It is not uncommon for a lot of survivors to get to a point where they are trying to get back to “who they were” before trauma. In cases where trauma is all they knew, they may get stuck on wondering who they would have been without trauma.
These are valid and understandable thoughts, and it’s really fair to think about them and wonder. The important part is not to get too hung up on them. Keep in mind that only you can decide whether you’re too hung up on them or not. That is not up to anyone else to decide for you. The reality is that there is no getting back to who you were or way to know who you might have become. As hard as this may be to realize, try to remember that it’s okay. It’s okay to have changed. It’s okay to be different. You are still just as worthy as you were before trauma.
In cases where you are trying to get back to who you were, it is likely to just exhaust and frustrate you. The question you might want to consider instead is “Who am I now?” And it’s okay to not know the answer. That is a complicated question, and the truth is, the answer is likely always changing. Even people without trauma go through a lot of changes as they discover themselves, and in a lot of cases, create themselves.
This can be about reinventing yourself. This can be about figuring out who you want to be and doing what you can to make that happen. Try new things if you can! Maybe you can try a new hair colour or a new look. Maybe you can try out new hobbies. One of the things I did was look up a bunch of different hobbies and make a list. I went through the list trying as many as I could and rating my enjoyment of them. I discovered some new things I was into.
If you want to and think it may be helpful to you, you can look back at the past. Maybe this means making a list of things from before your trauma. This might be a list of hobbies you were into, or values you may have had. You can look at how they’ve changed (remembering that it’s okay to have changed), but you can also see whether there are similarities. There is no right or wrong answer here. It’s okay to have changed, even if it seems like you’re an entirely different person.
In cases where trauma is all you knew, which likely means it took place in your childhood, I am truly sorry to say that you cannot get that childhood back. That is devastating and I know the pain of that. While you can’t get your childhood back, I encourage you to engage with your inner child (Even if you had a good childhood, I still encourage this!). It’s never too late to have fun and try some of the things you may feel you missed out on. Maybe this means buying stuffed animals, or watching “childish” movies. Maybe it means buying some bubbles to play with, or going to the park to swing on the swings. Listen to your inner child and what they need. Maybe they need emotional support and comfort. Maybe they need to engage in play and fun. Maybe it’s both. Maybe it’s something else. The goal is to listen and allow them to have what they need. Be the person you needed when you were younger. For you.
In both cases, you can make a choice to go forward in your life. Yes, that’s easier said than done. It’s so much more complicated than just “going forward”. And “going forward” doesn’t mean your trauma ceases to exist, or that you’ll never think about it again. “Going forward” simply means that you are looking to the future and realizing that there is life after trauma. It is part of realizing that you can heal and still have a quality life. Your trauma doesn’t go away, but you do learn to live with it and cope more effectively.
You don’t need to be who people expect you to be after trauma either. This means you don’t need to conform to what they think the “healing you” should look like. Healing is different for everyone, and we are all unique. Everyone reacts to trauma differently, and you don’t need to fit into a neat little box. In fact, I think it’s near impossible to fit into what people expect and that it can be frustrating and a hindrance to your healing. Try to pay attention to your needs, because those are most important here.
The bottom line is that, yes, trauma can change you. But that doesn’t mean you are “less than” because of your trauma. Your worth never changes. You are just as worthy now as you were before your trauma. I promise.