How To Explain Trauma To People Who Don't Get It
So many times I've heard civilians say, "You mean, major trauma that leads to PTSD happens outside of the military?" The answer, of course, is a big, resounding, YES! The problem is that we don't have enough sources demystifying trauma and PTSD so that it's easy to see where it comes from and how it happens (Finding Meaning in Trauma and PTSD).
Have you ever heard about someone else's awful traumatic experience and thought that yours was inconsequential, or less awful? All too often we look at the experience of others and judge our own experiences against them. But that's fundamentally wrong. Just because your trauma may not, on the surface, appear "as bad" as someone else's doesn't mean it's any less traumatic or has less adverse effects.
Adding to this kind of thinking is the opinion of other people. Whether you're in a competitive support group where members try to outdo each other with horror stories, or you're surrounded by people who don't understand what trauma is, it's easy to feel devalued and invalidated by the comments of the world outside.
Explaining Trauma and PTSD Starts with Knowledge
Educating yourself about how to define trauma becomes critical in appreciating your own experience and recovery process, plus educating those around you. This week, I had a terrific conversation with Judy Crane, founder of The Refuge - A Healing Place, a treatment center for addiction, trauma and PTSD recovery. During our chat, Judy defined trauma down to a very minute level. I want to share it with you and hope that you'll share it with others so that we spread the word about what trauma really means.
What is Trauma?
"anything less than nurturing."
Wow, that casts a wide net and repositions trauma from the exotic to the every day, which makes it much more accessible and ubiquitous. If you've ever felt like you're separate or disconnected from the world because of your trauma, the truth is that the world is full of it; you are very connected, indeed.
Judy then went on to deepen the definition by saying that trauma is
"an event or experience that changes your vision of yourself and your place in the world."
From this perspective, you (and anyone you share this info with) can see how easily trauma leaves its mark. Without your permission, a negative, frightening, hurtful or disempowering event occurs that shifts you into a place of feeling "less than". From here, it's a slippery slope to feeling unworthy, undeserving, purposeless and useless, the very feelings that contribute to posttraumatic symptoms and interrupt a normal life.
Explain Trauma & PTSD Simply; Others Will Get It
The next time someone (including you) poo-poos your trauma or PTSD experience or belittles the effects it's had on you, share Judy's simple explanations. You can say, for example,
Trauma is anything less than nurturing that changes your vision of yourself and your place in the world.
Explain, too, that trauma happens in both the big and little moments of how life negatively alters you.
From bullying to verbal abuse to abandonment and neglect, trauma comes in as many forms, shapes and sizes as the human race. That means experiencing trauma is part of the human condition. When you feel traumatized you are a normal, feeling, thinking being who has just had a perspective shift that can be shocking, startling, disconcerting and leave you feeling at a loss for how to respond.
Rosenthal, M. (2014, January 1). How To Explain Trauma To People Who Don't Get It, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, July 9 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2014/01/feeling-misunderstood-how-to-explain-trauma-to-people-who-just-dont-get-it
Author: Michele Rosenthal
In nearly every account I read and I did read all in their entirety, I found I was relating to some aspects of all of them.
I have just finished a mental health group after 6 years. Prior to the group was a year of one on one counseling. For me it began as a "GRIEF" group. My husband of 30 years had passed away in 2011 and I'd gone off into the deep end of the depression pool so to speak.
A friend said I needed to get help so I saw a counselor who came to my home for a year. That's how I got into the group.
The counselor was retiring.
In a way she pushed me out of my nest (comfort zone) and into the world. This woman really needs a big thank you! I Just realized that just now. She gave me a great deal to think about and "hit the nail on the head" so many times! That nail had been poking me all my life and I ran from it as if the devil were chasing me!
One day she asked me if I had ever been diagnosed bipolar. I laughed, probably sounding very weird. My biggest fear had finally surfaced and I was NOT willing to admit I was like my mother.
She was bipolar and a lot more.
The group counselor also became my one on one counselor which was a good thing. Too many people in my head just makes my whole being hurt. Seems weird to say but "GROUP" was a good thing! I was in a safe place and I didn't have to focus just on me!
I discovered I wasn't alone with my GRIEF. Or my tears. Seems like I would never stop crying. What I thought was the loss of my husband of 30 years, (over half of my lifetime), wasn't the whole story. It turns out it was my whole life I was in mourning for.
