My therapist once introduced me to an interesting concept when we were discussing the ebbs and flows of my mental health. I actually think it came up because we were discussing my birthday and how I felt absolutely no excitement despite being in a completely new situation now.
In my abusive relationship, my birthday was always a dangerous day for me, as I’m sure it is for many victims. I learned over the years to protect myself around that time, and by that I mean carefully guarding my emotions, my actions, my responses, etc.
Safety meant playing the game that he set up and letting him win regardless of how degrading, disappointing or devastating that might be for me.
I was about to have my second birthday since becoming free of that relationship, and I was still feeling all those feelings just as strongly as if I were still there.
My therapist suggested that I might be in a seasonal cycle. Every year I had been abused at that time so every year those feelings would return like the hands of a clock always returning to 12, even though rationally I knew I was safe now.
The concept made perfect sense to me.
Why am I talking about this now when my birthday was in June?
Well, back in June I spent some time thinking about this idea of trauma having seasons and I wondered if I could trace any other significant timelines.
What stuck with me really was this deep seated knowledge that sometimes my ability to keep on top of my mental health and regulate myself is significantly better than others, almost seasonally.
I devoted some time to thinking up a timeline of the most significant traumatic events in my life and made a mental note to watch how I coped with my mental health around those times.
Here we are, in November.
In November 2009, when I was eighteen-years-old, I lost my mother and my younger sister the very same week that I found out I was pregnant with my abusers baby. All huge, life-changing events layered across each other like a poorly constructed Jenga tower.
I knew that November would be the one to watch.
I can feel it boiling there just beneath the surface. Being aware of it doesn’t seem to rid it of any potency either, which is interesting. Perhaps in the same way a person with a phobia can completely rationalise that the fear is irrational – the knowing doesn’t help.
Awareness does at least give me the reprieve of understanding. Maybe I don’t have the tools yet to stop myself feeling and reacting like this, but I can point it out and I can name it when it rears its ugly head.
If I have a particularly rough day with the kids this week, and I’m not controlling my temper very well, for example, I can almost see the vein of poison beneath my skin, thirteen years worth of angst and unresolved trauma fighting to be seen.
The journey to healing is a long one and it is unrelenting. Do any of you, my dear followers, recognise a seasonal pattern to your mental health? Have you ever lined it up with your trauma timeline?
Tell me your thoughts below!