Tag: PTSD

Resistance Is Futile: The Effects of Past Trauma

Resistance Is Futile: The Effects of Past Trauma

Introduction

Star Trek Voyager (as of this moment) is not my favorite of the Star Trek series, but its characters I can appreciate. I like Tuvok who all the while takes pride in being Vulcan, finds he too can fall susceptible to the same temptations and follies as his crewmates. Then you have “The Doctor”, the Emergency Medical Hologram, who has learned he is more than the sum of his parts. Next is Neelix, a Talaxian, who lost ALL of his family members in a terrible war, still manages to look on the bright side of things and takes pride in being Voyager’s cook and “Chief Morale Officer”. But the character I found most intreging was Seven of Nine.

Seven as a Borg Drone

Borg

Seven of Nine is a former Borg Drone who was once part of the dreaded and feared Borg Collective, who are basically a collective of various species melded with organic cybernetic materials. This group of alien species considers anything not up to Borg standards, imperfect. However while assimilating other species, they collect information about them and their fighting tactics. Unfortunately those caught by the Borg, undergo excruciating surgeries that add robotic components to their bodies as well as “stripping” them of their individuality and culture leaving them as “mindless drones” that can only hear the voices of the collective hive.

The Struggles of Humanity

After being stranded on the Voyager ship on part 2 of “Scorpion” (season 4), she struggled accepting her humanity, but even more, she struggled with nightmares of the assimilation process guilt as well PTSD and social anxiety. In addition to Data of “The Next Generation”, it’s still nice to–in a sense–relearn about humanity through Seven of Nine, because despite her vast knowledge and vast memory and the implants that help her accomplish many tasks, she experienced the struggles of being human.

Seven with Kovin

In the 4th season of episode 17, “Retrospect” Seven experienced memories of her own assimilation process as a child and ends up accusaing Kovin, an Enthran trader of assaulting by removing some Borg technology. Then in another episode, this time in the 6th season episode titled, “Survival Instincts”, it was found that when Seven of Nine was in the Borg Collective, she as well as three other drones remembered their former lives. However because Seven was assimilated at a younger age and Borg was the only thing she knew, it made hard for her to accept those memories.

PTSD and Trauma

Whenever people undergo trauma they can develop PTSD which can lead to (Wlassoff, 2015):

  • Vivid flashbacks
  • Edginess
  • Retreating to into their “shells” after reacting to the slightest cues
  • Avoiding people, objects, and situations that remind them of traumatic situations
  • Also indirectly, the individual may also turn to coping mechanisms where they forget the details of painful memories. Unfortunately, this may lead to having a hard time functioning in everyday life.
  • As shown on the tree the symptoms of trauma (e.g depression and body memories) can stem from many things like abuse.

    Making Peace With The Past

    Likewise in the first few episodes of Seven’s appearance she struggled with her life as Borg drone and past life as a human child with parents. This is what she was pretty much dealing with:

    • The anger toward her parents for choosing to study the Borg, instead of the safety and well-being of their family only to end up being the very thing they observed.
    Seven’s parents Magnus (left) and Erin (right) Hansen studying a Borg drone
    • The assimilation process of being Borg isn’t pretty. The process is done while the person is being is awake which obviously can leave significant psychological damage. For example, a drill is used to penetrate the eye pupil in order to add the cortical array and the neural transceiver which makes the brain process language and memory faster as well as to send messages to the collective consciousness. Then the individual’s organic organs are replaced with synthetic organs. Can you imagine a little girl having to endure that?
    Picard undergoing the assimilation as the drill prepares to enter his pupil
    • Her anxiety of reentering human society. Like as mentioned many times in this post, she has spent 20 years of her life as a Borg drone of the Collective and doing whatever she was told to do. And being that her individuality was stripped from her at young age she never learned how to interact with humans. She felt more Borg than human for a time, but she eventually accepted her humanity.
    • She underwent guilt because how she assisted the Borg to assimilating other species:
  • Neelix: Seven…when you were a Borg, you were involved in some unpleasant activities.

  • Seven of Nine: I helped assimilate millions.

  • Neelix: I don’t mean to be insensitive, but do you every feel shame…about what you did.

  • Seven of Nine: Frequently.

  • Neelix: How do manage to keep going, knowing that you’ve done such horrible things.

  • Seven of Nine: I have no choice.

    Neelix: Guilt is irrelevant?

    Seven of Nine: On the contrary. My feelings of remorse help me remember what I did, and prevent me from taking similar actions in the future. Guilt can be difficult but useful emotion.

    Another thing that doesn’t help is that she had an implant, a cortical node, that causes drones to shut down whenever they experience emotion. Regardless, she did her best to redeem herself.

    Conclusion

    In a sense, I felt like I could relate with her dealing with repressed feelings and unpleasant memories of the domestic violence I witnessed as a child and the sexual assault/rape I faced as an adult. But no matter how stoic I was, the unresolved pains would seep out one way or the another whether be it nightmares, paranoia, or just repressed anger. But on the outside many people on the outside saw me as this “happy go lucky” person, but the thing was that’s how I wanted them to see me. I didn’t want them to see my vulnerabilities. Another problem was, especially after realizing I was sexually assaulted/raped, I developed hyper awareness of my surroundings. Any guy who slightly looked like assaulter, whether it be their long brown hair, build, tattoos…I freaked the hell out. It didn’t fair any better when I had to drive around his area either. Then here I was watching Voyager seeing this bionic woman perfect in every way, suffered so much trauma. She tried her best to keep some of her pains to herself to not show she had her problems (then again she’s trying to understand some her trauma). She tried to work past her traumas, but one way or another, they’d haunt her. Yet, Seven of Nine showed when you possess perseverance, patience, self forgiveness, self-love, courage, and take it a day at a time, you can still have a hopeful future.

    Reference:

    Wlassoff, V.(2015).”How Does Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Change The Brain.” Retrieved from: https://www.brainblogger.com/2015/01/24/how-does-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-change-the-brain/

    For More Reading on PTSD and Trauma click on the links below:

    California’s First Surgeon General: Screen Every Student For Childhood Trauma

    How PTSD and Trauma Affect Your Functioning Brain

    Three Ways Childhood Trauma Affects Adulthood

    Tough Childhood? The Effects of Trauma on Your Brain

    Reducing Anxiety During Earthquake

    I’m writing this especially after the Earthquake that happened in Nor Cal just recently. And if you’re like me who lives an anxiety disorder, ADHD, and PTSD, earthquakes definitely doesn’t help the hypervigilence (and sometimes energy) that comes with those. Trust me…it took me 3 days for me to calm down after the second quake happened after the Fourth of July.

    While we’re told to prepare for an Earthquake, whether it’s going under a table for cover or stashing up on a 3 Days supply of food and water, how do you emotionally prepare for an Earthquake, especially if you live with a mental health disorder and/or ADHD? The infographs below showcase below how to physically as well as emotionally how to prepare for an Earthquake. It even give a rather nifty phone number to call when you experience a natural emergency distress. Be sure to check them out!

    Stress, High Cholesterol and Me

    Stress, High Cholesterol and Me

    Source: Mel Magazine

    Right now my cholesterol is high. Not from eating junk food or eating out, but just mostly from stress. I’m only 32 and right now my total cholesterol is at 226. That is way above the recommended of 100-199 (mg/dL). Geez…if car accidents, diseases, cancer, being murdered, childbirth, or even being food poisoned won’t kill me, the stress will. Things have been hard on me for the past year from homelessness to family to worrying about paying for my rent, my cell phone bill, and loans, looking for a job and worrying about those things could actually kill me. That’s a scary thought. I don’t want to die because I was stressed out for not being able to pay my rent. I don’t want that on my tombstone. I don’t want to die young. It may not be now, but it could be in my late 30s/early 40s if this keeps up. I’ve got things to do, things to see and people who and will need me.

    Ugh…stress. It doesn’t help I have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), PTSD, and depression which I’m taking three types of medication for and then Atorvastatin (stantin) which I’m suppose to be taking (my mom would kill me if she found out I haven’t been taking them, but can you blame me? I’m already taking one medication for GAD, two medications for depression, and one medication to treat my fibroid). I just wanna reduce the stress, without medication you know? I’m really trying. Like putting on an aromatherapy candle I like so much (if you go to Bath and Body works, look for eucalyptus mint. It’s really good for stress), listening to podcasts, listening to audiobooks, reading, watching my favorite TV Show or movie, exercising, talking or text friends, and coloring in adult coloring book…blogging… But whatever it takes, I will try my very best to reduce my overall stress levels so I can reduce my cholesterol.

