Today – by request – we’re going to talk a bit about what trauma actually is.
It turns out, different people have different ideas about what’s awful enough to be “real trauma”.
You might have a buddy who went through some really messed up stuff. You might think, he or she “earned” their right to have PTSD because of what they went through.
In comparison, what you went through might not seem as bad. Maybe you have nightmares, and you avoid things that remind you of what happened. And you get angry at yourself. You start telling yourself that if you should be able to handle it, and what’s wrong with you that you can’t.
Worse still – it might be other people telling you this stuff. They might they have a different flavour of PTSD than yours, because they went through different stuff. Somehow they might think that their trauma is bigger and better than yours, and yours isn’t “real” enough.
… It’s not a competition.
To put it in perspective, imagine it was a broken leg. You could break your leg getting hit by a stampeding hippopotamus. (Hey, you never know). Or, you could trip over your kid’s toy and fall down the stairs. The difference is, with scenario #1 you get an awesome story… story #2 doesn’t sound as cool. Leg’s still messed up though.
Trauma that causes PTSD is sort of like that too – sometimes, it’s a hippopotamus – it comes with the type of “Rambo” story that movies are made of. Other times, it doesn’t make for a great story.
(HEADS UP: I’m going to describe the kinds of stuff that might cause PTSD. I’m NOT going to use examples, but it still might be tough to read. If you get unsettled, remind yourself that what happened is over. If you need more help coping, try these. )
A “traumatic event” is any situation where you’re exposed to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence.
Actual or threatened means that even if it doesn’t end up happening, if you were scared because there was a real risk that it was going to happen, that can still mess you up.
It doesn’t have to happen to you; you can witness it happening to someone else, and be helpless to stop it.
Even if you aren’t there when it happened, learning the gory details of what happened to someone else can mess with you.
This is the way your brain works; trauma comes in many different flavours.
Maybe you didn’t get your PTSD from combat. Maybe you weren’t even deployed. So, it might seem that your trauma isn’t quite as “sexy” as someone else’s.
Really, people: It’s trauma. It ain’t lingerie. It don’t need to be sexy.
I’d love to have you share your thoughts, comments, and questions. If you do post a comment, please don’t give specific details of your trauma – these may be triggering to another reader. If you’d like to offer criticism, I’ll take it – I know I’m not perfect, and I’m always willing to learn. If you do offer criticism though, I’d really appreciate it if you could do so constructively (ie., no name-calling, please). Thanks…
~ Dr. Dee Rajska, C. Psych.
*Fine print: Please feel free to share the link to this blog wherever you think it might be helpful! Reading this blog is a good start, but it’s no substitute for professional help. It takes a different kind of courage to admit to yourself that you’re struggling. PTSD is not a sign of failure – it’s a sign that you’ve been through a lot, and have tried to stay strong for too long. If you need help – you’re in some pretty great company. Reach out, and give yourself a chance to feel better.
**Really fine print: The content of Coming Back Home is copyrighted; please feel free to share the link, but do not copy and paste content. Unless otherwise noted, all original photography on Coming Back Home is copyrighted. The photo gracing today’s post was taken by M&C Charbonneau, and I’d like to thank them for generously allowing me to use their work. Please do not copy photographs from Coming Back Home without permission.