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How to Overcome the Anniversary Effect

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All Scripture references come from the King James Version of the Holy Bible (KJV)."

When you go through a traumatic situation, you may find yourself reliving that trauma regularly.  This annual trauma is known as the anniversary effect. Also known as the anniversary reaction, its a type of PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder that can happen yearly or monthly.  I’ve also heard it explained as an annual echo of a trauma.

The cause of my Anniversary Effect

I bring this topic up because I have been suffering with it for the last 7 years.  In 2011, I contracted a flesh-eating bacteria that put me in a coma for three months and threatened to end my life.  Without the amputations of both hands and both feet, I would not be alive to share my story with you on this blog.

Doctors were telling my family that I had no chance of survival.  If you’re doing the math, it’s actually been eight years since my illness, but I’ve only suffered for seven. I will get to that later. To read my entire story, hop over to my About Me page.

It was very difficult for me to rebound from my old life to my new life under my new circumstances.  Without hands, I found so many limitations, that I was struggling to be productive. My family and I created the tools and schedule that I needed to be independent while I was alone during the day.  But I limited myself. I prayed continuously for the Lord to show me what I was supposed to do with my new life, but I wasn’t feeling my prayers being answered.

I was clearly thankful for the answered prayers that I was an almost fully-functioning adult without hands.  However, I was depressed. I wasn’t depressed in a horrible way, but I wasn’t happy. I would sleep a lot and watch tv and I didn’t want to try new things because I didn’t feel capable without my hands.  That was my regular life.

However, every single year around the third or fourth week of March I would get really weepy.  It would last for two or three weeks and then it would go away. Two events happened in my life around these dates.  On March 14th, 2002, my mom passed away from cancer. Then, on April 4th, 2011 I was admitted to the hospital with a flesh-eating bacteria, and I didn’t return home until June 17th of that year.

man sitting on ledge over water, how to overcome the anniversary effect, one exceptional lifeMy additional sadness wasn’t due to me paying attention to the calendar.  It was my body’s internal clock remembering what had happened in previous years.  It’s the darndest thing! Then a couple of years ago I read an article about the anniversary effect and then it all made sense.

When you have questions or struggles in your life, there are two places we turn to.  The first is to Google and the second is to the Bible, although it really should be the other way around.  Nevertheless, we are searching for information. What is going on? Why is this happening to me? How do I get through it?  Lord, please show me the way out of this funk!

In my research, I found several articles that talked about the anniversary effect.  One article defined the Anniversary Effect “as a unique set of unsettling feelings, thoughts or memories that occur on the anniversary of a significant experience.”  It happens at a memorable date or time in your life that is disturbing and causes you pain. If you would like to read more about it, visit Psychology Today  The article also offers solutions when trying to cope.

How to overcome with the Anniversary Effect

For me, knowing why I was getting down in the dumps and weepy and that it was temporary was really helpful.  My family was very supportive. My husband let me cry through things as I needed to. We tried to redirect my thoughts by getting out of the house and being more active.

The eighth year

This brings me to the eighth year that I mentioned earlier.  Next week marks the eighth anniversary of my illness and I have absolutely no symptoms of depression.  I am absolutely amazed at my results. Nine months ago, I made a life change. I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and share my story with all of you.  This blog has created in me a new level of activity that I haven’t seen since before I got sick. Running a blog keeps me busy from sunup to sundown and beyond.  Not only do I write the blog posts, but I have to promote my new posts on social media.

thunderstorm over water, how to overcome the anniversary effect, one exceptional lifeI have made a bunch of new friends, who are all of the Christian faith.  I’m following more Christian blogs and am studying more about Jesus. I am busier and I am praying and studying more so my mind and body are focused on different, better things.  I no longer focus on things like depression and sorrow.

Answered Prayer

Remember, I had been praying that the Lord would show me how to carry on? This blog has become my witness. It’s my way to inspire others and share my testimony. Isn’t that awesome? God answered my prayer!

I cannot tell you what a relief it is to have such a horrible burden lifted from my heart and mind.  Now that’s not to say that what has worked for me, will be exactly what you need. But if you focus on the Lord and more activity, you may get the same results as I did.  I would love to hear your results.

Is there a problem in your life that is difficult to let go of? One in which you just can’t move forward?  Just remember, my favorite Bible verses have always helped me and I trust they will help you too.  Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.”

If you find that you’re struggling with your trauma, remember that you’re not alone. Talk to someone.  Pray with your pastor and your family. Also, trauma and loss affect each of us differently, so don’t put a time limit on your grief.  I wish I could tell you that eight years is your magic number, or five or two. You may struggle indefinitely. I don’t know. However, I wanted to share my story with the hope that you may find inspiration and hope.

Speaking of inspiration and hope, I hope you will check out my Amazon recommendations for you this week.  All four books have been written by Christian friends of mine and will lift you up and encourage you.  I appreciate your love and support in this blog.  If you aren’t yet a subscriber, please go to my testimonials page which will give you information on my free 5-day E-Course called the Daily Dose of Inspiration that you will receive once you subscribe.   I know that you will love it!

purple text, love, wendy

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  1. Wendy – As always, I absolutely love your transparency! I’m so thrilled to hear that you made it through this year without the depression. It’s amazing what a new outlook and something to give you the feeling of purpose can do!

    1. Oh, Sarah, it has made such a difference. I hope everyone who struggles with the Anniversary effect can find a healthy distraction as I did.

  2. That’s so awesome Wendy!

    Thank you for sharing. So many people struggle with the anniversary effect. I’m so glad you’ve broken free and are finding your purpose from the pain!

