Searching for Joy as a Trauma Survivor

Joy, it’s an emotion I’ve always found elusive. I’ve understood the fundamentals of joy and what it is supposed to mean; the feelings of great pleasure, and what it is intended to bring to my life. But joy always seemed too grand for me, bigger and deeper than the feelings of happiness or being content, joy seemed limitless, a moment where one could truly be elated and exhilarated for a moment in time.

The thought of that, the letting go of control and the light-headed giddiness of joy have terrified me.

I am, and have been for most of my life someone who seeks control. A byproduct of childhood abuse and ongoing trauma has found me seeking control more than the thrill of joy. Control is dependable, steady, and rooted in the ground, at times in a stubborn stoic way.

Control doesn’t allow room for freedom.

Over the years as I’ve begun to unpack my lived experience, and gained a deeper understanding of what my need for control has denied me, I’ve realised that joy is deeply missing in my life. Yes, I have experienced other positive emotions such as love, happiness and excitement, but the purity of joy has escaped me.

Last year I tried to hack my way to joy. I actively filled my schedule by spending time with people and doing activities that I thought would be the key to unlocking the joy missing in my life. I tried new things, many of which took me way outside of my comfort zone. I said yes to many things I normally would have shied away from and I met many incredible people who have gone on to be wonderful new friends.

However, after a year I still didn’t feel that I had found or experienced joy in its fullest truest form.

Upon reflection, it has dawned on me that joy is a state of being when we feel free. Freedom is another feeling that I have always sought out. Though I have made many changes over the past few years to change my circumstances, establishing important boundaries and journeying through some difficult days of healing, freedom is still a work in progress.

The trauma I carry in my body will be with me forever, and I simply cannot be free of it. It is knitted into my DNA and the weight of it even on my best days is heavy.

We are in a world today that has us questioning our freedom and safety daily. This constant reminder of our fragility is exhausting. And the connection between our restricted freedom and the lack of joy is felt by many of us.

But I refuse to relent in my pursuit of joy. I have committed to laying the groundwork for my freedom, nurturing safe spaces and forging connections that nourish my soul. I will embrace both the grand and the mundane, recognising that joy resides in moments both big and small.

In my quest for joy, I’ve discovered that it’s not merely an emotion to be chased but a state of being to be cultivated. It requires a shift in perspective, a willingness to release the grip of control and surrender to the flow of life. It’s about finding joy in the journey, amidst the ups and downs, the triumphs and setbacks.

As I continue on this journey, I find solace in the realisation that joy is not a destination but a companion, walking beside me as I move with my trauma. It’s in the laughter shared with loved ones, the beauty of a sunrise, the simple pleasures that light up the everyday.

And so, I press on, fueled by hope and a newfound sense of purpose and resilience. I remind myself that joy is not a fleeting moment but a guiding force, and if I allow myself to let go, it can illuminate the path ahead. In moments of doubt or despair, I hold onto the hope that joy is within reach, waiting to be embraced.

In a world fraught with uncertainty and turmoil, the pursuit of joy becomes an act of defiance, a refusal to be consumed by darkness. It’s a testament to the human spirit, and the capacity to find light even in the darkest of times.

So, I invite you to join me on this journey, to seek out moments of joy in your own life, however small or fleeting they may seem. For in the pursuit of joy, not only will we find happiness, healing, and connection but we also find freedom.


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