Trauma Articles

Mourning Robin Williams: The Tragedy of Suicide

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

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I’m not one for celebrity gossip.

For the most part, I’m content to let the stars of Hollywood live out their drama in their own world of fame. There are very few actors whose lives I pay attention to, or whose deaths I truly mourn.

Robin Williams is one of the them.

And tonight I am saddened. I am grieved by the death of a man who made his living through his expression of joy and laughter, who lived with a kindness and dignity that is greatly admired.

I mourn a man who struggled with the massive burden of depression so deep that he simply could not find a way out, and took his own life.

Suicide.

He seemed so happy! She had so much to live for. How could he…how could she…why?

To the healthy, suicide makes no sense. To those on the outside of the intense pain and emptiness, the idea of ending one’s own life is horrific. This is as it should be.

But to those who have experienced that darkness and the feeling of unending despair, suicide can appear like the only way out of the pain.

Depression is a terrible illness that shows up in many ways. Some struggle with it their entire life, and for others depression manifests itself after a massive life change or trauma. Depression can be brought on by pregnancy or medical conditions.

Contrary to what many believe, your life can appear perfect and you can still be depressed.

You can be wealthy and still struggle with what Winston Churchill famously termed his “black dog”. You can have fame and fortune and love and admiration, and take your life. Mr. Williams did. While the world loved and saw a man full of talent and life, an actor whose work brought joy and tears and inspiration and understanding, he had a pain that was unbearable and unexplainable.

I believe that the line separating genius and madness is thin. Those with great talent can suffer unspeakable sadness, as Mr. Williams did.

We who sit and wonder at the reason behind his death will never be satisfied, because we will never fully understand. …


Animal Assisted Therapy

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

Eini, therapy bird at New Wings Counseling

Animal assisted therapy (AAT) has become the new buzzword in the field of mental health.

While animal assisted therapy was previously seen as an alternative treatment, it has become more main stream, and it’s now common to find animals in the therapy office, retirement community, and hospital.

All animals can provide love and friendship to those around them, but therapy animals are specially trained to be comfortable around people with disabilities, to not bite when startled, and to accept petting from people of all ages and conditions.

What is animal assisted therapy?

According to the Mayo Clinic,  “pet therapy is a broad term that includes animal-assisted therapy and other animal-assisted activities. Animal-assisted therapy is a growing field that uses dogs or other animals to help people recover from or better cope with health problems, such as heart disease, cancer, and mental health disorders.”

Animal assisted therapy has been studied and proven to work with children who have experienced abuse or neglect and for people recovering from cancer and other diseases. It’s been shown to be effective with veterans and their families. Nursing homes, libraries, schools, and even prisons have had success with bringing trained animals in to help ease tension, provide support, and comfort. Animals are able to reach people in ways that nothing else can. 

What makes animal assisted therapy work?

  1. Animals offer unconditional love. When someone struggles with depression, anxiety, grief, or loneliness, the world can seem a barren and hostile place. Animals can show a kindness and acceptance that bring healing. The simple act of petting a cat or dog lowers blood pressure and reduces tension.
  2. Animals can connect with people who have a difficult time connecting with people. This is particularly true for people with autism.  A wonderful resource is ASDA, Autism Service Dogs of America. It is not only individuals with autism who benefit from animal assisted therapy. As a therapist, I use …

The Newest Face of Trauma: Female Veterans

Monday, September 16th, 2013

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“Jessica” (pseudonym) was 18 years old when she enlisted in the Army. She was trained as a mechanic, and enjoyed what she did.

The Army provided her the family she didn’t have at home and a sense of belonging and stability. At the time, the United States was not engaged in a war. A year later, this would change.

Jessica was sent to Afghanistan. While there, she was injured when the truck she was driving hit an IED. After her body healed, and she continued in her unit. Like all service people who serve in a war, Jessica saw and experienced many horrific things.

After her time in Afghanistan ended and she was back in the US, Jessica’s body wasn’t the same. She had an undiagnosed TBI (traumatic brain injury) from the IED. She had intense mood swings. She couldn’t concentrate. She had nightmares nearly every night.

These were all problems that Jessica felt like she could talk about with other veterans, friends and family. Things like TBI and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) have become well known and understood.

What Jessica didn’t feel like she could talk about was the rape by her commanding officer, the very person in the chain of command she was expected to report sexual assault to, and who she looked up to like a father.


Pregnancy and Infant Loss: The Pain of a Life Cut Short

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Pregnancy. It’s a time when parents dream of the child they will someday meet, when they look through baby books for names, decide on nursery decor, and imagine what life will be like when their child arrives.

When these dreams and hopes are cut short by miscarriage, still birth, or the loss of life hours or days after birth, the pain is unmeasurable.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. 

The statistics on pregnancies that end in miscarriage or neonatal deaths (less than 28 days old) are staggering. One in four women has experienced this kind of loss. And yet there continues to be a shroud of secrecy about it.

Some women feel ashamed of their grief and keep it to themselves. Others believe that something is wrong with them because months or even years after the miscarriage or loss they have to hold back tears when their friends celebrate a new birth, a coworker announces her pregnancy, or they’re invited to a baby shower.

If you have experienced the loss of a child in pregnancy or after birth, whatever you are experiencing is okay. Each person, each family, experiences loss differently. There is no one ‘normal’ or right way to grieve a baby who is gone too soon.

Remember:

  • Your loss is individual, and there is no clear road-map as to how your grief will be expressed and experienced.
  • Many parents take pictures of their child who was born still, hold them, rock them, and talk to them. It’s natural to need to say goodbye.
  • Allow yourself to grieve and mourn the life that could have been. There is no time-line as to when your grief will ease.
  • It’s okay to talk about your child to others. Your son’s or daughter’s  life may have been cut short, but it still mattered and it was still real.
  • You may feel alone in this, but know that pregnancy loss is something that many, many women experience. Sadly,  few people  talk about it.
  • It’s okay to reach out to others for support. It’s okay to not know what you need, or to need different …

The Benefits of Group Therapy

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Have you ever wondered what group therapy is all about? Portrayals of fictional group therapy are all over; on TV, in the movies and in literature. But what is real group therapy like? And why would anyone want to open up their soul to other people who are not friends or family?

Everyone has been in a group of some sort. Most of people have been in many. In elementary school students are grouped together by skill level for reading or math. In high school they’re put into groups for projects. Adults are in work groups, church groups, AA, or groups of friends.

All these groups have distinct purposes: to educate, to construct, to build, to learn, to support, or to socialize. In a similar manner, group therapy has a purpose. This is different depending on what type of group therapy you’re in.


Grief, Trauma and Healing: When Mass Tragedy Strikes

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

On the morning of Friday, July 20th, 2012, the world woke up to the news that 12 people in Colorado had been gunned down in a movie theater.

It’s hard to fathom the immensity of hurt and agony that one single act of violence can create.

There is the sheer trauma for the victims who were there: physical wounds, emotional horror, heart break and intense fear.

There is also the grief and suffering for the people who loved the victims.

The trauma circle widens even more, to the rescue workers, theater employees, medical staff and neighbors.

More distant but still affected are people in the state, country and the world.

When a rock is thrown into a still pond, the water ripples out far beyond the point of impact.  In a similar fashion, a senseless tragedy that occurs in a violent and deadly way affects even people who have little or no connection to the victims.


 

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