Trauma. We’ve all got it. Big, small, convoluted, simple (relatively), life-changing, or seemingly insignificant. Sometimes it’s an isolated incident and we can move through it somewhat easily. Other times, it creeps up without notice and drags us right back to the specific incident.
The definition of trauma from integratedlistening.com describes it as “the response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness, diminishes their sense of self and their ability to feel the full range of emotions and experiences.” This definition is rather vague, as it details more about the effects of trauma, yet does not describe what trauma is. This is because trauma is a uniquely individual experience of an event.
Breaking that down one step further – trauma for one person may not be trauma for another, but the signs and symptoms often look quite similar. Everyone experiences trauma differently, however we process trauma often through fragmented and incomplete segments, because there is no WHY. Many people that I have worked with, as well as family, friends, and even myself have one question when talking about our traumas – WHY? What did I do to deserve this?
Processing trauma in fragmented pieces can be challenging because it can create a loop of fixation on the mini events of the trauma, as we are unable to process them deeply to come to a resolution on our own. This manifests itself as rumination. Although rumination is a very normal process, it is not very helpful in managing and overcoming the aftermath of our traumas.
Although the WHY is not always an attainable reality, we can learn to cope and grow through our traumas. This process is often painful as it requires reliving or talking about the traumatic event that may be fully or partially blocked from memory. Science has proven that writing about our traumas can help us make them more coherent, so that our brains are not constantly trying to piece together the brokenness of the memory of the event. By thoroughly writing about a trauma we can explore our thoughts and feelings surrounding it, as well as how those involved directly or indirectly to the trauma are impacted. When we write out each individual fragment and process through our thoughts, feelings, and emotions on each piece we slowly build ourselves the whole picture, which may allow us to heal.
Writing is such a healing process, but it is not our only options when it comes to surviving trauma. When overcoming the terrible effects of going through a trauma, there is often a lot of pain involved, both mentally and physically. It is important to seek help from medical doctors where necessary, as they can also point us in the direction of appropriate counselling or therapy. While we’re at it, can we break that stigma real quick here?! Seeking help does not make us weak; it makes us human. In my opinion, it takes one STRONG person to acknowledge that they are struggling and then DO something about it! One of the most fundamental human needs is to feel connected to each other! YES – that means to feel belonging, warmth, and the presence of those we love. Often, after a trauma, we have tendencies to shut ourselves away from the world and build up a barrier as a means of self-preservation or protection. This actually hinders our ability to heal. We NEED each other, to feel safe, to feel loved, and to feel protected, in order to move through trauma and come out the other side as comfortably as possible.
Other important considerations are exercise, proper sleep, and eating healthy to manage our symptoms. When our bodies are healthy, it helps to keep our brains healthy! This means that we can cope better when our symptoms flare up, and that our symptoms don’t flare up nearly as often.
One of the most important things to remember about trauma is that it is such an independent experience, meaning that you may go through a traumatic event with little to no extenuating or resonating effects while I may develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and suffer from many side effects from that same event. Now, there is no quick fix or easy way coping and growing with our traumas however through normalizing talking about trauma and encouraging support, it can be much easier navigated.
– Jess Carberry