We are under a cold advisory right now, which I thought made a great metaphor for how we process and talk about trauma.
If you’ve spent any amount of time in the American Midwest between November and March, you’ve heard our sacred motto: “The cold wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the wind.” Sometimes this is just a lie to make ourselves feel better about our long, frigid winters – as I am typing this, the air temperature outside is -3 (Fahrenheit) with a wind chill of -15. Personally, I feel like that is still pretty cold even without the wind!
Other times, though, it rings true. The wind chill might drop the temperature from a not-fantastic-but-tolerable mid-30s day into the single-digits. It really wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the wind! But the fact is, the wind is there, making the weather intolerable.
You have probably downplayed other things in your life like we Midwesterners downplay our weather. “It wasn’t so bad,” “Someone else had it worse,” “At least I didn’t _____,” however you say it to yourself, downplaying your experience to seem better than it was does not change the fact of what happened and how it impacted you.
Sometimes, it’s okay to just admit that the weather kind of sucks right now, and I wish it would change. Sometimes, it’s okay to sit with the knowledge that something was awful and had a big effect on you.
Wind chill also brings to mind how the way we perceive things can be so subjective, especially surrounding trauma. Many victims share that, when they reach out for support, they are met with people telling them that their experience is not as bad as they perceive it to be. How is that helpful? What does it change to tell me that the temperature isn’t actually as cold as it feels on my skin, it’s just the wind making me perceive it as worse than it is?
It’s valid to say the cold bothers you, even if there is a wind chill, even if it could be worse, even if it’s colder in Minnesota. Your perspective is valid, and you do not have to meet some threshold of discomfort or suffering to earn support.
I hope you are somewhere warm and safe right now.