Life after Trauma

What Trauma Does to You

You turn into a person you don’t recognize, acting in ways you never thought you would act, feeling things you never felt before.

You feel like you’re a foreigner in your own body. You have anxiety attacks. You wake up in a panic. You feel intense emotions at unexpected things.

You’re triggered unexpectedly, and constantly.  

Even though you may find your old self again, trauma permanently changes you.

You lose your optimism, and can’t believe you’ll ever recover and enjoy your life again.

You lose your faith in humanity. You start to think anyone could hurt and harm another … no matter who it is, or how wonderful they seem.

You lose your sense of humour – at least for a while.

Things People don’t ‘get’ about Trauma

You don’t just deal with it, and move on. Everything within you resists recovery – because your brain wants to protect you from being harmed again.

There isn’t an off switch you can use with your reactions. They come out of the blue, and it can take a while to calm down the responses, and to quieten the fears.

This is a game with no rules; you have to go with the flow. Your subconscious holds the reigns. Your conscious mind no longer has control.

You can’t act some part and pretend you’re over it. Trauma is too powerful. It dominates your life.

There is Hope

You can recover and move on, eventually. It takes a lot of work. It takes tenacity. But you can get in touch with your old self again.

There are people who can help, if you look hard enough. But be careful who you tell. Very few will understand. Be persistent, and can looking. It is worth it in the end.

Often, you find a new tribe. A tribe you never knew existed. A tribe you never, ever thought about before. And you’re very, very grateful you have found this tribe.

You develop a much deeper, new respect for yourself, and a fierceness at enforcing healthy boundaries.

Although trauma leaves it mark, there can be payoffs as well. It turns you into someone who can empathize with others. And you can hold out a bright beacon of hope to them, as well.

Each of us heals in our own way.”

– Rachel Remen

How To Quiet The Voice In Our Head After Trauma

The following is a guest post from DiosRaw.com. Please check out her website if you would like to read more of her posts.

After a traumatic experience we can feel like we are going crazy, a weight of devastation presses us down as if the pain will never stop. Trauma impacts everyone in different ways and the symptoms of this trauma can be endless.

Today I am going to offer some tips on ways to quieten the voice in your head after trauma.

What is the voice in your head?

Also referred to as “internal dialogue,” “the voice inside your head,” or an “inner voice,” your internal monologue is the result of certain brain mechanisms that cause you to “hear” yourself talk in your head without actually speaking and forming sounds.

Tips on quieting the inner voice after trauma when it gets too loud:

  • Community. Find a community of people who are going through the same experiences as you who can make you feel understood and not alone. We are primal creatures that need people to bond with. Over and over again, research has found that finding support from others can be a major factor in helping people overcome the negative effects of a traumatic event and PTSD. Having someone you trust that you can talk to can be very helpful for working through stressful situations or for emotional validation.
  • Meditation. The power of meditation thrusts survivors directly into the heart of wounds that often require more than mindful awareness to heal. Yet mindfulness is also a valuable asset for trauma survivors.
  • Yoga. Known to benefit the mind as well as the body, yoga has been proven beneficial for addressing stress, trauma, depression, anxiety, addiction recovery, and even personal growth.
  • Validate Your Experience. What you have experienced is real and distressing. Having the name or context of traumatic stress/PTSD lets you know that how you feel is not your fault. There is nothing “wrong” with you. What you’re going through is actually a normal response to abnormal experiences. It’s important to remind yourself of this as you go through challenging symptoms because self-validation is an important part of healing.
  • Laughter. Humour is medicine, when you laugh you release endorphins which can help smother your pain with a soothing sensation. Laughter boosts your immune system and rewires your brain. Find things that make you laugh, watch a humorous youtube video or talk to the friend that always makes you smile.
  • Focusing on what gives your life meaning. Are you a writer? Write. Are you an artist? Create art. Does bringing up your child give you meaning? Do something fun with your daughter or son. Do you feel you have no meaning in life? Research into spirituality and see what insights you find.
  • Breathing techniques. It may sound unusual, but many people do not breathe properly. Natural breathing involves your diaphragm, a large muscle in your abdomen. When you breathe in, your belly should expand. When you breathe out, your belly should fall. Over time, people forget how to breathe this way and instead use their chest and shoulders. This causes short and shallow breaths, which can increase stress and anxiety. Fortunately, it is quite possible to re-learn how to breathe deeply from your diaphragm and help protect yourself from stress. Practice simple deep breathing exercises to improve your breathing and combat anxiety. I use the method of 4-8-4, breathe in for 4 seconds, hold the breathe for 8 seconds and then release for 4 seconds and release.
  • Knowing you are not alone. There are millions of us who have gone through traumatic experiences, I am one voice of many. Try and find support groups, like-minded souls and online support to aid you on your healing journey.
  • Nothing lasts forever. Change is the only constant, all things will pass eventually. Time is one of the biggest healers.
  • Self-monitoring. This can be a helpful way of getting a handle on your anxiety symptoms. We are all creatures of habit. We often go about our day without thinking, being unaware of much that goes on around us. This may be useful in some situations, but other times, this lack of awareness may make us feel as though our thoughts and emotions are completely unpredictable and unmanageable. We cannot really address uncomfortable symptoms of anxiety without first being aware of what situations bring up these feelings. Self-monitoring is a simple way of increasing this awareness.
  • Journaling. To cope with and express your thoughts and feelings, journaling (also called expressive writing) can be a good way of coping with anxiety. Expressive writing has been found to improve physical and psychological health. In PTSD in particular, expressive writing has been found to have a number of benefits, including improved coping, post-traumatic growth (the ability to find meaning in and have positive life changes following a traumatic event), and reduced PTSD symptoms of tension and anger. Make use of your suffering and write a masterpiece.
  • Research into spirituality. Start reading up on spirituality, find different concepts and ideas which can help put your trauma into perspective. Having trust in an intelligent universal consciousness helps tremendously.

