According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, almost 70% of children who are seen in a pediatric health setting have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lives. Science demonstrates that childhood trauma changes you on the level of your cells and even your genes. Some of these gene changes — known as epigenetic changes — can last your entire life and even be passed on to your own children.
If you experienced abuse or trauma as a child, you may now be struggling with issues such as:
- Shame or guilt
- Self-harm or suicidal behavior
- Substance overuse
- Chronic health conditions
Just as trauma reshapes you, however, getting treatment for trauma and negative childhood events can reverse epigenetic changes. More importantly, dealing with and treating trauma from negative childhood events can end self-destructive behaviors and bring you health, fulfillment, and relief. The expert therapists at the Soho Center For Mental Health and Counseling in York City recommend starting your journey toward recovery with four simple steps:
1. Recognize that you aren’t alone.
Being physically or emotionally abused or traumatized as a child may make you feel ashamed, guilty, and “different.” Children often think that they “deserve” to be abused, so they keep the abuse a secret and may not share their feelings with anyone.
The fact that many of the people you know may have also been abused and have traumatic memories of their childhood means that you aren’t as alone as you may feel. You can find support groups in your local community or through a mental health center, where you can feel free to share your story with others who are learning to recover.
2. Allow yourself to feel your feelings.
Feelings of shame, guilt, and anger can be overpowering. Sometimes you may try to bury uncomfortable emotions or mask them with the effects of alcohol or recreational drugs. Your parents or other caregivers may have even taught you to suppress your emotions or they punished you for expressing them.
But an important step in healing is allowing yourself to feel your full range of emotions. Give yourself permission to feel sad or angry when those emotions arise. This allows you to see that even the most powerful emotions go through a cycle of beginning, hitting a plateau, and finally ending.
3. Take care of your present self.
While you’re grappling with the lingering effects of abuse and trauma, be sure to take care of yourself by eating healthy food, getting plenty of exercise, and learning stress-reduction techniques. Undergoing therapy that allows you to explore your memories and emotions in a safe, supportive environment is an important part of the healing process, too.
4. Ask for help.
Just as you wouldn’t expect yourself to “tough” out a broken arm or another physical injury, you don’t have to fully heal your childhood wounds on your own. The team at the Soho Center for Mental Health and Counseling offers a number of evidence-based therapies for healing negative memories, including psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, and eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, which helps your brain unlock memories so you can work through them at your own pace with the aid of a trained therapist.
Whenever you’re ready, we’re here to help. You can reach us with a phone call or by using the online form.