Healing the Scars of Religious, Relational, & Sexual Trauma with Professional Support
Whatever happened, you survived.
And I'm so glad you're here.
When we survive traumatic experiences, it is encoded into our nervous system and manifests in both our brain and body.
You may notice feeling intense emotions at reminders of the event that you wish would just go away. Or you may notice that you "numb out" or "dissociate" to escape or cope.
As a therapist, I always use a trauma-informed, relational approach that puts you in the driver's seat. We will go at your pace.
My number one goal is to increase how safe you feel in your mind and body so you are free to build the life you dream of and feel confident being your true, authentic self.
You deserve to heal. Choosing a therapist that you feel comfortable with is critical to healing traumatic wounds. Reach out today for a free consultation to see if I may be a good fit for you.
A Refuge for Survivors of Single-Incident and Complex Trauma
Something terrible happened and, ever since, you haven't been like yourself. You can't seem to "get over it" no matter how hard you try. You're jumpy, irritated. Or you're checked-out, spacey. Either way, the people close to you are noticing and it's starting to impact your relationships with them. You keep having nightmares, you're scared to sleep, so now you're drinking at night to numb the fear. If this sounds like you, you might be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
Complex-PTSD, however, results from prolonged exposure to traumatic experiences. These traumas are often interpersonal in nature and involve significant betrayal by someone you trusted. The earlier and more prolonged the exposure to traumatic events like these, the more integrated your trauma responses will be in the fabric of your nervous system. As a result, it may feel impossible to separate who you are from what happened to you. This is CPTSD.
Dissociative adaptations to severe trauma are also common. In order to survive horrific, inescapable conditions, the mind has an incredible capacity to compartmentalize. This compartmentalization process literally kept you alive. But now, you're noticing that parts of you are popping up that are distressing to you and you're struggling to get through the day.
You are not crazy. You aren't "too much."
You are a survivor. And now, you deserve to heal.
Healing is within your reach.
It doesn't matter if the trauma happened yesterday, last week, or 30 years ago - you can heal from the traumatic events of the past.
The Ripple Effect of Trauma: Symptoms that Touch Every Aspect of Life
When trauma intrudes on a person's life, it's like a stone thrown into a pond: the initial impact is significant, but the ripple effect extends far wider than the point of entry.
It is this ripple effect of trauma-related distress that brings clients into my office.
The brave individuals that I work with in my practice are often reckoning with childhoods marked by sexual abuse, emotional neglect, and toxic religious indoctrination. Many are also navigating the complexities of dissociative adaptations to past trauma that are now causing distress and disruption to their daily life.
Understanding the signs and symptoms of trauma is crucial, not only for those experiencing it firsthand but also for loved ones and caregivers who might be supporting them through what can be a tumultuous journey to healing.
Below I have listed the many ways trauma shows up as "symptoms" in the lives of survivors.
Emotional Distress and Psychological Disturbance
Trauma memory is fragmented memory. It isn't uncommon for the overwhelming emotions felt at the time of the trauma to be stored in the nervous system like a time capsule, completely disconnected from the story of the event. When triggered, these capsules of emotional memory flood the survivor, resulting in an "emotional flashback." These flashbacks are extremely distressing in themselves, but they also tend to provoke secondary feelings of shame because the survivor often isn't aware of the link between their current distress and the past trauma.
Anxiety and Fear.
When traumatic memory remains unprocessed, the nervous system doesn't realize that the trauma happened in the past and that they are safe now. This can result in panic attacks, hypervigilance to threat, or an inescapable sense of dread that something terrible is about to happen.
Dissociative Responses and Adaptations.
In response to trauma, everyone dissociates to some degree. After a single-incident trauma, it isn't uncommon at all for people to experience dissociative symptoms such as feeling detached from themselves or their surroundings, as if living in a dream.
In response to prolonged, severe trauma characterized by relational betrayal and captivity, the brain and body make ingenious use of our inherent dissociative capacities. This can result in a compartmentalization of consciousness that is currently formally called Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) or one of several diagnoses under the umbrella category of Other Specified Dissociative Disorder (OSDD).
