It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better: Trauma Cannot Be Ignored

Kristance Harlow
Sep 27, 2018 · 3 min read
Photo by Максим Лунгу on Unsplash

One thing about trauma in PTSD is that it starts to show itself when you’re safe(r than before). Our brains are working on overdrive trying to protect us and to handle all the threats and to keep us alive after the earth shattering trauma(s) we lived through. We feel scared because we know how bad things can get. We feel anxious because we don’t ever want to experience what we had to endure in the past.

That’s why when we are finally safe, some of the worst of the traumatic remembering pops up. Our brains are trying to push us to process it. “Hey, so…looks like we’re in a safer spot today, might be time to start sorting through those trauma files that are taking up a lot of space in the present memory storage room.”

I’m still learning more things about my traumas all the time. I’ve been in therapy consistently (once or twice a week) for four years, been going to a psychiatrist for a little less time than that, and been attending a 12 Step program for the last 3 and a half years. I can tell you, that for me, things got so much worse before they got better. They got worse in my head after things in my life had leveled out. The worst year of my life, that I can remember, was January 2012-January 2013. I call it the hell year or the year of trauma. I have traumas from long before that, but that year broke the camel’s back.

My dad passed away suddenly, my mom gave up the house, I was living across the ocean with an abusive boyfriend who just got more abusive when my dad died, and then when I escaped him about 11 months after my dad died, I moved back to the US to live with my dad’s brother and his family. A month later, that house burnt down and I almost didn’t make it out, I was positive I was going to die in there.

My now husband is the person who saved my life that day in the fire, and he is a kind and caring and healthy person. His entire family is genuinely full of love and goodness. He’s from Argentina, so I moved there after 8 months to be with him. I mean this family is amazing and so is he.

They were so safe that my traumas were exploding out and I fell deep and fast into serious alcoholism. I was self-harming, I was suicidal, I was losing my grip on reality. I know now that my “losing my mind” was actually just my traumas screaming at me because they were not processed. They were taking up space in the wrong part of my brain. It’s a long and slow process to heal, but holy fuck is it worth it.

My life is very different than it was just four years ago, and it is an entirely foreign experience when compared to 2012. My life today is good, I am content, I can cope. I still have CPTSD and PTSD and MDD, but I now have some really effective coping skills that help me manage those things and they’re more of something I live with than something that controls me. I just had a flashback a week and a half ago. I was triggered tonight and started stuttering. It happens all the time. Some of the symptoms I experience now I didn’t used to have, I’d rather these symptoms than the darkness which consumed me before.

It got worse before it got better, and now I feel more emotionally stable than I have my entire life. It isn’t easy, I know that. I just want you to hear from someone who has been there, that it can get better.

Originally published at on September 27, 2018.

Kristance Harlow

Written by

Writing and researching about the aftermath of traumatic experiences, and what can be done to support survivors and prevent further victimization. #ptsd

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