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Do you feel like you're living in a bizarre carnival "fun" house where everything is distorted and there is some vague danger lurking around every corner? You have an intense level of alertness that never calms down, never goes away. You constantly look over your shoulder, feeling like something evil is just waiting to cause you harm. You are constantly on guard.
Is your history of childhood abuse being relived over and over again right in front of your eyes? It's like a movie that just won't stop and it pulls you in and triggers all your feelings as if it were happening right now. It's no wonder you can't sleep anymore. Heck, do you even want to sleep? The nightmares are so real that at times you're unsure if you're awake or still sleeping.
Sometimes you don't even know what is real anymore. And nobody understands. How could they?
How Your History of Abuse Can Affect You Now
If you have a history of childhood abuse, domestic violence, or sexual assault, then you know how this can negatively affect you in so many different areas of your life and can lead to PTSD. You can't forget what happened and are assaulted every day with vivid memories, nightmares, and flashbacks which just don't stop. You have trouble paying attention to your life and so have trouble at school or work. Relationships have gotten so hard! It's so hard to trust anyone or to talk to them about what happened- they don't understand so eventually you just stop trying at all.
Chances are you blame yourself for what happened to you- why weren't you strong enough to stop it? Why didn't you see what was happening sooner? You are so weak that you couldn't even say "no". Hell, you still have trouble saying "no" to people in your life and always feel like everyone is taking advantage of you!
Recent Trauma Blogs
The sad truth is that many people with a history of abuse and trauma also struggle with various drug and alcohol addictions as a means to try and cope with what happened in their past. So if you are using, know that recovery is possible. Your thoughts and feelings of low self-worth are leading you to these self-destructive behaviors, and your addictions are contributing to your feelings of low self-worth. It can be a vicious cycle with no end in sight.
Whether you've tried addictions treatment before, attended 12-step groups, or just been white-knuckling it alone, the fact that you have not found any success yet does not mean you're a hopeless case. Often the best course of action is to address the PTSD along with the substance abuse issues. Ignoring one for the other really just sets you up for failure.
You Are Not Alone
Many people experience a traumatic event in any given year. In fact, it is estimated that 5-6 out of every 10 people will experience at least one trauma in their lifetime. The statistics for childhood abuse are even worse. It is estimated that 700,000 children are abused or neglected in the US each year and that 1 out of 10 children are sexually abused before the age of 18 years. Of those who are abused, more women than men will develop PTSD, resulting in approximately 8 million adults being diagnosed every year with PTSD. And over the course of a lifetime? Approximately 1 in 3 people will develop PTSD at least once.
Getting Your Life Back
Starting therapy can be very intimidating for anyone, but it might be especially challenging for someone with PTSD. It takes a certain level of trust in the process and in therapy in general, which is particularly difficult if you have PTSD. Know, however, that trauma treatment has been shown to be very effective.
Some of The Treatments We Might Use in Our Therapy Together...
CBT- this therapy examines your beliefs and thoughts surrounding the trauma to find any irrational beliefs that you have developed and teaches you methods to change these. Cognitive behaviorists believe that the easiest and most effective way to change an unhealthy or distressful feeling is to change the thought because it is your thoughts that cause your feelings.
Exposure Therapy- this type of therapy involves systematic exposure to the things that trigger your fears to decrease your response to them. If we do decide to use this method, we will do so slowly and at your pace. I want you to feel as comfortable as possible with everything we do in therapy. I understand that this can sound really scary so if you don't want to use this technique, we won't- it's really just that simple.
Psychodynamic- This type of therapy helps the client to learn how their past trauma is affecting them currently in terms of emotions, behaviors, and relationships.
Coping skills training- this is usually used in conjunction with the other therapies during which I teach clients different skills you can use to cope with all of the distressing symptoms you are experiencing. There are many different techniques that you can use to cope with your flashbacks, anxiety, depression, nightmares, or other symptoms so we will keep trying different things until we find what works best for you.
Mindfulness training- Studies have shown that mindfulness exercises are a good complement to CBT and other forms of treatment. Learning mindfulness techniques can really help with anxiety, racing thoughts, depression, or other symptoms associated with trauma.
Medications- various medications can be used to decrease the symptoms you are experiencing from PTSD. Please discuss this option with your doctor or psychiatrist if you think it might be helpful for you. However, please know that I will never try to force you to take medications! Also, using medications does not in any way mean that you are weak or less than. Medications can be a very important tool to aid you in your recovery.
Questions You Might Be Asking Yourself
Will I have to relive the abuse?
This question has no easy answers because therapy looks different for everyone. For some, talking about the past abuse is helpful in moving forward and helps in healing. For others, this may be too painful and potentially traumatic in itself. Therapy then would focus on other things such as coping with the strong emotions or symptoms of PTSD such as flashbacks or nightmares. I work very hard to tailor my therapy to you and where you are at in your journey. In order for therapy to work well, I believe we need to work together collaboratively. I try very hard to consider your feelings and not to push your boundaries too hard, but I rely on you being open and honest during our time together
My family will hate me if they find out I'm in therapy and talking about what happened.
Unfortunately, it can be hard to predict how families will react to you telling their secrets in therapy. Some do get very upset and angry. However, chances are that if you were abused as a child, you have been carrying the burden of these family secrets around for a long time. Isn't it time that you gave yourself permission to start doing things to help yourself heal? Letting go of some of the secrets can be an important step in releasing the shame of past abuse.
It is also important to remember at this time that no one needs to know that you are in therapy unless you choose to tell them. And even then, you do not have to tell them about anything that is discussed in your therapy.
Therapy is for you and your healing. Your family does not even need to know that you're going unless and until you are ready to tell them.
If I start therapy, will I stop talking with my parents?
This fear comes from the idea that therapy or your therapist will blame your parents for whatever went wrong in your life, and if you face it, you may lose the loving feelings you have towards your parents. But this doesn't have to be what therapy is about.
I think it's pretty rare to find a parent who didn't try to do the right thing with their children. Parents might be inadequate, imperfect, make mistakes, and many are trying to cope with their own issues or disorders. All of this may have made them inadequate to meet your needs as a child, and that caused you some pain or trauma. As an adult, it is good for you to address this reality head-on so that you can integrate what happened to you and you can have a happy, healthy life. For some, this necessitates breaking with their parents. But this doesn't have to happen in your life. The vast majority of people I work with continue to have relationships with their parents and can actually have better relationships with people in their lives moving forward. It really is up to you and what works best in your life.
I don't want to be in therapy for the rest of my life! How long will this take?
Therapy is a very personal thing and will be a very different experience for each and every person who is doing it. Because of this, it is very difficult to predict how long you will need to be in therapy to reach your goals. Recovering from years of childhood abuse can take years, but it doesn't have to. Also, it is possible to address only certain issues during a particular therapy episode. For instance, maybe you are experiencing extreme flashbacks which are interfering with your ability to work at this time- therapy can focus on learning skills to cope with and reduce the effects these flashbacks have on your life without getting into everything else. Other areas that people may choose to focus on include: improving intimate relationships, increasing the ability to trust others, parenting, decreasing anxiety, or irrational anger. If therapy is focused this way, you may meet your goals after only a few months.
If you are still reading this, then chances are you are ready to start addressing your past history of abuse. Therapy can be very helpful with this and help you to live the life you want. Please click on the contact button below to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation and we can see if we are a good fit to work together. I look forward t hearing from you!
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