What does Trauma-Informed Care mean to me? “It is not what is wrong with you, it is what happened to you!”

by | Feb 23, 2014

Please support my mission of helping families who suffer from PTSD and moral injury…order my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story.  Click and order paperback or download Kindle version.  Buy my book at BarnesandNoble as well… Thank you! Steve Sparks, Author

Welcome to the National Center for Trauma-Informed Care…(SAMSHA)  Quote from this website…

“Traumatic experiences can be dehumanizing, shocking or terrifying, singular or multiple compounding events over time, and often include betrayal of a trusted person or institution and a loss of safety. Trauma can result from experiences of violence. Trauma includes physical, sexual and institutional abuse, neglect, intergenerational trauma, and disasters that induce powerlessness, fear, recurrent hopelessness, and a constant state of alert. Trauma impacts one’s spirituality and relationships with self, others, communities and environment, often resulting in recurring feelings of shame, guilt, rage, isolation, and disconnection. Healing is possible.”

Without once mentioning a “mental health disorder” diagnosis of any kind, the organization referenced looks immediately at the common sense component of traumatic life experiences.  There is much more to reference on this website, but the above paragraph captures the full essence and potential impact of trauma in a person’s life.  The reference site, more importantly, discusses not what is wrong with you, but what has happened to you…  The following additional quote is powerful…

“Trauma-informed care is an approach to engaging people with histories of trauma that recognizes the presence of trauma symptoms and acknowledges the role that trauma has played in their lives. NCTIC facilitates the adoption of trauma-informed environments in the delivery of a broad range of services including mental health, substance use, housing, vocational or employment support, domestic violence and victim assistance, and peer support. In all of these environments, NCTIC seeks to change the paradigm from one that asks, “What’s wrong with you?” to one that asks, “What has happened to you?”

Quite by accident my lay person approach to “what happened to me” evolved in the research and writing of my story.  This was the beginning of my own healing and recovery almost three years ago, including launching this blog around the same time. I had never before understood the roots of my emotional challenges from growing up in a toxic home as a post WWII and Korean War military child.  I was able for the first time at age 64, to acknowledge the role of trauma in my life. Once I truly accepted the roots of my behavior it was then possible to take the necessary steps to start the healing and recovery process.   

As a work in progress my life has changed dramatically for the better.  Today, I live each day in the moment with a sense of mindfulness as much as possible.  For the first time in my long life I have peace of mind.  The common sense work of going back and revisiting the past and acknowledging the roots of traumatic experiences actually works.  All of this discovery was realized without my knowledge of a long ago mental health diagnosis until later in my research and treatment.

When honorably discharged from the US Navy in the fall of 1965, I was not provided with any documentation of my emotionally challenging or traumatic circumstances nor a diagnosis. It was just last year, almost two years following the publication of my book, that upon my request, the US Navy sent me the following diagnosis included in my medical records from 1965…”Acute Agitated Depression” and  “Emotionally Unstable.”  I apparently had an “extremely low tolerance to stress or frustration.”  In 1965 there was no such diagnosis for PTSD.  I believe that my ability and resilience to survive and thrive as a young man provided me with the strength to carry on.  Had I known a specific diagnosis, including the apparent risk of suicide, at the time of my departure from the US Navy, my life may have turned out much differently…  There are two full pages of narrative on my circumstances and diagnosis that remains private.  I can only say that the Naval Neuropsychiatric team who cared for me did a great job saving my life!

In my post US Navy civilian life all the baggage carried forward and resulted in a very challenging adult life that was successful from a professional perspective, but painful for me personally and for those close to me for a very long time.  It took being retired at age 64 and a strong motivation to find out “what happened to me,” to finally transform myself into a more healthy person with hope for the future and the ability to love myself and others, especially my immediate family members.

You can read my story by downloading or purchasing a paperback copy.  My story has a much deeper meaning to me now than in 2011 when first publishing my book. Becoming “trauma-informed” also gives me the inspiration to write this blog and make a difference for others in other appropriate venues.  I am so grateful to have discovered my own journey of healing, and for the loving support of many friends and loved ones, especially my wife and soul mate, Judy…

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story  click to order…

About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
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