Living With C-PTSD

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

In March 2017 I started having anxiety attacks and suicidal thoughts, I was inflicting pain on myself by punching myself in the head and hitting my head on walls, and in my mind I was often thinking, especially at night, that people were coming to kill me.

This wasn’t a new thing to me. I’d gone through all this as a teenager too. But this time I felt like I was actually losing my mind. So I sought help. I found a wonderful counsellor (Lynda Gooby) and soon discovered that I was exhibiting numerous symptoms of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

There are so many symptoms. Feeling depressed, feeling worthless, despairing, being insensitive to others, hyper vigilance, inability to relax, irritability, anger outburst and tantrums, crying, sobbing breakdowns, addictions, binge eating, alcohol & substance abuse, self harming, obsessive use of TV & internet, being promiscuous, being a workaholic, cleaning obsessively, OCD, digestive disorders, heart disorders, suicide idealisation … and many, many more.

Writing that list brings back so many memories of the symptoms I have suffered since I was a teenager. Other than cleaning obsessively and substance abuse, I have endured every single one of those symptoms during my lifetime. And it’s interesting to note that I have only just released myself from an obsessive use of Facebook, which I now see was another way of coping with all the ongoing trauma I’ve had to face over the past two years.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be free of the effects of C-PTSD. They are so deep rooted within me. But I do know that, now that I’m aware of how I’ve been conditioned to behave, I am usually able to recognise what triggers me and take a step back before I react to the trigger.

C-PTSD is brought on by experiencing prolonged, repeated trauma. It cannot be nailed down to one specific event (that is PTSD). The trauma suffered may be unnoticeable to the outside world and that is why, I believe, very many of us suffer from it, most of us blissfully unaware!

Our early years, from birth to 7, play a big part in our psychological development. The environment in which we are raised teaches us fundamentally who we ‘think’ we are. Interestingly two children raised in the same home by the same parents can have a totally different idea of who they ‘think’ they are. In the past, it was often the case that boys were raised very differently to girls. Thankfully, things are changing now and equality is becoming more and more important, although we still have a long way to go!

The only way to deal with the symptoms of C-PTSD is to change the way you have been conditioned to think. There are always going to be triggers so it’s important to be true to yourself, to recognise the triggers, and to try to stop reacting to them.

I’ve had a tendency to become very defensive. I’ve been used to being put down, feeling worthless, so I developed a coping mechanism to deal with any criticism. Be defensive!! I’m recognising now that other people’s opinions of me don’t matter. It’s what I think of myself that counts.

I became a people pleaser very early on in my life. I learnt that other people’s feelings and needs should come before my own. I know now that this is wrong, and it is unhealthy. I have learnt to say no. I have learnt that if someone wants to be in my life they will treat me with as much love and respect as I give to them. And, as difficult as it is to put healthy boundaries in place, this goes for everyone … family too.

Often one of the biggest problems someone like me has, is a lack of self love. This, again, will no doubt stem from my early childhood. We cannot underestimate the influence that our protectors have over us between birth and the age of 7 (please remember that this is not their fault, it’s what they were taught between the age of 0 and 7 themselves!). Both people pleasers and so called ‘golden children’ lack self love. You cannot harm yourself or others if you have a healthy sense of self love.

Look back at that list of symptoms. Be honest with yourself. How many of those symptoms do you endure in your own life?

Are you a people pleaser? Do you put everyone else first?

Or are you a golden child? Do you think you are better than others?

Or do you do both? Do you judge people and treat some as beneath you and others as above you?

We all have darkness. Light cannot exist without it. But we do not have to choose to inflict our darkness either on ourselves, or on other people. We have free will. We have total responsibility for our own thoughts and our own actions. Nothing is ever someone else’s fault. And we are all equal.

It’s very hard to look in. Can you?

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