Lynn’s nightmares woke her in terror every night until she was forty-eight years old. Even after highly successful trauma treatment a number of years ago, she still has trouble sleeping. Although her nightmares are gone, she still sometimes fights anxiety and insomnia. Her body kicks and flails in her sleep as she fights inner battles.
Although she navigates life without her former raging addictions, she still struggles with food addiction. Starved and abandoned as a child to forage for nourishment for herself and her siblings, and tortured with food, she still feels the ravenous pain of the child within her.
Although Lynn, like thousands of other people who struggle with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has experienced successful trauma treatment that has exponentially changed her life, she is not fully healed.
To some degree or another, those of us who live with this alteration in our brain’s wiring will bear some degree of reside of traumatic stress throughout our lives.
Even after successful trauma treatment.
But trauma treatment equips us with the skills to manage the triggers that come when they do occur.
I have diabetes. It is an illness of my endocrine system and pancreas. I also have multiple sclerosis. MS is an illness of my auto-immune system. Diabetes and MS are not disorders; they are illnesses.
Traumatic Stress is an illness that occurs in the functioning of my brain. My brain is an organ that operates based on chemical, biological, and electrical processes in the same way my other organs function.
Staff Sergeant and Medal of Honor winner Ty Carter explains it this way: “It’s our body’s and mind’s natural reaction to try and remember and avoid those situations.”
How does this information change our understanding of men, women, and children who struggle with PTSD?
We may never feel fully comfortable in a room of a thousand or dread passing a certain location or hearing a certain song.
We may always react, although at a diminished level, to the sound of a thumping clothes dryer or rumble of a passing semi-truck or a ringing phone. Or we may be sixty and still prefer to sleep with a nightlight or become nauseous at the smell of hospital disinfectant.
Processing trauma can take a lifetime. It seldom ever becomes “post” to the traumatized person, but we often find great growth, healing, and peace and move forward in life.
If you or someone you know battles with the symptoms of traumatic stress: reliving the event (flashbacks, nightmares, triggers) avoidance (people, places, or events that remind you of the experience), negative changes in beliefs or feelings, or feeling wound up (hard time sleeping, concentrating, hyper vigilant, easily startled), see your physician or find a trauma therapist.