Why write about politics and religion?

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When I started this blog, I remember saying I would never write about politics or religion.

Four years later, I’m writing about both politics and religion.   Though not every one of my posts covers these two divisive subjects, a good percentage of them do.    Sometimes I remember the promise I made when this blog was new, and feel like a bit of a hypocrite.

But then when I realize how closely our political situation (and religion too, since in America, right wing evangelical Christianity has become VERY political) ties in with narcissistic abuse and sociopathy, which was this blog’s original focus —  I realize I made the right decision in tossing aside my original vow to steer clear of religion and politics.

In 2019, narcissistic abuse is no longer a matter that only affects individuals, relationships, and families.   It’s the modus operandi of a criminal political organization or perhaps group of criminal political organizations that is affecting everyone under their rule on a nationwide, or even a worldwide, scale.    What is happening in the Republican Party — no longer your father’s, brother’s, or even your own conservative, small government, ‘family values’ party, but a treasonous terrorist organization of white supremacists and religiofascists that serves only the wealthy, white, straight, and male — is narcissistic abuse writ large.  Like it or not, all of us, to one degree or another, are affected by it.

Those of us who are horrified by what has become of America and the cruel way some vulnerable groups of people are being treated, and terrified by what Trump and his sociopathic regime may do to us next are most likely suffering some form of PTSD.    If we already were victims of narcissistic abuse, we are likely suffering a relapse of Complex PTSD (C-PTSD).  I know I sure as hell am.   Most days I feel like I’m just barely hanging on.   It’s hard to think or to function.   I feel constant anxiety, and sometimes depression.  When I’m not anxious or depressed, I’m in a white hot rage.   Peace of mind is a thing of the past, since I never know what fresh hell each new day will bring.    I know I’m far from alone.

Living in Trump’s America without being part of his cultish base feels a lot like waiting for your abusive husband to get home and not knowing whether he’ll beat you up again or mercifully just ignore you tonight.   It feels like being a scapegoated child in a family of narcissists, who blame you for everything that goes wrong, even though you don’t understand what you did wrong (and probably didn’t do anything).   You’re always anxious and on edge, always waiting for the “other shoe to drop.”  Narcissists like to keep you off balance, and Trump and his sycophants like to create the sort of chaos and say the kinds of things that keep us all off balance and constantly on edge.   What he’s doing isn’t any different than what your narcissistic mother did to you, and it has the same deleterious effect on your mental health.

Since 2016, mental health professionals say their caseloads are increasing, and most new caseloads are people suffering PTSD because of the trauma Trump is causing them.  Even if his cruel and hate filled policies don’t affect you or your loved ones directly, the threat of violence, the taking away of benefits and freedoms, and the mocking hatred is always there, like a black heaviness in the room.  The toxic rhetoric he and his base use against anyone who doesn’t act, believe and look the way they do never goes away, and it’s getting worse.  Now he’s goading his base (through his Twitter account) to actual violence against anyone who dares to criticize him or his policies.   I have no doubt he’s trying to rile up the police, the biker gangs, the gun nuts, and others to form a militia against liberals and progressives (and even moderates), truthtellers, and the lovers of democracy.    Make no mistake:  he’s gathering an army of brownshirts to terrorize, attack, and even kill anyone who isn’t on his side.

My point is that politics and religion in 2019 is very much tied up with narcissistic abuse and sociopathy, and to not address the fact this problem is now happening on a nationwide or even worldwide scale (and perhaps has been for a long time) is to deny that it is happening at all.  To not write about current events in light of narcissism and sociopathy would be irresponsible.

My first goal in writing about these issues is to educate and make those who might not have connected this presidency with the problem of narcissistic abuse more aware that it is happening.  With awareness and education, people are more equipped to see what is happening, when it’s happening, the various “tricks” they use (gaslighting, lying, blame shifting, demonization of groups, black and white thinking, employing “flying monkeys”, etc.) and take appropriate action or defense measures to guard against it.

