Thursday, August 7, 2014

Post Workplace Abuse: The Reality of Emotional Trauma

I know that I've been going on and on about trauma and emotional trauma.  Maybe you're sick of reading it by now. Personally,  I'm tired of going through this journey - both physically and emotionally.  Especially the parts where it seems to be going pretty good for a while and I think I can see the end of the tunnel - recovery - on the horizon.   Then all of a sudden recovery takes another turn in the road.   And I find myself struggling once again with fatigue, itchiness, unwanted emotions, depression, even anger.

I find myself wallowing back in the muck once again - and wondering why.

But such appears to be the road to recovery.  One step forward several backwards - or so it seems.

Or maybe it's because I've been taking so many steps forward lately that when my journey of recovery takes a step - or two - or three - back that it seems like I'm heading right back to the beginning.

I confess.

I've been struggling more the last few weeks than I had for quite a while.

My mood right now seems to go up and down.  Past events that I thought I had dealt with have been cropping up their ugly heads once again, and I feel anger at those who caused these events.

Right now on my road to recovery I seem to be juggling several balls all at the same time:  socialization i.e. getting out more; on the same theme friends i.e. who to invite into my life, what friendship means, etc.,; the lies i.e. more keep coming out of the woodwork and knocking me down.

But the biggest ball, the most important one, is recognizing trauma.  It's reality.  What it is.  What it does to the person who has been traumatized.  It's effects on that person's brain.

And why you should learn about it if you or your loved one is working through it.

H. Norman Wright in Helping Those Who Hurt: Compassionate and Practical Ways to Offer Comfort goes into the dynamics of trauma's effect on the brain in chapter six of this book entitled What's Happening to My Friend?  It's Called Trauma.

He notes in the beginning of this chapter that the root of our present day word "trauma" has it's origin in a Greek word meaning "wound".  He goes on to say on page 75:  "...It's a condition characterized by the phrase, "I just can't seem to get over it."  And then goes on in this paragraph to give examples of those he's seen experience trauma.  It's a long list mostly characterized by those who have either been in or witness to a traumatic event, have lost a loved one, are in the helping professions such as paramedics, firefighters, nurses, police, etc. who see horrible things on a daily basis.  And then he adds, "...Trauma touches those subject to pressure or harassment in the workplace."

Most people can recognize that they or a friend or a family member have gone through a traumatic event when they witness or are involved in, for example, a tragic accident.  Some years ago, a family member witnessed a tragic event.  It was obvious that this was a traumatic event - on many levels - for many people.  We witnessed the effect of trauma close up and personal in the months that followed.

However, many people do not recognize bullying, harassment or abuse in the workplace as being traumatic.  They tend to be impatient.  They don't want to listen to us.  They want us to just "get up and move on" not realizing that this is not possible because of the trauma we've experienced.

H. Norman Wright's sentence "I just can't seem to get over it" particularly rang true with me as it was the way I felt for the 18 months between being unceremoniously dumped outside the door when abusive workplace situation #1 ended and when recognition of PTSD and trauma, and therefore recovery, began in my life.

People would tell me to just "move on", "get over it", etc.  If I had a dollar for every time I was told I had to "move on", I would be wealthy - I think.  At least, I'd have enough money to take the GO train into Toronto and back.

In another section of this chapter, H. Norman Wright talks about trauma's effect on the brain.

I'm going to let H. Norman Wright take over for a wee bit as he explains trauma and what it does to the brain so much better than I can.  Also, because he has the experience and credentials which cause people to listen to what he has to say whereas most people have trouble listening to what the victim of trauma tries to explain to others.

He says:
As the result of trauma, something happens in our brain that affects the way we process information.  It affects how we interpret and store the event we experienced.  In effect, it overrides our alarm system.  Trauma has the power to disrupt how we process incoming information.  When we can't handle the stress, we activate our survival techniques.
... There's an alarm portion of the brain that controls our behaviour.  When we've been traumatized, this alarm system becomes hypersensitive.  It overreacts to normal stimuli .... 
But another part of the brain is analytical and calms down the emotional part of the brain --it analyzes things and puts things into perspective.
In trauma it's as though the left side (the cognitive) and the right side (the emotional) are disconnected from each other.  As one man said, "I feel like my brain was disrupted and one part is transmitting the Am and the other the FM.  Sometimes there are holes in my memory like a slice was taken out.  Other times I can't get those intrusive unwanted memories to stop.  I want them evicted!  I can't remember what I want to remember and I can't forget when I want erased."  This struggle is familiar to those who undergo trauma. (pgs 71,72) 

There's a wealth of material - and fodder for subsequent posts - imbedded in the above alone.  Right brain vs. Left Brain.  Right brain therapy.  The disconnect - the disruption between the two sides of the brain.  But for now, it's time to bring this post to a close for today.

It's time for me to get back to the right brain things I do to allow my right brain to take over and let the left brain rest for a bit.

Until tomorrow ....

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