Supporting your emotions
and psychology when everything feels insurmountable and difficult.
You need to know it is okay to ask for help.
Trauma is a term used to describe a distressing event that may have long lasting, harmful effects on your physical and emotional health and
While traumatic events may happen to anyone, you’re more likely to be traumatized by the event if you’re already under a heavy stress load, have recently suffered a series of losses, or have been traumatized before—especially if the earlier trauma occurred in childhood.
Childhood trauma can result from anything that disrupts a child’s sense of safety, including:
An unstable or unsafe environment
Separation from a parent
Intrusive medical procedures
Sexual, physical, or verbal abuse
Traumatic events can have a profound lasting impact on your present and your future. Understanding what has happened to you can help you heal.
PTSD and C-PTSD
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that's triggered by trauma — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Complex PTSD is related to experiencing prolonged traumatic events, such as long-term and chronic physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Trauma
can have a lasting
profound effect on one's sense of self.
My clients often say they don't feel fully present or they don't feel like themselves. They say things like:
"I feel depersonalized"
"I don't feel like myself"
"I feel uneasy a lot..."
"I feel divorced from myself"
"I feel like there are parts of my body that aren't completely attached to me"
"I feel like my hands are way over there"
"I don't feel real..."
"I feel like I'm hearing from underneath the water.."
"My eyes are cloudy..."
"Sometimes I feel like I'm in a tunnel..."
"Sometimes I'm literally frozen back in time, in the middle of what happened."
There is hope and help for you. New responses, skills and behaviors can be learned.
Anxiety is a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come. In the case of an anxiety disorder, the feeling of fear may be with you all the time. It is intense and sometimes debilitating. It may cause you to stop doing things you enjoy.
Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:
Feeling nervous, restless or tense
Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
Having an increased heart rate
Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
Feeling weak or tired
Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
Having trouble sleeping
Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
Having difficulty controlling worry
Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
If your worries do not go away in a couple of weeks or if they get worse over time, you may benefit from reaching out for professional care.
Depression is a mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life. People who are clinically depressed come into my office and say they feel a constellation of ongoing emotional and physical symptoms:
• loss/gain in appetite
• loss/gain in weight
• foggy thinking
• feelings of emptiness
• feeling worthless
• feeling helpless
• feeling hopeless
• physical pains such as headache, joint pains, back pain, digestive issues
• possibly thoughts of self harm or suicide
People who are depressed also experience the symptom of black-and-white thinking. That all-or-nothing idea or feeling. Black-and-white thinking is a primitive way of coping. Depressed people think a situation is: either/or, this or that, , male or female, sad or happy, yes or no. There is no allowance for shades of gray. The inevitable conclusion of black and white thinking is: “I’m no good, no one will ever like me, I stink at everything.”
Note that black-and-white thinking is also a symptom of anxiety and other mental illnesses.
When you are facing a barrage of emotions, it can be helpful to identify and validate what you are feeling.
Support from Kathy
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a painful, frightening and frustrating condition to live with. PTSD has debilitating psychological, emotional and physical symptoms. People come into my office with symptoms such as depression, anxiety, dread, fear, dissociation, body pains, headaches, joint pain, foggy thinking, feelings of general unease.
PTSD can be caused by a single incident: surviving a car accident, hurricane, wildfire, a severe illness or being the victim of a crime. PTSD can also result from chronic abuse situation: ongoing childhood abuse, witnessing multiple traumatic events (police, firefighting or medical work). This condition is called Complex PTSD (C-PTSD).
As an aside: It might take a few years to get a diagnosis of PTSD or C-PTSD, as the symptoms can show up over a lifetime as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, dissociation, derealization, flashback memories, nightmares, hypervigilance, fatigue and wandering physical pain and numbness. Over the years, disparate symptoms might show up and you might go to different doctors and therapists for help with single symptoms. Maybe you even numb your feelings with alcohol, marijuana or other substances, and this further obscures the diagnostic picture. Getting to the the diagnosis of PTSD and C-PTSD is sometimes not being able to see the forest in the background because of the large individual trees in the foreground.
So, why does PTSD carry so many disparate symptoms over a lifetime? For some insight, let's look at the concepts underlying the neurobiological platform of PTSD, with two basic concepts of neurobiology: neuroplasticity and neuroception.
Neuroplasticity refers to the brain's capacity to create new pathways and for old pathways to adapt in response to new experiences. In other words, the brain actually changes when learning and experiencing new things.
Our individual neurobiological platform is shaped over time. We develop ingrained habitual responses based on our experiences, which directly shape our neuronal programming.
Another important insight in trauma therapy is the concept of neuroception. Neuroception, a term developed by Stephen Porges, Ph.D., is the concept that the brain is continuously processing our experiences on a subcortical level, beneath our awareness. We are constantly determining whether situations are life threatening, dangerous or safe, and creating our responses to the threats based on existing neuronal pathways, before we have any awareness of this process. So, we have unconscious perceptions and interpretations that are resistant to conscious change via conscious insight. Meaning that actual physical changes occur, preceding or in concert with, psychological and emotional symptoms. Treatment methods have evolved as as our understanding of impact of trauma on the human body has evolved.
There is hope. Learning takes place over a lifetime. New responses, skills and behaviors can be learned, even if it takes more repetition, processing and time.
Treatment would include a way to impact the physical neurobiology of the fear and immobilization. Impacting neurobiology is done through somatic and experiential therapies such as Somatic Experiencing®, EMDR and movement therapies.
Depression is a painful and exhausting condition to live with. Clinically diagnosed Major Depression is different than normal sadness. All of us feel sad or down sometimes, depending on the life situation. A break up, a fight with someone you care about, an accident, a loss, a death can affect us all.
Plus, some people are born with a tendency to be more like Eeyore and feel sadness and self blame more often than others. And some people have a natural tendency to be more like Tigger and always hope for the best! But a tendency towards pessimism is not clinical depression. (As an aside, research shows that a person can overcome innate tendencies by learning new ways to be emotionally and by learning new emotional skills. So, there’s that.)
Depression also involves a great deal of rumination about the past. When depressed, people think, with remorse, about what could have been. There is a lack of wisdom, acceptance, and of realistic limitations about past events.
People say: If only I had:
• done something differently
• been smarter
• been better looking
• been more clever
• seen what was coming
• seen what was coming
• done something different
Depression can be situational, which also can be refer to as minor depression. Situational depression is when you find yourself in a normal, but tough life situation, such as a job loss, a financial loss, a personal loss, or a tough work politics. Usually support in talking it through, processing your emotions, coming up with different options and refreshing your coping skills usually helps the depression lift.
Major depression is when your coping skills and emotional equilibrium is total overwhelmed and you are less and less able to function on a daily basis. Everything seems insurmountable and difficult. You are losing or gaining weight, you are in physical and emotional pain.
Usually this more persistent depression needs a combination of medication and counseling.
Remember, there is hope. Your mind and body can heal. Give yourself the gift of self-care. There is no need to suffer alone.