After a few months of counseling and group I asked to see the psychiatrist who diagnosed me with bipolar and PTSD. I knew something was really really not right! I could feel inside of my being it was more than just grief. I KNEW it was time for me to face my biggest fear, Mental illness! It runs deep in my family.
I knew I had depression and back in the 90s PCP's really didn't address or really didn't want to discuss mental issues. I was put on Wellbutrin to stop smoking and "by the way" the PCP said, "it also helps with depression." After 12 years of taking the med and levels never being checked, I had a full blown manic attack. The psychiatrist took me off Wellbutrin with the warning to never take meds for depression. Even though bipolar is a type of depression it is very different!
The nightmares were getting worse and I was disassociating. I had been doing that most of my life but I didn't know it. I just couldn't remember most of my childhood. Just bits and pieces and like a puzzle they were starting to come together, clicking into place. The abandonment abuse issues by my mother, rape by a teenager at 5 or 6, Foster Care and more abuse. Being bullied and then getting in trouble for fighting; defending myself. I was labeled an encouragable (spelling) child.
It all fostered what was yet to come. I'm 67 years old now. The nightmares have subsided and I don't cry all the time. I can talk about my husband and I again have our wedding pictures out. My little 5 year old Me knows I love her and will protect and provide for us and not blame what we had no control over. Forgiveness of myself is very important. It has been really hard to accept that my mother was an unfit parent. Her illness kept me from seeing it because I could accept "illness". Forgiveness of others is not totally a done deal, but mostly I have accepted what is. I can't change what happened in my life. I have come to the understanding of this fact as it applies to me. I will probably always be very aware but not always hyper-vigalent.
PTSD is what it is to what ever degree the individual person is experiencing it. It's not the same for everyone. It's not a "just get over it and move on" like GRIEF issue others have. They react to to both issues because they are uncomfortable and by ignoring it it will go away! Ignorance isn't the answer. Knowledge is! Thanks to you all for sharing! God bless you all!
Thank you! This was helpful. Was having this issue with my husband the other day. He tries to understand, it's just hard for him because he has never gone through it and has a very pick yourself up by the bootstraps and move on mentality, which has served him. Doesn't quite work that way with trauma though. And sometimes, like in my case, it's not a clearly horrible or disturbing event or childhood that caused it. I'm learning to accept my trauma, whether or not my husband is ever able to really understand.
Thank you for this article, it's given me much food for thought, and it's a comfort to be able to read others' insights and experiences, and know I'm not alone on this planet, as I mostly feel alone.
Since having PTSD myself, and trying to understand it, its impact on my life, and how to heal from the trauma, I've listened with great interest to veterans' stories, including those from the Great War (1914-18). Rape survivors' stories resonate with me too.
I have come to the understanding that when we experience horror, terror or pain, in some capacity that is beyond our set of life experiences, it is such a shock to us, it has completely blindsided us, it is overwhelming and beyond our ability to process ---- THIS is what creates PTSD.
The circumstances that finalise that process include overwhelming grief, overwhelming loss, overwhelming and unfixable change of such a magnitude as to be catastrophic, having NO ONE TO TELL, having NO WORDS to describe what happened, having NO ABILITY TO GET JUSTICE, not being listened to or believed when you do speak, being told by the abuser that it didn't happen... having your pain minimised... having your experience invalidated...these are all components that hammer the nails in of its construction.
We cannot process it, and so the nightmares come.
The flashbacks come.
The pain of injustice and violation comes.
We can't process the memories, there is no time-stamp attached to them, so they are as fresh as if they are still happening, or have just happened.
The anger comes like a tsunami; a constant cry for justice.
The waves of shame come, and parts of my brain go offline, so I blank out. With that, my social confidence diminishes.
The flashbacks and sense memories make me want to vomit, and jump out of my body, to escape. They are like fingernails down the blackboard.
The negative neuroplastic changes are activated, so that within fifteen minutes these painful thoughts are deconstructed, and unable to be remembered. The narrative of the horror is uncoupled like train carriages so that it cannot run through my mind in its entirety; only brief partial events are able to flicker across my conscious mind's screen.
The deep, wailing grief is just below the surface, just on the other side of me closing my eyes to sleep. Through the night I awaken suddenly startled, and immediately think "where am I? What's happening?". The nightmares of watching another helpless person being tortured (me, metaphorically) makes me wail, and I wake up sobbing.
