If you’ve been keeping up with this series, you know that I once lived a life of should, where my life was designed around others to please them so they would love me. I left that life, thankfully, and hope everyone reading this will also let go of the should in their lives. The next six segments will cover topics that are huge, painful, and significant—big issues that kept me in an inauthentic life for four decades. The topics are so big that I will not only be writing about them— Madison Essentials, Simply Creative Productions, and I will be producing complementary video podcasts. But even with both written articles and video podcasts, we’ll still just scratch the surface of these life issues.

In our last segment, we talked about the necessity of acknowledging hurt in order to heal from it. Often this is trauma that has been buried deep inside of us. Traumatic events are those experiences that are perceived to be a threat to one’s safety or stability and can cause physical, emotional, and psychological stress or harm. Unlike physical hurt, which our body works quickly to heal, our brain tends to push emotional wounds deep down within our psyche because we lack the tools to deal with it or because of a fear to show weakness due to societal pressures.

Everyone experiences trauma—it’s part of being human—but society discourages us from talking about it. It tells us that if we admit to what happened to us, it will make us look vulnerable and weak. People have said to me, “Well, my trauma is not as bad as yours, so…” Trauma, whether big or small, is experienced in our brain in the same way. The brain doesn’t know if it’s small, just that it’s traumatic. Emotional pain can be worse than physical pain because physical pain garners more sympathy from others while emotional pain can be triggered by memories and lower self-esteem, affecting our long-term mental health.

When pain is repressed, it grows. When a person realizes that they haven’t dealt with a trauma, it can be a shocking and earth-shattering experience. For me, I wasn’t aware that I had repressed my trauma until I became so depressed that life was intolerable. I didn’t know what was causing me such deep pain. I’d be sobbing but not able to articulate why I was crying. I had two choices: end my life or find a way to deal with it. My reason for writing and sharing these things is to hopefully help others not feel like their life isn’t worth living—it so is!

I decided to see a therapist, which was a difficult thing for me to do. I had to admit that something, even though I didn’t know what, was very wrong. Of all of the turning points I have had in my life, this was one of the most important. It was the act of kindness to myself that helped me unravel my life of should so I could start living an authentic life. It took some time for me to develop trust with my therapist, and for some it may mean seeing a few different therapists to find someone that feels comfortable. I started talking about my sadness, my childhood, and my experiences. It was a safe place for me to share things with someone who wouldn’t judge me or tell me I was wrong, and who encouraged me to allow my feelings to be what they are instead of trying to figure out what they should be.

There were many issues that I hadn’t addressed, and by processing a number of things, I finally was able to face my deepest traumas. Many people have had traumas like that—things they’ve buried but still carry around and blame themselves for. For me, this toxicity ate away at my soul, robbed me of joy, and prevented me from being who I really am. My trauma impacted me in ways that I couldn’t even comprehend until I finally revealed and dealt with it.

At first, I had a hard time talking about what was wrong. I had rehearsed the story of my life and how perfect it was for so long that I found it difficult to admit that anything was wrong. I believed everything was just fine, and that my bouts of depression were coming out of nowhere. To help me unlock what was trapped inside, my therapist had me write in a journal when I was upset and couldn’t find the words to express why. I could only write about some things at first, but writing eventually gave me the courage to talk, and then hearing my myself speak allowed me to face what had been stuck. When I started talking about and processing my early trauma, I started to see how much of my life had been dictated by holding those experiences in. All of the shame of who I was had been sourced from the trauma. This triggered an outpouring of repressed feelings, as if the floodgates of my true self were open. I was able to articulate my feelings and thoughts in a way I never had before. It was difficult but miraculous. It was the most important thing to free me from my life of should.

How do you know that you have trauma that is buried? What are the signs? There are lot of symptoms of repressed trauma, which people experience in a multitude of ways, including depression, anxiety, mood swings, panic attacks, insomnia, being easily startled, and low self-esteem. Some people dull the pain with drugs, alcohol, or any number of numbing agents. If you think this is ridiculous because everyone has symptoms like these, it points to the fact that many people have experienced trauma and have not dealt with it—that it has become what many people think life is. By the way, if you’re tempted to throw this magazine across the room because all of this is rubbish, pay attention to that. Your reaction may be your defense mechanism against dealing with your pain.

If you’re feeling like you have symptoms of experienced trauma, know that it makes you normal. Many of us have gotten used to these types of symptoms as a part of normal life. They aren’t. They’re indicators that something troubling lies beneath the surface. If the idea of dealing with this overwhelms you, take a step back. You may not be ready to do the work yet or you may need to start very slowly. But no matter what, please know that there are solutions, and you don’t have to just live with trauma stealing your joy. Life is too precious and wonderful to live in sadness. You’re worthy and you’re not alone. You can heal from the bad experiences in your life—you just need to take the first step.

“Hi, my name is Sandy.”

“Hi Sandy.”

“I experienced trauma, but I’m going to be okay.”

Photograph provided by Sandy Eichel

Sandy Eichel is a happy ex-should-er.

Check out the premiere of our video podcast series with Sandy, After Should, this October at .