March is Women’s History Month, and we are going to be celebrating by talking all about women. I’m doing a series of conversations around this topic in general, and this week, we’re starting with a discussion all about trauma. Relationship therapist Dr. Kimmery and I are discussing how so many women have had to deal with trauma in one way or another, directly or indirectly, and breaking down what trauma is and how to heal from it.
Have you ever wondered why someone might feel traumatized without ever having had a traumatic experience? Have you ever wondered if something was “traumatic enough” to even call it trauma? Or perhaps, you don’t know what trauma means really, or if you’ve ever experienced it. Trauma has many ways it can show up, and it looks different to different people. It is just as unique as you are.
Women’s History Month is one of my favorite months. I consider it “Women’s Empowerment Month.” This is the time where women remember they are amazing and decide to put their own wellbeing first. This month, let’s give ourselves the gift of healing, starting with this conversation all about trauma.
You are listening to The Midlife Sex Coach for Women™ Podcast episode 130.
Welcome to The Midlife Sex Coach for Women™ Podcast, the only show that combines a fun personality, medical knowledge, sexual counseling, and life coaching together. To create unique sex coaching that helps busy women awaken their libidos, address intimacy issues, and learn how to express their sexuality for the rest of their days. Here is your host, certified life coach and sexual counselor, Dr. Sonia Wright.
Diamonds, it’s Dr. Sonia and I am joined today by Dr. Kimmery. And this is March. We are celebrating Women’s History Month, and we are going to be talking all about women, we’ll be doing a series of these conversations. And today we wanted to talk to you about trauma, women in trauma. And specifically I asked Dr. Kimmery to come on because she is a trauma coach and because let’s be real, in the United States about one in six women have had sexual assault in their past. And if we’re looking worldwide it’s about one in three women have dealt with sexual assault.
Now, this is not specifically, this episode is not specifically all going to be about sexual assault and trauma. It’s going to be about trauma in general. But that’s a real part of it. And so if we’re talking about women’s history, I also want to acknowledge that there’s a lot of trauma that women have had to deal with and we just want to break it down a little bit, how it might show up. And when people come and talk to me, Diamonds come and talk to me and I will ask them, “Is there a history of trauma” because I want to be aware of what’s going on.
And so many of the women will say, “I’m not sure. I’m not sure.” That kind of makes me sad. It’s almost like it’s so pervasive that we don’t even know if it’s a problem or not. We don’t even know if it’s something wrong to be physically or emotionally, mentally abused in some way. And so I really want to talk to Dr. Kimmery about trauma, how it might show up in a woman’s life. So, Dr. Kimmery, thank you so much for agreeing to be on this call, I really appreciate it.
Kimmery: Thank you for having me. It’s a great, great time to have this conversation so thank you.
Sonia: Yeah, definitely. So let’s get right into it. Well, just tell me, tell me anything you want to tell me and then I’ll ask you a question specifically about how trauma shows up in a woman’s life. But when you think around women in trauma, what is that you want our Diamonds to know about?
Kimmery: Well, there are several different things and there are different types of traumas. And I want people to be aware that trauma does not have to be something that specifically happened to you. You can experience something called secondary trauma or vicarious trauma. And that’s when you witness trauma happening to someone else, when you know of someone who has had a traumatic experience. And sometimes we get a vicarious trauma through media, through seeing all of the different ways in which people have been mistreated, people have been murdered.
And more recently, issues with police brutality and murder of particularly young Black male bodies. And so I think that is really important for people to know that trauma doesn’t have to be something that happens directly to you. It could be something you witnessed and it affects you just the same. So yeah, that’s kind of how I want people to kind of keep in mind that trauma can show up. And that it looks entirely different to entirely different people.
Sonia: I’m sorry to interrupt. I was just thinking, sometimes women will justify, well, I didn’t experience this so I shouldn’t have a problem or my life was really good. My childhood was really great. So why am I so upset about this or having lingering issues around this, that type of thing. So it’s good to know that there’s secondary trauma and then there’s generational trauma. There’s a lot of different types of trauma as opposed to direct trauma so thank you for bringing that up as well.
Kimmery: Yeah, for sure. And you know you bring up something that’s really important and to note as well and I want to emphasize that. Is that when a woman says and we’re talking women here, so we’re talking women in particular. But if a woman says, “My childhood was good, why am I affected by somebody else’s trauma?” Well, it’s probably because your childhood was good that you recognize that what they experienced was wrong because you were taught that it was not okay to be treated that way or to have other people treat other people that way.
And so the connection that you have, the secure attachment and this is a whole thing, but the secure attachment that you have with your family and with your parents and your caregivers probably is the reason why you’re experiencing the secondary trauma. Because you realize that what has happened to a person or people is not supposed to happen and it’s wrong and their feelings and everything associated with that. So I’m glad that’s something that you brought up too. Thanks for saying that out loud.
