What is PTSD?

PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But what is trauma and what does PTSD mean? When someone has gone through something traumatic, they may continue re-experiencing those memories or feelings even after the trauma is no longer happening. 

Trauma can be anything like experiencing a life or death situation such as violence, abuse, threats of danger to yourself or others, natural disasters, car crashes, witnessing someone else’s life or death situation… The list truly does go on because it includes almost any experience where you felt unsafe in any way. 

How Common is PTSD?

PTSD is not just for people that have been in the military. Actually, many people have experienced different types of trauma in their lives and could have lingering side effects from going through such difficult experiences. Let’s explore some of the different things that can lead to PTSD. 

 

Lasting Pain from Words… (Emotional and verbal abuse)

There are some experiences that it may not even occur to you that it is traumatic. Some of those experiences are where you or someone you know has been hurt with words and mind games. Now some people may be questioning how words can be traumatic, but trust me it definitely can be. If anyone has ever made you feel like less-than a human being, made you feel “crazy,” worthless, bad, undeserving of love or like you are living in a prison or nightmare then you may have experienced verbal or emotional abuse. This can happen in parent-child relationships and intimate partner relationships. People in these situations often feel like they have to walk on egg-shells and watch every word, facial expression and action they make in attempts to prevent outbursts, fights, or manipulation from the other person. 

Mind Games  

If you have found you now are questioning yourself, second guessing things, worrying you might be about to lose your mind, then you may have been on the receiving end of gaslighting and manipulation.

People that use these types of mind games to control others are usually so good at it that those on the receiving end don’t even recognize that it’s happening.

Often times, when you are on the receiving end of these mind games you may notice that you once had close friends and family but now you are all alone except for that one person (that is using manipulation). You might feel stuck or trapped and believe that truly no one else will love you or care about you, so you shouldn’t rock the boat with this situation.

You might feel scared…. Scared that you’re crazy or unlovable, scared that this person may hurt you in some way, scared of embarrassment or shame that this person has created for you.

 

There is so much to be said of this kind of manipulation and how it can rip a person apart from the inside and leave lasting scars, because it is so behind-the-scenes usually that it is harder to identify even when it is happening to you.

 

 

Trauma with Motherhood

All parents can agree that becoming a parent is extremely stressful. But what if you have experienced trauma? How will trauma and parenting impact each other? 

For starters, if you are a woman that has been through any kind of sexual trauma, then you may find that pregnancy, giving birth, breastfeeding, and other parenting experiences may be triggering to bring up feelings from your past and cause you to relive the trauma. Why is that? All of these experiences are related to some other person being in your physical space whether with or without your consent. It also brings up feelings of not being in control, which may make you feel unsafe or violated. 

Even if you haven’t experienced something traumatic before, the birthing experience can often be traumatic. Let’s imagine that you have been excited for this pregnancy and to meet your new little baby. You have dreamed of the magical moment when you first lay eyes on your precious new love and hold him or her close to you. You mentally prepared for the birthing experience and had a plan all laid out for your wishes and how you would like it all to go. You have put a lot of time and energy into choosing the best place to have your baby, the provider that is the best match for you, your support system, packing the bags with the best lighting, scents and music to make your experience a positive one…. 

But then everything changes…

 

Maybe you experience a medical complication or your baby is in distress. Maybe there is something life threatening to you or your baby. Things don’t go as you planned and it all happens so fast in a chaotic whirlwind that you don’t even have a chance to think things through or put any time into making new decisions. It all just happens. Even if you and your baby survive this crisis, you may struggle to recover from the pain of it all or the loss of what you hoped would happen. These experiences can certainly lead to postpartum PTSD. Especially when there is infant loss. 


Could I Have PTSD?

Do you find yourself feeling like you are ‘back there’ (when you experienced something traumatic) even a year or more after it happened? 

Do the memories pop into your mind unexpectedly and often? 

Do live in fear, feeling unsafe or attacked most of the time?

Do you wake up from nightmares? 

Have a hard time being around people or places that are chaotic or crowded? 

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, then you may want to talk with a therapist in more detail to figure out if you do have PTSD.  

Triggers

You may hear this word used often, especially when people are talking about trauma and PTSD. What is a ‘trigger’? This word is used to describe a reminder that sparks memories of the trauma and causes those PTSD symptoms to come out with a vengeance.  There may be thousands of different triggers that bring on feelings of being unsafe, out of control, anxious or depressed, and thoughts of the trauma. A trigger can be anything from a smell that reminds you of what you have been through, a place, person, facial expression, words or sounds. 

