Dealing with past trauma

I was looking through my computer yesterday and found this ‘post’ if you like (it’s before I had a blog you see) about dealing with past trauma that I wrote on 5/8/2014.
My ‘trauma’ if you lik was a relationship I was in that made me feel uncomfortable, but I shan’t go into that.
I hope this post is helpful for those dealing with difficult situations in the past, just like I had to, and helps people keep going in their recovery.

Dealing with past trauma
As a person recovering from an eating disorder, I can say hand on heart that I understand what it’s like to have so many feelings and emotions about particular incidents that you feel trapped, vulnerable and alone. The important thing to realise is that whatever it is that happened in your past was most likely NOT your fault, and whatever it was you can work to get through it and carry on your day to day life without the pain you once felt.

For me, the first thing I had to was to sit with the bombardment of feelings and emotions I felt, and try to calm myself down enough to work out what it was that was scaring me so much and causing all these emotions and thoughts.

Some ways of calming yourself:

  • Counting slowly to ten, breathing deeply
  • Focusing on an object and looking in detail at everything, then go back to yourself when you’re feeling calmer
  • Sit with both legs firmly on the ground and with your back straight upright, and feel the chair supporting you from beneath and remind yourself that you are in the present and you are safe

Allow yourself as much time as you need. For me I just lay in bed (it was night) and panicked about it all for a while, until I calmed myself down enough to think clearly.

Still, once I had realised what the situation was that was bothering me, it didn’t change anything. I still had all the same overwhelming thoughts and feelings, and I still felt completely out of control. So the next thing to do is to talk to someone.

I know how hard talking to people is. It has taken me almost a year to trust therapists enough to (almost)fully open up to them and actually start doing therapy work that was going to benefit me.

I see a therapist at CAHMS, but I didn’t want to talk to her about this certain thing for various reasons, so after some panicking and a bit of thinking, I decided to contact Childline, where I could talk anonymously.

However, talking to people you know is probably best depending on the situation; there are some things I understand you just can’t bring yourself to talk to someone you know about. But if you do decide to talk to someone you know, talk to someone you trust. Be it your parents, therapist (if you have one), or friends. Just a word of caution though, talking to your friends is great and you are not burdening them at all if they want to listen and help you, but try not to put them in a difficult situation. For example, if you tell a friend something that puts you or others at risk and beg them not to tell anyone, that is stressful for them and will also probably make you feel worse for putting them in that situation. Or, if you do this, understand the reason why if they tell someone, and be forgiving because they only want what is best for you.

Anyway, after all this, the end result is that it’s no longer trapped and bottled up inside you. Now that it’s out in the open, even if just one person knows, then you can start to gradually let go and move on. It doesn’t instantly feel better, sometimes it’s still scary and horrible after you talk to someone for a bit, but over time the feelings will hopefully get less intense and you can move on with your life and recovery.

I hope this helped anyone who is finding it hard to move onto the past, and please feel free to comment any questions/thoughts or email me at myjourneywithrecovery@gmail.co.uk

Thanks for reading. 

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Why we mustn’t ignore difficult memories

The past, the present and the future can all be demons that sit waiting to attack. The present may seem awful, the future hopeless, but personally it is the past I find hardest to come to terms with.

Our brains are funny things. We have different systems of storing memories even within our short term and long term memories (I’m lucky enough to study Psychology A-level so I know even more details on this topic). This means that memories are not pure; often they will have been re-coded into more processable material by the brain, and can be revisited and changed depending on our thoughts around that memory (also known as interruption).

Ok, so we know that the memory is a complicated thing.. Why does that matter?

Because our brains are so vast in capacity and our memory system is so complicated and wonderful, it also unfortunately means that our long term memory potentially lasts forever.

Memories, both bad and good, can stay with you all your life.
That is why it is so important we face our past and let ourselves calmly reflect on it, so that in due time we will think of it less, even if it is still stored deep in our long term memory somewhere.
If we don’t, it will only make the memory more prominent and demanding to be thought about and revisited.

Essentially, although memories can be pushed down and forgotten about for some period of time (also known as repressing memories), one way or another the memory will submerge, often exaggerated by your thoughts and feelings around that memory.

I’m not saying that allowing yourself to think of difficult times isn’t difficult, because it most certainly is; but I think it is important for people to know why it is that some memories just won’t leave no matter how long we ignore them.

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Hope this made sense, and please do comment if this post was helpful, and/or if you’d like me to do more psychology-based posts.