Trauma comes in many different guises. There is the physical trauma of al car accident; broken bones, whiplash, cuts and bruises.
There is the emotional trauma of losing a loved one, or of a relationship breakdown; anguish, pain, regret, despair, loneliness and self chastisement for not saying “I love you,” enough.
There is the existential trauma that may arrive when all you believe in is shown to be a lie.
And then there is the trauma of living with a mental illness every day for the rest of your life, dealing with the stigma attached to it, and assuring your friends and family that you are not, in fact, manic, you’re just energetic and enthusiastic in general, with a bipolar tag from a shrink giving them cause for concern when there is none.
Since falling from a ten metre height in February, 2012, I’ve experienced most if not all, of these traumas. If I were to list them in chronological order it would read as such:
1) Fell off a 10 metre balcony in February 2012. Broke 11 ribs, 4 vertebrae, punctured my lung and kidney, sustained a frontal lobe brain injury.
2) Checked out of hospital 3 days later, unaware of the fact I had a brain injury and that I had undergone significant personality changes due to damaged neural pathways.
3) Knocked off my motorbike and spent the night in hospital under general anaesthetic to clean a serious cut on my knee and close the wound with 40 stitches in May 2012
4) Contract for new permanent role terminated at the end of my 3 month probation due to inappropriate communication and interaction with colleagues and management. June 2012.
5) Arrested for drunk and disorderly behaviour in London during The Olympics. July 2012
6) Sacked from a new role with my previous employer twice in a month. They took me back the first time as I had just discovered I had a brain injury. The Director agreed to meet with my brain injury rehab specialist, who explained what the injury meant and convinced them I would recover quicker if I were employed. They agreed to take me back after the first sacking. And then sacked me again in November 2012.
7) Became a Stonemason for 6 months on advice from specialist that physical labour was ok. Resigned as my anxiety was becoming uncontrollable. January – June 2014
8) Went back to my previous career in recruitment for 6 months, until I became suicidal, resigned and checked myself into a hospital for two weeks. July 2013 – February 2014
9) Told by my wife that she isn’t in love with me and shall never be again, and she insisted on a seperation.
10) Despite repeated marriage counselling sessions, my wife does NOT want to get back together, but rather, work out how best to raise our children seperately for the rest of our lives.
Now it could be said that all of the above is enough to break a man, however, I genuinely believe that I am a much better man as a result of all this trauma.
I am far more compassionate to people with disabilities, I am cognisant of the relative ease with which one can sustain a life altering brain injury, I am more patient, kind and accepting of other people’s idiosyncrasies, and I know now that the true value of a man’s life is not measured by how much money he earns, rather, it is imeasured by how many friends count on him, and how often they call for his sage advice. Finally, it can be measured byn the bonds you build with all those in your community, friend or foe.
So then, do I just need to go through some trauma to learn how to be a better man? I hear you ask. Fair question, and the answer is no. It is possible to learn all these lessons over several years by meditating, reading, paying attention to the challenges your friends face and how they overcome them, and by being 100% committed to change.
But of all the people I know who seem most wise despite their age, have suffered significant trauma. Think of Nick Vujicic, born without arms and legs, yet so.positive he has manifested a destiny most would have thought impossible. H is a globally sought after motivational speaker, successful beyond his wildest dreams, and married to an amazing, attractive, intelligent woman.
Think of Dr Gill Hicks. She lost both of her legs and very nearly her life in the London bombings. And yet now, she has founded M.A.D. For Peace, an amazing organisation which advocates for peace globally through cells based on the Al Quieda model. Check it our here:
And think of Nelson Mandela, arrested and jailed for 27 years for his beliefs, and yet he was able to become South Africa’s first African president, and change the trajectory of its political system significantly.
What differentiates these people from others who have suffered similar trauma and achieves nothing of real note, is that they have several attributes which are essential to grow personally through trauma:
1) They believe everything happens for a reason.
2) They are committed to achieving the best possible outcomes in their life, despite having been through such trauma. It’s in the past, don’t dwell on it, learn from it.
3) They live in hope that, because of the trauma they have experienced, they can use what they have learned to make the world a better place.
4) They don’t make excuses or blame others for what has happened to them. They are accepting of the random nature of life, and accept what has happened as nothing more than part of their journey in life.
5) They are survivors. They choose to live no grow, rather than die with bitterness in their hearts.
So IF you were unlucky enough to be in a serious accident, and IF you were to live to tell the story, and IF you are in possession of all the attributes listed above, then yes, you WOULD grow through trauma. You would become a better man. You would go on to bigger and better things. You would be capable of still living the life of your dreams.
For, as stated in Marianne Williamson’s poem, “Our Greatest Fear” which has also been quoted in most motivational clips on YouTube and in several movies:
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other
people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.