“The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma.”
― Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror
People who will read these posts are wondering about, “How I’m able to write about this trauma if I have such adverse effects?” The truth is that, I’m able to discuss this because I’m talking completely from my head. Emotionally, I have a very difficult time staying “grounded” around these topics. It’s the same concept as those that work in the emergency services field (EMTs, fire fighters, police). And let’s not forget our soldiers that return from war. I worked only for a year on an ambulance but saw enough to last a lifetime. You operated solely helping with the gruesome scene before you. Feelings must be put on the “back burner” in order to get the job done.
Once upon a time, a few years ago while in graduate school, I would do presentations to help explain/educate those going into the therapy field on the topic of “Self-Harm.” I had to be able to give some background information in order for the students to grasp the concept of how this behavior can develop. However, emotionally the topics, even more vague than I talk about here, would, at time have me vomiting by the end of the presentation. So, I had to completely detach emotionally to be able to speak.
The problem is afterward………”What to do with all of the feelings?” Everything emotionally gets stored and trapped unless properly released. Within the animal kingdom, all prey animals go through the same thing we go through as humans. Some of these symptoms include but definitely not limited to: heart rate changes, immobilization state, shaking, trembling, shivering, temperature changes, breathing changes and more. The animal then returns to a “normal” state of being and goes on about its business. We as human beings have a much more complex emotional, psychological and physical systems in operation on a day-to-day basis. However, if we could learn how to just ‘sit’ with these trauma responses, be able to release the results of this ‘normal’ type of physical and mental responses safely and fully. We could also just move on to the next task. However, most people don’t know how to completely and safely release these ‘trapped’ feelings and emotions. Therefore, people either find and work with a therapist often many years after the event because their behavior becomes problematic in every aspect of their life. Most people don’t realize that they’re actually looking to be able to have this release so that they are able to function more normally. This state of unresolved trauma can be the underlying force that drives the elusive symptoms such as panic, depression, migraines, irritable bowel, ME, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and chronic pain.
Those that choose not to work on their issues can lead to an unfulfilled life never truly happy because of an event or series of events that could’ve happened 20+ years ago. And some well….they re-perpetrate another victim and the cycle continues. This is where having a trusted therapist is very crucial. Releasing the trauma through both the mind and body is a very intimate area that most people aren’t allowed to know about much less hear how the trauma really affected us. Often the additional re-experiencing that can come with therapy, can actually be more painful than the actual events. For me, my body and mind can feel like I’m detoxing from some type of drug. I wake up vomiting, diarrhea, body aches, sweating and emotionally a mess. Sometimes it can take until noon time for me to be able to somewhat function.
Because of my trauma, it takes me a long time of watching and interacting with someone to feel that comfortable to work with someone on that level. Remember….the times when I initially going through the trauma, I was either alone or made fun of for natural feelings for the situation. Therapy is one of those professions that have a very fine line between ethical and unethical behavior. I know and totally respect this from having been in the field at one time. However, without some type of human and/or animal connection……I, personally, cannot process. I have to know and feel a ‘therapeutic’ relationship with the person or persons that I do this work with. This is a very scary process for me to find those people that I feel that level of comfort being around. Also, because they have the title as “therapist,” automatically my mind and body scream, “Harmful Authority Figure Ahead! You Will Get Hurt!” So, it has taken me over a year working with therapists every week for over a year watching EVERYTHING about them to determine whether or not they’re a “safe” people. Even with determining that these people are “safe” people, showing an emotion besides anger often leaves me feeling embarrassed and shameful. Even the anger, leaves it’s on mark of shame on me.
These (psychosomatic) reactions wear both the mind and body down. The medical marijuana actually helps me to be able to persevere through these reactions by helping with both the intensity of the flashbacks and pain. I also go to acupuncture every week which seems to, at least, help with some of the physical symptoms. Not everyone is going to have the same reaction to processing or experiencing trauma. Unfortunately, this is sometimes just part of the process. It’s definitely a “marathon not a sprint.” I didn’t reach these extremes in behavior overnight. So, to even remotely think, that seeing a therapist and being able to resolve everything in a couple of weeks is a very unrealistic expectation that will set one up for failure.
The time in my life where I remember actually feeling truly “safe” in a relationship with someone outside of my parents is my wife, Melody Landrum-Arnold. She has been nothing less than a ‘trooper’ while in this arduous process. This feeling of “safety” has also come with some complications. This will be explained later.