Sometimes the grief engulfs me in a wave during waking hours, but I have no more tears for me. Another's suffering will touch me deeply, and my tears will pour out for them.
It's an extremely lonely thing to have.
I read in another place someone had written: "I'd rather have a broken arm than have PTSD, because at least there'd be a way to heal it, and an endpoint to the suffering.
I sighed, "how true".
I could add that it would be easier to show to others and have them understand.
Absolutely not. PTSD must be negative which is not at all what Judys definition implies. Furthermore it must be far beyond a lack of nurturing. A lack of nurturing = not good for development. A lack of meeting basic needs and a presence of abuse could result in PTSD. A lack of nurturing? That's an incredibly common circumstance. You wanna call that PTSD? Well then those who suffered (as opposed to those who simply *didn't prosper*), deserve their own distinction. What shall we call it?
Three + yrs since my 7 year marriage with mis diagnosed bipolar wife, who actually has bpd I believe, decided to end our happy (so I thought) marriage, never to see or speak to her again. After not getting over things,as a normal grieving period should have done, my attempts to find d answers as to what happened and why marriage completely ended in a mere 8 hour period. Went from normal life and nothing that resembled divorce to never seeing or speaking to my wife again. This is when I learned in heat depth about mental illness and the effects of living with spouse suffering from bpd for example. I learned why life changed in every aspect for me and why. Short version of my findings is this. Nearly everyone has very litthe to zero knowledge of the effects of mental illness has on lived ones and spouses. Yes we had monthly outbreaks and living conditions were lie a war zone for 1 to 4 days but it ended and life went back to the fairy tale life as we Knew it. 99.9 percent of people, such as myself 3 yrs ago, can only relate to, understand, believe,or be sympathetic to a normal divorce is like and many have to compare this event to the most tragic hurtful event that they themselves have experienced. I've still yet to find anyone who can relate to the fact that I didn't have a normal divorce by any means. Nobody feels the hurt or remotely understands or accepts my claims as being legitimate and try convincing people that your situation is worse than the divorce they went through. So, educating people somehow. Support groups. Anything or anybody that I could have related to would have made every bit of difference . I did not seek any mental help at all. This has been my greatest regret. I can tell I've suffered permanent damage. Suicide has recently changed from a not if but when thing, to a, it's not as definate as 3 mo ago or even thought about. I still choose to call my tiny bedroom in my father's modular or trailer house, my safe place. I lost my good job. Haven't had income in 1.5 yrs. Don't care if I do anything to make changes atm. I'm just now interested in dating again. Well maybe. Anyway.....info, support, educate others. Big helpers yet effortless to provide.
My heart goes out to everybody here. I'm 82 and have PTSD and nobody understands 'cos it's invisible. I had a tummy ache 1and half yrs ago. Son took me to emergency. Ten minutes later I was dead. A ruptured aneurism caused blood loss. I next noticed that I had just a sheet covering me.Asked the nurse who said Oh, we had to cut you out of your clothes and the resuscitation took about five mins. Only a few percent of people survive this. Had stent put in/good docs. etc. I have Every possible symptom of this brain injury, and often think of suicide. I am in almost stage five CKD and don't want to die alone, but it is almost unbearable to live. 4 sweet sons living far away and not very worried about it at all. It's invisible after all! I'm So grateful to write this for people who understand.
You're a treasure, and a woman of great courage.
Anyone who battles despair daily and doesn't give into it is incredibly strong.
We are listening to you, and we understand what you've said.
I hear you Geri and it makes sense to me. It’s two years since you offered your honest account and I’m sure many have felt comforted/relieved by your honest insights. I hope you are well.
People are realizing that PTSD sufferers experienced a trauma that had proved tremendously difficult to overcome. I explain to people that sufferers of C-PTSD had no life before their trauma without trauma and that their trauma happened during the developmental stage of their brain and so affects them much differently and severely and ask them how they think of growing up in a traumatic environment might affect a child and when they think about it, I think they get it better. They understand what little chance they have comparatively to survive to live to their full potential.
I believe that to be an accurate but oversimplified definition that most people are too ignorant to comprehend. We who suffer from C-PTSD and trauma understand it very well but most others need more to understand.
I agree 100%.
