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Revisiting trauma can be an important step in healing, but is it really necessary to heal?
During a recent trip, I realized that bad memories and anxiety still nestled itself in the place that I was going to. Driving down the same streets I once didn’t think would lead me home, or passing restaurants I couldn’t afford to eat in (but went in anyway and suffered through embarrassment as I sipped free water) jumped out at me like a flashing neon sign. I even visited my old apartment, but was too nervous to go in due to the painful memories of what used to happen inside.
I had to stare out of the window and let the tears just roll down my cheeks, while I drove through the city. Everything passed in a numbing blur. I combed over the searing feelings of hopelessness I used to feel when I told myself I didn’t have a purpose. The flood gates I built while I was gone had burst. Here I was, a few months later, still not fully over my own trauma.
This city gave me love, hate, death, and fear in less than a year. Throughout my time in college, I moved around a lot to different campuses my university had to offer. I’d been to this campus and studied here during my freshman year, but this time, I didn’t feel the same. Many friends had graduated. Many friends had cut me off. Quite a few were in relationships, studying abroad, or had to take time off for personal reasons.
Unfortunately for me, I’d lost the majority of my support system. However, there were about two go-to people I could count on—genuine people that brought me food, and gave me shelter during my worst health scares.
I thought I’d found love in this city, but I really just ended up cursing myself for thinking so irrationally. On a September night, my heart was full as I walked down the humid main road with a boy I was willing to give my all too. We were both sweaty, but we didn’t care. We’d just had a “date” to the movies, which in my mind solidified it all. He gave me his jacket. We shared popcorn. He walked me home. It was something out of an eighties movie. But come to find out, during winter break, there was another girl the whole time.
Besides a broken heart, I was physically in pieces. A chronic health condition was beginning to loom that affected my skin (psoriasis), and it was virtually impossible to hide. I felt ugly all of the time. My skin was bruised and discolored with hyperpigmentation. At one point, wearing soft clothing items like hoodies caused too much pain, because my skin was split open. No amount of makeup could cover the scars my intense psoriasis flares would leave behind. I’d compare myself to the girls most guys would go for. I didn’t fit the mold. How could anyone love someone with a skin condition and arthritis? I was no one’s type.
On top of this, I was working long hours at a job, handling chemicals, and basically inhaling toxins that inflamed my skin. I was on the brink of letting it all go, often making multiple suicide plans, and hating myself for the smallest things.
So as I returned to the place I thought I could leave behind, I realized that healing isn’t linear—especially when there’s so much trauma that’s left behind there. While I hope I never have to experience any of the things that happened to me there ever again, I know it’s a place I can’t avoid, because my friends are there. And my friends matter the most to me, no matter where I am. The trauma I experienced there doesn’t define me, but it shapes me. I’m grateful for those who stuck by me through such a dark time. But mental health is a fishy thing in that it will convince you that you aren’t worth the time of day.