Let's Talk about Trauma

It's important to note I'm not a therapist and don't intend to be one. I am, however, a domestic violence and infertility survivor who spent three years in trauma therapy and has spent the last eight years learning about trauma resilience, understanding anxiety, overcoming my own PTSD, and researching how the brain works - both when traumatized and then after.
There's no reason to have ruffled feathers all the time (though this is something I learned the hard way a few years ago), so I do try to remain pretty calm and show empathy regularly. However, when I talk about our brains and trauma I get pretty opinionated.
Nothing gets me more riled up than when people tell you who does/doesn't have PTSD symptoms. Most people believe they know the acceptable reasons to have PTSD. For example, it's commonly accepted when service people who return from combat have it. Nobody denies they came home with it. But if your trauma isn't war, a lot of times people diminish your experience. 
You know what?
Fuck that shit.
To suggest there's some kind of qualifier on trauma response puts those of us who have experienced immense pain and anxiety at a really terrible disadvantage when trying to heal, because we first work on convincing ourselves that our trauma isn't big enough to be hurt or have the symptoms we do, comparably, and then when nothing has worked to quiet the pain, we have to start doing the work we should've done in the first place. 
And that's only if we accept that we do have significant trauma, even though society still tries to tell us to get over it. It literally takes nothing away from someone who has experienced PTSD to say someone else is suffering. 
Because according to one study, at least 50% of the population will experience a traumatic event in their life. And that same study says women are more prone to PTSD after trauma. Plus, we know a Harvard study shows that women with an infertility diagnosis are proven to have the same stress response as women who are diagnosed with cancer. While not everyone who faces infertility will have PTSD from it, it is not impossible to project that many of us will.
Some of this trauma is simple, like a car accident or a natural disaster. What that means is, it's one event that doesn't reoccur frequently and it's also something we can rationalize. You know it's not your fault mother nature brought a tornado. You know accidents happen.
Complex trauma, however, often occurs when the trauma is repeated. A great example of this is abuse, wherein the abuser attacks their target repeatedly. Or a sexual assault, where the victim doesn't know the attacker or there is victim blaming associated with the rape/assault. 
I would argue that infertility is a complex trauma, because over the course of trying to conceive you face down defeat over and over again. Rejection. Negative pregnancy tests. Unexpected and bizarre changes in how your body works. Pain. Frustration. Failure.
So, if you're here, infertile, and think you might have PTSD-like symptoms or some other form of trauma-induced mental health concerns, I want you to know that your truth is valid and safe. 
We see you.

From here, let's assume you have residual hurt from infertility or another massive life event and you want to know if/when/how to fix it.
Now, I want to be clear: if your PTSD has you pinging at over a 6/10 on a personal stress chart, you should seek professional help with this. Don't ever let anyone shame you away from therapy. It's the best damn thing we can do for ourselves when we feel consumed by overwhelming emotions. I did and it saved me from self-harm and self-inflicted isolation, amongst other damaging behaviors (like a relationship with a guy clearly only interested in one thing...and it wasn't commitment).
However, if you think you're a 5 or below, and your symptoms are manageable, there are ways to work through them and recreate what's normal, and those are some of the techniques we’ll start Friday morning off with at the Immersion Experience.
In my own words, PTSD keeps you living in the past. Your brain has frozen because it believes you're still in danger from whatever event caused your trauma, so instead of moving along like a normal brain, it freezes and loses the ability to be logical when something else reminds it of the traumatic event. 
But here is what actually happens, without getting too scientific:
1. Your logical brain, or thinking center, becomes under activated (it shuts down and lets other parts take over)
2. Your regulatory center does the same thing, so you can't control your emotions.
3. Fear drives you and makes illogical decisions based on rampant, unhealthy emotions.
If any of these symptoms seem familiar, you might be having a trauma response:
·      Chronic stress, fear, constant irritation
·      Never feeling safe, insomnia, or being unable to cope/calm down
·      Having a hard time concentrating, or “letting go” of jokes and/or minor annoyances, even when they want to feel better (you can thank your weakened emotional regulation)

What’s next?


If any of these symptoms feel like they pertain to you, take this quiz to get a good gauge on your trauma level and response. 

Over the summer, I'll talk about the ways you can help yourself with these symptoms. We'll go further into how you can handle PTSD-like symptoms and your brain while at the Immersion Experience in September, and we'd love to have you there. We will not make you relive or recount anything you do not want to. In fact, much of the work will be quiet and internal, or 2:1 with myself, Tia, and you. 

The very first step in healing from trauma is recognizing it, so this blog post is an excellent starting point to truly figure out what's going on in your head so you can make it, and yourself, work for you again.

Because it is possible. It's not easy, fun-time work, but it's doable and rewarding and worth every second.

I can't wait to talk to you about it.