People often try to understand what trauma looks like, what trauma healing looks like. It’s a lot of things. It’s messy. It’s fun. Some days it’s hard, scary, and it hurts. It’s complicated. Sometimes I just want to escape it, bury it, act like it never happened. Sometimes I want to sit with it and remember how strong I had to be to survive.
I remember one time, when I was living in a safe house, I was having a really hard time. I missed my old life. I didn’t miss the people, but I needed to remember how strong I was then. I went to the pantry, grabbed ramen noodles, and started eating them out of the cup raw. One of the staff members approached me and said, “C, what are you doing?” I told her I was eating dinner and when she pointed out that they weren’t cooked, I told her I wanted a meal from my old life. She told me to hang on and went and got a cup too. She sat with me, both of us eating raw ramen noodles, and asked me to tell her about that part of my life. As I told her, I cried and she listened. It was messy, but she listened to me. I told her about how my trafficker used to punish us by not giving us food, so we learned to sneak food to each other. At first, the food was nasty, but I grew to like it. It was a reminder that I had friends looking out for me.
The safe house staff member is what being trauma-informed looks like. And this is what living a trauma-informed life looks like. It’s not always knowing the statistics, it’s not always about being educated about trafficking. Sometimes it is sitting with us, eating raw ramen noodles, while we remember how strong we had to be, while we gather strength for tomorrow. We don’t need you to have all the answers or to have a solution to our pain. Sometimes we just need you to sit with us.
Trauma doesn’t heal quickly. Some things you never really heal. Trauma is so much more than just one act of abuse or neglect, it’s about surviving every single day that comes after. Trauma-informed is so much more than knowing what trauma is. It’s about meeting survivors where they are, getting your hands dirty. Those who are lucky enough to enter the lives of survivors (because we don’t let everyone in) must be willing to listen and not give up. We survivors didn’t give up. We couldn’t.