Trauma & Recovery: What Recovery Looks Like

July 2, 2023

It’s not surprising that the harsh and unforgiving nature of trauma makes recovery difficult. We’ve already talked about how individuals can go about recovery from trauma, but what does that actually look like?

Unsurprisingly, the process of recovery, convalescence, or healing—whatever you want to call it—looks and feels different for everyone. The ease or difficulty of the process often depends on the severity of the trauma, the person’s willingness to work for recovery, and their access to resources that assist in the healing process. Other influences include the person’s support system, other mental illnesses that may or may not be associated with the trauma, and exposure to triggers.

This last one is often what makes trauma recovery so difficult. A traumatized person is almost always going to experience triggers and reminders of their trauma, and while these lessen with time, they don’t always get easier to deal with. Triggers vary based on the type of trauma and can be anything from a scent, to a place, to a gesture, and anything in between; unfortunately, they often can’t be predicted, particularly when the trigger is something another person might do (like squeeze tightly during a hug) or something that’s commonly done or said (like a slur word). 

With that in mind, recovery often comes in stops and starts. For example, someone who was abused at the hands of a lover might seem fully recovered once enough time has passed, but fall back into old habits and bad memories when they meet someone that reminds them of their abuser. Another example might be someone who was in a car wreck who has since learned to be comfortable with driving again, but after seeing a wreck on the highway is forced once again to abandon the wheel. 

Recovery can also be dependent on the environment in which a person attempts to get better. It’s really hard to heal from something when you’re still in it—said another way, healing happens when you leave the place or person that hurt you. Otherwise, the process will be stifled or snuffed out repeatedly. This can leave the person in a worse state than before, convincing them that they’re not capable of recovery at all—so healing in the right space is important.

Healing from anything is hard; healing from trauma is harder. The habits that trauma enforces can feel impossible to break; it often takes years for this to happen, even with therapy. The important thing to remember when going through this process is that a) you’re doing the right thing, and b) you will get there eventually. Pain is never eternal; traumas and triggers can fade. Recovery is real, and while it may not always feel attainable, it does come for many with time, space, and effort. If you have the perseverance and patience to endure it, recovery can be reached.

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