trauma

Home » trauma

Learn more about how trauma affects people and different treatment options for people who have experienced trauma.

April 2022

What Comes After Covid?

2022-08-29T12:54:45+00:00April 5th, 2022|Thoughts From A Psychotherapist, trauma|

 

I am writing this post knowing full well Covid is not over. However, it does sometimes appear like we are in a bizarro world where not only is it over but we are acting like it never even happened. This attitude minimizes the trauma most people experienced in the last two years.

Many kids had losses from missing in-person school. Many people lost loved ones. Others were ill and are living with the fallout from that. Everyone is living with the effects of having a life-threatening illness hangover their families’ heads for over a year and the loss of not being able to be connected with loved ones in the usual manner.

In a country that already had a pretty severe mental health crisis, it got worse during the last two years. And while it got worse, there was even less access to care. Unless you could pay out of pocket, many people were out of luck finding a therapist with openings.

The other day, I found myself laughing, at a social media post I made in April 2020, about an interaction I had with a loved one about not touching a package without disinfecting it first. Thinking now how silly we were back then believing we had to Lysol everything or leave it in the yard for a week before it came into the house. At a time when we were not even consistently wearing masks. Laughter can be a way of coping with the trauma but it also can be a way of distancing from it or ignoring that it happened. For me, it feels like coping and distancing. This trauma has not just lifted because we can be out and about again.
We are all still adjusting to the changes in our lives such as where we work or if we had to reduce work hours to caretake for children or parents. Much of life is still online and will continue to be, for better or worse. We may have some family estrangements from how different members coped with the pandemic, whether they got vaccinated.
How do we move on? Especially since we aren’t clear on whether there could be another dangerous variant in the future. When we now know that everything can change in a matter of weeks.

Now we have to move forward the way we have since March 2020. Do the best that we can each day. Some people will bounce back faster than others. People have different levels of resiliency and experienced different levels of trauma. Some are still feeling cautious and overwhelmed. Some immunocompromised people don’t have an opportunity for a different life because they will continue to need to be careful in a world that wants to throw precautions in the trash. The rest of us just do it step by step. Maybe we learn to not freak out every time our nose is runny. Maybe, we start venturing back into environments where there are more people. Maybe, we liked being home all the time, and want to keep living that way. The most important thing is to try to listen to ourselves and try and follow our inner wisdom. A positive for many during the shutdown was the reduction of overscheduling. Can we keep that up or do we return to filling every minute of every day?

It all seems like so much. Because indeed, it is so much. Hopefully, as time goes on it will feel easier. Certainly, with the other crises in the world, it can feel indulgent to be stuck on the pandemic. But new crises do not resolve the past trauma and in fact, can make them feel even bigger. I encourage people to keep any good habits/routines they picked up during shut down. Like those walks. Or regular video chats with friends. Finally, just continue to allow yourself to have your good and bad days without overanalyzing either. It has been a tough long two years. We need time to process that.

November 2020

Recovering from the last 4 years-Trump Trauma Disorder

2021-07-27T17:18:32+00:00November 13th, 2020|Thoughts From A Psychotherapist, trauma|

Like many of you, I was super stressed last week. I spent way too much time on social media and particularly Twitter which generally I find very toxic. When the results were finally announced on Saturday I was jumping up and down and yelling at the TV. I later had to go somewhere in the car and I turned on the classic “Celebration” by Kool and The Gang and blasted it. I was ready to celebrate. Instead, I found myself driving and sobbing. When I was able to sit with my feelings a bit later I realized that much of it was mourning the losses of the last four years and part of it was the idea that I had some hope again. I had not realized how my lack of hope for a future had affected me.

