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The Understanding of Trauma & Its Effects

When you see the word trauma, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Some may first think of a motor vehicle accident, and suffering injuries from the impact. And others, due to personal experience, may automatically think of mental health. As the month of Mental Health Awareness closes, I challenge you to think of trauma as both physical and mental. You may question what my point for the comparison is exactly, but for me it is natural to compare and find the relation in anything that I encounter. It's actually innate for me. As a Nurse, I can understand trauma in the injury form as well. But, I want you to gather an understanding of trauma in multiple ways, and see how trauma is both physical and mental, and how the effects of trauma can easily be broken down based on the injuries one could sustain from a motor vehicle accident. I use this analogy because the comparison is too close not to.

Let us first start at what happens at impact. When a person in a motor vehicle accident meets impact their body is shaken. It is a quick back and forth motion that can later develop into more serious injuries. That reminds me of mental health and when a victim of trauma is in a relationship with an abuser (of any form) how they go back and forth within the relationship. If not handled appropriately the aftereffects cause major mental health problems on both ends. That is why it is important when involved in a motor vehicle accident to go straight to the emergency room to be assessed. Although we know that immediately we may not feel the effects of the bodily trauma (if no physical injuries were sustained to the eye) later aches and pains will come to the surface. So just imagine in any traumatizing experience how there can be many lasting effects later. We may not understand it when it is happening, but if we do not seek the help of a therapist sooner or later the effects of that trauma will surface in our next relationship, whether romantic or not.

Trauma can be caused by abuse, sexual assault, loss of a loved one, natural disasters, mechanized accidents (motor vehicle accident), medical emergencies, war, and any form of violence. Many factors affect the response to trauma. Things like social- demographic status, and a persons’ background can have a major impact on how the person responds. Some people can overcome trauma and have no lasting effects, while others who may be more passive have lasting - long term traumatic effects, and never activate an effective coping strategy. Many people just bury the pain, and never deal with it effectively, and that is when it starts to affect many areas in the persons’ life. Others eventually seek healing through the form of therapy or even medications temporarily. The point is the effects of trauma do exist, and if we pay close attention to ourselves, and even our loved ones we can see the effects of it.

Not everyone’s story will be the same. Some people take days, weeks, months, or years to heal from a traumatizing experience. Personally, it has taken me a decade to heal from rape, molestation, loss of my father, and being the victim of domestic violence. For me it did not happen overnight. I watched myself experience so many lasting effects related to my trauma. I was not in control of my life. I allowed my trauma to take control of my life and lead me into the opposite direction of what God had for me. One could say I was handicapped. I let the hurt and abuse swallow my relationships, and I looked for love in all the wrong places. Honestly, I did not know what love was. It was tainted for me. Even sexual experiences were painful. It was not until I became intentional about healing, that I was able to unpack the many traumas of my life. Now, unpacking trauma is very brutal. So, you can expect to relive things that you just wanted to forget about. But believe me once it is unpacked, it can really be left that way. You can go from being viewed as only a victim (and nothing more) to a victor, and advocate for change.

So, unpack your bags. But find a good therapist to help you through the process. It will not be easy, but it will be worth it. Just like the analogy I used with the experience in a motor vehicle accident, just be mindful that they too must go through a long process of recovery. If there are physical injuries like broken bones, they will have to go through surgeries, rest, and physical therapy to get back to walking again. I want you to “walk again”, like you have never walked before. I want your head to be held high. I want to see a smile on your face. You know like those big smiles, where all your pearly white is showing. But I want it genuine, and deeply rooted. I am rooting for you! I am whole and healed, and I want that for you too!

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