Sometimes really terrible things happen to good people. Traumatic experiences have a way of shaking you to the core and dismantling everything you believed to be true about the world around you. Your sense of security may be shattered, perhaps you feel helpless, and it might feel like you’ll never get back to feeling like you.
Trauma can come from anywhere. A traumatic event for one person will not necessarily be traumatic for another so it is important not to compare yourself to others. Experiences tend to feel traumatic to people when they:
- Feel their life or safety is threatened
- Have no control (or feel like they have no control) over an intense and scary experience
The more scared and helpless you feel in a situation, the more likely you are to experience it as traumatic.
You might have experienced a one-time event yesterday or many decades ago that left you shaking. These could include a car accident, witnessing (or hear the witnessing of) an act of violence, even the birth of a child or results of a fertility test. Maybe you experience ongoing trauma through a chronic health condition, abusive relationship, or natural disaster that disrupted your entire world and redefined how you experience reality.
Many people think trauma has to involve physical harm — but they are wrong. It is the subjective experience of the person that determines whether an experience is traumatic or not. Sometimes, emotional harm is far more devastating than physical.
If you are struggling with recovering from trauma, you may notice that you are reliving the experience through memory or that the anxiety just won’t go away. You might be feeling disconnected and fearful of the people and places around you that used to feel safe. This divide can lead you to feel many things: angry, numb, helpless, overwhelmed, sad, irritable, confused, guilty, or lost.
Just like anxiety and depression, experiencing and recovering from trauma creates a very physical response in the body. Be on the lookout for nightmares, feeling exhausted, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, edginess and agitation, as well as muscle tension. Your body might be holding the hurt and fear in ways you aren’t aware of.
Sometimes, after experiencing trauma, you might find yourself acting and thinking in ways that don’t feel like you — or not your “normal.” But just know, your body and brain are not expected to operate normally while recovering from trauma. Your responses are likely very natural reactions to abnormal events in your life.
How Therapy Helps
Trauma can be especially isolating. It feels as if no one can understand what you are going through but continuing to withdraw from others will only make things worse. The support of a therapist can be tremendously healing in recovering from trauma. Through the therapeutic relationship, you’ll have the opportunity to create safety and security in ways you perhaps never had before.
In healing through trauma, education is extremely important. Your therapist will help you understand more about how your body is holding onto the trauma and assist you in making sense of the changes. You’ll start to identify ways to manage the negative experiences associated with the event so that your daily life is no longer governed by the past. You may learn some mindfulness techniques to help you stay focused on the present.
Oftentimes, it is important to explore the trauma in more detail. This can be extremely painful, but, when done in a safe space with your therapist, can allow you to rewrite the story you carry. By having more support in processing through the experience, you’ll find that your body does not become as reactive and you’ll start to feel like you have some control again. You’ll start getting back to you.
Recovering from trauma requires you to reset your brain. This can feel frightening and overwhelming but with the guidance and company of a trained professional, you won’t be alone. Our therapists at Kalamazoo Therapy Group are skilled and experienced in helping you learn how to conquer the trauma so that it doesn’t conquer you.