Since most of us can’t go “no contact” with Trump (unless we have the means to emigrate to another country), we must stay vigilant and aware of the myriad ways he and his “flying monkeys” abuse us (he abuses his own base too, but they are in denial, like the cult members they are).  At the same time, we can’t forget about our families, our friends, and try to enjoy our lives as best we can.   The little things in life matter too.   We can (and must) take breaks from the news, and focus on more positive things, and try to find joy wherever we can.

Remember that even in the most depressing and darkest of circumstances, it is possible to find joy.     Read The Diary of Anne Frank for inspiration and strength.    If you believe in God, pray.   If you don’t, do positive things for yourself and others.    Give (and get) lots of hugs.  Volunteer.  Adopt an animal.   Do good things in your community.   Everything you do makes a difference.

Don’t put on horse blinders and pretend what’s happening isn’t, but in the midst of all the black chaos, take time out for joy and friendship.  Also remember that Trump is an angry, lost soul who has neither joy or true friends and never will.   You are better than that and that’s why he hates us.

The other reason I write about politics and religion is because it’s a way to personally cope with what’s happening.   Just as I wrote about my own abuse as a survivor of a narcissistic family and emotionally abusive marriage in order to heal, it’s also necessary for me to write about the ways I feel abused by Trump and his regime in order to keep my sanity.   Otherwise I might completely give up hope and put a bullet in my head.

*****

Further reading:

Narcissistic Abuse in Trumpistan

We Need a Lot More Awareness About Narcissism and Sociopathy

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Why is depression more tolerable than anxiety?

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I haven’t been at my best.   My anxiety has really been acting up.   I’m finding it hard to stay mindful and have a positive outlook.   All the tools I learned to stay mindful and avoid the worst of Complex PTSD are almost useless.

I can never relax.  I’ve been filled with a free floating sense of awful, black dread.  I can’t take naps in the middle of the day like I used to, or even sleep in late because at some point I feel like my heart is slamming in my throat and I’m jumping out of my skin.    Often I wake up early in the morning with a jolt, all that oppressive black anxiety weighing down on me like a lead blanket, and I almost feel like I can’t breathe.   Sometimes it’s so intense it borders on full blown panic.

Some of my anxiety is very specific:

  • Worry about the future of our country under the current president;
  • Worry about my personal freedom and rights as I get older, especially since I’m what most would consider poor and under this horrific regime, I will be VERY vulnerable to exploitation or early death from lack of social security, Medicare or other old age benefits that older generations took for granted;
  • Worry about what will happen to my children (or any children they have) should we become a real dictatorship;
  • Worry that the payout from my insurance company won’t be enough to allow me to buy any kind of decent vehicle, which I need for work;
  • Worry about my daughter’s new husband not being capable of providing sufficiently for her or any children they have.
  • Worry about a likely move in the future: will I be able to afford it?
  • Worry that one of my adult children will be in a terrible accident and possibly die;
  • Worry that my own family is using me financially and talking badly about me behind my back (this is probably the most irrational fear I have).    I know this is due to my past as a victim of narcissistic abuse.  When I’m very anxious and triggered, I have a hard time trusting people, even people I know aren’t out to hurt me.

There’s also the free floating, nameless anxiety I’ve lived with all my life, magnified by my specific (and possibly even rational) fears.   It’s this overwhelming feeling that something awful is about to happen, though I have no idea what.

All that anxiety is debilitating, and yes, it’s painful.   It’s hard to function properly or maintain healthy relationships when you’re constantly fretting or ruminating about something that might happen in the future — or might not.    I irritate my family because of my constant need for reassurance that I’m not being used or they are not going to be doing something dangerous that will get them hurt or killed.   I get annoyed easily at work and just in general.   I snap at others, not because I’m angry, but because I’m so anxious all the time.

There have even been days I’ve contemplated suicide (though I know I won’t actually do it) just to escape from the oppressiveness of all this anxiety and dread.

Every so often though, my anxiety gives way to depression.    I know that depression is actually worse than anxiety because it means you have given up.   You’re no longer fighting (anxiety definitely feels like you’re fighting for your life sometimes).  Oddly enough it feels almost…comforting.    When I’m depressed, I can just lie in bed or in front of the TV and not feel like my heart’s about to slam right out of my chest.   I feel no guilt about being so slothful.   When I’m depressed, I can actually sleep and escape my emotional hell through dreams, or just the oblivion of featureless slumber.   I can find food comforting even though I can barely taste it.    Though tears come rarely, when they do, it feels cathartic.

