What Did It All Mean?

Trauma Recovery


Demetria Slyt, Opinion Editor

Trauma is the baggage we carry that is often associated with a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, death of someone close to us, and many other situations. Everyone experiences trauma at some point in their life, no matter the age or gender of the individual. How do our brains react to these experiences? Emotional damage or trauma can stay with us for a long time. So much so that our brain interprets all triggers associated with that trauma as active threats, throwing someone into a state of severe anxiety or hypervigilance. Some trauma may be recognized as PTSD or other stress disorders. Trauma can have an impact on many different aspects of our character, and it can even impact our relationships or attachment style. How can we overcome the affects our trauma has had on our lives? What are the signs someone has experienced trauma? What are the phases of trauma recovery? Where can we find the help we need?  

 I have experienced my fair share of bad situations, many of which I recognized as trauma later on. These past experiences influence my behavior today, they influence how I treat others, how I perceive others, and have impacted my emotional maturity. Sometimes I joke that traumatic experiences increase “character development,” and that I am a better version of myself for having gone through it. I have heard a lot of people say that or something along those lines, and it makes me think that the trauma I experienced was good and that what I went through was just part of the process everyone goes through as they get older. You make mistakes and you learn from them, or learn from the mistakes of others. In reality, the experiences I have had were just awful things that happened to me that should not have. For the most part, sure, I learned to be and do better but… it has mostly impacted me in a negative way. I struggle with depression, anxiety, and many other personal issues but I am trying to heal just like anyone else; because just like anyone else I do not want these things to dictate my life or let them control me anymore. I am bigger than my mistakes. 

There are many stages in the process of healing from traumatic experiences and breaking down harmful or insufficient coping mechanisms, as well as desensitizing your triggers. One of the first phases of trauma recovery is finding safety and stability. This is one of the most important steps to start you on your journey. Individuals who have been or continue to be affected by trauma will often feel a heightened sense of danger or feel very disconnected from their own bodies, and especially in their personal relationships. In my own experiences I have felt something very similar. It can be difficult to reach somewhere that feels “normal” again. It can help to figure out what needs to be changed, or stabilized in your life as you move forward. Overcoming these feelings can take time and it all depends on the person. However, sitting with these feelings and working through them can make a difference too.  

Another phase of trauma recovery has to do with recognizing these traumatic events, remembering them and feeling what you have to feel. In other words, it has to do with remembrance and mourning. How we process our trauma, whether it be consciously or subconsciously, is a big part of recovery and restructuring our lives. This can sometimes happen as a natural part of the healing process, though it may be difficult to think about the things that you have been through. It may help you recognize the things that trigger these feelings and how to overcome those triggers. That brings us to the final phase of recovery. 

The final phase of trauma recovery involves reconnecting with things associated with your trauma and not letting them control you any longer. This can have to do with rebuilding or establishing new relationships with others. It allows us to integrate trauma as part of our story rather than something that defines our story as a whole. This phase is all about empowerment, self-realization, and self-resolution. It has to do with acceptance. The phases of trauma are much like the five stages of grievance in that regard. There are many resources available to us, as students and other individuals in need of help, that can move the healing process along.  

As always, the University of North Dakota has a lot of great resources for students’ mental health. This, of course, includes the counseling center on campus. They offer individual counselling, in-person and by tele-medicine appointments. They also offer larger group sessions, as well as treatment for substance use. You may schedule an appointment via phone call or by using the UND health portal; both listed below. Opening up to someone, in a safe and judgement free environment, can make a big difference in your mental health. Though, that may be easier said than done. It takes time to break through our personal barriers, heal, and learn to trust again. Big changes, in most regards, do not happen overnight but patience is key.  Have you ever been through a traumatic experience? How has it impacted your life? If you would like to share your own thoughts or comments or even offer any advice, you may reach me by email. 


UND Health Portal: https://undgf.medicatconnect.com/  

UND Counselling Center #: 701.777.2127  


Demetria Slyt is a Dakota Student Opinion Editor. She can be reached at [email protected]