JUNE 2021- Thoughts and Reflections About Traumatic Stress Syndrome
Dr. Ange's Thought of the Month
Thoughts and Reflections About Traumatic Stress Syndrome
What this is “TSS” is best captured by the following quote by Dr. Bessel A. Van der Kolk:
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma ~ “Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.” (p.97)
TSS, also called PTSD and during the Civil War it was called Soldiers Heart and later it was called Shell Shock Syndrome, can result when an individual is exposed to overwhelming life experiences or events which derail their body’s emotional stress management systems. A traumatic event usually has the elements of the individual experiencing horror, helplessness, serious injury or threat of serious injury or death. P.S. Witnessing such an event or occurrence can also create the same outcomes and negatively impact our emotional stress management systems. Think about it.
Every day we’re exposed to different stresses. Some are routine and after a good night’s sleep or a talk with a friend the issue becomes resolved and we’re back to our normal selves. However, when the degree of that stress is too intense, it then can result in a permanent dysregulation of our emotional systems. During the current trial regarding George Floyd, I watched at the testimony of the witnesses to the event and I was reminded to the degree of how witnessing events in one’s life can create Traumatic Stress Syndrome and PTSD and I trust that there will be the appropriate mental health services and support for these individuals after this legal journey has concluded.
So, how do you know if you may have been affected and whether these events in your life are still troubling you or keeping you from a state of emotional peace? P.S. There is no time expiration date on this emotional packaging. So, while there are a host of scales you could look up online to measure PTSD, I’m addressing partial PTSD or hidden PTSD or what I’m calling Traumatic Stress Syndrome and here’s my informal checklist of questions:
1. Have you been exposed to people, places, things or events in your life which have led you to avoid these situations and we call this traumatic avoidance.
2. Are there thoughts, themes, dreams, worries that are like a sticky glue that you cannot seem to separate from your emotional feelings and thoughts even when you’re sleeping.
3. Speaking of sleep, has your sleep been disrupted by bad dreams or after seeing something or reading something or having a conversation that reminds you about these types of traumatically charged events?
4. Do you actually suspect or believe that you may have been exposed traumatically but you haven’t dealt with it because just the thought of dealing with it gets you emotionally riled up and unsettled.
There is a saying which comes out of the 12-Step movement and it goes something like this: "You can try to go over it, above it, beyond it, around it, behind it, but the only way through it is through it." And with that in mind I suggest that you have a number of options, but I have broken this into three roads.
Road 1 - You do nothing. You just sit on the shoulder, the danger of which, in my opinion, your life can pass you by.
Road 2 - You decide that you’re going to go on this road solo without any support. Just remember that the people who swam the English Channel or climbed Mount Everest or even runners who run in Olympic long-distance events are a member of a team.
Road 3 - You can develop the team, hopefully including someone who is a mental health practitioner trained in dealing with trauma and whom you can feel a sense of trust and safety.
So, these are my thoughts. If you have an interest and/or if these questions resonate with you, feel free to drop me a note or send me an email wherever you see this communication - on my website or other places I’ve posted. Have a good one.
~ Dr. Ange