If a trauma can’t be shared or expressed in words, it demands to be heard in other ways. Sorrow can’t be buried indefinitely.
So, what happens if we have to keep our story to ourselves, and it all becomes a secret that is hidden from the world?
1. We are likely to develop somatic symptoms (racing heart; irregular breathing/ holding your breath; stomach and digestion problems; aching muscles and bones; migraine, fibromyalgia, and so on). Here, your body is sending a strong message to your brain. It wants to remind you that the trauma is still there. It hasn’t been worked through yet. It’s demanding your attention.
What to do about it? It’s important to notice and to name the different symptoms. Ignoring or repressing them won’t work for very long. You can’t just block it out. It isn’t going to go away.
2. We might numb out at times, and find it difficult to feel. This can affect our close relationships. We’ll likely come across as being distant and detached. We don’t stay connected. There’s a shield around our heart.
What to do about it? Again, we need to notice how hard is to feel, to stay connected, and believe that others care. It’s natural to pull back and to put up a wall if you’ve been betrayed, or experienced deep pain. You need to look at how you have changed, and why it’s so hard to get close.
3. We might act out feelings of pain and rage – The warning bell for this is extreme reactions to minor, non-threatening or neutral events. This can take us by surprise, and shock us to the core. We can think we’re going crazy, or are losing our mind.
What to do about it? The reason is our brain is protecting us from harm. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to being traumatized. Understanding what is happening is a good starting point. Perhaps you really need to interrogate your pain.
4. Related to this, we might start to act in ways which are extreme or dangerous (High risk sex, using drugs, or turning to a life of crime.)
What to do about it? Usually, we are trying to blot out all the pain, or the trauma and the memories which are haunting us today. Again, understanding what is happening is a good starting point.
6. We might start to dream our stories in the form of broken sleep, repeated nightmares, sleep walking or in panic attacks.
What to do About it? If our story’s not been shared, our subconscious will replay it. We need our suffering to be witnessed and reflected back to us. Counselling and therapy can be very helpful here (or even having the support of an understanding friend).