Heather McKelvie

By Heather McKelvie

We’ve all heard the expression, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Oftentimes this is said tongue-in-cheek, as when we are once again faced with some daunting life obstacle. As much as we may joke about it, there is some truth to this saying.

You’ve likely heard of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, the phenomenon where long after something terrible has happened, a person is haunted by anxiety and fear stemming from that incident or time. There is a flip side to this coin. Believe it or not, a positive result can come out of experiencing trauma or difficulty and working through the resulting emotions. This is called post traumatic growth, or PTG.

PTG doesn’t imply that a person goes through a difficult time and simply bounces back. But, rather, that they experience the difficulty and come out stronger on the other side. Forged by the fires of pain and fear, people can emerge on the other side of their traumas having found inner strength, appreciation for life and gratitude for what remains. People who have been through difficult circumstances can actually come out stronger and more resilient, thanks to those experiences.

PTG isn’t something that happens overnight, and it doesn’t exempt the person from PTSD, either. Trauma or grief takes time, to process and recover from. Processing these emotions in due time leads to growth. Not everyone who experiences a trauma will experience PTG, just as not everyone who experiences trauma develops PTSD. Factors such as personality, lifestyle, level of self-awareness and being willing or ready to experience positive growth all come into play.

Flower Through Asphalt

PTG and Ectodermal Dysplasia

You may be wondering; how does this apply to ectodermal dysplasia? Unless ectodermal dysplasia is a known family trait, discovering that a child is affected can be distressing, even traumatic, for parents. No parent wants to see their child suffering. There can be a lot of anxiety and uncertainty when first learning about ectodermal dysplasia, and the fear of the unknown can be debilitating.

People affected by ectodermal dysplasia experience varying degrees of trauma throughout their lives. Whether this trauma comes in the form of frightening or painful medical appointments, or the experience of being bullied at school, these can leave lasting impressions. To the outsider, it may seem pretentious to compare hours in a dentist’s chair or multiple childhood surgeries with the type of trauma that people in battle zones experience. Of course, I don’t suggest that they are one and the same, but in a sense, we all face our own personal battles.

…many of us have chosen to experience positive growth, rather than dwell bitterly on the injustices of our lives.

How Will You Respond?

We have a choice in how we respond to the trauma we’ve experienced in our lives. We can choose to allow the demons to haunt us, or we can seek help, acknowledge our pain and grow from it. Having met a lot of adults with ectodermal dysplasia through the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias (NFED), I believe that many of us have chosen to experience positive growth, rather than dwell bitterly on the injustices of our lives. The affected young people and adults who are active with the NFED are doing their part to help others. They have learned to appreciate the importance of friendship and of community.

Here are some ways to nurture Post Traumatic Growth:

Give yourself time to heal.

Just as with a physical injury, your heart and mind need time to heal. Go easy on yourself.

Share your story with others in a supportive environment.

As part of the healing process, it can be helpful to share your story with others who understand. The NFED is a great resource for finding others who have been in your shoes. Whether you are a parent looking to speak with other parents, or an affected person who needs to find a friend – the NFED is the place to start!

Seek professional counseling.

Never feel ashamed to seek professional help for your mental health. If you broke your arm, would you be embarrassed to go to the ER to have it set and put in a cast?

What do you think? Has having ectodermal dysplasia (or having an affected child) caused you to develop a stronger resilience? Has your life changed in a positive way since experiencing an extremely challenging or traumatic event? Do you think that PTG is something affected individuals or their parents experience?

Want to learn more? Check out these resources for Post Traumatic Growth and Life-style, Coping Resources, and Trauma Symptoms: Predicting Posttraumatic Growth.

Heather McKelvie is a guest blogger for the NFED, affected by ectrodactyly-ectodermal dysplasia-clefting (EEC) syndrome and blogs at Uncommon Heather.

2 comments on “Post Traumatic Growth”

  1. 1
    CoraFaye Olive on January 2, 2017

    Simply Amazing! Very well written. Thank you Heather.

  2. 2
    seth on January 3, 2017

    Good advice…we all need a little help at certain times in our lives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *