So, this is something that I have been pondering for sometime now and the more I think about it, the more sense it is making to me. And, because there is a love for snappy phrases or descriptors when you are taking about PTSD, I came up with “Trauma Jumping”.
Trauma Jumping is the repetitive action most first responder, military and heck, really anyone inflicted with PTSD, goes through at one point and time. For simplicity sake, and this is in no way backed by scientific evidence or research, but trauma jumping is going from one trauma to another without processing the previous trauma. Mull that over for a second and think back to your own personal story. See what I mean. You were either in a repetitive cycle of dealing with trauma after trauma or you self developed a trauma to replace the one that just happened. I’m going to delve into both in more detail, separately.
Trauma to Trauma……….
I’m going to go out on a limb and automatically group first responders and military into this group. And it is solely for the reason that by the nature of those occupations, you have no choice but to jump from trauma to trauma / call to call. The negative impacts of it however happen when there is no debriefing or break in between the situations. In those cases, you start building up a catalogue of traumas that will surely come back to bite the hand that feeds it, when you least expect it. To be clear, this can also apply to sanctuary trauma as well.
Self Developed Trauma……..
Something just terrible happened and regardless of your feelings about it, you begin to set up a series of situations that will allow for further trauma. (No this isn’t victim blaming). The situations could be interpersonal with family and friends or involving complete strangers. Now here is the kicker. This lines up nicely with trauma to trauma people as they seek to get the rush of trauma again. Yep, that’s right, they become one and the same.
Think of the science behind trauma and how the brain and body react to it. This is the rush, the adrenaline kick that you get as that old reptilian brain kicks in and you either fight or flight in the situation. As long as you are trauma jumping, everything is good. You fuel that addiction to the rush and the world is groovy, even in the worst of moments. You think you are controlling it and keeping everything in check Chances are, you are probably right and everything is fine. But, what happens when you are off and away from the constant rush?
You guess it, you begin to develop situations that will give you a little adrenaline rush. How many first responders ride motorcycles, skydive, scuba dive, mountain bike, race in marathons or some other sports? Why is that? What are they searching for? Ask them and they will all say the same thing, “I like the feeling……” or some variant of that. They like the feeling because it gives the same, but lesser, bump that trauma does. It is pushing that reptilian brain of ours to fire off the flight or fight response. We get the rush.
Last summer is when I really started noticing this. I was off work, no longer in the trauma jumpers paradise. I was down and needed a pick me up. I turned to weights and mountain biking. In the gym, I begin pushing myself hard. I was zeroing in on a 405 lbs deadlift. My wife asked me why I was pushing so hard. Pfff, easy answer, “because I can!” It was also around this time that I kissed the dirt more than a few times on the trails while riding. I was pushing myself to my extreme and was loving it. I was developing potential traumas (injuries) in order to get that rush. I was feeling pain and loved it because for the first time in a long time, I was in control of the pain and not some distant memory causing it.
Then I asked my psychologist about it. Was I intentionally trying to self harm through so-called “legitimate” activities. Seriously, if I hurt myself pushing weights or riding my mountain bike, people would have just thought that it was my normal accident prone self at play. No one would question that I was self harming. Hell, I didn’t even think I was self harming but looking back on it now????? Damn straight, that’s what it was. I was self creating trauma. I was seeking the rush to fill the void. If I was trauma jumping again I wouldn’t have to feel the pain because I could simply shut it down and shelve it so that I could move onto the next trauma, get my rush, push the emotions down a bit further and repeat.
I stopped the cycle with the advise of my psychologist who wisely stated; “It is self harm if you are intentionally pushing yourself to set up an injury.” Of course at the time I quickly stated that it is not the case and FIDO (Fuck It and Drive On). But it stuck with me as most good therapy should and I began to see it for what it truly was. I was trying to do everything in my power to replace my trauma pain so that I could return to the trauma jumping cycle.
If I haven’t convinced you yet, just think of some of the behaviours associated with PTSD. You have any number of addictions (alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, etc), erratic behaviours, promiscuous acting out, OCD etc, etc, etc….. What are they doing to the person, although many time they are hidden by the individual from others, is allowing for the continuation of trauma. Why? Well, I fully believe that at some subconscious level, we have embraced our traumas and through these behaviours, you feel a sense of connection and peace, if that makes sense. You also see it in people who jump from one treatment program to the next. Those people caught a high from a treatment program and now they are chasing the dragon so to speak in their quest to feel the rush again. It’s not destructive but it definitely is yet another form of trauma jumping.
But what can we do? Well, it becomes a matter of recognizing that we are trauma jumping and put and effort into understanding why. The only way out of the cycle is to stop the cycle and put the necessary pieces in place to counteract trauma jumping. For me, that has been meditation, sensible exercise, journaling and this blog. There is truly something liberating about airing your dirty laundry so to speak……
So, to butcher an old saying, “Next time you’re about to trauma jump, stop and look before you leap and think it out before you do.”