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Uncomfortable with Being Called a “Trauma Survivor”

Since I have dissociative identity disorder, people assume I’ve survived severe childhood trauma. But the mind doesn’t always follow the same patterns. The traumatic years of my life were young adulthood. I developed dissociative problems as a young adult.

Still I struggle with calling events of those years “trauma.” I don’t like seeing myself as wounded. I see my own gritty determination to overcome obstacles. I don’t want to admit I’ve been hurt.

Other words are bandied about. People call a few of my past relationships “abusive.” There are incidents they sometimes name “assault” and others manipulation. I squirm uncomfortably under these terms.

I had an intake with a new counselor Thursday. I had to fill out a paper listing the “trauma” I’ve experienced. When my future counselor read through the list, she watched me carefully as she asked about each piece.

She named a few items on the list. I quickly tried to redirect, telling her that those things don’t matter.

She watched me carefully, replied, “You’re being avoidant. I think these things contribute to your anxiety. I think we need to talk about them.”

After I left her office, I found myself falling into a black void. I was floating in darkness, treading air, reaching for a foothold. There was none.

In the last several days I keep stepping off a cliff and falling back into the void, into these intense memories I would rather not explore.

You could call them trauma or abuse. For me they are the contents behind a door I’d rather not open.

I walk along my path. Suddenly a new memory clouds my vision. I trip and fall back into the void.

Thoughts swirl around me. I’m too emotional. These memories shouldn’t traumatize me. I’m too fragile. Why can’t I just move on?

I wonder… is it normal for a person to be upset by these types of things?

I play events over in my head. Was that my fault? Two former counselors blamed me.

I wonder, is it acceptable for me to be this upset over things that happened years ago? Other people are more resilient. With my mental illnesses my mind is vulnerable to hurts.

My former supervisor refers to me as a “trauma survivor” though I don’t remember claiming that name. I don’t want to admit that I’ve been hurt. I’m don’t want to admit that I allowed others to hurt me. I want to be the strong one. I want to be resilient. I don’t want to be a victim, to be imperfect and wounded.

I watch video clips in my head of past events. I’m overreacting. Things weren’t that bad.

But then why do the memories dance around in my head? Why do remembered phrases repeat again, and again, stabbing the inside of my skull? Why do I keep falling off the cliff?

I watch the replay videos more closely, trying to find the answers and meaning. Meanings elude me. I want to talk to my new counselor about the contents of the void, but I’m afraid she’ll blame me like my former counselors did.

I wonder if it is even helpful to examine these memories. Sometimes it’s best to leave a door closed and stay in the present.

I take a deep breath, gather my strength, and swim through the void. I dig my fingernails into the side of the cliff and climb out. I stand at the edge of the cliff. I resolve to be stronger this time.


Image by Nour C. at

Uncomfortable with Being Called a “Trauma Survivor”

Anna Lente

I am currently getting my master's in clinical mental health counseling. I have bipolar disorder, a dissociative disorder, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. I am a writer, poet, and artist. I like to write online about my experience of mental illness in order to raise awareness and break stigma.

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APA Reference
Lente, A. (2018). Uncomfortable with Being Called a “Trauma Survivor”. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 May 2018
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