When I’m treating patients for depression and anxiety I of course take a thorough history. What is often missed is long-ago trauma that has been repressed and buried. Traumatic memories can re-surfaces in the middle phases of therapy when trust is well-established. No news here. But the news is that trauma lives in the body (The Body Keeps the Score) so when we go back to revisit it, the therapist must go slow to make sure the mastery of control is integrated into the patient’s story with care (Stolen Tomorrows). Since childhood sexual abuse of both boys and girls is in the news more than actual politics these days, there is no escaping the reality of the damage that gets done. Famous swimmer (From FL to Cuba), Diana Nyad explained this in one of her op-ed pieces last week as having life-long consequences.
Trauma actually eats your confidence.
You learn to bury your spirit.
You learn to be invisible.
You cry alone.
In the teen and young adult women that I see, there is much to be concerned about.
If your child is suffering from a traumatic event, here’s what should happen in her therapy:
1. The teen MUST be comfortable with her therapist.
2. The trauma must be acknowledged properly by the family and
3. Trauma treatment will take time.
If these things aren’t happening then the therapist must be inexperienced or afraid.
I can understand that.
Bearing witness to violence of any kind can be harrowing.
I recently watched all 10 episodes of the Vietnam special on PBS. Talk about relentless. I had to turn my head away for much of it.
And they didn’t talk about how soldiers ever recovered from PTSD after that debacle…They never do on TV.
- I recently had a patient who was abused at the age of 10 by an uncle. It didn’t come out until she had to write an essay about her life for a high school contest. While everyone else was writing about their trips to Disneyland, she was suddenly flooded with traumatic memories in which she had no control over what was happening. We took our time. She went over it but we added, that could not happen now. You are strong. This is over and those people are gone. I let her sit in the silence and quiet down her shaking body.
I have recently started meditating again. It helps a lot to soothe my own reactions to the horrors of our world. We can teach our patients techniques for re-telling the stories of their lives in a way that puts them in the driver’s seat, so they don’t have to be victims for the rest of their days. This ain’t for sissys…
For more resources see: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/family/ptsd-children-adolescents.asp