But mostly, when I’m depressed, it’s like boredom turned up to 11.    Depression is very, very boring.   There are elements of sadness and sometimes grief, but more than anything else, depression is boring.   Yet, I have no urge to do anything to relieve the boredom, except maybe sleep or eat.   The boredom is there, and while it’s intense, it isn’t painful or intolerable the way normal boredom is, the kind of boredom that makes you have to go DO something about it immediately.   It’s just there, like gray wallpaper.

When I’m depressed, I don’t suffer much (or any) anxiety or dread, because in my mind, the bad thing has already happened.  Even though my belief it already happened may be irrational, I’ve emotionally succumbed and accepted it.

It’s like that moment you know you are going to die.   You go through your whole life fearing death, but when you’re finally face to face with it, staring into its infinite maw, knowing there’s nothing you can do, your fear disappears and you just accept you’re going to die at this moment, right here and now.  I know this is true because when I was 18 I got raped.  The man had a knife, and I thought he was going to kill me.   At one point, I was sure I was a goner, and at that moment a strange calm took over and I just accepted this was how I was going to leave this earth.  Obviously it didn’t happen, but I remember that sense of peaceful calm and acceptance.

That’s what happens when I’m depressed.  It’s like I’ve already accepted something that might not even have happened and may never happen.    No, of course it isn’t healthy, but it’s oddly comforting and far more tolerable to me than the almost constant high level of anxiety I’m forever doing battle with.

 

Guest Post #8 : Abusers break you–and then HATE you for being broken.

Linda Lee’s wonderful guest post about Complex PTSD is definitely worth another day in the sun.

Lucky Otters Haven

My dear friend and active participant on this site, Linda Lee, has written a wonderful and OMG SO TRUE post, which describes a lifetime of abuse, including incarceration in a state mental hospital, and being faced with unethical doctors and caregivers, including one who raped her. She was sent back home to a rejecting family–who had put her there in the first place! Linda Lee has Complex PTSD, a form of PTSD that’s often the result of chronic abuse during childhood, rather than an isolated traumatic incident later on in life. After describing the insane house of mirrors she had been thrusted into that seemed to have no way out, Linda lifts the reader out of the darkness with an uplifting message about Easter and the resurrection.

Linda Lee also has a blog about her Complex PTSD caused by prolonged, severe trauma called Surviving Trauma (formerly Heal My Complex PTSD)

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The awkwardness of being a Borderline ACON.

Thought I’d reblog this, as it shows where my head was at almost three years ago, and how I reacted to criticism from “pure” abuse survivors who didn’t believe it was possible to be both an abuse victim and also suffer from something as “evil” as Borderline Personality Disorder (whose symptoms are often mixed up with those of  Complex PTSD and may even be the same thing).

I’m a lot calmer and more centered today, but I was also in therapy at that time and learning a lot about myself, so it was a fruitful time for me, however difficult it could sometimes be.

Comments here are welcome, since the deadline for comments under the original post has expired.

Lucky Otters Haven

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I won’t lie.  It’s incredibly awkward being a blogger who blogs about two things that seem diametrically opposed to many people in the narcissistic abuse community:  being a victim of narcissists, and having a Cluster B disorder (BPD).   To those of you who aren’t familiar with the ACON (adult children of narcissists) blogosphere,  there are a few ACON bloggers (not too many on WordPress, fortunately) who seem to think if you have BPD then you can’t also be an abuse victim and certainly shouldn’t be blogging about it.  Because, you see, if you have BPD then you are one of the soulless abusers.  If you are any kind of “cluster B person” blogging about abuse, then of it follows that you must have an “agenda.”  What that agenda is is never specified though.

I have been accused of many things, none of which are pretty, and few of which are true…

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“Sawinery”: woodworking as PTSD/C-PTSD art therapy.

