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Trauma Anniversaries - Fact vs. Myth

Discussion in 'Discussion' started by anthony, Dec 23, 2009.

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  1. anthony

    anthony Here! There! Nowhere! Staff Member Premium Member

    I thought this topic needed more information as I have been asked recently whether one must get ill on their anniversary. This very question stunned me for a minute; I asked if that is what they had been told. Well, to my surprise, people thought that they had to get ill on their trauma anniversary if they had one. I say if, as not everyone has a specific date in which a trauma occurred, nor do some remember them.

    There is no right or wrong to this, but there are some facts vs. myths surrounding a trauma anniversary.

    The brain plays weird and wonderful tricks on us at times; however, more so than most believe, you actually control whether your sub-conscious determines the specific day to be a further and ongoing threat to you. Everything we do is remembered, whether you can access it or not; what we see, smell, touch, taste and hear is remembered and stored in our sub-conscious brain. The only problem with retrieving it is whether our conscious can find it, or whether we want to find it. Some information becomes jumbled, some is stored accurately, though the conscious simply doesn’t want to remember it.

    So this means that trauma is stored – in that if sight, sound, touch, taste and smell are all stored within our sub-conscious brain, that means our trauma is also stored. The date assigned to our trauma is typically also stored, as you either know it at the time or someone tells you after you wake up, depending on the event obviously.

    Now because you have this date assigned in your brain does not mean you must be ill that day for the rest of your life, because in actual fact it is only a date, not the actual date of your traumatic event, being the year and day it occurred. It is the brain’s conscious way of telling the sub-conscious to punish itself, and punish the conscious mind on the day. It is to a degree, a choice if you like.

    If a person heals their trauma, then there is actually no significance whatsoever to hang onto the date or trauma anniversary, because in actual fact there is no such thing. The significance of applying a date to the event is yourself wanting to continue punishing yourself for the event over and over. This means there is guilt, pain, and emotion still lingering that is unresolved.

    If you want to actually become quite technical in this: a date only exists once, which means for an event it is a choice whether you celebrate it or mourn it – life, death, event, etc. You brain will relive an event if you choose for it to do that; however, you actually have the option to no longer be concerned about that date providing you have healed all pain related to the event.

    Trauma anniversaries are only as large or small as you choose to make them. They are no different to Valentines Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Birthdays, Marriage, Divorce, Death, Accidents and Incidents…and so the list goes on. You choose to celebrate or mourn any given day. You do this by thinking about the date, thinking about the event, then you choose celebrate, mourn or disregard as insignificant within your life now. If you have truly healed your pain surrounding an event that can be pinned to a particular date, then you should have no stigma remaining surrounding that date, hence when that date comes around the following year, it should mean nothing to you because the actual event was “x” year, not this current year you are within.

    You DO NOT have to mourn or have a trauma anniversary, it is a total myth that you must do so. It is a total myth that you must be ill leading up to it, on the day and even after it. Absolute rubbish. You make a choice whether stigma exists to the date or not, because the facts are that date is actually in the past and not the same day of the following year or years afterwards. This thinking only stems from celebration dates and those of death, typically where people want to hang onto the date, hang onto the person or event, instead of allowing their mind to truly heal the pain and let go. To let go you must heal that pain, which means the emotions.

    More importantly, letting go of pain does not mean forgetting a loved one / another who may have died as a consequence to your trauma data. There is a distinct difference between both rationale and logic.
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  2. epaklt

    epaklt Member

    I must admit when I read your post I was quite disappointed and extremely upset that you feel it is your right to be able to dismiss all people's trauma and memories as nothing but a personal choice that we dwell on. I went through a major fire (the largest fire in our Countries history) where many of my friends were killed in the most horrific circumstances. It was only through a miracle that my husband and I survived. It is now over a year since the fire but all of that evidence - sight, smell, touch is all too real, still. I look at it from my lounge, kitchen, bedroom, everywhere everyday.

