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Most of us have experienced some type of trauma in our lives. For many people, the effects of trauma can linger and get in the way of the life you want to lead. When your body gets triggered, or is reminded of the trauma in some way, it thinks you're still in danger and acts accordingly. While these responses are your body’s way of keeping you safe in the best way that it knows how, it can be hard to perform daily functions or have healthy relationships.
Many different things can be a trigger. Sights, sounds, and smells can remind you of some aspect of the trauma. You might find yourself at the place of a past accident. Maybe you saw someone that looks like your abuser or they were wearing similar clothes. Maybe you heard a noise that takes you back to that time period. Maybe you don't know what reminded you and it feels like it came out of nowhere. When that happens, it can be harder to recognize your reactions as trigger responses.
Responses to triggers can vary from person to person. Oftentimes, these reactions can look like:
Trauma is not just getting triggered, people who have been through trauma often experience feelings of injustice, anger, and self-blame. You might be having nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, anxiety, or depression. You might avoid anything that might trigger you, including places, activities, and people you used to enjoy. Maybe you feel like you're not the same person that you used to be.
Counseling can help you learn to manage these responses and learn new coping skills. When working with trauma, we aim to identify triggers or patterns, relax the nervous system, and process the complicated emotions that arise. Doing so doesn't mean we have to remember the traumatic event or relive it, it's about moving forward and convincing your nervous system that you're safe now. Healing isn’t linear and will take time, but counseling can be a safe space for you to start this journey.
SAFE Alliance in Austin provides support groups and resources for those who have experienced sexual assault, domestic violence, or trafficking. Visit their website, call 512.267.7233, or text 737.888.7233 to find out more information.
RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, has hotlines and chat support for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and other crimes. Visit their website for more information.
The Austin Vet Center offers group counseling for veterans experiencing PTSD. Visit their website for more information.
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van der Kolk, MD explains how traumatic events are stored in the body and brain. Van der Kolk explores how these systems affect survivor's behavior and emotions and what techniques can be helpful for recovery. You can find more information and a link to buy from his website by clicking here.
For those who have already read The Body Keeps the Score, here is a list of other popular books on trauma.