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Understanding Trauma – The Invisible Wound

by | Jun 17, 2022 | Trauma

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This blog post was written by Staci Young, LPC, ACS, Sheila Reaves, LPC, ACS, and Rachel Townes, LPC, ACS

What is Trauma?

Trauma comes in many forms and can occur at any moment in one’s life. It’s not timed, or predictable, nor can we prepare ourselves for its impact. When adverse experiences debilitate you and cause you to question the safety of your emotional environment, you are changed. Trauma impacts how we see ourselves, others, and the potential opportunities for the future.

According to the American Psychological Association, trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster. (American Psychological Association, 2020).

Understanding the Trauma Response

In order to help explain the trauma response in a way that makes sense, I have gathered a few stories about how the trauma response impacts one’s ability to endure the day. (The names in these stories have been changed and permission has been given to share these stories.)

Jordan’s Story

7:15 AM rolls around before I even have a chance to tell my stepmother that I hate the first days of at the new school. I do not have it in me to pretend today. I guess I will hide myself in the back of the bus again, hoping no one will see me or try to talk to me. I want my life to mirror that of other 16-year-old girls. Oh yeah, I forgot, that piece of me was destroyed by a stranger with a mission to kill my spirit and body. My mother did not even support me, she blamed me. Now my father is yelling at me because I have been staring in this mirror for so long that I have missed the bus.

I was trying to get dressed, but I can’t get my attacker’s face out of my head. Dad calls me scatterbrained; he just cannot see the wound that is right here. Okay Jordan, pull yourself together. Your father does not know about it and, if he did, he would think you’re disgusting. Let’s just get it over with and accept this pity ride to school. I rush downstairs to grab my bag and lunch and then it happens again. Why did I slap my dad’s hand? He was just trying to help. He does not know my triggers; how could he know that I can’t be touched?

I guess Dad is in a talkative mood this morning, I mean he is just going on and on about how this school is different and I will like it here. How can I like it here if the problem is not them, it’s me? I must attract danger and pain; it is bound to happen again. Dad startles me back from my mental fog, “JORDAN!!!!!!!, do you hear me talking to you?” I am doing it again, it’s like I get lost in my thoughts. To him, I am just an arrogant teenager. Can’t he see it? I just want him to ask me about my wound.

Oh great, it’s field trip day, and here comes this weirdo teacher with her huge smile. Watch, she is going to say something goofy like, “Hey you must be new here.” She looks at me; I hope she does not try to hug or touch me. “Hello, Jordan nice to meet you, find a seat where you feel comfortable.” I’m shocked she is treating me like a normal kid; she did not try to hug me. There is something about her, she seems different from other teachers. I guess I can sit here by myself.

Cheryl’s Story

There is something about that young lady; I can see it. She reminds me of myself when I struggled to face others. Well Cheryl, another field trip. Let’s make today count! Show your kids learning through lived experiences. I head to the bus and I see Jordan is alone. What should I do? I don’t want to make her uncomfortable. We hate gas-lighting in the trauma club.

I will ask her if she minds if I sit next to her. Wow, she let me sit down! “Good morning, again, Jordan.” I began to ask the usual questions, where are you from, what do you like to do, but I can hear the sadness. I remember when I had to pretend that nothing was wrong, pretend like I didn’t have a gaping, oozing invisible wound. It is that unique timbre in one’s voice when you attempt to speak above the wound. My husband used my face as his paintbrush of rage, then had the nerve to have a stroke.

I cared for the man who didn’t see me; he didn’t see the scars, wounds, or emotional damage from him! People came for the funeral, assuming I would miss him. They assumed I was happy with him. There were no memories to relish in, just flashbacks of my blood on his shirts that I washed. How I felt was anything but natural. I wanted to scream, I was angry with him, and I couldn’t sleep because of the horror movie that played in my head each night. This young lady has been through something, and I can tell, I see her wound. I wonder if she will let me help her. Is it too forward to ask her who hurt you? Or what happened to you? Cheryl, just focus, she’s talking to you and that is a start.

The invisible wound is the capital T, trauma.

Trauma is one’s emotional response to a distressing event. Such distress can impair one’s ability to engage with others socially, regulate emotions, learn new information, and achieve life tasks and development milestones.

Trauma alters how one sees themselves and others.

Charactieristics of Trauma

Trauma defined can have many characteristics. Here are few:

  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Self-loathing
  • Paranoia
  • Hypervigilance
  • Startle Response

You do not need to suffer in silence.

If you or someone you love is feeling this way, please reach out. There are many different types of resources. Western Tidewater CSB has several Trauma-informed certified therapists. Request an appointment here. 

Depending on the type of trauma you experienced there may be a local support group: such as those for veterans, sexual assault, or interpersonal violence.

If you do not know where to start or need assistance call the Region Five Crisis line at 755-656-7755 and ask to be referred to a Regional Navigator. We are here to help.

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