National Trauma Awareness Month - A Story About Nail Clippers

Affiliate links are used in this post. You can read my full disclosure here.

May is National Trauma Awareness Month and May 18 is National Trauma Survivor Day. I want to share a personal story of my own childhood trauma and how it resurfaced in my adult life.

See these nail clippers

To be honest, I'm not sure if these nail clippers were the ones we had the time this incident happened as since then we have gotten another pair, so now we have two. I may have taken a photo of the wrong ones, but it is the story behind them that's important.

My husband mentioned at one point that his nail clippers were his "favorite." As a couple, we both naturally began using them to trim our nails.

I don't remember the exact date but it was sometime after we were married, living in our first home, before I became pregnant, and before therapy, so in my younger twenties.

One day when I was using his "favorite" nail clippers, they just fell apart. I panicked.

My inner child wanted to throw them in the trash, and if he asked later, just lie and say he misplaced them. Because lying felt safer. It was better than confronting him. Because when I was a kid yelling and hitting were a result of any mistake, whether it was truly my fault or not. As a result, I learned to lie to protect myself.

The adult me reasoned with my inner child. My husband was not my parent. My husband had never verbally or physically abused me. He rarely got angry. We could buy another pair. They weren't expensive.

But the inner child (anxiety) fought back, reminding me it was his "favorite" pair. What if there's not another one like it? I broke his favorite thing and not only did I feel horrible but frightened because I had come to associate shame with punishment.

I don't remember my exact thought process but I did not throw them away. I did not lie. I set them on his dresser. I don't remember if it was the same day or another day when I finally worked up the courage and told him the nail clippers broke while I was using them.

I don't remember his exact words but he was not angry. He looked at them and then proceeded to put the clippers back together. A screw or something must have come loose and they were good as new when he finished.

I felt so ridiculous at that moment that I think I just let it go, thinking "alright then, nothing to see here!"

When I started seeing a therapist many years later, I recalled this memory, but I never brought it up in our sessions. It was more of an "a-hah" moment. A realization that my trauma had caused me to react the way I did over a pair of cheap nail clippers.

I told my husband this story at one point, probably long after the event happened. I think it is also how I found out he didn't have as strong of an attachment to them as I had internalized (which is why I put favorite in quotes) and why we eventually bought another pair of nail clippers that were similar to the ones he had (more so for me so I would not panic again should it happen as we have a spare). However, I had never emphasized how impactful that moment was for me to him until he read the draft of this post. 

He never blamed me. He never yelled. He calmly put it back together. In that incident, I realized I didn't have to resort to lies to protect myself (at least from him). I could tell him the truth and we would work through it together.

Growing up, I walked on eggshells (as my therapist put it), never knowing what might set my parent off. It's only natural that I developed anxiety and these trauma responses, such as lying. I have learned to live with my anxiety, but I still struggle. Words, actions, and incidents can still trigger me. I have done a lot of healing, but I will never be fully healed.

This one incident is an example of how childhood trauma can resurface as an adult. It is also a reminder for parents that how they react to their children when they make a mistake can impact them for the rest of their lives. 

To my husband: Thank you. You have helped me heal in so many ways without even realizing it. I love you.