During the past week, I heard from almost everyone I spoke to about how they felt like they could take a deep breath or felt like a weight had been lifted from their shoulders. For four long years, we have been carrying so much. Fear and rage being some of the top feelings with many layers of complexity on that. For those of us that are a part of a disenfranchised group, many were carrying genuine fear for their safety. This is trauma. It has been a sustained chronic trauma for the past four years. This will take time for all of us to heal from. For people that had PTSD before 2016, it is even worse. Their world already felt unsafe but in recent years there was a real and genuine threat. Not an environment in which people can easily recover from their traumatic past.

Now people (and to me they always seem to be white cis straight people) are telling us to move on. To be generous and forgiving. To move forward and not be stuck in the past. This is so invaliding. Four years of substantial trauma and we are being told to get over and be forgiving in a week. Each of us needs to work through this at our own pace and in the manner that works for us. There is no one way of doing this. And like any trauma, this may take some real time to get over. We are also trying to recover in an environment in which many of us are missing our normal coping mechanisms due to the restrictions of the pandemic.

I wrote this post because I want to normalize that living through the last four years was for many of us hugely traumatic. That we can name it as such and process it as such. That the rage you might be feeling is okay and actually a “normal” reaction to having been traumatized. That if you lose your shit because you have read too many comments on moving on and forgiveness that is okay. Take your time. Use your resources. See a therapist you feels stuck at all.

We also know that although that many of us now have found some hope again post-election the administration will not change for another few months so this trauma is not over yet. And even when the administration shifts the baggage will be there and we each need to figure out our ways to untangle it all.

Take your time. Have your feelings when you can. Get the support you need and just know this is all real and it is okay if you are struggling right now.

Take care and stay safe!

 

 

 

 

Photo Copyright : lculig

January 2020

Resources for people who have experienced trauma

2021-07-27T17:26:26+00:00January 30th, 2020|Thoughts From A Psychotherapist, trauma|

I have some books that I consistently recommend to my clients. I am doing a post now so that these recommendations can easily all be found in one place. I have it set up as amazon links so if you buy after clicking through I do receive some compensation. Feel free to access the books in another manner. These are all books I highly recommend!

The first book is the Body Keeps Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk. This book is pretty accessible to both clients and clinicians.  He talks about trauma and how it is stored in the body using substantial research to make his points. He also talks about different treatments for trauma.

The second book is Healing the Fragment Self. Janina Fisher goes into a lot more depth about structural dissociation and this book is not always accessible for everyone. I did better listening to it on audio than I did reading it.

The third is a favorite. We all Have Parts. Colleen West’s book on working with parts is geared towards clients. It is super accessible and explains working with parts. I recommend it to all of my clients. You can also buy it from her directly here.

The fourth book is Complex PTSD From Surviving to Thriving: A Guide and Map for Recovering from Childhood Trauma. Pete Walker is both a therapist and a person who has survived CTSD.

Healing Your Attachment Wounds is an audio book and Diane Poole talks to you like you are in the room with her. It explains a lot about early childhood wounding manifests later in life. She talks a lot about different attachment styles.

I would love people to comment and recommend any books that they have found helpful in their journey to heal from trauma.

October 2019

Rage and sadness at knowing LGBT rights are once again under serious attack

2021-08-11T00:14:14+00:00October 8th, 2019|Gender identity, LGBT, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist, trauma|

I am filled with rage today. I suspect underneath it all is a deep sadness and grief but right now I am experiencing rage. Full on. I am rageful that I live in a country where the court is going to decide if it is legal to fire LGBT people just for being who they are. I am rageful at all of the straight well-meaning people that just don’t get that in 22 states you can be fired for being LGBT and that winning the federal right to marry did not end the battle for LGBT civil rights. I am rageful at the people that think that their personal or religious beliefs should be more important than the civil rights of an entire group of people.