    Those of us who survived, all have our own stories of what happened on that day, and as I still live in the area, I see the evidence of that fire EVERY day. This fire absolutely devastated our whole community, not just individuals. Nothing is the same here, we have to rebuild nearly everything, schools, shops, parks everything.. It is not just the anniversary that I find difficult, not to punish myself, but it is a reality of living here and something that people still need to consider as the rebuilding has only really just begun. Since, it was such a major day last year, the anniversary generated much hype amoungst the media and I couldn't read a newspaper, watch television or listen to the radio without some reminder. This only emphasised the anniversary as that day, a very specific day, in my life and it always will be, so for you to dismiss it's significance to me is not for you to say. Maybe, I am still very sensitive to this, but that is the effect of trauma and so I find this exert incomplete and disrespectful. I do not choose to punish myself and maybe I have not 'healed' yet but my life changed on that day and it still has not returned to normal and it is not expected for even the visual reminders to disappear within the next couple of years... I hope things will subside over time but to say the anniversary has no more significance than any other date on the calendar truly seems to lack understanding.
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  3. Nicolette

    Nicolette ♡ Supporter Admin ♡ Staff Member Premium Member

    I think you miss the point of the article and it will take you time to heal before you can read it more objectively. I say this personally having friends who went through the same fires.

    It is not diminishing your trauma or suffering but discussing that a date after the event no longer holds power on you.
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  4. Nicolette

    Nicolette ♡ Supporter Admin ♡ Staff Member Premium Member

    Sorry for the partial post but the internet keeps crashing and when I was posting on my phone it would keep ringing and thus deleting my post.

    In relation to what I wrote above; I myself have suffered multiple traumas, some life threatening, and if I was to honour each one by giving it an anniversary date I could spend weeks out of every year making myself worse in terms of my suffering and feelings towards the trauma. Instead I choose to accept that I suffered traumatic events in my life and every day since then has been a day of moving forward, trying to heal and overcome what has happened to make the best life for myself now.

    I have a scar which is daily evidence of one of my traumatic events. If you took away the scar, I wouldn't feel any less hurt or terrified by what happened to me on that day. I find relief in knowing I got through it and now I must move on. I had to go to court twice over one incident and the second time was more than a year after the event and I had to face my abuser but that was enough let alone making myself suffer ever year from the date he traumatised me.

    I still don't have any anniversaries as I have suffered enough and to me, an anniversary is honouring an event which took place on a certain date, which I don't want to remember if I don't have to. Yes thoughts enter my mind and I sought a lot of help to try and lessen the impact of these on my daily life - but for me I totally get and agree with the article.
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  5. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom I'm a VIP Premium Member

    For me this article was and still is one of the most powerful on this site. And also one that I referred other members to, who are suffering because of 'anniversaries'.

    For me it just puts 'that date' into perspective. Yes I have one trauma, one date - around 10.30pm, July 16th 1993, which was a Friday. We are conditioned to celebrate or mourn annual events. But really - does it matter?

    No-one is trying to diminish your trauma. I am no-where near 'healed', but I try not to dwell on that specific date - what good does it do me? Should I be particularly re-traumatized 10.30 pm every day? Or every Friday? Or every day in July? Or every year? or just every year that ends in a 3? My life changed forever on that day too, but just because of the way our calendar is set up, and anniversaries are 'supposed' to be celebrated or mourned, does not mean that I have to conform to that?

    Yes, I'm sure that you are reminded of the date every year, because your whole community was effected, but I would suggest that this date should be a celebration of those who survived and also a celebration of the lives who were lost. Again, no-one is trying to diminish the trauma you suffered, just trying to help you to survive and get through.

    I'm feeling like absolute crap at the moment. It's not my trauma anniversary. Does that mean I'll feel even worse on July 16th? No that is bullshit. PTSD has it's ups and downs. The only way is to fight to survive.
  6. KP the nut

    KP the nut Tigger is back!!!!! Premium Member

    I'm so pleased I read this. Mine is close 16th February 2010, 7.50am.

    I'm not dreading it, to be honest I don't know how I'll feel until it comes. One really good thing is that I'm seeing my T that day. He thinks we should be able to do some good work. It will also help ground me.
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  7. SAM1029

    SAM1029 New Member

    Good OP. It is only my annual ritual, granted, but instead of letting it get me down, I travel to my father's headstone and say a few words. It seems a bit silly to me sometimes, but it also offers a bit of comfort, even if there is nobody talking back. I like to let him know that I honor him and that mostly the sorrow I feel for him these days is that he never got to hold his one and only grandchild. I also use that date to consider all that has happened since his untimely demise, to see where I stand in life. I try to use that day to think positively, and if I have to feel sorrow for the loss of a loved one, which I still do from time to time, I try to do it in as healthy a manner as possible.

