It all happened one busy Monday, in between unfinished deadlines and piling up of workload. The conversation suddenly ended, and it left him dumfounded. He kept looking for answers why it happened. He questioned himself; reviewed all his replies. Everything seemed okay.
His name is Andy. He considers himself as an introvert. There may be times when he can be talkative, but “that is different; I am not face-to-face with the person.”
Sometimes, people call him a “player,” claiming that he just wants to hook them into his “game”.
What not everyone knows is that whenever he starts to be close to someone, he (un)consciously builds walls around him, preventing anyone to get through particularly when he feels there is an attempt to make a deeper connection.
Andy said his intentions are always good. But most of the time, “I am read wrong and taken negatively.”
And every time that kind of thing happens, it just contributes to the sound he has been hearing in his head.
Sometimes it takes on the form of fear… fear of the current situation or the unknown. There are times when it invades his dreams, waking him up in the middle of the night with either a bad headache or heavy breathing. It is usually mistaken as stress.
A glass of warm milk or chilled rosé, a dosage of paracetamol or Valium, counting backwards from 100 while listening to calming music – any of these usually help, but only temporary.
“I found out a few years back that I am dealing with emotional and psychological trauma. I never knew I had one,” Andy said.
A type of mental health condition, trauma is a response to a stressful event. This is usually triggered by a terrifying situation, either experiencing or witnessing it firsthand.
Edgewood Health Network Canada listed down some of the most common symptoms of psychological trauma, i.e.:
- Disruptive recollections of the trauma, including flashbacks
- Emotional and physical reactions in response to reminders
- Negative beliefs about oneself or others
- Inability to feel close to others
- Being easily startled
- Emotional numbness
- Inability to remember aspects of, or all of the traumatic event
- Avoidance of anything that reminds one of the trauma
- Hypervigilance (Always being alert, scanning and assessing for threat)
- Difficulty concentrating and focusing on reality
- Inability to fall asleep or to remain asleep, frequent and frightening nightmares
“When I am interested with someone, to either date that person or befriend him, after a few days, all of a sudden I will shut down,” Andy said. “There are even times when I would literally run away towards the other direction.”
Studies show that trauma also causes anxiety. When there are frequent occurrence of situations related to what caused the trauma or constant exposure to trigger points – confusion and overwhelming emotional and psychological pain will set in – and these translate into anxiety.
In the Philippines, one in five people suffers from mental health problems. Between 17% and 20% of Filipino adults experience psychiatric disorders, while 10% to 15% of Filipino children suffer from mental health problems.
Dealing with trauma
“Sometimes it is better to be alone because you do not need to explain yourself or adjust to them,” Andy said.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are three common ways to cope with trauma:
- Avoiding alcohol and other drugs
- Spending time with loved ones and trusted friends who are supportive
- Trying to maintain normal routines for meals, exercise and sleep
How long will it last? Unfortunately, there is no way to find out since it is not possible to expedite the healing process of trauma. But the intensity of emotional and psychological pain reduces with time.
“I create distractions whenever I feel I am placed inside a box,” Andy said. “Just recently, when I did something like that, the person suddenly disappeared. I was left hanging, I felt like I was all alone.”
Distractions are created by anyone to give themselves breathing space, a moment to take a step back and look at the big picture.
Knowing the other side of the story
Before dismissing someone who seems “different” in terms of how he/she deals with situations, it is better to look a little longer first.
Here are few ways you can help someone who has experienced trauma, as listed by HuffPost:
- Realize that trauma can resurface again and again
- Know that little gestures go a long way
- Reach out on social media
- Ask before you hug someone
- Do not blame the victim
- Help them relax
- Suggest a support group
- Give them space
- Educate yourself
- Do not force them to talk about it
- Be patient
- Accompany them to the scene of the “crime”
- Watch out for warning signs
Keep in mind that it is not your experience/story that you can freely make judgements on, else “attack” it after feeling sour.
“Some five years ago everything fell apart with my life, in my career and health, my partner at that time chose to fool around and left me alone. It was shit. My friends told me that I was broken for four years,” Andy recalled.
That moment did not leave his mind until now. And it affected his trust issues with anything and everything.
A 2016 report by MIMS Today noted that in the Philippines, one in five people suffers from mental health problems. Between 17% and 20% of Filipino adults experience psychiatric disorders, while 10% to 15% of Filipino children suffer from mental health problems.
Unfortunately, it seems like addressing mental health is not yet among the priorities in the Philippines.