Triumphing over Trauma…

Triumphing over trauma is a process. It isn’t always a ‘linear’ one, but it is very much a possibility.

One of the first key steps in overcoming trauma, or at least beginning on the road to recovery, is the very practical one of establishing safety and security. I don’t know if anyone can recover from trauma while in the midst of it – I don’t think that’s possible, is it? Establishing safety is therefore crucial.

Safety means getting out of the harmful situations and into a place of protection. It means that your physical wellbeing isn’t threatened by external forces. At this point you may be more than likely to experience the unprocessed experiences of your trauma through flashbacks, nightmares, chronic pain, sensory overload, breakdown and a whole host of PTSD symptoms. If you’ve come through this you’ll know how tough this can be and it’s vital to get support from a professional as well as to build up a network of caring individuals that you can turn to, whether from charitable organisations that exist to help trauma survivors, or friends and family members. This can take years, so don’t give up. It really does take time, but healing and recovery is possible.

Safety also means that your basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, etc. are being met and that you are able to establish some kind of stability, routine and perhaps also crucially to work through a care package with a professional.

It might take months, it might take years, it might take decades, but if you continue on the positive path of recovery then at some stage you will hopefully be ready to reintegrate socially, making connections and contributions to society. Routines are very helpful in any recovery process as it establishes a system for the brain to follow, which helps prevent ‘relapse’.

So say you, or someone you know, has passed through these stages and you are now ready to not merely survive, but to Triumph over trauma. How do you do this? Sometimes people say things, and they become helpful little nuggets of truth to help us along our way. One doctor once told me (and this wasn’t even a particularly helpful doctor as her manner was very abrupt and even hurtful at times, but even so she has left a productive input in my life in some way) that I needed to begin building up positive experiences.

It seems obvious doesn’t it? Yet when you’re in a tough and dark place and your brain has been ‘put through the mill’ of negativity time after time, then it can be very difficult to see how that is even a possibility. However, what the doctor said stuck with me, as obvious as it may seem, and I set out on a path to build up positive experiences for myself and this wasn’t easy to do because of the negative forces I was fighting against.

However, this my friends, is a significant key to becoming Triumphant over trauma. It’s not the only key, nor even necessarily the main one, but it is very important. Your brain in trauma is overcrowded and clouded with negative ‘reference points’ and your thoughts will keep lapsing back to these traumatic experiences, emotions and memories unless you give your brain, your mind, somewhere better to go.

Initially, as another doctor taught me, this might be in the form of visualisation, of very simple and short ‘positive experiences’ such as through ‘grounding techniques’, breathing exercises and focusing on gratitude. These are ‘easy breezy’ for many non-trauma sufferers, but for those who have had their brains turned inside out and upside down in somewhat of a nightmare, it takes real effort, perseverance, commitment, diligence and determination and will most probably also be accompanied by several tears, some sleepless nights, anxiety or panic and so forth. Push on through….the view is worth it on the other side!

Over time the positive experiences you are building into your life will grow in possibility. You can focus on your senses and begin to actually enjoy living, even if only for a few seconds at a time at first. Taste your food. Smell the sea breeze. Feel the fresh air wrap around you. See the colour of the autumn leaves. Hear the bird song.

You may then be able to integrate such positive experiences with ‘self care’ such as taking a bath, and taking care of your self. Gradually you may build up to include hobbies as creativity can help reduce chronic pain (such a blessing to me as a mental and physical pain reliever!) as it engages certain parts of your brain linked to concentration and pleasure sensations. This might involve tactile hobbies too such as gardening, knitting, cross stitch, photography, music, drawing, painting, singing, dance, adult colouring, cooking and so forth. It could also include ‘brain training’ by doing puzzles and quizzes and building up your time with these from seconds, to minutes to even hours as your concentration and ability to regulate your nervous system improves and is strengthened.

