Healing Trauma: Victimization Has No Grey Area

"I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it." -- Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter
An important step in healing from sexual, physical, and emotional abuse is accepting that it is in fact abuse. There is no grey area. We know on a gut level what abuse is, and we know it is wrong. But for some reason it's hard to accurately identify when it's happening to us. Surely, in our case it’s something different. We think there must be another explanation.

Accepting that we have been abused means having to trust our perception and accept that something horrible has happened to us -- and will change us. It's much easier to see abuse as a grey area, as something "open to interpretation." Although sexual abuse and child abuse are both specifically defined by the American Psychological Association, in my mind there was wiggle room and I didn’t trust myself enough to label it.
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Brain and Behavior

Basic Information for Trauma Survivors

The symptoms of trauma often are mistaken for other disorders. Below is some basic information for trauma survivors and a practical list of things you can do after the trauma.

Trauma affects the nervous system at deep, pre-conscious levels. Traumatic memories are not stored in a place where thought and talk-based mechanisms are managed in the human brain. Trauma seems to be processed mainly by the instinctual part of the brain -- the part that makes you yell and jump a foot into the air when something startles you -- and it also seems to take up long-term residence there.
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World Mental Health Day 2015: We Belong Together

I’m a big fan of the singer/pianist Gavin DeGraw. As a writer, I tend toward musicians who write compelling lyrics, and he does that and puts compelling melodies with them.

World Suicide Prevention Day was about a month ago. About a month before that, I spent some time in a psych hospital, trying to recover from a mixed episode. That’s a special piece of bipolar hell where you’re manic (bouncing off the ceiling) and depressed, often suicidal, at the same time. I maxed out two credit cards -- overspending is a hallmark of mania -- and yet told the ER doctor that while driving to the hospital, I kept thinking about opening the door and playing in traffic on Highway 52. Time between checking in at the admissions desk and getting a security escort to a bed on the mood disorders unit? Two and a half hours, shortest ever.

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Bipolar Disorder and Drug Abuse

It’s very common to find people with bipolar using drugs of one kind or another. If you were to experience the constant interference, disruption and pain that bipolar brings about, you would understand why one would resort to using drugs. Bipolar disorder makes it hard to get up in the morning, hard to hold a conversation and almost impossible for many to hold down a job. With problems like these it’s no wonder that medication is abandoned in favor of street drugs.

You see, medication doesn’t always quite hit the spot. Medical teams and patients spend years trying to find the right balance of medication. In the meantime, the patient suffers emotionally and psychologically. Often there is little support during this period as the patient is half better and looks okay -- so they must be okay, right? Wrong. That’s not the case at all. We can look fine and feel horrendous.
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On Living Simply and with Integrity

In her young twenties, writer and activist Eileen Flanagan spent two years teaching English in the country of Botswana, which borders South Africa and Zimbabwe. She ate, lived, and slept in a 180 square-foot mud hut and was quite content.

Then life got a tad more complicated… she married, had kids, and eventually found herself in a three-story house packed full of stuff: Barbie condos, Heelys (sneakers with wheels), Wii games, electronic guitars, and microscopes.

In her engaging new book,
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Memory and Perception

When Abuse Becomes Denial

“The victim who is able to articulate the situation of the victim has ceased to be a victim: he or she has become a threat.” -- James Baldwin
I used to think that abuse victims who lived in denial of their situations had to know they were in denial. Who could possibly ignore what's happening to them? Who could just pretend that nothing's wrong year after year? From the battered wife who claims "he's a changed man" to the alcoholic who doesn't "have a problem," I thought they had made a concerted effort to ignore reality. And then my own reality hit me.
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Succeeding in College When You Have ADHD

Navigating the first year of college is hard for anyone, but staying organized and productive is especially difficult for those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). My impulsivity and lack of attention caused me to attend four different schools and declare three different majors.

Once I figured things out, though, I graduated with honors and secured gainful employment. Now I’m five classes away from earning a master’s degree.

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My Public Apology to Everyone Hurt by Alcoholics Like Me

I'm deeply ashamed about these things I did.

Just a couple of short weeks ago, I celebrated being clean and sober for 31 years. Yes, it's been a long time, which can make it very easy to dissociate with the addiction-riddled man I was all those years ago.

Don't get me wrong, that's not entirely a bad thing. I don't want to live in the constant memory of who I was then and the things I did in my addicted years. I got sober to save my life, and I stay sober to have a life. My present is very good, so I don't live in the past.

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Responding to Humanitarian Crises

According to World Vision, more than 12 million are affected by the crisis in Syria. That is far more than those affected by Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquake, and the Indian Ocean tsunami combined.

Recent events remind us of a dark time in Europe when other refugees were denied haven and abandoned to fate. Once again, large numbers of people are targets of violence and trauma. After years of suffering, they have left their homes and everything they love and care for because life has become intolerable. They have endured a hellish journey to find safety. And then they have been greeted by faces and hearts of stone.

Thankfully, it seems that voices of compassion are prevailing and refugees are being allowed to proceed to refuge, as international law guarantees civilians fleeing war.

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Anxiety and Panic

Affirmations for Reducing Negativity

"Be the change you want to see in the world.” -- Mahatma Gandhi
Do you cringe a little when you hear affirmations? There’s nothing wrong with them, they just seem to be missing substance. You hear a cliche instead of something meaningful.

“You are much more than your opinions of yourself.” I know I’m definitely the kind of person who would roll my eyes at that statement, although I know it's true. It takes a little untangling...
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Anxiety and Panic

Overcoming Fear

We often hear how magic happens outside of our comfort zone. Sometimes, fear can hold us back, paralyzing us from pursuing certain ventures. Overcoming these fears and pushing personal boundaries can have boosting, beneficial effects.

“We’ve come to see stress as a dirty word,” said Carolyn Gregoire in a 2014 article.

In our comfort zone, little stress occurs -- it’s where we feel most at home.
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Anosmia & the Smell of Books

The shock came shortly after I had recovered from The Mother of All Colds -- a vicious, lingering, energy-sapping upper respiratory monster that I quickly communicated to my poor wife. Both of us hacked, sniffled and suffered with the thing for several weeks. I soldiered on with hot tea, saline nasal spray, decongestants and what seemed like quarts of cough syrup. Slowly, grudgingly, the monster relaxed its grip -- but at a cost.

My sense of smell had all but disappeared -- a condition doctors call anosmia.

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