Traumatic experiences run the gamut – some of them we may experience in childhood, others as we grow into adults. The definition of trauma includes “a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.” A traumatic experience has the power to change our lives for the worst. They can include anything from physical or emotional abuse to the death of a loved one to experiencing a natural disaster, and everything in between.
At some point in our lives, we will all experience some sort of traumatic experience. Even experiences that might be considered “minor” can still have a major impact on our lives. Each of us will react differently and there’s no “one size fits all” response. There are, however, some appropriate and productive steps we can take in order to move forward.
1. Acknowledge the trauma and accept your feelings
After a traumatic experience, you may go into denial. This happens for a number of reasons. The most common reason is you don’t want to deal with the aftermath and the painful memories. This is completely understandable but, unfortunately, pretending the trauma didn’t happen will only make things worse in the long run. The trauma will not go away just because you want it to.
As a victim of a traumatic experience, you may notice feelings of shame and guilt, depression and sadness, fear and anxiety. Normally, you consider these negative emotions to be bad emotions, but that’s not the case. It’s important that you’re not hard on yourself for feeling these feelings. Be patient in your recovery journey, trust the process, and don’t rush your recovery. You wouldn’t take a cast off of a broken leg before your doctor recommends, so why would you rip an emotional bandage off after a traumatic experience?
2. Reach out
Isolation is tempting when you experience negative feelings. The statement “you’re as sick as your secrets” rings true in this situation. While trauma is incredibly difficult to talk about, speaking up will aid you tremendously in your healing process. Confide in friends or family members that you can trust and rely on. Contact me to receive professional and compassionate support.
If you are not at the point in your recovery where you’re ready to talk about your traumatic experience with others, try getting your words out on paper. Journaling or creating art are great forms of expression. They are healthy ways to get your feelings out so that they don’t fester. They are also great positive coping skills. It may be tempting to engage in negative coping skills in order to shut out your feelings – for example, drinking to excess, engaging in eating disorder behaviors etc. Instead, try engaging in healthy coping skills.
3. Resume your routine
Depression and anxiety are very normal responses to a traumatic experience. Because of this, you may not only be tempted to isolate yourself but also to stop living your life. To counter these feelings, challenge yourself to do things you once loved. Do little things like going for a walk or enjoying a cup of coffee at your favorite local restaurant. These little things will do wonders for you in the long run as they lead up to your being able to handle the big things.
4. Seek professional help
Seeing a counselor is the best way to explore your trauma in a safe space. Therapy can help you feel empowered. Together, we will examine what happened to you and develop positive ways to help you move forward. All too often trauma victims blame themselves for the trauma they experienced. We can tear down the negative stigma that’s associated with trauma and build up your confidence. Therapy will not only help you heal your relationship with yourself but it will also allow you to reframe your traumatic experience.
You may discover that your experience will lead you to find a deeper life meaning and that your struggles are not for naught. Contact me today if setting up an appointment is something you’re interested in. I’d be happy to help you.