Positive effects of trauma:
High emotional IQ
Processing and integration of past events
Increased belief in self
Improved self-confidence & independence
TYPES OF TRIGGERS & PTSD DISRUPTORS
Triggers can be physical, emotional, sensory (sights, sounds, smell), relational emotional response, an activated memory. You might feel that you are revisiting a familiar place (dimly-lit narrow hallway) or may smell a perfume that transports you back to a traumatic scene.
Disruptors allow you to remain present in your body and avoid dissociation. Be self-protective. Avoid catastrophizing. Physically move so you can feel your body in its present state. Choose an empowering action. Don’t stay silent. Tell the truth even in a pandemic
Vicarious trauma is traumatization through hearing of trauma, suffering, death of patients (or participating in the care of suffering patients). Our empathic connection and visceral exposure allows our senses to fully participate in a traumatic encounter—even if we resist or think we can “handle it.”
Physicians often ask how I can deal with the suffering of so many colleagues who struggle with depression or suicidal thoughts. Here’s what has helped me. Utilize similar strategies for yourself.
1. Support groups – I’ve started several support groups for doctors and a loss survivors group for families who have lost physicians to suicide. By having a group, individuals do not feel alone and do not face the burden of caring for others alone. Avoid generic support groups. Bigger is not necessarily better. Targeted, intimate, smaller groups (<100) may be best for sharing authentic personal thoughts.
2. Pair up – Have a mastermind partner—someone with aligned vision and purpose who shares in your struggle. Create a ritual in which you contact each other daily, weekly, by text, email, dinner dates. The more you engage, the better. Though physical isolation may be necessary in a pandemic, emotional isolation is deadly (especially for physicians).
3. Share resources
– Conserve your energy (so you don’t have to repeat yourself over and over again) by sharing a resource like a book or PDF that can help many people at once. For example, I wrote Physician Suicide Letters—Answered
to support passively suicidal doctors (and made it a FREE audiobook here)
. After so many phone calls with doctors facing abuse from hazardous working conditions, I wrote Human Rights Violations in Medicine
to give all my best advice in one place (rather than one-off phone calls that were less comprehensive). Predating the pandemic, many doctors were experiencing violations of their human rights—bullying, hazing, sleep deprivation—now many lack of PPE (personal protective equipment) making their working conditions more dangerous. A resident just contacted me and reports no PPE provided despite dealing with patients in isolation and leading codes on exposed patients. Resident went to Lowe’s and was given the last respirator and N95 before shift.