One of the happiest days of my life was my first wedding on February 13th, 2004 (both weddings are to the same spouse). Gavin Newsom said he thought LGB people should be able to marry on Feb 12. That day my now wife and I talked on the phone and said let’s do it! She had always said we would never get married until it was legal. With no planning, we got up at an obscene time of the morning and were waiting outside of City Hall with many others as it opened. It was beautiful. It was a time of triumph. We saw mostly older couples that first morning. All of us were both excited but also afraid that the marriages could be stopped at any time. The city staff was almost as excited as we were. As each couple came out with their license the entire line erupted in cheers. I am getting goosebumps on my arms as I write this. Then the community started to bring food and other celebratory items to support those in the lines that were now getting longer and longer.

It was a bit bizarre because after we got married, we each went to work. We were in a bit of shock, I think. At the time I worked at an LGBT counseling center. When I got there I told everyone that I got married. People cheered and cried and many raced to their phones to call their partners and propose. It was amazing.

Of course, eventually the courts both stopped and invalidated the 2004 marriages. Court cases continued until in 2008 the CA Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. Marriage became legal in CA. So, in July 2008 we did it again. Another of my happiest days! This time it was planned and we took a brief weekend honeymoon. There was little time to enjoy being married because shortly Proposition 8 was approved to go on the CA ballot. This meant people got to vote on whether it should be legal for gay people to marry in CA. It passed 52% to 48%. That day and the days to follow were some of the most challenging in my life. For a long time after Prop 8 passed I would look at everyone I saw and wonder how they voted.

Our marriage was then in limbo for years. In hindsight, I am not sure we would have gotten married in 2008 because it led to years of us being married in CA but not being married federally. Taxes were a nightmare.

We had to wait until 2013 when Prop 8 hit the Supreme Court along with the famous Windsor Case. Prop 8 was vacated on a technicality but Windsor case finally gave us the full federal right to marriage. It was an amazing victory.

Post Windsor, it felt like things changed a lot. When we traveled, we didn’t feel the need to be as cautious as before (granted we don’t travel to places like the south where we still wouldn’t feel safe). We told restaurants it was our anniversary and got free cakes. I must admit that on one vacation I told several restaurants that and got a few free desserts. I figured after all the years of not getting anything I could milk it for a bit

Things felt safer for us personally and I imagine for others who are LGB in blue states. I don’t think trans people have ever felt safe nor should they. Then came the 2016 election and it all went to shit. None of us felt safe. Our rights and the rights of other minority groups like Muslims, immigrants, Jewish people, and POC were being assaulted daily. November 6, 2016, was another on the list of very terrible days.

Now in 2019, I will say that in some ways there is a greater awareness of the issues. I see straight cis friends advocate some for trans and gay rights online. At the same time, I don’t think most of them get what it feels like today. It feels like shit. I am super privileged. I recognize that. I am white, I am middle class, and I live in CA. So, I have legal and other protections that others do not have. I cannot even imagine how they feel if I feel this bad.

At this point as I write this, I feel sick to my stomach and am so so sad. I knew there was a lot under that rage. I do not know how to cope with this. I also know that I will be holding this for many of my clients. One already brought it up in session. But more in the manner of a minority saying “yup, we are getting screwed again what can you do”. I am not sure what we can do. This decision won’t come down until June 2020. There is nothing we can do to influence the decision. Most legal experts expect the decisions to be against LGBT people (there are three cases two for gay men that were fired and one for a trans woman who was fired).

I can work towards getting legislators in office in 2021 that will finally pass an LGBT employment non-discrimination act. Once again LGBT people will have to just suck it up. We may be allowed a day or two of feeling awful but then what? We will all just move on until June when the decision comes out. And if I feel this bad now, I cannot imagine what I will feel like then.

What I will say is if you are straight and cis reach out to your trans and gay friends and check-in. Let them know you see what is going on and you care. Advocate in the ways you can for legislators and judges that will protect all of our citizens. After Prop 8 I had a friend send me a stuffed animal with rainbow clothes on it. That meant so much to me. It meant she saw the pain I was feeling. At the end of the day really what we need when we are struggling is to be acknowledged and not feel so alone.

