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What can I do to make this stop?


The information provided through Ask a Therapist is not intended to be a substitute for professional mental health therapy, diagnosis, or treatment. The information provided is solely for educational purposes. We encourage you to call United Action for Youth Counseling Department at 319-338-7518 and set up an appointment with one of our licensed mental health professionals to further discuss concerns and treatment options. If you believe you are a danger to self or others please call 911 or the crisis hotline at 1-855-800-1239.

Dear New Brain,

First of all, I’m sorry for the harm that you experienced from someone you trusted. You did not deserve it and it wasn’t your fault. I’m also very glad you reached out! It can be really hard to talk about what you’re experiencing and it’s very brave to seek help. You don’t have to get through this alone!

It sounds like what you’re talking about is trauma. The word trauma is thrown around quite a bit, but all it means is an event that overwhelmed your brain’s ability to cope. When you were younger, someone you trusted hurt you very badly. What you experienced overwhelmed your developing mind’s ability to deal with and process those events. Sometimes what happens immediately afterwards is your brain compartmentalizes, or boxes up that event and stores it away until you can deal with it later. At the time, this may feel like “getting over it and moving on with life,” but the memories are still there. For some people the memories start to come out after being triggered by one of our senses (a smell or sound that reminds your brain of what happened). Sometimes the brain holds onto the memories until it has the ability to deal with them in a way it couldn’t when you were younger.

Trauma changes the way our brain operates. The desire to want to go back to normal is understandable, and I like to reframe it as finding your “new normal.” I know this can sound scary! The good news is that we have the ability to retrain our brains after experiencing trauma. This is called neuro-plasticity, or the idea that our brains can be molded and changed. There are many different ways we can work to address trauma and heal from it. I suggest finding a therapist or counselor who is familiar with trauma (many are) who can work with you to address what happened and help you develop tools to deal with the many symptoms you listed. At UAY, our therapists work every day with people experiencing the impacts of trauma in their lives – I encourage you to reach out to us to see how we can help.

Healing from trauma is not something that most people are taught. You don’t need a new brain, you just have to learn how to heal the one you have. Please know that you are not alone and that there is support and healing available for you.

All the best,

~A Therapist

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