Former NHL star Theo Fleury who has openly talked about his traumas in life took mental health discussions a step further with therapist Kim Barthel by focusing on post-traumatic stress disorder in Red Deer on Tuesday.
While Fleury did not experience PTSD, the pair regularly lead workshops and speak at conferences about trauma, which they said can trigger PTSD in about one in eight people.
“Trauma is the experience. Post-traumatic stress disorder is the physical response to a trauma so not everyone that experiences trauma has post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Barthel who helped run a one-day PTSD workshop hosted by Relationship Inspired Learning and Development at the Westerner.
She said PTSD symptoms include a constant chronic state of elevated stress, lengthy periods of disassociation and flashbacks, and the disorder seems to have its roots in early childhood developmental trauma.
“When there’s neglect or abuse or violence in early childhood, that is the greatest indicating factor that will then produce post-traumatic stress disorder in the future. If you come from a very secure childhood and you meet a traumatic event in your future, you’re less likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Fleury and Barthel co-authored, Conversations with a Rattlesnake, that looks at trauma and abuse in connection to Fleury’s experiences of sexual abuse by his former coach Graham James, Fleury’s healing journey, and Barthel’s examination of early childhood attachment and addiction.
Both Fleury and Barthel said there are not enough skilled therapists to deal with all the people experiencing PTSD.
Fleury said the Red Deer workshop was all about creating a safe environment for people to discuss PTSD and coping skills that can assist in healing.
“Through Kim and I talking about our own experiences, we create safety in the room. Once we have safety in the room, that’s when the magic happens,” Fleury said.
He said the more he helps others heal, the more he heals himself.
“People come into your life that not only you help, but they help you as well. It’s like this ever-evolving circle of healing.”
Fleury said healing from trauma and PTSD is an ongoing process.
“Just like if you had a broken hip and had to do your rehab, having post-traumatic stress disorder means you have to pay attention to yourself for the rest of your life,” Barthel said.