Tamanda Kanjaye

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