It has been a while. I have been actively avoiding writing for quite some time now. Let me rephrase that. I have written plenty, none of which is suitable for eyes other than my own. We will call it a form of therapy. I have always found it to be a huge emotional dumping. Just let it all fall out of me and tumble onto the paper. Better out than in, as some might say.
What exactly has been going on in my life? Growth.
Growth is always painful. It is also rewarding if you can hang on long enough. I am just coming up on about a year of some really serious growing pains. Due to some personal upheaval in my own world, I jumped back into therapy, (every great therapist has a great therapist) and began to peel back some layers.
I lost and I gained. I had to put my own career on hold while all of this took place. I am a hard-core perfectionist and having to admit that I needed a step back almost broke me. There were months of deep soul searching. Long trips back to reflect on what had been and what will be.
What did I learn with the help of many?
Let’s begin with the technical side of things. We all know how I feel about labels, but there can be times that they help people muddle through why they feel or act the way they do. I am okay with that as long as they use that information to move forward.
Many years ago, I was diagnosed with PTSD. This is a reaction to a threatening event. Usually this single event happens for a brief duration. After much discussion with my own therapist, it seems I fall into the category of complex PTSD or C-PTSD.
This occurs when a person experiences multiple or ongoing trauma that lasts for a long time. While PTSD typically causes disturbances—such as flashbacks, avoidance of locations or situations that remind a person of the event, or chronic fear and depression—to the traumatic event, C-PTSD is more likely to cause identity and personality disturbances in addition to the symptoms of traditional PTSD. This is because people exposed to prolonged trauma may begin to view the trauma as a core part of their identity or as something they caused.
C-PTSD has many of the same symptoms as PTSD, including intrusive memories or flashbacks, depression, anxiety, avoidance, and changes in personality. However, people with C-PTSD also experience symptoms that people with PTSD don’t normally have. These include:
- Chronic fear of abandonment. Many people with C-PTSD are diagnosed with an attachment disorder, and neediness, fear of abandonment, and even regression during times of stress are common in C-PTSD.
- My two cents on this one, you will likely always fear losing those you love but often won’t express it to anyone. In fact, the opposite is true. Until you work through your issues, you will continue to test them and push them away even though you don’t really want to be alone forever.
- Difficulty controlling emotions or changes in personality.
- Truth, until my forties I would change my personality to suit anyone in my life willing to show me love. I ran hot or cold with no in between.
- Disturbances in self-perception and persistent feelings of shame.
- I have eliminated those in my life who made me feel less than. I continue to work on shame every day. What people like me need to be mindful of is how we treat others. We can appear cold when we are not communicating.
- Obsession with the perpetrator and frequently changing perceptions of the perpetrator. A sexual abuse survivor, for example, might go back and forth between viewing the abuser as evil and loving, and might continue an unhealthy entanglement with that person.
- There are not enough pages for me to explain this one. I kept secrets to protect an entire family empire. I wanted the love of all of them. Teach your children that secrets destroy lives, especially their own. Always be their protector. As an adult, know that you are enough and you do not owe loyalty to any individual who has hurt you.
- Emotional flashbacks: Rather than intrusively remembering the traumatic event, a person with C-PTSD might instead simply get emotionally overwhelmed and re-experience the emotions he or she felt during the traumatic event without ever actually recalling or thinking about the traumatic event. This is particularly common during periods of stress. A person might, for example, begin sobbing or feel terrified during a minor disagreement with their partner.
- The absolute story of my life. Once I got a hold on the flashbacks, I was so frustrated why I would just cry for no reason or always feel unsettled and guarded. I continue to do the work and realize the role I play in my journey. I will continue to heal so my future is healthy and happy. I will continue to heal so I don’t hurt those I love.
If you have read this and felt you can relate but feel overwhelmed, take a breath. I am proof all is not lost. I always tell my friends, family and clients that if you want to heal, if you want to change, you can. It is not easy, but it will be the most rewarding work you do.
What are some of the things necessary to cope?
A stage based treatment approach that includes the following phases:
- Establishing safety and helping find ways to feel safe in your environment or eliminate dangers in the environment. This is your life now. You are safe. Be mindful of that. Your body, your choice. Always make your home or space feel peaceful and welcoming. A place you can go when you need to re-center.
- Teaching basic self-regulation skills. If you were not taught how to keep your emotions in check as a child, do yourself the favour and do it now. If you feel yourself on the verge of tears, or ready to punch someone easily, PAY ATTENTION to that. You are now an adult and you are responsible for your reactions. Listen to your body. Your increased heart rate, sweaty palms. That is your cue to take a walk, get some water, and calm down. Reset, Restore, Redo. The more often you do this, the easier it will be.
- Encouraging information processing that builds introspection. This means that it is your responsibility to keep your own self in check. You cannot expect the people in your world to hold this for you. They can love you, protect you and laugh with you, but not read your mind or emotions. It is your job to heal.
- Encouraging healthy relationships and engagement. There is no moving forward in this life if you mingle with toxic or unhealthy relationships. I spent YEARS swirling around in others drama to avoid my own. The second a person in my life asked about me, I would shut them down cold. Keep your circle filled with love, respect and kindness. Keep up your end of that as well. Be kind, be loving and be respectful.
- Reduce distress and increase positive affect. Seems so easy right? Eliminating distress from my life this last year was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Increasing positivity is something I have to remind myself every day. The point is, you have to want the change. No more sitting back and blaming the world. Shit happened, time to show them what we are made of.
So what has all of this taught me? Sitting screen to screen with my therapist, you know virtual therapy and all. First, I am glad that we have been able to make sense of my random brain scrambles. 🙂 Second, I am loving this part of my journey regardless of how exhausting some of it can be. Third, always remember that your trauma is never a license to be a dick. Period. I am not proud of how I have treated some people in the past, but I am damn proud of how I treat everyone today.
Finally, I am proud of me. I never felt like I knew who I was. Fitting into unrealistic expectations set out for me by my past. Never feeling quite good enough. Here I am, allowing my heart and head to lead the way into the happiest I have ever felt. Do yourself the favour, heal those wounds and do the same.
Much love ❤