Trauma and PTSD
"PTSD has made me feel like a prisoner in my own mind."
Are You Suffering After Experiencing a Traumatic Event?
Do you find it difficult to fall asleep at night or stay asleep? Maybe you have nightmares? Does it feel like your traumatic experience keeps replaying in your mind? Are you anxious or fidgety? Perhaps small things trigger memories of your experience, leaving you feeling nervous or depressed. Do you just wish you could move forward without having to carry this event in the front of your mind all the time?
Maybe you avoid previously fun or important events because you are uncomfortable around people or fear that something horrible will happen? Are you struggling with feelings of guilt and shame about your experience? It may be difficult to believe that you can have a happy future.
Traumatic Experiences Can Have a Devastating Impact
You are not alone! Many people experience some form of trauma during their lives, and a considerable number experience symptoms related to posttraumatic stress. If you have witnessed or been the victim of a crime, abuse or another overwhelming experience, you may be experiencing PTSD symptoms. An unexpected and overwhelming event can shake your sense of safety, make the world feel dangerous and fill your mind with possible threats. This is a healthy mental response in the moment of the trauma, but once you are safe again, you may find that you still feel like you are in survival mode, ready to fight or flee. You may continue to feel panicky and powerless even though, in reality, you are safe. If you have experienced other traumatic experiences in your life, such as abuse during childhood, your experience of the trauma may be even more complicated, resulting in complex PTSD.
Traumatic experiences can be one-time intense and unexpected experiences that shatter a person’s sense of safety in the world or they can be repeated experiences that often happen in early life or in the context of close relationships. The latter may affect the early development of a person’s sense of self or ability to feel that they can safely attach to other people and create healthy relationships. Any event that impacts the development of your sense of self, your ability to manage your emotions or your ability to trust other people can be traumatic, even if it does not involve physical harm. What is most important is your subjective emotional experience of the event, its meaning to you and the impact it has had on your development.
If you have been affected by a traumatic experience, it is important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to react. Your mind works to incorporate experiences that feel overwhelming or life-threatening, and sometimes, after the threatening situation has passed, patterns that allowed for survival in the moment (such as going into fight or flight survival mode or emotionally shutting down) can get stuck and impair our ability to live a full life. It is natural to want to emotionally shut down to avoid the pain of a traumatic event, but when avoidance takes over due to anxiety or shame, the natural process of incorporating this experience into our life story gets stopped.
Sometimes, PTSD symptoms develop right after a traumatic experience, and sometimes, the onset is delayed. Often, people find that they chronically feel as though they are in survival mode or that difficult emotions come to the surface when they start to feel safe or slow down and pay attention to their emotional experience. PTSD symptoms can be dormant or unnoticed for many years and then manifest when an individual begins a new relationship, has children or experiences any number of other significant triggering events. Whether you have just experienced a trauma or your experience occurred many years ago, it is important to know that there is hope for making these symptoms better.
With PTSD Treatment, You Can Find Lasting Relief
You do not have to continue to suffer with the debilitating impacts of the trauma you have experienced. PTSD treatment can help you rebuild a sense of safety, process your feelings about your experience, feel better about yourself and your future, and move forward.
People who survive psychological traumas are resilient. The mind sometimes wants to deny that the event occurred or to deny the psychological impact of the event, but this attempt to push feelings away always breaks down. PTSD symptoms develop when feelings break through, and a person becomes overwhelmed with anxiety, depression, self-blame, and other difficult emotions. PTSD treatment helps to restart the natural mental healing process.
PTSD treatment must start with the development of a safe therapeutic relationship in which you can begin to share the feelings you have felt unable to express before. When you can talk about your experiences without shame and work to process feelings that were overwhelming when you felt alone with them, your natural process of grieving and healing can begin. You can regain your sense of an empowered self.
With help, you can begin to accept your experiences as a part of your life story but not the primary thing that defines you. With effective PTSD treatment, the trauma can take its correct place “at arm’s length,” where it can be understood but remain powerless to derail your progress or define you or your view of the world. You can regain your sense of safety in the world, your ability to trust people and your sense of yourself as a powerful and worthy person.
But I still have some concerns…
“It happened a long time ago. I should be over it already.”
Because of the shame and secrecy that often surrounds a traumatic event, people often don’t feel supported and are unable to process their feelings about the trauma when it happens. Time passes and attempts to deny the impact of the event fail, and once you realize that you need help to fully recover, a great deal of time has flown by. Or, sometimes the symptoms of PTSD do not emerge until you experience a triggering event and you realize that an experience you had years ago is now affecting you. It is important to not fall into the trap of judging yourself and telling yourself that other people think you should be “over” an event just because it happened long ago. This type of thinking is part of the PTSD symptom of trying to push away and deny the importance of your experience. Working with an experienced therapist who can help you assess the impact of your experience without judging you can help you move forward effectively.
“I’m afraid that talking about the experience will make it worse.”
Many people who seek treatment for PTSD have this fear. You have been coping with the experience the best way you know how, and you may be worried that letting go of these coping mechanisms (such as avoiding certain people or places) will make you feel worse. We are committed to helping you regain a sense of empowerment in your life, and this starts with feeling empowered in your therapy.
We work first to build a safe and supportive therapy relationship. Then we help you identify and build the skills you will need to keep yourself emotionally safe as you begin to experience the feelings you have been pushing away.
Please do not let your desire to push the impact of your experience away get in the way of getting help. Trying to cope by denying your feelings does not work, and with help, you can learn to feel your emotions about this event without becoming overwhelmed or losing control.
Some of the types of Trauma we Treat:
Military Combat Trauma
Motor vehicle accidents
Severe neglect or abandonment
Physical abuse or assault
Sexual abuse or rape
Captivity and torture
First responder experiences
Industrial & mining disasters
Preverbal trauma (including operations, catastrophic illnesses, & repeated painful procedures)