Please be assured, you are not going mad, you are not “over-reacting”, you are not crazy…… you have experienced a traumatic event and are having a “normal response to an abnormal event”.
Remember, everyone is different and our reactions and perceptions are uniquely ours.
However, Common Reactions Include:
- trouble concentrating or remembering things
- recurrent dreams, nightmares, or flashbacks
- mentally reconstructing the event to come out differently
- a sense of helplessness
- questioning beliefs, meaning
- feeling numb or disconnected
- sad or depressed feelings
- bursts of anger or irritability
- lack of enjoyment in everyday activities
- digestive problems or appetite fluctuations
- hyper vigilance, startling easily
- changes in sexual lifestyle
- sleep irregularities
- avoiding associations with the event
- trying to keep busy or distracted to avoid thinking about the event
- other atypical behavior, emotions, or physical reactions.
You are unlikely to experience all of the listed stress responses. You may experience some in a very mild form or very briefly, and none should become a long-term problem if you follow some healthy coping strategies – and avoid a few misguided ones.
First of all, just a few DON’TS:
- Do NOT let yourself become withdrawn or isolated during this time.
- Do NOT resort to overmedication or drug/alcohol use for coping or escape.
- Do NOT bottle up all of your feelings or fears; you may prolong the recovery process, not shorten it.
- Do NOT assume that your mental, physical, or emotional stress reactions are a sign of weakness, craziness, or loss of control, when they are probably a normal part of the recovery process.
It is important during times of extra stress to take positive steps to renew and care for yourself.
Here are some DO choices:
- Try to keep most of your personal routines in place, such as regular meals or other everyday rituals; these can re-establish some order when your life has been temporarily turned upside down.
- Just do what you can do: Even if you have little appetite, eat something healthy to keep yourself going. Even if your concentration is poor, it may still be wise to go to class (or work) or look at a book versus doing nothing at all. If you aren’t in a party mood but you do want to go out to be with friends, they should be fine with that if you let them know your wishes.
- When you can, allow yourself to feel emotions such as sadness, anger, or grief over what happened. Talking to others about your feelings is important. Make that long-distance call or write your experience down – whatever helps your mind digest this experience and put it behind you.
Seeing a Trauma Counselor is essential in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic incident, such as rape, burglary, mugging, assault, hijacking, or any other traumatic event that threatens one’s life and well-being. This can go a long way to helping the person integrate the traumatic experience and avoid developing long-term Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.