    1. Thank you, Christina. I just heard of someone struggling with the anniversary effect so I referred them to the blog to read it. It’s such a painful time for some people. I am thankful to have overcome.

  3. This is such a fascinating topic and one that many struggle with. My mom passed away very suddenly in the fall 17 years ago. While I always described myself as a “summer girl”, my mom’s death signaled the start of depression and anger each fall as everything I loved to see and do died. Fall suddenly meant death to me.
    My gardens turned brown, my shorts and sandals had to be packed away, etc. Walking and playing outdoors came to an end. I would say that I still struggle, but I recognize it for what it is, and try not to let Satan work harder on bringing me down. Usually planning a short vacation if possible in the winter gives me something to look forward to after the joy of the holidays begins to wear off!

    1. I’m sorry to hear that, AnnMarie. Planning a trip is a great idea. So does doing something fun in the fall to remember the good things of summer. Keep smiling!

  4. Beautiful Wendy. I love that you mentioned there is no time limit as to when it stops affecting you. It’s like it lifts slowly and then all of a sudden, we are no longer grieving over the loss, whether that be of a loved one or of a life before ______ happened. Thank you for continuing to share you story.

    1. Thanks so much, Brittany! Right, there is no time frame. Everyone overcomes their sadness in their own time. That doesn’t mean we forget, it only means we remember the good times, not the bad times.

  5. These are really good suggestions. I’ve struggled with tough anniversaries in the past. I like the thought of making good memories around the more difficult ones.

    1. Hi Jessica!
      Yes, I have found that making good memories lightens the load from the bad memories. I’m glad you liked my suggestions.

  6. Hi Wendy,
    This was a nice post. I enjoyed reading it and I’m glad you’re in a better place in terms of recovery and are able to find something you love. May the Lord continue to bless uphold you.

  7. Wow. First of all, what an inspiration you are alone! ? I can’t even imagine going through something that traumatic, it just really reminds us all that sometimes our problems are at but as we may think. I have felt this anniversary effect although I never knew there was a word for it. It high school I watched two of my best friends flip the car they were driving in front of me, and held one of them as they died on the street until he’ll came… I’ve never gotten over that night and honestly I don’t think you ever do get over those types of things. But like you said. We aren’t alone. We all go through things in this life that can be considered traumatic and that’s just the way it is. You can live this life fully being untouched by pain and sorrow… allow yourself to cry, confided in others, and take it day by day.

    Wow. Thank you. ?

    1. Thank you for sharing that Adriana. That must have been horrible for you. Anniversaries of sad events can impact us in so many ways. All we can do is flip the switch to a good memory and find a healthy distraction. I hope my post helps. Thanks so much for reading.

  8. Hi Wendy. I have not struggled with any kind of trauma remotely close to what you have experienced, but I am encouraged by what you wrote here.God’s redemptive power is amazing – unto salvation, unto hope, unto purpose – you name it. I pray many will learn of your testimony and God’s hand in your life. He can work with any and all of us to bless others and to bless ourselves. Praise God!

    1. Thank you so much, Stephen. I appreciate you saying that. And yes, God can certainly work in all of our lives. God bless!

  9. Wow!

    I’m just in awe of your story. You have an amazing testimony. So glad you started this blog and are part of community.

    I’ve experienced the anniversary effect and had no idea it was actually a thing. Very helpful to know.

    Thank you, Wendy!

    1. Thank you, Sara. I didn’t realize the anniversary effect was a thing until I came across an article about it. I am also really thankful to have found a solution. I hope it helps you too.

  10. Wendy, thank you so much for this. We have a painful anniversary coming up in a couple of weeks. It’s been 14 years, and although I don’t get depressed as I used to … it’s still there in the back of my mind. You’re right about the blogging community, the friends, the encouragement all make a difference. God bless you!

    1. Hi Deb,
      It’s sad that we have hard anniversaries as well as happy ones. What I have found is that by replacing sorrowful reminders with happy memories, it sure lightens the load. I’ll say a prayer for you.

  11. God designed us in such an amazing way! Muscle memory, anniversary effect, etc.

    I will try deliberately making some great memories around some tough landmarks this year. Thank you for the idea!

  12. So many people suffer from the anniversary effect! You are so inspiring! I love how you encourage others to see the positive side of a negative situation!

  13. I absolutely love the idea of creating great new memories around that time. I find that I still get down around the time my grandad passed so I will definitely give it a shot this time around.

    1. Hi V,
      It really happened, for me, by accident but what a wonderful blessing! Best wishes! Thanks for reading.

  14. This is so true, I struggled with this until I did exactly what you recommended. Focusing on the Lord and creating healthy new memories around an anniversary of pain has helped reprogram my internal clock. Now I intentionally focus on the healthy memories that I have created since then and it has helped so much ❤️

    1. Michele,
      Thank you! I appreciate you! It’s interesting how the anniversary effect works. I hope your experience is positive instead of negative.

    1. Thank you so much, Robert. No, I haven’t yet written a book. I’m currently working on an ebook to overcome physical limitations. However, I know I’ll get a physical book written someday soon.

  15. Another great post. I have several friends who experience the anniversary effect and it’s fascinating to watch from afar to be honest. Sometimes it’s balloons sent to heaven, or sunny memories, or all out depression and it is all feeling, rather than the date on a calendar.

    1. Hey Celeste,
      You’re absolutely right. I could be absolutely clueless about the calendar but my body tells me to be depressed. It’s truly the oddest thing.

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