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Trauma and Resilience
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It's well-known that some people are more resilient, recovering from psychological, emotional, even physical trauma more readily than others who may have flashbacks and PTSD.

What was interesting to me in the news recently was that sleep has a part to play in the recovery from trauma; specifically, sleep deprivation. People who go to sleep shortly after a traumatic often have worse outcomes than people who stay awake, optimally for 24 hours, after the event.

Sounds counterintuitive, until you remember that long-term memory is laid down and reinforced during sleep, particularly the deep sleep such as that experienced at night. Sleep deprivation breaks up those memory tracks, enabling the person to fragment and forget over time more easily. The entire event is less likely to come rushing back as a complete wave of remembered horror.

In a similar way I think that counseling right after a horrible experience might serve to strengthen, not ease, the trauma, as has been reported by disaster survivors. Immediately after the event, grief counselors encouraged victims and witnesses to talk about what they experienced, thus cementing the memories in long term memory.

Researchers found that the people with the best outcomes (taking into account factors such as resilient personality, physical injury, etc.) were those who had a task to do that kept them occupied and busy for hours (thus preventing sleep), then sleep and rest, then counseling day(s) afterward.

I'm no expert; I can only speak from personal experience. Both times that I endured a horrible event, circumstances were such that I had to carry on, keep coping, for hours afterward, not able to get a real sleep until the following night, when I collapsed, exhausted physically and emotionally.

Nor did I get formal counselling, though shortly afterwards friends of mine (three of whom are licensed therapists) and I got together and they encouraged me to talk, which helped purge the grief and pain, but not make it worse.

I'm very grateful to them for perceiving that I needed to talk, and taking me out to dinner and listening to me. Good friends are jewels beyond price.

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