Trauma is one of the buzzwords used frequently with regard to both mental and physical health. But what is trauma?
We often say that somebody was ‘traumatised’ by something that happened to them. Some events we would consider a serious trauma are: being attacked or raped, involved in a serious car crash, or the death of someone close. These are often called large T Traumas. Large T Trauma is more likely to lead to serious issues like PTSD (Post traumatic Stress Disorder).
But please don’t diminish the impact of small t traumas. These are usually events that are distressing on a personal level but not violent or life-threatening. This could include things like losing a job, a relationship breakup, or being bullied. The important thing to recognise is that cumulative small t traumas in a short period of time, or single small t trauma events to someone with a history of other trauma, can still lead to significant dysfunction – with symptoms like anxiety, insomnia and depression following these events. Physical illness, like headaches or migraines, gastrointestinal issues and even heart issues like arrhythmias or palpitations, can also follow a period of stressful events that may not seem particularly major, but which have a combined effect if they continue over time. And of course humans are all different.
For some reason people, and even doctors, seem to struggle with the concept that individuals can react differently to an identical stressor. “But she had the same situation and she’s fine!” The belief is that the connection between stress and ill-health is the same for everyone.
So, this is where we come to the peanut. Give a peanut to three different people and notice what happens.
One person eats it and doesn’t feel anything, the second person wakes up with hives the following morning and the third dies of anaphylactic shock within 30 minutes of the peanut touching their lips. Same peanut – completely different results.
It’s the same with trauma. Three people see a fatal accident: one person will not be affected, one may be upset for a short period of time, but recovers, and the third person develops post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and may suffer with depression, anxiety, nightmares and flashbacks for years or decades. Same event – completely different results.
A person’s response to both types of events is a complex combination of body chemistry, genetics and epigenetics, lifestyle (and even their mother’s lifestyle before they were born), and their life experience. You can’t tell how an individual will react just by looking at them!
Retired medical doctor and author of a well known book on addiction “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction” Dr Gabor Mate is an addiction specialist who writes extensively on the impact of trauma on our health. In his new book “The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness and Healing in a Toxic Culture,” Dr Mate suggests we could benefit by viewing trauma as an internal wound rather than the external event that triggered it (because as we’ve seen not all people will be wounded by a traumatic event). When we see trauma as an external event that happened to us, there is no way we can change it – it is frozen in time and locked in the past. However, if we reframe trauma as a wound that we are still carrying in the present, this opens the opportunity for it to be healed.
While modern medicine has a tendency to treat everyone the same, here at Les Mariannes you are always an individual. We take a full medical and life history and then prepare the treatment protocol that supports you best.
Combining the best of eastern and western medicine, along with validated psychological and trauma care, we provide a truly transformational environment.