PTSD & Trauma

2176486433Life is a struggle that doesn’t make sense anymore.

While jerking awake in the middle of the night with your heart pounding and sweat beading on your brow, your hands are clammy and cold. Nightmares and flashbacks plague you, and you don’t know how to get them to stop.

The sound of a pan falling in the kitchen, a car backfiring, or a dog barking triggers alarms in your head. You suddenly can’t catch your breath, your heart races, and your mind freezes in a snapshot of a long-ago experience that won’t let you go.

“I’m not good enough”rolls through your mind on repeat. You constantly hear your mother’s voice comparing you to your perfect older sibling, or you see your father’s red face as he yells at you once again. It never stops.

The way you feel isn’t normal.

You can’t stop thinking that there is something wrong with you.

You question yourself daily, asking, “Why is life so hard? Why can’t I get some sleep? Why can’t I enjoy myself with my family and friends? Why can’t I get over it? When will this ever stop?”

Trauma is not an event.

People often perceive trauma as a life-threatening event. That is what the therapeutic manual even requires for a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) diagnosis.

In real life, trauma is not an event that happened but a stuck response to negative life experiences. It is a memory of a distressing circumstance or thought that keeps looping through your brain and body without a resolution. Threatening your life is not necessary; it’s just your well-being. So, even having a hyper-critical parent can cause trauma.

Experience as a mental health and certified trauma professional has shown me that people who go through the same event can have different responses to that event.

One person may respond by building resilience and using that experience as a catalyst for self-advocacy. A second person might develop flashbacks, avoidance tendencies, hypervigilance, or become more negative in their thoughts and mood. Meanwhile, a third person may walk away from trauma as if nothing happened.

515322646Trauma is stuck stress.

Stress is not all bad. You might imagine healthy stress as moving like a train on a one-way track. There is a start point and an endpoint, and then you leave it behind as you exit the train and move on to your destination.

Healthy stress is helpful, allowing us to complete tasks well, helping us get out of threatening situations, and giving us a sense of satisfaction or strength when we can complete the process. Healthy stress builds resilience.

Traumatic stress is cyclical. It is like a Ferris wheel that keeps moving without letting the rider off. The process of traumatic stress is activation, deactivation, and reactivation. With traumatic stress, it’s hard to complete the healthy stress process, and instead, you become stuck in this cycle where you revisit the stress response repeatedly.

When trauma remains within the body’s nervous system as an incomplete process of a survival response activated by something like criticism, it can become triggered by any perceived assault. For traumatic stress to complete the process, the control center, or autonomic nervous system, must be operated in such a way as to stop the Ferris wheel so that the rider can exit the car.

129050396You don’t have to stay stuck.

By participating in trauma-informed therapy, you can end the cycle of trauma and begin the process of healing.

We do this first by connecting our body and brain to the present using calming practices daily. You will work toward processing the traumatic memories or responses themselves using a technique like EMDR or ART.

Finally, we work on maintaining healthy perspectives and strengthening resilience.

2274163405Choose healing.

You can get off the Ferris wheel ride of trauma and step onto a one-way train to healing, but you must choose it.

If you’re ready to make that choice, reach out now.