The Overwhelmed Aspect is another section in our series: Living With and Healing from Trauma on a Daily Basis. One might ask, “What is the overwhelmed aspect?” When I am discussing the Overwhelmed Aspect with my friends, they know what I am talking about because I have given it the nickname of “The Movie Reel”. Another one of my friends call the “Overwhelmed” Aspect a Whirlwind. So, my new combined nickname is the Whirlwind Movie Reel. It may sound funny, but believe me when I say that it isn’t a laughing matter.
What I have realized after having experienced compounded trauma in such a short period of time, is that the ability to handle stress is significantly lessened. Not only is your stress fighting abilities lessened, but your brain processing speed is affected as well. The overwhelmed aspect is a combination of the following:
Four Parts of the Overwhelmed Aspect
An acute traumatic panic attack.
Replaying the details of the stressful event(s) in your head over and over again.
The feeling as if you are literally in a whirlwind and can’t get out.
Images of the stressful/trauamatic events going around inside of the “whirlwind”, literally like a movie reel of events.
My Experience with the Overwhelmed Aspect
When I first experienced this, it totally knocked me off my feet. The whirlwind/movie reel effect was slower. Now, since God has increased my brain processing, the movie reel is faster, which makes me feel even more out of control when it happens. To be honest, there is no time table on when this will happen. It isn’t something that can be predicted. One day, one of my friends posted an article on Facebook. I decided that it was a good read since I have a teenage daughter. I clicked on the article to read it, but the article wouldn’t load properly. After trying for so long, and getting more frustrated by the moment, I figured that I would just read it later. I was disappointment because the topic seemed really good.
With trauma, sometimes one word can send you into a tailspin. After finally making peace with the fact that I would just read the article later, my brain opened up every traumatic event that I had experienced as a child. The whirlwind movie reel took over, and it took me a good thirty minutes or so to get out of it. What I have noticed as of lately if it happens, is that it is best to try to see if I can allow myself to come out of this whirlwind by giving myself permission to feel the pain from some of the events. I just recently learned that when this happens, this is a coping mechansim/form of dissociation as well. If we can feel the feelings a little bit at a time, we can more easily come out of it, and sleep better as well.
I hope that this series has been helping those of you who live with and are healing from trauma on a daily basis.
This is the fourth part in our series of “Living with and Healing from Trauma on a Daily Basis”. A couple of weeks ago, we discussed the triggers aspect. Today, we will be discussing the disassociation aspect. Due to the response that I received from my ex-husband years ago, I started stuffing my feelings. I can remember very clearly the exact moment that I decided that I would not cry anymore. I was on the middle level of the townhome, not realizing I’d been heard. At this point, I had been crying for almost an hour. He told me that I should quiet down or the kids would possibly wake up. He kept asking me for the reason behind my crying. I refused to tell him because I had already figured out that the knowledge didn’t transfer over to things getting better.
Handling the Pain
Fast forward several years later to 2012, when it became clear that we were heading for divorce, the pain, crying, and feelings came on with full force. I hadn’t cried for so long, that I had to relearn how to feel the feelings, if that makes sense. Grieving was difficult because I was afraid of being out of control, and the crying not stopping. This was due to stuffing my feelings for so long. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
What happened before, during, and after the divorce, including now, is that I have been living with managing trauma on a daily basis. When I finally felt safe enough, I was able to start grieving a little at a time. I quickly realized that the more you grieve, the less trauma that is stored emotionally, mentally, and physically in your body. The less you grieve, the more trauma that is stored emotionally, mentally, and physically in your body.
The Dissociation Process
What I didn’t realize is that along with living with trauma on a day to day basis, you are still constantly having more trials, bringing more compounded trauma, and your brain gets on overload. This is like a computer that has too many processes running at one time. What ends up happening is that everything locks up, and you can’t do anything. You have to reboot. It’s the same way with trauma. When you are so overloaded with compounded trauma, the one thing, no matter the intensity of it, becomes the straw that broke the camel’s back. You start numbing out, and then dissociating. Dissociation is a mental process of disconnecting from one’s thoughts, feelings, memories or sense of identity.