I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2012, the traumatic event, as far as they can figure, was a search and rescue operation where I had to recover the bodies from one of our SAR aircraft. I just started seeing a psychologist a few months ago, and I can't open up to him about the details. I go on buses, into crowded malls, theatres, etc and the sheer number of people causes me to stress out. The smells that remind me of burning flesh, AV gas, foliage, etc make me want to throw up. Trauma is psychological, emotional as well as physical. I have difficulty sharing the details, or even talking about it in general terms, because a person that has not been in the same sort of situation cannot relate to what is hurting me.
First, Dave, I'm so sorry you went through this. You're right; it's an extreme situation that most people cannot specifically relate to. Have you tried finding a support group for combat veterans with PTSD? Aside from that, however, I do think that while your therapist, family, friends etc won't understand your experience, they can still support you and understand your need for help--as Michele wrote in the article, you can explain your pain in simple terms. Not everyone knows what it's like to experience warfare, but everyone knows pain, and I also think that we as humans can all recognize--at least on some level--the horror of what you experienced. I can't fully understand because I've never been through that specific type of trauma, but reading your comment, I can understand how and why this experience is so painful to you. The people in your life can still listen.
That being said, it took me a long time to be able to talk about my trauma as well. There's no need to rush that. You can talk about it when and if you're ready. In your comment you said "trauma is psychological, emotional, as well as physical." And you're absolutely right! If you haven't already, I recommend reading "The Body Keeps The Score" by Bessel van der Kolk. Basically, he discusses how he discovered through clinical practice and research that our bodies store our trauma, and also that by healing trauma in the body (he highly recommends yoga), we can heal trauma in our minds as well. If you're not able to do work with words right now, maybe try working through your trauma physically.
Dear Dave, I have never been in warfare either but I have PTSD as well from a 17 year long abusive marriage. I have been divorced for over 10 years now but I still attend counseling sessions twice a month.
I have also lost 2 of my brother's to suicide since 2008, one of them was a Veteran like you. He had PTSD and therefore he couldn't take the nightmares and flashbacks any longer. He died on Memorial Day 2010
Thank You for sharing your story and I will pray for you. Please take care of yourself and if you ever feel overwhelmed by your PTSD please remember this one saying; "Suicide is a permanent solution for a temporary problem" Take care of yourself and your friends and family do already know that the things you went through are worse than they ever wanted or imagined.
The ignorance and lack of education....seem to be the worst part of it all. Although im not a vet it would seem my ptsd is often diminished in others eyes due to that fact.
Even though I am quite outgoing and open about my PTSD there are still some people I don't discuss it with directly because o can tell from their body language and reactions that they truly dismiss it or think less of me on some level. Needless to say, they are not exactly my closest comrades.
I tell people who don't understand the saying "walk a mile in my shoes" but I tell them if they "could spend 30 sec. in my head they would come out in tears"...and your so right about body language we learned to assess situations so quickly and read people's expressions for us it's survival we are survivors it's a struggle everyday but we get through it....be strong but mostly be gentle to yourself
Most people would be repulsed by the memories we carry in our heads.
Hi Dave. That is partly what I'm afraid of. I have PTSD and recently decided to try going off my medication. Where I was living before I felt safer to do so. I returned to the area where so much happened. I find it so hard to talk to anyone about it. I often feel like it would be a huge burden to unload - especially when talking about what happened. When I do (which is so rare), I have witnessed and experienced so many different kinds of hurtful reactions. Everything from leaving me feeling guilty that I feel the way I do to feeling awful that someone else now has to have those horrible pictures in their head. It's so hard to avoid situations where you don't have to explain at least in part what is going on. I try to prepare myself beforehand. Other times I just want to get it out. I find hiking helps release some of that energy. I also find it helpful to engage in as many grounding activities as possible - finding as many ways to stay mindful and in the "now". I wish I could say it always works but it's a start. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy. Ken is right. Go gentle on yourself. You didn't put those memories there.
