“There are so many fragile things, after all. People break so easily, and so do dreams and hearts.” – Neil Gaiman

When I heard this quote it brought to mind how trauma affects and even changes people. Humans truly are fragile and can break; I believe we sometimes forget that fact. Our minds can only take so much, before there is a breaking point. Some see dealing with mental health issues as a sign of weakness; I see it differently. Trauma can happen to any of us and we carry it with us. Sometimes, it can lead to changes in us, in ways we did not want. Perhaps, we are now anxious or depressed. Perhaps, we now startle easily or have fears that we didn’t have before. Trauma and it’s effects, manifest in people through anxiety, depression or physical ailments.

Recently, in the world of mental health professionals, trauma has taken a front stage. Now, we even have a platform called “Trauma-Informed Care.” Essentially, this suggests treating people with respect through consideration for what they have been through, so as not to create further hurt.

We think of this information as new, yet many parts of the concepts are very old. This realization hit me when my son was reading, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I have read the book before, though it’s been quite some time – after all, the book was written in the 1960’s.   Through his reading it and talking it over with me, it prompted many conversations between the two of us.

There is one character in the book that is pre-judged and said to be a monster. By the end of the book, the perception of the character has changed. The other characters start to see him as a human, not a monster, and one that has gone through much trauma. It reminds me of how mental health professionals are being taught to approach people now, with the mindset “what have you been through?” rather than, “what’s wrong with you? “

In the book, the change in everyone’s perception of the character so many considered a monster, did not occur because the man changed. Instead, the change was in the people, who were pre-judging. They began to ask more questions, which lead to them being more sensitive and responsive towards him. Suddenly, the view of this character changed.

You see, trauma can leave its mark on us years after the event has taken place. Sometimes, you don’t even notice the subtle changes in yourself. When a person experiences trauma, the body quickly shuts down certain parts of us and pushes other parts into high alert. This is one of the primitive mechanisms for staying alive.   The part of our brain that makes rational decisions suddenly, becomes limited and the part of the brain that pushes for self-preservation, is at full throttle. Imagine the last time you were scared. What did your body do? Can you remember how you might have stiffened and began looking for ways out? Perhaps, you had an adrenaline rush and were quickly scanning for danger or felt hyper alert.

Imagine if that reaction were to become stuck. What if your body did not go back to it’s normal state, but continued in this fight-or-flight position? How might you react to ordinary conversations? Do you think you’d be perpetually on the defensive, continuously on the lookout for danger?

What I have found, is we really are fragile. Given the right circumstances, anyone could be left struggling.   If you have found yourself being short tempered, quick to draw negative conclusions, and have experienced trauma in the past – you are ready to seek support, please call for an appointment. If you know someone who may have experienced trauma and you have pre-judged him or her, try being sensitive to what they may have experienced in life. You might find that your own perception changes.

2 thoughts on “Trauma”

  1. Recently, my school was graced with the presence of a young 22 year old man who experienced a traumatic brain injury due to DWI. This young man came to speak to the students about how he had everything going for him: he was attending college, he had a part-time modeling career, a loving girlfriend, etc until the day he decided to party with his buddies and get behind the wheel of a car while he was intoxicated. His life would forever change due to this one tragic night. It made me think about the number of times, I, too, got behind the wheel of my car after spending the night partying with my friends. I don’t know if the message this young man was trying to convey made a lasting impression on the students, but it did to me. It made me wonder about what if that had happened to me? Would I still be able to come out of a tragedy like his with my sanity intact? I certainly began to see this young man in a different light; as someone who has tremendous inner strength because I don’t know if I would have been strong enough to be able to go through the lengthy process of recovery he experienced without feeling depressed or suicidal. And still, this young man has enough inner strength that he is able to smile, laugh and joke around with his mother even though to the people looking at him from the outside, he has very few things to be grateful for. It certainly humbled me because it made me think about all the people that I’ve unintentionally disregard because the tragedy didn’t happen to me. It made me think about how many people close to me that have experienced a traumatic event and I have failed to “be there” for them or to be the understanding friend I should have been. It’s sad to say that it takes something like this young man to remind me that God has a purpose for us all; and this young’s man’s purpose was to pass on the message to others.

    Thank you for your story, Esther! I really appreciate being reminded that everyone needs help every now and then and it’s okay to admit we are not always perfect!

    1. Thank you Yolanda for your response. I am always amazed by the human spirit and how people move forward. I am glad that the article connected to the speaker. Sometimes all we need is a reminder to be more open. I am sure you help folks every day without evening knowing the power of your touch.

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