Dear 12th grade me (and any other senior who is about to graduate with unresolved trauma),
You are almost there. You made it!
It feels like a fantastic celebration of independence. You are on your own, finally! You get to do whatever you want, whenever you want, and however you want, or so it seems.
You graduated high school in the top ten and now swim in an ocean of overachievers. You feel lost. You can’t find your footing and want to come up for just a little air.
You sink again.
You show up early for your 101 class to get a good seat. You are #180, sitting among many. Unknown. Don’t bother raising your hand. Not that you have a voice to dare speak in front of that many people.
Trauma makes it hard to speak up and use your voice. Would anyone listen? What would you say to them?
Now that you have been thrust into a new environment, you know you are different. Something is wrong. Everything is wrong. With you.
Are you homesick? Maybe. This doesn’t feel like home, either. What is home?
Maybe your heart longs for the answer to that question. That answer will change everything.
The pain is immense, and now you are free to numb it several times a week. A fake ID, drinks, and dancing are a cocktail of relief. This cocktail is extremely dangerous when mixed with dissociation and no voice.
Thankfully, AJ#3 (the taxi driver) and your roommate pick you up and bring you home more than once from random places.
Boundaries? Who knows? There are no straight lines, and everything is blurry. Why would you say no? Is that really a thing?
Things are bad. You try seeing a counselor. You started a telemarketing job to pay for the counseling. You try to use your voice and open up to her. She writes a letter for you to withdraw from Organic Chemistry due to the significant stress. Your hands were shaking when you handed the letter to the professor, but you said nothing. Withdrawing from that class was a disappointing relief.
And then, the counselor abruptly left. She moved away. You didn’t want to start over or meet with anyone new. So, you held it all in.
At the Student Health Center, the nurse closes the door for privacy and stands in front of you to say, “Is there anything you want to tell me?”
You stare at her. Heart racing. You could not move or speak. She asks again, “You can tell me. What is it? I will help you.” You said you were fine, but your eyes said otherwise. You never went back, but I think she was safe. I think she would’ve helped you.
Most of it is a blur, but you made it. You graduated, and you survived by the grace of God.
Yes, you graduated from college, and you had your degree.
But you still had no voice. It was hard for you to say no. You didn’t understand boundaries. You continued to self-medicate and added carbs to your medicine cabinet. You didn’t have a safe or trusted adult in your life just yet. You were still afraid to open up to anyone.
So, you smiled. Walled up around your heart. Wore a mask. Survived. Twenty more years passed before you found healing and freedom.
STILL, I am so proud of you.
You did it. I wish you could’ve started your first year of college with better tools, resources, and a circle of safe people. I wish you knew that YOU were not awful, but what happened to you was horrific. It was not your fault. I wish you were empowered to use your voice, set boundaries, and care for yourself.
P.S. Big Hair will go out of style soon. Enjoy the meticulous teasing and hairspray while you can!
Leaving home to embark on life as a college freshman should be the happiest years of your life. For those with unresolved trauma, it can be extremely difficult. I know it was for me.
Moms: If you have a high school student dealing with unresolved trauma, there are tools and resources that you can start implementing now to make their college years enjoyable and safe.
High School Students: If you are hiding secrets or dealing with unresolved trauma, please do not wait to get help like I did. There are resources, tools, and plans that can be implemented to keep you safe and healthy before you leave for school.
If any of this resonates, please let me know if you want to learn more. I will be happy to speak at an in-person gathering of moms/daughters, or we can do it online via zoom.
Topics may include: Identity, Boundaries, Health & Safety, Professional Resources, A Circle of Safe Adults, Voice, Being an Advocate, and Q & A.
If you are interested, please reach out. You can comment or contact me here. Thank you!
For the last ten years, I’ve been writing my memoir (Journey Pink) of healing from childhood sexual abuse, and I will release it soon. You can learn more about the book by clicking here: Journey Pink. I hope you will consider joining my launch team to help me spread this message to encourage and empower survivors to heal from sexual abuse. Click here to find out more: Launch Team for Journey Pink. I appreciate your support!