You Can’t Stop Living
by Teresia Smith
When we experience a trauma, often our response may be to just shut down, circle the wagons, and go into hiding. We feel as if we need the world to stop turning so we can regain our bearings. It would be nice if we could hit a pause button on life at times, but that’s not the case. However, we can pull away and take some time for ourselves to catch our breath, acknowledge and work through how we are feeling, regroup and make necessary choices, and reach out for help as needed. The bottom line is that you can’t stop living and we don’t want to allow whatever trauma we have experienced to continue to steal valuable time from our life.
I recently read a story of a mom who had two young daughters who were both diagnosed with a debilitating genetic disorder that robbed them of control of their bodies and eventually caused their death. The mom had two paintings done by her daughters hung on her wall as reminders of a good day she had with her girls. Someone asked the mom if seeing the paintings daily made her sad as they were not perfect by any means and how it must have frustrated her daughters to not have enough motor control to paint well. Her answer amazed me. “They aren’t anything fancy, they aren’t framed, and they’ll never be discovered as pricey works of art. But these paintings are proof that we chose to live and that is priceless to me.”(Mandy McCarty Harris).
She spoke of how every day she woke up and did what had to be done that day, but also looked for opportunities to do more just those necessary things. She looked for ways to bring joy into each day they had together. She spoke of how she provided daily care for her daughters and was so aware that yes, they were dying but for that day, they were still alive and she didn’t want to waste a single moment. “I didn’t know what the future held, how the time would pass, or what would happen along the way. I only knew that we had that moment. So I let them paint.” (Mandy McCarty Harris).
Sometimes, when you experience sexual assault or domestic violence, it feels like the world you knew just ended. You experience that instinct is to curl up, hide and disengage from everything. Your emotions may be topsy-turvy. You could get caught up in a cycle of thinking “if only” this or that, second guessing everything. Or you may get blinded by the hopes and dreams you had for a relationship and not the reality of how that relationship really was. Once you are safe, it’s important to work through your feelings so you can not only survive but thrive in the new life you will build. Mandy McCArty Harris also shared this advice: “Life comes at us, friends. And it just keeps coming. It doesn’t always look like we think it should and it’s awfully easy to get swept away in the what-ifs and could-bes.”
Are you stuck in the what-ifs or could-bes in your life? Crisis Services of North Alabama offers free and confidential services to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Having a safe, non-judgmental place to unpack your feelings can make a difference in your healing. We also offer a 24/7 HELPline (256.716.1000) where you can speak with a trained crisis counselor or you may reach our Jackson County office at 256.574.5826. We are here for you.