Trauma is defined as a deeply disturbing or distressful experience. Many of us have or will in our lifetime experience a traumatic event. Interestingly, I find that many of us won’t know how to identify an event as traumatic! Is it because we do not feel the aftermath of the experience? I would argue it is more likely because we have learned to normalize our trauma and pain. Many individuals aren’t aware their experiences are connected to their anxiety, stress, and depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH, 2019), 7 or 8 out of 100 people will experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
I can remember my first experience as a child that I now know to be traumatic and reasoning with myself that what I had experienced was part of my black experience. No one said those exact words to me but without help from anyone, I used what I saw in my community to draw my own conclusions. At that point in my life I began to normalize trauma.
What reason would a person normalize trauma? In some communities where trust outside of the homes and communities is at a minimum, instead of seeking help to give voice to your pain, it is more common to deal with it on your own. Many of us were taught that ‘what happens in your house, stays there’. In some cases that might sound reasonable, but the Center for Disease Control (CDC, 2020) reports that untreated childhood trauma has lasting negative impact on behaviors, educational performance, and brain development. So, when an individual avoids or improperly processes their pain, defense mechanisms allow those impacted to continue to function while telling yourself that what you experienced is acceptable or normal. For some, traumatic events are normalized as they become more common and we are desensitized. Currently, our society is repeatedly witnessing violence that we must be intentional not to make our norm.
No matter the traumatic experience, whether firsthand or secondhand, experienced as a child, adult, or military serviceperson, we all need a healthy and inviting space to process or talk through the events. In that space we can make sense of it, finding healthy coping skills to manage stress, anxiety and sometimes depression happening as the result of our sensitivity to the event.
Although Mental Health Awareness Month is over, I will always advocate for individuals to have a personal or family therapist just as we have a primary care physician. When we think about the first six months of our 2020, all of us have experienced events that will impact our lives forever. If you are experiencing stress due to a traumatic experience, Renewed is here to help! Contact us at 678.582.8947 to schedule a consultation.