PTSD, Trauma, and “Why Me?”: A Question of Resilience
Extreme events happen each day that leave people scared, angry, and/or feeling powerless. These events could be assaults, car accidents, or natural disasters, to name a few. So why do some people develop PTSD symptoms and others don’t? How do First Responders (Police Officers, Emergency Medical Technicians, Firefighters) run towards danger and without developing PTSD? I’ve lost track of how many folks have sat in my office and said that what they went through “wasn’t even that bad”- measuring their trauma against that of others. There’s no simple answer- but one recent school of thought is exploring resiliency.
This wonderful research has been exploring what vulnerabilities, resources, and strengths individuals have prior to a traumatic experience. Do they already have good coping skills? Do they have a social support network? What knowledge, training, or power are they drawing from during the traumatic experience? Drawing from a previous example, First Responders receive a ton of training prior to entering the field and can draw on their station crew, partner, and team for support. Therefore, they have a ton of resources going into potentially traumatizing experiences. A lot of my work as a therapist is drawing on those natural resources, reminding clients of existing supports, and teaching additional skills if needed. That “Why Me?” question often leads to a discussion of vulnerability. Sometimes there are clear answers as to why someone developed PTSD. Sometimes we just work on radical acceptance skills to come to terms with the reality that there may not be a reason why.
Please remember to take care of yourselves and work to build on your resources, support networks, and skills- this will add to your resiliency. In this culture that encourages us to “stay home if you’re sick”, but doesn’t see “mental health days” as one and the same, it’s important to build self-care into your daily routine, especially if you have endured a recent trauma. Even if you’re having trouble with the question of “why”, give us a call or send us an email. Maybe we can help to change the question to “What’s next for me?” and foster a mindset of healing and hope.
Podcast- A couple months back I was asked to speak on Being UnNormal, a podcast about mental health issues. On the podcast I speak more about trauma, particularly as it relates to children, in particular. Check out this episode (and all her episodes)- it’s good stuff. http://www.buzzsprout.com/188360/743522-s1e3-being-traumatized