You might wonder: So, what is the recovery process like? How long will it take? What will I feel like throughout the process? The answer is: Recovering is not easy. Recovery is often a life-long process. The duration and efficacy of recovery often depends on the nature of the incident, your experiences and understanding of the world pre-incident, your preparation for such an incident, and the support you received in the minutes, hours, days, weeks and months thereafter.
But, your recovery does not only depend on these external factors. It also requires self-understanding. This means not only knowing yourself but taking the time to become better acquainted with yourself and how you respond to the incident, to your support network, to treatment, and to your body and mind. As for the latter, this is something that no one can easily predict. Your body and mind will respond in ways the human body and mind were biologically programmed to respond kazillions of years ago for survival. So, understanding your own response to trauma will require patience, compassion and a sincere commitment to healing.
Don't give up now. You survived a major incident. You can survive trauma too.Overcoming the effects of trauma will likely be the most difficult, arduous challenge you've ever faced. Yes, EVER. People might think living and working in the field is tough. You might think the tough part was enduring the traumatic event. But, from the perspective of survivors, the most difficult part is often the recovery. Sometimes, you will feel crazy, frustrated, exhausted, depressed, and even ready to give up - whether on treatment or on life itself. You are not alone! You are not alone! We are here too! We are healing too!
So, don't give up now. You survived a major incident. You can survive trauma too.
To move toward recovery and help re-claim yourself and your life, the following is suggested:
MENTAL HEALTH EVALUATION
We know. It sounds scary. It may even sound stigmatizing to you. But, you're the only one stigmatizing yourself if you aren't seeking help. You're categorizing yourself if you are not recognizing that seeking help is the healthiest first step in your recovery. As we found, most people value this step and admire us for taking care of ourselves. So, see a qualified therapist or psychiatrist, who can assess how the trauma has affected you and what you can do, together, to overcome it. Therapy is not a sign of weakness. Not taking steps toward your recovery is.
TAKE A BREAK
Step out of the deep field, away from the location of the incident, and give yourself some much-needed rest and relaxation surrounded by those you love and who love and care about you. Breathe. Engage in activities you enjoy - whatever they may be (practice yoga, meditate, run, swim, hike, cycle, play other sports, read, write, paint, play a musical instrument, sing, act, learn a new language, discover something new, whatever helps you to feel energized and renewed, just do it!).
RETURN TO LIFE AS USUAL
This does not necessarily mean that you should return to the deep field or return to your previous job. Not at all. Only you will know what is going on deep within your body and mind. Listen to yourself! Listen to your gut! Do what is right for no one but YOU. If you feel and know that you are prepared to return to your usual job, that is perfectly fine. Understand the risks of re-traumatization and prioritize your health and well-being. But, if that feels right, do as YOU need to do. For many of us, however, returning to the same function and location as the incident triggered and re-triggered us into a mess. So, we opted to start anew elsewhere. This may be the best move for you. Choose what is best for YOU, your health and your well-being. Either way, determine with a mental health practitioner if your therapy needs to be continued. It may need to be continued for a few years.
Once you've progressed in therapy and feel ready to tackle other aspects of your life:
INTEGRATE THE TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCE INTO YOUR LIFE
Easier said (written) than done. We know. This is typically done in coordination with your therapist or a qualified mental health practitioner. This way, you ACCEPT the incident as part of your life experience. This requires that you recognize how your incident continues to affect your daily life, alter how you understand the experience you had, and help your new perspective re-shape how you address situations in the present. This takes time, patience, and a genuine willingness to be understanding and forgiving of yourself in the process.
Click on the links below to find trauma therapists near you.
Or, if you have had experience with a particular therapist and would like to offer feedback on your experience to help guide other aid workers in their search, please send us a message and let us know.
Survivors of trauma feel stripped of power and control in their own lives.
To recover, a survivor's sense of power and control needs to be restored. Without power and control, the survivor's sense of worth is deeply hampered and inaccurate assumptions about oneself and about the world, which set in with trauma, are maintained.
Appropriate treatment is essential to restore power and to help the survivor reformulate a healthy perception of oneself and of the world.
Trauma-focused psychotherapy is the primary treatment for PTSD. If necessary, it may be combined with medication to improve the effects of psychotherapy and reduce trauma symptoms.
Psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, or body-oriented approaches to therapy may be used.
However, there is no single, consistently prescribed therapy for PTSD.
Some approaches that are believed to be effective in treating PTSD include:
- Brainspotting (David Grand)
- EMDR (Francine Shapiro)
- Sensory-motor approach to trauma (Pat Ogden)
- Somatic Experiencing (Peter A. Levine)
- Psychodynamic imaginative trauma therapy (PITT) (Luise Reddemann)
- Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT)
Most treatment options have 3 phases:
- establish safety
- form a therapist-client relationship built on trust and understanding
- reduce symptoms
- stabilize the victim
- address the traumatic event (i.e. overcome the phobic avoidance of it) through, for example, desensitization to the traumatic memories, restructuring thought processes associated with the trauma, and mourning
- integrate the trauma into a meaningful life narrative (i.e. put the trauma into perspective by re-thinking basic assumptions about the self and the world and re-negotiating relationships or creating new ones)
- move forward by developing a positive approach to life
Resolution of PTSD
Traumatic memories may resurge at different stages of the lifecycle (e.g. marriage, divorce, a birth or a death in the family, illness, retirement).
To prevent needless shame or guilt, trauma survivors need to be advised that there is always a risk that PTSD symptoms will reappear under stressful conditions. No treatment is final or absolute and a return to therapy may be necessary.