    Readings on Stress and Heart Health

    Heart Disease and Stress: What’s the Link?

    How Stress Hurts

    How Stress Hurts Your Heart

    Stress and Your Health

    Stress Management

    Mental Health Screenings

    Anxiety

    Depression

    PTSD

    Stress

    5 Incredibly Accurate Ways ‘Us’ Depicts Unraveling Trauma

    If you, like me, are on an ongoing journey to understand your trauma, then you might appreciate these lessons, too. Here’s how the new movie “Us” brings it forward.
    — Read on www.healthline.com/health/us-trauma-movie-explained

    Supernatural: Damaged Goods (AKA: Dean and PTSD)

    Supernatural: Damaged Goods (AKA: Dean and PTSD)

    supernatural-1
                  The Archangel Michael possessing Dean’s body                                  Source: Entertainment Weekly

    INTRO

    Sadly, this will Supernatural’s second to last season. The series will end next year. So while I have material to go off from the show, I will continue with episode eleven, “Damaged Goods” . “Damaged goods” continued from end of season 14 with the possession of Dean’s body by the archangel Michael. So Castiel and Sam found away to enter Dean’s mind in order to release Dean from Michael’s hold and to do with away from Michael.

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    Dean’s Trauma

    To find Dean in his mind, they have to comb through all his bad memories first. When I mean, “bad memories” especially in Dean’s case, it’s “scars”. Not all scars have to be physical, but they can be mental and emotional as well. When someone is living with or overcoming emotional  and mentally pains, it usually means they’ve undergone traumatic events. It may sound obvious, but you may be surprised how this simple fact can be grossly overlooked. Trauma can usually consist of dangerous, frightening, or extremely stressful situation or events. And as you read in the slide below, Dean has many of them…the death of his mother, the death of his brother (but came back to life), his own death, being sent to hell and back from it, the death of his father, the death of his mentor and friend, Bobby Singer and other companions and of course, his near final transformations into a vampire and a demon. Yeah… I’d say he’s undergone a LOT of trauma.

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    Physical Pain vs Emotional Pain

    So how does trauma affect a person’s mind more than physical pain (Dean and Sam has had a LOT of surreal pain)? In the online Psychology Today article, “5 Ways Emotional Pain Is Worse Physical Pain”, it provides, well…5 reason why it’s so:

    1. Memories Trigger Emotional Pain But Not Physical Pain
    2. We Use Physical Pain as Distraction from Emotional Pain Not Vice Versa (could explain why Dean hunts a lot than facing his fears)
    3. Physical Pain Garners Far More Empathy from Others Than Emotional Pain
    4. Emotional Pain Echoes in Ways Physical Pain Does Not–You can look at scar on your knee, compared thinking about the time you got rejected by your high school crush
    5. Emotional Pain but Not Physical Pain Can Damage Our Self-Esteem and Long-Term Mental Health

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    Gaslighting

    One of the ways, abusers like Michael, chooses his victims is by choosing victims who are strong, confident and successful (Dodgson, 2017). One of the ways abusers overcome their victims is called, “Coercive Control”. Coercive control is used to instill fear and compliance in a partner (Kennedy, n.d). These are a few way abusers can use coercive control:

    • Obsessive monitoring
    • Low level violence (e.g. shoving & hair grabbing)
    • Sexual Assault
    • Gaslighting

    I want to say that what Michael was doing to Dean was a form of gaslighting. I mean  if you think about, gaslighting is where abusers “undermine the abused person’s sense of sanity by insisting their lies are true, or by playing mind games.” And Michael was trying to keep Dean in the dark by giving him the life he never had in his own mind, even though in reality, he was really imprisoning Dean.

