Part of being involved in an intensely traumatic situation is being flooded or overwhelmed on a physical level which mirrors the terror and fear you may be feeling but this terror and flooding isn’t just something happening in your mind, it affects your entire body and chemicals in the body and leaves a lasting imprint which so few understand unless they know something about trauma.
I was thinking a week ago how limited words are in expressing or conveying the full impact of trauma. I was watching the movie Their Finest part of which shows in graphic re-enactment the trauma of bombing in London during the war with people being blown to smithereens. Think about that for a moment with your mind and the feel the difference between seeing or experiencing that as a real event and imagine how removed from it all the sentence “yes, they used to drops bombs on London” really is! It doesn’t quite portray the same intense impact as the real body mind event does it?
So how frustrating is it when we explain our traumas to others with words and they can’t understand why we aren’t ‘over it by now’. My mother often says to me when I try to tell her about the intensity of my nightly panic attacks and accident re-enactments “well just say to yourself, I am not going to let this affect me any more!” WTF? When we were undergoing the trauma our entire body and being was flooded or overwhelmed and that is an intra cellular event and affect that doesn’t just end when the event ends.
Today I was thinking a lot about stress, flooding and overwhelm. In a recent post on panic attacks I was talking of a therapist who treated a young man with constant panic attacks, as a child his father exposed him to terrifying things and left him with no resources or skills to cope. A lot of what goes on when we are overwhelmed in a family or by parents or events is that we are left alone with those overwhelming feelings. There is literally no one to talk about them with. We take ourselves off and try to calm ourselves down in the best way we can, we may have to use substances.
Today while gardening I was aware of how much less stress and trauma/imprint/charge my body is now carrying. I have been able to unpack a lot of my trauma in therapy and body work release its charge. I know that my body suffered compound traumas from a young age. If I made a list here there would be at least 20 major traumas I suffered by the time I was 21 and one of them was a near death collision, one witnessing an attempted suicide. Those are not little things. They all got retriggered when I was in my 40s and my marriage ended and that was in many ways a repeat of earlier traumas of being left and left me in a near breakdown state where I went into complete retreat. This was following a very serious accident that occurred for me when I was on the run from a fairly emotionally invalidating and abusive family. In the end I was in such overwhelm I had to abort my attempt to move overseas and move back to Australia as I was so completely overwhelmed with zilch practical support and I figured that at least at home I could have financial support but no emotional support at all (although at the time I was still suffering under the illusion that one day I would find this from family).
The truth is that unless you have suffered major trauma you are never really going to understand what trauma survivors experience every day. Trying to tell them to ‘get over it’ or to move on or put it in the past is not just insulting and ignorant its double wounding to them considering what they and we are suffering.
Trauma survivors need support. They need validation. They struggle enough inside their own heads with feelings of guilt and shame about not being able to function in the ways others do. Trauma survivors have deep wounds that can and are retriggered in present time. They can make a choice at times to put the focus beyond the trauma but not overcome it completely. The most they can do is learn to live with the symptoms and the pain of knowing that their lives will be irrevocably changed by what they have gone through. So do trauma survivors a favour. Don’t comment if you don’t understand. Listen and educate yourself or just do trauma survivors a favour and leave them in peace if you can’t at least try to show some empathy.