I'm glad that you don't feel that way yourself. Its important that you recognize that others just can't "get it". I know I didn't "get it" before it happened to me. How could someone possibly understand how exquisitely brutal PTSD can be. Life is a battlefield and you are a veteran. You have been on your personal battlefield for as long as you have been alive and then some. Sometimes it seems to me that those who don't understand PTSD have never really been in the fight in the first place. I have been a firefighter for 26 yrs in a major metropolitan area and suffer from PTSD. My personal belief is that you can get a PTSD injury at any age for anything. It wouldn't surprise me if some people were born with it. The whole thing is very personal. I notice that others manage to frame me the same way they do you. That somehow I'm not tough enough, or that I just need to do this or that to get over it. I think this perception problem is common among people who have never battled PTSD. The world is definitely full of stupid people. (Meaning we are all stupid about some things)
I understand your feelings, having experienced my own serious abuse and resulting PTSD. You help me to see that I was further traumatized due to lack of understanding of PTSD and the ignorance of police. I did not bother to report assaults as i knew i would be castigated by their ignorant attitudes. PTSD sufferers often suffer from painful isolation and loneliness throughout life due to a residue of low self worth, distrust, fear and hopelessness. I am open to on-going communication.
Blessings to you.....
People can be so ignorant. I am supposed to (and I have) show respect and compassion to those who have PTSD as a result of trauma experienced during military service. But God forbid I recieve the same conpassion and/or respect from some of those same men and women.
We are supposed to look the other way when the military frequents establishments that offer up women for sale? How is that not traumatizing those women and young girls? If you truly admitted what happens to get them to the position of that bed in that massage parlor you'd arm those women.
I often think I would have been better off in a war zone with a weapon in my hand than as a child brutally raped, trafficked, drugged and beat. At least I could have fought back.
I didn't enlist into a career where it would be likely I'd experience trauma. I didn't get that choice. Because I would not have made it.
I would not have chosen to have doctors and police fail to report the abuse. I would not have chosen to have police join in with the abusers and terrorize and abuse me.
At least the military receive respect from the police and don't have to live in fear of the very people that are supposed to protect them.
I can't even sit in a vehicle next to a police vehicle without trembling.
Some of those same men and women have further victimized me by belittling me. They have called me horrible things. Made things unbearable to the point of me wanting to die.
Well, this crazy woman has done more for others than you realize. I fought for the rights of the disabled. I fed and clothed your homeless veteran brothers. I went without so someone else would not. I spoke up, though trembling with fear, against the criminals wearing badges here at home. That's alot more courageous than picking up arms against others in order to line your pockets. You didn't do it for free, you got your 30 pieces of silver.
Ignorance is abundant in this world. My only consolation is that one day they will be judged as they have judged me. Until then i get to live this daily hell. My mistakes, being born and ever daring to have hope.
Yes it's so very hard. I learned to pour my energy into myself ,love myself ,know it's ok to feel tender at the hurting places, and to be tender with those who respect softness. Warm thoughts from Cushela.
Your article touched me.. I so feel you.. Every word.. Attitude.. Expression.. Om... I have the hardest time expressing myself in writing. I never talked always wrote. Got awards in school, always giving pointers on others book reports.. Smh.. And then..
The traumatic events began n lasted 3 years.. Dad, uncle, cousin.. I ran away at 12. I had 1 thgt in my head.. I didn't care what happened to me out in tje world, it cld not possibly be worse than what happens to me here, everyday, at home w my family. I nvr went back. I don't want to look back. Outta the blue I find myself there.
A cigarette passed to close in the dark.. And I'm in the 9th circle of hell.. Everyone around me is still kewl.. I struggle not to react to my situation.. Talk myself down.. Murmur comfort words, self soothe..controlled breathing, quitely.. Above all don't freak out.. Afterwards I feel like I've ran a marathon. Completely depleted, shaky, clamy.. Thank God it was dark or I'd been busted... A few years after running away I get pinched n put in foster care. Counseling and group therapy
I cldnt talk.. Tell total strangers.. No.. I was goin to
Flunk group and spend 16 more weeks in the chair.. I was given the choice to write it out
I thgt it was perfect solution
I cldnt write a word... My whole body shook so hard i thgt i was havin a seizure.. 16 more weeks.... Still haven't written anything directly about it.. I said I didn't remember much.. So the enlightened ones felt I had to remember to come to terms n move on.. Who's idea was this?? The mind goes blank for a reason.. It was worse then for a long time.. I was placed in a suburban development, in a split level, with solid middle class folks
The foster dad was same as mine.. All that to end up exactly where I began, only in a nicer house.. My son is his.. The state took my baby, said I was an underage, promiscuous, unwed, unfit mother didn't even investigate him.. 17and 1/2 years later he goes down as a sex offender.. I'm only a biological mother to my son.. I can't bridge the gap no matter what.. I've tried endlessly.. Its a daily struggle. I don't want it to be. I can't get away from it.. Going to the bathroom the damage done is such I can't ignore it.. Bam.. There i am, instantly teleported to when and how that happened.. From that moment on, I struggle to get it back in the box, keep it there, I've never once succeeded in getting it off my mind..
