Treating trauma


By Debbie Ali

In my previous column I began exploring the various ways in which trauma can manifest itself in the lives of those who suffer daily. Today I would like to zone in on a particular plague, low self esteem. 

I am of the firm belief that this is the underlying factor that provokes depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and even the way in which individuals deal with pain.  On my journey towards healing, it was my self image that determined my ability to accept or deny the truth of who I was, of who I am and who I will continue to evolve into. Please note that I did not speak about the truth of how others viewed me, but how I viewed myself.  This is an evolving journey in and of itself but like everything else in life it takes work and time.

If you are prepared to put in the hours of work and conscious effort towards improving your personal sense of worth, then I guarantee it will pay off in the end.  If, however, you expect to try for a few weeks and then throw in the towel when negativity hits you hard then progress can come to an abrupt stop.

Here’s how I did it: first I needed to hit rock bottom and come to the realization that the self talk in my head was all negative.  “I no longer fit in; I’m not good enough anymore because of what happened to me; I am ugly inside and out; I am to blame for what happened; if I’m no good to my husband and family then what is my purpose in this world?” I allowed many filthy and untrue thoughts to roam freely through my mind all day every day until I believed them to be true.  They are not true.

You might ask how I came to that conclusion. Well, in hind sight I saw the truth of who I am, the beauty, the grace, the forgiveness, the peace and the goodness in my heart that no one in my life acknowledged except for my mother.

When dealing with trauma, the tendency is to focus on the tangible, the words out of other people’s mouths, the images placed in our minds by individuals who have no understanding of our trauma and the damage it’s done. Harsh words that the world puts out there are absorbed and internalized and sooner than you can imagine, the reflection we see in the mirror sends the same message back to our minds thus confirming ‘as fact’ that we are indeed unworthy.

However, we do have the power and strength of mind to change the direction of our thoughts; and no, it does not happen overnight and yes it will take time and work.  Needless to say there must be a grounding factor that will drive you to reach the destination of healing.  For me it was and continues to be my children.  Every time I looked at them or their pictures or smelt their innocence, an even stronger determination built within me to overcome all obstacles for their sakes. 

Believe me there are still times when I wake up in the morning and feel the need to stay eternally asleep; to return to heaven where there was only bliss and peace.  This desire to not be around anymore or to fight anymore will always remain with me, but it is at these times that I force myself to remember my reason for living. 

Your first step is to find a reason to believe in yourself, if not for your own good then start with an external factor. Begin with a reason to live, a reason to be a better version of yourself regardless of the unfair treatment of people and the world.  Nothing that happened to you was ever your fault and the guilt that burns inside was put there by others not yourself.  Listen to yourself, really listen to god, whomever you serve and you will find that you ought not bow to the whims of mankind but only to god and he himself says that you are worthy. Find that as your grounding factor, your reason to look in the mirror and see your true inner and outer beauty and the rest will follow.

Again I am not a licensed therapist, psychiatrist or psychologist but I do offer real, practical advice based on life experience. Look out next week when I reveal the practical methods I used to get through the days of dark thoughts.