"If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward." – Martin Luther King Jr.
Hi, I'm Karen Bartle, a professional coach, therapist, and trainer with a background in clinical, health, and positive psychology. By applying evidence-based approaches in my work, it takes the guess work out of supporting others’ physical and mental recovery following trauma.
In addition to supporting trauma survivors and/or their carers, and training & supervising professionals who work with post-trauma stress, I’ve also encountered several personal experiences of recovering from post-trauma stress.
In my very early years, I was unfortunate enough to need medical and surgical interventions. I was fortunate enough, however, to have a lot of nurturing support from family, friends, school teachers, and medical/nursing staff to get me through it.
When I hit puberty I experienced a life-threatening (almost ending) trauma event, which meant I had to spend the best part of a year in and out of the hospital wearing a tracheotomy tube, jaw stapled together eating only a liquid diet, weighing less than 38kg and having countless operations. I experienced a severe post-trauma response following that incident which took me over 2 decades to fully recover from.
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So much energy went into dealing with my post-trauma responses. I would avoid being involved in certain activities, and going to certain places and always had trepidation during the warmer weather when I had to cover up in the heat when everyone else was out in their bikinis and swimwear. I quite honestly felt a weirdo but I didn't know how, or if it was even possible back then, to overcome it!
I was hiding my history of trauma by avoiding places, people, and the kinds of clothes that I thought might 'reveal' and expose myself to others. I thought it would help to prevent the awkward conversations and anxious feelings of having to talk about myself and about what had happened to me.
It became exhausting and I couldn't fully flourish into who I wanted to be while I hid aspects of myself from the world; always monitoring myself and being on guard in case it invited 'interrogation'.
My family and friends were very supportive but I know I disrupted a lot of time together by refusing their offers to go places and do things. They made attempts to encourage me out of my shell by telling me to not be silly, no one would notice, and if they did no one would care. I believed differently and no matter how helpful or well-meaning those comments were in attempting to encourage me to accept myself for who I was, I wasn't having any of it!
Because the fears were all mine I didn't seek any help with my post-trauma stress. I felt no one really understood what I've been through and why I felt I had to do what I do because it's not their experience.
Today I know differently! I know now having learned about and worked with post-trauma stress for many years that I could and should have accessed professional help to get me unstuck from my post-trauma stress symptoms and live a more improved and happy quality of life at a much younger age.
Although I've had several trauma points since then as a teenager and in adulthood, nothing really prepared me for the sudden and unexpected death of my dad in 2019. Passing the way he did, affected me much more than I could have ever imagined and my experience of witnessing a life-ending event with someone I was so close to was heartbreaking and traumatic.
Whilst it's been hard in my recovery, I was fortunate to have a set of skills and support that helped me to get through my post-trauma stress experience this time. I feel privileged now every day to be able to help others become unstuck from post-trauma stress and to avoid having to endure what I went through for so long.
When we survive and/or witness a traumatic incident, it's normal and okay to experience a severe stress response and for our life as we know it to change forever.
It might take differing lengths of time on each of our journeys to recovery after trauma, but with my help and yours, you have the potential to find a relatively speedy pathway in your recovery from post-trauma stress.
All around the world, everyday, thousands of us are experiencing challenging situations which trigger a mild or severe stress response. So many of these are associated with life threatening/ending incidents, and a proportion of these can lead to a mental health diagnosis such as acute stress disorder (ASD) and/or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
For the majority of people who experience post trauma stress following a traumatic event, although hard to deal with, it's usually short lived and will resolve itself with time. More than 90% of men and almost 80% of women exposed to life threatening trauma will not go on to experience symptoms associated with PTSD.
In the general population the incidence of serious post-trauma stress resulting in a diagnosis of PTSD is higher in women (10-14%) than men (4-5%). If you are diagnosed with PTSD the research suggests that professional care and support is usually required to enhance long-term recovery.