What are trauma and PTSD…
It can be confusing and distressing to not have a name for what you’re experiencing mentally and physically.
‘Post-traumatic stress disorder’ (PTSD) is a medical, diagnostic term for the range of: behaviours, psychological and somatic reactions, and relational difficulties that may be experienced in the aftermath of a traumatic event. You may feel this is relevant to you even if you have not received a diagnosis from a medical professional.
‘Trauma’ is used to refer to the range of ways that our sense of self, identity, relationships, daily life, bodies, and minds are affected by overwhelming, uncontrollable experiences. This includes feeling unsafe, vulnerable, and/or unprotected.
Many people with trauma struggle to trust others, feel safe in relationships, and are re-traumatised by not being believed. The lack of safety in all these domains underpins these experiences, especially when your trauma is a result of being hurt or violated by others.
One thing I hear a lot is ‘Other people have gone through worse than me’, which creates a hierarchy of suffering. ‘Trauma’ can feel like a word that other people deserve to use, but not you. I partly understand this as an expression of blame, shame, and guilt. These are very common and human responses to being subjected to uncontrollable, life-threatening, and terrifying situations.
The ways our bodies and minds respond to traumatic situations are automatic – they help us survive what’s happening. Feeling out of control of your body and mind afterwards is normal, as we struggle to process traumatic experiences in the same way we do other neutral or positive ones.
You are not going crazy – you’re reacting to what you’ve survived or lived through.
You are not a bad person for struggling to cope with something unmanageable.
You can recover from the impact of traumatic experiences without having to talk about the details of what happened.
If you want to talk about what happened and/or how it’s affected you, there are people who will want to hear it and help you.
Whatever words you have to make sense of what happened and how it’s affected you is okay. This includes not having any words at all, as sometimes language doesn’t do justice to what we feel and/or is triggering.