Over time I was able to pinpoint some triggers. Others still hit me out of the blue. I tried to make a way in the world.. I jus don't fit in it anywhere.. I try to help others, hopefully I have.. Some at least.. They say I'm compassionate n a good listener..they thank me for walking back to good with them... How I wish I could be them and find my way to good.. I'm a loner cause its jus easier.. How can one get something like that across to Joe n Jane Normal?? Anytime I've tried has become an extension of my hell.. I come away beating myself up for even thinking telling anyone was a good idea
I loose them from my life when I was trying to bring them closer.. I'm 51 now alone and terminal..by the time i got to this point, i had visions of looking back on a life i was thankful for... In reality I'm Thankful the struggle is about over..
I just want you to know that I admire your courage for sharing your experience here with us, and it's clear that you've only skimmed the surface of it all.
I would come and sit with you. We could talk if you wanted. I would just listen, and give you a safe place to process and feel accepted. We could sit in silence, and just be. You'd have someone on your side.
I very much wish that I could make it right for you, and I'm sorry that you went through any of it.
You are a woman of great courage and resilience, and you are a precious person who should ALWAYS have been treated with respect & love. You deserved to be protected, and not predated on.
Thank you for sharing your excruciatingly painful experiences with us, and giving us a glimpse into the gross injustice and violations involved in human trafficking, and the deep pain of your life.
It is pain that is close to my heart, and to many others who are fighting to end human trafficking.
It is utterly abhorrent.
You are a precious person, and deserved to be treated with respect, dignity and love.
You deserved to be protected.
Your anger is totally justified.
You can let it out here.
You're amongst friends, and we are listening.
We're glad it resonated with you, Joe.
It is always interesting to see the methods which other people use to explain what it is they are going through in regards to PTSD. Having been in the military and also the police department for much of my life I witnessed first hand how many times people simply shrugged off PTSD and those who suffered from it as a weakness. Slowly we are beginning to open people's eyes to what PTSD is and what people suffering from PTSD are going through in their lives. Great article, I look forward to reading many more from you!
In the military and the police force too Bob?
You're one of my heroes.
I'd imagine that most of your police force colleagues have some form of PTSD after some years of service.
All I can say is.......... you hit the nail right on the head. Thank you.
What a nice, accessible article for people who see a PTSD diagnosis as shocking and assume you must have been in some kind of giant Titanic-esque tragedy...when the reality is that PTSD can be caused by different kinds of verbal and emotional abuse in childhood.
the definition of trauma as "an event or experience that changes your vision of yourself and your place in the world" is the most profoundly useful one i have read regarding ptsd and it explains mine so extremely well. thank you very much!
Life becomes a question of "who am I now? What do I have to bring to a relationship and life now? How can I move on from this? What are the goal posts? Is it worth it?"
Add chronic pain to that and it becomes a search for significance.
I have PTSD and have been dealing w it for a while. Its tough. I was goin thru the worst parts of hell and I went to the dr. I complained of difficulty concentrating. I ended up w a rx combo of anti anxiety/anti depressants. The side effects caused two seperate incidents causing me to miss work. The last one I have no memory and ended up over dosing and in ICU. Ive been called stupid, immature, irresponsible, needy, crazy and I still am trying. My work firedme and HR actually told me I needed to stop using depression as an excuse!!!!!! She had no idea who I am or what its like being abused. I am now losing my home. PTSD is real and unless someone really could feel ur pain they are quick to judge! I am not gonna give up and each day I remind myself of the strength and joy I will feel by not giving up and getting up again!
I can feel your frustration ! Being sick with a mental illness , like PTSD, Depression, Anxiety that I have since I was very young. My friends and family do not understand how SERIOUS this kind of illness is for me and others. I too get very sad, frustrated , lonely around the people I care about because they lack the knowledge or understanding that I so dearly need from them. I have not worked in over 20 years because of this , and suffer every day with symtoms ! They also say it's self made by me , or 'get over it already' or many other ways to minimize , trivialize , or just make me feel even worse about myself . It has made me want to isolate more , or don't talk to anyone . I do get help , go to counselling . The only place I get validation and the kind of support I need . Sometimes , family cannot help because they are in denial about the family history of abuse , alcoholism , emotional neglect. I am looking for more support from women's groups around these issues !
