Posts Tagged ‘Post traumatic stress disorder’

EMOTIONAL /SPIRITUAL RECOVERY FROM TRAUMATIC EVENTS

Life can change in a heartbeat. A few weeks ago, a family was stopped at a red light and rear-ended by a drunk driver. Their 10-year old son, Matthew, suffered a severe head trauma and is in a medically induced coma. The prognosis is not good and the family struggles to make sense of what was an act of sheer reckless endangerment. While hopefully many of us will never experience a trauma of this magnitude, we will all face some type of serious emotionally shock that we need to deal with. In some instances, the ordeal can be so severe as to dramatically alter who we are and the course of our lives. One’s life becomes unrecognizable in an instant. Even in those circumstances when we are given time to prepare for the inevitable, such as the death of a loved one suffering with Alzheimer’s or MS, the loss can be significant. In any event, one experiences a wide range of emotions that need to be addressed and healed in order that the individual can minimize any long term damage.

Trauma is defined by the American Psychological Association as the emotional response to an extremely negative event. It can manifest physically as well as emotionally. It is absolutely vital that one acknowledges their feelings rather than deny them. Every feeling has purpose and value and denial of such in no way dissipates them. They reside within causing unimaginable issues on multiple levels until identified and treated, much like termites on wood.

All emotions are the direct result of our thought process. What I think, my internal voice – the words I say to myself – dictates how I feel. Therefore, I choose my feelings. In any given moment, I can change how I feel by changing what I’m thinking. What makes trauma so challenging from our day-to-day emotional state of mind is that we continually replay the powerful event in our minds giving it energy to grow larger and more powerful. An understandable obsession that continually reinforces the horrific event we just experienced keeps it alive in our minds long after it has ceased. There are also neurological changes that occur in the brain after trauma as well.*

Common Emotional Reactions and Spiritual Solutions

Shock occurs when an event is so sudden or unexpected that we experience an extreme state of disbelief. Oftentimes, our belief system has conditioned us that such a terrifying act could not possibly happen to us. We believe we are immune to such a severe type of crisis. Initially, the shock can be so acute as to cause one to shut down emotionally, experiencing a sense of numbness and stoicism.
Slow, deliberate deep breathing enables oxygen to travel to the brain providing much needed nutrients that maintain mental clarity and stimulate our logical thought process. Realizing that no one is immune to tragedy and that God continually provides every resource needed to navigate this dark path gives us hope and strength to continue. That same faith in our loving Father reminds us that on the other side of tragedy is triumph as God heals our pain and restores inner peace and even joy.

Confusion: lacking clarity and direction. When one’s brain succumbs to emotional overload, it can be difficult to think clearly and make rational decisions.
Enlisting the aid of others willing to share their knowledge about what transpired can help you better understand what occurred. Expressing your hopes about what you want to do next and your longer term goals gives others the opportunity to guide you in the right direction and offer valuable resources to assist you. Breaking things down into smaller segments helps make the process more manageable and alleviates anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed.

Denial: one’s unwillingness or inability to accept the reality of what transpired. Extreme disbelief deceives us into believing that there was a horrible mistake or that this is simply a bad dream from which we will awake. Fueled by fear, it keeps us trapped in an alternative reality.
Both logic and faith are the team mates that will help to bring us to victory over the inevitable. With the assistance of facts and the input of those we trust, we can face the truth about said event.”The truth shall set you free” is more than a catchy cliché. It is a powerful belief that reminds us that only when we deal with reality are we really able to take back our lives and move forward. Remember that God has already prepared us to face every challenge that enters our life and with each one our lives are enriched.

Sadness results when life does not cooperate with our plans. We experience disappointment and a sense of loss. One’s marriage was supposed to last forever yet somehow ended in divorce; homelessness is for those in underprivileged neighborhoods, not for the college educated. Sadness is a powerful emotion that robs us of the joy and motivation necessary to fully embrace life.
Prayer, our conversation with God, is a great tool to remove sadness and restore joy. Reminding ourselves of all that God continually blesses us with each day, what still remains in our lives to be grateful for, is the perfect antidote to sadness. One cannot be sad and grateful simultaneously.

Anger is derived from feelings of helplessness or powerlessness and is an outward expression of intense vulnerability and weakness. Extreme anger leads to rage. One experiences anger when their expectations are not forthcoming.
Everything external is beyond my control. I have no authority over anything outside of myself and my thought process. Realizing that life is not intended to conform to my demands and by putting my faith in the One who created and loves me beyond measure, I can relax and allow life to unfold organically. I understand that whatever enters my life has a higher purpose and is meant for my spiritual evolution. I can refocus my energies on how I allow my new circumstances to affect me, strengthen me ,and enrich my life.

Regret: one feels remorseful over what they failed to do or what was done improperly. An intense desire to relive the situation so that one can craft a more desirable outcome is not uncommon.
Recognizing that every experience, good, bad or indifferent, is a necessary part of one’s emotional and spiritual journey brings great comfort. Additionally, choosing to learn from the experience and share that knowledge with others so they may learn as well, adds immense value to a tragedy. Vowing to refrain from repeating the same unfortunate choices builds confidence that future traumas can be averted.