Thank you all for reading this post; hopefully it helped aid you and filled up your tool kit with coping mechanisms for quieting the voice in your head after trauma. Always remember, you are not alone!

“There are all kinds of addicts, I guess. We all have pain. And we all look for ways to make the pain go away.” – Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

“We don’t heal in isolation, but in community.” – S. Kelley Harrell, Gift of the Dreamtime – Reader’s Companion

Let me know how this post helped you below!

-Amber, diosraw.com

Quote of the Day: Your Trauma is Valid

 

Your trauma is valid.

Even if other people have experienced “worse”.

Even if someone else who went through the same experience doesn’t feel debilitated by it.

Even if it “could have been avoided”.

Even if it happened a long time ago.

Even if no one knows.

Your trauma is real and valid and you deserve a space to talk about it.

It isn’t desperate or pathetic or attention-seeking.

It’s self-care.

It’s inconceivably brave.

And regardless of the magnitude of your struggle, you’re allowed to take care of yourself by processing and unloading some of the pain you carry.

Your pain matters.

Your experience matters.

And your healing matters.”

— Daniell Koepke

Please believe it. Take these words to heart.

Disenfranchised Grief (A Complicated Grief)

Our society has a poor relationship with grief. It’s a topic we avoid. It is too uncomfortable.

Yet, when we’re faced with betrayal there’s a multitude of losses that we’re forced to confront, and to try to integrate. They include:

– The loss of the relationship/ marriage you believed you had had (was everything a lie and a fantasy?)

– The loss of identity, self-worth and self-esteem

– The loss of the person you thought you were married to/ believed you were in a relationship with (as they clearly deceived you and had a hidden side)

– The loss of the future you imagined you would have

– The loss of emotional safety in your marriage (and possibly physical safety, too, if there have been affairs/ hook ups, and so on)

– The loss of confidence and trust in your spouse (will you ever be able to believe a word he says?)

A Complicated Grief

And the grief of betrayal is a complicated grief. In many ways, it remains hidden for the person hasn’t died. Also, you may still be in a relationship with them. And the emotions you experience are both intense and complex. Some examples are:

– The fear of judgment (since you know people will talk; they will look for any weaknesses and tear you both to shreds)

– A powerful sense of shame (an inappropriate emotion as, clearly, you’re a victim, and should not be blamed at all) 

– In addition, betrayed partners and spouses are usually traumatized, and they frequently suffer from PTSD.

Dealing with the Taboos

Also, it’s true that betrayal, and a sexual addiction, are still taboo topics in society today.

– This leaves us feeling very isolated and alone.

– You have to wear a mask, and pretend that you’re OK.

– You can’t talk about the losses and what you’re going through.

– You can’t talk about the pain, and how long it lingers on.

This is disenfranchised grief, a grief that’s difficult to bear. It is formally defined as being:

the grief connected to a loss that is unrecognized by society at large.[1]

What to do About it

Not sharing your experience will impede recovery. Being silenced by the world won’t enable you to heal.

So, if you can, share your story, and talk about your grief. Find someone who will listen, and who really understands.

You deserve to be supported. 

Don’t carry this alone.

The only cure for grief is to grieve.


[1] https://www.affairrecovery.com/newsletter/founder/infidelity-how-betrayed-grieve-properly

My Wish for You …

1. My wish for you is when you wake up feeling blah, you’ll treat yourself with kindness and show yourself compassion. Yes, we know there are some hard things that we always have to do, but perhaps this is a day to slow down, and take it easy.

2. My wish for you is that you won’t just sit and daydream about the different things you could go for, and accomplish. But that you’ll find the strength and courage to step out and take risks … and you’ll set yourself large goals … and you’ll work hard to achieve them.

