Trauma has many faces - rape, political terror, war, abductions, domestic violence, or an inappropriate touch as a child.
Secrecy, silence and selective forgetting do not help. The body and mind seldom forget. Trauma infects loved ones and family members even when they were never present during the violence.
Many times, symptoms may not appear immediately.
Survivors find ways to cope: addictions of food, sex, substance-abuse are rampant along with attempts to escape the pain through suicidal attempts.
Silence surrounds stories of trauma, so most often important stories are never shared even to intimate others.
"I have never wanted to burden anyone. I always felt this is my weight that only I should carry."
--84-year old female patient who sought therapy for "memory problems," "worry," "pain" who has endured the trauma of war by herself for 42 years.
"I was sexually molested by a relative when I was 6 years old. Even though my grandmother was a Jewish pogrom survivor and had borne unbearable trauma, I could not bring myself to share. I did not talk to a psychologist before because I did not feel that my nightmares would disappear if I sought counseling. I sought therapy now when the cycles of havoc I can wreak on myself have become unbearable and I don't have the fight left in me anymore."
--39-year old female patient who sought therapy for relationship issues
"I have always prided myself for being driven, independent, ambitious, and unfazed. I was molested and sexually assaulted three times even before I turned seven. I never reflected on the connection between those episodes and ability to commit, care, and love."
--35-year old male patient who sought therapy for relationship issues
"My mother's father sexually abused my mother and her sisters. My grandmother was cold, mean, uncaring and in her own world. One of my aunts committed suicide as a teenager and there is much alcoholism that runs in our family."
--50-year old female who sought therapy to address addictions
"The impact that it has over time on the asylum seeker is … a kind of demoralisation syndrome. And so, what you find on a day-to-day level, is that people relinquish their responsibilities of all kinds. They’re living in a wire cage, and their every need is being serviced by someone else, and they have no control over that. They have no control over when they’re fed, how long they can spend in a shower or toilet, they have no control over their lives, so people relinquish control, and they vegetate, they start to get into this dissociative vegetative state that we know is very common with trauma, and then everything suffers.
Domestic violence increases for example, in the heat, and the oppression and the monotony and boredom that goes along with it, we get lots of lots family domestic stuff to deal with. At the other end of the scale, you get parents relinquishing their authority over their children, because their children are cared for. Children go away to school during the day then Save the Children [which has since left the island] come in and do some activities with them, and they’re kept busy and … we find that the parents relinquish their parenting skills and their parenting obligation to the children. The children, you don’t have to watch them, they can run around in the compound, they’re not going anywhere. Parents dissociate from their children, and pull back."
Paul Stevenson, June 20, 2016, The Guardian
Untreated trauma is a ticking time bomb for mental health
People who survive severely traumatic events can develop post-traumatic stress disorder.