I feel like I'm just exaggerating

Sometimes I feel like I’ve just exaggerated all the trauma I’ve been through. Today, my boyfriend told me why gunshots are a trigger for him. I don’t want to specify because it’s not my place to share that with anyone, but let’s just say, it was really bad, and his life was in danger. Honestly even just hearing that that had happened to him, I started crying. That really must have been so scary to go through, but I’m over here, and I don’t even remember any of my trauma.

I know that I’m not really supposed to, and that’s why I have DID, but it just makes me feel like I’m just exaggerating everything. Sometimes, I can’t tell which of my memories are real and which are just dreams. I remember being left on the side of the road at night when I was very young, but I can’t tell if that actually happened, or if I just thought it happened. I can remember my dad putting his hands around my neck in a “joking way” which scared me, but I don’t know if he actually did that or if I just THOUGHT he did it.

And If I don’t know what’s real and what’s not, how am I supposed to know if I’m just exaggerating everything that happened? What if it really wasn’t as bad as I think it is? No one else was there it was just… my mother’s boyfriend who I don’t think any of us have contact with anymore and my biological mother who I barely have any contact with. No one… knows what was going on in there so how can I tell if it was really bad or if it was just normal? I know that train of thought is entirely irrational, because I’ve had several people tell me how bad it was, but I just don’t know if it was as bad as I think it is.

I don’t want to act like it was worse than it was. But I don’t even know how bad it was. I don’t even know what was real or not. I don’t know what happened at all. That’s one of the scariest parts is that I don’t KNOW. It’s being scared of people coming into your room at night but having no idea why that’s so scary. It’s being paranoid of every single sound in your house and constantly on edge but having no reason to be scared like that. I feel like not knowing is worse than knowing. I’d rather have all the memories of what happened instead of being left with random triggers that I don’t know why I have.

And another thing is that it only bothers me now. For most of my life, my trauma had been entirely irrelevant to me. I knew that it happened, but it never bothered me at all. But now I just keep thinking about it and I just keep having these moments where I feel like I’m back there. It’s so scary because it’s not a flashback. I’m not having a memory replay, It’s just sensations. Just feeling like I’m back there again. Like I need to be scared again. Like I need to hide and run away again or prepare to get hurt in some way. I don’t even know how to deal with this because no one ever taught me how to deal with trauma. Everyone treated it like it was irrelevant but now that it’s bothering me again I don’t know what to do.

It doesn’t help that my parents act like any time I say it’s bothering me they act like I’m blaming them. My parents aren’t exactly exempt from adding to the trauma. I used to and still do have to come home every day and put on the most chipper voice I can and ask my dad “hi! How are you!” and judge his emotional state based on his tone. They recently started being nice to me which… made me confused. I was so used to being scared of them, that when they were being nice, I honestly didn’t know how to react. But because of how they’ve treated my mental health in the past, like it’s irrelevant or like I’m making it up, I can’t even talk to my therapist about it now. I’m so scared of telling anyone my problems now because of how they’ve been treated in the past.

I don’t know at this point. I feel like I’m exaggerating everything and I don’t know how to handle this and it’s just… not fun.

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Hey @TheRats I’m sorry that you’re feeling like this, I know how hard it is to feel this way. I know it’s a hard thing to realize but sometimes our brains like to downplay our trauma, especially when we learn what other people have been through/deal with. When that happens it’s kind of a way of our brain wanting to protect us by saying “Oh it wasn’t that bad, this person had it worse” to basically cover up the mental and emotional, or even physical, damage that we now live with, it’s really strange, I know. Just remember that everyone’s brain processes things differently and just because someone might’ve “had it worse” doesn’t mean that what you went through is any less traumatic or damaging to you. If the therapist you have right now makes you feel like you can’t talk to them about how you’re feeling I highly reccomend asking for a different therapist, because sometimes that change is necessary. I wish you the best of luck with moving forward from this. You mean the absolute world to me, hold fast my friend.

So I do not have DID however I do understand worrying about exaggerating your trauma. My mom has basically invalidated me my whole life of my feelings & emotions. So when I get depressed, anxious or even if I have self harm struggles I cant help but think " am I actually depressed?" " I probably am just doing this for attention. Nothing is actually wrong with me" When that so obviously is not the case. Just because someone may have " worse: trauma experiences than you does NOT mean yours are invalid or do not matter. Your trauma and pain are real. Its valid. Its okay to have those feelings and emotions. Don’t worry you aren’t the only one who feels that way. Hold fast friend, you are loved.

