🎭 on hypervigilance, trauma survival, and being understanding about it

a long thread;🧵
‼️ TRIGGER & CONTENT WARNINGS ‼️

abuse (emotional/physical), trauma, medication, pills, suicide, masking, bigotry, politics, psychology, ableism, self-harm, transphobia, appetite, depression, panic attacks
‼️ DISCLOSURES & OTHER WARNINGS ‼️

i am NOT a psychological professional. i took one year of psychology so i have little formal education on trauma handling.

HOWEVER, i will also disclose that i have been formally diagnosed with Dysthymia and Panic Disorder. [!!:1/6]
i will also disclose that my psychiatrist has noted that i have significant symptoms that point to Complex PTSD with ADHD manifestations, effectively making me neurodivergent (i can't formalize that, but i'm on ADHD and depression medication). [!!:2/6]
i also do NOT speak for ALL trauma survivors. ALL TRAUMA IS DIFFERENT so i would like to STRONGLY emphasize the need to ASK the person in question about their comfort and, if they do not WANT to answer, that you err on providing them CHOICES (more on this later). [!!:3/6]
i am an organized and queer natdem and it WILL influence how i write this thread. i am strongly believe that battling trauma and abuse, as well as survival as mentally-ill, neurodivergent, & queer individuals RELIES on fighting systemic issues that allow abuse to happen. [!!:4/6]
i will not be able to properly cite (twitter is a limited medium), but i will have tried fact-check, crossed with my personal experiences. this is necessary both for expedience and also so i can at least testify that this research holds up for us, materially. [!!:5/6]
i apologize in advance for any and all inaccuracies. i write this with the intent that those who are not as informed about how trauma impacts us will be able to better accommodate us. it is not uncommon for someone who is not trauma-informed to "not know what to say." [!!:#]
1⃣ THE BASICS OF TRAUMA

what is trauma? it is a highly complex phenomenon where an event strongly influences an individuals' thoughts and emotions. it may be temporary but it is possible that it irreversibly change the neurochemical make-up of one's brain. [c1:1/9]
does this irreversible change mean they can not recover?

no.

this change means that they may reframe life in relation to the event. they might see themselves as "before" and "after" the event. they may blame their traits for the event happening. [c1:2/9]
however, trauma is a complicated psychological event that requires a deep understanding of one's own life to fully process and this is how we must approach trauma of others.

it is an exercise of, not just management, but also self-understanding. [c1:3/9]
but because of the way trauma works, the main thing that we feel like we lose is CONTROL.

as people with trauma, we often feel that events just HAPPEN. we feel like we lose our ability to influence the world because something happened to us and we can't erase it. [c1:4/9]
this is very important to understand. trauma makes you feel HELPLESS. you feel like you are NOT your own, that you have no influence on your destiny.

you must understand that trauma is primarily a problem of grappling with Identity and Choice. [c1:5/9]
it is also important to emphasize that it is a highly fundamental thing for some to be traumatized. if you are traumatized AND you don't feel you have a strong sense of identity, trauma may COMPOUND and self-magnify as a function of social norms. [c1:6/9]
if you are, for example, queer without a community to back you, trauma may feel like you're defining your queerness through trauma. if you are, for example, a member of an indigenous community which your government tries to erase, it can be difficult to define yourself. [c1:7/9]
we can observe that Trauma is not ONLY an individual problem but also a SYSTEMIC issue that must be addressed on multiple levels. because we can define OURSELVES, but if you are being gaslighted by society that you don't, it can feel like a replication of the trauma. [c1:8/9]
ultimately, trauma will mark us. like has been said, "the mark will not go away. but we can make it a smaller part of us."

trauma can be defining for some. it can be trapping for others. often it is both. [c1:#]
2⃣ HOW TRAUMA IMPACTS US

trauma is difficult. it is very hard to feel like you are not yourself and like you have no choice in the matter.

i have made decisions that i feel were completely out of line for who i am simply because i just wanted to feel in control. [c2:1/7]
i have impulsively jumped into situations just to feel like i am able to find myself in doing so.