Hopefully in time the positive experiences will also come to include trusting friendships and social and emotional connections, social events even if just little baby steps at first (it certainly was for me), and then as you build and build and build upon your resilience, your mind will be mapping out many new neural pathways and connections of positive experiences that will at first soften the ‘relapses’ and then gradually over time become new ‘reference points’ for you mentally and emotionally. And after that, what could possibly stop you from being and living Victoriously and Triumphing over trauma?! 🙂 x

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Appreciating friendship dynamics

Recently I wrote this blog post about investing in friendships: https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/129815114/posts/6284

Today I’m reflecting upon the blessings of the different dynamics among some of my friendships, but am particularly grateful at the moment for friendships with people at similar stages and situations of life as me, especially as they are fewer and farther between these days as people’s situations change and move on.

The dynamic of diversity:

Although most people would see me as quiet and shy, and perhaps a bit of a ‘loner’ in certain situations, I do in fact have a wide range of very close friends that have come into my life over the past so many years. I don’t easily let ‘just anyone’ close to me, as there needs to be a firm foundation of trust, but when I do, these friendships usually become, close, committed and longstanding.

Having many connections, it is inevitable that there will be a diversity in the life situations between my friends and I. I have friends young, old, middle aged. Some are married, some single, some separated or going through divorce. Some have grown up children, some have just had their first baby. Some have a lot of similar interests, whereas with others there are maybe one or two key similarities while we have our own interests, outlooks and pursuits in life that differ from each other.

All in all this adds to a more colourful and vibrant life experience, and in a way friends become somewhat of an ‘extended family’ which is a lovely thing to have especially when I don’t have any extended family members living in the same country as me.

However, there can be a downside to this diversity. We all have our different struggles and joys in life. And sometimes when friends who are experiencing the blessings of things only hoped for in my life it is an honour to be that friend who cheers them along, celebrates their joys, and encourages them. But at the same time there can be that sense of ‘disconnect’ where there may at times be a lack of sensitivity from those who are in their own ‘joyful bubble’ or who may just take for granted the things that they talk about. In other ways you may just find that you both have different interests and so although you can share and appreciate each others differences, you’re not always on the same page. I think this will be true of any and all friendships and relationships in some respect, and this is what makes the variety of life so fascinating, interesting and challenging, helping us to see new ways of approaching life and perhaps opening up avenues of opportunity that we would never have otherwise considered.

The sweetness of similarity:

At times in our lives, however, it is just nice to find those people, even if turns out to be just for a season, where you can feel that you ‘belong’ and are in synch with where your lives are at. I had a lovely time like that this weekend with catching up with a couple of my female friends. And it was nice, comforting, reassuring and a lot of fun. We are all of a similar age, all living and working in the city full time, all share the same Faith, all unmarried, without children, all like to travel, each have our own apartments and with friends who have moved on into different stages of life than us, while we while seeking to enjoy and make the most of the time we are in now also have an uncertainty as to what is next for us.

We had a great time catching up over coffee, and have started to plan a girls’ night in together for Valentines Day ( or ‘Gallentines Day’ 🙂 ). We can bond together and have fun together in our similarities, whereas there might be somewhat of a disconnect within other groups when our friends might want to talk about their celebrations that we might feel ‘on the sidelines’ of in our own lives. Having friends in similar life stages can be hugely life affirming, comforting and empowering to see the positive and look for the joys and blessings and as I said, comfort, of those who can walk together at a similar pace. I never really had that in secondary school or university due to some unique and challenging circumstances, so I’m all the more appreciative of it now 🙂

The richness of both diversity and similarity:

It is important to have a balance of connections with people who are similar to and different from us. We gain from both the comfort of similarity and the challenges of difference. We become more well-rounded individuals when we are able to relate closely to people of all different walks of life and experience than ourselves, while being able to see more fully the blessings of our current stage of life when we have those similar to us to share it with.

Being a good friend:

Finally, whether we have at any stage of our lives many friends or none, there is still so much to learn and grow and develop in ourselves from the interactions available to us. We can nurture our connections and we can nurture ourselves to help us to be better, kinder, more patient, considerate, loving individuals, taking the time to appreciate and understand other people and ourselves, ultimately helping us to be better friends ourselves.

What do you appreciate about your friendships today? x

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