It's also important to note that there is such a thing as Secondary PTSD. Parenting a child with trauma is traumatic. Being married to someone with PTSD is traumatic. We develop our own triggers and wounds from being around the confusing, frightening and sometimes exhausting behaviors of those living with trauma. Their trauma in some ways becomes ours. And it is real. I know many mothers whose children are in therapy and they too, end up doing some (awesome) EMDR therapy to get back to positive healthy coping strategies. It never goes away though. Wounds can heal but there are scars.
Oh Scoopy, someone else out there who is suffering "secondary" PTSD. I have parented my daughter through 15 years of mental illness numerous suicide attempts after being sexually abused from infants school throughout to primary school and now that she is a survivor, graduated and happy with her partner and doesn't "need" me like she used to I have crashed and crumbled. It is so hard, flashbacks of her at her worst, triggers when I hear ambulances etc. I have searched everywhere for a support group but to no avail. Nice to be able to get my voice out there if only once. Take care Scoopy x
My husband seems to thinks that his PTSD is worse than mine because mine comes from a completely different kind of trauma. He was in the army and suffers from the effects of being deployed a couple times, which I completely understand. I've tried to let him know that I can help as I have suffered from PTSD since I was 5 yrs old and I've been able to (for the most part) learn to deal with the day to day events that may trigger me into feeling less than. He keeps telling me that it's completely different and I wouldn't understand because I've never been in combat. Whereas I have never been in a combat situation or any branch of military, I do have experience dealing with the effects of the disease. How do you make another person with PTSD understand that although the causes are different and even some of the symptoms that the disease is the same?
Perfect explanation! I'm sad to say I suffered PTSD twice within the last 2 1/2 years (one trauma happened in June 2011 and the other in Dec 2012) and both experiences have been unbearably AWFUL. Literally the impacts of the events made me want to end my life so bad. I finally fully recovered from the June 2011 trauma by May 2012, and began a process of positive inner love, freedom and transformation.. but somehow the "right" (perfectly orchestrated) situation hit me 7 months later, in Dec 2012, and impacted me way worse than the other one. This one completely destroyed or poisoned special things in my life that served major positive purposes for many many years. It was like my biggest security blanket ever since I was a little girl. It is nothing short of a miracle that I'm still here, deciding to fight through it all, simply because I know I deserved a better more fulfilling life than this.
Anyway, I always say the worst thing about going through traumas that lead to severe PTSD is not only dealing with the illness and all the painful reprecussions...but it's trying to explain it to others, family and friends (who've never been through it) in a way where they take it as seriously as you do. Or see the severity of it in the way that you do. And the sad truth is most won't give you the validation that you oh so desperately need. They're too busy criticizing. For the longest time I got treated like crap, like a person who was flawed and weak, when I am stronger than most of them will ever be. I'm just a strong human being who went through something that impacted my life and mind so tragically and fast that it overcame my natural ability to fight back. It impacted the tools that normally always helped me fight my life battles. So they'd be messed up too given a similar predicament. It just makes you feel even more understood and alone.
They don't understand that PTSD makes you lose the ability to control your thoughts and reactions/feelings that stems from those thoughts for a very long time. Doesn't make you immature, it just makes you human. That's why I'm so grateful for websites like yours that speaks nothing but the truth. It is quite comforting and affirming during the recovery process. It gives me a voice again. Thank you thank you Thank you! :)
And just to add onto what I said...traumas that lead to PTSD not only makes you lose control of yourself...it can seriously disconnect you from yourself. This trauma disconnected me from the deepest part of my inner self...the one part of me that had been stable and unpenetrable, no matter how bad life got for me...and that was two major things: Music, and my personal life memories. It's other things included, but two 2 are the top. Accessing those 2 things helped me get through some major life struggles. So it's a no-brainer to see how it can be traumatic to have a perfectly orchestrated trauma that invades and poisons those areas that used to give me nothing but joy, freedom, light, love, hope, connection/harmony with self, and great memories. One day at a time, I'm trying to reclaim my life back from the trauma. I'm slowly trying to gain those connections back to my music and memories, because that's the core of who I am as an individual.
everything you said resonated with me Angela.