3. My wish for you is that when the cloud and fog encompass, or when you’re sad and lonely, or you feel you’ve lost your bearings, you’ll reach out for support … and you’ll find your tribe surrounds you.

4. My wish for you is when you feel you have regrets, you won’t let guilt and shame weigh you down, and overwhelm you. You won’t let failure haunt you. Please remember – we’re all human. This doesn’t mean it’s over. You can always start again.

5. My wish for you is when you’re pulled in all directions, you’ll find your inner compass, and you’ll know which way to turn. That you’ll listen to your heart, and be able to determine what’s meaningful for you. What will help fulfill your purpose.

6. My wish for you is that you’ll know which battles matter. That you’ll stay true to yourself in the midst of life’s hard struggles. That you won’t give up the fight, or surrender under pressure. Instead, you’ll rest, regroup, and you’ll stay centred and focused.

7. My wish for you is that you’ll look up at the stars, and be awed and inspired by the vastness all around you. That you’ll hope onto your hope, and you’ll never stop believing that life’s a precious gift, one that’s filled with  love and wonder.

Ask us – Are you partly to blame if your partner cheated on you?

In this post we will briefly answer a question that was asked by one of our clients. Here is today’s question:

I’m sick and tired of people saying that I must share at least some of the blame for my husband using porn and having online affairs. This is so hurtful me because I honestly believe I tried to be a thoughtful, loving wife. I really did. And I had no idea he was involved in all of this. Am I right to feel this way?”

Yes, you are right to feel this way. These comments are hurtful and undeserved.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard it said: “It takes two tango” … or that both people must have contributed to an affair. But that isn’t always the case.

Let me start by saying, here-and-now that, no: It doesn’t take two to tango.

There are some very caring and committed partners, who truly share none of the blame at all. Of course, they weren’t perfect – for none of us are. We all have our weaknesses and flaws. But there are plenty of spouses who are lovely, decent people. They truly love their partner and they treat them well. And yet they are betrayed and lied to by their spouse. Did they deserve this? No, they did not.

The cheater alone is responsible for this.

We each make our own decisions in life.

Also, in my work as a counsellor, I have talked to plenty of women who didn’t know their husband was addicted to porn, or who had absolutely no idea that another woman was trying to lure their husband away.

In fact, often these women were trying hard to please their husband. They bought new lingerie. They suggested new things. They made themselves available, despite being ignored or brushed off by a partner who had kept turning them down. They made that extra effort. They tried their very best.

But let’s assume, for a minute that the spouse was difficult to live with, or was emotionally unavailable, or was uninterested in sex (or in a different kind of sex). Does that give the partner permission to cheat?

Surely the appropriate thing would be to talk things through. Or maybe to go for couple counselling. There are other options. Other choices. Other possibilities. You don’t have to cheat, or go online.

Also, if your partner’s loyalty depends on you meeting certain criteria, what will happen the next time he or she is sick, or stressed, or tired, or doesn’t want to have sex – for whatever reason? Or what happens the next time one or both of you are caught in a busy cycle, and the stress of life is starting to push you apart? Does this mean “being committed” no longer applies? I’m guessing most people would say “no” to that question.

Because isn’t that whole point of commitment. Doesn’t being committed mean “I can trust and rely on you all the time, and under all circumstances?”

Yes, people change … and sometimes one partner may decide they want to leave the relationship. However, if that happens, wouldn’t the appropriate approach be to be honest about what you are thinking and feeling, and to talk it through together … like mature adults who respect one another? Cheating is not the appropriate response.

So, no, your partner’s cheating was not your fault. And you’re right to be hurt by the accusation. You have been betrayed and traumatized, and you deserve support, not accusations and attack.

Finding your Happy

Christmas is meant to be a time of joy – but for so many people that isn’t the case. It’s a painful reminder of what has gone wrong. Or perhaps your life sucks, and you’re feeling depressed.

So what can you do when it’s hard to find joy? There’s no easy answer – but the following might just help:

1. Make the effort to slow down, and allow yourself to breath. Find a pace of life that is comfortable for you. And don’t agree to do more than you really want to do.

2. Look around and notice all the beauty in the world. Glistening, sparkly frost. Fresh, powdery snow. Cute, excited children. Pretty Christmas trees. Paying attention to this can help to lift your mood. It’s also a great way to practice mindfulness – as helps you to focus on the here-and-now.

3. Be aware of all the little things that bring you joy. A waft of coffee. Some candles in the dark. The welcoming warmth when you come in from the cold. Write it in your journal; take a photograph; hold it in your memory, and try to capture it.

4. Although it might hard to be thankful at this time, try to think about 3 things you are grateful for each day. 

5. Listening to some music can help to soothe our mood, or distract us for a while – so we think of other things.

6. Revisit the small victories you’ve managed to achieve. Perhaps you’ve found the strength to write an email to a friend. Perhaps you just got dressed, or you cooked a proper meal. Just noticing these acts can remind you that you’re strong.    

