For the past three years, I’ve been speaking and consulting on post-traumatic stress disorder. After I accompanied my best friend for treatment that radically changed her life, I began to suspect that my life was unraveling because of untreated trauma.
I didn’t struggle with suicidal thoughts. I didn’t self-abuse. I wasn’t addicted to substances. So I couldn’t possibly need trauma therapy, right?
After minimizing my escalating symptoms for years, I finally admitted that anyone, including me, could develop those coping mechanisms and others if they ignored their trauma long enough. And that wasn’t the only misconception about PTSD that was holding me back from much-needed treatment.
Simply stated, trauma is any event that overwhelms the brain’s ability to cope. Experiences get “stuck” on one side of the brain and can’t be processed and filed in the correct place. But people process traumatic experiences differently. The same event can cause some people to develop PTSD, while other people won’t.
One of the most valuable experiences of my trauma treatment was creating a trauma timeline. I worked on this over a period of weeks and discovered I’d “buried” a number of traumatic memories:
Other valuable insights came as I evaluated the environment of my home from the perspective of a child. I also included medical traumas and life-threatening incidents that occurred to my children when I was a young mother. I added caregiver fatigue from providing in-home care for parents with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s for more than ten years, as well as support to a number of close friends who lost battles to cancer. I added my own medical trauma with a life-threatening brain lesion. Slowly, the truth became clear.
No, my trauma history didn’t look like my friend’s trauma. But yes, my trauma was significant. Even a single traumatic event can merit treatment. “Bad enough” is a false measuring stick. If you suspect you may be suffering from trauma-related symptoms, talk to a qualified specialist.
Umm…not really. This from the lady whose life began to quickly unravel in the last six months before treatment.
A therapist gave me this illustration to help me understand the effects of unprocessed trauma. Dealing with trauma is a lot like standing in front of a big brick wall that’s slowly crumbling. One brick slips out, and you push it back in. Another slips out, and you push it back in. For a while you can cope. But the longer you try to push the bricks back in, the weaker the wall becomes, and the faster the bricks fall.
I began to zone out. It wasn’t until I got to Intensive Trauma Therapy for treatment that I realized that I’d been dissociating, or “zoning out,” to get through my toughest days. I thank God for treatment that changed that and gave me relief from my other symptoms.
I was raised in conservative faith circles where people seldom talk about mental illness. Well, maybe they talk about somebody else’s, but they don’t talk very often about their own. So using words like “dissociation” can be kinda scary for someone like me.
Of course, you have to understand that everyone dissociates to some extent or another. (Remember the last time you were driving to work, and you couldn’t remember exactly how you got there? You kind of floated off into another world and went on automatic pilot. Well, that’s dissociation.)
I know for sure that God wants me healthy and whole. When my brain went on haitus in 1999, my family found the best brain surgeon they could find. And when I needed trauma treatment, I found the best trauma therapists I could find–a team that understands the biological and chemical make-up of the brain and how they relate to trauma.
Most people supported my choice, and I’m grateful. And those who don’t simply don’t understand trauma, and that’s okay.
I was assaulted by a serial rapist when I was nineteen years old. The young cop who showed up that night to take the report was…let’s just be kind and use the word “inept.” I felt humiliated and condemned.
Another family member suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a male perpetrator. I’d also worked for years in environments where males were dismissive and condescending in their attitudes toward women.
But I didn’t run. I did trust Jeff and Jonathan. And I’m SO GLAD I did. I found the experience empowering and freeing and healing in ways I deeply needed.
Bear with me for a minute and do a little math with me. I’m fifty-eight years old (although I look MUCH younger). Let’s say I live to be eighty-eight. My dad is ninety-two right now and my mom died when she was eighty-seven, so I’d say that’s a fair guess.
I don’t make a lot of money. My husband doesn’t either. Allow me to burst the bubble about how much money authors make. Although I’ve published ten books, the income from those books is only a couple of thousand dollars a year. Yep. Really. And my husband teaches for JobCorp. So you get the idea.
Trauma therapy costs about $6,000 a week at Intensive Trauma Therapy, plus the cost of travel and accommodations at a hotel. Let’s say $10,000 if you have to fly or drive from across the country and bring a friend to accompany you. If you’re fifty-eight like me, and live another thirty years, the cost of your trauma therapy will come out to be $333 per year, or less than a dollar a day.
Of course, that fact didn’t put the cold, hard cash in my hand before I signed up. If I’d broken a leg, I wouldn’t have hesitated to seek treatment. And I made treatment the priority that it needed to be.
Intensive Trauma Therapy changed my life in five days. What did that treatment look like? And how is my life different today? Check back for the next blog in the series to find out.
Photo Credit: www.salem-news.com