Hey @TheRats,

Thank you so much for sharing this. It’s totally normal to feel how you feel. You’re not crazy. You’re not exaggerating. You are missing a part of yourself that would help you, if you had precise memories, to make sense of how you feel in the present time. Like a missing piece of a giant puzzle. Until you find it, you can feel incomplete and, as you said, like a fraud somehow.

I don’t have DID, but I had my share of traumas in this life. I struggle with complex ptsd and I’ve felt like you many, many times - still does sometimes. I believe sometimes it’s even just a way to gaslight myself and to keep being in denial regarding what happened to me, which is normal: it is hard to integrate and accept the fact that horrible things happened to us. The hardest time for me was when I started to remember abuses at home when I grew up, but in a very vague way. I felt like I was going to be crazy, and devastated at the same time because it just felt very very real. It was like an evidence and at the same time the total devastation of my life as I saw it until that moment. It felt like my life as a lie. And EVEN after those first memories coming back, it took me more than a decade to finally accept that, yes, I was a victim of child abuse. Although I was “lucky” enough because my sister have been through the same, so I had the confirmation of how I felt after talking to her, which took a lot of time, but still it felt like a relief. It’s a way to feel validated, indeed.

But does not remembering what you’ve been through something that would invalidate the reality of your trauma? Is it something that would make you exaggerating? No and no. The way our mind and body react in face of trauma is just very, very complex.

First off, trauma is subjective, and no one has the right to compare people’s traumas. What could be traumatic for you can be very different for someone else, because every human being is just different and has a different story. If you were in a car accident and you’d show signs of PTSD after it, yet the passenger who was next to you don’t struggle with PTSD, that wouldn’t mean you’d be exaggerating. It’s just that people react differently. Both are okay. Both are valid.

When we try to make sense of our traumas, of our stories, it can be also tempting to minimize and, somehow, put the blame on us. We wonder: was it THAT bad? Am I not just being dramatic? For me, it was to the point of being able to hear about child abuse without ever feeling touched or personally concerned. I would feel sad for people who are victim of it and be like: “poor them”, as if I never experienced that myself. Now I’m on the opposite side of it: put me in front of a movie with a scene that implies child abuse and I’ll cry for days. Both reactions make sense. It’s just an evolution in the way I’ve experienced and understood my own traumas. And that is 100% valid.

For each of those reactions, it’s the reflection of how much I’ve learned and understood from what happened to me, which can be very different from one person to another. Like, I could still be living in denial today and not remembering anything. I could still feel super weird, like something is 100% wrong with ME, while it was part of my story, because I wouldn’t have any memory of what happened. I’m unable to tell you why I started to remember, but I did. And… at the moment I wish I didn’t. Sometimes I still wish I didn’t. But that’s part of things we can’t control, things we can’t force, which is why it’s so important to be gentle with ourselves, but also patient while we’re dealing with painful memories.

How you feel today is still the product of your own story, whether you remember details or not. If your memory is fragmented, it is still a way for your mind to protect you, just like DID but you know that already. It’s frustrating because it’s beyond our control, but memory isn’t all about visual memories. You said it yourself: you remember sensations. You also have a physical memory of what happened. Your body is a vector of your story too. As human beings we’re not necessarily aware of how it works or how to listen to how we feel, physically, but it still something you can learn, at your own pace, and with the help of a therapist (preferably informed and trained to support people with complex traumas).

For me, having very precise and visual memories is rare. Most of my old memories are fragmented. Sometimes it’s a sound, or even the intuitive knowledge of what happened at that moment. It’s not like watching a movie to me. It’s a lot more intuitive and deep. The way flashbacks are depicted in movies are, to me, romanticized. Sometimes even online, when I hear about someone saying “I had a flashback” and they describe a precise memory, I can’t help but thinking: that’s not how it works for me. And that’s why it’s disturbing to deal with flashbacks: it’s not always specific and it doesn’t always make sense. It can be a sudden feeling that makes you feel disconnected and you don’t know why you feel that way because there doesn’t seem to be any objective reason, then it sticks with you for days, or weeks. Triggered memories can be 100% emotional because our body holds a specific memory of what happened too.

I’d encourage you, if you can, to talk to your therapist about traumas and how it works, but also how to approach it, maybe, in a way that would be a little more focused on what’s going on in your body. It’s a different way to be in tune with your story, with yourself. Having no precise or visual memory doesn’t invalidate that, it doesn’t invalidate your traumas, and it certainly doesn’t invalidate you.

Be gentle with yourself, friend. You’re not irrelevant. Your feelings, your emotions, will never be irrelevant.

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