Trauma means different things to different people. The thing that stays the same among all people who survive trauma is this: Trauma changes the brain. The brain begins processing all data differently than it did before the traumatic event. It makes new associations between danger and formerly innocuous things like a scent or a song.
People who have survived trauma are often left feeling completely alone. Being surrounded by support is not the same as having people who really understand what has happened. Sometimes members of the support system will get impatient with the behaviors or triggers left by the trauma, and the survivor can pick up on this.
Our Atlanta trauma therapists want to help loved ones of trauma survivors understand the isolation that trauma survivors experience.
They Don’t Feel Believed
Sadly, trauma survivors’ experiences are too often not believed, or minimized. Having someone tell you that what you went through “isn’t that bad” and that “people have it worse” or you “must have misunderstood their intentions” is damaging. Part of healing the effects of trauma is being able to acknowledge the ways that trauma has marked the survivor.
They Are “Othered”
Sometimes a trauma survivor feels isolated because they don’t want to talk about what happened. There are several reasons for this. They know how awful it was for them to live through and often feel like they need to protect others from experiencing it. Survivors will also intuit when the members of their support system start to lose patience or become irritated with the survivor’s “lack of progress.”
Because the trauma happened, the survivor also may lose a sense of being able to relate to others. Trauma changes everything, and the survivor may not feel like anyone can relate to them anymore. Even though you’re there offering support, they may feel completely othered and disconnected.
They Straddle Two Worlds
When a trauma happens, the survivor’s timeline is typically split into 2 periods: Before Trauma, and After Trauma. Friends and family have difficulty understanding why the survivor can’t “go back to ‘normal’” after trauma. The survivor has to learn how to operate in a new world with new rules and new behaviors/coping mechanisms. This process of learning to do things After Trauma, of knowing that though healing is possible things will never be the same is in itself isolating.
If you have a loved one who is a trauma survivor, encourage them to seek professional help. You as the loved one may find that you need support while the survivor is healing. Our Atlanta trauma therapists are here to help support you. Reach out today.