“But the thing about remembering is that you don’t forget.”
The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the body’s physical and emotional response to extreme stress,” explains Dr. Christina Biedermann, staff psychologist at Austen Riggs Center. That stress is triggered by a life-threatening event, either a single incident, such as a car accident, or chronic trauma, such as military combat, abuse or chaotic relationships.
Trauma shatters a person’s world. Things that were once safe become dangerous. PTSD invades a person’s everyday life.
“One way of thinking about PTSD is that it is somebody doing his or her best — even though it may look destructive and chaotic — to adapt to a horrific set of experiences,” says Biedermann. “I think there is a tremendous integrity in that . . . the patient has integrity in that they are trying to survive.”
At Austen Riggs Center, our goal is to mitigate a person’s traumatic past and help them move toward a healthy future. We treat the individual because there are many ways PTSD manifests, and no two experiences are alike.
PTSD makes a person feel and act as if their trauma is still happening or may happen at any moment. If they don’t know or trust that it is not going to happen or understand how they can manage their fears, they can’t work through their thoughts and feelings productively.
Often times, PTSD sufferers find themselves destroying relationships or creating unhealthy ones without understanding the connection between their traumatic past and their present actions. Sometimes, they haven’t even registered the traumatic event or relationship as such. This can pose a serious threat to treatment as the therapeutic relationship itself can sometimes begin to feel unsafe for reasons that are unclear.
At Austen Riggs Center, we try to help people understand and cope with their traumatic past so they can lead a balanced life. Trauma need not dictate a person’s future.