During one night duty, I was called to examine a 7- year old girl who was alleged to have attempted taking her own life. This occurred in the late afternoon after she had paid a trip to the farm to assist her mother. Her mother was not around, so what did she do? Play with a rope hanging from a tree. Child’s play. She was brought in an unconscious state to the hospital on the brink of death.
To make matters worse, there was no one around to take a good history from, regarding the circumstance that led to her admission at the hospital. She was immediately sent to the pediatric emergency ward where intensive resuscitation began.
Notable in the history was a very intelligent girl who has had an absent father in her life, and had been taken into custody by her grandmother. Her grandmother had to sell produce in the market, in order to make ends meet and also fund her education in the primary school.
Unbeknownst to her, this child was crying every night on her bed, thinking of her plight and possible fate. She had no one to talk to, so she had to project an outlook that made it seem everything was alright, when everything wasn’t.
As she was seen at the emergency, she had dark marks around her neck, likely to be from strangulation (temporary cut of blood supply to the blood vessels of her neck). This mechanism could further reduce the entry of blood to her head resulting in cerebral hypoxia; which occurs when the brain does not receive enough oxygen. This phenomenon can occur when someone is drowning, choking, suffocating, or in cardiac arrest.
Her breathing pattern was also compromised, this could possibly be as a result of collection of blood in her lungs, because she had fallen from a tall tree or could be as a result of depression of the respiratory centre in the brain as a result of trauma.
I was in a fix because I could not take a reliable history. Sadly, this child was unconscious so her own words could not be put down. We had to assume it was her call for a help in a bid to make her struggles heard audibly. Her courageous way to effectively dealing with childhood trauma. Our role was to acutely save her life and to prevent such an act from happening again. It is therefore prerequisite you understand how to effectively deal with childhood trauma to prevent escalation into an untimely death.
What is trauma? Trauma generates emotions, that become stagnant in our mind and body, just like unpent energy in our subconscious, affecting our life until we uncover and process it out. The healthy flow and processing of distressing emotions: such as anger, sadness, shame and fear is essential to healing from childhood trauma as an adult.
When a child feels intensely threatened by an event he/she is involved in, that event is referred to as trauma.
Bullying, an experience in our primary schools is so common that it may not seem like a big deal. It is often a deliberate and an unsolicited action that occurs with the intent of inflicting social, emotional, physical, and/or psychological harm to someone who is perceived to be less powerful.
It has been estimated that up to 35% of people have experienced it at some point in their life. Another 20% of people who have been bullied also experience some kind of mental health issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder later in life. By adulthood, we are generally expected to have ‘got over’ it.
Another phenomenon know as complex trauma describes a child’s exposure to multiple trauma events which may have immediate and long term consequences. These traumatic events include emotional, physical and sexual abuse which can interfere with the development of a secure attachment to caregivers. This could result in the hospitalization of the child after being scarred emotionally and physically.
There’s a term known as Pediatric Medical Trauma. This refers to a set of psychological and physiological responses of children to pain, injury, serious illness, medical procedures and frightening treatment experiences.
When trauma first occurs, the child recognizes the violation that has occurred to their natural sense of self and feels the natural emotions that follow. The tough ones might suppress their emotions, rather than feel and process them; because they know crying and confronting people is not socially acceptable. What could feel as a pin-prick to an adult can feel like a stab wound to a child, creating lasting damage which could affect their future relationships, career, happiness and health.
To heal from childhood trauma, you have to complete the process that should have begun decades ago. “Start with the small trauma and move towards the bigger trauma.” You need to understand what this trauma is. Understanding means facing the vast array of emotions that come along with it.
Refusing to face the trauma of your childhood causes it to fester like a sore, staying in your body as unconscious energy that wrecks everything from your employment prospects to your romantic relationships.
Once you have identified your trauma and started down the road to acceptance, you will begin to heal your childhood hurts. There is no one-size fits all solution for coming back from trauma, but there are solid techniques that can help you create the space you need to get better.
1. Distance Yourself From Toxic People
Healing requires peace and quiet to grow, hence can not take place in a turbulent environment. Those who lie, cheat, steal or otherwise manipulate are toxic for your development and poisonous to your sense of self and wellbeing.
2. Learn Self-Regulation and Stress – Reduction Techniques
Stress has a funny way of forcing us back into the coping mechanisms and negative behaviors we developed as damaged children. By learning simple techniques like mindful breathing, relaxation and meditation, we can actively develop the distress tolerance skills we need to undo our traumatic pasts and learn how to stay calm with things that test our patience and push us to the brink.
3. Seek Out Support
Sometimes, it isn’t automatic to heal from the trauma of your past alone. It is common for trauma survivors to isolate themselves, but ironically, isolation is counter-productive to your healing. Simply connecting with others does not mean you have to talk about the things that happened in your past. It is imperative you voice out how you are feeling to someone you are confident in his or her ability to help you. It is perfectly fine if you show emotions. Emotions make you human. As a friend, one of the best ways to help is to simply as How? Asking ‘How’ can help empower them to take charge of their recovery as you double as their source of support.
4. Allow Yourself To Get Close to People
Trauma forces us into survival mode; a suspended state of animation that monopolizes and consumes our energy. Nothing melts shame faster than allowing the full weight of your heart to be seen by another person. Form your circle by finding a small handful of friends. When you allow yourself to be loved and you give love in return, you send the message to your inner child that your pain is in the past and you are worthwhile as you are.
5. Find A Trauma Specialist
Facing and resolving the pain of your past is not always something you can always do alone. It is necessary you find the right specialist when dealing with childhood trauma to help resolve past issues. A professional can help you uproot the problem and not just prune its branches. Healing is hard but living eternally in pain is harder. If you think you need more serious help, reach out for it.
Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated, the silent screams continue internally heard by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the scream, healing can begin
Thanks for reading