Don’t expect to find answers right away
A traumatic experience may eventually help you lead a more meaningful life – but don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. Even five years after her daughter’s attack, Mattern was still at a low point. She was depressed, had lost her faith, given up her job, her marriage was holding on by a thread, and her daughter was still suffering from her injuries. “One night I had a dream I was standing in a garden, one I had planted so long ago and forgotten about,” Mattern says. “It had been growing all this time, and was beautiful.”
She realised it represented her life, and that helped her turn a corner. “I learned that love of family, life and friends were the most beautiful gifts I could have ever hoped for,” she says. Even though the traumatic event itself was meaningless, that doesn’t mean that you can’t – eventually – derive meaning from it.
Reach out for help
What psychologists most wish people knew about depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues that can result from trauma is that help is available. In Australia, beyondblue aims to increase awareness of depression and anxiety and reduce stigma. Call 1300 22 4636, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Alternatively, Lifeline provides 24-hour crisis counselling, support groups and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14.
“If you find yourself struggling to meet your daily routine, and are having sleeping or eating difficulties, it’s vital to consult with a physician, nurse practitioner, or mental health expert to evaluate your health,” Serani says. Turning to alcohol or drugs to cope is another warning sign. “Support groups are excellent for children and adults with mild trauma, but for more moderate and serious traumatic reactions, individual therapy may be more effective for recovery.”
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