By Gian Milles, M.S., Integrity Counseling Services — “Trauma” has become a buzzword today. If you are anything like me, when you hear this word, your eyes start to roll, and you stop listening. But I work as a mental health therapist, and I have found that there is much confusion about this word among people today. Please, give me the opportunity to explain why the reality of this concept can transform your life.
Many people I talk to do not want to associate the stressful events that have happened to them with what a marine has experienced in active combat. After all, having one’s parents’ divorce, having a father who struggled with a quick temper, or a mother who was highly critical is not on par with seeing your fellow soldier terribly wounded in combat, right?
Well, interestingly the same biological mechanisms that are activated when witnessing a violent death can be activated by consistent, moderate to high levels of stress in the household or even single events that are experienced as highly stressful. And life can be stressful for all of us!
Further, the truth is that trauma has more to do with the way a person experiences an event than it does with the event itself. For example, I have seen two people experience the same exact event, such as a car accident, with one exhibiting symptoms of trauma, (i.e., high levels of anxiety, flashback memories, angry outbursts, and even autoimmune disorders or chronic fatigue), and the other walk away fine.
An important factor in the development of trauma responses, which some professionals say play a role in the cause of many mental health disorders, is whether the person has been able to share their innermost thoughts and feelings about what happened with another person. The trauma is compounded when it is experienced alone. The reverse is also true. A sense of connectedness with God and others can make people incredibly resilient against the stresses of life.
Many people feel that they need to carry their burdens by themselves or are skeptical of counseling or therapy. My message to you is one of hope. Having the courage to share your problems with someone, whether that person is a friend, a relative, or a mental health professional, can make it so much more bearable. Please, if you are struggling, do not be afraid to reach out for help. God does not want you to suffer alone, and neither do I.