Debilitating Trauma… Who Takes Care Of The Caretaker?

By Safe Call Now’s Dr. Laura Brodie Ph.D.

As I work in treatment with individuals who have a reaction to trauma that is debilitating, I have found that there is a core issue that appears to be evident in many of these individuals.  That is the issue of a poor or absent support system prior to the trauma.  Many who I see afflicted with trauma worked as the strong support system for others prior to their emotional damage.  They report to me that they received little comfort from leaning on others for support.  They were seen as strong and capable so others assumed they could handle anything.  Giving guidance, support and help to others comes so naturally to these people, but being the person in need is many times the greatest fear. Why?

People who are caretakers in the world do not take kindly to being taken care of. This comes from a sense of identity that formed quite early in life where giving was much more comfortable than receiving.  Being the low maintenance child was the role in the family and wanting to make parents proud, because little problems and keeping anxieties secret were the M.O.

Many times these people are high achievers who are the ones others turn to for support. What is not realized is caretaking becomes a great skill for caring for the other, but caretaking of the self is a very foreign concept.  Not wanting to be an emotional burden is a feeling that developed early in life and as an adult it becomes the attitude of “I’m fine” even when he or she knows things are not fine at all.

Handling trauma when you have previously been used to a life of self-sufficiency is like asking to be the patient when you have always been the therapist.  It does not work well. The isolation of being “fine” at all times does not work as memories and thoughts attack. Now trapped in his or her own mind, all the advice and counseling given to others is forgotten and the person is left vulnerable.  Again I ask why?

Giving is easier than receiving for many and if this is your issue, you are vulnerable to trauma. Learning to be interdependent allows a natural inoculation to suffering alone. As a caretaker you realized others needed support and help in whatever area was needed. So the denial you allow in your own real need is only deprivation of health and allowing yourself a suffering you would never allow a loved one.  You discount the counsel you give others such as talk about it, stop being so hard on yourself and I for one am glad you survived.

Being in the psychologist’s chair is so much easier than being in the client chair.  I realize that day after day.  But being in the psychologist’s chair and never allow myself in the client’s chair can make me forget I too am human and I too must process my demons.

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