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Credit: Sawinery.net

Once in a while my readers reach out to me with questions, their own stories about abuse, or projects they are working on.  I can’t respond to all of these, but I do appreciate when my readers want to share things with me.    Occasionally, something stands out so much to me or is so innovative that I feel like it might be of help to other readers, so I asked the person who sent me the email about this if I could share it on my blog.

Sawinery is a blog about the woodworking world.

Woodworking? Why would I want to include an article about that?  It’s not a topic I’ve ever written about and isn’t the kind of thing I do write about.   But this is different, because the blog’s owner told me they have started to explore the power of woodworking as therapeutic healing art for trauma related conditions of PTSD and C-PTSD.    In the owner’s own words:

We recently interviewed 3 people: two men and one woman, who suffer from CPTSD/PTSD, one because of abuse in his childhood and one after retiring from the army — who are all doing woodworking as therapy.

They describe how it improved their creativy, that it helps to cope with confusion and anger as a result of trauma, that their confidence has improved and that they can now communicate more easily with other people.

You can read the full interview here:
https://www.sawinery.net/blog/woodworking-cptsd-ptsd-therapy-interview/

If you suffer from a trauma related disorder like PTSD or Complex PTSD, or know someone who does, you may want to take a look at the above link and share it.

Confusing patterns.

This is an older post about a very confusing time for me during my recovery journey. It’s very common for people with Complex PTSD who survived narcissistic abuse to believe they are narcissists themselves, but if you think you are one, most likely you are not. I definitely have narcissistic traits, some that I picked up from my abusers, others that may be inherent, but I don’t have NPD.

Two years ago, I became so certain I did that I actually started a second blog about it. That blog has been taken down, though some people did tell me they found it helpful and that makes me happy. It’s very common for people with C-PTSD to believe they have NPD. but I just couldn’t leave the blog up because it started to feel like a lie.

Lucky Otters Haven

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In the almost year and a half since I’ve been blogging, an interesting picture has emerged. I started to blog after I went no contact with my ex (actually very low contact since we have children) as a way to process having been a victim of narcissistic abuse, first by my family of origin, then by my ex. My focus for the first six months or so was primarily on my abusers, and my rage at narcissists in general. Most of my articles were about narcissists and narcissism, and I read everything I could about it too. I became close with other ACON (adult children of narcissists) bloggers. I wasn’t ready yet to take a good long look at myself and what I could do to help myself, other than staying far away from abusive people. But it was a very good start to a journey that proved to be…

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The “Four F’s” of C-PTSD

This article was originally posted in April, 2016.

I also wrote a review of Pete Walker’s wonderful self help guide for survivors of complex PTSD, which you can read here:

Book Review: Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker 

Lucky Otters Haven

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I just began reading “Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving” by Pete Walker. I can already tell I won’t be able to put it down (I will write a book review when I’m finished, which shouldn’t take long). I’m also going to bring this book to my next therapy session because I want my therapist to see it.

Walker, who is a therapist and also a survivor of narcissistic abuse and sufferer of C-PTSD, is an engaging writer and definitely knows his subject matter. In one of the first chapters, he discusses the “Four F’s”–which are four different “styles” of coping that people with C-PTSD develop to cope with their abusive caregivers and avoid the abandonment depression. Whatever style one adopts may be based on several factors–natural temperament, the role in the family the child was given (scapegoat, golden child, “lost” or ignored child), birth order, and other factors.

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Available…

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To my Mom’s “Credit”

Comments are disabled; please make comments on the original post.

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As I have been visited by memories that I would have preferred to have had kept buried deep in my soul or in Jamie’s coffin, but that I need to work through as part of my own healing, I find myself wondering more and more what it is that I did to be so undeserving of your love, or even just the basic courtesies of nurturing, encouragement, even being heard.

So here goes….

Dear Mom,

I didn’t choose to enter this world and interrupt your life, to be born two months early, at a time perhaps that you were not yet prepared for my entrance. In fact had I known what I was in for, I would have chosen to stay inside much longer or not be born at all. I did not choose to enter YOUR world especially; you chose to take on the responsibility of “welcoming” me! Was…

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Book Review: Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving (by Pete Walker)

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I finally finished reading a most wonderful book sent to me by my friend and fellow blogger, Linda Lee. It’s called Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, written by Pete Walker, himself a sufferer of C-PTSD and narcissistic abuse survivor. He is also a therapist who works with others with C-PTSD.

