Trauma and the Aftermath of Coping

    Everyone that has suffered from trauma in their lives have different ways of coping. I know that I always thought that I was abnormal because of the way I would react to different things.  I hated being scared or startled and I still do, I would constantly look over my shoulder thinking that danger lurked in every corner ready to attack me. I didn't like being around a huge crowd of people because I am so short that people could loose me easily and I was afraid of what could happen if I was left by myself. There was always those "what ifs" that taunted my mind everywhere I went. I was constantly searching for "safe" places and people to surround myself with.  The truth is I never really felt safe. I was raped by people I knew and guys that I dated so it made me skeptical of everyone especially men.  I went through several different phases of coping with being raped.  I was in shock at first and kind of numb, I didn't really think that what happened was a reality. I turned into a bad dream and I felt numb emotionally. Once it finally sunk in what had actually happened I was devastated, and my emotions were all over the place. I would wait until no one was around and just cry hysterically.  If someone touched me on the arm, my back, or my wrist I would have a flashback, if I looked at someone directly in their eyes, I would have a flashback, if someone was yelling at me that made me feel threatened and I would have a flashback.  My triggers were all around me, I hated it when someone touched me and I would get startled easily because I was so deep in my own mind that I wasn't aware of my surroundings.   I began to have panic attacks, trouble sleeping,  anxiety, depression, and a constant fear of being attacked. My resolution for myself became creating a safe place in my mind, where everything was great, no one could touch me or hurt me, I was happy and free. I call this my "comfort bubble of dysfunction" because I almost created an alternate reality that I would go to in my mind where everything was "perfect".  When I got older I like to change my hair and appearance often so that I could feel like a different person, a better person, a person who was never victimized. When I would do a drastic change to my appearance I would experience a high, a sense of freedom from myself and I became very aware of my surroundings.  It would only last a little while and I would need to do something else to get that high again. I would use men to get that high, someone new all of the time I got to be a different person for each guy. I would turn into who I thought they wanted me to be, but most of all I got to act like a different version of myself.  It's kinda crazy for me to look back at all of things I did and finally understand why I was doing these things.  It was all just a coping mechanism for me to avoid dealing with the trauma I experienced.  
     During my healing process and preparation of this blog I did a lot of research and reading articles and other people's blogs. I wanted to understand and educate myself on the aftermath of being sexually abused. I found something that I want to share with you that really helped me feel "normal" I guess is the word I am looking for.  This information is from the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault and RAINN - 1800-656-HOPE.   I found and article on Rape Trauma Syndrome, this is something I had never heard of but after reading about it I just felt a peace come over me. I didn't feel so different and crazy.  Rape Trauma Syndrome is a common reaction to a rape or sexual assault. It is the human reaction to an unnatural or extreme event. There are 3 phases to RTS and the first phase is called  the Acute Phase: This phase occurs immediately after the assault and usually lasts a few days to several weeks. In this phase individuals can have many reactions but they typically fall into three categories of reactions:
    1.  Expressed- This is when the survivor is openly emotional. He or she may appear agitated or hysterical,       he or she may suffer from crying spells or anxiety attacks.
    2.   Controlled- This is when the survivor appears to be without emotion and acts as if “nothing happened” and “everything is fine.” This appearance of calm may be shock.
    3.   Shocked Disbelief- This is when the survivor reacts with a strong sense of disorientation. He or she may have difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or doing everyday tasks. He or she may also have poor recall of the assault.
      The next phase is called the Outward Adjustment Phase: During this phase the individual resumes what appears to be his or her “normal” life but inside is suffering from considerable turmoil. In this phase there are five primary coping techniques :
         1. Minimization- Pretends that “everything is fine” or that “it could have been worse.”
         2. Dramatization- Cannot stop talking about the assault and it is what dominates their life and identity.  
         3. Suppression- Refuses to discuss, acts as if it did not happen.
         4.  Explanation- Analyzes what happened- what the individual did, what the rapist was thinking/feeling
         5. Flight- Tries to escape the pain (moving, changing jobs, changing appearance, changing relationships,etc)
     During this phase there are many symptoms and behaviors that appear. They are the following; Continuing anxiety, Severe mood swings, Sense of helplessness, Persistent fear or phobia, Depression, Rage, Difficulty sleeping (nightmares, insomnia, etc.), Eating difficulties (nausea, vomiting, compulsive eating, etc.), Denial, Withdrawal from friends, family, activities, Hypervigilance (hypervigilance is is an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviors whose purpose is to detect threats. Hypervigilance is also accompanied by a state of increased anxiety which can cause exhaustion. Other symptoms include: abnormally increased arousal, a high responsiveness to stimuli, and a constant scanning of the environment for threats. Hypervigilance can be a symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder and various types of anxiety disorder), Reluctance to leave house and/or go places that remind the individual of the assaut, Sexual problems, Difficulty concentrating, and Flashbacks. All of these symptoms and behaviors may make the individual more willing to seek counseling and/or to discuss  the assault.  The final phase is called The Resolution Phase: During this phase the assault is no longer the central focus of the individual’s life. While he or she may recognize that he or she will never forget the assault; the pain and negative outcomes lessen over time. Often the individual will begin to accept the rape as part of his or her life and chooses to move on.
           I am so thankful that I found this article online, and even more happy and thankful to God that he brought me to this Resolution Phase.  I was raped and it doesn't consume my life and my every thought anymore instead it now drives me to help spread the word and raise awareness anyway that I can. I am also thankful to the different organizations that are dedicated to educate people on the aftermath of sexual abuse and to raise awareness. It's so important because when the healing process started for me, I still felt ashamed for the ways I coped with this trauma and to know that I am not alone and that I am not crazy is even more healing.  I hope that those of you who read this and have been through a trauma can be comforted to know that you aren't alone.  I encourage you to go and seek help, get yourself to that Resolution Phase, and start living the life you always dreamed of! I am going to leave you today with a comforting bible verse it's from 2 Corinthians 1:5-7 "For the more we suffer for Christ the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles it is for your comfort and salvation!For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us".


     







Comments

  1. Thank you for this post. I feel a sense of comfort every time I read information on RTS. Like you, it helps me feel "less crazy." Thank you for sharing it here.

    So much of what you wrote in this post resonates with my current experience. I can particularly relate to the feelings you described of needing change constantly to escape dealing with the trauma. I can also relate to feeling like you could get swallowed up into the desires of others (i.e., who they want you to be). I've never been one for confrontation, but boundaries became ridiculously challenging following my assault.

    Thank you for sharing your healing journey. It is so helpful to hear from others who are further along in the healing process. Wishing you the best as you keep moving forward.

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    1. Thank you for reading and relating with me. I kept silent so long and when going through this endless process of healing I am just searching for that connection with others who understand. I always feel so much better when I read the process that each individual person goes through to get healing. We all are in different stages and we all heal in such different ways. I am so happy to be an encouragement to you.

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  2. you are so much stronger than what you realize. you are an inspiration Lisa, even to women that haven't been in this situation. i am honored to have met someone so influential as yourself.

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