August 2019

On feeling unsafe in Trumps World

2021-07-27T17:45:34+00:00August 22nd, 2019|LGBT, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist, trauma|

Last blog post I wrote I got an amazing response. It feels like more people read that post than every other prior post combined! It made me feel good to read all of the comments. It made me feel even better when a friend told me that they learned from it. I don’t often get that personal in a blog post but the posts in which I do get personal obviously resonate a lot more. So I decided to stay with the topic of moving through the world as a GNC person and how that feels right now in our country that feels so dangerous.

Last week I saw a post about an Alabama Mayor who called for killing LGBT people on their Facebook page. In response to a friend talking about a revolution against LGBT people, he said” “The only way to change it would be to kill the problem out. I know it’s bad to say but without killing them out there’s no way to fix it.” When called out on it he first denied, then blamed Facebook, then “apologized” in a manner that said he really just regretted it being shared publicly.

Since gay marriage, it has been less common to hear people publicly call for gay people to be killed. There is a long history of LGBT people of being assaulted and murdered. For LGB people it has improved but for trans people, especially trans women of color, it is still dangerous to be alive. When the AIDS crisis hit it became very clear that many people in this country had no concern at all about gay people dying. They thought it was deserved. Obviously, some people still believe that but it had become pretty unacceptable to say so. Now those filters are gone. And now it is also acceptable to blame black people for getting shot by police and brown immigrants for being assaulted when all they are trying to do is escape death in their own countries.

So within this context, I am flying back East tonight to visit with family. Part of the trip will be an additional bus trip to Niagra Falls. All of which I expect to be fun. At the same time when I was packing my baseball hat for sun protection, I made sure to dig out a pink hat because I thought it might be more easily read as female. Because that is this world pink is feminine and blue is masculine. Sigh. I was also reminded by a friend that I might be with Trump supporters. This really threw me for a loop. I have a few family members that I know voted for him and that I also consider anti-gay. They are not family that I can totally be estranged from. At the same time, the distance between us has grown greater since the 2016 election. We never talk about politics but I know that they think I am going to hell. It does create a distance. I don’t feel unsafe with them just uncomfortable. I do, however, feel unsafe in general with Trump supporters.

I feel like if you support a man who is so blatantly racist, anti-semitic, misogynist, xenophobic, and anti-LGBT that I am not safe with you period. It doesn’t mean I feel like every Trump supporter may physically assault me but I do feel emotionally unsafe with them. And quite frankly depending on their presentation I also feel physically unsafe. A young white man with a MAGA hat would cause me to do anything I could to avoid them. I live in the progressive bay area and I feel pretty safe here. It has been a long time since I have been harassed for my appearance or sexuality. But it has happened in the past even here. I had FAG scratched into my car in San Francisco. When I was leafletting against Prop 8 at the Bart stations in 2008 I was stared at and was obviously being talked about negatively by some. But in recent years since gay marriage was legalized, it has felt a lot better. However, when I leave here it is different. I can never see myself traveling to the midwest or the south. This trip I am going into an unknown environment and I know I will have an air of hypervigilance throughout my travels. I will use the bathrooms quickly. I will scan for signs of danger such as the MAGA hats (and thank you for white supremacists for picking such an obvious sign for us to see). I won’t be expressing my feelings on political topics unless I know I am safe which probably means not at all.

I am still a person with a lot of privilege. I am white. Recently more than one brown person I know has talked about how it is harder for them to leave the house right now. One person named all the documents that they carry with them all of the time (and have done this for years) to prove they are a legal citizen. These are people that feel physically unsafe all of the time. I have also heard this a lot from my Jewish friends. More than one has spoken about their fears of being rounded up. It used to be that you could say that wouldn’t happen but now? Our president has made anti-semitic statements for two days straight.

