It is for a pop-up window for people to sign-up for our emails!

NEED HELP? 1-800-273-8255 TXT "CTL" to 741741

Trauma and Women’s Health

Women’s Health Week is this week and I can’t help but cringe when I hear it. I have struggled since a teenager with accessing healthcare, for several reasons. After some time in therapy, I learned that all of the reasons why I wasn’t able to access necessary healthcare, all came down to: trauma.

After explaining to several different providers the history of my trauma and how it effects me in medical settings, I was offered little solutions and supports and instead heard, “well keep going to therapy and it will get better,” or “it won’t feel the same as the trauma did”. The amount of insensitivity and lack of training around trauma that I have observed in so many practices astounded me. I thought if anything, OBGYN’s would be well-equipped.

So for years I went undiagnosed and untreated and eventually found myself in the depths of serious health complications that I had to face. About two years ago, after a horrific experience getting a pap smear, my diagnosis left me feeling shame, embarrassment, guilt, and worthlessness. In order to attend to my physical health needs, I had to put my mental health needs aside, which was a recipe for disaster. I spiraled into a severe depressive episode, started to have plans of suicide, and struggled to keep my addiction recovery strong. I had to get procedure after procedure, all under heavy sedation, which sky rocketed my medical bill, and brought old traumas to the surface. Not only was I now experiencing physical and mental health issues, but this situation caused a huge financial burden on me and the savings I accumulated over the past few years was back to negative.

I’m still struggling to find a provider that truly understands trauma and can respond appropriately and empathetically. My current provider tries to understand, but can be very dismissive and have a “no big deal” type of attitude. Attending to my physical health needs caused a PTSD episode as I continued to experience the traumatic events as if they were happening all over again. This caused strain in my romantic relationship, distance from friends, and secrecy from family. All the while, I struggled with keeping things private because of the transparent person that I am. I’m not at the point where I’m comfortable talking about what I’m going through, but I can say that I’m taking it a day at a time with gratitude at every step, even on the rougher days. I’m saying yes to self-care and I’ve established firm boundaries around my professional and personal life. As for support, I have people in my corner that I trust, and the one’s who question and don’t honor my boundaries, I have 0 desire to teach them respect or alter my reality to fit their comfortability.

How Trauma Has Changed My Life

Nobody likes thinking about how trauma has affected them. But, there’s no hiding the fact that trauma has had an impact on my life. Whether I like it or not, there are a lot of things I do and don’t do because of past traumas.

Trauma isn’t always one event. Sometimes it’s repeated events. Anything can be trauma, it’s different for everyone. There are some things that I would consider traumatic that I have flashbacks about that people would probably argue aren’t trauma. The problem is, they are traumatic because those events have completely altered me.

Before I get into how trauma has affected me personally, I’d like to give you a list of some of the effects of trauma:

  • Flashbacks
  • Panic attacks
  • Dissociation
  • Unable to relax
  • Sleep problems
  • Low self-esteem
  • Grief
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Alcohol and substance misuse

I’d love to tell you I’ve only dealt with a select few of the issues on that list, but I have struggled with all of them as a result of traumas in my life. I’m sure a lot of you are thinking there’s no way someone who’s only 25 has dealt with that much trauma in their life. But, due to a lot of mental health issues, I put myself in a lot of really bad situations, but there were definitely things that happened to me that were completely out of my control.

I think one of the worst things I’ve dealt with are flashbacks. There are days when it’s constant. I’ll have periods where they won’t be an issue, but then they’ll come back full force out of nowhere. This typically leads to anxiety or even panic attacks as I relive the traumas.

The flashbacks also lead to dissociation. Sometimes the dissociation is not being able to differentiate the flashbacks from reality. Other times, the dissociation is literally my brain completely shutting down in an attempt to protect myself from my own thoughts. In other words it’s a bunch of nothing-ness while I stare at a wall with no thoughts for hours. Dissociating is something I’ve even turned to during traumatic events to escape the reality of what was happening to me.

Oh and don’t forget how the flashbacks also negatively affect my sleep. The flashbacks love to come as I’m trying to fall asleep at night. Some nights they will be so bad, I will be terrified to close my eyes. So instead of taking the chance of closing my eyes and getting sucked into a flashback, I’ll keep my eyes open and stare at the ceiling until I’m too tired to fight it anymore.

My traumas have lead to a lot of suicidal feelings. Sometimes when I think about the things that happened to me, I can’t help but think why? There were many times when I thought about ending my life after traumatic events.

Another way I tried to deal with my trauma was by using substances. I used alcohol and marijuana to numb myself. I didn’t want to feel anything. Getting so stoned or drunk that I was barely there was an escape for me. It was my way to avoid the flashbacks and the anxiety.

