1. It requires specialist counselling. Although it is essential to talk about what happened, and to have your experienced witnessed by another, a counsellor or therapist needs additional training. They need to know what is normal when you’ve been traumatized, and especially when it comes to managing flashbacks, re-experiencing the trauma, and dissociation.
2. You feel you’re going crazy; you don’t recognize yourself. You fly off the handle at the smallest provocation. You react in scary and unexpected ways; and you no longer live on an even keel.
This is not who you were, or who you want to be. You feel you’ve lost yourself, and you’ve lost yourself forever.
3. You experience emotions you never felt before; and these feelings can be hard to bring under control. They’re overwhelming, intense and can be hard to dial down. And you never really know “what is going to set you off.”
4. You feel ashamed and embarrassed at the way that you react, and this further undermines your very low self-esteem … for the trauma has already undermined your self-esteem.
5. So much of what you’re feeling cannot be articulated. Rational thinking is shut down when emotions start to rise. The subconscious mind is driving things, and trying to protect you. You can’t explain to others what is happening to you.
6. There are very few people who will truly understand. They will judge the situation and give you trite advice. Unless you’ve walked this road yourself, then you don’t know what it is like. You don’t understand the terror, the despair and hopelessness.
7. Be careful who you talk to. This is crucial for self-care. If you talk to the wrong person, you’ll only feel much worse. Be hesitant and wise before you risk sharing with others.
8. Other people who have gone through something similar to you are you best supporters (beyond talking to a counsellor). They’ve struggled with these symptoms – all the same thoughts and emotions. They know what it is like, and they can normalize reactions.
9. Feeling safe in our own body, in our environment, and with a few trusted people is a prerequisite for processing the trauma, and being able to recover.
10. Recovery is slow. It’s so much slower than expected. It plays havoc with your sleep, and it can compromise your health. Daily life feels like a minefield; there are triggers everywhere. You think you’re making progress then the past hits you again.
But there is absolutely hope. It won’t be this way forever. One day you will look back, and you will see how much you’ve changed.