I know I know not the feel-good blog entry like the one before, right? I thought hard about what I wanted this blog to be about. One thing that I am deeply passionate about is trauma and the effect is has on a persons over all well-being. Is trauma something someone can just get over? Is someone else’s experience with trauma more validated by how severe it may be? In this blog I am going to tell you 4 things that a girl who has endured trauma wants you to know.
1. Trauma is not something someone can simply get over
I have heard it repeated my whole life multiple times “You just have to get over it.” Emotional trauma is not something a person can simply get over. Trauma makes an impact on your brain. As a child or adult, we may experience trauma get through it but still harbor the emotional triggers. In the book “The Body Keeps the Score” by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolick he explains after dealing with veterans he noticed that a trigger could be as simple as a sound, a smell, something they see. He explains that one of his patients did not begin to experience emotional triggers until he had a child of his own. Why? When he was in Vietnam, he had to carry a dying baby in his arms. Hearing his own baby’s cry made him relive this trauma taking him directly back to that day. Key? It does not just go away. It is not something you can just “pick yourself up and move on” it lingers until dealt with.
What do these emotional triggers do to the body? They first impact the brain. Upon further study of people who have experienced trauma in everyday life Dr. Van Der Kolick did brain scans. Through these scans upon reading a script of the subject’s trauma, he noticed one side of the brain had lit up with activity like the lights on Broadway, where the other side of the brain had almost none. The limbic system which is located on the right side of the brain is also known as the emotional brain. When faced with trauma our limbic system produces stress hormones which triggers our adrenaline to react to the situation. This is what we call fight, flight, or freeze. I do not have to tell you what this can do to your body if you are constantly slipping into this mode. In a lot of trauma victims, they get stuck in this mode, where their reality becomes an everyday escapade of anxiety and fear. This was me. I was a walking ball of nerves. Being stuck in this mode has caused ulcers in my stomach, fatigued adrenals (because of constantly producing adrenaline), almost non-functioning kidneys, thyroid issues, GI tract issues, gallbladder issues, and the list just continues. Trauma has the power to touch every system in our body. It is not something someone can just get over. It will take years of healing and lots of patience.
2. Trauma may take years to come through
When it comes to trauma there is no race when it comes to healing. Here I am 34 years old, and I am just on the verge of beginning to heal. The other thing to factor in is every individual. Some heal in a matter of a couple of years, while others may take several years. There is no timetable. There is no normal allotment of time for when someone should be better. The brass tax here is when you are faced with trauma its impact will stay with you. The key to therapy and healing is to deal with the emotional triggers better. To learn coping mechanisms.
There is only one guarantee when it comes to healing from trauma and that is that it is completely dependent on the person. When we come into relationships with people, we are taking on the responsibility to allow this person time to heal from an event that rewired their brain. We must exercise patience and love. We cannot gaslight them for something they have absolutely no control over.
3. There is no shiny star for trauma
I am now going to turn my attention to my peers who have also experienced trauma. There is no shiny star for what you have been through. What do I mean? I hear this all the time “Well you went through emotional abuse. I was actually physically abused.” Seriously? We are comparing abuse stories? There is no shiny star for people who may have had worse experiences. Trauma comes in all shapes and forms and while some may be more horrific than others it does not change the fact that trauma is trauma. Everyone deals with experiences differently. What may impact one person one way may impact another completely differently.
The most human thing we can do is to not compare but listen. Even for a split second if you find that someone’s trauma “isn’t that bad” it does not give you the right to invalidate their experience and how it affected them. That is not your job. As people we all have limits and where someone’s limits may be higher or more sensitive than yours it does not make it any less valid.
4. Everyone heals differently
I have heard this as well “Well she is talking about her experience so it must have not been that bad.” Here is the thing, no one person is the same. I talk about my experiences as a child for one simple reason, to help someone else. I think about the little girl that was confused about the things happening in her life. I think if one person had been open enough to tell me they had gone through what I did, then maybe I would have had the courage to speak up sooner. It does not mean that my experience is any less horrific or does not still haunt me at night. I just handle it differently.
On the flip side, I have known some to hardly talk about it because the pain is too much. The key is that everyone is allowed to heal the way they need to. We all have the right to talk about it or not talk about it. Some have resorted to just writing or painting to express their pain. It does not mean they are “avoiding it” or “in denial” it just means they are handling it the way they see fit. It is our job to accept it.
What is the moral of the story?
Many people face trauma. As fellow human beings it is our job to understand and empathize. We cannot tell them to get over it. We cannot tell them when they should be better. We cannot tell them that their experience is less traumatic than our own. We cannot tell them how they should be healing. What we can do is listen, have patience, and above all compassion.
Disclaimer: I am not a therapist. This article is based on research I have done on my own. If you are experiencing trauma please seek the advice from a medical professional.