Post-Traumatic Growth—For The Win!

I was today years old when I learned the term “post-traumatic growth.”

I was doing a podcast alongside a domestic violence survivor who shared the expression with me. Turns out, even the most horrific experiences can spur positive change.

In her case, she rallied from years of abuse—and went on to help women who found themselves in similar, dire situations.

While post-traumatic stress can manifest itself in various ways and often needs to be addressed, post-traumatic growth usually occurs naturally. There’s rarely a need for psychotherapy or medical intervention.

It’s almost as if the human spirit finds ways to nurture itself in the aftermath of ugliness and uncontrollable negativity. Countless articles have been written on the topic—and, trust me, I went down quite the wormhole.

For me, my post-traumatic growth happened after I nearly keeled over dead from a stroke fourteen years ago. At the time, I was completely unnerved as I struggled to regain free range of movement and temper my out-of-control emotions. As my brain re-wired itself, I spent nearly three months feeling unhinged. I would rage, cry, or laugh hysterically at the most minute, inane things.

On the day I was bounced out of the hospital, I vowed that for the next year I was only going to say yes to things. No matter what was asked of me, it was an immediate affirmative. If I was going to live life to the fullest, it started with being present and fully vested. (Believe me, I was notorious for instantaneously saying no to things.)

That small shift—from no to yes—revolutionized how I lived my life. It was my saving grace.

And it was quite the eye-opener yesterday to realize that growth can’t be forced, and it can’t be rushed. It should happen organically. The domestic abuse survivor is still healing while helping others heal. She was open and honest to a fault.

Makes perfect sense. Ask any therapist or counselor, and they’ll tell you that talking about what you are struggling with can be beneficial. Instead of perpetually being in the wake of it, you’re calming it into a ripple effect. Articulating things helps us make sense of the trauma and can turn debilitating thoughts into life-affirming reflections. Not to be cavalier, but there’s always an upside. Sometimes you just need to be mindful and look for it.

Post-traumatic growth—for the win.