Sonia: Yeah, definitely. So how does trauma show up in women’s lives?
Kimmery: Wow, that is a loaded question. There are a few ways in particular that I think are really important to point out. Sometimes there are situations where women experience extreme anger. And they are unsure if the anger is trauma related, just as you said, they don’t know if they’ve experienced trauma or not or if what they have experienced, they may not believe it’s ‘traumatic’ enough for them to have been affected by it. And so sometimes it shows up as anger and not necessarily meaning that the anger is something that’s always on top of everything.
But it could be something boiling under the surface as well. It could be anger at being injustices that have happened because maybe that’s something that has happened to you in the past and it triggers you in your adult relationships. Or ways in which you hold your body and we hold onto the traumatic experiences within our bodies. And so the anger sometimes can cause us to have outbursts which increase levels of stress and cause lots of different types of perceptions to be made based on the lens of trauma for everything to kind of be viewed through that lens.
And another way as this kind of segues into this but trauma can show up as chronic illness. We talk about the stress levels. And that increase in stress can cause people to more likely develop diabetes or heart disease. And I think they say, I don’t know, I’m not sure, you’re the medical doctor here Dr. Sonia, but I think one of the things that is talked about as far as the number one risk factor killer for women and maybe I think Black women in particular but women in general is heart disease.
And a lot of that shows up based on people’s experiences with trauma and how the body holds on to that trauma. And so autoimmune disorders develop, different things that you normally wouldn’t associate with some type of emotional connection. But lots of psychosomatic types of things happen. And then there’s the death rate of women who have experienced trauma. There’s a higher death rate and it’s comorbid with having experienced different traumatic things in your life and some of it can be death by one’s own hands.
Some of it can be early death because of high risk situations. And some of it can be early death that is specifically based on the chronic illnesses that they have developed over time because of the stress and their bodies just not being able to hang on to life because their cells literally are taking a hit and they’re dying on the inside. And so those are some of the things as well. And then we can just, sometimes trauma can cause us to lash out and do the very thing that was done to us.
And so if there was some physical, emotional, verbal types of abuse that have happened then sometimes, not always because not every person who is abused becomes an abuser. But sometimes that abuse can show up in the context of a person’s life. And it’s not necessarily only them perpetrating the abuse, it may be they are on the receiving end of the abuse because they have not given themselves the value that’s necessary in order to live and have the relationships that they want. And so they feel like they have to settle because that is what they know and that is all they deserve.
And so all of those things can definitely be ways that trauma shows up and there are a myriad of other ways as well that trauma can show up in people’s lives but these are some of the ones that I think are really significant.
Sonia: Yeah, definitely those are significant. And thank you for all the different examples. So it can allow our Diamonds to spend some time thinking about how trauma might have impacted their lives. I wanted to ask you about this concept of a big T, little t, because who gets to say what is a big T and a little t? And I remember they had this ACE, what does ACE stand for? Adverse Childhood Events.
Kimmery: Adverse Childhood Experiences.
Sonia: Experiences, thank you. And I remember reading that if you had three or four or more or something like that then you have a higher risk. And honestly, I went down the list and I had almost all of them. And that really blew my mind away because I remember thinking, I must be in a really bad shape. I must be in denial or something. I must be in really bad shape. How is it that I could have all these adverse events or experiences and still be functional? So I was like, “Something must be going on here.”
And then I realized that each one of us process these things a different way and decides how we want to think about things. So something that somebody else tells me might be a big event for me but I was like, “Well, that’s all I knew.” Whereas somebody else might have experienced something that an authority figure would say, “Yeah, no, that’s not a big deal”, but it really impacted them. So what do you think about this big T, little t concept?
Kimmery: I really hate it, honestly. And I know hate is a strong word and I mean that word when I say it when it comes to these two things. And the reason is because people cannot heal when they do that, make their pain the pain. And so if you are seeing a provider or a person or whomever it is that tells you, “That’s little t trauma.”
Then you minimize the necessary work that you have to do in order to heal from the thing that you see as affecting your life in such a way that causes you to have maybe the mental health struggles or the relational difficulties or just internal struggles in general. And so I really dislike that to my core as a provider.
Sonia: I’m sorry but it seems like it would teach people to distrust themselves. You’re dealing with a trauma, you’re upset about the thing and then somebody says, “That doesn’t meet criteria for a big T, that’s just a little t so ignore it.” And in so many ways as women we’re told to ignore things. We’re told to ignore our body, ignore pain, ignore somebody’s treatment of us, those things are belittled. And this seems like it’s another, it’s almost retraumatizing a person when you’re not acknowledging whatever they say. They’re the ones that get to determine if it’s a trauma or not.