Read more about Trauma and ways to relate to PTSD experiences here

 

What Can I Do About My PTSD?

There is hope! 

People DO recover from trauma with the right treatment, support and learned skills. In therapy, you can learn to recognize what sparks your PTSD and how to deal with those triggers. You can find ways to handle current day stress in a way that keeps you feeling calm and in control, with the confidence to know that you can handle it. There are even ways to help you feel less intensity when thinking about or talking about the trauma that you have been through. 

 

There are a few types of trauma therapy treatments that have been proven to work

•  Mindfulness is an empowering way to take back control over your thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness therapy is about learning ways to be fully present in the moment, which will help keep you from re-experiencing your past. Mindfulness and other calming and grounding exercises can stop the anxiety and depression from spiraling when a trigger first sparks your PTSD. Find out more about it here. And here are some tips for starting mindfulness: 7 Simple Ways to be Present in the Moment

•  Trauma Focused CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is one option, which you narrate through your experiences and learn ways to think about it and talk about it without feeling like it is currently happening.

•  I personally prefer EMDR therapy, as it has been so effective at helping people recover from PTSD symptoms and regain their lives. It deserves a whole extra section to help you understand how it's different from the regular "talk therapy" and how it could be just the thing you need to overcome intrusive thoughts and feelings. 

 

EMDR Treatment

(Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)

Most people starting therapy come in because they feel stuck and have already tried different ways to change their situation, but nothing seems to be working. Maybe you've tried talking through your problems and don't feel like it's moving you along to where you want to be. 

Amazing improvements can happen with EMDR. Powerful changes and shifts happen for people sometimes even just in one EMDR session.

So what is EMDR? It's not like talk therapy. EMDR helps your brain follow it's natural healing process to overcome negative experiences that have left you struggling with anxiety, anger, and negative beliefs about yourself or others. 

Wish you could feel confident at the drop of a hat? Or feel calm and think clearly in the midst of a crisis? There are so many different tools that can be helpful if you use them in those moments, but it's hard to remember when you're in a stressful situation. With EMDR, those tools are stored in your brain and it's a lot easier to use them even when you're in crisis. 

Do you find yourself bracing for something bad to happen? Maybe certain things remind you or spark feelings of something you've been through in the past? Maybe you have PTSD. EMDR can turn down the volume on all of those emotions, and give you a clearer mind to recognize the difference between what you're facing now and what you went through in the past. You don't have to keep feeling like you're "back there". We can teach your brain to notice the difference between your current stress and the trauma from the past so that you aren't facing every problem like it's a trauma. 

EMDR therapy is different than most counseling because it uses a left and right eye movement, tapping, or sound to help your brain organize and make sense of overwhelming experiences, including those intrusive thoughts, images, and emotions.

 

 

 

This left and right eye movement is the natural way our brains process information usually during REM sleep. With normal day to day life our brains decide what memories and knowledge to hold onto and filter things that aren't important, all while we sleep. But when we experience something really painful, overwhelming, or traumatic then our brains get overloaded too, which is why we keep repeating those feelings or memories and get stuck.

In EMDR treatment, we can help the brain heal from intrusive memories and emotions of the past while making new and healthy connections just by tapping into this same sleep process. 

 

People often describe it as "getting unstuck" and being able to recall the memories without feeling like they are reliving it.

If you find yourself frequently going into "survival mode" or crisis, this helps you retrain your mind to a calmer state and only react in crisis when it truly is necessary. It can help you to take a step back, breathe and think logically when faced with conflict or stress. EMDR treats PTSD, anxiety, panic, depression, grief, anger, and many other emotional issues.

It's pretty different. You may find you have more questions about it and need more information. Let's talk about it!

 

Why wait? Get started today. 

Now providing online therapy! Get the support you need from the comfort and convenience of your own home or office. I offer telehealth sessions using secure video chat. All you need is an internet connection and a place to speak privately. Read more about it here

 

Resources for you:

10 Tips for Relaxing a Restless Mind

Guided Mindfulness Meditation

Why It Isn't Selfish to Put Yourself First

8 Ways to Survive Holidays with Negative People

Or check out my blog here for more tips and tricks

Colorado Crisis Services https://coloradocrisisservices.org/ Phone 844-493-8255 or TEXT "Talk" to 38255

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 24/7 support 800-273-TALK (8255)

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Lindsey Lowrance, LCSW

Exploring Inner Peace, LLC

1901 Kipling St, #310,

Lakewood, CO 80215

720-243-3993

Helping Moms of Twins+ Go from Drained & Distracted to Powerful & Fulfilled!