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
If the trauma memory is never processed completely, it remains in the nervous system waiting to be triggered. Individuals with PTSD suffer from intrusive memories, flashbacks, and disturbing nightmares. Understandably, the survivor tries to avoid any triggers of the event, often resulting in social anxiety and substance misuse. Healing from PTSD requires therapeutic targeting of the source: the unprocessed trauma memory. EMDR is especially effective at this.
Cognitive Impairments and Somatic Symptoms
Disrupted Sleep Patterns.
Difficulty falling or staying asleep, or experiencing nightmares, are common after a traumatic event. If the trauma at the root of these sleep disturbances are not addressed, the survivor is often significantly impaired in their ability to meet the demands of daily living.
Trauma can lead to difficulties with memory, especially regarding the details of the traumatic event.
Negative Thoughts and Beliefs.
Trauma survivors may develop persistent negative beliefs about themselves or the world, feeling hopeless about life or doubting the possibility of ever feeling positive emotions again.
Having unprocessed trauma is taxing to the physical organ of the brain, resulting in significant impairments to working memory and executive functioning. This can negatively impact your ability to focus at work, manage household tasks, or simply navigate the challenges of daily life in effective ways.
Trauma can manifest physically in the form of headaches, digestive issues, and other somatic complaints. These somatic symptoms are your body's way of communicating distress that remains unprocessed. Somatically-informed therapies like EMDR can directly address these somatic manifestations of trauma in ways that traditional talk therapy cannot.
Avoidance, Self-Medicating, and Self-Injury
In order to avoid the overwhelming mental, emotional, and physical experience of getting "triggered," trauma survivors learn to avoid the people, places, or activities that remind them of the trauma. While this strategy is temporarily effective, it ends up severely restricting your life experiences over time.
Addressing the traumatic memories at the root of your triggers will eliminate the need to avoid altogether, thereby opening up new opportunities for you to have an expansive, fulfilling life.
In a desperate attempt to cope with unbearable emotions, horrifying flashbacks, and chronic anxiety, some trauma survivors resort to using substances or engaging in other compulsive behaviors to self-medicate their distress. This is another example of a vicious cycle of avoidance that, over time, results in ever-increasing use of the substance/compulsive behavior that can put your employment, relationships, and your life at risk.
There are many reasons why trauma survivors engage in self-injury: to distract them from their emotional pain, to externalize their distress in the form of a physical wound, to punish themselves, or to snap themselves out of a dissociative trance. If you are struggling with self-injury, please reach out for help. You deserve relief from your suffering that doesn't involve hurting your body. Especially after everything it has already had to endure, your body deserves to be treated with compassion now.
Trauma in the Context of Relationships
Struggles with Intimacy.
Survivors of relational trauma understandably struggle with trust, intimacy, and vulnerable self-expression in their relationships. They may desperately want to be truly seen and heard, but cannot bear the risk of being misunderstood, rejected, or betrayed yet again.
It is common for trauma survivors to withdraw from social interactions and activities. This is especially true if the trauma itself was interpersonal in nature. The risk of opening up and being vulnerable can feel too
Toxic Family Dynamics.
The trauma survivors that make it into my office are often burdened with an inappropriate sense of responsibility for their family members' behavior. In families where abuse and neglect are normalized, there is by definition a toxic reversal of responsibility from caregivers to children. Even as an adult child of this family system, you should not be made to feel responsible for your caregivers' inability to protect, guide, and nurture you. Not then, not now.
Therapy can help you grieve the childhood you deserved, but didn't have. You will not be rushed through your grief. You deserve time and space to fully process this profound loss. Then, when you are ready, we can work collaboratively to decide on what boundaries you would like to implement in your family moving forward, so you can be free to live your hard-earned life.
great. Staying isolated is lonely, but it is the only way the survivor can guarantee they won't get hurt.
Let your healing begin today.
A consultation call is your first step.