Processing and moving forward from past traumatic experiences is something that is easier said than done. In episode 267, I received a question from an individual who is struggling to work past a history of bullying, domestic abuse, and a chaotic home environment. In this post, I dive into more detail and look at how therapy can help you to achieve a better relationship with your past and enable you to move forward from trauma.
Hello, I am 28 years old and for the half of my life so far I have not done well with my mental health and haven’t sought any help apart from CBT which helped me look into things more positively for a temporary time. Since I was 12 I was bullied and had no support even when talking about it with parents they used to think only about my future education and how being in certain situations will do good for me in the future although at that time was traumatising me, and I stuck to it (i can’t even talk about it without crying and that was over 10 years ago) 4 years that went on, together with my family being in domestic violence, my dad beating me and my mother to a bad stage, where since then being in violent or conflict situations I would start shaking and crying even now and could not stop it. It’s really a struggle, I really need advice.
Thank you for the question and for reaching out. The first thing that I want to tell you about all of this is to please go easy on yourself. I don’t blame you at all for still feeling like you are struggling. There is a lot here that sounds unresolved.
It sounds like your issues have really been minimized over time. I’m proud of you for trying to do something about it on your own. Like you mentioned, you did some cognitive behavioral therapy that helped a bit. That to me is a big deal because when your issues are minimized in the way that yours have been over time, you are essentially being trained to feel like what you are going through is not valid. This can cause you to feel like you are being dramatic or that you are stupid for having troubles that you do. It can prevent you from seeking help because you feel that you should just be able to suck it up and move on.
You also had multiple issues at once. You had the continued bullying, which you were not helped with. At the same time, you were left to figure out how to navigate the bullying on your own while also witnessing domestic violence at home. So you had that daily struggle AND a chaotic environment that did not provide a safe home base for you. When you start thinking about things like attachment, this can really really impact you. A situation like this would really lend itself toward disorganized attachment where your care figures (the people you are supposed to be getting comfort from) are also the objects of your fear. So you don’t know what the hell to do with yourself.
It sounds like you have a traumatic reaction to this. Whether it is full PTSD or not, there are certain types of interactions or topics that you can’t tolerate without becoming significantly emotional. I’m not sure if you are also having symptoms like flashbacks or hypervigilance, but it’s clear that these experiences have stuck with you. They continue to cause you issues, so they are worth paying attention to.
The focus of therapy
My answer to this situation is going to be an obvious one, but you need more therapy, friend. Specifically, I think that you need to work with a therapist that has experience in treating trauma. Perhaps someone with a specialty in trauma-focused CBT, EMDR, or brain spotting. Traumatic memories are essentially stored in a way that makes them feel more immediate. Rather than being a distant memory, they feel like they are happening to you all over again, which is where you get that emotional intensity from. As humans, we have fallible memories, and this can be exploited in a good way to help you make that memory feel less threatening and immediate. That’s definitely one avenue that could be helpful to you in order to make these triggering situations less intense and overwhelming.
Another focus of therapy would also likely be looking a bit deeper into the ways that you feel about yourself and who you are in the world. Given that you experienced trauma over a period of time, it likely impacted the way that you developed and your personality itself. So digging into that a bit with a therapist and unpacking things like your self-concept, the coping strategies that helped you to survive during these traumatic periods, strengths that you have gained by enduring what you have, and areas that you feel an unrealistic level of self-blame. These are all things that can be processed.
So definitely look into some therapy. I did a recent episode about different treatment options, which could be helpful to you. I don’t know that you live in the United States. If you don’t, your treatment options might be a bit different, but you may still have options if you run into difficulty. For instance, some of the newer apps are available to people worldwide. Aside from this, picking up some books on self-love and self-acceptance may be helpful here. I have a hunch that you blame yourself for a lot and feel that you don’t deserve to thrive. Finding some content related to that and journaling regularly about your thoughts can make a positive impact as well.
I wish you the best and I’m confident that you can and will be able to make some significant improvements and find just a little more peace.
You can listen to this on Episode 267 of the podcast!
Thank you for the great question!
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