That Moment When Everything Changes

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It has been several weeks since my last post and today I feel inspired to do an entry.  A topic that has been heavily on my mind throughout my life, and especially over the past couple of weeks, is how in any moment, your life can be changed.   This likely seems like such a simplistic statement.  Perhaps I am stating the obvious, but it is one thing to know it and an entirely different thing to feel it and live it.  In this post I am going to focus specifically on traumatic moments of change mostly because that is what feels present for me in this moment.

As you are reading this post perhaps you are recalling a moment in your life that changed you.  Sadly, people are enduring traumatic moments every second of every day.  If you are someone who has endured a traumatic moment/experience in your life, have you ever really thought about how this moments shaped you? How your life was changed forever? How it made you look at life differently? Perhaps how it prompted you to reevaluate what you thought were core relationships in your life? Or perhaps even the relationship you have/have with yourself?   There can be a lot of reflection and exploration which may occur as a result of a traumatic moment, that can literally change your life forever. One thing that is vital for someone who is enduring or endured a traumatic event is the presence of proper and consistent emotional support.  If you endured a trauma or are in the process of of working through trauma and you do not/ did not have the proper emotional support, it is possible that the event can get “stuck” in your nervous system which will lead to long lasting distress, relationship problems, or addictive tendencies. On the flip side, research shows that many people report psychological growth and positive psychological changes resulting from highly stressful events. This growth does not “undo” the negative effects, but may co-exist with them.

Researchers have studied people who endured accidents, serious illness, and death of a loved one and have found that  social support and relationships with others in the time period following the event are key predictors of psychological recovery. Difficult experiences can deepen our bonds with family and friends, and they give us the opportunity to see how deeply people care for us. We may gain a new appreciation for the relationships we have and realize we can trust others to listen, care, and help. Of course, when family and friends are unsupportive or inconsistent in their care and support, the opposite effect can happen which may leave us feeling even more alone.

On the realm of enduring a traumatic event, one thing that becomes very evident is who your support network really is.  One often learns, if not right away but over their course of recovery, who they can lean on and who they cannot.  Sometimes this in and of itself adds to the trauma.  People whom you thought would be there for you no matter what may suddenly only be there out of obligation or convenience.  However, others  whom you never thought or expected to be there can pull through with such a capacity to exude compassion, support, care, and concern.  Of course, it can be disheartening when you come to learn that the people you thought would make you a priority through such a trauma are absent or are only there when it is convenient, but perhaps the life lesson in this is that you got to learn this.  Yes, it would be nice to learn this lesson through less traumatic events, but it is still a lesson.  In essence, relationships and friendships are not just about being there when it is convenient, but mostly about being there when it is not.. It is important, perhaps, to be aware of the people who tend to drift during this time or place you on the back burner when you are no longer of service or value to them. It is really all about giving you more awareness.

A possible risk factor that some individuals develop is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The individual who endured the trauma is at a greater risk of developing PTSD if they have a history of prior exposure to trauma, have a biological or psychological tendency toward anxiety or distress, and/or live or work in a unsafe environment. However, there are some factors that increase the likelihood that an individual will recover from the trauma without developing PTSD and this once again comes back to having a reliable and consistent support system.

There can also be some positive associations and outcomes through enduring traumatic moments of change. One of them is that we may learn a lot about ourselves.  In the moment when our life feels like it is forever changed, we learn a new way of living and being.  Depending on the life changing event, we may be able to deepen our relationship with our “self” and/or learn something about ourselves that we otherwise were too busy to learn prior to the life changing moment.  You see, that is just it.  We are often so busy doing things, running from appointment to appointment, that we have our priorities all wrong.  Often when we endure a moment of change it is like time stops.  We are present and in the moment and perhaps terrified all at the same time.  If the moment of change was something that “happened to you” as opposed to something you planned and executed it can be really terrifying as it leaves you in a place of being entirely out of control and exceptionally vulnerable.

If you are reading this post and you feel you are someone who has never really gone through any real life changing moments, then try to imagine what it would be life if you were to endure one? How would you like other people to respond? How would you like to be treated? How do you think you may cope?

Working through a traumatic life changing event can feel like a tiresome battle, but it can also alter your life in a way that you never thought possible, if you let it. If you are supporting someone who is working through a traumatic event it is important to be constant, consistent, loving, and reassuring.  This unconditional love and positive regard will prove to be invaluable, even when it may not seem like it is of any benefit at all. Working through trauma and navigating the various challenges that may arise can be very difficult, but it is made easier when a healthy support system is in place.

If you have any comments on this post, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.  Thank you for reading.

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