it is important to note that trauma survivors displaying unusual behavior after the fact is a means of coping. we are TRYING to solve our emotions. [c2:2/7]
trauma can cause a whole HOST of problems. it can lead to the development of other mental illness OR the activation/magnification of existing mental illness/predispositions.

during processing my trauma, for example, i've had to deal with a number of panic attacks. [c2:3/7]
trauma can also lead to things like
+ memory loss
+ difficulty regulating emotions (explosive bouts of anger, severe sudden sadness)
+ flashbacks
+ spacing out
+ impulsive decision making
+ lethargy
+ executive dysfunction
+ effects on appetite/s
+ loss of motivation

[c2:3/7]
please take the time to be understanding of person with trauma. we already feel like we're already out of control, then, on top of that, symptoms like the above show up and it can feel like re-experiencing the trauma over again by losing control of our body. [c2:4/7]
trauma also impacts our relationships. certain kinds of trauma can render us feeling like we are unlovable or "tainted". it can also feel like we should either continue the relationship past its limits to "prove" we're bigger than the trauma OR [...] [c2:5/7]
suddenly end our commitments because we see ourselves as a cause of suffering in these.

we may also struggle to rapidly create unhealthy relationships to feel in control or justify trauma with a "character flaw" that "finally" manifested itself. [c2:6/7]
it's important as those who have friends with trauma to be understanding of possibilities of why our friends do what WHILE listening to them about why.

do NOT make assumptions based solely on these. talk to them. they are human beings who can speak for themselves. [c2:#]
3⃣ ON HELPING

firstly, let's get something straight. you do not get to make decision for us simply because you are of authority, their family, their partner, or children.

trauma is STRONGLY individuated and written into our minds differently. [c3:1/17]
as people who are with them, you do not act like you know them better than anyone else because it is in these critical moments that WE know ourselves BETTER than you ever will.

trauma forces us to reexamine over and over and over. and you don't get to talk over that. [c3:12/17]
you must LISTEN. you do not make the assumption you know the whole story. we are prone to manipulation and having our memories overwritten by these authoritative statements simply because we want to forget.

this can make it difficult for us to recall later or process. [c3:3/17]
even if you think you know more about what happened, it is INVALUABLE for you to HEAR how we experienced an event.

by listening, you give us the choice to feel like what happened was REAL and work to accepting it. [c3:4/17]
do not try to tell us what happened. we must feel heard or else you make us feel like we're unable to rely on our own memories and thoughts.

it is CRITICAL that you give us the option to speak about it ON OUR OWN TERMS. the CHOICE is important. [c3:5/17]
if we choose not to share to you, we may find that someone else should hear us or that someone else we trust is better-suited to listen.

DO NOT take it personally. we are trying to feel SAFE and sometimes the first person will feel like still a threat after it happened [c3:6/17]
please do not IMMEDIATELY jump to expanding the problem on a systemic or political level. unless it is a directly political matter, you MUST allow us to start with our own feelings.

it's very hurtful to hear someone say "so many people are victims of violence," [...] [c3:7/17]
when we can hardly believe it happened to us ourselves. let us feel ANGRY. SAD. ANNOYED. for OURSELVES first.

our emotions are not a flaw in our judgement of a situation. it is a RIGHTEOUS response because we have been unjustly HURT. do not tell us we are wrong for it. [c3:8/17]
we are, in fact, processing something severe. to expandto others immediately either implies our emotions are nothing compared to the suffering of others (belittles our self) OR that our suffering is a small part of something that happens constantly (removes our agency). [c3:9/17]
provide us space. let us speak, but don't constantly check on us. we will feel babied or incompetent. we are still full human beings.

we can be angry. we are RIGHT to be angry. but we will learn to move forward. [c3:10/17]
as their friend, you must balance MINIMIZING (making sure we do not stray into seeing ourselves as solely our trauma) and MAGNIFYING (making sure we do not trivialize what happened).

