ARE YOU OKAY? This is how Kevin Hines starts his talks when he is speaking on his jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Although this blog is not about being suicidal, it is about how do we take care of ourselves and each other in the toughest of times. The lasting effects of the 58 precious individuals taken from us, the over 500 people injured, 22,000+ concert goers, and the rest of the world who have taken this in via news, social media, friends and loved ones, is endless. Then came the shooting in Texas where more lives were lost and a small town was changed forever.
As a result, I am hearing stories multiple times a day from people of how they are now immobilized and cannot function. Some people are unable to get out of bed, some cannot go to work, those who go to work cannot concentrate. People are scared of regular, every day, environmental noises. They panic when they hear a door shut or a car back fire because it sounds like the gun shots. Some people have a hard time being in a room with no windows because it reminds them of where they had to hide out. All of these things not only effect those people, but the people around them and how they go about their daily routines.
The big question now is how do we live for today, move forward in our lives, and cope with this tragedy and traumatic experience? In this two part blog, I will be first talking to you about what happens when people experience trauma and grief. Everyone experiences this differently. In the following blog, we will cover self-care: why and how it is important, and things you can do for yourself.
FLIGHT, FIGHT, FREEZE
- Flight response
- Have to be distracted and their minds are going in ten different directions
- Fight response
- Experience physical pain (nauseous, stomachache, headache)
- May feel the need to hit something to get their anger out
- Tighten muscles or clinch their fists
- Freeze response
- Feeling numb
- Forgetting parts or all of the traumatic events
- Feeling a sense of heaviness in their body
- Holding their breath (and not realizing this)
- Feeling unable to do anything.
Even though all of these responses are different, the ultimate goal is to get back to your regular daily routine and begin to process trauma you’ve experienced. When trauma, or negative experiences go unprocessed, it gets stuck in your memory (and often unconscious) the way you originally experienced it. This is in turn has you reacting to normal, everyday events, as if you were re-experiencing the trauma. As I mentioned earlier, the door slamming close can have you jump out of your skin as if you were reliving hearing a gun shot. Another example might be someone popping a balloon. That might also remind you a gunshot as well, even though it is a benign and minor action.
Please feel free to reach out to me or any of our clinicians at Engage for any local resources in Ventura County.
Norine VanderHooven is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been in the mental health field for over 30 years. She graduated from USC with her Masters in Social Work. She is currently in private practice full time at Engage in Westlake Village. Norine specializes in trauma, crisis, depression, and anxiety. Norine is trained in EMDR, and is passionate about working with children, teens, and adults using EMDR. She is on the strategic and social media teams of the American Association of Suicidology and often presents on suicide prevention and risk assessment. She feels privileged to be able to help people on their journey in discovering their authentic self, and working through any challenges they might be experiencing. In her spare time, Norine loves spending time with her family and their dog, as well as getting to San Diego whenever possible.