What causes mental trauma? You could ask 10 different people you would receive different answers to that question. It is no secret my family has been through a lot the past 8 days, and even though I was not the one lying in the ICU unit, I was traumatized. This week I am really struggling, and I am so frustrated and irritable. However, I am not alone in dealing with trauma; there are people all over the world who are trying to cope with it right now too.
Events that can Cause Trauma
Sadly, in today’s world, trauma is more prevalent than it has ever been. You cannot turn on the news or browse Facebook, or other social media outlets, without reading about traumatic events. For example, the mass shooting in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas followed by another one in Colorado within hours a few days ago. It is heart-wrenching to be living in an age where the value of life is reduced to nothing. But trauma does not always stem from significant events, although it certainly can and does, it can come from a variety of sources.
Here are some examples of traumatic events:
- Natural Disasters
- Domestic Violence
- Severe Illness of a Loved One or Yourself
- Death of a Loved One
- Mental Abuse
- Physical Pain or Injury
- Witnessing an Act of Violence
- Perceived Threat of Mental or Physical Injury
- Divorce & Abandonment
These are just some examples and are by no means a comprehensive list, but they can give you an idea of trauma.
In my life, I have suffered from a complex combination of traumatic events. Unfortunately, I could not even begin to describe everything I have happened in my life here. I don’t talk about those events much, but I do know that I have more than my fair share.
Here is an abbreviated list of some events in my life:
- I witnessed my brother’s accident when I was five years old.
- My mother suffered from Bi-Polar Disorder and was hospitalized multiple times.
- I have been bullied.
- I have been a recipient of Mental Abuse.
- I have been stalked.
- My Mother and Father have both been on life support this year.
- I have been present with my Dad on several death notifications.
- I have been a caregiver to those who were dying.
- I have been sexually assaulted.
- I have stood by my Dad’s bedside several times in the past when they said he would not live to see morning from various accidents.
- Many times, I have held the hands of those who are hurting and going through trauma themselves.
When you grow up in a Pastor’s family, it makes you a magnet for trauma.
Symptoms of Trauma
Personally, I know that I am suffering from symptoms of trauma because this is not my first rodeo. I am lethargic, and I cannot seem to push myself to be motivated. My temper is on a very short fuse even though I am doing my best to keep it reigned in and I am at the same time restless.
The most prevalent emotion I am dealing with now is anger. Anger is a secondary emotion that arises out of a deeper one, such as fear. Mentally I know this, but it is what I am experiencing right now.
I’m angry that once again, my family is going through a fiery trial. I’m mad that I cannot focus and concentrate on tasks I need to complete. And I am livid that at times such as these that there are people who have no compassion for others.
For example, this past week, while our little girl was having surgery, a man tried to pick a fight with my husband in the waiting room. It was repulsive, and God’s grace gave me the strength to not lose my temper during that event. Instead, I chose to stand up and pray while this man screamed in my face and told me to, “Practice What You Preach!”
I did practice my faith; I prayed and did not lose it even though I wanted to. It was God’s hand that kept me still and at peace. Then Sunday it was another spiritual attack from an unexpected source before service started over pettiness, but I just leaned into God’s strength again.
But today I’m angry.
I’m also not sleeping, and food has no appeal to me, but this is just a passing season. We were never promised a bed of roses in life, and sometimes we are on the mountain peak, but there will be valleys.
Other symptoms of trauma people experience are:
- Intense Fear
- Confusion and Anxiety
- Dramatic Mood Changes
- Withdrawal & Isolation
- Physical Symptoms such as Nausea, Headaches, Pain, etc.
- Interruption of Sleep Patterns
As I said, I am familiar with trauma, so I know the symptoms I am dealing with currently even though they are driving me nuts.
Add Your HeadingHow do you manage stress from traumatic events?
The first thing you must remind yourself or a loved one is to be gentle on yourself after a traumatic event has occurred. I’m preaching to myself on this one because I am my “Father’s Daughter” and often expect too much too soon of myself just as he does. We both have an intense drive and tend to overcompensate on everything.
Another way I learned to cope, even as a child, was to write. I don’t know that I have ever shared that with the public before. Writing has always been one of my best coping tools, and I have held that back from the world because I thought, others would think I was crazy or lying.
Journaling is very therapeutic, and I would suggest it to anyone who needs a safe place to vent and authentically be themselves. That is why counselors urge their patients to journal. I have always been an avid reader, so journaling came naturally to me when my Mom gave me my first journal as a child. I have just been shy to tell others about it.
Art in all forms is also a great way to take care of yourself and seek release. I often create images to go along with my thoughts that I write. It helps me to let go of what is troubling me visually.
Here are some additional examples of ideas you can use to cope with your traumatic stress:
- Give yourself time and know you are human and can’t control everything.
- Talk to family and friends about the event.
- Seek professional help from a counselor or support group.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol.
- Pursue what you love but don’t overdo anything.
- Put off major decisions such as moving, etc.
- Practice self-care.
- Pray and seek spiritual advice.
- Accept help from others, such as cooking meals and cleaning.
- Don’t isolate yourself entirely. It is ok to seek time alone but don’t close others out entirely.
Overall, remember you are not a superhuman and that there will be seasons in your life that you cannot control. It is during those times when you learn how to lean on others and grow. I know I am struggling right now with trauma symptoms, and although it is frustrating, I will get through it. Besides, God told us that he is close those who are of a broken heart and crushed spirit (Psalm 34:18). I’m just going to rest in the Lord’s care and take this a day at a time.
If you missed the story of what happened to my father last week click here to read the story.