    @epaklt, it sounds like the incident you reference is still very much so fresh in your memory, and horrifically, life-threateningly traumatic to boot. But it is as Anthony said, the anniversary dates only hold power over us if we let it, and I think the conscience has trouble parting with the pain sometimes. Sometimes we don't want to allow ourselves to be happy - okay, back that up, maybe happy is a bit excessive - sometimes we don't want to allow ourselves to be content, or just okay, when we realize the earth has made another full revolution around the sun, and we have celebrated births, birthdays, holidays or just have had a few good days. Meanwhile, our loved one is still departed from us and not coming back. I have found that, while I still struggle with traumatic-related stress, I have found enough acceptance of history to allow myself to occasionally nibble a little morsel of happiness, or even meaningless gratification. Learning what acceptance is is not half as hard as learning HOW to completely accept it, especially when we all know there really is no way to ever completely 'get over it.' Almost a catch-22, but it is still the human condition!

    Also, just dropping another 2 cents in, I have only been back to the house where my father passed a few times since it happened, and the last time I did that was still in 2002 (the year it happened, as I had been moving all of my personal effects out of my room and over to my mother's). The location is infinitely more discomforting and liable to be a trigger than the date it happened, because the location presents to me the environment and circumstances where it happened, to my own perceptible senses. While I am wagering a guess that you and your husband and/or family put down your roots in that area, maybe it wouldn't hurt to take an extended vacation at least while doing therapy. If you can minimize the perceptual triggers enough to keep your stress level down, it might help you keep your cool!

    Be good to your bad self! ;)
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  8. anthony

    anthony Here! There! Nowhere! Staff Member Premium Member

    Nice saying....
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  9. Ayesha

    Ayesha After all this time? always. Staff Member Premium Member

    No problems with anniversaries here...sometimes I can't even remember what the year was. :confused:
  10. Iron_Angel

    Iron_Angel Active Member

    Some anniversaries just can't be avoided. I do not handle Remembrance Day (Memorial Day) very well. As ex-military there are just too many ways that day touches me wrt friends I've lost, friends still serving, friends still suffering. There's no point dreading the day, it's going to come around every year regardless. So I just try to be kinder to myself that day, take more in stride, and hide out when I can.

    I do agree that dwelling on a particular date is not good. There are better things to commemorate.
  11. Junebug

    Junebug I'm a VIP Premium Member

    IA that's not really only a past anniversary but also a 'present truth', too. But it says so much as to your compassion and love.
  12. blueangel371115

    blueangel371115 Well-Known Member

    How do we deal with a trauma that IS a birthday? My first occurred on my birthday and my second on my Dad's.
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  13. Iron_Angel

    Iron_Angel Active Member

    I don't mean this to sound facetious, but my suggestion is to change your birthday(s). My PTSD-suffering recovering alcoholic ex-husband made his new birthday the date he quit drinking. His own birthday used to bring him down, so now he celebrates a day that holds hope and happiness for him.

    I'd even go so far as to put some Wite-out over the real date on the calendar and have two of the day before or the day after. Other dates like Easter and Passover slide on the calendar, why can't birthdays? http://www.ptsdforum.org/c/styles/default/xenforo/smilies/wink.png
  14. anthony

    anthony Here! There! Nowhere! Staff Member Premium Member

    Valid... the problem with the brain, is that people limit themselves. Exactly as mentioned above, you do get to make your own rules for how you want to handle things... if they affect you negatively, and you don't like it, then you get to create things to enact change for a positive in your life. There are no such things as hard and fast rules when it comes to your own self management techniques.

    This is why this is posted.... because there is zero requirement that you need to, or have to suffer on a trauma anniversary, and in fact you can change them to a celebration of learning behaviour, self improvement, etc.
  15. Froggie

    Froggie When it seems impossible, the possible happens

    One of the dates coincides with my daughter-in-law's birthday and it was hard for me to concentrate my thoughts on her birthday while I was still with the police saga. This year, I had to really force myself seeing the saga was over ... I promised myself that 2011 was going to be the start of taking care of myself, to get something else out of life and recontact with family life. For the rest, well that will come later ... no time limits, just goals ...nothing rigid either, not with PTSD ... that's for da*% sure
  16. KP the nut

