Trauma. In my opinion, this is the cause of a significant proportion of our mental ill-health. Many of us experience trauma; but unfortunately many of us also minimise it and invalidate our feelings around it.
What does trauma look like? It can be a one-off or short-term event such as a physic
al or sexual assault, a car accident, diagnosis of a serious health condition, bullying, a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, doing a job where you repeatedly see/hear details of traumatic events or even learning that a traumatic event happened to someone close to you (referred to as secondary trauma). This is not an exhaustive list. Your body and mind are exposed to extreme stress.
This isn’t it however. There is much more to trauma because it can be experienced as a long-term, persistent set of circumstances that you are unable to escape from. Examples of this are abusive relationships (with a partner or during your childhood), being trafficked, or being a prisoner of war. Also not an exhaustive list. Here you may have experienced psychological, physical, emotional, mental or spiritual abuse over time. Your sense of self is eroded (or prevented from forming if you had an abusive childhood).
Enter PTSD. What do you think of when you hear the term? Like me 1 year ag
o you may have exclusively thought of the armed forces and the emergency services. This misconception can lead you to discount PTSD as having an affect on your life. This is a tragedy. If you are unable to identify the real underlying cause of your mental ill-health, how can you hope to recover in the long-term? In discounting PTSD you also minimising your trauma and ignoring/pushing away your feelings towards it. The result? You never find your truth. You may experience mental ill-health on and off for a long time.
So lets lay it out bare. We have outlined different forms of trauma above. Now lets talk about the fact that PTSD also comes in different forms. In addition to PTSD as we k
now it (for one-off events etc), you can also experience Complex PTSD, Delayed-onset PTSD and Birth trauma PTSD. You can find out more information on these here http://www.mind.org.uk/.../post-traumatic.../about-ptsd/
Complex PTSD is what I am talking about here. This can be the result of the long-term, persistent trauma’s we looked at above. It is this issue that I am convinced goes unrecognised and unspoken about. Due to many of us thinking “I’m not in the army so I can’t have PTSD”, we miss the underlying reason for what is happening to us. Our depression that we can’t get to the bottom of; our anxiety that we can’t ful
ly explain; our eating disorder that we battle with. So symptoms such as: nightmares, intrusive memories (or even flashbacks), physical reactions triggered by an environment/person/smell/taste/sound etc, disturbed or lack of sleep, feeling very alert to danger, difficulties with relationships, difficulties with regulating emotions, feeling disconnected with our world/loved ones/ourselves, lacking in trust of others, feeling hopeless or “bad”, thinking something is wrong with you (“I feel like I’m going crazy”) – all stay within us. We may try to hide it and pretend everything is ok. But it isn’t. And sooner or later your mental and physical health will catch up with you.
Several people have confided in me with their trauma’s. And every single one of them felt that “it could have been a lot worse” and “there are o
thers much worse off than me”. They were invalidating themselves. Trying so hard to function by telling themselves that their trauma wasn’t that bad and that they ‘felt sure’ that they were not affected by it now. I recognised this because I could relate to it also. However when you really start exploring it, researching trauma and PTSD, and then become open to getting professional help – your life can change. Because the good news is that PTSD is treatable.
You can get help via the NHS with their psychological therapies services (IAPT). Search for what is in your local area here http://www.nhs.uk/.../Psychological.../LocationSearch/10008. You can also search online for a private health professional who specialises in thi
If, despite you telling yourself that your trauma does not affect you and that your mental ill-health has nothing to do with it, you still experience some of the symptoms described above (either consistently or on/off) then I suggest you dig a little deeper. You don’t have to be in the armed forces. You don’t have to be in the emergency services. You don’t have to have seen war-like scenes.
If your experience(s) keeps popping up, has left its mark, and has been something that you have been pushing away – then maybe it was more traumatic then you had given it credit for. Maybe your symptoms that you have been living with are not because you are crazy. Maybe your mental ill-health can be explained.
So please don’t minimise or invalidate yourself anymore. Because when you stop doing this, there is hope for recovery. True it’s not an easy journey. But it’s a worthwhile one. For more information start with looking that the Mind link above and go from there. Then google NHS IAPT services and find your local services for treatment.
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