Kimmery: Exactly. And honestly there are people who have these major events. And as you said, it may affect one person in a way that it doesn’t affect you. And you may have had the same type of experience. And so giving someone permission to not be a victim is also important in this as well because if they don’t see themselves as that and they’re not avoiding but they don’t see themselves as a victim, you can’t make them a victim. And so if you see someone in your practice or just as a friend or whomever and they talk about a loss that they have.
And it’s not a loss that you would particularly think is something big but it’s not your job to tell them, “That’s not a big deal, you shouldn’t be affected by that in such a way that causes you to x, y and z.” The question may be, what can I do to be assistive to you as you walk through this process? And so the big T and the little t concept really rubbed me kind of the wrong way because I don’t feel it’s right for people to determine whether or not somebody’s trauma is more important or more significant to someone else’s trauma, so there.
Sonia: Thank you for that, I appreciate that. So what about trauma responses, how that can show up in the workplace or relationships, how does that show up in your everyday life because you might not even know where it’s coming from?
Kimmery: Yeah. Right, exactly, and that’s why it’s called a trauma response. So we have a brain most of us and we have this thing called the amygdala and you’re the technical person. I guess I’ll leave all the medical up to you but in the context of trauma I’m going to talk about this. The amygdala is what is referred to as a lizard brain. And because the amygdala filters all of the danger that we experience and so when you’ve been traumatized and you’ve lived a large proportion of your life in fight, flight or freeze then it makes it a lot easier for you to filter all of your experiences through that lens.
The executive functioning part of your brain which is the frontal lobe no longer has the power that it would have had you not experienced significant breakdowns in trauma. And so as we talk about how it shows up, you may have someone in your workplace who is demanding like a person who has been an authority figure in your life and had power over you and you were powerless against them. And now you have run into a person who is exactly like that person, who reminds you of that person.
And so in order to protect yourself you don’t go to HR, you just lash out in the moment. You tell them what you’re thinking or how you feel, sometimes that could be words, sometimes it can be words and violence. And you really don’t understand why it’s showing up that way. And it’s really interesting too because oftentimes after it’s done there are people who are just like, “Yeah, and I’d do it again.” And then there are other people who are like, “Wow, I should not have responded that way, I have no idea what came over me.” Well, it was fear.
So when we’re in fear response, when we have someone who triggers that in us we come out most of the time fighting. Then there are other times when you just leave. You leave emotionally, you check out mentally or you quit the job because you have someone who is oppressive in that situation because you cannot handle it. And it’s not for lack of experiencing that oppression because everyone should have the freedom to do so. It may be a situation where instead of dealing with it right away, you run away right away. And so that’s another response.
And then there’s just the freeze response and sometimes that freeze response can look like in the workplace someone taunting or doing things and saying that attack the person’s character and they just take it and they don’t defend themselves and they don’t say anything. And that is also a part of the responses that can happen as a result of trauma. And then there’s the fawn, that’s a new one that they’ve added within recent years.
And the fawn response is I’m going to do everything that I can to please you and to make you okay and make you feel okay with me. And make sure you have what you need and I’m not in the way and I’m not causing any issues. And sometimes that can be helpful in some ways because you may be in a situation where that may be necessary in order for you to stay safe. In other ways not so much because what it does, it may give people more fuel to mistreat you and to put you in situations that could be more damaging emotionally and physically than it would be if you did respond in a different way.
Sonia: Yeah. And when I’m working with my clients or just when I’m evaluating situations I kind of look, does the situation, the response fit the situation? If it seems the response is so large in comparison to what’s going on in the situation you’ve usually triggered something from the past or some other trauma that’s happened. And so it is something to be aware of and to get the help that you need, what are some options if people are triggered in their trauma?
Kimmery: Yeah. Finding support, that is one of the biggest things that one can do, find a therapist, someone who is not only trauma informed but someone who’s trauma trained as well. Trauma informed can be very helpful in some situations, and in other situations it’s not as helpful. And so finding someone who has been trained in trauma, who has been treating people who have experienced trauma is one of the ways that you can get some help. And that person can be a coach or that person can be a therapist. I am both a trauma coach and a trauma therapist.
And so the people that I work with and have worked with over the years have come to me mostly because they have experienced trauma and that’s the population of people that I work with the most, practicing self-care. Learning how to take care of yourself in those moments when you have been triggered. Now, some of that comes from working with a professional or a coach or a therapist. Other times people read self-help books and those are really helpful for them to find techniques that they can use to deal with some of the big emotions that you have when you have been triggered in your trauma.
