The Echoes Of Trauma – Above the Law

Posted: October 3, 2019 at 11:46 am


without comments

It sometimes seems like my entire life is processing either the direct or secondary trauma of my past. Traumatic echoes of events that, for the most part, are years and decades past, seem to invade every sense, as well as my dreams.

The very direct trauma of bullies ripping off my pants down to my Fruit of the Loom underwear, tearing the pants into shreds, and throwing them out in a busy street. The mile walk of shame to my home. So traumatic, that I can show you exactly where it happened in my hometown of Mt. Lebanon, Pa.

The red robin I allowed other kids to pressure me into shooting with a BB gun at 16 years old. A senseless act of cruelty that still haunts my dreams. Did it feel pain? Will it be missed? The trauma of watching it suffer and failing to come to grips with how my teenage self could be so uncaring and vicious.

The image of the dead animal in the roadway will bother me for days as I project and internalize its trauma.

The family of the young lady I represented so many years ago. A tractor-trailer rear-ended their daughter and she died, trapped in the vehicle as it burned. Her suffering. Her familys plight.

There was a time when I allowed many of these traumatic echoes to play a role in a litany of unhealthy and self-destructive behaviors. How much impact did they have? I cant say. Correlation is not cause. What I can attest is my subconscious having decided to preserve these moments as endless ripples of water pushes further and further out from the source but never settling into a peaceful state within the framework of my reconstructive memory.

I utilize various methods of self-care to deal with these feelings. It has not always been the case. The projection of pain, suffering, guilt, and shame consumed me. I wore it all like a skintight suit affixed to my body with super glue.

While there are some commonalities and stereotypes as to what is trauma, it can take many forms and be uniquely subjective in how its processed. Life-changing trauma to one person may be easily shrugged off without emotional or biological consequence to someone else. In my anecdotal experience, this disparity can result in feelings of guilt and shame. We compare the experience and flog ourselves for not taking the lessor of the emotional routes.

There is no shortage of direct and secondary trauma in the helping professions, including legal. When it occurs within a professional framework that does not encourage vulnerability and portrays therapeutic self-help as weakness, the issues can boil over, and they have. Our profession has the highest rate of problem drinking along with some of the highest rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.

Rocky Haire is a Dallas-based personal injury lawyer. He is no stranger to the secondary trauma of his clients. He says:

Personal Injury law is a steady flow of injuries and death, each case bringing its unique markers of potential secondary trauma.

I remember seeing a three-year-old little girl under a truck hit and killed while her aunt was holding her hand as they walked along the road. Her yellow dress was somehow still clean. I remember her shattered mom and dad looking to me for something anything.

I remember a kid who was electrocuted and caught on fire in the CareFlite. His mom hated me because I was the only one she could saddle it with. I accepted it without hesitation or regret.

A kid who was hit head-on by a drunk driver going over 100mph and his dad was the first responder. He was so brave in my office even as he cracked and fell apart.

A beautiful, lifeless high school girl wearing a cardigan sweater, her brown hair just right and her face crushed. I have hundreds more.

How do you start a conversation with broken parents? The survivors? The dads tend to compartmentalize and check out the moms take a direct hit nuclear strike while taking care of yourself at the same time.

I remain detached, for the most part. Im the lawyer, right? Im not supposed to be emotional.

The way I most effectively process secondary trauma and help the survivors deal is to help them heal when they have experienced their own trauma through loss of a loved one or other tragedy that is the focus of a personal injury claim.

I tell them, You have to forgive. The person didnt do it intentionally and this unforgiveness is killing you. Look at you. Its rotting your bones, and its time to let it go. You have to. Im asking you to. They usually look at me (a little surprised) with a sad rage but it subsides. They all say, You have no idea, and theyre right but also, they know Im right. I have felt the crushing weight of hate and resentment begin to lift off.

Helping them be free from that horrific ball and chain, I believe, is how I deal with secondary trauma. If I can get them to forgive, it somehow releases me, too. Theres a part of me that continues to see those pictures I still see their broken, decapitated, crushed, burned bodies sometimes but I know a body is just a vehicle to get us around while were here. Nothing more and death isnt final.

Without that hope, I couldnt do what I do. Knowing the emotional damage is healing allows me to move on with them.

In the interest of full disclosure, my focus wasnt always as healthy as it is today. For years, I drank a lot. I wasnt mean or abusive; I think I just needed something to suppress it. My self-medication didnt work and evolved into what it is now.

Of course, how Rocky deals with secondary trauma is quite possibly not how you do it in your law practice. There is, however, a universal lynchpin across the board the importance of continuing self-care. We are taking care of ourselves so that we dont start exhibiting unhealthy signs and engage in destructive coping mechanisms and continue to provide clients with the highest level of assistance.

I reached out to, Mauve ONeil, a local Dallas therapist. She says:

Having helpers in all careers like attorneys, healthcare, education, as well as first responders being better equipped to manage stressful situations, regulate emotions, and taking better care of ourselves will also result in better client outcomes for those we serve. We can choose to take time and effort now or we will be forced to do it later

Here are some ideas to get started with:

RECOGNIZE IT CAN AND WILL HAPPEN!

MAKE AN ACTION PLAN NOW!

PRACTICE YOUR PLAN!

REACH OUT FOR AND TO HELP OTHERS!

From my anecdotal perspective in listening to the stories of other lawyers, the trauma problem is two-fold. We not only have to deal with and process our trauma, our story, but we also have to process and deal with the trauma and stories of those we help. A double duty that even the most skilled of therapists and helpers struggle with. Figuring out a self-care plan is vital and will be unique to the person. There is no shame in asking for professional help in putting that plan together. Start today.

Thanks to the following people for their invaluable contributions:

Brian Cuban(@bcuban)isThe Addicted Lawyer. Brian is the author of the Amazon best-selling book, The Addicted Lawyer: Tales Of The Bar, Booze, Blow & Redemption (affiliate link). A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, he somehow made it through as an alcoholic then added cocaine to his rsum as a practicing attorney. He went into recovery April 8, 2007. He left the practice of law and now writes and speaks on recovery topics, not only for the legal profession, but on recovery in general. He can be reached atbrian@addictedlawyer.com.

See the rest here:
The Echoes Of Trauma - Above the Law

Related Post

Written by admin |

October 3rd, 2019 at 11:46 am

Posted in Self-Help