How Our Cultures Depiction of Trauma is All Wrong
Updated: Nov 4, 2020
Before I ever worked in the mental health field, I had a pretty common and generic understanding of trauma. The things I would think about would be PTSD, war veterans, and victims of violence. I knew symptoms of trauma were flashbacks and maybe some nightmares here and there but that's about it.
Most of this information I got from the media. Whether that was through youtube, magazines, books, or movies...that was my main source.
And that's not necessarily a "bad" thing, but it did not give me the big picture of what trauma actually entails. Learning about trauma and how it impacts us not only mentally, but physically, has changed the way I see people. It gives me more compassion, empathy, and patience.
Understanding trauma and its impact have the ability to deepen relationships and make them more meaningful. Whether you have been through trauma or have a loved one who has been through trauma. Trauma has the ability to tear you apart. It also presents an opportunity to build resilience, strength, and community.
Right now I believe our country is going through a collective trauma which has been really hard to watch. This past year has brought us a pandemic, the unnecessary deaths of black people at the hands of the police, a divided country, and an economic crisis. People are coping in different ways. Some are becoming more politically involved whereas others have zoned out. Neither response is right or wrong. When we go through trauma, we are in a fight or flight mode- there is no "right" response. We are all just trying to get through this year.
Here are some of the many things I have come to learn about trauma.
Trauma is relative. Meaning that something that is traumatic for you, might not be traumatic for someone else.
Your trauma can impact your ability to form meaningful relationships. It's not uncommon to see people isolate themselves from loved ones as a reaction to trauma.
Trauma can flood you with all sorts of emotions. But it can also make you numb.
The smallest things can trigger you. Whether it's a smell or sound. It can bring you back and take you through that trauma all over again.
Feelings of shame often attach themselves to trauma.
Loneliness is a common feeling.
There isn't one right way to heal from trauma. Everyone's journey is different.
Knowledge is power. Learning about trauma and its impact can assist you in having a deeper understanding of how your trauma is actually impacting you.
You don't have to "fix" everything right now. It's okay if today you're feeling horrible and triggered. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself today.
Avoiding triggers or reminders of your trauma is normal. But it doesn't always have to be that way.
If you take away one thing from reading this I hope it's this...
Your trauma does not define you.