Scars That Heal From Within: Inner Strength and the Courage for Successful Trauma Treatment
It’s true: the past is the past, what is done is done, and the best way to live life is to keep moving forward.
But when you’re a trauma victim, the past is never out of reach. It’s haunting the edges of everyday life, threatening to destroy any happiness or sense of safety you might construct. For some, it is a feeling of despair, a reluctance to crawl out of bed in the morning, a tightness of anxiety in the chest before entering certain situations. For others, living with a past trauma means living without close relationships, never trusting those around them, feeling overwhelmed by minor events, and only seeing evil and hate in the world.
For many trauma victims, the world is the enemy, and you are fighting a battle alone. But treatment can help you build inner strength, and can provide the tools needed to work toward a brighter tomorrow. The path is not easy, nor is it without bumps, but it is there, winding its way toward a day when your past doesn’t dictate your future.
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What you can do to help maximize your trauma treatment
It is important to realize you are not alone. The word “trauma” encompasses a variety of psychologically damaging scenarios, and millions of people around the world experience a traumatic event during their lifetime. Among children alone, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network indicates 68 percent of children and adolescents in the United States have experienced a potentially traumatic event by the age of 16.
Seeking trauma treatment is the first step toward recovery, but it is also important to personally take a proactive approach toward well-being.
Dr. Lisa Firestone, director of research and education at the Glendon Association, said in a Saludify interview, “You can develop compassion for yourself and understand your struggles in life. Change is a process; research demonstrates that it may take several attempts to change problem behaviors. The important thing is to stay focused on your goal, and if you falter, to be compassionate toward yourself and continue your change process.”
That ability to develop resilience — growing and adapting in the face of adversity — is what ultimately will help you overcome a past trauma, but there are a handful of steps needed to get there.
For individuals with a recent traumatic experience, the American Psychological Association recommends the following guidelines in addition to professional treatment:
- Allow yourself time to mourn and adjust; do not try to mask your feelings during this time.
- Seek social support from friends and family or from online communities; do not isolate yourself.
- Engage in healthy behaviors. Eating well, exercising and doing feel-good activities naturally boosts your mood. Physical and mental health often go hand-in-hand.
- Establish a routine. Humans are creatures of habit, and there is comfort in eating at the same time, exercising at the same time, or enjoying a coffee at the same time each day.
- Avoid making any major life decisions that could increase your stress levels.
Recent trauma is only one facet of treatment, however. If you are struggling with events further in the past, a professional treatment center will help with specific goal-setting you can work on at home, such as:
- Breaking free of negative thoughts: Work on eliminating negative self-thoughts and negative thoughts towards others.
- Speaking positively to yourself about yourself: This means no more down-talking to yourself and no more blaming of yourself or others. If you only see negatives, there will only be negatives. Tell yourself you can do this — and then follow through.
- Learning to identify the negative traits that are the result of trauma: Make an effort to notice the traits in your life related to trauma. It’s important to realize these traits are not a part of who you really are — they are a result of the trauma you have endured.
- Identifying the defense mechanisms you have made: When you’ve been hurt, you learn to create barriers to avoid being hurt again. Unfortunately many of these defenses actually strain our relationships with those around us who care about us. Make an effort to drop those defenses every day with those you trust.
- Developing your own belief system through research and exploration: A belief system you truly have faith in, whatever it may be, can strengthen you as an individual, and may introduce you to people with similar values. This support system can be a source of strength and validation and can help provide a guideline to live by.
What else can you do as you continue to recover from trauma? Do good deeds for other people or global causes. Research shows people are happiest when they are giving to others. Giving not only helps the positive causes in the world, it can give you a sense of purpose–something many victims lose in the wake of a traumatic event. Do good — feel good.
The bottom line?
Overcoming trauma isn’t easy, but professional help is available. If you’re suffering from a traumatic event, remember that it is never too late to seek help. You are not defined by what happened to you, you are defined by the steps you take to overcome those circumstances.
If you feel your life or the life of a loved one is being negatively impacted by a past traumatic event, Bridges to Recovery is here to help. The professional team of staff members are highly trained and offer an empathetic approach to treatment. Contact us today to set up a consultation.