7. If you can’t feel joy right now – for the present’s full of pain – try to think about a time when you did experience joy. Reliving happy times can remind us of the good. 

Of course, trying to find joy doesn’t mean that life will change. It’s not that you’re naïve, or OK with what’s gone wrong. The facts are still the facts, and reality’s the same. But it might help ease the pain, and increase your sense of hope.

Joy, collected over time, fuels resilience.” – Brene Brown

Supporting Someone Who’s Experienced Trauma

To support someone who’s experienced trauma …

1. You don’t need to have any answers.

2. You don’t need to have gone through the same thing yourself.

3. You need to be able to listen. Really listen. Through the deep concern expressed in your eyes.

4. Silence is good. Often words don’t help. What really matters is the fact that you are there.

5. Find a way to convey that you absolutely ‘get’ how terrible this is, and how it’s shocked them to the core.

7. Often questions make things worse. If used at all, they should be used sparingly, and with sensitivity.

8. Do not offer your opinions or give advice. Never comment on the person who has caused them so much harm. Keep your focus on the victim, and what they are going through.

9. Keep emphasizing strongly that the person isn’t crazy. Their feelings and reaction – no matter how intense they are – are actually a normal response to what has happened.

10. Communicate the fact that you believe in them, that you know that they can cope, and you believe they will survive.

There is a Sacredness in Tears

You’d think that purchasing a graduation dress for your grand-daughter would be a source of pleasure. A source of happiness. After all, you really wanted her to know she’s beautiful.

But not if you found yourself in Auschwitz years ago, and you never had the chance to mark that milestone in your life.

This was the experience of Dr Edith Eger, a teenage survivor of the Holocaust. She found that she was weeping after buying that new gown.

Weeping unexpectedly, and uncontrollably.

Why?

She was weeping for the good things that were stolen in the camps.

She was weeping for the dreams that now can never comes to pass. 

For we don’t just mourn and grieve for all the heartache in our lives.

We also need to grieve for all those things we were denied.

So, it’s not just for the trauma, and the damage from our past.

It is also for the good things we had wanted, but can’t have.

We need to let the tears flow freely for what could and should have been.

All the great ideas and plans; and all the normal hopes and dreams.

For Dr Eger, this included simply going to a ball. And the chance to be admired. To enjoy being beautiful.

How does this apply to us?

In this blog we tend to focus more on those who’ve been betrayed. But any kind of trauma can affect us in this way. For example …

We may find we need to grieve because we can’t relax and trust (because our spouse deceived us, and has built a life on lies).

Or, perhaps we need to grieve because we’re not ‘the only one’ (as our partner was unfaithful, or has paid for online sex).

Or, perhaps we need to mourn because our children’s lives have changed (as their parents are divorced  and, thus, the family’s not intact).

Writing our own list

So maybe it would help if you could set aside some time, to think about your losses.

All the trashed and broken dreams.

For the things that didn’t happen,

All the stolen fantasies.

For the multitude of losses you have buried in your heart.

So why not start that process, and allow yourself to grieve.

You will find that it is healing.

It will soothe, and bring relief.

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not a mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief.”

– Washington Irving

I Didn’t See it Coming …

Of course you didn’t see it coming.

This was never the way it was meant to be.

And if you’re beating yourself up because you didn’t see the signs, I hope this post will help you see that this is not your fault. You acted as you should in intimate relationships.  They’re based on love and trust. On being real and vulnerable.

In summary ….

1. Betrayal only happens if you give someone your trust … And healthy close relationships are based on mutual trust.

2. It’s the nature of trust to tend to take things at face value. In fact, we’re preprogramed to trust our attachment figures – caregivers when we’re children, and spouses when we’re adults.

3. We expect more from the people who are close to us. We expect that they will care about our feelings and well-being. With strangers there is mimicry. A balanced give and take. However, this is a low bar in intimate relationships. You expect a whole lot more, and you deserve a whole lot more.

4. A partner who is cheating, or withholding information, is usually working hard to try to keep up the façade. In most situations, they don’t want you to know. So, they’re trying to deceive you, and to hide the truth from you.

5. There’s a good chance that your partner was being nice to you, even when they were lying, and they had a secret life. The reason? To try to throw you off track, and to appease their guilty conscience.

6. Often the betrayer will live out their ‘other life’ in ‘another world’ completely. One you nothing about.  For example, they may access online sex, or conduct an affair on a secret different cell phone; with a new email account; when you’re out of the house, or away for a few days; when they’re out of the house, or away for a few days.

So I hope you can see that were not simply naïve. And the last thing you should do is to criticize yourself. Your partner took advantage of the trust you put in him. You acted in the way a loving, faithful partner would.