What is Trauma?
The answer to this complicated question is unique to each individual. What is traumatic to one person may not be experienced as traumatic by the next. Each experience is valid.
Most people think of trauma, such as war, natural disasters, car accidents, and physical/sexual assault. But other, less obvious experiences can still have a negative impact on a person and can be considered traumatic. These events include divorce, witnessing injury to another person, infidelity, verbal abuse, a parent with mental illness, or experiencing painful medical procedures. Also, the absence of needed developmental experiences can be traumatic. These absences include neglect, social isolation or rejection, frequent moves, or changes in caregivers. Although these events may be overlooked or minimized by those around you, this makes them no less meaningful or impactful.
In the trauma field we use the term complex or developmental trauma to refer to repetitive, on-going abuse or neglect typically beginning in childhood within the family. This type of trauma has a lasting effect on how your identity and relationships develop.
What is PTSD?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a diagnosis which captures some of the problematic symptoms that can develop when trauma occurs. These symptoms are common reactions to a traumatic experience and typically resolve within a month. These symptoms include intrusive symptoms: or re-experiencing, avoidance, changes to your thinking and mood, and changes in arousal and reactivity.
What is dissociation?
Dissociation is when the brain does not integrate all the aspects of a situation, experience, or personality in a unified, cohesive manner. Dissociation is a misunderstood and often stigmatized experience. There are a range of dissociative experiences from mild to severe and include:
- Feeling as though your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, aren’t yours
- Significant gaps in your memory
- A sense of unreality, like you are detached from your body, or being an outside observer.
- A sense of unreality or detachment from your surroundings, the world seems dreamlike
- Feeling as though you are more than one person
Dissociation is an incredibly creative and powerful coping skill your mind has developed to help you disconnect from what is happening so you are then able to go on as if nothing has occurred. The problem is that it can become an automatic when bad or overwhelming things happen.
How I work with trauma, PTSD and Dissociation
I am an EMDR trained therapist and this will be my approach to helping you resolve trauma and dissociation. I will work to help you stay in the present, learn how to cope with the past when it comes up, and start processing those negative experiences so that they no longer bother you.
First, we will help you get your most distressing and disruptive symptoms under better control. This includes a lot of skill building. Then we will address the actual traumatic things that have happened to you. It is very important to me that we work at a safe pace so I will need your feedback on how you are doing and any fears you have during the work. Finally, we will look to the future to help you integrate back into the world and back into ‘normal’ functioning and relationships.
You have taken the first step by checking out this website. I encourage you to take the next step and call me. I look forward to speaking with you and coming up with a plan to help you to let go the pain of the past, live more fully in the present and start developing hope for the future.
****Disclaimer and Caution****
There is a great need for people with dissociation to know that they are not alone and to reach out for support, information and validation. This need prompted my addition of resources here.
That being said, as with any mental health space, there will be people or resources you may encounter in online spaces who are not healed or healthy. As with any resource, what is useful and positive for one person or part may not be for others, and that is okay.
Evaluate each resource listed below and use your own discretion. I am always open to feedback if you feel that a resource listed below is problematic.
Well + Good article’s article “What Does it Actually Mean to Have a Dissociative Episode?” is a well written article on what dissociation is like and why it happens, and for which I served as a resource.
The Dissociative Initiative is the website for, by and about people with multiplicity, dissociation, and amnesia
PODS was a website with information about trauma and dissociation, it is no longer being updated but houses useful information
Many Voices newsletter for those recovering from childhood abuse
Peer Support for Multiples is a peer led support network for those with DID or OSDD
KinHost is a website for ‘encouraging internal community’
The Plural Association is nonprofit for plurals by plurals
An Infinite Mind is a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of survivors with trauma based dissociation
Research by Dr. Simone Reinders of Kings College London on dissociation
There are resources for Male Survivors as well
Facebook support groups:
AlterNation by The Plural Association for Dissociative Identity Disorder
The Dissociative Initiative On-line Discussion Group
Coming soon is a documentary I Am We follows several individuals with DID who attend An Infinite Mind conference of people living with DID
System Speak – a podcast by a woman with DID which documents her healing, her attempt to help educated others and fight stigma. It’s not about detailing her abuse history
For an example video of what it is like in the headspace of some people with Dissociative Identity Disorder click here.
DID Awareness Day presentation by the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation click here.