Vail Valley: Trauma that doesn’t ease requires help
Vail Daily community correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –Throughout life, each of us goes through some period of sadness or a distressful event. Generally, we are upset or depressed for a period of time and then things slowly start to improve and whatever the situation was, it isn’t so painful anymore.
But there are times in some people’s lives where they experience something outside of the “normal” range of human experience. These events are referred to as “trauma.” Estimates state that 70 percent of adults experience trauma at some time in their life.
Trauma can occur in many forms. Some common examples are: an individual in a war zone, someone who is seriously abused, a person who lives through a natural disaster, a crime victim or someone in some type of traumatic accident. Frequently, there is both physical and emotional damage as a result of the trauma, although sometimes the victim just witnesses the traumatic event. Often, the physical damage heals much more quickly than the emotional.
Some people are able to completely recover from a trauma in a short period of time. They come to terms with the event and although it will always be part of who they are, they are able to categorize it as just another event they have lived through.
But there is a significant percentage of people who are unable to move beyond the trauma. Instead, it becomes an overwhelming presence in their life. They will frequently categorize things in life as “before” or “after” the trauma.
They may have nightmares, have difficulty going to or staying asleep, become afraid and begin avoiding things that trigger the memory of the trauma, begin to detach from important people in their life, have difficulty experiencing pleasure, and exhibit a diminished responsiveness to the external events. Not all of these things are necessarily present, but they all can be. While some of these symptoms may certainly be present in the immediate period after the trauma, when they become ongoing it is a cause for concern.
After experiencing a trauma, it is important to talk about it. Talking about the actual event, as well as your emotional reaction to it, helps you gain perspective. The sense of perspective serves to take away some of the overwhelmed feeling that is likely present. It also allows you to get support and encouragement from others. It is amazing what a difference just knowing that other people are concerned can make.
While talking about it sounds easy, very often it is quite difficult. This is especially true if the trauma is one where the individual was victimized by another. In these instances, shame and guilt are frequently present. The victim may be afraid to talk about the experience for fear of being rejected, judged, pitied or not being believed.
Often, because of these feelings and the inability to talk about it, the individual will turn to alcohol or drugs to help dull the pain they are experiencing. Doing this only complicates one’s recovery.
If your life has been affected by trauma and you find yourself continuing to struggle with it, it may be time to seek professional assistance. Working with a professional will allow you to express your experience and all of the emotions that have resulted in a safe, non-judgmental atmosphere.
However, it is very important when seeking professional help to investigate the providers in your area. Working with trauma victims is an area of specialization and finding someone who has the education, skills and experience will help ensure that your treatment provides you with the tools for recovery.
April Wilson is a counselor at The Samaritan Counseling Center. For more information about the Samaritan Center go to http://www.samaritan-vail.org
Few newspapers offer as many pages as the Vail Daily does to a community that has so much to say. If you want to see your byline on this page, write about something you think is newsworthy and send it to Community Editor Lauren Glendenning at email@example.com, or call her at 970-748-2983 for details.