Meaning Making

Question

Does anyone else feel like you made everything up? Like it’s all fake and it never happened?

Answer

Many times after a traumatic event, our brains can feel disorganized and chaotic. "Am I remembering it wrong?" "Maybe it didn't happen like that." "Did I make that part up?" These questions are not uncommon to have. Sometimes, your brain can evoke a defense mechanism which represses your memory of the trauma, or perhaps due to the stress of the moment, you may only remember very specific details of your experience. Trauma memories are often not as coherent as regular ones. You may remember something specific like a smell, a sensation, or feeling more than the actual details of the situation itself. While this is your brain trying to protect you, it can feed your self-doubt. If you begin to doubt your experience or feel like you made everything up, run through any facts that you know are true. Where you were, what time you were there, who you were there with, etc. You can also try writing down what you remember in a journal so you can revisit it when you need to. Memories tend to fade with time, so the closer to the situation you can write things down the better. Be aware of gaslighting. Gaslighting is when someone manipulates another person to question their sanity or reality. If you notice someone is gaslighting you, identifying the problem is an important first step. Remind yourself that your feelings are valid and that you deserve to be heard and believed. You are the expert of your own experience. Memories can be seen through a new lens over time. You may not be able to remember exactly what happened or every detail of the situation, but you will remember how you felt. Honor those feelings. Harboring self-doubt can lead to self-blame or can cause you to justify what happened as if you weren't the victim of the situation. Remember no matter what the circumstances were, nothing justifies what you have experienced. Resist trying to compare your experiences to the experiences of others and recognize that no trauma narrative is cut and dry. Speak to a trusted professional or someone you love if your gut is telling you something bad happened to you in the past. You do not need to go through this alone. We see you. We hear you. We believe you.

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