The American psychological association defines trauma as the emotional response to a terrible event.
What defines a terrible event is dependent on personal perception. In essence every person is a trauma victim. Every single person has had an event in their life that has created an emotional response. Depending on the level of support and response of the immediate first responders after the traumatic event determines how a victim will heal psychologically and what type of long term effects will remain long after physical damage has healed.
A person with psychological trauma has a more difficult time healing and usually a longer road to recovery than a person with physical trauma. A person with a physical wounds has something to measure their healing with. Something to gauge how far they have come in their healing process. They have the physical evidence of their scars and bruises. They have a process in which they follow, a plan of care in which they need to adhere to in order to make their recovery successful. There are splints, bandaids, sutures, surgeries and a great plethora of tools in which a person can assist their physical healing. They receive support dependent on how bad their injuries were because their injuries are visible.
A person with psychological trauma has none of that. There is no visible injury. There is no way to gauge the severity of the trauma. There is no documented time frame on how long a broken heart, a broken spirit or a broken soul takes. There is not the physical evidence to prove that someone is on the road to recovery, that all the work they have put forth toward their healing process is making any progress at all. Friends, family and even healthcare providers tend to put a time frame on the healing process in which a person is limited to for healing emotionally and psychologically.
When someone has a physical wound evidence of healing is left by way of a scar. This scar is not painful. It is a badge of honor. Proof that something happen to them and that they survived it. They healed and their wound is no more. They have visible evidence to say I conquered my trauma and I am whole again.
When someone has a psychological scar it is not visible to the naked eye. It’s there. It will always be there. But the difference is that it remains painful. Over time hopefully we develop coping mechanisms that dull the pain to a tolerable level but no matter how far you come with you healing the pain will always remain and can surface at any point in time without warning. Healing from a psychological wound is not a linear path, there is not a plan of care that ensures healing like a physical wound there is no time frame to judge how long a person will be affected by the trauma they endured.
I spent a week long in Detroit this week taking a forensic nursing class, specifically to become a trained sexual assault nurse examiner. I learned all about the chemicals in the brain and how a person can freeze during acute trauma, how they can shut down emotionally after, how they can act inappropriately after related to the bodies natural defense system and the release of certain hormones to help protect against pain and trauma, how these hormones can inhibits a persons storage of memories and how they recall the traumatic event. To the untrained person we perceive these victims as liars, as illogical, as dramatic, as attention seekers. We see a child who acts out and think they are a brat, we see a women who won’t give a man a time of day as a bitch, we see the man who treats all women as sexual objects as pigs… we don’t stop to think that maybe that child is not getting attention at home, maybe that woman has been harmed by a man emotionally, maybe that man has been manipulated or cheated on by a woman in his past…. we don’t look past the blatant behaviors in front of our faces and look deep into each other’s souls.
We make assumptions on intentions and stipulations on who a person is based on our own insecurities and we don’t slow down long enough to ask ourselves why a person is doing what they are doing or put ourselves in their shoes. We have been taught to only look out for ourselves and to protect ourselves against other people instead of opening ourself up and loving each other. Instead of taking a person at their word and always assuming the worst intentions.
Holding onto what a person has done to you or how someone has wronged you only creates a toxic environment in yourself. It does nothing to harm the other person and yet as a defense mechanism we hold onto these things to teach ourselves, never again. I will not be a victim. It’s a toxic circle of healing and harming. Until a person can truly let it go the emotional scars will continue to dictate their life and all future relationships…
This is where I am. I know what I need to do. I know I will no longer allow myself to be a victim. I am a survivor. But somehow you have to learn how to maintain your survivor status without becoming the perpetrator and harm others or reliving the trauma over and over and over…. it’s a perpetual circle of balancing protecting yourself, forgiving others, loving yourself, loving others and constantly moving forward. Circle of life…. roller coaster of life… whatever you call it… no one technically survives it… we just live the best life we can making the most out of it and leaving a positive impact on this world by what we leave behind in our children and our legacy.