Tuesday, May 31, 2016

An Example Of A Trauma Reaction

     I often share examples of how trauma affects my children, but today I want to share a personal experience of mine. Before I go any further, I want to clarify that the people who were with us at the time this trauma occurred had nothing to do with how it affected me. I am giving this example to show how trauma can affect people and the irrational responses it brings about.

  Several months ago when we were at the cabin with family, Dean received a text saying B's ICPC paperwork had gone through. This important piece of paperwork was the last link before B could be moved to his new home. Signing papers and talking of the upcoming move in the attorneys office was nothing short of traumatic for us, the finality of it all was overwhelming. Were we really making the right decision? This was our sons life we were making plans for, plans that could change the whole course of his life! Somehow knowing there was one more piece of paperwork that needed to be approved before he could move was comforting, things still weren't final.

     So when Dean received the text saying the papers were approved and B would be moving, my heart sank to my toes. I can still feel that sick feeling I got in the pit of my stomach, the lightheaded, almost dizzy sensation that made me feel unsteady on my feet. I wanted to go to a quiet place and sob my heart out, but it was suppertime, the children were hungry, the food was prepared and the evening went on, with no time to cry. I felt like I had just received word that my son had died and I didn't know how to handle it. Dean and I couldn't just go into our room to talk and mourn, because we needed to keep an eye on our children who were, as is typical for them, very hyper.

   Later we all sat down to sing together and I couldn't keep the tears back. As we sang songs of heaven, joy and pain, I felt like we were saying our final good bye's to B. He was moving on, we were staying behind and how it hurt, but it was healing at the same time. That will be a memory I will always cherish, singing songs, while in my heart I said, "Good bye, my son, we tried, but somehow we just weren't able to reach you. I pray your new family will be able to help you in ways we couldn't. Good bye, my son."

   Ever since then, whenever the family was going to be getting together, I  melted into a puddle of tears and emotional pain. I should have understood what was happening, but somehow it evaded me. Recently after having the same experience yet again, it finally clicked in my brain, "This is a trauma reaction." So I started thinking, why do I react this way? My mind went back to that time at the cabin and I felt the sinking pain and despair as if it was happening for the first time. I was relieved because now I knew what was happening, this was trauma, not mental instability! Now that I knew what was causing this reaction, I had to figure out how to work through it. I went to my trusty mom group, they have all disrupted an adoption and know first hand the pain, grief and lingering trauma that goes with it. They advised therapy which I knew was a good answer but one person brought up EMDR, which is something I did with B's therapist while working through the trauma he brought about while he was home.

   There is a scientific explanation for it, but simply put EMDR is tapping your way through trauma. To begin with, you mentally envision yourself back in the trauma situation, then rate the intensity on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being no reaction and 10 an unbearable pain. Then you begin tapping, simply pat one hand on your knee and the other hand on the other knee, there is no right or wrong way to do it, just tap and as you tap, mentally walk yourself through the painful experience. When you have reached the end of the memory, rate your trauma reaction again, keep doing this until your reaction reaches a zero. Now I know this can sound like psychobabble but this is what happens: A trauma memory can get "stuck" between your right and left brain and tapping makes both sides of your brain work together, thus freeing the memory. Your brain can then place the memory in the correct "memory box" and it is no longer a trauma memory. This is a very basic explanation and I don't recommend trying it unless you have had extensive therapy experience or are a therapist, because depending upon the memory, you can trigger a huge reaction and things could turn out badly. In my situation, I knew what the trauma was, I knew why I was reacting and what had to happen to release the emotions, plus I had done this often with a therapist, which is why I felt comfortable doing it on my own.

   This experience gave me a new insight into why my children sometimes have intense reactions to things and are unable to tell me what is wrong. I tend to think they should know what is bothering them, "Do you feel sad, mad, scared...?" I ask and they just shrug their shoulders and wail louder. This experience taught me a lesson, if I as an adult with the knowledge of trauma cannot figure out why I react to certain things, how can I expect my children with no knowledge of trauma and hearts full of pain to be able to tell me what is wrong when they are upset?

Titus 2 Tuesday #linkup

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