From CPTSD Foundation: “Trauma is a word or a concept that does not resonate with everyone. This is especially true for those of the older generation. Many in the older generations, like my mother’s age (70’s and above), say things like, ‘That was just life…it was what it was,’ and that is the end of the story for them. They ‘don’t have trauma’ because they are ‘tougher’ than that. To them, being traumatized is a weakness or failure to be able to ‘handle’ something.
That is also true of those I speak to within the workplace. When they describe their pain points or struggles with me as a trauma recovery coach, I see them as symptoms of previous trauma. To be clear, I was once in this space myself, so there is no criticism from me.
There was a time in my life when I packaged up all of the emotions and memories from my childhood trauma and stored them in a zip file within an archive folder of my mind. I thought, ‘I survived my childhood, so I will put that behind me and move forward.’
Sadly, it doesn’t work that way, though.
Adverse childhood experiences, like abuse (physical, emotional, sexual), neglect (physical, emotional), or household dysfunction (mental illness, mother treated violently, divorce, incarcerated relative, substance abuse) are potentially traumatic events that can impact a child’s brain development and how the body handles stress. Generational trauma is woven into the fabric of our being. Unresolved trauma shows up as unexplainable anger, flashbacks, sleeplessness, irritability, nightmares or night sweats, anxiety/panic attacks, or hypervigilance.
If we manage to cope with those symptoms of unresolved trauma through achievement or workaholism, it will start to show up in our biology. It might look like multiple health issues such as autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, asthma, skin disorders, digestive problems, heart issues, or cancer.
One way or another, trauma will let us know it’s there. That was what happened to me at age 51. My carefully concealed and archived zip file of traumatic memories opened up on me, flooded my nervous system, and overwhelmed me. I went from a high-functioning overachiever to being unable to function at all, which was extremely disturbing to me.
I didn’t think I had any other choice but to address it because it threatened my career and the identity that I had built for myself. Of course, I did have a choice. I could’ve continued denying this was an issue and kept telling myself I was fine, but honestly, that was a terrible choice.
If you are in excruciating pain and someone tells you there is something you can do about it, but it’s going to get worse before it gets better, would you take that chance? I did. The healing journey is hard work and painful at times, but I found it wonderfully liberating.
Many people in the workforce are still in denial about their childhood trauma and the impact it can have on their lives. I am a trauma survivor, trauma recovery coach, and mental health advocate, but when I talk to people in the workplace about trauma, it’s like all the air gets sucked out of the room, and they try to change the subject as quickly as possible. I am not making this up and am curious about what is driving this response.”
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