Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Traumatic Memories

When writer Annette McGivney set out to do research on a murder for a new book, she developed nightmares, panic attacks and insomnia. Her diagnosis was delayed onset post-traumatic stress disorder. The cause was 30 years of repressed fear that she had successfully kept a secret — especially from herself — that as a little girl she feared her my raging father would kill her.

“Most adult children (of abuse) reach adulthood with their secrets intact,” writes Judith Hermann, M.D., in “Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence from Domestic Abuse and Political Terror.” But “as the survivor struggles with the tasks of adult life, the legacy of her childhood becomes increasingly burdensome. Eventually, often in the third or fourth decade of life, the defensive structure may begin to break down…”

Annette writes: PTSD is not a sickness. It is the mind and body’s normal reaction to what is perceived as life threatening circumstances. But for adults who have experienced chronic, prolonged trauma — usually on the battlefield or growing up in abusive homes — this fight, flight or freeze reaction becomes deeply imbedded in the central nervous system and can make the challenge of recovering from PTSD daunting, and for some, seemingly impossible.

For her, the answer was in tackling the trapped energy - “the poison that lies beneath the surface”. Under the guidance of a trained trauma therapist, Annette was able to re-experience those episodes when she was on the receiving end of her father’s rage. Eventually, through Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) and Somatic Experiencing (SE) techniques, “That kid in me became convinced she was finally safe and could start to let down her guard… Instead of re-experiencing what actually happened, I chose escape. I envisioned calmly walking out the back door of my childhood home and down my sunlit driveway into the woods where I loved to roam.”

After three and a half years of working on recovery every single day, Annette remains on a lifelong journey toward healing and has found peace in the present.

Annette McGivney is a writer and 18-year Flagstaff resident. She teaches journalism at Northern Arizona University and is the Southwest Editor for Backpacker magazine.

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children