Helpful Advice for Trauma Survivors
Sadness, shame, helplessness, anger, vulnerability, embarrassment, disappointment and frustration are the eight unpleasant feelings that prevent us from having a happier life according to Dr. Joan Rosenberg.
Whatever trauma you have been through, let me first congratulate you because you have made it through! All trauma is unique for each situation, however, the “after effects” are most, or all, of these unpleasant feelings. Holding on to them holds you back from happiness.
I know for me, I felt completely helpless and vulnerable, which led to me hiding away in my house to play video games all day. I became lazy and overweight. I ate whatever I wanted, drank beer and smoked pot everyday to deal with my sadness and shame. Many things about my trauma, and how it was handled by the military, caused great disappointment, frustration and even anger.
This anger symptom was the first one I recognized and dealt with a few years ago. Simply put, anger is one letter away from danger! Over time, I have managed to change my life for the better by dealing with these unpleasant feelings in a productive way, rather than a destructive way. I eat healthy, non-processed food and drink fresh lemon water and do 22 push-ups a day. I have gone from 240 lbs down to 170 lbs. I used to wear a size 42 pant and am down to a size 32. My blood pressure was 166/111 and now it is down to 120/80. I am much happier now! Up until 2019, I was still holding onto disappointment and frustration from my military career. I was advised by a good friend to go see Veterans Affairs to see if they could help me. It was very difficult for me to be vulnerable and to ask for help, but I am glad that I did. Just as McDonald’s had terrible coffee and changed it to great coffee, so it is with Veterans Affairs. They had a reputation of not really caring and I thought it might be a waste of my time, but I was very wrong. I was met with love and compassion and I felt like my concerns were finally being addressed. This has allowed me to start to heal that part of my life. I realize it is not this way for everyone, but I had a good case manager.
If you’re like most trauma survivors and feel anxiety often, then listen closely:
You have two different nervous systems. One is called sympathetic and the other is parasympathetic. Parasympathetic is when you are calm and at peace, just like before you fall asleep. Your body heals while you sleep and when you are calm during the times you are awake. On the other hand, the sympathetic state kicks in when you see a bear with her cubs 10 feet away. Your heart rate and blood pressure go into survival mode and you are prevented from healing. Staying in this state is harmful to your health.
I spent years always anxious and worried, as a blood pressure of 166/111 would tell you, but over time I changed my habits and I have learned that the most important person to take care of in your life is YOU. In order to take care of yourself, you must deal with past negatives to make room for the positives.
This is indeed different for every person, depending on your circumstances, but for me, I found classical music, warm salt baths, and having a personal relationship with Jesus to be most helpful. Whatever brings you to that place of calm and peace, should be your direction in life from now on. Not talking about meditation here, just a natural state of calm. Also, deal with every unpleasant feeling or situation that comes along as positively as you can so you can quickly go back to your healing state of peace.
In 2016, I saw a statistic that said 22 military members take their life everyday and that shook me to the core. I had also heard of a group of former military personnel that do 22 push-ups a day to bring awareness, and also, in some weird way, to put our collective energy into combating this tragedy. This was the very beginning of my healing journey that has brought me this far.
If you are ever considering now or in the future to end your life for whatever reason, please understand that you have a real purpose for the life that you have been given. There are countless people, including myself, who have been at the bottom of a hopeless pit wanting to just die, but I am here to tell you that no matter how bad things get, they will always get better! I am living proof of that, so please never ever allow yourself to feel that way again. Keep breathing!
My definition of confidence is: the deep sense that you can handle the emotional outcome of whatever you face or pursue in life. I hope this article brings you understanding and confidence to handle whatever you face or pursue in your journey from trauma to peace.