Can you identify a single incident that caused your realization of being under attack or did an accumulation of events slowly come to your awareness? Perhaps you haven’t yet come to believe the traumatic stress we have all been living under has taken its toll. Maybe you are right, and you’ve been spared but someone you know has not.
Some of us, in an unlucky position, able recognize the abuses and the abuser from the beginning had been dealing with our own mental traumas for years. The ability to recognize abuse and symptoms of traumatic stress disorders isn’t necessarily advantageous though. Neither is trying to warn those who believe they have the strength to endure what they haven’t yet understood.
Much focus has been placed on the behavior of the abuser, noticing every head nod and inflection of voice. The issue was how to stop the abuse but without understanding the point of the abuse. Attention has been rigidly fixed on a single target to the exclusion of even our own needs and in many cases our own health. The shiny object always remained in our sights and we all suffered.
In a few short years, all of us either have been traumatized or know people who have been. The ongoing and unrelenting psychological abuse is intended to bring us all as a people to our knees. The daily intention is to distract, disorient, confuse and divide and the methods were identified long before now. Once we recognize the behaviors for what they are, including our own reactions, we have a chance to begin to heal.
Do you or someone you know seem on edge, angry, anxious, or have trouble sleeping? Are you having trouble feeling happy or satisfied with the things in your life that used to bring you pleasure? Do you feel compelled to act, denying yourself a respite, or do you feel others let you down when they claim time for themselves? Do you feel helpless to control the life you see in front of you?
You aren’t alone. These feelings are shared by thousands, perhaps millions and are a result of constant attacks on our mental well-being.
Without recognizing they symptoms of psychological abuse some believe their negative feelings, which are the symptoms of trauma, might be useful as a means of fighting back. However, we humans no longer live as hunted creatures needing surges of hormones to increase our blood pressure and heart rates to power our muscles in escaping danger. Even when real lives are on the line, our thinking minds are required along with the ability to return to a resting state. I was taught long ago, calm is productive, panic is not.
Even hunted creatures rest, not remaining in constant states of anger, fear and panic that lead to physical illnesses. The term “toxic stress” has been recently coined for a constant state of unrelenting awareness leading to illness. It is often characterized by stress induced hormones, increased heart rate, shaking hands, fear, anger and an inability to relax that impairs the ability to think with rational developed plans. Sources don’t always agree about the origins of some psychological traumas, but it is becoming clear there are increases in anxiety, depression, and stress related illnesses.
Before we take on the attack that confronts us, we need self-awareness of our own mental state and that of those around us. Recognition helps us regain control of ourselves so we can then confront the threats we face in positive ways.
Having a previous history of life events that are traumatic makes us vulnerable to cumulative stress. A history of being “the strong one” doesn’t mean always mean immunity and could indicate an accumulation of previously undealt with life traumas. Caring for ourselves and about others, having strong support systems and providing support to others when recognizing the symptoms of mental trauma in non-threatening, accepting ways we build strong communities supporting mental health.
Then, taking steps to intervene is necessary. No one should tell someone else not to feel what they are feeling. Ask for help for yourself and encourage others to get help if any of the symptoms mentioned affect the quality of your life of if you are unsure how to proceed. Continued learning is necessary. Even if you are not affected, those around you certainly are. Wounded people need to begin to heal to be effective. This cannot be delayed.
We should first realize these stress symptoms that are the desired outcome of continued psychological attacks and are not coincidental to it. Then we can begin to learn how to start coping.
*I am a nurse on disability and a survivor. These articles are not intended to be substituted for professional health guidance.
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