That’s the other thing about trauma. A lot of traumas are tied to people, places, and things. I avoid a lot of people and places because of my trauma. I have lived in the same area since I was a kid and there have been a lot of times that I have honestly thought about moving away because I drive by triggering places just in my everyday life.

I avoid places where I might see someone from my past that I went no contact with. If I can’t avoid these places, I am anxious the whole time. There have even been times where even going to one of these places was mentioned and I’ve had a panic attack that lead to hyperventilating and tears. How do you tell someone that you can’t go a certain restaurant or another normal place without feeling like you’re going to die? How do you explain that to someone who has never been through it?

While I don’t want my trauma to control my life, I feel like it definitely does sometimes. Sometimes, it makes me feel completely helpless. It’s like a never-ending hell. I hate that there are places I can’t go to because they’re attached to certain things that have happened to me. I hate that I have to live in fear going to certain towns because I might see someone who did something to me.

But, this is the reality of being a trauma survivor. It doesn’t matter how many years have gone by, the effects are always there. Sometimes the symptoms are in my face, other times it’s subconscious because I’ve been living with these things for so long. This is my life with CPTSD from years of repeated trauma.

If you’ve dealt with something traumatic, I am so sorry. I really would not wish any of these aftereffects of trauma on anyone. I know how hard it has been for me. But, if you are struggling, there is help out there. Check out some of our resources to find help.

If you liked this post, be sure to check out Sasha’s post My Thoughts On Trauma right here on turningpointct.org.

My Thoughts on Trauma

I hear the word “trauma” a lot these days. It’s become somewhat of a popular way to describe an event, and is used more loosely, just in normal conversation. If i’m being honest, the word used to scare me a little; every time I heard it, my stomach dropped a little, and there was an uneasiness that would settle over me. That feeling was even worse when someone described events in my life as traumas, and I felt almost unworthy of that label. I thought that trauma was just for war veterans or people who survived an accident, and comparing things that happened in my life to that seemed ridiculous. But as time went on and my interest in mental health grew, I began to acknowledge trauma and really try to understand what it means. It can be easy to become confused with all the different google pages, blog posts, and online influencers all seemingly having different definitions of what trauma can and cannot be. But I think that really understanding what trauma is and how it has impacted my life has been one of the biggest steps I have made in my mental health journey.

I still feel really uncomfortable talking about the things in my life that I have considered traumas, as to me it feels like it isn’t significant enough, or somehow doesn’t qualify. Regardless, I want to talk about it both for myself as a way of processing and for other people, as I hope that sharing my own traumas can help people begin to acknowledge theirs without guilt or shame. I know trauma is different for everyone and thus people view/deal with it in different ways, but these are just my personal experiences and what resulted from them.

I think my biggest trauma has been my experiences with my father. Now, I know that trauma is normally thought of as a singular event, but it can also be from a time period or relationship with someone. In 2018, I essentially ended my relationship with my dad; as such, I have had a lot of time to think about how living with him and our relationship impacted me. My parents got divorced when I was very young, and after that we started seeing him on our own once a week and every other weekend. Everything that happened with him is very complicated, so I won’t get into all of it, but it was really difficult. He was a very angry man, verbally and emotionally abusive, and as my psychiatrists/therapists say, likely has narcissistic personality disorder. I cannot speak for him or how he views his behavior towards my sister and I, but looking back on my childhood now and learning to see the situation for what it was, it really was traumatizing. I remember grabbing my sister’s hand whilst running to my room, locking the door behind me and standing in front of her as a shield, as we both cried in fear. I remember the sound of the thuds as he punched the wall or the table, or the roars that sounded almost inhuman. I remember being nervous to be at home alone with him, and the change in his eyes when I did or said something he didn’t approve of, and my stomach dropping because I knew what that shift meant. I know that no child should ever have had to go through that; but if I’m being honest, it took me a log time to get there.

Trauma is interesting, in that for a lot of people it is difficult to accept. It’s hard to say “That changed me forever,” or “this was really something bad that happened to me”. I had to work through years of manipulation and gas lighting to understand what happened to me wasn’t normal or okay. It isn’t normal to freak out when you hear one of the songs your dad used to play on guitar on the radio. It isn’t normal to be absolutely terrified of almost any male authority figure, and it isn’t normal to hate yourself the way I was taught to. In therapy I have began to unpack the connection between my low self esteem and my relationship with my dad. It was then that I really began to realize how much that experience changed me as a person. I know that is common with trauma; a lot of people talk about the ways in which it changed their behavior and thought processes. But I think, especially for someone like me, it’s so incredibly difficult to accept that something like that changed you. I will admit, I am an incredibly stubborn person; I hated the thought that he changed who I was, and I felt like I let him.