Fear is the antithesis of faith. We worry that the event will reoccur or that we may not survive what we just witnessed. Anxiety also arises from our concerns that we and/or others may not be fine with their new circumstances. Extreme fear can result in panic attacks, creating an immobility that prevents the individual from moving beyond the incident.
On a practical level, one can rely on their inner strength and attitude to overcome fear. Building on prior experiences of overcoming hardships helps to strengthen one’s self-confidence. However, faith in God, trusting in the promises of the Lord, is the true path to overcoming fear. When one truly knows that God would never allow anything to enter our lives that we were ill-prepared to handle, and handle well. His perfect love for us would shield us from that experience if necessary. Therefore, I need not fear the here-and-now nor the future for the same loving God is ever present.

Blame is a self-defeating behavior directed at the one we believe to be rightfully responsible or it can be wrongfully aimed on the self. People may hold themselves accountable for something they had no control over. For example: a parent whose child is diagnosed with a severe disease may feel as though there was something defective within them that they inadvertently passed along to their child, causing their child to become ill. Some blame God. However, our loving Father cannot cause bad things to happen as this violates His very nature. He gave us free will, intellect and choice. Events of the human genre are caused by man’s own actions.
Blame involves judgment which is a defeating action as it devalues the individual. Taking ownership for one’s mistakes while being compassionate of mankind’s imperfections removes shame, self-loathing, and misdirected anger. Forgiveness for their misguided actions and for their weaknesses allows us to move beyond anger and blame and restore the peace God intended for us.

Revenge often follows blame (of others). There is a natural human need to seek justice on those who perpetrated the offense against us. However, vengeance never produces justice as it cannot right a wrong or undo what has happened. One is still left with the residual effects of the event and a healing must still occur. Revenge is often thought of as a learning tool for the offending party as well as a deterrent from committing the atrocity again. However, neither has ever proven effective and only perpetuates suffering onto another.
Vengeance is mine, says the Lord. This in no way implies that God will punish those who committed the offense. On the contrary: Divine Love seeks to teach and heal and that is what God seeks for all His misguided children. Prayer is a powerful deterrent to revenge. Pleading for mercy for the offender heals the one making the request.

Guilt is not an uncommon reaction to a traumatic event particularly when others have suffered more than you, been severely injured or lost their lives. Survivors guilt is a common occurrence when others have passed away.
Understanding that you were in no way responsible for the event occurring, nor could you have prevented it is a good beginning. Many survivors find great comfort in realizing that God has a special plan for them. Realizing this and fulfilling His Will can be very comforting and alleviate residual guilt. It is also important to remember that even for those who have been injured, their experience is just as much a necessary part of their life’s journey as your suffering is for you. This in no way minimizes it but simply helps one to find some sense of peace, though rarely in its entirety. As for death, many view it as an end or a punishment. It is neither. Death is a transition from the temporal physical world back to the existence of eternal spirit which is our ultimate goal. One can find great comfort in knowing the other party has achieved a state of permanent salvation.

Never allow your life or who you become to be defined by your trauma. You are not your ordeal. It was a life experience that has a higher purpose. Your knowledge of and reliance on God will enable you to better navigate your way through a devastating event to a more empowered and meaningful life.

Acceptance of what is or what must be for our higher spiritual awareness allows us to find peace in our new circumstance.

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*https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/09/16/the-science-behind-ptsd-symptoms-how-trauma-changes-the-brain/

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD is a very serious condition that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened. It can cause feelings of intense fear, helplessness, or horror resulting from a sexual or physical assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, an accident, war, or natural disaster such as Hurricane Sandy. It is not uncommon for symptoms of PTSD to occur weeks, months or even years after the event.

Symptoms of PTSD include

Reliving the ordeal through thoughts and memories of the trauma. These may include flashbacks, hallucinations, and nightmares. Reminders of the trauma can cause extreme distress.
Avoiding people, places, thoughts, or situations that remind them of the trauma. This, however, can lead to feelings of isolation, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities. Avoidance does not allow for a healing of the trauma.
Heightened arousal can included excessive emotions, problems relating to others, sleep disturbances; irritability; outbursts of anger; difficulty concentrating; and being easily frightened. Physical symptoms, such as increased blood pressure and heart rate, rapid breathing, muscle tension, nausea and diarrhea can also occur.

In recent years, treatment for PTSD has shown great hope, allowing individuals to heal from, not just manage, the trauma. Treatment includes:

Exposure Based Treatment which encourages the person to discuss the experience and all related feelings. Staying with the emotions and learning how to process them causes the fear to dissipate or change into a more manageable feeling.
Cognitive Processing Therapy re examines any negative beliefs related to the trauma and replaces them with more realistic ones. An example might be: after a natural disaster, feeling as though one is incapable of rebuilding their life and being happy to “I have the ability and resources to recreate my life, although it may be significantly different than before, to one that is rewarding and enjoyable.”
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy helps the individual to identify the feelings associated with the trauma and rather than avoiding them, discover new ways of coping that allow them to regain their lives. By focusing on core values, they can select behaviors that are more empowering and beneficial.

This is only a brief synopsis of my interview with Dr. Holly Parker, licensed psychologist from Harvard University. If you or someone you know would benefit from working with a PTSD specialist, please reach out to Dr. Holly or someone in your area. There is hope. No one needs to suffer from a traumatic experience. Avoidance and denial don’t heal. Facing it with a trained professional will. Feel it so you can heal it.

Contact Dr. Holly Parker at DrHolly@hollyaparker.com or follow her on Facebook at Dr. Holly Parker.