Walker’s book is incredibly readable and tells you everything you need or want to know about C-PTSD, a subcategory of PTSD that isn’t (but should be) included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the bible of the mental health profession. Complex PTSD is similar to PTSD but there are several important differences. The recognized diagnostic category of PTSD describes a disorder that is caused by one traumatic event, such as a rape or combat in a war. PTSD itself wasn’t recognized until psychologists noticed that many Vietnam war veterans were suffering from a group of similar symptoms including, but not limited to, loss of memory, dissociative episodes, panic attacks, general but severe anxiety or depression, inability to cope with day to day challenges, impaired ability to regulate emotions including anger, impaired ability to relate to others in a healthy way, nightmares, flashbacks, and physical pain with no medical causes. C-PTSD has a similar set of symptoms, but is “complex” because of its cause–instead of being precipitated by a single traumatic event, it’s caused by an ongoing series of traumatic incidents and also usually (though not always) begins during childhood. Very often it’s a result of being “cared for” by narcissistic or sociopathic parents, who are actively abusive or neglect their child. Unlike most self-help books, Walker covers the nature of narcissistic abuse and its soul-murdering effect on a child, and how this can lead to C-PTSD and its various manifestations.

Walker breaks down C-PTSD into four “types,” each one corresponding to a different type of defense mechanism, which he calls “The Four F’s”–Fight (the narcissistic defense); Flight (the obsessive compulsive or “workaholic” defense); Freeze (the dissociative defense); and Fawn (the Codependent defense). Most people will have a combination of these, but usually one will be dominant over the others. I find it intriguing that Walker describes the narcissistic and borderline personalities as manifestations of C-PTSD (BPD is a Fight-Codependent hybrid), because I also think that’s exactly what they are.

Walker doesn’t think that any form of C-PTSD is untreatable or necessarily permanent, although some forms are more difficult to eradicate than others. People with severe C-PTSD may spend most of their time in a “flashback” without even knowing that it’s a flashback. For example, if you are continually depressed and anxious without being able to pinpoint why, you may be in a flashback to a time when you were made to feel shame as a young child. Any sort of invalidation or reminder of the shame, no matter how small, could have set off the flashback.

Also discussed is the importance of nurturing your Inner Child, and Walker shows you how you can begin to do this on your own. He also explains why people with C-PTSD have such a harsh Inner Critic (which is the internalized “voice” of the abusive parent that relentlessly continues to shame the Inner Child) and how how re-training your Inner Critic to be less, well, critical and more supportive of the Inner Child can do wonders for your self esteem and help you begin to heal. One of the most important things that must happen in order to heal from C-PTSD is to be able to grieve the lost or wounded inner child and also to be able to feel and express righteous anger toward the abuser (while being No Contact with the actual guilty party, of course).

While Walker encourages therapy (and states that in severe cases says it may be the only way to heal from C-PTSD), he recognizes that it may not always be appropriate or possible for everyone. For example, some C-PTSD sufferers (usually the Freeze/dissociative type) are so hypervigilant and uncomfortable relating to others that they can’t begin to trust a therapist enough to make any progress that way. Such people may do better on their own, at least to begin with. He points out early on that even if you skip around in the book (because not everything in it may apply to everyone) that you can still be helped. He gives the reader helpful things they can do on their own, such as positive affirmations, self-mothering, self-fathering and the “Time Machine Rescue Operation,” mindfulness skills, thought-stopping the Critic, thought substitution, recognizing signs of being in a flashback, how to grieve, and finding “good enough” relational help, among many other tools.

At the core of C-PTSD is the “abandonment depression,” a feeling of terrible emptiness that the Four F’s have been used to avoid confronting. Walker explains how to cope with the abandonment depression without denying that it exists or using the Four F’s as defense mechanisms against it.

Finally, Walker includes a list of books–which he calls “Bibliotherapy”–that he and his patients and visitors to his website have found useful. He wraps things up with six easily referenced “toolboxes” the C-PTSD sufferer can use as adjuncts to their recovery.

Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving is intelligently and empathetically written, and easy to read without being condescending or dumbed down. Its chapters are organized in an understandable and logical way, and subheaders are used throughout to make it possible to read the book in easy to digest chunks. This book has helped me immensely so far, and takes the complexity out of this “complex” disorder.

You can visit Pete Walker’s website here:
http://pete-walker.com/

Guest Post #11: Life with Complex PTSD

Alexis Rose has a blog about Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) called A Tribe Untangled.  Her C-PTSD was brought about by a family tragedy (a terrible accident that befell her young daughter, something every loving parent fears with every fiber of their being) and it opened up a Pandora’s box of long repressed years of abuse and torture. Alexis Rose also has written a book, Untangled: A Story of Resilience, Courage and Triumph.

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From her Book information page:

Recalling her life, the author takes us on a journey of unimaginable abuse with continued explicit threats that eventually led to her being sent overseas on an impossible mission.  She repressed the memories of her past until a family tragedy forced her to face what her life had been. A history of abuse, torture, and threats to maintain her silence or be killed could no longer be denied.

This is the story of facing the truth and risking the consequences of breaking the silence. The author learns to accept the effects of the trauma that echo through her daily life as PTSD.

Through years of self-exploration, she learns to live her life fearlessly, with eyes wide open. Ultimately this book is about resilience; hope for victims who have suffered trauma and for the people who support them.

Alexis is an experienced speaker on the topics of living with courage and resilience in the face of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. She has also presented multiple interactive workshops titled, Using One’s Innate Creativity (writing and drawing) as a Tool for Healing and Personal Growth.

For more information about Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph, to request a book signing, or to ask Alexis to speak to your group or lead a workshop, email alexis@atribeuntangled.com.

Alexis has been kind enough to write a guest post for this blog, which when I read it brought me to tears because I could relate so much to so much of what she wrote.   She is one strong woman.  Here is her wonderful post.  Please follow her blog: https://atribeuntangled.com/

Life with Complex PTSD

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I was diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder about eight years ago, after a family tragedy. My daughter was hit by a van at 30 miles an hour as she was crossing the street on her way to school.

The year following Aria’s accident I was busy with tending to her health, taking her to appointments, trying to work full time, and keep our house hold running as normal as possible. And at the same time, I kept having these experiences that were making me feel crazy. I had worked so hard to keep my life, my family and their world so protected that the instant Aria got hit, my controlled snow globe world came crashing down. In fact when my son and I were talking the day of the accident, he looked at me and innocently said, “things will never be the same again.”  Extremely prophetic words, that at the time myself nor my family had any idea what they would come to mean.

I was becoming anxious. I started losing time, I was called into meetings at work because my performance was terribly erratic. I was physically sick all the time, and kept having these bizarre memories leaving me feeling crazy.  I knew something was seriously wrong with me so I made a call to a psychologist who agreed to see me the next day.

When I started working with my first therapist, I was so anxious to tell her everything all at once so I could just feel better and get back to work. I didn’t understand that I was having flashbacks, or that I was living in a constant state of crisis. I was writing her letters from a dissociated state which made no sense to me when she would read them aloud. I would lock myself in my room for hours for fear that I was going to hurt myself and I didn’t want to be around my family.

My first therapist diagnosed me correctly but neglected to start my therapeutic process by teaching me any kind of safety or distress tolerance tools.  I was out of control, thinking I was losing my mind, feeling like I had failed my family, and spiraling down a very slippery slope. She did the best she could but was way over her head and within nine months of seeing her, I knew intuitively that I had to find another therapist. I have been working with my current therapist for seven years.

When I first started seeing my therapist I was dissociated most of the time. I was in crisis, I was anxious, confused, and convinced I was going crazy. After a couple of sessions, it became apparent to him that we had to get some safety plans in place. Once that was in place we could begin the process of working on and processing my trauma.

I (sort-of) started to come to terms with the idea that my erupting memories were in fact true. I was so overwhelmed by my memories and what we would process during session that I would remember, forget, remember, forget; until I started to turn a corner and forget how to forget. That’s when I found I could really start taking the baby-steps towards health.

