FAMILY FUSION: Surmounting stress
“I think you need to go through some stuff to really appreciate life and understand what it means to persevere, overcome and have faith. I think those tough times make you a stronger person.” – Judith Hill
Locked away in the secret chambers of a young female’s mind, was the horrific sexual abuse she encountered in the past. In order to keep the lid on her emotions, she occupied herself with a variety of activities, hoping to wipe out the painful memories of that ordeal which struck her at a very vulnerable time in her life.
Months after this young woman’s awful experience, a close friend, unaware of this past horrendous encounter, was telling her something that was completely unrelated to that experience. The woman suddenly began to weep profusely and aggressively attacked her friend who was left bewildered by her reaction. What this female exhibited was an example of post-traumatic stress.
In this four part series on stress, I have already examined the challenges of personality and non-personality driven stressors, as well as traumatic stress. Post-traumatic stress will occupy my attention today.
In traumatic stress, the reaction to the stressor is immediate. However, in post-traumatic stress an individual may not show any symptoms of the critical incident when it immediately occurs, but may exhibit those symptoms days, weeks or even months later. The impact on the mind, emotions and body is usually similar in both cases. The individual exhibiting post-traumatic symptoms must be taken as seriously as the individual whose reaction comes instantly on the heels of the trauma.
I recall a very good friend whose father died suddenly. She became very active in encouraging the other members of the family who were obviously distraught. She showed no signs of distress immediately following the news of her father’s death, although she felt close to him. She took over the planning of the funeral and was making sure that everything was in order for that day.
At the funeral I observed that she was chirpy and cheerful as she made sure that every individual was placed in their rightful position.
My friend seemed quite fine before and immediately after the funeral, but days after, the impact of her father’s death struck her and she could not understand why she was experiencing such anguish in her mind, emotions and body.
Post-traumatic stress has its challenges. Because abnormalities occur sometimes long after the stressful event, the affected individual and family members may become extremely concerned and may want to take steps to alleviate those symptoms. Understand a few things:
A. The same symptoms such as denial, feelings of going crazy, guilt, sadness, anger, sleeplessness and tiredness, which occur in the person who may break down and cry at the time of the incident, are similar in the individuals with post-traumatic stress. The only difference in these two cases is that in traumatic stress, reactions are immediate, and in post-traumatic stress the reaction takes place later.
B. Although in the case of the post-traumatic stress the time period for symptoms to present themselves occurs way after the event, the “treatment” is similar for both the traumatic and post-traumatic stressful situations. Within seven days of the onset of the symptoms, seek out a health care provider who is trained in critical incident stress management.
I know of good-intentioned family members and even affected individuals who had extensive medical and other tests performed when post-traumatic stress exhibited itself.
The medical results usually return negative.
The reaction to a traumatic experience is not an indication of a sickness but rather a normal response of the mind, emotions and the body to the event with the goal of bringing back balance.
C. I already stated in a previous article that if there are pre-existing medical and/or mental health issues, it is a wise thing to visit your health care provider to make sure all is well with you and your pre-existing condition.
D. When post-traumatic stressful symptoms are occurring, you are not at the disorder stage (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder). A disorder will be classified when your normal symptoms persists with a great degree of intensity after the usual four to six weeks time frame when positive signs of improvement should have taken place.
Consulting with your mental health professional at this stage may be necessary because there may be other issues that could be merging with the current crisis.
Many years ago I met a sharply focused individual who became my very good friend. I just enjoyed his positive approach to life and I have grown to adopt his style of doing things.
One day, I discovered that my friend had a post-traumatic stress experience that shook him. It all started to unfold when he was in another country and one of his very close buddies suddenly died; he could not get to the funeral.
It was painful for him, although he did not exhibit any symptoms that may be associated with a traumatic incident. He was able to visit the family members about four days after, and went to the grave where his friend was buried. It was at the grave that feelings of distress hit him.
According to one of his close friends who accompanied him, my friend “snorted like a horse” and then broke down in front of everybody.
This account is recorded in St John 11:1-35 of the Holy Bible.
This friend, Jesus, helped me tremendously when my father died suddenly. Because of the very close relationship we share, He became my main critical incident stress manager.
He did an excellent job of holistically imparting the stability and strength to absorb the shock of the trauma, which I knew I did not possess. This same Jesus, who is the only person who fully understands all that you will ever go through when faced with post-traumatic stress, extends an invitation in Hebrews 4:15-16 to you to come to Him for assistance day or night.
• Reverend Haynesley Griffith is a marriage and family life consultant.