Prayer for Relief
You are probably going to laugh at this one. At first, I started feeling out of control because my feelings started coming back on line, and then I start feeling out of control when my brain starting disassociating from the feelings to protect me. I can remember one time in particular when the kids and I were living at our last residence, I was loaded up on trauma. It was so bad, that I started dissociating. Back then, I didn’t realize that dissociating helps to protect your mental state in these cases. I prayed real hard, because I starting feeling out of control in the state that I was in, asking God to get rid of the dissociation. He answered right away, and then all of the feelings came flooding through, with no bottom to ground me. That’s when even in this bad state that I was in at the moment, I laughed, and told God that I guess I’d better be careful for what I pray for. Now, I know that I just need to ride it out. Everything happens for a reason.
Please feel free to send an email or respond with a comment down below if you are so led as to how you deal with the dissociating side of trauma.
Hope you have a blessed night!
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; 20 he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.
I loved watching the Brady Bunch as a kid. I think every kid in the 70s and 80s watched The Brady Bunch. There was always some drama going on. I also used to watch soap operas starting in my teens. It was one of the many ways my grandmother, Mudear, and I connected. Some of the stories had you so caught up, that you couldn’t wait till the next day to see what happened. Praise God that in my 30s, God delivered me from watching those soap operas. The scenes got to be a little too much at times, and I was totally convicted about needing to give them up. It’s funny because when one of the scenes came on, my grandmother would say, “Oh shoot! I wish they would get to the other scene so that I can find out what happened.” Some of the scenes in the bible play out like a soap opera. The story that we are going to discuss today, should be sang to the tune of “The Brady Bunch” theme song: “Here’s the story of a sin called deception……”Strongholds are hard to break and they run through like cancer in our families. Let’s take a closer look at how the stronghold of deception took place in this particular family.
Isaac and Rebekah had twins: Esau and Jacob. Esau was Isaac’s favorite, and Jacob was Rebekah’s favorite. Rebekah decided to pull Jacob into the game of deception so that he could steal Esau’s birthright. Scene 1 plays out with Rebekah helping Jacob setting up the stew and clothing to trick Isaac. Scene 2 shows us a distraught Esau, who has missed his blessing.
Go out to the flocks, and bring me two fine young goats. I’ll use them to prepare your father’s favorite dish.10 Then take the food to your father so he can eat it and bless you before he dies.”
11 “But look,” Jacob replied to Rebekah, “my brother, Esau, is a hairy man, and my skin is smooth.12 What if my father touches me? He’ll see that I’m trying to trick him, and then he’ll curse me instead of blessing me.”
13 But his mother replied, “Then let the curse fall on me, my son! Just do what I tell you. Go out and get the goats for me!”
14 So Jacob went out and got the young goats for his mother. Rebekah took them and prepared a delicious meal, just the way Isaac liked it.15 Then she took Esau’s favorite clothes, which were there in the house, and gave them to her younger son, Jacob.16 She covered his arms and the smooth part of his neck with the skin of the young goats.17 Then she gave Jacob the delicious meal, including freshly baked bread. Genesis 27:9-17
As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and almost before Jacob had left his father, Esau returned from his hunt.31 Esau prepared a delicious meal and brought it to his father. Then he said, “Sit up, my father, and eat my wild game so you can give me your blessing.”
32 But Isaac asked him, “Who are you?”
Esau replied, “It’s your son, your firstborn son, Esau.”
33 Isaac began to tremble uncontrollably and said, “Then who just served me wild game? I have already eaten it, and I blessed him just before you came. And yes, that blessing must stand!”
34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he let out a loud and bitter cry. “Oh my father, what about me? Bless me, too!” he begged.
35 But Isaac said, “Your brother was here, and he tricked me. He has taken away your blessing.”
36 Esau exclaimed, “No wonder his name is Jacob, for now he has cheated me twice. First he took my rights as the firstborn, and now he has stolen my blessing. Oh, haven’t you saved even one blessing for me?” Genesis 27:30-36
Act 2 plays out in that Jacob leaves his homeland, never to see mommie dearest again. Instead, he is heading towards her brother’s home, Good, Old, Uncle Laban. Uncle Laban isn’t as nice as he seems because Jacob makes a deal with him to work seven years for his daughter Rachel. However, like his sister, Laban is filled with deception. At the end of the seven years, Laban gives Jacob Leah instead of Rachel. Leah gets to appear as the passive one, although she fully participated in the scheme, as Jacob did with Rebekah in tricking Isaac. Scene 1 showed the end result of how this played out.
Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, “I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.”
19 “Agreed!” Laban replied. “I’d rather give her to you than to anyone else. Stay and work with me.”20 So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days.