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    PTSD and C-PTSD

    Thriving on trauma…hmm…you know what this reminds me of? PTSD. As a reminder PTSD, according to the American Psychological Association, is “a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.” The symptoms they go through are (APA, 2017):

    1. Intrusive thoughts–These include repeated, involuntary memories; distressing dreams; or flashbacks of the traumatic event. Flashbacks my may be so vivid that people feel they are re-living the traumatic experience or seeing it before their eyes.
    2. Avoiding reminders–Traumatic events may have a person for example, avoiding people, places, activities, objects and situations that bring on distressing memories. People may try to avoid remembering or thinking about the traumatic event. They may resist talking about what happened or how they feel about it.
    3. Negative thoughts and feelings—These may include ongoing and distorted beliefs about oneself or others (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted”); ongoing fear, horror, anger, guilt or shame; much less interest in activities previously enjoyed; or feeling detached or estranged from others.
    4. Arousal and reactive thoughts—This may include being irritable and having angry outbursts; behaving  recklessly or in a self-destructive way; being easily started; or having problems concentrating or sleeping.

    But you know something else? I think Dean may have C-PTSD because of the trauma he has gone through his whole life. Also he has shown some examples of how he could have C-PTSD. Usually what survivors with C-PTSD may have difficulty with is (VA, n.d.).

    • Avoiding thinking and talking about trauma-related topics because the feelings connected with the trauma are often overwhelming. I mean, I’ve never heard of Dean never talk about his past encounters with supernatural beings and never really talks about how those encounters with supernatural beings impacted him. Or how he’s nearly lost Sam or his own life. Or the loss of their dad.
    • The excess use of alcohol or other substances in order to avoid and numb feelings and thoughts related to the trauma. Dean well….drinks like a fish to avoid his.112d5e70dd6ecde54fee65ce2322ca7d
    • Not harming themselves and finding other ways to hurt themselves. Do you know how many times Dean has sent has sacrificed himself? One too many times…one too many times.
    • Being mistaken for having a “weak character” or are unjustly blamed for the symptoms they experience as a result of victimization. Luckily, Sam reminds Dean how strong he is everyday.

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    Michael definitely, found Dean’s Achilles’s heel and it was to be happy. Why? It keeps Michael in control. As mention earlier, gaslighting  is used to keep their victims in line and from seeing things for what they really are. especially when their guard is down. It explains why survivors like myself and even Dean don’t want to put our guard down, because once it’s down, it will feels like our mind will be a gateway for former or future abusers to get the best of us.

    Conclusion

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    Whether trauma is in the past or on going, it’s never easy to live through. On one hand you wish for that “normalcy”, but on the other hand you have to fend yourself from those who would do harm to you. So not only are you juggling past and/or present pain, you are juggling the possibility of harm that can be done. Reliving trauma and being on guard from new trauma IS your normal. But as long as you have a Sam and Castiel in your corner, it allows trauma to be easier to live with.

    References:

    American Psychological Association. (2017). What Is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder? Retrieved from: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd

    Dodgson, L. (2017). Psychological Abusers Don’t Go For The Weak–They Choose Strong People Because They “Like a Challenge.” Retrieved from: https://www.businessinsider.com/strong-confident-people-end-up-in-abusive-relationships-2017-8

    Kennedy, L. (n.d.) What Is Coercive Control in a Relationship? Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/women/features/what-is-coercive-control#1

    Winch, G. (2014). 5 Ways Emotional Pain Is Worse Than Physical Pain. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201407/5-ways-emotional-pain-is-worse-physical-pain

    Veteran Affairs. (n.d.) Complex PTSD. Retrieved from: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treat/essentials/complex_ptsd.asp

    Women’s Health. (2018). Abuse, Trauma, and Mental Health. Retrieved from: https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/abuse-trauma-and-mental-health

     

    More Reading

    Tracy, N. (2016). Gaslighting Definition, Techniques and Being Gaslighted. Retrieved from: https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/emotional-psychological-abuse/gaslighting-definition-techniques-and-being-gaslighted

    What Jessica Jones teaches us about surviving sexual assault | SYFY WIRE

    Marvel’s Jessica Jones helps to provide viewers with a means of understanding PTSD and living with the aftermath of sexual assault.
    — Read on www.syfy.com/syfywire/what-jessica-jones-teaches-us-about-surviving-sexual-assault