What happened to you?
Just for a few minutes, imagine a place where you have felt calm, peaceful and safe. Somewhere that made your mind quiet and your heart warm. Was it cosy? What were the surroundings? Try remembering the sounds and reflect on your senses to take you back. Notice the details that come up, was it particularly hot or cold that day? Maybe, it’s somewhere you imagine going in the future.
Something I have learnt whilst working with people who have experienced trauma is that, just like the visualisation above, there are triggers back to the traumatic event/s. The body never forgets and it can be something as simple as a smell or even a texture.
But, instead of that warm content feeling, a person can be filled with intense fear. This can be startling as sometimes it’s on a conscious level and then sometimes can come from out of nowhere and leave a person feeling crippled. Thus, leading to confusion or self-judgements. Day-to-day life can become like a minefield. The thought of being around people can feel suffocating. Time can just go by in a blur but then feel equally so slow and draining.
The body never forgets and it can be something as simple as a smell or even a texture.
Trauma comes in many different forms. There are worldwide issues, the obvious one right now being the pandemic but also war. Countries are oppressed. Communities are discriminated against. Then there are the personal traumas which can be physical, emotional, sexual or even from an accident in both childhood and adult life.
We all experience some aspects of trauma, especially through loss or big changes. All these experiences can be damaging; feelings are valid there is no shame in how someone has managed it as they have done their best in that moment.
So, what can make a change? From a helper point of view firstly, ask "What happened to you?" rather than making assumptions. Really listening and showing empathy can be life-changing. Be patient. Not only does it help the person begin building relationships with trust again but it can allow them to slowly believe in themselves again.
For a survivor, I would always recommend therapy but I appreciate not everyone is always ready straight away. I have seen many ways people heal from shocking things that have happened and there is no rule book on this. Without meaning to sound patronising, going back to basics is the initial step.
Building up self-care and making sure you have time and space to yourself every day can give a good foundation. The real work is figuring out what happened and what made you vulnerable. There is no time limit on this - don’t put pressure on yourself. Also, it isn’t very pretty and it takes sheer commitment, especially on the days when you don’t even know where to start.
I am always learning in my career, especially from my clients. For trauma, I accept what may work for one client may not work for another but will sit beside them until there is more clarity. Although I acknowledge there will always be pain in the world, I see hope too. We really can help each other. We are stronger together.
In my 10-year career in this sector, I have witnessed remarkable changes in people and I believe you can come back from anything. Another thing I want to emphasise is it wasn’t your fault! The shame attached to so many people is misplaced. The best way to challenge this is to speak up. Your voice is your superpower, talking can take the shame away and help process it.
You deserve to be heard!
Hopefully, this article has got you thinking and made you question things. If you feel you would like to explore in more depth, please get in touch for a free initial call to help put you at ease and discuss what you would like to get from therapy.