The Great Divide

The Great Divide

Any major trauma will split your life into two – before and after. Everything falls away and you’re left with the reality that life as you know it is over, and everything is different now. Everything you thought you knew or could trust has been turned upside down and shaken like a snow globe. It shifts your entire world view. In my case it felt like my life was a mirror and I was watching it smash into a million little pieces. I’ve spent the last 4 years piecing it back together. Now I’m wondering why I didn’t just buy a new mirror – too bad that’s not an option!

I’ve talked a little bit about this before but I didn’t really have a name for it. Today I figured it out. It’s called The Great Divide.

I worked at a reception centre for people who had been evacuated from a fire; many escaped with just the clothes on their backs. I realized I was witnessing The Great Divide in their lives. They started talking about their homes, jobs, and even their lives in the past tense. They will always remember what they were doing when they got the evacuation order. For years to come, they will think in terms of “before the fire” and after the fire”. I could almost SEE the divide forming. For example, 9/11 – even those who weren’t physically affected by it – we all remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news. My teacher rolled out the old TV and the whole school watched it in the lunch room.

My therapist mentioned “before” in our last session and it took my breath away. I’ve been living in “after” for so long that I almost forgot about before. I have never felt the Great Divide so intensely until that point. For so long, the past and the future had disappeared, and I was just trying to get through each day without feeling like I was going to die. I focused so much energy on recovering and moving forward, and I still do. When I look back and compare what life is like now vs. then, I am usually looking back to shortly after the trauma.

Anyways, my therapist had to remind me – “Before” me was fairly active, I liked my job and was working towards a promotion, and I was almost recovered from a bad breakup. I couldn’t remember any of those details, and she talked about “before” me for what felt like hours before I started to recognize myself – “oh yeah, I guess I did like running” “right, I was very focused on monthly goals” “yeah, I did move shortly after”. She could have been talking about someone else for all I can remember.

I think about “during” and “after” a lot. I reminisce about my childhood and teenage years pretty often. But I am starting to notice there is a chunk of time missing from “before”. I think they are mostly pleasant memories, so I wonder why I can’t access them very easily. Maybe it’s too painful or sad to look back at what could have been, or how drastically my life changed overnight.

Lauren wrote a great piece about this conundrum, and I would highly recommend reading it.
Maybe the answer is coulda-woulda-shoulda – it’s in the past now, we can’t change or fix it so maybe it’s best to leave it in the rearview mirror and keep looking forward. Besides, life is pretty good now, why try to go back? What good would that do?

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Hi! I'm Elizabeth, a blogger on When You're I spent 2 years struggling with PTSD and panic attacks following a violent attack. I want to use my experience and my voice to raise support for others. I desperately want to make the world a safer place for girls and women, especially my two little sisters. Keep talking, Keep sharing. When You're Ready, I'll be here.