At this point, I’m sure we all endured some sort of trauma in our childhood no matter how dramatic or big or small. It’s still trauma and we still deal with it coming back to haunt us as we get older. The only difference is how we deal with it and what we decide to let it do to us.
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine defines “Child Trauma” as referring to a scary, dangerous, violent, or life-threatening event that happens to a child (age 0-18). This event can also happen a someone that a child is friends with and is impacted as a result of seeing or hearing how this hurt or injured that person. This can apply to being a victim of a natural disaster at a young age, or seeing a friend experience any sort of extreme abuse, or witnessing mental instability in a parent… the list goes on and on. Recently, I took a course on Psychological First Aid and something that I found interesting was that in some cases, initiating PFA in the event of a traumatic experience soon after the event can aid in getting the proper care. But that’s for another blog post.
If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’re an adult seeking to find some information on how we deal with the things that you experienced so many years ago. I’m here to tell you that you are not alone. If you haven’t even touched the idea of therapy, then you probably feel as if you can’t move forward without fear of something jumbling it all apart. You might feel like you can’t keep your relationships together. Or worse, you might feel like your life is meaningless. Before I go further, you have meaning. You have a reason. You are valid. You deserve to know what living a happy life feels like.
Childhood trauma or “child trauma” is one of those things that we seem to experience and the older generation thinks we can just forget about it. My mother used to tell me “just forgive and forget” what my step-father would do to me when I was younger, but as we know, it’s not that easy.
Here are some ways that you can learn how to deal with the effects of childhood trauma.
1. Acknowledge and Recognize the Trauma for what it is
When we experienced a traumatic event as kids, we probably tried to push it to the back of our minds or literally block it out of our mind or we felt guilty or shameful about whatever happened… or we may have been made to feel guilty over time especially if we tried to be open about it. The first step before anything is that we have realize and feel what happened to us. We have to understand that it happened, and there’s no changing it. It’s a dark feeling at first, but it’s necessary to realize it and know that we can and will be better than that.
2. Reclaim Control
Sometimes, we get help before it’s too late. Sometimes, we don’t. It’s important to remember that it’s never too late to ask for help. The next most important thing is to remember that we hold all the control over ourselves and our lives. Sometimes we might have limited options of what we can do to straighten ourselves back up, the point is that there are options. There are different paths that only you can choose for yourself. We have to be able to let the past go and move forward to seek a better path than what we were on. Remember: a victim mindset will only set us back further. It’s time to shift to thinking in a survivor mindset.
3. Seek Support and Don’t Isolate Yourself
Allowing ourselves to wallow in our own depressed manner will only make us feel worse. I have felt it myself in my recovery from childhood trauma, and it took me ages to realize how important an encouraging support system is. Ask for help, and really utilize the resources that you have available to you. Talk to someone.
4. Take Care of Your Health
As I’ve covered before, your physical health equates your mental health. We know that stress affects physically as much as it does mentally, so that means that we need to make healthier choices physically to help us handle stress.
5. Learn the True Meaning of Acceptance and Letting Go
With a bit of reflection back to the first and second step, it takes some work to realize what the true meaning is of acceptance and letting go. It can feel differently between people, but the common denominator is that when we accept something, it means we know what we’re going to do with it. By accepting that this event happened, it can either make or break us. Letting go means that you can finally realize that the bad memories aren’t going to define you.
6. Replace Bad Habits with Good Ones
There’s a long list of bad habits that I could name off, especially as a victim of childhood trauma myself, but essentially allowing ourselves to continually think in a negative mindset is one that I can agree is probably the most common. Constantly believing the worst of the world will only set you on a path to fight fire with fire, and that’s not good for anyone. When we are stuck in bad habits, it can seem impossible to believe anything positive. Finding a support group or a therapist can help you realize that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
7. Be Patient with Yourself
Nothing is going to change overnight, no matter what. When we start on the journey to better ourselves, it’s a challenge and there are probably going to periods of pain and suffering, but if you cover all the bases, you won’t fall. It’s going to hurt… at first. But with the right support and a given amount of time, then we find that positivity. We find that light. We are survivors after all.
If you are in need of a support group, we offer free live support group sessions where you can be honest and transparent about your feelings while learning how I have dealt with similar struggles of my past. Inquire within here.
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