The battleground: Acknowledging and treating the wounds from trauma

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Talking about trauma is important to start healing, according to a local mental-health professional.

 “Most people coming back from war have some sort of post-traumatic stress,” said social worker and therapist Tatiana Percival. “It’s really all about taking that first step to get help.”

Percival said in her experience, many people with symptoms of PTSD think they can handle it on their own or feel isolated with their experience.

“Having a good support system is key,” Percival said. “Also, family members who have someone that has come back from war need education on PTSD as much that person does.”

Percival said it is difficult at the Veterans Administration to find that support because it is under-staffed and has limited time to offer the one-on-one attention most people suffering with PTSD need.

“That is the reason why I got into my field of work, because so many soldiers are coming back and there are not enough therapists,” she said.

Suggestions that may help people suffering from trauma are mindfulness exercises, guided meditation and good, old-fashioned camaraderie with like-minded individuals who have similar experiences.

“Part of trauma-informed therapy is being able to look at the trauma you’ve experienced and understand that it’s not your fault,” she said. “Also, having a diagnosis of PTSD doesn’t mean you are going to have it forever; it depends on what you’ve experienced and how close you want to touch on it that can be time-consuming.”

Percival likened a traumatic experience to being in a car wreck. She said most people who have experienced a car wreck have to take time to process the accident, but after a few weeks or months, the trauma begins to fade.

“People who are in combat or people who were abused as children, it takes them much longer to get through it,” she said. “We as a society need to realize that there are people among us who haven’t dealt with their trauma for whatever reason, and so we need to be aware and offer support when we can.”

Counselor Dana Moore, who has spent many years studying holistic medicine and helped create trauma-informed yoga, said finding the right therapy for PTSD is complicated.

“When you have someone dealing with a trauma attend, say, yoga for the first time, it’s harder to get them in sync than you might think,” Moore said. “Many of those suffering from PTSD have detached themselves from their thoughts and cannot find a rhythm with their bodies.”

Moore said when he began his trauma-informed yoga program in 2006, none of the participants could sync their breathing with their movements.

“You would think this would’ve been easy; I mean, this is beginner’s stuff in yoga,” Moore said. “But what we soon realized is that all of those in the class have shut off communication from their minds to their physical bodies.”

Another trigger he chronicled was how nervous the students were when the instructor moved around the class.

“The participants became nervous because they kept trying to follow the instructor, so they would know where he is at all times,” Moore said.

Students also had to get into positions that made them feel uncomfortable.

“There is a lot of heavy breathing, there is low light, everyone is half-dressed and then someone places their hands on you to help you pose,” he said. “This became very problematic and created a slew of triggers.”

Moore said it is important for those with PTSD to go to a class and gauge if the instructor and class are right for them before committing to lessons.

“Many therapists will just throw out there to meditate, and do yoga, but it’s deeper than that,” he said. “Yes, it is important to try and connect your mind back to your body, but it is also important that you and your instructor be on the same page.”

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