3 Things to Know When Processing Trauma

 Guest Post by Allie Chapa

Adobe stock photo

Adobe stock photo

The middle is a disheartening place; you don’t quite see the beginning and you definitely don’t see the end. This is how I would describe my process with mental illness and trauma right now. I’m in the foggy, muddy middle and quite honestly, most days I want to give up.

For the last year and a half I’ve been focusing on recovery from my latest episode of depression and anxiety. I have found that for me, medication and counseling are what I need during this time, even though it may not be what’s best for everyone. More specifically, I have been doing EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy, a specialized therapy that focuses on trauma. (You can learn more about EMDR therapy, here.)

Within the last five years, with the help of a counselor, I have learned that my childhood was abnormal from others. I have a loving mother who did her best raising me but unfortunately was also emotionally abusive. The pain from this has manifested in a multitude of false beliefs about myself and others—beliefs so deeply embedded in my mind that I didn’t know they were false until this past year as I’ve processed them for the first time in EMDR therapy.

This journey has been long, hard, and freeing all at the same. I have found relief that the things I believe about myself and others are completely wrong. I have found more anxiety because there are so many false and negative beliefs. I have found hope that I can believe new things. I have found frustration because truly believing those new things is really hard. I have found despair because I feel like I’ll never get past all of my trauma. I have found that I not only grow as I go through the process but I also fail—a lot.

Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

I can’t say these tips will apply to everyone because I don’t believe the journey looks the same for everyone. We’re all unique individuals, and our journeys will also be the unique. But here are some things that I’ve found help me as I get through the middle of my journey with trauma. (Note: these are all things I’m still learning to do and definitely have not mastered!)

1. Take time to take care of yourself.

The battle to replace your old belief system with a new one takes a lot of energy and can be exhausting. Make sure to be kind to yourself and do things that give you peace and bring you joy. I usually go and buy some dark chocolate after my EMDR sessions and find time to take a nap to rest.

2. Focus on one new belief at a time.

As my journey goes on, I tend to get overwhelmed and feel despair when I think of all of the new thoughts and beliefs I’m working on. Instead of trying to believe 15 new thoughts, I’m working on focusing on just one at a time. It helps me to write mine out on a large chalkboard I have and display it somewhere I can repeatedly read in my house.

3. Give yourself permission to feel pain.

This one is really hard for me. I’m learning that when it comes to trauma, there are layers and layers of pain to be dealt with. No one likes to feel pain, but I’m told that there’s no other way to get to the other side without feeling the pain.

If you are someone who has experienced trauma, I want you to know that your pain is real. I don’t want to pretend to know your kind of pain, but I do know it can hold you back for too long. Please, don’t wait to find help, because there is so much more to your life than the pain you have experienced.

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Media Resources for Times of Need

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Adobe stock photo

In my last post, I shared about my 6-year journey through depression. Through either personal experience or by walking with friends through their struggles, I've collected a list of Christian media to serve as resources during times of struggle. Feel free to add in the comments and share with others!



Grace for the Afflicted: A Clinical and Biblical Perspective on Mental Illness by Matthew Stanford, PhD

Blame It on the Brain? by Edward T Welch

Shame, Perfectionism & Belonging (which are all intertwined with anxiety & depression)

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brenê Brown, PhD, LMSW

Daring Greatly by Brenê Brown, PhD, LMSW

Rising Strong by Brenê Brown, PhD, LMSW

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

As Soon As I Fell by Kay Bruner

Abba's Child by Brennan Manning

Scary Close by Donald Miller

The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg


The Color of Grace by Bethany Haley Williams, PhD

Whole (blog) by Sarita Hartz (especially for missionaries)


Packing Light by Allison Versterfelt (Allison Fallon)

Rocky Reentry (blog for reentry)


Breathing Under Water by Richard Rohr

Coming Clean by Seth Haines


Lord, Heal My Hurts Devotional by Kay Arthur



Caveat: This is mostly from the beginning of my struggle with depression, so these are a bit out of date. Also, if you're experiencing depression please know some songs can make you sink further into hopelessness. If you start to feel this, skip to another song. :)

Shawn McDonald: Don't Give Up, Rise, Storms

Superchick: Crawl (Carry Me Through), Breathe, Hold, Stand in the Rain, Help Me Out God, Beauty from Pain, Suddenly

Gungor: Please Be My Strength

Ginny Owens: I Will Praise You

Matt Hammitt: All of Me, Let It Bring You Praise

Steffany Gretzinger: Out of Hiding

Tenth Avenue North: I Have This Hope


What's your favorite Christian media for difficult times? Got something to add? Drop it in a comment or email me!

 (*Note: links to books are affiliate links)

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