How to understand your response to trauma (part 6 of 8)
What can I do to help myself?
- You and your loved ones must understand that you may well have a very intense need to discuss the traumatic event repeatedly and in much detail. This can be a natural part of the recovery process as you struggle to integrate the experience. If this proves to be too upsetting for your loved ones, or if you feel you cannot talk to them about parts of the incident or certain feelings that you have, then you may need to find other confidants (e.g., mental health professional, minister or support group), who can understand and tolerate such a need.
- Sometimes it is helpful to write down your memories of your traumatic experience, or to keep a journal of what you are going through as you recover. Sometimes it is helpful to look at photographs or other reminders of, or to establish a memorial to, someone or something that is lost. Tears can be healing. Give yourself permission to feel all your feelings, even those that don’t make sense or go together.
- Strive to identify the “triggers” for your reliving of the trauma so that you can better predict and ready yourself for upset rather than being taken by surprise, which only adds to your sense of alarm. Allow yourself to lean on others a bit when you know something will be difficult.
- Be extremely cautious about your use of alcohol. Many people who have experienced trauma try to control or diminish their symptoms with alcohol, only to have their drinking compound their problems.
- Strive not to isolate yourself more than briefly. Even if you do not feel like actively relating to others, find ways to be in the vicinity of others. Occasionally, you may need to withdraw for a day or two to “regroup” and come out again.
- Remind yourself that your reactions are real and expected reactions to trauma, rather than evidence of personal weakness. Remind yourself that it will take patience and effort to recover, but that you won’t stay stuck in your worst feelings. Remember that you can’t make yourself recover quickly by sheer force of will. Give yourself the latitude to have good days and bad days. “Trauma” means “wound.” Deep wounds take time to heal, even if you do everything you can. (cont…..on page 7 of 8)