Not only was my therapy about processing the memories, I also had to start accepting that there were some pretty intense effects of the trauma and that influenced how I saw and reacted to the world.  I knew I had some pretty deep-rooted trust issues. I also had large, thick, almost impenetrable walls holding back any feeling or emotions that I was willing to let the world see. I also began to understand that because of my trauma I had a pretty significant attachment issues, which for me, has been one of the hardest things to learn and accept. For some reason the attachment issue fed into my very low self-esteem and it’s something I still work on.

I also had to face down how my trauma effected my relationships with my family, friends, parenting style and career. In the midst of dealing and coping with the trauma, there were a lot of AHA moments, when I saw how my behavior and ways of coping with life, had been a direct result of my trauma and not because I was a bad person.

Eight years later and one of the biggest reasons I write is because my PTSD symptoms still have a pretty good choke-hold on me. As with many mental illnesses PTSD can be invisible on the outside. I had always been the master of wearing many masks, and deflecting any conversation away from me, all with a supportive smile for everyone else. But when I couldn’t hide my illness any longer my friends began to ask me, what does it feel like inside. I couldn’t really explain it, so I wrote a poem and shared it with my friends and family. I found that by writing I found a way to share with others and begin to understand what PTSD means for me, and find a way to cope with my fear that I would be plagued by the symptoms forever.

My symptoms include (not limited too) flashbacks, concentration issues, becoming overwhelmed and my brain shutting down, not being able to make choices, anxiety/depression, and sensitive to the triggers that start the whole shebang of symptoms. We use the term, triggers, triggers everywhere. The wind can blow a certain way, or fireworks, or a car back-firing, even the moon can bring on flashbacks.

Unfortunately, my symptoms have left me with the inability to work. I went from having a wonderful career with the fringe benefits that provided me with some comfort for the future and the ability to provide for my family. I’m only able to work about 2 hours a day…on a good day.

It seems as if my symptoms (depending on the time of year) can start a chain reaction, so I needed to learn to work within my deficits. This isn’t easy or comfortable for me and because I’m still pretty new at learning how to work within my symptoms, I can find myself becoming frustrated and angry at my PTSD! Actually most days, if I’m going to be honest I am VERY angry at my PTSD. But then I settle down and think about what I want for my life and try to rest and reset.

The inability to concentrate can be over-whelming for me. I know what I want to do, what I want my brain to do but I simply am unable to do it. Making choice at the grocery store, or a restaurant can be so uncomfortable that I will just simply lose my interest in eating and shut down. Sometimes as night approaches it feels overwhelming because I know that its highly likely that sometime during the night I will have nightmares. Even practicing good sleep hygiene listening to podcasts, all the tricks can’t stop the nightmares sometimes and it gets overwhelming. And sometimes I’m overwhelmed because I’m a survivor of trauma and have PTSD and that’s just the way it is, even though I wish it was different.

Writing gave me the courage I needed to address the pain I was feeling. I would write even when I thought I had nothing to write about. At first, I strictly used it for bilateral stimulation. I would write and send what I wrote off to my therapist. I started to find that I was able to write down what I couldn’t say aloud.  It provided distance from having to use my voice at first, but then I found it actually gave me a voice.

What I hope to convey as I move forward: Try to remember to notice those perfect moments. Celebrate each step on the path towards health, know that it is a long and never linear process, and that it really is just one foot in front of the other, you need to do a lot of resting, a lot of just sitting and metabolizing.  And even though healing can feel like be a lonely process, through a blogging community and other support systems, we realize that we are not alone.

I’ve been hurt, I’ve been threatened, I’ve been abandoned, but I wasn’t going to let the effects of what happened to me keep me from trying to have the life I wanted. I never lose sight of my goals. They are to live with my past, live in the truth, and recognize and relish in the feelings of internal contentment. Some days those goals seem as far away as the furthest star, and other days I can see them just through the clutter, almost there. I still need a lot of therapy to manage my symptoms, and I may need a lot of assistance for the day-to day grind, but I’m motivated to keep moving forward, spurred on by the hope for a better life. A life where I am living, not just surviving.

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