I sat with a small group of friends from church and did a growth activity. We sat in a circle and said one specific, positive thing about the person across from us. I was maybe 20 years old. The guy across from me was around the same age. He had shaggy hair, hemp bracelets, and ragged clothes. When he was instructed to say something about me, he said, “You always gotta be doing something.” He said it complimentary. At the time, I thought it was just because I liked to stay busy, so I never really had difficulty with laziness. It was a nice compliment. I also gave people rides a lot. Like a lot. In areas that were completely out of my way. I spent a lot of time in my car. At the time, that did not phase me much because I also slept in it and brushed my teeth in it at times, spitting out the window when I swished my mouth with water from my water bottle. I was in college at the time. Years later, one of my professors wrote me a beautiful letter of recommendation to enter graduate school. Regarding my time with her in school, she said, “Megan never missed a deadline, even after her family suffered a traumatic house fire.” It was another nice compliment. It was true; I never missed a deadline.
My circumstances following that fire were not good. I had no safety, no home. On one hand, it seemed I handled it well. My friends and teachers at the time may have been convinced of my strength. Maybe I was strong in a way. I could have used drugs or alcohol. I am thankful I did not. But I still became extremely busy, leaving little room to process any grieving emotions, resulting in frequent panic attacks. I also became intensely focused on the control I had over myself. This was because I felt I had little control over the world around me. I became very trustworthy, but I trusted nothing and no one else. It was not till years later when I had postpartum depression and I lost control of my very self that I realized how I had been coping. When I could not use my coping mechanism anymore, I had to truly grieve and understand my losses. I had to come face-to-face with the impact that trauma had on my life.
Now that I am in graduate school, I must do a lot of self-reflection. Becoming a mental health professional requires a ton of that. It is important that counselors understand their own “junk” if they expect to walk through anyone else’s with theirs. I never grew up as an overachiever. I was an average student. I spent plenty of lazy summers binge watching TV. I skipped school from time to time. I did fine. I never bent over backwards for much. It was the trauma that changed me. In many ways, I still forget to take breaks. I still forget that my emotions matter. The difference now is that I know I am like this. I take small steps to make room for emotions. I give myself meditative, quiet periods to check in with myself. I give myself grace because I experienced trauma. And I always try to make room for grief, so it does not come in an unknowing disguise.