What is Life Like After a Mass Shooting? Parkland’s Lizzie Eaton Shares Her Mental Health Story

Lizzie Eaton

As time passed, I kept squeezing more and more into my hiding spot thinking that I could be next. Despite the news and confirmation of what was happening, I could not wrap my mind around the reality.

As the story kept updating, the number of casualties went up and up. I couldn’t fathom that my friends were getting shot, that there were videos of bodies on the floor flooding social media. I just kept thinking this could not be real. While I waited in my classroom, I sat not knowing if I would be the next victim, if my friends were hurt, or if I would ever see my family again.

You never think it will happen at your school, in your community, to you and your friends. And then it does. Continue reading What is Life Like After a Mass Shooting? Parkland’s Lizzie Eaton Shares Her Mental Health Story

5 Signs of Acute Stress Disorder

man stressed on bus

Two years ago, my car hydroplaned during a heavy snowstorm and crashed into another car. While my car was totaled, everyone walked away from the accident with only a few small cuts and bruises. However, for about a month afterwards, all I could think about was this event. I was constantly on edge, from the moment I woke up agitated in the morning, until I was trying to calm down at night and sleep. Driving — something I used to enjoy — became a deep fear. After that month, my constant feelings and thoughts circling around the event eventually dissipated, and I was able to carry on with my daily life. What gives?

It was something more than simply “getting over” this car accident. After researching the topic and speaking to a licensed therapist, I realized that I had experienced symptoms of a condition called Acute Stress Disorder (ASD). This anxiety condition is relatively new in the psychological field, and it shares many of the same symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Continue reading 5 Signs of Acute Stress Disorder

What is EMDR Therapy?

light on eye

If you’re struggling with trauma, you might consider checking out EMDR therapy. This unique therapy helps you process traumatic memories.

EMDR — or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing — was originally developed for patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Often, people with these experiences have triggers that can cause them to relive their most frightening moments. For example, a war veteran may struggle with fireworks on the Fourth of July, with each blast making them feel like they’ve returned to combat.

With EMDR, patients can halt that trigger-reaction to stressful past events. With a therapist’s guidance — unfortunately, this isn’t something you can DIY — you can re-process that stressful past experience, eventually bypassing the anxiety and fear associated with that memory. Essentially, just like with physical wounds, you’re building a protective barrier over emotional pain. Continue reading What is EMDR Therapy?

Understanding Survivor’s Guilt

9/11 Memorial

Where were you on 9/11?

We all have our own story. Maybe you watched the news unfold on TV in your college dorm room, shaking and sobbing. Maybe you heard the news spread through the halls of your elementary school, feeling confused and scared, longing to go home. Or maybe you listened to the car radio while driving to work, feeling numb from the shock.

Perhaps you were in one of the locations that was attacked and you remember every sight, every smell, every detail of that horrific day. Continue reading Understanding Survivor’s Guilt

Is There A Link Between Trauma and Addiction?

woman holding a drink

Addiction is a complex process with numerous variables at play, but trauma may be one of the most important of those variables. By understanding the connection between trauma and addiction, problems can be better treated.

Unfortunately, the mental health field didn’t adequately recognize trauma’s impact on mental health until the last century. The problem drew more attention once mental health professionals saw more and more “shell shocked” soldiers after World Wars I and II.

Since then, we’ve come to understand that trauma isn’t limited to soldiers. Particularly in the last 30 years, we’ve learned that children of abuse or neglect, those who experience domestic violence, rape, and even random events such as car accidents can spark a similar patterns of mental health symptoms in people of all ages and backgrounds. Continue reading Is There A Link Between Trauma and Addiction?

Can You Inherit Trauma?

Auschwitz in winter

Pivotal historic events from centuries past like wars, famines, and genocide can seem far removed from our daily experience. Many believe that what previous generations faced was several lifetimes ago, having little impact on their descendants today. Time and physical proximity may cause you to feel similarly, yet new research suggests that trauma may cross generational lines and affect those that come after us.

Intergenerational trauma – or trauma that has the potential to impact future generations of individuals within a family system – has become hotly contested as researchers dive into the field of epigenetics. So what is epigenetics and what does it mean for us today? Continue reading Can You Inherit Trauma?

What is Trauma Bonding?

Woman holding a gloved man's hand on a mountaintop.

Have you ever stayed in a relationship that you know you’d insist your friend get out of if the tables were turned?

It’s exhilarating in the beginning. When a rush of early feelings come on fast and furious for someone new, the excitement can be all consuming. But, when that wave of chemistry starts feeling more like a catastrophic tsunami, it’s important to know how to get back to dry land.

This sequence of events can happen so fast that a person misses that they’ve even been swept up in a narcissist’s storm. What is it about these toxic individuals that makes them just so…magnetic? And why is it so hard to break a bond with people like this?

Continue reading What is Trauma Bonding?

How a Breast Cancer Diagnosis Affects Your Mental Health

A woman's hand covered in dried pink paint

Everyone affected by breast cancer knows the physical hardship it can bring. What’s less commonly talked about, but also important, is how breast cancer affects patients’ and survivors’ mental health.

A history of mental illness can be exacerbated by a breast cancer diagnosis, and the rigors of treatment — while life-saving — are difficult, leaving many women depressed, anxious, or feeling alone.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to recognize women affected by breast cancer and raise awareness about breast cancer prevention. Many breast cancer survivors have spoken up about their struggles with mental illness. To honor their voices, here’s what you need to know about breast cancer and mental health.

Continue reading How a Breast Cancer Diagnosis Affects Your Mental Health

Male Survivors of Sexual Assault Face Unique Challenges to Recovery

Athletic man resting after a run outside

According to a Center for Disease Control (CDC) National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, one in six U.S. men have experienced sexual violence, and 17% of those men develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In my years practicing therapy, I’ve found male survivors face unique challenges to recovery, yet hesitate to get the help they need.

The question is why.

For one, we don’t hear much about male sexual assault survivors, although one study found sexual assault history was common among both women and men, reported by 25% of women and 16% of men surveyed. The research participants also faced similar long-term problems, regardless of gender.

Continue reading Male Survivors of Sexual Assault Face Unique Challenges to Recovery

What Is Non-Suicidal Self-Injury?

cut bandage with "HELP" written on it

I remember the day I started self-injuring. It was January my senior year of high school. I was being sexually abused by a teacher and eventually I just snapped — I couldn’t handle anymore. When I got home that day, I grabbed a red-handled paring knife from the kitchen and slashed shallow cuts into my upper left arm until I counted 100. I needed some way to prove I had control of my body, to express the hard emotions I was feeling.

The relief from the pain, confusion, and distress was instant — it immediately calmed the chaos in my mind. Once I started, it was hard to stop. And so I found myself at 21 self-injuring to manage the hearings after reporting my abusive teacher. I was still self-injuring at 28 when I did an interview about my experience with perpetrators; grooming process of victims, and at 30 when I began processing 15 years worth of trauma. And finally, after 13 years of self-injuring, I was finally able to stop.

Through all of it, self-injury served as my friend, my relief, my secret sanctuary — but it also complicated my ability to cope with difficult emotions and to connect with other people. The damage is criss-crossed all over my arms in scars, messages of deep hurt, but also survival. Self-injury is both savior and monster, a complex way to deal with overwhelming emotions. Continue reading What Is Non-Suicidal Self-Injury?