I got word today from a friend who is also a serious trauma survivor that is also a psych therapist. She is still dealing with trauma from her teenaged years, and though there is always stuff we can’t “totally get over” or undo, as it becomes part of who we are. However, sometimes that old trauma leaves us more vulnerable to future traumas, not necessarily just psychopathic trauma but other kids of trauma as well.
My friend was like I am, a lover of animals, and had a barn full of horses that she loved very much. At 2:00 O’clock on a January morning people driving by pounded on her door and screamed that her barn was on fire. Unfortunately, several of her horses did not survive the blaze, and one horse somehow shed his blanket, but was none the less burned with second and third degree burns over much of his body, though he did survive.
This woman who is very well educated in the human emotions and spends her working days counseling others, fell completely apart and had to cancel her clients until she could finally get herself together enough to go back to work.
I am well aware of the “trauma piled on top of trauma” effects that can change our ability to withstand more trauma.
While traumas are different and some people react differently than others, serious trauma in our past does leave us vulnerable to future traumas of a serious nature. We may be “cranky” or depressed, aggressive or withdrawn.
It may take us longer to “get over” a traumatic event than it would have before the original trauma.
In my own life I realize I am not as resilient as I once was, and things that I might have shrugged off in the past before the plane crash that burned my husband too death and seriously injured my youngest you, and then upon the heals of that, I had to deal not only with the loss of my beloved step-father to cancer, but the Trojan Horse Kenneth Hamilton attacked my family as well.
Life is “full of” traumas of one kind or another, from illness to car wrecks, houses burning down, the losses of those we love to disease or old age, so no matter who you are or how strong you are you are going to experience these traumas. It seems to me though, that the worst sort of trauma though is the psychological damage done to us by “the psychopathic experience” in dealing with directly or indirectly a person who is personality disordered who is an intimate of ours, either by blood or marriage. I think it is easier to come to acceptance of the loss of my husband in the firey plane crash than to accept and learn to live with the betrayal of my son Patrick.
My friend is starting to get back to work, and her co-workers and close friends have been entirely supportive, and she says that working again has helped her but I know that she will mourn for the loss of her animals and her acute stress disorder won’t be “done” over night. She is an incredibly smart and savy woman and I know she will survive, but even with her education in psychology, she is not “invincible” to the traumas in life. None of us are, so as much as we can about all we can do is to be AWARE of the stresses we endure, and to be good to ourselves. When something suddenly happens that takes us unawares, we may “fall apart” for a while, and that’s okay. The reaction is a normal response to an abnormal situation.
It is very important to our peace, happiness and recovering from any negative event, that we keep it in perspective. Then if there is a loss, we must grieve that loss in a healthy manner and we will eventually come to acceptance, but grief is never easy and the bigger the loss the heavier the grief will be.
While past traumas may in some ways leave us more vulnerable to future traumas, dealing with those older traumas well can also give us tools to deal with the future traumas as well. The “tool kits” we develop in healthy self-care behaviors are valuable to us our entire lives.