I healed from trauma and you can, too.

For most of my life, I struggled and suffered. I had moments of happiness and success but they were fleeting. I always seemed to return to the depths of sadness, extreme self-judgment, chronic worry, and fear. I tried everything: positive thinking, prayer, hours of journaling, focusing on the blessings in my life, disciplined self-care. Nothing worked long-term. I had been told by previous therapists that I had PTSD, but I didn’t believe them. When buried memories began to surface during EMDR Therapy, I was finally on my way to healing. Turns out, what I thought was a “normal” childhood was not at all, and I did have PTSD.

What Happens When a Person Experiences Trauma?

Research suggests that the experience of trauma can become “stuck” in the brain. This means that when a similar aspect (sight, sound, smell, thought, emotion, etc) of the initial traumatic event is experienced in present time, it can feel as if the initial trauma is happening all over again. Even when the original traumatizing event is not consciously remembered, present-day experiences can “trigger” us by reactivating these old stored memories.

When residual feelings from these upsetting events are not processed and healed, we may relive the trauma over and over again through self-sabotaging patterns, distorted perceptions, and relationships that “mirror” original traumatic events. Thus, these unhealed traumatic experiences have a hugely negative impact on our perception of the external world and, not surprisingly, create difficulties in relationships. Especially with the people closest to us.

Unhealed trauma makes experiencing our present reality in a clear and rational manner nearly impossible, because the present moment is experienced through a filter of the past.
Important: There are many types and degrees of trauma. True trauma in the technical sense does not include typical life stressors (natural death of a loved one, loss of job, etc). However, if traumatic events are affecting the quality of your life, or you suffer from any of the symptoms of trauma, you can most definitely benefit from healing.

What are some of the symptoms of trauma/PTSD?

* To be diagnosed with PTSD, symptoms must be present for at least one month and severely interfere with your social, economic, or any other important area of you life. 
 Please remember, experiencing symptoms does not mean you have PTSD. However, you do not have to be diagnosed with PTSD to experience the affects of traumatic events in your life. Unhealed trauma of any degree can create a great deal of unhappiness. Visit your doctor if you think you may be suffering from PTSD.

Symptoms:

Important: Your reactions may feel irrational to you, or those around you, especially if you do not remember the original event.
• Consciously or unconsciously reliving the event/s through dreams, nightmares, flashbacks, or invasive memories.
• Insomnia. Difficulty falling or staying asleep.
• Unconsciously re-creating patterns and events in your life that mirror the original event (and create similar issues or problems).
• Experiencing very strong mental, emotional, or physical reactions when exposed to something that reminds you of the original trauma.
• Feeling numb. Shutting down.
• Avoiding thinking or talking about the event.
• Self-medicating with alcohol, drugs, or food.
• Physiological hyper-arousal: Exaggerated startle response. Jumping or overreacting. Easily startled or frightened when someone or something surprises you.
• Hyper-vigilance: An extreme sensitivity to people and environment. Anticipating “danger”. “Walking on eggshells”.
• Avoiding previously enjoyed activities or people. Reduced interest in the outside world.
• Difficulty maintaining close relationships.
• Feeling hopeless about the future.
• Self-destructive behaviors ranging from negative self-talk to self-mutilation.
• Eating disorders and other body issues.
• Obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
• Attempted suicide.
• Experiencing the intense fear of loss or abandonment.
• Lacking boundaries.
• Co-dependent behavior.
• Low feelings of self-worth. Lack of self-esteem.
• Intense mood swings, irritability, or volatile outburst of anger.
• Overwhelming guilt or shame.
• Extreme self-blame or over-responsibility.
• Physical symptoms may include headaches, gastrointestinal issues, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, immune system issues, or other unexplained physical pain.

What is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a common anxiety disorder that occurs when we experience or witness a terrifying event in which survival is or feels threatened. We often feels helpless, intensely fearful, panicked, or horrified.
 A traumatizing event is often of a physical nature such as war, rape, or abandonment but can also be a mental or emotional experience like brainwashing, manipulation, or emotional neglect. Any experience in which grave harm is perceived or endured is traumatizing. Events can be a one time experience or extend over a prolonged period of time.
* Family members of victims can also develop PTSD. 
* PTSD can occur at any age including childhood, adolescents, and old age.
* Women are two times as likely to develop PTSD as men; mainly due to increased instances of interpersonal violence, such as sexual assault, and physical or emotional abuse.

What Are Some Causes of PTSD?

• Prolonged childhood abuse or neglect, either physical, mental or emotional.
• Witnessing violence in the home as a child.
• Rape.
• Sexual molestation.
• Suicide or tragic death of a loved one.
• Loss of a child.
• Combat/war.
• Natural disasters.
• Accidents (car, plane, train, etc.).
• Accidents or injuries in which a dream is shattered or livelihood is destroyed.
• Severe work-related injuries.
• Physical attack.
• Being threatened with a weapon.
• Life-threatening medical diagnosis.
• Witnessing traumatic events or exposure to other peoples’ trauma.
• Simultaneous, multiple losses.
• Constant, unabated job stress.

The list can go on and on. An overall definition of the cause of PTSD could be the experience of an unusual, intense event that overtaxes a person’s ability to cope. PTSD can occur almost immediately after an event or appear years later. The symptoms can come and go. You may experience more intense symptoms under times of stress or during an “anniversary date” when the original trauma occurred. The symptoms may never fully disappear, but they can become manageable with help and understanding. You do NOT have to suffer! There IS hope for a happier, more peaceful and fulfilled life.

“I Can’t Get Over It” by Aphrodite Matsaskis.

I Can’t Get Over It is a fantastic resource for understanding and overcoming trauma. I highly recommend this book. Click here to purchase a copy from Amazon.