One of the misconceptions and myths about counseling is that there is a “one size fits all” process that when applied, will bring healing and hope to everyone. This is fundamentally flawed based on nothing more than the unique traits and individual issues that each person brings with them. People also tend to believe, or maybe hope, that when they start counseling that they will be “cured” in a matter of days or weeks. For some, this may be the case, but for most people with a history of trauma, especially complex trauma, healing may take years and sometimes there is no complete cure, but an acceptance of your new normal. While that can be daunting for a lot of people, the truth is that most people do not begin to unravel the pain and suffering they endured until many years after the trauma or abuse has stopped. This leads to years of thinking and behavior patterns that have left a mark on your subconscious. In order to heal from those, the work must be gradual and will take time. My perspective is that for this reason, only people who are truly strong and who are fighters choose to undergo this difficult and sometimes painful process in order to reclaim their lives from the darkness. Society and sometimes our own families and friends believe that seeking help for mental illness is a sign of weakness. Those people have never gone through the process of healing, because if they had, they would know that counseling, healing the scars from the past, takes an enormous amount of courage, strength, and determination. Healing is not for the weak, but for the strong. The strongest people I have ever met are those who found the courage to fight their own demons and fully embrace the process of change, no matter what it took.
Once you have decided to take that leap of faith and trust that you can find healing and peace, the process can be just as frustrating, discouraging, or frightening as the decision to enter counseling. With trauma, there are some newer techniques that are showing promise in treating the symptoms, especially intrusive thoughts, flashbacks and sleep issues, and there are some gold standards that are the first line of treatment that may not work as well for everyone. In my own journey, I have tried almost everything short of virtual reality therapy that is used with veterans suffering with PTSD. One of the gold standards, Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), where you have to actively recall the trauma during the treatment, has shown great promise for most people suffering with trauma, but absolutely did not work for me. Maybe it was because I attempted the therapy at the wrong time or maybe my brain is not wired to respond to the treatment the way it was intended. For whatever reason, I found no relief, but had worsening symptoms afterwards. So I stopped getting help because “nothing works” and I was frustrated. Fortunately, newer techniques, including medication that was not previously targeted to treat PTSD symptoms has shown tremendous promise and works for me. Two techniques that I like, the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and Splankna have allowed me to heal from the pain and trauma without having to relive what I’ve suffered. The reason these are so effective is because they acknowledge that even if the brain can’t or won’t remember all the details of trauma, your body does. Our bodies and minds were designed to respond in very specific ways to trauma and danger in order to protect our lives. While effective in the moment, long after the trauma has stopped, the body still remembers that response and the way the brain and body processed the traumatic information it was receiving. Both EFT and Splankna work on the body and mind, rather than focusing on the memories of the trauma, and as a result, allow for healing without further traumatization.
When you decide to finally break free from the bondage of trauma and the darkness that is keeping you from being who you want to be, remember that it will take a great amount of work and that the treatment you receive initially may not be the right fit for you, especially when you have complex trauma. That means you have to keep fighting for your freedom, for your healing, and that you keep searching for the thing that will work, because I promise, you will find something that works and you can be free. If you are willing to work hard and fight. Below are resources for the three above listed techniques. If these don’t work for you, there are many others that might.
PTSD Veterans: http://www.ptsd.va.gov