The word trauma seems to be tossed around a lot these days. Post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, being one of the leading reasons. And it seems like everywhere and everyone has PTSD or some other form of trauma. It can be overwhelming to hear about it and even harder to talk about it. Trauma is scary and can be so devastating to so many.
Unfortunately with widespread coverage there often comes a feeling of desensitization to the words and their meaning. The more you hear about trauma and PTSD, the more it seems to become this catch-all trend, and slowly people start to become complacent to what it means and what it does, and even feeling bored of hearing about it all the time.
But trauma is not some trend we can all forget about when the next thing comes along. Suffering trauma is serious and can be life-altering, even life-ending.
Trauma is typically associated with war and violence. And as we are now learning it affects our first-responders -firefighters, paramedics, and police- who so heroically run towards the disasters that the rest of us run away from. And the trauma that these dedicated, brave people fight, day-in and day-out, is nothing to be dismissed. They are witness to some unspeakable tragedies that we can’t even imagine. And the doctors and nurses who care for the victims of these tragedies, and so many others, are also heroes in everything they face and contend with, day-in and day-out. It is truly astounding what they endure.
The trauma that all of these professionals suffer is without question horrible and devastating. Theirs is a unique experience that the vast majority of us will never have. Whereas their traumas may include blood and guts, broken limbs and broken families, and life and death, they aren’t the only ones to suffer trauma.
One of the hardest things about trauma is that it can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. And what is a passing event for one, may become a trauma for another. It is totally subjective. Trauma can be a one-time event, or it can be repetitive exposure, or chronic to the point of becoming a part of your daily life, with the trauma occurring over and over and over again.
What’s important to remember is that trauma isn’t just about car accidents, war, and violence. It isn’t necessarily explosive or graphic. Trauma can be in someone’s words or behaviours as they speak down to you or insult you or intimidate you. It can be a threat or a near-miss. It can be in the illness that takes down you or your friend, or it can be alone in a quiet room as someone you love passes on. It can be with our families or friends, or it can be with total strangers. It can be something we saw coming or something we didn’t. It can be something that marks the world or it can be something that marks only us. And it can be something that can be seen or it can be something we will never see. Trauma can be so insidious that it isn’t until months or years later that you even are aware you have been traumatized.
Trauma doesn’t care if you’re young or old, what religion you follow, or where you work. It doesn’t care if you’ve had a good childhood or if you’ve never known your parents. It doesn’t care where you live or who your friends are. It doesn’t care if you’ve had other traumas or if this is your first. Trauma either happens or it doesn’t. Period. And it can be something big and loud, or it can be something small and quiet.
I get this can mean that trauma paints a very broad stroke, colouring almost everything, because it kind of does and that can be scary. No one wants to suffer trauma. It’s a devastating thing that can tear you apart. And as much as the trauma has ravaged your insides, it’s possible that it can be healed. And it starts with recognizing you’ve been traumatized in the first place.
For some, this first step may never be taken. It may just be too much. Everyone is different, and so is how they cope. For some, this step may be the only one they take. And for some, this may be the first step of many. It’s up to you how you proceed, or if you choose not to. Trauma is painful and talking about it can be just as painful. Be patient with yourself, whether you talk about it or not.
You don’t have to tell everyone, you just have to start with yourself, and then you can work your way out as needed. Talking about it is probably the biggest step, and most likely will be the one that will bring the most healing. It’s hard and painful and it is the only way to heal.
Keeping it to yourself will only make things worse. And if you don’t believe me, consider your own trauma that you suffer with, every day, sometimes all day, and even at night while you’re asleep. Whether you call it trauma or not. Whether you admit it out loud or not. Think of the flashbacks and difficult emotions that plague you. Think of the nightmares and dreams that haunt your sleep causing you to wake up terrified and convince you that you will never sleep soundly again. Think of the moments that fear grips you and it feels like you most certainly will have the life squeezed from your lungs. Think of the days you can’t stop thinking about it and how dark and scary all those swirling thoughts are. Think of the way your body reacts and freezes into positions so tight that your muscles ache. And then think of keeping all of that inside your one body and mind and how it is all being torn apart.
Talking to someone can help to relieve that pressure. It may not fix everything right away but it is a start. Most likely you might need to recruit some professional help, and that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with seeking help, from professionals and from loved ones. Whatever you need to do. It’s your life at stake and that is worth fighting for.
The only thing worse than suffering a trauma is suffering alone. Seek support and help. And if this one person can’t help you or won’t support you then keep looking. If this one doctor isn’t listening or that doctor doesn’t believe you then find another doctor. And don’t stop until you get what you need. There is support and help out there. And you deserve to get it.
You deserve to be healed. You deserve to have your traumas healed. No matter how dark and deep they are. No matter what. You don’t need any reason or permission. You are you and you deserve to be healed. Trauma can break you, and it often does, and healing can be hard and painful, and it is possible.
To all those who have endured trauma and to all those who will, I sincerely hope you find your way to healing.