We are all using the word “trauma” a lot these days, so I thought that before I start my blog series on trauma treatment, I would define it and introduce my own experience, both as a trauma therapist and as a human being.
Throughout our lives, difficult or threatening things happen to all of us. Our brains and bodies are usually really good at dealing with these experiences, and adverse experiences do not always cause trauma.
After my cancer experience, I thought I had escaped trauma symptoms. I soldiered through radiation treatments, major surgery, and six months of chemo. I stayed active, ate well, and engaged in social activities. I practiced supporting myself emotionally. As far as I was concerned, my brain and body were online and healthy and I had mindfully navigated what could have been a traumatic experience.
And then, after everything was over, I started experiencing panic. More on that type of delayed response later!
Here are some things to remember about trauma.
- Trauma is not the thing that happens to us; rather, it is the reaction of our brain/body/nervous system to that adverse experience.
- Trauma can be the response to one critical incident, or to a cumulation of distressing experiences over time.
- When we carry intrusive memory fragments and/or negative unprocessed feelings and physical sensations about the event(s) forward with us in our lives, our nervous systems often react as if we are experiencing the difficult event(s) all over again.
- Our nervous systems may vacillate between hypo-arousal (memory loss, dissociation, auto-pilot, feelings of fogginess, etc.) or hyper-arousal (anxiety, irritability, panic, addictive behaviours, etc.) with very little time spent in a calm, connected state.
- Trauma treatment first involves learning how to recognize how we are feeling in the moment and how to stabilize or ground ourselves.
- In EMDR therapy we identify the memories, themes and sensations at the root of the symptoms and work through them in a way which allows them to take their rightful place in the brain’s memory networks.
- Body sensations, emotions, memories, and negative thoughts and beliefs about the experience(s) are all targeted in EMDR therapy.
I look forward to sharing some of my own personal lived experiences and some of what trauma work involves over the course of the next number of weeks…As always, thank you, dear reader, for your support and interest.