Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you didn't know what to say? Or maybe you knew what you should say, but you didn't quite know how to say it? You might be surrounded by people who don't talk like you or have different personalities, and you feel like a fish out of water.
I find myself in those situations often, but that is mostly due to my introverted nature.
For the women of Amirah, this is a daily experience - conversing and communicating with people who are vastly different than they are. It can be a hard thing for any of us to learn how to socialize with those who are different than us, but for a woman who has gone through significant, complex trauma, this is a wall-building exercise for her.
If she is an introvert, she will build a wall and communicate very little, if at all, to those she meets. If she is an extrovert, she will build a wall of safety around her personality and cling to the personalities of the people she meets, often mimicking them. Both of these are protection devices that have gotten her through hard situations in the past.
The hurdle before them constantly is the questions burning in their mind:
"Does this person know what happened to me?"
"Will I say something and tip them off?"
"Am I acting normal?"
This is social anxiety related to trauma, and each woman is different in how she approaches these complex situations. Our goal for every woman is that she would be able to endure a social situation, being able to communicate as her true self to the variety of humanity (from old to young, from Democrat to Republican, etc.).
We help her do this, without her knowing it, by bringing in our amazing volunteer core to serve each day. The truth is that our volunteers are practical help for us in driving women to appointments, picking them up, helping with errands and house chores or meals. The women see that in each volunteer.
The reality is that our volunteers are the active part of the social recovery for each woman. We have volunteers who are college-aged and volunteers who are wonderful grandparents. Our volunteers come from every ethnic background you can think of; they spread the economic strata - but they all come with one thing in common: to love the women and be normal in their presence.
One of the greatest joys I have had watching is seeing a woman who is deeply wounded and traumatized begin to open up socially over time to our volunteers. Not sharing her story, as this is a private matter between her and her counselor, but sharing life. Watching her converse with this person on normal things in life, hearing them learn something new, and watching as they begin to care and invest in the lives of the volunteers.
This is one of the greatest parts of their recovery, as it helps each woman to realize that she does belong, there is a place for her, that the world is open to receiving her, and she no longer needs to run and hide.
This post is a part of a series on The Goals of Whole-Person Care Recovery.