It had been almost a year since I last saw her. Previously, we had unwound, unraveled and released decades of trauma originating in childhood and continuing into adulthood of over five decades. It was very challenging and emotional work that lasted over a year. Finally, the scary voices in her head became quiet, the nightmares disappeared, the hypervigilence vanished, the anxiety dissipated, and her confidence was at an all-time high. My client had reached that point in the therapeutic process that I could finally say, “I think you’re done.” She knew it, smiled and agreed. With a hug, I let her know she could always return for a tune-up if needed.
On this recent visit we greeted one another like old friends as she brought me up to date on her newly found growth and success. I then asked, “What brings you back to me?” As I looked into her eyes, I could see them begin to water as pain emerged from her soul. The tears began to flow and she described her experience of being triggered by a now infamous video. Specifically, she saw a video of Presidential nominee Donald Trump having a conversation, subsequently justified as “just locker room talk.” The lewd and explicit language somehow had awoken nearly forgotten memories from long ago. After watching it she began to experience problems sleeping, hypervigilence and fear. My client also found herself scouring the Internet for unknown reasons until she was finally able to figure why. “I felt abandoned, objectified, and discounted – as if I didn’t matter!” She was slowly recalling the memory of being groped while at work and being date raped while in college. Both experiences she blamed herself. Like Snow White, memories that were in a deep sleep for decades had awoken – emerging from the shadows of her inner mind.
My client had experienced an unconscious trigger that brought back frightening memories. Victims of trauma are often triggered by sights, sounds, smells or feelings that can cause intense emotional and physical reactions. My client had been a victim of domestic violence for decades. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reports, “1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.”
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. As described by the NACDV, “Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one partner against another.” Within domestic violence is a phenomenon known as the Cycle of Violence. In this theory rests typical behaviors of offenders. Those behaviors are: intimidation, emotional abuse, isolation, minimizing, denying and blaming, using children, male privilege, economic abuse, coercion, and threats. In a domestic scenario a victim can suffer from one or all these phases from the cycle of violence. Domestic violence almost always causes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Clinical mental health counselors who specialize in post-traumatic stress have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours understanding the psyche and how traumatic incidents have a seemingly impenetrable grip over the mind, body, and spirit. As a clinical mental health counselor who has specialized in traumatic stress for over a decade I am here to say that relief is available if you have been victimized. You do not have to be ashamed of your past or the fact that you need help. Nor, do you have to live in a constant state of fear. There are therapeutic techniques that can give you a tremendous amount of relief. With professional help from a clinical mental health counselor you can regain the life that was stolen.
The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) is an organization of almost 8,000 members. We have professionals around the country who have devoted their lives to helping others. If you suffer from domestic violence you should know that help is within your grasp. If you are not sure how to find assistance, go to our our Get Help site. We are happy to direct you to a professional clinical mental health counselor nearby.
Change can happen!