“Trauma refers to any traumatic event that has either happened to you directly or that you have witnessed. What I mean by traumatic event is any experience that has overwhelmed you and clearly affected your ability to cope afterwards. This experience can take the form of one major event or a prolonged time spent in difficult circumstances” – Emmy Brunner, CEO of The Recover Clinic
We get lots of enquiries from people sharing their struggles with mental health. Often this is accompanied by “I’m not sure why this is happening to me, everything growing up was fine.” They feel that everything they are going through is their own fault and that they shouldn’t have these problems because seemingly life has mostly been “ok”. When they come into treatment it becomes apparent that everything is not “all ok” and that most people have been subjected to some sort of trauma.
When we think about trauma, we think about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Postnatal Depression and things that we may have heard on the news/media. We don’t always relate to those things. It’s not just about veterans and people who have been through conflict situations. There are extreme experiences we can all go through and when we have had something very difficult happen to us, we can often have an idea or sense of what we were like before and after that event.
However, for so many people, events are not so easy to spot. People can struggle to identify the trauma of their experiences and background as it is not always so obvious. When we think about emotional trauma, it can take on the guise of something that has had an impact on us for many years. For example, if you have been subject to a very negative relationship where you have been put down for several years (emotionally abused), you don’t necessarily always recognise that you are in a traumatic scenario until somebody points it out and educates you about your experiences.
We have some questions for you to help you to identify whether you may be living with unprocessed trauma:
- Do you find yourself pursuing relationships with people who are not available to you?
- Do you feel as though you have never or will never reach your potential?
- Do you feel like food, and your behaviours and attitude towards it are prohibiting you from living a full and courageous life?
- Do you struggle with your body image – constantly feel you don’t look good enough?
- Do you frequently talk to or think about yourself and your body in a punishing, critical way?
- Do you feel trapped by shame and use sex, alcohol, drugs or relationships as a tool to harm yourself?
- Do you feel stuck in a destructive cycle with regards to your life?
- Do you feel lonely & without hope?
One of the other things to recognise about trauma is that it sends many of us into a fight, flight or freeze response and a lot of us end up thinking we are just anxious people as the symptoms of fear and anxiety are very similar. Anyone suffering from unprocessed trauma is likely to be plagued by anxiety, either at a low level (a kind of unpleasant mental or emotional humming) or arising in a more dramatic way when triggered by a thought that leads to a path of negative or self-destructive thoughts, even perhaps into full blown panic attacks. These days so many people identify as suffering with a free-floating anxiety and spend much of their time and energy trying just to manage the physical symptoms. These might include: a sense of impending doom, restricted air flow, tightness in the chest/throat, a feeling that you need to respond to something even though you don’t know what, palpitations, sweating, shaking, nausea and gastrointestinal problems. If this sounds like you, you could be living with unprocessed trauma.
Possibly the most empowering thing you can do when you have suffered from trauma or are experiencing trauma is to identify it. Until you do that you are just an anxious person, you are just of a nervous disposition, you are just a little bit crazy – not true! These are the stories that we tell ourselves and actually when we say “I am somebody who has experienced trauma and this has impacted me in these ways, this is why I feel like this, this is why I behave like that in these situations” we can start to develop some compassion towards ourselves and start to feel more love, warmth and kindness towards ourselves rather than feel everything is our fault.
You can also start your own healing journey by purchasing our ebook, Trauma Redefined. Trauma Redefined is a brand new, easy-to-digest mini-book designed to help you take control of your journey to better mental health. The book unpacks the role of unresolved trauma as the cause for as much as 90% of the mental health challenges facing today’s busy population; providing practical advice on gaining context for the mental health issue facing you, teaching you how to identify unresolved trauma, and guiding you on your journey to addressing and healing the wounds of the past that are holding you back.
The lessons shared within this book have been honed over 15+ years working to help people manage some of the most challenging mental illnesses. While trauma looks different for everyone, we are certain better mental health can be found by addressing and treating unidentified emotional wounds from the past.
*All proceeds go towards charities supported by The Brunner Project