Hellen experienced the following symptoms:
- Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that are reminders of the trauma
- Difficulty concentrating
- Emotionally numb
- Feeling detached from others
- Feeling jumpy and easily startled
- Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
- Flashbacks (feeling like the event is happening again)
- Hyper vigilance (on constant “hyper alert”)
- Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
- Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)
- Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event
- Irritability or outbursts of anger
- Loss of interest in activities and life in general
- Nightmares (either of the event or of other frightening things)
Hellen, born in Mexico, moved with
her family to Canada at the age of 7. Immediately upon entering
Canada, she faced some unfortunate challenges, especially for
a young girl moving to a new country.
For example, while learning to adjust to Canadian life and
the English language, she was ridiculed and shamed by other
school children due to the stigma attached of her cultural
background. And merely a year later, at the age of 8, she was
raped by a family acquaintance. This left her vulnerable to
several years of sexual abuse by a family member. As a self
conscious, now overweight, adolescent whose trust in people
had been shattered, she escaped by reading books and creating
a “safe” world in her mind.
As Hellen grew up, she
avoided the conscious awareness of her anxiety and depression
by keeping herself extremely busy and by being overly excited
about life. It was not until her late twenties when an unstable
long-term relationship ended that a crack in her defense mechanisms
caused a barrage of emotions, memories, and delayed Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms, including those listed above.
In addition to her many symptoms, because of Hellen’s
inability to trust and her need to be seen as strong, Hellen
learned to cope with relationships with anger.
Recognizing the impact of her struggles, Hellen turned to numerous
books about sexual abuse, PTSD, and recovery, which contained
stories of others who had successfully dealt with their traumas:
mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. As a result,
her struggles began to make sense as these writings normalized
the after effects and symptoms of what she had survived. These
books also provided her with some of the tools she needed to
change, heal, and grow.
Since Hellen had ruled out conventional medication as an option,
she pursued a “natural” approach to recovery, which
included a change of diet, natural supplements, and changes to
the way she was thinking and feeling.
Gradually, with the help of a couple of people who chose to
respond to the frightened vulnerable girl inside Hellen’s
tough shell, instead of withdrawing, she learned to let go of
her anger and express her needs.
Hellen continued to work on her underlying factors over the
years and finally returned to normal and lasting health. She
is another example of how identifying and successfully addressing
the underlying factors of anxiety and depression can bring lasting
relief. Today, Hellen is living a normal, healthy, and symptom-free
Hellen has a Master of Arts Degree in Counseling. She has provided counseling services to individuals and groups in the areas
of addictions, abuse (spiritual/ emotional/ sexual), anger management,
caregiver self care, anxiety, depression, loss and grief, personal
and spiritual growth, post-traumatic stress, and suicide prevention since 1995.
Counseling with Hellen can be done in either English or Low German
Hellen lives in Canada’s beautiful Fraser Valley in British
Columbia, and enjoys spending time out in nature walking, exploring,
and photographing with friends and with out of province family
when they visit.