I think what the thing is is that most of us don’t necessarily recognize the stress that each person that feels scared right now is carrying. I know mine and I can feel the pain of my friends but I can never know what it feels like to have to carry all my papers with me because otherwise I could be rounded up and sent to a camp with no legal representation. As a trauma therapist, I do know how much affect carrying these burdens can have on a person. It is hard to process a trauma that is currently happening. I know all I can do for myself is to allow myself to keep myself safe in the ways that I can. For my friends, I can try and protect them and listen to them. I also can continue to try and advocate for those that need help. I have been very active in a fundraiser to raise money for legal services for unaccompanied minors in the bay area. It helps me to be doing something. I also want those who can walk around without worrying about being round up, jailed, or beaten to recognize that they have some immense privilege that many do not have. I think it is easy for us to stay huddled in our own world and not recognize the suffering others are experiencing. I think it behooves us all to try and have a new awareness and to fight so that everyone can feel safe.

July 2019

Imagine Not Being Disturbed by Painful Memories

2022-08-29T19:39:55+00:00July 24th, 2019|emdr, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist, trauma|

 

I have been trained in Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR)since 2001. EMDR is a process where you desensitize painful or traumatic memories by thinking about them while also receiving bilateral stimulation either via eye movements or tapping. For more information on EMDR, you can click here.

I have used EMDR many times over the years with much success. However, there were many times it did not work. For some clients, it was very hard to tolerate thinking about painful memories. It leads to them feeling flooded with emotions and overwhelmed.

Phil Manfied and Lewis Engel have developed a new EMDR technique he calls FLASH. Dr. Manfield is the author of books on EMDR and has trained many of us in the Bay Area in EMDR.

The Flash technique has the client think of the memory and then focus on a positive engaging experience that they talk about with the therapist while tapping their knees and occasionally (at the therapist’s request) triple blinking. Sounds crazy but Dr.Manfield has collected some good research on its effectiveness.

At the urging of a fellow therapist, I went to an all-day Flash training in June. I will admit I was both a bit skeptical and resentful of giving up a sunny Saturday for training. However, I left the training a convert. I have come back to my office and used Flash with a variety of different clients and the results have been wonderful. Some times the shift in disturbance about the memories is so fast that the clients can’t believe it has happened. And as I say to my clients it is an easy and enjoyable process. So if for some reason it does not work you may lose half an hour of a session but you won’t feel traumatized by the process.

As always every client brings different things and histories to therapy and results for one person are going to be different than they are for another person. Most people I work with now I do some extensive preparation work with before engaging in any EMDR work. This makes the EMDR work more likely to be successful. And of course, no therapist can ever guarantee any results. That being said Flash is a great technique to try if you have troubling memories that are still affecting you.

Here is Dr. Manfields explanation of Flash and a link to find a Flash trained therapist in your community.

November 2016

Post Election Trauma is Real

2017-03-14T00:30:25+00:00November 14th, 2016|trauma|

We have ended the ugliest election in US history by electing a man who has called Mexicans rapists, said women should not have the right to choose, said gays should not have the right to marry, and that Muslims should have to register if they live in this country. Many people think therapists should not speak out about politics. This therapist begs to differ. I am not speaking out against a party. I am speaking out against a clear and present danger to many in this country. I will not be silent when a White Supremacist is appointed to a job next to the president.

As many in the LGBT community know there was long a slogan that Silence Equals Death. Many of us wore pink triangles to represent the LGBT people killed in the Holocaust. Sadly I fear we are again in a time where silence could equal death and I will not be silenced while people in this country are being persecuted.

I recognize that for many people, including the people I work with, are scared. They are traumatized. They do not know what to do or how to handle this. As a therapist, I have no easy answers. We each have to find our own way to cope with this pain. What I can say is that I will be here to listen. I will be here to help you with the trauma you are experiencing and the fear you are facing. I commit to providing a safe space and I commit that outside of my office I am going to be doing everything I can to protect people in this country.

July 2011

I thought I was over this: follow-up

2017-03-25T23:08:09+00:00July 5th, 2011|Thoughts From A Psychotherapist, trauma|

A recent study by researchers from the University of Southern California and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found that a group of girls who experienced sexual abuse had negative outcomes that followed them into adulthood.