I dealt with this in a way that I think may be a little controversial, but i’m going to say it anyway: I stopped telling myself that my traumas made me stronger. Because, in all honesty, it didn’t. It broke my heart, gave me countless sleepless nights, and trust issues. Instead, I say that I was the one who made myself stronger. I picked up the pieces, I put myself into therapy, I taught myself how to trust again. I worked to make myself stronger. Saying that trauma “made you grow” or “it happened for a reason” are, in my opinion, invalidating. Surviving trauma is not something that anyone deserves, and I think it is important to give people credit for healing, instead of the trauma itself. If you have dealt with trauma or are going through something traumatic, just remember one thing: YOU are the one that is surviving, and being strong, and that in itself is amazing.

Healing Is Rough Sometimes

@alli.kat Healing is rough sometimes 🥲 #fyp #healingtok #trauma ♬ Sparks – Coldplay

Dissociation: Common Trauma Response

Post written by Kailey

**trigger warning, sexual abuse/rape

Have you ever heard of dissociation? Dissociation is one of the most common responses to abuse and trauma. It involves feeling numb, detached, or unreal.

While it happens to everyone once in a while, it happens frequently and severely in trauma survivors. Dissociating looks different for everyone. My experience with dissociation could be completely different from one of my peers.

I wish dissociation wasn’t something I have experience with, but unfortunately, it is something I have dealt with. It tends to happen to me when I’m feeling extremely overwhelmed, but I’ve also had it happen during a traumatic experience.

For most, dissociating makes you feel numb. It’s like you’re not even there and sometimes your mind is literally just silent, which for someone with anxiety who is used to the whirr of intrusive thoughts constantly, it’s a bit unsettling. When I dissociate, there are no thoughts, it’s just a bunch of nothing. It’s like spacing out, but to the extreme and with no thoughts bouncing around.

It’s hard to understand what dissociating is if you’ve never experienced it. When I’ve tried to explain it to my boyfriend, his response is always “HOW CAN YOU HAVE NO THOUGHTS?!” which is a pretty fair point. But, it’s just a coping mechanism where my body just shuts down so I don’t have to experience the intense emotions. I definitely wouldn’t say it’s healthy, but it’s product of repeated trauma over years and years. When you can’t physically escape it, your body eventually learns to just shut down to make you not present.

To give you an idea of how powerful dissociating can be, I’ll share a traumatic experience that I dissociated through. I was hanging out with someone I considered strictly a friend, but he wanted us to be more. He was convinced that we were made for each other and I just did not feel the same.

One particular day, he kept asking and asking if we could have sex. No matter how many times I told him no, he kept making advances and I finally just stopped trying to say no even though I absolutely did not want it. Long story short, he helped himself and my body went into shut down – I dissociated through the whole thing.

While I was in fact there, it was like I was not. It was my mind and body’s way of trying to protect me. I spent the whole time staring at the ceiling with no thoughts. I could hear the episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia playing in the background, but it sounded so far away. Physically, I didn’t feel anything even though I was being raped.

Dissociating is your body’s way of trying to protect you, and that is what my body did that night. I didn’t have to feel it and I felt like I was watching it happen from another world. I didn’t feel like I was actually in my body during the abuse.

While physically, I didn’t feel anything, the trauma still happened and it had lasting effects. The dissociating was powerful enough for me not to feel it, but I still ended up traumatized despite my body’s efforts to protect me. Still to this day I have trouble being intimate and I will find myself dissociating during sex with my partner even though we have been together for years. My body is still trying to protect me after all these years even though I’m in a loving, safe relationship.

While dissociation can be involuntary, there have been times I have forced myself to dissociate because I couldn’t handle what was going on around me. This is not something I would recommend you do because it is so unhealthy and there are so many healthy ways to cope besides making yourself completely numb.

But, I would force myself into it because it was what I knew and it had helped me survive so many things in the past. A lot of people with anxiety can’t make their thoughts silent and make themselves numb, but it was something I had learned to do when things were just too intense.

While dissociating can be becoming numb, sometimes it’s intense flashbacks that feel very real. Coming out of those flashbacks can be intense and startling because you’re basically coming from a different world back to reality. You might feel startled or confused when you’re finally aware of your surroundings again.

There are been so many times when I’ve been alone where I have relieved trauma over and over again in my head. For me personally, it’s typically before bed, and it makes it very difficult for me to fall asleep. Reliving trauma over and over through flashbacks is not something I would wish on anybody. Even just flashbacks are enough to send my body into fight or flight.

Takeaway

Dissociation is a common response to trauma and a component of many mental health issues. Regardless of the cause, it is important to know that you are not alone. If you’re concerned that you are experiencing dissociative symptoms, talk to a healthcare professional or someone knowledgeable you trust.

If you need help now, but you’re not sure where to start, check out our resources page.