My surgical damage made it impossible to do the things I previously did to decompress. The nightmares/flashbacks and intrusive thoughts made it impossible to sit and meditate, to calmly process, to journal. Every moment became a battle to distract myself, to FORGET and NOT think. It pushed me to my limits. I'd be sobbing silently in the toilet cubicle at work by the afternoon.
I was on a path to an inevitable nervous breakdown.
I'd been good at managing my stress before the assault that gave me PTSD, and the loss of that part of my life, and the enjoyment (of meditating and journalling) I'd lost as a result was part of the grieving process.
It is a downward spiral.
The depression also disconnects you from yourself. You can't be there for yourself.
I wish you continued healing and peace.
I just need to tell you Thank You for your post. You have No idea how much it helped me. I like you had several Tragedys and while healing and feeling better I got hit two more times.
The most recent was the worst and I've struggled so much more because of it. During therapy my Doctor explained its accumulative and therefore making it worse this time.
So thank you for sharing. Atleast I don't feel so alone now
Thanks so so very much! Reading what you wrote is exactly how I feel now , and have for years! Also the way people esp family, close friends ones never thought would treat us after BN faced with trama and unexpected to! I walked in my home on lunch like every day but this day
Changed my lufe! I found my 25 year old fiance dead, also I had 2 children that looked at him as a dad he same! Then 2012 I didn't know it could happen again but worse I lost my 14 year old daughter in a car accident when I got call that night I've never been the same no support like I needed I struggle daily still can't get my life on a normal routine I feel like Im slowly losing my mind scraes me! No one understands but ya that have BN through it's so aggravating ! Also haven't had good docs to get help needed! Thanks again I feel like you said can't explain what you said exactly how I feel thanku prayers to all ! Amy Danielle
Sorry i meant no one I'm around understands me, I can't explain with out argument or fighting and I get so mad and sad! What you wrote is how I feel
I understand what it is like to lose a child. I had two sons and a daughter that I lost in a house fire on May 22/1977. And still feel the heavyness of this terrible accident to his day And still see my family doctor who has been so very understanding. I donot know what I would have done, without all the wonderful doctors'that I have had in my life. Thankyou
Great article! Trauma is trauma. Symptoms are variable for each person. Repeated traumatic experiences over the course of time contributes to the concept of Judy's well said statements, where some people get lost in the "less than" mentality. Being a civilian Survivor while knowing we are not alone, for those who do not understand PTSD, nor are able to contribute to the nurturing encouraging, or supportive aspect that is part of our healing...well our recovery is made through self perception, perceptual expectations of the outside world (society) that do not always 'get it', and a determination to not put credence on others understanding, while understanding ourselves and our personal journeys
I took care of my son who had Bipolar 1 and Schizophrenia for 10 years and became caught up in running along side of him trying desperately to help in any way. It was like trying to chase down a train you knew was going to crash. Crash it did in March of 2013 when he passed away. Totally devastated, I have questioned everything I did, said, believed and lived since he was born in 1985. Now I stand a stare at the broken pieces of myself and wonder where do I go from here and who am I. To even attempt to explain this to anyone who hasn't walked this path is impossible. Only God understands :(
hunhun I understand this pain. It's awful, it's all consuming and soul destroying.
But at the other side of this turmoil is the problem that you are still here
To deal with it. So amongst the heartbreak and turmoil find a place for you.
Grip on to the kitchen bench, let the tears of confusion run out and remember
You to need to allow yourself a way to move forward. Cry loads, play all the music that lets you roll through those emotions. Then go to the ocean, or some nature near you and let it all go. The hurt, the sorrow, the confusion and the regret. And remember that you need to find a way forward and that in tide and time this feeling of hurt will pass. Your son, your very confused and frightened son would want you to go on. To have hope, to have love, but to most crucially a life without heartache. He is watching down on you. Make him proud
I deeply appreciate your post. I was in a group yesterday and shared an aspect of the effects of the trauma I have been through and one of the group members said something about how it's important not to get bogged down in self pity and get busy doing for others.... Wow, did I feel like I was in the wrong room. Fortunately I have given myself permission to feel my feelings and have been through years of healing and recovery or this would have triggered an episode, but PTSD is so isolating, I have found, because it seems like no one gets it.... But God.