"I wanted to feel ok again"
Supporting Trauma, PTSD & Flashbacks
Trauma is the body's response to deeply disturbing events or experiences. Almost all of us have experienced some form of trauma, either directly or indirectly. You only become traumatized when your response systems to the perceived threats become overwhelmed. The ability to cope with a traumatic experience will vary from one person to another, and depends upon many factors including genetics, attachment style, adverse childhood experiences, support network and individual resilience. An event is most likely to be experienced as traumatic when:
- It happened unexpectedly
- You were unprepared for it
- You felt powerless to prevent it
- It happened repeatedly
- It happened in childhood
- Your early development was damaged
"Trauma is not what happened to you, but what happens inside you as a result of what happened to you."
PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is an anxiety condition resulting from the single exposure to a traumatic event. The event may be actual or threatened, and may be directed to yourself or others. C-PTSD (Complex PTSD) is caused by repeated exposure to traumatic events, such as from abusive relationships. Developmental Trauma can occur where long periods of time in childhood have been spent in an unsafe environment, or without the presence of a primary caregiver such as might be experienced at Boarding School.
The term PTSD is the medical term for what is happening to you. I prefer to use the term PTSI post-traumatic stress injury, because it recognises that your condition is the result of an injury from something that has been done to you. Your symptoms originate from the way your body is trying to protect you from harm. The problem comes when the body continues to try and protect you from harm when there is no longer a threat present.
Symptoms of Trauma, PTSD & C-PTSD
You may experience some or all of the following:
- Constantly thinking about the event even when you don’t want to
- Flashbacks where you re-experience the feelings and body sensations of the event
- Having nightmares and disrupted sleep, leaving you exhausted
- Experiencing extreme feelings of shame or guilt
- Dissociating – shutting off and closing down from your experience and feelings, spacing out, or forming a system of 'alter' personalities or 'parts' to cope with the effects of the trauma
- Feeling on edge and highly anxious, always expecting danger and unable to relax
- Avoiding people or situations which you find triggering
- Difficulty managing emotions or relationships
Sometimes you will not have a clear recall of the originating trauma, such as when your mind goes blank after a road accident or a serious assault; or you may block out significant periods of time from your memory following years of child abuse. This is normal and is the brains way of trying to protect you. However, what served you well at the time of the trauma may not be helping you in the best way now.
How I Can Provide Support and Help
I have spoken with many clients who believed that their ongoing debilitating relationship with Trauma was something they just had to put up with. Talking about the traumatic experience just made things worse and left them feeling trapped and helpless. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
My approach is Trauma Informed and based upon keeping you feeling safe. Trauma recovery must first and foremost improve your quality of life. We begin therapy by ensuring that you have the tools to stay grounded and concentrate on making your day to day life as tolerable as possible. We work to increase your self-knowledge around trauma to enable you to take greater control of your life. Only if you are ready would we then attempt to process the traumatic memories to help you see them in a different way and form a new relationship with them. We can often achieve this without you having to discuss and revisit the traumatic experiences in detail – you remain in control of what we do.
Sometimes the work involves incorporating a ‘visual-kinaesthetic dissociation technique’ such as the ‘Rewind Technique’. It is another way of achieving a more helpful relationship with your trauma using guided visualisation which doesn’t require you to relive and talk about your experience. I am also a certified practitioner of Integral Eye Movement Therapy - IEMT which is a non invasive way to address and resolve the question, "how did this person learn to feel the way they feel about the things that have happened to them?"
I believe that we are a complex system of “parts”. When we have been “wounded” by events causing trauma (particularly in childhood), we seek to protect ourselves using a range of strategies which persist for many years after the originating events are over. Sometimes these protective roles and strategies can appear extreme, (substance abuse, self-harm, suicide attempts) and lead to severe distress, discomfort and difficulty in coping with day-to-day events. I am IFS Informed (Internal Family Systems Therapy), and integrate this approach to help you understand how your internal system works. I work with you to develop a healthy relationship with all your parts. This enables you to unburden and heal the parts of you that have been wounded, and allows you to release internal resources which moves you towards improved general functioning and wellbeing.
If you would like more information about the different ways in which help and support is available to you, please contact me for an informal discussion.