Las Vegas Trauma

Nathan HawkinsCounseling, TraumaLeave a Comment

The tragic shooting in Las Vegas affected anyone connected to the event. This means if you watched it and could empathize, had family there, were in Las Vegas at or near the time or were actually there then you are affected.  Personally I was on a flight out just hours before everything happened. My mind often drifts wondering “did I breathe the same air as that person?” or “Did I sit next to a concert goer while in a casino?”

Trauma is subjective. That basically means that bad things affect everyone differently. Our connection to the bad event is one clear determining factor to how we go on with life after the event is over. 100% of the concert goers that night, regardless of how “strong” they see themselves, were traumatized. In the world of mental health the way the “books” discriminate what’s a problem and what’s normal is all by time and severity of the aftermath of the persons experience NOT the event itself.

All of those people talked about the event to each other over and over rehearsing it, processing it. That is one way we humans get distance from it and come to the conclusion that it is over. Indeed YOU probably talked about it with others several different times until it felt like you didn’t need to say more about it.

Then there’s another layer that can affect the traumatized. As a person begins to get distance from the event chronologically their mind seeks to process because it begins to feel safe FROM the event. So the mind randomly brings up information for threat assessment in our current environment (flash backs due to triggers) and may often rehash the event itself trying to make sense of it (nightmares) at night.

Throughout the normal process of recovery we only begin to diagnose Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after the event is 30 days old or more. Really, it gets most clearly PTSD at 90 days post event. To avoid “getting” PTSD it is important to talk through the event with someone and allow yourself to feel what you felt and to be curious about it. I often tell people to pretend you are a scientist and you are studying your own response as you think about the event, notice it.

Still sometimes symptoms linger. Thoughts intrude seemingly out of nowhere. Nightmares of the event creep in uncontrollably. We feel trapped in an ever repeating nightmare. This happens because when our brain goes into fear mode all the neurons that fire during fear mode wire directly together in an interconnected web. They crystallize as one. So when any one of those neurons fire again the entire network HAS to fire together. So thereby intrusive thoughts, nightmares and even creepy body sensations that can make you feel like you are going crazy!

Let me assure you…You are not crazy and this can be over. Your brain has just not yet fully processed the event. If you try what I suggested above for a few weeks ( 2 or 3) i.e. being a present scientist of sorts and do not seem to be getting anywhere, then you should see professional help from someone who actually works with Trauma.

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