And so practice self-care can look like getting massages, going to the gym for some people, having coffee or tea with a friend once or twice a week, maybe a different friend, journaling, resting. Resting is a form of self-care too. And so those are some of the things to do and yes, there are a myriad of other things to do as well. But those are just some of the ones that I find and my clients found the most helpful for them is to be able to do those things. And then recognize the ways that you respond to the trauma.
Know that this person yelling at me reminds me of this other person who perpetrated abuse towards me but they are not that person so what am I going to do instead? How can I respond instead? That keeps my stress level low and also allows me to establish a boundary between how I’m going to be treated and the way in which I will respond to someone if they come to me in a certain way. So just recognizing the way that you do that. And then honestly, out of all of those things you must make a choice to heal, it must be a choice.
We all can choose and you must make a choice to heal from the trauma. If it’s affecting your life in a way that is causing these responses that we’ve talked about, making the choice to heal can be a journey and it’s definitely something that you don’t have to walk alone. So yeah, those are some ways to overcome.
Sonia: Yeah, sometimes people don’t want to necessarily heal or don’t want to necessarily do the forgiveness thing. They don’t want to forget. They are worried that if they forget somebody gets off the hook or something like that. But the bottom is the person that perpetuated the trauma usually doesn’t care. And the only person that’s really suffering is the person that’s still holding on to it and is not going on their healing journey. And so that’s something important to know and to understand that this is a gift that you give yourself.
Kimmery: Yes, absolutely. And honestly, sometimes the forgiveness doesn’t even need to be known to the person that has perpetrated the abuse. The forgiveness is for you and it’s a process.
Sonia: Yeah, 100%, because a lot of times these people are not safe people to be around. You don’t want to be retraumatizing yourself so this is not about them, this is about you and what you get to give yourself in terms of healing so that you can go forward in living your best life.
Kimmery: Yes, for sure.
Sonia: Well, how can my Diamonds reach you if they choose to do some trauma work?
Kimmery: Yeah. So I can be reached via email at drkimmery, that’s D-R-K-I-M-M-E-R-Y@drspecialk D-R-S-P-E-C-I-A-L-K.com. Or you can go to my website or both. You can go to my website and it is drspecialk.com just as I just spelled out. So yeah, drop me a line, reach out to me, let me know, we can do some great work together.
Sonia: Okay. We will put all the notes in the show notes, we’ll put all the ways that you can be reached. And so they can click on your website or they can send you an email directly. Okay, thank you for starting with this conversation in the Women’s History Month. And I consider it women’s empowerment month. This is one of my favorite months. This is the time where women are amazing and we get to give ourselves, I like what you said about giving ourselves the gift of healing.
And so in this month give us the gift of healing, give ourselves the gift of healing. So definitely if you want to do some trauma work, reach out and check in with Dr. Kimmery and we will be seeing you next week. Okay, Diamonds, Dr. Sonia out.
Kimmery: Take care.
Hey Diamonds, do you want to reignite the passion that’s gone missing from your life? Do you want to want to want it again? You know I’m on a mission to end the emotional pain and isolation that women experience associated with sexual difficulties. And many of you also know that I was once in that place where I was experiencing little to no sexual intimacy in my life. And I kept thinking that there was something that was wrong with me, that I wasn’t enough, I wasn’t attractive enough, I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t smart enough to fix this problem.
And I was worried all the time that my relationship was too far gone because of this lack of intimacy. Well, you know what? I was right about one thing, the relationship didn’t last. But even though the relationship didn’t last, I committed to doing the work that I needed to do to own my sexuality. And now I have this amazing sex life and it’s everything that I wanted it to be. And I’m also committed to helping my Diamonds by teaching them the same strategies that I figured out in order to revitalize the intimacy in their life.
So, if you want to stop feeling broken, if you want to stop feeling shame and guilt about sexuality, if you want to feel more comfortable with your sexuality and tap into that pleasure then I’m here for you, Diamonds. First of all, know that there’s nothing that’s gone wrong with you. You’re not broken. And you know what? You can solve your intimacy issues. You can let go of that shame and guilt, and you can tap into that passionate person that’s just waiting to come out. Let’s get on a strategy call together and let’s discuss how we can work together and how I can help you.
And know that a strategy call, it’s 100% a safe place, there is no judgment. We’ll talk about your intimacy situation, which is what’s going on right now. We’re also going to talk about your intimacy goals, what you would like your intimacy to look like in the future. And then we’ll talk about how we could possibly work together to come up with a personalized strategy plan for you so you can get the results that you need. So, Diamonds, I’m here for you, don’t wait another minute. Book that consultation call with me today and I can’t wait to talk to you.
You can get that consultation call by going to soniawrightmd.as.me. And the link is also in the show notes. Okay, have a great day. I can’t wait to talk to you. Take care.