21 Finally, the time came for him to marry her. “I have fulfilled my agreement,” Jacob said to Laban. “Now give me my wife so I can sleep with her.”
22 So Laban invited everyone in the neighborhood and prepared a wedding feast.23 But that night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her.24 (Laban had given Leah a servant, Zilpah, to be her maid.)
25 But when Jacob woke up in the morning—it was Leah! “What have you done to me?” Jacob raged at Laban. “I worked seven years for Rachel! Why have you tricked me?”
26 “It’s not our custom here to marry off a younger daughter ahead of the firstborn,” Laban replied.27 “But wait until the bridal week is over; then we’ll give you Rachel, too—provided you promise to work another seven years for me.”
28 So Jacob agreed to work seven more years. A week after Jacob had married Leah, Laban gave him Rachel, too.29 (Laban gave Rachel a servant, Bilhah, to be her maid.)30 So Jacob slept with Rachel, too, and he loved her much more than Leah. He then stayed and worked for Laban the additional seven years. Genesis 29: 18-30
Act 3 plays out in that Jacob’s boys are out and about, and Joseph comes in his coat of colors to tell them about his dream. They decide to do something about daddy’s favorite, but not without deceiving their dad into thinking Joseph is dead.
When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him.19 “Here comes the dreamer!” they said.20 “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”
21 But when Reuben heard of their scheme, he came to Joseph’s rescue. “Let’s not kill him,” he said.22 “Why should we shed any blood? Let’s just throw him into this empty cistern here in the wilderness. Then he’ll die without our laying a hand on him.” Reuben was secretly planning to rescue Joseph and return him to his father.
23 So when Joseph arrived, his brothers ripped off the beautiful robe he was wearing.24 Then they grabbed him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it.25 Then, just as they were sitting down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking a load of gum, balm, and aromatic resin from Gilead down to Egypt.
26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother? We’d have to cover up the crime.27 Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother—our own flesh and blood!” And his brothers agreed.28 So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty piecesd]”>[d] of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt.
29 Some time later, Reuben returned to get Joseph out of the cistern. When he discovered that Joseph was missing, he tore his clothes in grief.30 Then he went back to his brothers and lamented, “The boy is gone! What will I do now?”
31 Then the brothers killed a young goat and dipped Joseph’s robe in its blood.32 They sent the beautiful robe to their father with this message: “Look at what we found. Doesn’t this robe belong to your son?”
33 Their father recognized it immediately. “Yes,” he said, “it is my son’s robe. A wild animal must have eaten him. Joseph has clearly been torn to pieces!”34 Then Jacob tore his clothes and dressed himself in burlap. He mourned deeply for his son for a long time.35 His family all tried to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “I will go to my grave mourning for my son,” he would say, and then he would weep. Genesis 37: 18-35, NLT
Scene 2 plays out in that after Joseph is sold as a slave, he is put into high command in Pharaoh’s house. Pharaoh’s wife falsely accuses him of assault, and Joseph is placed in prison. Joseph is released from prison after being able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. He is promoted just in time to save Egypt from a famine, and wouldn’t you know, his brothers have to come to his town to get food. Instead of Joseph deceiving and punishing his brothers, he chooses to forgive, and redeem the stronghold of deception.
Joseph could stand it no longer. There were many people in the room, and he said to his attendants, “Out, all of you!” So he was alone with his brothers when he told them who he was.2 Then he broke down and wept. He wept so loudly the Egyptians could hear him, and word of it quickly carried to Pharaoh’s palace.
3 “I am Joseph!” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them.4 “Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt.5 But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.6 This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.7 God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors.8 So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt. Genesis 45: 1-8, NLT
What does this crazy soap opera of events teach us?
Strongholds are sin.
Sometimes as Christians we feel that calling something a stronghold makes the sin sound better. Once we are able to handle the truth that our strongholds are indeed sin, then we are able to start doing something about the sin before it gets out out control. I struggle with the sin of perfectionism.
2. Strongholds become coping mechanisms.
I was born with an imprint of trauma on my brain due to slavery from my ancestors, a slavery-style caste system in the South that my family had to endure, and the continuing oppression of slavery “wrapped with a bow” in the city of Chicago. Trauma has by-products of criticism and perfectionism. Perfectionism became my coping mechanism. It has been a part of me since I was a little girl. However, it is still sin.
