What is trauma, or a traumatic experience? Sometimes I think it’s a lot easier for an outsider to define trauma than it is for the person who’s living through it. A simple definition of trauma is an event that leaves a person extremely distressed, frightened, or stressed out. This can be ongoing – such as the trauma of growing up in a home that experienced domestic violence or abuse – or a singular event, such as a car crash. Trauma is less about the actual event, and more about how it is perceived by the person experiencing it. No one can tell you what the correct response is to distressing events; something may happen to you that would be deeply upsetting to another person, and yet you are able to cope with it. That would mean you experienced a traumatic event, but weren’t necessarily traumatised by it.
One thing I’ve noticed is quite common is people who have been traumatised but because the trauma was ongoing over a long period of time, they have normalised it. Sometimes that’s OK, but most often, once these same people have gotten away from the difficult situation or people, they will suddenly find that they are no longer coping: they have nightmares, panic attacks, they’re jumpy, they may experience strange emotional responses that they didn’t expect. This is a normal response to surviving trauma – people become accustomed to always being afraid or tense, and when they no longer have to be, their minds and bodies don’t know how to cope anymore.
It can be really frightening and stressful to walk away from a frightening and stressful relationship, situation, or job. The way counselling can help is by offering you a safe, caring, nonjudgemental space to talk about the feelings you haven’t been able to feel or express for so long. I am experienced in working with trauma and survivors of all kinds of abuse. Consider getting in touch to talk about it and start your road to healing. I offer a free initial consultation session where we can discuss your needs and you can get to know me.