Maybe you have experienced something traumatic and you are trying to understand why you react and feel the way you do in certain situations. Or maybe you have a friend or family member that often blows up at the drop of a hat or avoids certain situations now and you want a better understanding.

One of the first steps to healing trauma is understanding and nurturing those feelings and reactions.

What is "trauma"?

Trauma can refer to many different experiences where a person feels afraid for their safety or someone else's. With this definition, you can see how it can apply to so many different situations. I'll list some examples, but the reality is that there are too many situations that challenge our ideas of safety and can effect our well-being. Abuse, assault, car accidents, war exposure, natural disasters, and house fires are all traumatic experiences. 

Emotionally and verbally abusive relationships are traumatic too, since they have such a strong impact on a person's sense of identity and psyche. Being the victim of bullying, harassment, threats, or stalking can also be considered a trauma. Truly, being around any kind of violence, even in your neighborhood or the home of someone you know can challenge your sense of safety and leave lasting effects. 

There are even medical traumas like a bad birthing experience, a terrifying medical diagnosis, or difficult medical treatment. 

 

Just because a person has experienced something traumatic does not mean they automatically develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Every person and situation is unique and there are many different factors that effect how a person will respond after an event. For instance, support can make a great difference in how a person recovers.  At different times in your life you may be more resilient to bounce back from a traumatic event. And other times it may continue sticking with you long after it happened, seeming like you will never "get over it". -For the record, I don't like that phrase "get over it" and I don't think it is helpful, but I find many people expect this of themselves. 

What is PTSD? 

After you have gone through something traumatic- whether it was one disastrous thing that happened or something that continued over and over like abuse, you might feel like you're right back there when something triggers or sparks those memories or feelings. You probably feel like something bad is going to happen and feel anxious or on edge. You may have intrusive thoughts or images show up in your mind unexpectedly, or nightmares and trouble sleeping. Often when people with PTSD are triggered they react in crisis mode (even if what's happening right now isn't a crisis) and either become angry and aggressive in some way to "fight," they try to "run" away from it all and avoid people and places, or they feel "frozen" and can't respond. There is more on this below. 

The good news is, you do not have to continue living in survival mode.

You can learn how to stay grounded in the present moment and calm those intense reactions instead of always living in crisis. 

Therapy is an excellent source of support and can help you find the tools you need. PTSD can be treated. You can live a happy and fulfilling life again. See PTSD Treatment for more information. 

 

How Does It Look When Someone Is Struggling with Trauma? 

 

Here is an example of how people feel when they have PTSD:

Because talking about specific traumas can be triggering for people, I am going to use a different scenario to explain the trauma reaction. Let's say that one day you are on a hike and suddenly a bear  crosses your path. Your biological survival instincts will kick in and you will automatically respond with a fight, flight, or freeze instinct. You will either fight the bear, run away ("flight"), or freeze and play dead.

These instincts happen in a split second using the impulsive part of your brain instead of the rational, thinking portion of the brain. Your impulsive instincts are wired to keep you alive in a crisis and you do not get to choose your reaction. Once you survive the crisis, you may find it hard to switch gears back into the rational part of your brain again. You may start reacting impulsively in everyday life, living in survival mode. 

 

After your traumatic experience with the bear, you may start to avoid hiking or any paths that remind you of the trauma.

Maybe you are just walking down the street one day and suddenly a squirrel runs across your path. Your reaction: 'Ah! It's a bear!' Your heart may race, you may fight, flight, or freeze again and respond as if everything crossing your path is that bear. It may be hard for you to see that it is actually just a squirrel and that you are still safe.

This squirrel crossing your path may even set off a series of bad days in which you are stuck in the fight, flight, or freeze mode with every stressor and every person that comes your way.

You may feel like everyone is out to get you just like that bear. You may feel angry, fearful, anxious and hopeless. You may even start to question everything, including yourself. You no longer feel safe and you no longer know who you can trust. Your body may continue to react and re-experience that bear's presence. It's hard to relax and it's hard to enjoy day to day life now that you are living on edge, trying to anticipate the next thing to go awry.

Your friends and family just don't understand because all they see is a squirrel. They think you should just "get over it" since it's been over a year now, or they may not even realize that your reaction is related to the bear. You may not even realize that your reactions and emotions are related to the trauma. It is hard to see and think clearly when your brain is caught in crisis and survival. 

There is hope! People do get better with therapy. You can learn what your triggers are that set off the crisis mode for you and game plan what to do the next time you are triggered. Take back your control and feel in charge of your reactions! I want to help you find a better way. 

See my page listed under the SERVICES tab at the top and go to PTSD Treatment to read more about what you can do to feel better.  

Schedule a consultation with me today to find out how I can help you.

 

Resources for you:

10 Tips for Relaxing a Restless Mind

Guided Mindfulness Meditation

What is PTSD anyway?

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)