Recovering from Trauma
When trauma hits it disorientates us, knocks us off our feet, we find our self-exhausted, weak and irritable, we feel lost, alone and isolated, even if we are surrounded by others. In our inner world we may revert back to what we know, back to a previous time when we felt safe and secure. If at that time, if what we knew was low self-esteem, low or little confidence in our own abilities or we feel we are worth less than another; this all adds to the distress and grief we will be feelings.
"No man is an island" says John Donne and he's possibly right; in that as we humans are not meant to be alone we are 'pack animals'! Yet it can seem 'as if' we are on a lone island when we are traumatised, this is a frightening place to be sat. There is more than one way to find our self sat on trauma island, how we got onto the island, is important to us, yet its not what's happening here and now and the importance falls onto how do we get off and out of this place? We can't control what happened we don't have the power to stop tragedy falling on our heads. The first thing to do is to collect ourselves and begin to accept the tsunami hit, breath, begin the journey back to peace and back into the world, our world.
We understand life will and cannot ever be the same but we can still have life and our life is a gift which we can offer others once we have healed from our trauma.
Not everyone who finds themselves on Trauma Island will stay there for long, some may pick themselves up and dive back into the water and swim onto peace island with little thought for their experience, they get back into life quickly. This may or may not be the best move but some people are naturally resilient to life's conundrums, most of us aren't in the beginning but we can become stronger and more resilient as time moves forward.
Recovery from trauma and being traumatized unlike the speed which trauma hit us and quickly alters everything we've ever known, recovery is a slow and long process for most.
The trauma - hits and we are picked up in its tidal wave as it tosses us around like a rag doll sucking us into its inner whirlwind, in the eye of the storm we feel numb, shocked and disorientated as the wave picks momentum and we grapple to hold onto something but the wind, the waves strong hold is too much for us and our grip is lost. You may feel in no man's land, a strange new place with no obvious escape route.
The Tsunami - goes in a direction of its own and for some time stripping us of all we knew our safety and security have vanished and we feel lost, until eventually we find our self marooned on an island and it appears not to be at all friendly. Trauma Island is a lonely, empty and often dark place we feel alone and isolated and we don’t know what to do any more. We can hear sounds we've never heard before, bubblings; we can see strange objects before us blocking our way and smell and taste bad odours on our palate. Fear has replaced all the logical thinking we had before the storm hit and we may not know how we actually feel, what to think, feel or sense and sinister threats seem to be on the edge and we can't quite grasp hold of anything as it all seems and feels slippery.
The island - once we get washed up onto this unknown shore we may feel nothing other than a strange numbness we’ve never felt before, with a feeling of foreboding; this is normal we’ve never been on a desert island before alone. We find ourselves sat at an unknown table, at a place set by something or someone else, that we neither wanted or asked for. We may be asking why? How did I end up here? The 'what ifs' and 'if onlys' seep in and you question why me? How can I go on or how can I begin rebuilding myself? Once you pick yourself up and begin to breath again you begin to recognize you are alone, lost and on a desert island; you also recognise nothing will ever, can never be the same again you may feel damaged, broken and empty. But like all Robinson Crusoe’s we can in time build back our strength, find a new normal, but first we need to find a way to leave our trauma island behind!
The trauma lens - once you've picked yourself up, you may be feeling confused, insecure, hurt, wounded, disorientated, bruised, sore, have a nasty taste in your mouth, you may still be feeling numb and shocked to find yourself on such a deserted island. You may be struggling with emotions so intense you deny, stuff or dissociate from them altogether. You will be feeling sad and/or hopeless and anxiety will be creeping in and your concentration will be difficult or none existent and you may be feeling disconnected from others in your life and the world itself. Physically you may be feeling fatigued, your muscles may be tense and you feel all sorts of aches and pains you didn’t have before, your heart may be racing and you may be startled easily. On this island, you begin to reproach Self and sometimes critically if your default position is such, but we can turn our reproach into gentle challenge to begin repairing the damage done; heal the wound that is raw and open.
Normality on Trauma Island - All of the above are normal once you have been hit by a trauma and the tsunami wave has washed over you; it’s difficult to breath even. These symptoms may last from a few days to a few weeks to months to years at one degree or another. We all react differently and in a unique way to similar experiences in our life. The first thing to do is 'accept' the effects of the after mass of the storm, you’re here on your island and it may be a good idea to familiarize yourself with your new surroundings to begin to find a sense of safety on this strange shore.
Please note: grief will set in even if you haven't experienced a physical death of a loved one you will have suffered many 'living deaths' in your internal world following traumatic experiences.
Once you begin to 'contain' the intense feelings you can begin to repair as you sit in this new place sometimes for months whilst you gain clarity, strength as hope begins to return, Once hope begins again it can become stronger and stronger; the worst has happened and you have survived. You now need to find and utilise the strength and insight to swim across to the shore of peace island where you can sit for a while longer until you recover as fully as you are able before moving further forwards and rejuvenate. It may seem a long stretch but you can decide to swim, walk the walk and talk the talk of your new surroundings you need the vehicle of know how.
I call this vehicle the five R's - Recognise, Reproach, Repair, Recover and Rejuvenate.
Until you find your Point Of Perception on your Pendulum Of Peace.
Once you know your personal island and have explored fully your meanings, beliefs and pain the indescribable offers and come to accept all it holds, then you can begin to contain your tsunami, you can become its master and it no longer holds the hurt, pain and sorrow it once did. You can then swim to another shore and find your peace so you can go back out into your world, stronger, more able to cope owning self-efficacy and continue to grow and develop.
Of course this is in theory and sounds like a linear line but it's far from that and the process can be difficult, the terrain feels dangerous and difficult the mountains you might find on your trauma island may feel too high to climb and the bogs to deep to cross. The rain might be torrential and thunder and lightening be striking down keeping you hidden, sheltered, stuck or stopped in your tracks. Each phase of recovery will overlap another one or two at the same time making it even more windy as you forge forwards.
One of the biggest strides, a huge step on this process is to enlist help and support whilst you undertake this journey. The support of a professional counsellor can guide and support you whilst you walk towards your path of peace. When you don't know what to think, feel or sense a counsellor can support you whilst you begin to recognise and find clarity of thoughts, feelings; make sense of what's happened and how the impact of trauma is affecting you personally. Contact me today if you feel you could do with an experienced companion on your journey, walking side by side in partnership we will find positive outcomes for you to become empowered and for you to find your path to peace!