I have come to believe that we have all experienced some form of trauma. Trauma is loosely defined as exposure to a threatening, frightening, or intensely upsetting event or situation. Who hasn’t had one of those? But trauma is characterized by the ability to cope with or defend against the effects. Trauma results in a range of physician and emotional reactions from always being on guard for danger; sleep issues; concentration issues; anger; shame or self-destructive behavior.
One’s reaction to trauma is very individualistic. The more clinical definition of trauma creates a greater range or spectrum of trauma: first, there is ACUTE trauma. This is trauma that results from a single experience. Then there is CHRONIC trauma which occurs as a result of repeated, consistent, and long-term acts. And, there is COMPLEX trauma which results from repetitive, prolonged, or cumulative acts that are most often imposed by primary attachment figures/caregivers (but not always). It involves harm, exploitation, and maltreatment or neglect, abandonment, or antipathy. It can occur at any point in life but often during developmentally vulnerable times such as early childhood or adolescence.
In this week’s podcast, Amanda Sanchez talked about her mental health issues and the intergenerational aspect of her anxiety. She shared how she has worked to overcome her trauma and resultant paralyzing anxiety. So I want to raise the question, what can we learn from Amanda? It is my hope that we learn what our body and mind needs. As Amanda suggested, she learned how to self-talk so that she could decrease the intensity of her emotional reactions. She worked on reality-testing the legitimacy of her fears. We can all do this:
Often the self-talk can provide relief, but deeper work needs to happen as well. Amanda recognized that the more she understood from where her anxiety stemmed, the better able she was to manage it. This is very complicated. Amanda had several traumatic experiences growing up, and her mother, due to her own mental health issues, was unable to protect her. When Amanda understood that her experiences of deep anxiety stemmed from not being soothed; not having control and not feeling in control, she realized she needed to find ways to get what she needed. This is an oversimplification of some intense work. My point is this: if your emotions are overwhelmed; your mind is unable to cope, get help. You don’t have to do this alone. If you don’t know what you need, let a professional help identify what you need, and then they can provide that to you. If your body is reacting to trauma by closing off or shutting down or having physical/somatic reactions, listen to your body. Also, seek help. And rest. It’s ok. Take time to tend to you. Trauma is pain. And you don’t have to hurt alone. You can work through the pain if you’re willing to invest in you. We have to walk through the pain to get past it; it doesn’t disappear on its own.
For more on this subject, listen to "What Would Dr. Meyers Do", Episode 3.