"I feel so broken, I don't know if I will ever feel whole."
Trauma is defined as a deeply disturbing or distressing experience. The more we study and learn about trauma, the more we've come to understand how very complex it is, along with the complexity of treating its lasting effects. There are what we call "big T traumas" and "little t traumas," carefully understanding that one is not worse or better than the other. Big T traumas generally include life threatening experiences such as combat, physical violence, a catastrophic event—really anything that involves direct threat (or witnessing a direct threat) to life. Little t traumas generally include experiences such as physical injuries, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, bullying, parental neglect, amongst many others, that can be very upsetting in and of themselves, and when accumulated over time or go unresolved, will have a significant impact on our lives. Both big and little T traumas can often leave us feeling damaged, unregulated, and "unfixable," particilarly when these experiences happened during childhood, but really they can (and do) happen at any time throughout our life span. What is most helpful is to learn how all kinds of traumas—even if that's not the word we use—physically affect our bodies, brains, and behaviors, and how we show up in the world, and the tools we can use to heal our wounds instead of trying to forget or dismiss or explain away the experiences. Additionally, it's critical to understand that we, as human beings, are all born whole; sometimes along the road our puzzle pieces get jumbled up or scattered about, and healing is about putting these pieces back into place.
"Yes, what happened to me was bad, but so many people have had it so much worse."
Shame, lack of self-compassion, and downplaying our pain can all be signs of unhealed trauma. Unhealed trauma can (and often does) come out physically through a dysregulated central nervous system (CNS). Anxiety, depression, trouble sleeping, muscle aches, restlessness, trouble concentraing, and the list goes on...can be some of the signs of a dysregulated CNS. We often find ourselves comparing our stories or experiences to others, telling ourselves things like "I should be over this by now," or "It wasn't even that big of a deal," or "It happened so long ago, why do I even care any more?" Though the function and hope behind these thoughts is to give us some relief, they, in reality, tend to perpetuate the shame and dysregulation. There are many ways to approach healing trauma, the most effective ways, we argue, are to address the shame, negative thoughts, and physical dysregulation. To read about a specific trauma therapy we provide, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), please click here.