Travelling to Myrtle Beach in 2008 years after the first abusive workplace situation ended and recovery had finally begun, I saw a billboard about depression which said: "you'll never hear anyone say: You just have cancer, get over it."
At that point, I thought of it in vague, uninvolved, generic terms.
The workplace abuse in the second workplace, the exclusion, the isolation had already started but had yet to really impact me adversely.
I was in a relatively good place in my life at that time.
A place comprised of lots of emotions completely unrelated to trauma. A place of recovery in the journey which began in childhood with an angry parent who lashed out continually. A journey which wandered through the Riots of '70 on a university campus. A roommate who would have attacked me - if I hadn't shut and locked the door in time. Date rape. Depression. Breakdowns. Depression. Good times that didn't last. Depression
And then I found an amazing counsellor in late 2006, and we entered on an amazing journey of recovery that is still on-going.
As in all journeys, the journey of recovery has many different phases, side trips. The difference between the journey of recovery and a road trip is that there is no definite end destination. We can never fully say that we have arrived. And usually there are no photographs to mark the moment in our personal history.
In my journey, at the time I saw that sign, I was in a good place. A place where I was finally feeling comfortable in my own body.
I was naive, though. I thought that all the past junk was ... well ... in the past. And would stay that way.
What I didn't know is that new traumas, new challenges awaited ahead a me - a few turns around the bend.
Depression? In my naivety I thought it was gone - for good.
I also thought that the comment about cancer was just an advertising tool. A way to get the point across.
What I didn't realize was that some people actually feel that depression, trauma, etc. are not diseases. They are not the same as cancer. They are not fatal. They don't kill.
Until someone actually said to me last year as I was working through all the debilitating and challenging physical and emotional affects from the second abusive workplace situation: "After all, you don't have cancer."
Which brought back from the recesses of my memory, that sign.
Now I understood what it meant.
I understood the reality of how "other" people, non-traumatized people, perceive us.
Why they don't support us, walk with us.
Trauma is not a physical disease. There are no cures for it. No chemo. No radiation. No real diagnoses.
It is in the mind.
No matter that trauma can and does affect the body.
No matter that trauma can and does cause chaos in the brain - mimicking concussions or other brain injuries.
No matter that trauma leaves us alone in the midst of people.
Not because these people are not good people.
But because they simply do not understand.
Trauma is the cancer of the emotions. Left untreated it does not go away. It takes over more and more of the victim's thoughts and behaviours.
This was the situation I was thrust into when I was walked out the door from the first abusive workplace situation. I was thrust into the world of trauma. A world I had no idea that I had just entered. A world no one around me understood. We were all clueless. And because we were all clueless, support - for the most part - wasn't there. And the cancer of trauma metastasized until it almost destroyed my life.
Although this post was written during a period several years after the first abusive workplace situation during the period of recovery, I feel it is important to include it as a foundational block on what trauma is and how things degenerated badly during this eighteen month period between being walked out the door and finding a competent therapist who understood trauma and was willing to walk with me and provide a safe place for me to work through all the emotions which were assaulting me.