Meet Jill: She looks, talks, and acts “normal”
Jill is a 12-year-old girl who attends 7th grade at a junior high school. She has a few friends at school and attends her church services regularly. Her neighbors, teachers, and friends see Jill as a typical, shy, pre-pubescent teenager.
On the inside, Jill experiences uneasiness. She feels deep down that something is different about her; she feels as if something is “wrong.” Jill carries around with her a secret. It’s a secret that Jill doesn’t even fully understand.
You see, Jill lives with her aunt and uncle. She hasn’t always lived with them though. Jill was born and raised by her mother during the first four years of her life. Jill’s secret lies within her; she doesn’t really understand the impact of her secret, but her body remembers everything.
Jill’s secret lies within her; she doesn’t really understand the impact of her secret, but her body remembers everything.
During the first four years of her life, she was allowed to roam the house freely, exploring everything in her environment. She was allowed to eat anything she wanted in the pantry. Jill was also allowed to play with the neighbor kids most evenings.
“What’s wrong with that?” many people would ask.
Well, Jill could roam around the house because her mom was either in bed all day or using drugs and not being attentive to Jill’s needs. The problem with Jill eating anything in the pantry was that the pantry was empty most of the time, and when Jill was outside with the neighbors, her mom was inside with no awareness of where her child was.
Jill experienced childhood neglect from the time she was conceived in her mother’s womb until she moved in her with her aunt and uncle at age 4.
The Two Types of Trauma
Neglect and abuse are very clear indications of trauma. However, it is so much more. We define psychological trauma as an unfortunate event or series of events that disrupt our daily functioning. There are two types of trauma: developmental trauma and shock trauma.
1. Developmental Trauma
Jill is a classic example of a child who experienced developmental trauma. Not being cared for, nurtured, fed, or provided safe shelter for over 4 years disrupted her ability to attach to a caregiver, learn how to love someone else, and develop a sense of security. At 12 years old, Jill still carries these gaps of development with her.
Here at the NeuroTherapy and Trauma Center of Utah, we have met many individuals ages 30–70 who still carry these developmental gaps. They wonder why they cannot connect to their spouse or why they live in fear that they are not going to have enough food. Their mind doesn’t remember their trauma, but their body always will.
2. Shock Trauma
Shock trauma is an event that occurs usually once and has a big impact in our life. It can be living through a natural disaster, surviving the death of a loved one, or being involved in a car accident. The big event comes as a shock to us. It was overwhelming. The event “shook up our world.”
Even though the event is over, we cannot get it out of our mind. We find ourselves constantly thinking about the event, and feelings of fear and sadness haunt our mind daily. When we experience trauma there are a lot of times when we can pretend to others that we are okay.
However, deep down inside, we know that something is wrong. We feel as if “I am not okay.”
If you think about how we grieve or experience our emotions, it’s difficult to explain how we do that as adults. Can you imagine how even more difficult it is for a child to express what he or she is feeling?
Children who have gone through a traumatic event often express their upset emotions through:
- random, unpredictable mood swings
- bedwetting into their teen years
When we experience trauma there are a lot of times when we can pretend to others that we are okay. However, deep down inside, we know that something is wrong. We feel as if “I am not okay.”
What Can I Do About Trauma?
The great news is that we don’t have to experience these debilitating feelings for the rest of our life. There is hope. There is treatment for the trauma we have experienced.
It’s not the typical treatment we may think. Sitting in an office talking about the trauma probably will not heal us. We need to re-learn how our body works and how to sense feelings outside and inside of our body.
Many people report that they “feel numb” after experiencing trauma. The first step of treatment is to FEEL again, but this time feeling in a safe manner.
If you or your child needs to feel safe and whole again, please give us a call at 801-855-7999. We can help.
At the NeuroTherapy and Trauma Center of Utah, we have found that talk therapy alone isn’t very effective for treating trauma. We combine counseling with two additional, very effective components for a 3-tier approach:
Our patients experience a high rate of success overcoming the effects of trauma to move forward with their lives and enjoy long-lasting results. Contact us for a free consultation.
NeuroTherapy and Trauma Center of Utah is located in Clinton, Utah and serves clients throughout Davis County, Weber County, Salt Lake County.