Trauma and dissociation
‘If I could just get over it, I would,’ I say, and I’m trying not to sound irritated or hurt but I’m not quite sure what emotion my face is displaying and my throat is tight and my fists are clenched and really I’d rather not be here, and neither am I convinced that I’m a good enough actor to hide all of this.
Carolyn talks about the most important things to focus on for survivors at the start of their journey of recovery.
‘Christmas is optional!’ I announce, loudly and excitedly and with an uncharacteristic degree of gusto, at the beginning of my session. We haven’t even sat down yet. Mostly sessions begin with a tense stand-off as I battle within myself to be present.
The therapist’s eyes widen. I can tell she’s wondering if I’ve switched to another part. In particular I have one whom I call ‘Play’ who is larger-than-life and copes with social occasions for me. She is skilled at banter, although not so skilled at reading social cues and divining if its recipients are edified by it. But this isn’t ‘Play’. This – surprisingly – is me.
Recovery from trauma isn’t about ‘getting over’ something upsetting. It often requires building skills for managing emotions. In this podcast, Carolyn explains the process.
Like a slow leak, drip-drip-drip, things changed. Trauma leaves you with a brain dedicated to danger. Fear isn’t a choice – it’s an inbuilt survival mechanism. And I used to berate myself for it. What is wrong with you?! Get a grip! Just let it go! But my survival-based back brain wasn’t listening. It’s not safe here, it would whisper back at me. We’re going to get hurt. When I heard it, I got annoyed: We’re perfectly safe. There’s nothing the matter. Stop overreacting!
Stigma is the double-whammy of life after trauma. Not only do we suffer abuse in childhood, perhaps resulting in a post traumatic or dissociative disorder in adulthood, but then we are stigmatised, shunned and shamed for it too. How can that be right?
Is recovery possible? Carolyn Spring says it is … based not just on her own personal experience, but on the fact that it’s how our bodies and brains are designed by default. Often when people don’t recover, it’s a problem with the therapy or the ‘treatment’, rather than a problem with a person. In this thought-provoking podcast, Carolyn brings hope for healing.
Everybody has mental health. The question is how good it is, and how we manage it. We need strategies for managing our emotions and feelings. Here’s how.
It’s scary to think you’ve ‘gone mad’. It’s scary to think you have some serious, incurable ‘mental illness’. It’s scary to not understand what on earth is going on in your brain. And perhaps what’s even scarier is finding out that what is ‘wrong’ with you has a name: dissociative identity disorder.
Recovery from trauma can be a long, hard road. But it’s not an impossible road. It helps if you know where you’re going and how to get there. In this video, Carolyn breaks it down into three main areas of focus: dealing with our trauma responses, progressing our interrupted development, and resolving our attachment difficulties.
Treatment on the NHS for dissociation and dissociative disorders isn’t always forthcoming. In this video Carolyn talks about three ways of getting help in these circumstances.
‘It’s horrible being triggered.’
I nod. It’s an understatement. There are no words to describe it. The trigger comes and our bodies and brains surge with the aversiveness of survival: everything tells us to get away. This is dangerous! This is painful! This isn’t good! Get away, get away!