“He did this to me.” Even saying those words sucks the air out of the room. My breathing becomes labored and my heart rate increases. Sometimes I think back on the memories and I have to ask myself, “Did that really happen to me?” It seems so unreal. I can push the horrible memories away so that I can function. I can hold down a successful career, I can take care of my children. The days can run fairly normal despite the traumatic history. But Why?
The human mind is resilient and powerful. It has an amazing way of protecting us from pain, fear, struggles, and suffering. We know that over time the body actually adjusts to trauma. When our mind is unable to handle what is happening to us our brain will forget and our body will numb. The body will quit responding the way it should to stressful events. It is not uncommon for traumatized individuals to lose all memories, and years later to have a trigger that allows them to regain access to the trauma.
Do you have trauma?
All people have trauma, but the level at which the imprint impacts your day to day life is what is most concerning. Three years ago I had no idea that I had trauma, yet my life felt unmanageable at times. I had no idea that the trauma was playing a major part in my ability to live a full life. The following are problems and complaints that many people have after experiencing a stressful event. Can you relate to these events? How much are you bothered by the list below on a scale 0-5?
Not STRESSFUL <-0———————1———————2———————3———————4———————5–> Very STRESSFUL
- Do you vividly remember disturbing memories from stressful experiences that come into your mind against your will?
- Do your disturbing thoughts repeat themselves (like a movie replaying over and over in your mind)?
- Do you have disturbing dreams that repeat stressful experiences of the past?
- Do you ever suddenly and unexpectedly feel as if a stressful experience from the past were happening again (as if you were reliving it- a flashback)?
- Do you feel very upset when something reminds you of a stressful experience from the past?
- Do you ever have physical reactions (e.g., heart pounding, trouble breathing, stomach churning, dizziness or sweating) when something reminds you of a stressful event from the past?
- Do you intentionally avoid thinking, talking, or feeling about past events that were highly upsetting?
- Do you avoid situations or activities that are highly upsetting because of a stressful event that happened there in the past?
- Do you ever have trouble remembering important details from a stressful event?
- Have you experienced a loss of interest and excitement in activities that you used to enjoy?
- Do you feel distant and cut off from other people?
- Do you feel emotionally numb? Are you unable to have loving feelings for those close to you?
- Do you live in fear of the future, or are you stuck in the past?
- Do you feel irritable, do you have angry outbursts?
- Do you struggle and have difficulty concentrating?
- Are you “superalert”, watchful or on guard?
- Do you feel jumpy? Are you easily startled?
- Do you have periods of your history that you just can’t recollect?
Since trauma is not uncommon, you will most likely find yourself on the chart. If you find that most of your responses fall at 3 or above on most of the list you may want to seek help from a professional therapist.
I can look back over my life and see now that Trauma played a major role. I didn’t understand why I would become so anxious that I would have moments when I would crawl under a blanket and stare off into space. I did not understand why I was always on alert, watchful, and on guard. Still to this day I prefer to sit in the back of a room so I know that no one is behind me and I can see everything that is going on. I did not understand why sometimes I would get so angry, or why I quit participating in hobbies that I loved. Negative physical reactions and flashbacks were common to me.
A new understanding of why my body would respond the way it did has allowed me to take back my life and my mind. Some days are still a struggle, but I am making progress and moving forward. The journey through trauma has not been easy, and I have discovered that trauma has layers just like and onion. What I have learned is that I have the power to stop blaming my ex-husband for what he did to me. He has no intentions of coming back to help me work through the trauma he left me with, and I don’t need him to. Understanding has brought me a new level of awareness and empowerment. I will make changes and find myself again.
If you have experienced trauma and feel like you are lost, you are not alone. You can find yourself again too.