These women were last assessed in their twenties and were found to have higher levels of mental health issues, lower education levels, and higher levels of sexual activity at a young age then the control group.

Right after the abuse the girls had heightened cortisol levels (the “stress hormone”), but after a few years they were found to have less than the normal amount of cortisol. Researchers compared their levels to those of Vietnam Vets. These levels indicate a chronic heightened state of stress. It also seems to indicate that perhaps these results can be generalized to beyond this population to all of those who experience extreme trauma.

I had an early posting I thought I was over this which talked about my clients who felt like they should be “over” certain experiences in their lives. That post talked about the emotion and memory deficits that follow people who have experienced trauma. This new research touches upon the physical changes that follow those who have been traumatized.

I hope that as researchers find these concrete results that there will be more support for early intervention for those who have been traumatized. Who knows what the outcomes could have been like for these women had they received EMDR or another PTSD treatment right after the abuse? I suspect their outcomes would have been better.

June 2011

I am over it…

2017-03-25T23:08:09+00:00June 1st, 2011|Thoughts From A Psychotherapist, trauma|

I posted the other day about clients feeling like they should be over some trauma in their past.  The other side of that coin is people that feel like they are over it.  The ways in which trauma affect us may not be so obvious.  Ever get irrationally angry at a partner for something you knew didn’t warrant that response?  Our intimate relationships are often the place where the results of the trauma come out.  That irrational response is often a sign that something else was triggered from our past that we are reacting to, instead of the actual current event.  Many times people don’t make the connection between what is happening now and what happened in the past.   We often replicate our childhood experiences in our adult relationships.  Children of alcoholics or children with parents with mental health issues, often find themselves in relationships with people they need to take care of.  If children witness abuse they are prone to either be in an abusive relationship or be abusive to the person they love as an adult.  All children that abuse do not grow up to be abusive, but most adults that are abusive were abused.

Again people don’t often recognize the patterns.  Often times when I am talking to a client it may be the first time that they realize that what happened to them was wrong.  If you grow up in a family where things are consistently done in a certain way, why would you think other families are different?

People often come into my office not wanting to talk about the past.  They say they are over it.  Or they say they understand why the person who abused them did what they did.  Perhaps their traumatic experience was by a parent who is now elderly and with whom they feel like there can be no resolve.  My feeling is that if people have the same patterns of relationships over and over again, or have long standing depression and anxiety, the only way to get past it is to look at the original causes.

People usually come to therapy because they are at a point in their life when they know they need to make a change.  Often times they are in a place of great pain.  It is important to recognize that if you find the right therapist, people can find resolve in order to live a fuller life.

May 2011

I thought I was over this

2017-03-25T23:08:09+00:00May 31st, 2011|Thoughts From A Psychotherapist, trauma|

I heard those words today.  I hear them often from clients.  Usually the front part of the sentence is I am such and such age and I can’t believe this still affects me.

There is much research to show that trauma affects our brains.  One summary of multiple studies shows permanent affects on both emotion and memory.   We think of childhood experiences as something in the past.  However, many of the stories I hear are horrible and yet clients still feel they should just be over it.  Many clients have moved forward in their lives to great success and one of their coping mechanisms is their strength.  However, in order to succeed clients push these unwanted memories into the unconscious.  Trauma doesn’t just allow itself to be pushed aside so easily.  It is stored in both the brain and the body.  As a result of the repression of feelings many clients develop problems with depression and anxiety.  Until the underlying trauma is addressed, in most cases, the current symptoms won’t abate.

The good news is there are ways to resolve trauma.  I am trained in EMDR which is one of the most researched treatment of PTSD.  By stimulating both the left and right brain you can reprocess trauma so that it no longer has the affect on you it did.  That eliminates the PTSD or anxiety and depressive symptoms.  For more information on EMDR please see www.emdr.com.

Go to Top