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Trauma has been a part of my story from the very beginning. I was sexually assaulted at a young age and when I presented my truth, to the people I trusted, everything was seemingly swept under the rug. It was complicated and messy. I believe my family did the best they could with what they had. However, my truth was dimmed by the unforeseeable resolution. I believed this type of thing happens to everyone and you just move on and get over it. The response I received led to my own denial and complete minimization and it was through trauma therapy that I later had an effective recovery tool.
Drugs as a Coping Mechanism
As time passed, I began to cope by way of dissociation and isolation. It wasn’t long before my life was engulfed with one traumatic experience after the other. I began coping the only way I knew how – oblivion. Eventually, I was self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.
It wasn’t long before my vices ceased to relieve the pain I was trying to escape. Grace, in the form of legal consequences, met me face to face and I was forced to choose life or continuing flirting with my self-propelled demise. Fortunately, I chose life and walked into a rehab facility.
Rehab and Starting Trauma Therapy
Finding the right place to attend treatment for addiction recovery can be overwhelming. I am grateful I landed in a dual diagnosis rehab facility that helped to address issues outside of my addiction. Prior to getting sober, I was completely unaware that I was suffering from complex PTSD.
I managed to acquire almost 2 years sober before old feelings started to resurface. Nightmares, flashbacks, dissociation, anxiety, and hypervigilance became daily occurrences. I finally reached a point where I knew I would either relapse, returning to my fatal foe, or dive headfirst into my 12 Step program while also attending therapy.
Desperate for relief, I began weekly sessions of trauma therapy. I was finally able to divulge the deepest, darkest painful secrets of my past. I began to trust again. I was offered a totally different perspective and upon taking action I was able to relinquish myself of playing the victim.
The truth is, underneath all of the drugs and alcohol, was a scared little girl that never felt good enough. While treating my addiction, I was forced to take a look at the physical, mental, and spiritual maladies that beseeched me. My recovery was absolutely revolutionized through this process. Here are some of the direct benefits, I experienced from trauma therapy.
Awareness and Validation
My therapist just so happened to be a woman. Might sound like a great idea, maybe for someone whose trauma did not revolve around women. That was a major hurdle for me.
I walked in and immediately I was met with grace and compassion. My therapist’s welcoming smile and welcoming demeanor immediately opened the doors for my transparency and vulnerability. I was able to share my experience with another human in a completely non-judgmental, “come as you are” atmosphere.
My therapist gave me her undivided attention and through this alone, my experience was completely validated. For years, I denied the traumatic experiences of my past and I remained sick with my secrets. Awareness and validation became the foundation of my trauma therapy/recovery.
Developing Coping Skills in Trauma Therapy
Trauma indefinitely affected every facet of my life and my interactions with the world around me. When I first began purging my trauma, it was painful.
I remember the heightened awareness resulted in more frequent nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, dissociation, and even physical ailments. It was as if I was literally purging myself of a fatal sickness and my body responded accordingly.
At first, I was overwhelmed and completely ill-equipped. The beauty of trauma therapy is education and the byproduct of practical application. I remember sitting in sessions and experiencing total depersonalization.
I would tell my therapist exactly how I was feeling, at that moment, and immediately she would walk me through exercising healthy coping skills. I learned how to ground myself when I felt like I was dissociating and losing touch with the world around me.
We would start with bringing awareness to my breath, then my feet, which would shift my focus entirely. The coping skills, I continue to learn in trauma therapy, have cultivated a healthy outlet for dealing with my PTSD when it arises.
For as long as I remember, I was always too emotional, irrational, sensitive, and absolutely erratic at times. My brain would be thinking something completely different than how I was externally responding during triggering situations. I was never able to correlate my helplessness, despair, and anger with my trauma – until I began trauma therapy.
A major part of my transformation in trauma therapy came from exploring my history with trauma. As we began looking at the current traumatic experiences I was facing, it was revealed to me that each instance was directly connected to an unhealed traumatic experience from my childhood.
It was cathartic in nature – a spiritual experience of sorts. My unhealthy, toxic survival strategies were no longer serving me. In trauma therapy, the suggestion was made that I begin to start the work on healing the childhood trauma that plagued me.
The more my therapist walked through the ‘minefield’ of my memories with me, the more I was able to understand why I responded the way I do. This catapulted me into the driver’s seat of my own life.
Hand in hand, my therapist began guiding me through my painful memories as we intervened on the old responses and began creating new, healthy coping skills. I began feeling empowered – and things began to change.
Overcoming Shame through Trauma Therapy
Trauma was the number one culprit behind my low-self esteem and shame-ridden identity. I experienced excessive criticism as a child and this experience created deep emotional wounds. In turn, I projected all of the negativity inward and thus the negative opinions of others became my identity.
Low self-esteem propelled my shame and vice versa. I was enslaved to a vicious cycle that never served me. My therapist presented every experience with an entirely different perspective that completely debunked my self-proclaimed guilt/shame.
The majority of my traumatic experiences had absolutely nothing to do with me, and there was no place for self-blame or victimization. When I began to make this connection through trauma therapy, healing and grace canceled out the shame and I began to experience true freedom.
Rebuilding Sense of Self
Trauma directly impacted the way I perceived myself and my place in the world. My trauma became me and absolutely shattered the cohesion of myself. Trauma robbed me of establishing trust in anyone or anything – myself included. Every task, situation, emotion, and relationship felt utterly unmanageable and terrifying.
Desperate for approval, love, and validation, I was never consistent in my actions, opinions, or even my fashion sense. I changed shades, like that of a chameleon. I had no idea who I was or what I wanted out of life. My head was full of the opinions and criticisms of others.
Through therapy, slowly but surely, my therapist and I began to separate opinions from facts and truth from the false. I began to rebuild my identity and hope through the process of trauma therapy.
About Today’s Writer
Patricia advocates long-term sobriety by writing, providing resources to recovering addicts, and shedding light on the disease of addiction. Tricia is a mother of two, actively involved in her local recovery community, and is passionate about helping other women find hope in seemingly hopeless situations.
Had you heard of trauma therapy before? Feel free to share a comment below with Patricia and the community.