Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thursday's Therapy - Damaged

Thursday's Therapy


~Tommy and Angie Prince

"Central to the experience of traumatic stress are the dimensions of

  • helplessness
  • powerlessness, and
  • a threat to one's life.

"Trauma attacks the individual's sense of self and predictability of the world."

~Bessel A. van der Kolk

We are impacted on so many dimensions by our Grief and our Trauma:

  • body
  • soul
  • spirit
  • mind
  • emotions


I am a damaged person. Yes, I can function through a day (well, it may not be pretty, neat, or as organized as someone else's functioning, but it is functioning). I can walk, I can talk, I can think, I can smile, I can even laugh. I can relate in many different ways. And yes, I can work. I still have a practice in psychotherapy which I love. I love helping people. But my case load is not up to par -- it is about 1/3 of what it once was.

One of my clients is a creative designer in advertising. He had seen me a few years back, and he has now re-entered therapy. I believe he must sense I am different. (He knows we lost Merry Katherine.) The other day, he asked me if I had enough business coming in. Why he asked this I'm not sure, but creating business is his line of work after all. But I stopped and thought about it. My studied response was

"I have as much business as I can handle right now."

Fortunately, he seemed okay with my response.

But you all know:

Losing a child is downright debilitating. I am a different person now. My life has been damaged. I spend a great deal of time grieving. In terms of working and knowing what I am capable of handling, I do not even know who I am anymore! My system has been ripped up. I am hyper-vigilant. I am fragile, for my system, my entire being, is compromised. For the past month, I have been unable to sleep through the night like I did before. I am agitated. My body is hyper-aroused as if ready for danger.

Many psychologists say PTSD includes avoiding triggers that remind one of the trauma. I cannot relate to that symptom really.

I do not avoid triggers that remind me of the loss of my child -- I welcome them and cry over them. They remind me of my child, and in their own way serve as my only way of "being with" my child right now. And so I feel them to the full and work to grieve them.

But I do avoid something else.

Secondary Trauma is what I avoid because my Primary Trauma of Losing My Baby Girl is ALL I can deal with right now.

I do not need any complications of further trauma to my heart.

What is one of the secondary traumas that I face?

Unrealistic Expectations: We child-loss grievers are experiencing a damage that the world is not willing to accept, especially the Christians it seems --

There is a pressured expectation of a rush to heal, a sprint, a drag-race expectation really, to heal, be-done, fini, instantly recover.

This expectation alone is harmful, so misguided, and in many ways downright cruel.

There are indeed benefits to this Refining of Fire through which we are going. We find we do not have the "layers of stupid" on us any more. We are no longer walking through the world looking through the lenses of Idealism nor Romanticism. We relate to people -- not for how we want them to be, as we once did... I used to assume people were there for me. I was assuming they cared for me and that they had my best interests at heart -- but now we try to see them for who they really are... We no longer just assume such sweetness to be there.

Now, thanks to our increased vigilance and God's sweet discernment, we have a Clarity we did not have before about the world and about people. For example, we can very quickly sniff out if other people have their own self-serving agendas for us, despite our being in very raw grief.

How dare anyone have their own self-serving agenda for us when we are Under Assault, Under Siege in this ongoing Grief-and-Trauma-War we are having to fight in every single dimension of our lives: body, soul, mind, spirit, and emotions.

We therefore expose ourselves to these people in a different way, in a much more protected way.


Dr. Bessel A. van der Kolk, a psychiatrist specializing in trauma (even helping to coin the term Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder), says about PTSD and traumatic event(s)' effect on our being:

"It is this Sense of Being Damaged, rather than the immediate horror of the Trauma, that many victims describe as the worst aspect of their ordeal in the long term."

~Dr. Bessel A. van der Kolk

(capitalizations and highlights mine)

This is a very important statement. This sense of being damaged IS overwhelming. Some even call it an "Invisible Disability."

NOW, ADD to Severe Trauma the absolute Worst Grief in the world--that of losing your child!

Losing our child is the worst thing that could happen, but it did happen, and our child's death and the inherent loss of her life here with us while we're on earth is the worst aspect of our ordeal. And while trying to grapple with such great hurt and loss, we have the debilitating damage to all dimensions of our very being brought on by the trauma, and you've got one sick puppy -- who needs to do Grief work, Trauma work, and oh-yeah-by-the-way, carry on with your job and your life and pay all your bills, all the while trying to avoid any secondary traumas on top of all this.

It all feels well nigh impossible...


Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind, Body, and Society, Dr. Bessel A. van der Kolk, Alexander C. McFarlane, and Lars Weisaeth, Editors, pp. 136, 137 and 215.


1 comment:

danielle198890 said...

Yes Angie... You have captured the essence of my reality too! I totally agree with your insightful and wise words. I have often thought about the frustrations of our "new life." We don't wear a cast, have tubes filled with medication in our arms or any visible wounds, which creates the appearance of "NORMALCY." When in reality, the wounds we carry are far deeper and more serious than broken bones and physical injuries that heal. I have had the triggers of the firetrucks/rescue and a few others. But yes, any secondary trauma causes the stress to flow up and out of the cup... No longer is there room or tolerance. Love To You Sweet Angie!

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