If you have experienced any kind of trauma, you know how isolating and distressing it can be. We want to offer support so you feel less alone, and more able to cope with the chaos and the pain.
Author: Don't Lose Hope
Director of the Online Counselling College and Coaching Skills International, both based in Calgary, Canada. We provide general and specialist training in counselling and coaching.
You can contact me at: email@example.com
“You don’t have to figure everything out today. You don’t have to solve your whole life tonight. And you don’t have to tackle everything at once. You just have to show up and try. You just have to focus on the most immediate thing in front of you. And you have to trust that you’ll figure out the rest along the way.” – Daniell Koepke
Some suggestions for when you feel overwhelmed:
1. Unplug from social media and, if possible, switch off your phone.
2. Try to drop all non-essential commitments.
3. Make sure you get out of the house. Deliberately change your environment each day.
4. Make a list of the things you CAN do, and begin by changing at least one of them.
5. Get a grip of the negative thought patterns. Try to focus on something positive.
6. Ask for help from someone who is safe, either a professional or someone you know cares.
Things you shouldn’t say to a trauma survivor include:
1. It’s in the past; that was then and this now – Trauma survivors are well aware that the traumatic experience is in the past. They don’t need you to tell them that. The problem is: they’re still living with the fallout. A traumatized person is being triggered constantly.
2. Perhaps it would help if you talked about it – Going over the events, and the impact they have had, can be re-traumatizing for the trauma survivor… and especially if the listener doesn’t really understand.
They do need to talk … but it must be the right person. It isn’t safe for them to open up to “anyone”.
3. Time is a great healer; you just need to give it time – The passage of time is not a healer in itself. The trauma must be processed, and the feelings must be felt.
This comment says the speaker doesn’t want to know about it – because they are avoidant – so they won’t be there for you.
4. It’s important to forgive – This can feel insulting, and completely unempathic. It denies the shock, the damage, and the suffering they’ve gone through. It makes the victim feel they’re guilty when, in fact, they’re innocent. It just adds to the huge burden, and the sense of loneliness.
5. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – This can feel like cold and toxic positivity when the person feels they’re struggling just to make it through the day. Perhaps in time they’ll look back, and they’ll see how strong they were. But it doesn’t validate the feelings that assault them now.
6. I know what it’s like; I’ve been there myself – You’ve really no idea exactly what they’re going through. Don’t write off their experience, and don’t make this about you.
7. Here’s what I think you should do … – You can’t snap your fingers and make trauma go away. There are no easy solutions. You don’t know what they should do. Also, you haven’t got the right to give easy, or trite advice. You only make things worse by trivializing what’s profound.
“To heal, is to touch with love that which we previously touched with fear.” – Stephen Levine
Betrayal trauma has been defined as “being betrayed by a key relationship, such as a parent, caregiver, guardian, significant other, or other individual who is relied upon for support and safety.”
It is a major violation of a deep attachment bond.
The symptoms of betrayal trauma include:
– Intrusive thoughts and images
– Insomnia and broken sleep
– Nightmares or flashbacks related to learning about the betrayal, and what that means for the relationship)
– Hypervigilance (constantly scanning your environment for potential threats related to being hurt, or harmed, or betrayed again)
– Extreme anxiety and fearfulness
– Feeling emotionally unstable; having unexpected mood swings; finding it hard to regulate your emotions
– Feeling emotionally numb
– Dissociating to avoid the pain, and the reality of the situation
– Feeling disconnected and detached from the world and other people
– Being highly irritable, and prone to angry outbursts
– Experiencing physical symptoms such as tension headaches, migraines, fatigue, stomach-ache, digestive problems, and skin problems
– Constantly battling intense feelings of shame related to being abused, and having your trust violated
– Feelings of (inappropriate) guilt and self-blame
– Low self-worth and self-esteem
– Holding deeply entrenched global, negative beliefs about self and others. (For example, “I don’t deserve to be loved. No one could ever love me.”“You can’t trust anyone. Everyone lies and deceives you.”)
– Difficulties with intimacy
– An inability to trust almost everyone, and especially those who are closest to us
– keeping people at arm’s length; not allowing others to get close, or know the ‘real me’
– Social isolation and withdrawal; social anxiety
– Doubting your own decision-making abilities
– Feeling unable to trust yourself.
The beginning of healing is recognizing that you have experienced betrayal trauma, and the symptoms you are struggling with are normal. Only then, can you seek out the support you need, and start to process the trauma you’ve been through.
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it. Believe this can be true for you.”
“We get to choose what we believe about ourselves.”
Have you ever realized this?
The picture we come to have of ourselves is created through the messages that other people send us, and especially those who are closest to us.
If those people are whole, and are healthy, themselves then the messages they send will be balanced, and life-giving. However, if they’ve unresolved issues which they’ve never owned and faced, then it’s likely they will work some of those issues out on us.
They might be envious or jealous of us.
Or, they might dislike, or hate, us for some qualities and strengths that we appear to have, and which they know they are lacking.
Or, perhaps we’re more accomplished, or are better read, or we’ve travelled to more places, or are more popular.
A lot of the time, we’re not aware of what ”it” is. But just find that we’re a pawn in how they deal with their stuff.
We’re just a character in the drama of their lives.
So, the messages they send are not objective and true, and we shouldn’t see ourselves through their smudged or broken lens.
Today … Maybe think of how they’ve twisted and distorted “who you are”.
Perhaps the time has come to replace those lies with truth.
“Even beautiful things have endings, but it doesn’t mean they have to be forgotten. Moments are memories, no matter how broken, complicated, or messy those moments have been. This chapter is ending, and healing will be hard … but it doesn’t mean that beautiful beginnings are not coming.” TIFFANYMOULE.COM
1. It’s normal and OK to feel you must move on – from people, situations and relationships. And it’s Ok for others to outgrow you, too.
2. Allow yourself to feel, and to grieve for the loss. It meant it was important, or they mattered to you.
3. Ask yourself the question: Am I struggling to let go because that other person is holding on to me? Also, what will it take for you to instigate real change? Perhaps what feels familiar still feels comfortable and safe.
4. If you’re choosing to move on from a close relationship where things fell apart, or went badly wrong, forgive yourself for things you said, or did, or now regret. It’s part of being human. So let those go as well.
5. We don’t always get closure. It’s not only down to us. Sometime we just accept that the past cannot be changed.
6. Letting go means letting in … Letting in something that’s new, or someone we’ve not met yet … and that’s a scary thought. But this could be the change that will transform everything!
Night-time was the worst. It was always the worst. Usually in the day-time she could put it from her mind. But when she tried to sleep at night, all the memories returned.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, try to focus your mind on just one thing that will help you to hang on, and also reconnect you with your inner strength. The following questions might help with this:
1. Can you think of one occasion when you felt “it was too much”, and yet you found you coped, and you made it through the day? How did you manage to keep going at that time? How can you apply that to what’s happening right now?
2. Can you think of one key strength that is part of who you are, that gives you confidence, and persuades you “you’ll survive”? How can you ensure you keep accessing that strength?
3. Identify one boundary you know you must enforce, to take care of yourself, and protect your mental health?
4. Can you think of one small thing you could start to do today to make life easier, and reduce some of the stress?
5. Can you think of one dark thought that you need to put aside. It only makes things worse, and it leads down rabbit holes?
6. Can you call to mind one person who accepts you as you are, and is always there for you, and who genuinely cares?
7. What one essential truth will remain your guiding light, and keep you on the path when you feel like giving up?
“Defy the voice that tells you it won’t get better.”