3. Strongholds are passed down when they are not resolved.
The hardest thing for us to realize is that our sin gets passed down when it isn’t addressed. God has spoken gently to my heart recently to deal with the sin head on so that my kids can see me walk in this freedom.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Romans 8: 1, KJV
The “Triggers” aspect of living with and healing from trauma on a daily basis can be daunting at times. There are days when my brain, emotions, and intuition are right on target. It is almost like nothing ever happened. Reality check! However, there are other days when I am going back and forth trying to decide whether my intuition and the Holy Spirit are trying to tell me something, or if I am just being triggered. In the beginning, almost everything was a trigger. Now, I am more evened out where most days are decent, but then other days my symptoms are running rampant, and I have to remind myself that my identity is in Christ, and it is the trauma talking and trying to take over, and to just ride it out. What I noticed is that with trauma triggers, the more you feed into it, the more your anxiety gets worked up, and thus, the more intense are the triggers. It can become a vicious cycle.
Dissecting the Trigger Cycle
One of the hardest things about previously being in a relationship with someone emotionally abusive, and having that person gaslight you almost every day, is that initially it makes you think that every person you talk to who is lying is trying to gaslight you. Because of the fact that our brains have been through so much, and is trained to react to certain patterns, it takes a while to get out of this mode. Full disclosure to help people out who have teenagers, and live with trauma on a daily basis: This can be some of the hardest times for you, as it has been for me, because teens take words and change them around from what it is that you are actually saying. This is part of their development. However, again, for someone who was in a relationship where they dealt with emotional abuse, and you were gaslight, and everything got turned around and twisted to make it seem like you were the problem, this can be rough. Reminding yourself that this is a trigger, part of their development, and will get better was essential for me. My therapist even reminded me, with these words: “This is going to be a hard time for you.” She wasn’t joking. Initially, I was discouraged. However, after time, things got better with this particular trigger. I pray that it will for you as well.
I hope that this series is helping someone who is needing encouragement as they live with PTSD and trauma on a daily basis.
You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
Today we are discussing another part in the series: Living With and Healing from Trauma on a Daily Basis. It took me a while on this healing journey that I have been on to realize that there is what is called an inner critic of trauma. The first part of the inner critic aspect of trauma is the critic that is someone else’s voice. This someone else may have been a parent, a friend, a relative, stranger, or someone else who said something in your childhood that rocked you to the core of your being. Their comments of criticism and negativity caused you to internalize what they said, and then live out what they said as if it was the truth coming from the bible. As a child, I was abandoned by my father, and because of this abandonment, I felt rejected. In a child’s mind, there has to be some reason for this, and oftentimes fault themselves for the situation. In my mind, since my father was no longer with my mom, and I felt rejected, then I concluded that my mom had rejected me as well. This set the stage. I was standing outside of my childhood church, when I overheard a comment said by one teenager to another: “Oh, her mom is so beautiful. I wonder what happened to her?” This became the first part of my ruling critic. It “sealed the deal” on my already low self-worth and insecurities about my appearance. The second “other voice” of my inner critic was that of my ex-husband in his brokenness, who used my low self-worth to keep me under his thumb. He would purposefully say and do things that would reinforce my low self-worth and insecurities. I had to begin the process of deprogramming my brain from everything that was said and done, and look to the truth of who God says that I am in order to regain my identity and self-worth in him. This process is one that is tedious, because you have to keep asking, “Are these words really reflecting who I am as a person, or is the “Other person inner critic”, and then telling yourself, ” I am fearfully and wonderfully made”.