you must let us feel that IT HAPPENED but that WE CAN MOVE FORWARD. [c3:11/17]
HOWEVER, i STRONGLY advise against trying to act like a "savior" and dedicating excessive time and attention to us. this can cultivate guilt, overdependence, feeling "babied" and, on your end, burnout and other emotional turmoil.

you are allowed to step out for a bit. [c3:12/17]
please do not simply tell us, "i've had enough," or "i'm tired of doing this." inform us gently that you need time to recover, because we all need space for our emotions.

we are NOT entitled to your time, but, as friends, work with us to HELP us. [c3:13/17]
please do not revictimize us by arguing that we did something to CAUSE the trauma.

explicitly: DO NOT BLAME THE SURVIVOR FOR THEIR TRAUMA OR HOW THEY HAVE HANDLED IT.

trauma is hard enough. you DO NOT need to tell us how hard it is to be friends with us. [c3:14/17]
ultimately, trauma requires processing. one can do that alone, BUT it is STRONGLY urged that they get trauma-informed counseling.

you may encourage them to look for a professional therapist or offer to look into it. do NOT file an appointment without their consent. [c3:15/17]
to be friends with someone with trauma can be difficult, but remember that it is NOT our fault it happened.

when in doubt, be genuine. tell them you value them, their decisions, their person. tell them you see them as a whole that is fuller than just the trauma. [c3:16/17]
your friend is a person. and the trauma is not who they are. but it WILL impact them.

keep that in mind. and be a good friend, okay? it's hard because if people step away because of what happened, it reinforces that it's our fault and that we've been "broken". [c3:#]
4⃣ HYPERVIGILANCE

many trauma victims experience a response called "hypervigilance".

it is our response to trauma that we become acutely aware of minor changes and it can trigger our fight or flight. we become defensive and may aggressively attack such changes. [c4:1/7]
this is especially difficult for neurodivergent individuals as reading social cues can be hard but having the smallest changes in it trigger an emergency response from our body can make it feel impossible to decipher the most basic human interactions. [c4:2/7]
do not take this response personally. while it can magnify personal reservations and make us seem "paranoid", what we're doing is actively trying to avoid re-experiencing the trauma.

do not tell us to "calm down" about it because we're fighting an invisible enemy. [c4:3/7]
instead, the approach that is recommendable is reassuring is with what you mean by your words and tone changes.

use language that implies agency over hurtful connotations. it is important that your words are chosen to help, not dismantle our attempts to be safe. [c4:4/7]
do not call us "paranoid" for doing so. it is, again, an emotional and quite logical response to trauma.

you may not need to apologize, but if we ask, you can do so. often, many of us will apologize for it too. we're fighting on many fronts. [c4:5/7]
in relationships, hypervigilance can come across as a loss of love or feeling like you do not love them.

reassure us that your love is not changed by the event and that you will do your best to meet us halfway. do NOT even JOKINGLY imply anything about us "deserving" it [c4:6/7]
hypervigilance is something that will get better-studied over time but, for now, do not push us to open up about our fears. you can gently encourage us by creating a space for it, but do not force us into it. [c4:#]
#⃣ FINAL NOTES

* language surrounding trauma is quite hard. like i mentioned, hypervigilance can make innocent word choices difficult to swallow for us. you are not at fault for this, but we have to make an effort to be considerate. when it doubt, ASK them.
* TRAUMA IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR ABUSIVE BEHAVIOUR. i wrote this thread with good intentions. i do not want anyone to walk into this and say that i think trauma makes abuse behavior acceptable.

under NO circumstances should you enable abusive behavior.
* there is much more here i did not cover. class analysis is noticeably absent because i do not have enough experience with other classes and trauma. but i tried to make the advice in this thread as broadly applicable as possible.
* take care of yourself. you are not responsible for other people's dysfunctions. take a cup of water. don't forget your meds.

even in service of our friends and other trauma survivors, we need to be taken care of to aid others.
* AGAIN, i would like to reiterate: i'm NOT a psychological expert. BUT i write this from personal experience. you and your friends' mileage may vary.

* a capitalist society is inherently traumatic. you must aim high if you intend to reduce trauma.
### END

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