    KP the nut Tigger is back!!!!! Premium Member

    My trauma occured on the Tuesday of a half term school holiday, I'd had the Monday as leave so the Tuesday was after a long weekend. I was back at work when the next half term holiday came around. Again the Monday had been a holiday and I drove to work on the Tuesday morning. I was nervous, apprehensive living the almost fatal journey. I gave a huge sigh of relief when I arrived at work safely. I turned the engine off and as I was gathering my bags. The car jolted, there was a bang - I'd been hit by someone trying to park next to me. http://www.ptsdforum.org/c/styles/default/xenforo/smilies/mad.png
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  17. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom I'm a VIP Premium Member

    I totally understand the whole 'trauma anniversary' thing. I really do. but I really think it's a case of mind over matter. KP - your experience, really is just bad coincidence.

    If you can't get a specific date out of your head, I really suggest you use it as a 'happy occasion'. A 'happy to be alive day'? or something along those lines. Do nice things for yourself, and celebrate your life!
  18. anthony

    anthony Here! There! Nowhere! Staff Member Premium Member

    You can make a positive a negative, through nothing other than thought. You can make a positive a happier positive, through nothing other than how you approach the positive. You can turn a negative into a positive through nothing other than your mental interpretation and attitude towards the event. You can turn a negative into a severe negative, wanting to kill yourself, severe depression, etc, just by how you approach that negative.

    How you choose to view things uniquely, per situation, is entirely dependent upon each person uniquely. Yes, there are physical factors and chemicals which cause some reactions, which enhance or promote a specific reaction, however; by understanding these chemicals, by understanding there responses and how they work, every one has a counter... knowledge is key with PTSD.
  19. brat17

    brat17 I'm a VIP

    My trauma was Dec. 16 2008. I know I associated the trauma with Christmas. During the trauma, I was trapped in an area of my home and focused on this green wall. A few months later when I got some motivation, I was determined to paint and cover up all the green walls. I liked the green. It was intuitive. Only about a month after it was painted did I notice that when I was standing in that hall talking to my daughter, I wasnt reacting. I realized that I felt calmer. As the 1 year anniversary approached and Christmas was coming as well, I scheduled an elective surgery that was very extensive. The surgery left my face swollen and bruised with drain tubes from my head and two black eyes. Later I thought that I had some irrational thoughts about choosing this time. I was in so much pain and guarding my posture and protecting my surgery that I believe that it diluted any thoughts that I would have had. I was busy nurturing myself. Others were probably nicer to me since I have teens. And most irrational, who would attack someone who looked like I did. When the second anniversary came around, I started getting fearful. When I thought about how I got through the last Christmas is when I really discovered my motivation for surgery. This year I decided to face it. It was fine. I really had no triggers or increased symptoms. Also, I dont think my fears are so much about being attacked as they are about my breaking down following the attack. I was injured and given many meds that I could not keep straight and I just wanted to sleep anyway. I was emotionally depleted. I eventually overdosed and was in intensive care and a psych unit. I lost control of my life, which is almost as traumatizing as the attack to me. I am glad to hear that we have some choice in the anniversary experience. Since for myself, humor is my best friend, I think I might consider scheduling any optional painful events for any family member just before Chrismas as it certainly redirects the focus.
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  20. brat17

    brat17 I'm a VIP

    I apologize for posting again, but I re-read posts and this is a very strong topic for me. I do know triggers and that it is not only dates but places (as sam1029 stated) and a lot of other things. For me (Christmas-the tree, cards, garland, cookies, wrap, etc) Im sure because that was what was around after, the green wall, police cars, cold weather, etc. I am not minimizing the date at all, but I dont want to give my power away. I dont want to allow a perpetrator to have this kind of control over my life. If I would have read this 2 months post trauma, Im sure my response would be different. Time alone will not heal me, it is going to take me doing things differently, staying logical and rational, using positive self talk, and maybe most importantly-reminding myself of my choices. Since this, its as though I have forgotten that I have choices. I tend to think-this is how it is, and its not true. I often underestimate my abilities and strengths. We are all survivors so we all have strength. I use to believe that I managed my life-so I did manage my life quite well. Now I believe my life manages me- for a big part, it does. I want to reverse it again. If I hold on to the belief that I will be haunted on a date, at a visual, smell, etc, How will that turn things around for me? After reading this again, I saw how "choice" effects so much for me. This has triggered a lot more thoughts for me. Thank you all for great posts.
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