The Second Part of the Critic
The second part of the inner critic is yourself. Yes, yourself. This is a hard pill to swallow. After being able to distinguish whether the critic voices are true to your sense of self or not, then comes the hard part of dealing with the lies that you have formed about yourself that the enemy convinced you of from day one. There are no fingers to point at this stage because the mirror is only reflecting us. These lies force us to deal with things by using coping mechanisms to get through life. The coping mechanisms are byproducts of trauma. Mine is perfectionism. This perfectionism starting off as overachievement in school, but by the time my brokenness met up with my ex-husband’s it went into every area of my life. However, there gets to a point on life, when God says, ” Enough! I freed you, and I want you to walk in it.” Our coping mechanisms only work so long before we are faced with walking the path of freedom from them, or having them to stunt our growth in certain areas. When we get rid of anything, it has to be replaced with something else. I have found that if I am not striving/perfecting/overachieving/then I need to be resting in God. I am not sure what your coping mechanisms are, but God can handle them all, one day at a time.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalms 139:14
No matter who we are, at some time or another, we are going to experience grief in our lifetime. Some of us will not only experience grief, but we will experience traumatic events as well. There is no way to prepare for trauma. It sneaks upon you out of nowhere, like an ambush. Grief can be this way as well. You are not prepared for either of these happening, and you don’t know when the symptoms will occur. I can remember times that I was in the grocery store, and I felt like grief was going to overtake me in the aisle. The symptoms of grief are different for everyone. Some of them may be:
inability to stop crying
physical pain and eye troubles
Job experienced trauma and grief. He lost everything that he owned in no time: everything and everyone except his wife. For some reason, ever since I was a child, I marveled over how there was always one person who was able to come back and relay the news to Job about the next devastation that hit him. I have been there with Job. When you get to the point of such compounded trauma, you just end up numbing out. Your brain just can’t seem to handle it all. Job’s friends came to support him, and they were fine until they opened their mouth. God ended up reprimanding them for going on and on to Job with wild explanations for his “suffering”: After the LORD had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has.” Job 42:7, NLT
Here are six tips to take to heart if we know someone who is suffering from grief or trauma.
1. Words and Physical Touch: Express to your friends or loved ones how much you love them with words or giving them a hug. If you are not sure of what to say, then just sit with them and say nothing. Sometimes we say the wrong things without realizing it, even if they are true. As Christians, we do know that if that person was saved, they will be in heaven with Jesus. However, it is still hard sometimes for this reality to be of comfort to a person. It is also hard for people to wrap their minds around the fact that the person is no longer suffering. It is still a loss to that person. Sometimes it is better to remind a person that you will be praying for them.
2. Meals: Offer to bring meals over, as well as setup a mealtrain with the small groups at church, as well as the neighborhood friends.
3. Calls and Errands: Offer to run errands or make calls to family members, friends, and churches to inform them of the death. Sometimes when we are in such shock, your focus and memory is off. If the person has a phone book or contact list, it would be nice to go through the list and call each person.
4. Babysit: Suggest taking the kids for a few hours so that the person has time to process and grieve what has happened without having to stuff their pain and scare their children. This is especially helpful if the children are young.
5. Pamper: Treat your friend or loved one to something that would make them feel good: getting a facial, mani-pedi, beauty or barber shop appointment, or a nice outfit.
For the next two weeks, I am going to do a quick series on the ins and outs of living with trauma on a daily basis. I am not sure how many of you have dealt with trauma in the past or present, however, it is something that is more prevalent than one may think, and a lot of fears have trauma at the root of it.
Women at 10.4 %, are twice as likely as men to experience PTSD. About 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma. I have been living with trauma all my life, unbeknownst to me.
What I didn’t realize is that a lot of my trauma manifested itself as fear during my younger years. After having compounded trauma within the last six and a half years, this fear effect gets multiplied. Unfortunately, when this happens, we can definitely pray, and start to take deep breaths to help ourselves calm down. However, the fear is so strong, that you would think that you are in an all out fight for your life. The fear gets multiplied by fifty.
About three years ago, my kids were at youth group at church, and a tornado swept through parts of the town where I lived, along with some of the other nearby towns. I was at home by myself. Praise God for community! My friends and I texted and called one another to make sure that everyone was okay. This discussion took place as I stood in the bathroom with the door closed, begging God for the weather to pass over.
My mother called to check on me since she heard that the tornado was headed our way. I could tell by the sound of her voice that she was nervous. I called the kids at church, and they stated that one of the youth leaders, who was a fireman, told them where to go, and what to do. I knew that they would be fine, but I kept wondering if I would be okay. The townhome that I was living in was surrounded by large evergreens on all sides. I kept thinking to myself, if they were just here, then I would be okay.
Deep down, I knew that my kids couldn’t control God’s weather. However, I knew that it would make the out of control fear that trauma had placed on me to loosen up. I shifted between being okay, and feeling like my whole entire body had been tied up because my muscles were so tense.
Thank God that the weather did let up. The tornado didn’t hit my side of town, but it did hit all around the church. God protected the church. All the while, as I stood there in that bathroom, God had praise music going in my head. I knew that it was his sign that everything would be okay. However, because of the fear from trauma, I must be honest, my body was saying a different story. My kids made it home safely that night, and it was just another testament to God’s faithfulness, as trees had been knocked down everywhere from the tornado.
Have a blessed night!
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:23, NLT