Poetry Battle: Transcend

This week’s Poetry Battle Friday was a challenge. I passed on my usual haiku format for something a bit more – toothy. The prompt was Transcend.

Poetry Battle : Prompt was Transcend
I am one
Split into parts
The task
To blend
To transcend
The divide,
Creating a symphony
Of kazoos and violins.
An impossible song
Drawn from the chaos
To celebrate
Being one.

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What is Complex-PTSD (CPTSD)

Definition of CPTSD


Complex post traumatic stress disorder
is a psychological disorder that can develop in response to prolonged, repeated experience of trauma in a context where the individual has little or no chance of escape.

Honestly, I can’t remember if these are my words or not. Please tell me if they are yours.

That is the clinical definition of Complex-PTSD (CPTSD). Other resources will explain CPTSD as a form of PTSD that has other overlying factors. The two can be easily confused if you don’t start with the definition. The definition above holds some key phrases.

The first is “prolonged, repeated experience of trauma.” Most instances of PTSD are traced back to a single horrific event. Not so with CPTSD. Someone who has this form of mental wound has experienced not one instance of trauma, but multiple instances, even possibly their entire life.

The second phrase to take note of is “little or no chance to escape”. I would add the words ‘over time’ to that phrase, because that is a key part of CPTSD. Anyone who has suffered trauma was not in a situation to escape – but where PTSD is an instance, CPTSD plays out over a long period of time. The person who is being traumatized has no means to escape their situation.

Persistent feelings of worthlessness or emptiness are a sign of CPTSD.
constant feelings of emptiness or hopelessness

There is another central issue when differentiating PTSD from CPTSD and that is the mind that experiences the trauma. The initial group of the population where PTSD was observed was military veterans. In this group, the men and women were all over 18 years of age when they experienced trauma. This is important because most of their cerebral development was done. They knew who they were, and they knew who they wanted to return to being after the trauma.

When we talk about CPTSD the trauma can start as early as infancy. That is perhaps the most important difference. In PTSD the individual, usually an adult, has a point before the trauma to return to. People with CPTSD have no previous to return to in many cases because they were shaped from their earliest moments by their traumatic environment.

Symptoms of PTSD and CPTSD

Complex PTSD builds on the already accepted symptoms associated with PTSD. So, while someone with PTSD will experience symptoms from the list on the left, someone with CPTSD will experience symptoms from both lists.

PTSD

  • Memories of the trauma.
  • Flashbacks – Reliving the trauma.
  • Dreams or nightmares
  • Emotional or physical reactions to reminders
  • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the event
  • Avoiding anything that reminds you of the event.
    Negative thoughts about damn near everything.
  • Hopelessness about the future
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Feeling detached from family and friends
  • Depression
  • Feeling emotionally numb
    Being easily startled or frightened
  • Always being on alert
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame

CPTSD

  • difficulty controlling your emotions
  • feeling very angry or distrustful towards the world
  • constant feelings of emptiness or hopelessness
  • feeling as if you are permanently damaged or worthless
  • feeling as if you are completely different to other people
  • feeling like nobody can understand what happened
  • avoiding friendships and relationships, or finding them very difficult

dissociative symptoms 
depersonalisation or derealisation

physical symptoms: headaches, dizziness, chest pains and stomach aches

regular suicidal feelings.

This list is from mind.org.uk

Emotional Flashbacks vs. Flashbacks

You would think that there wouldn’t be a dividing line between these two terms. After all, both are moments when the brain is hijacked by the past and trauma is reexperienced. The difference lies in the brain. A flashback is a full sensory being there re-experiencing of the trauma. The person can see, feel, even smell and taste all the details of the event. Those details are stored in their memory. They reexperience every part of that trauma.

The concept of the emotional flashback extends this to include periods of early childhood where the ability of the brain to form, store and retrieve memories is still developing. Particularly in the area of the visual cortex. What that means is that the memories of the event are stored complete with all the associated emotions, but there is no visual context. So when you encounter something that triggers a memory of that trauma – you are instantly swept back to the emotions of that time. And, you have nothing to correlate it with.

This being flung into emotions that are overpowering, without knowing why, or being able to point to any specific memory is one of the most disorienting, and in my opinion frightening aspects of CPTSD.

Core Beliefs of CPTSD

If you would like to see more memes to help share information on CPTSD please visit the Meme collections.

The manner in which the other major symptoms of CPTSD can manifest are as varied as the people who suffer with this condition. One core belief that many people with CPTSD have is that they are essentially fatally flawed. And because of their own brokenness, they are undeserving – of anything.

This is the core belief that tells us we are not worth ‘the bother’. This is the core belief that makes us accept the least. This is the core belief that makes it difficult, at the least, to face conflict. The script in our head says we are not worthy of our parents love, therefore we are not worthy. It is the core belief that we are worthless, completely without value.

CPTSD: Survival before growth

Most of the people with CPTSD have created defenses to keep them safe from their early environments. Most of the people who live with CPTSD are fiercely independent. We are also likely to be stoic. But many of these traits come from the need as a young child to be ‘easy’. Many people report a similar scenario of not asking for anything, because asking was dangerous. Others report that they abandoned things they enjoyed for the sake of peace. Many of the strategies we developed as children were not to explore our world, but instead to survive our world.

Where are we now

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is more widely known in the public. Efforts to educate about this mental wound, typically found in soldiers but also victims of violence, have been ongoing since the 1980s. In contrast the study of CPTSD is relatively new. So new, that it is not yet included in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)

But, European sources are starting to recognize that CPTSD is a disorder that should be recognized as a unique set of symptoms, behaviors and challenges. Hopefully, one day the DSM will follow.

There is a great deal more to convey but, for now, to sum it all up, Complex-PTSD is a bitch. Really.

Before Speech

How do you explain a condition that can’t be seen?

With other trauma you can strip back your sleeves and say these are my scars.

When trauma happens early, before speech, before memory, what do you say?

How do you describe to people the way a glance or a laugh can curl you into a ball, hyperventilating, clutching at your ankles, knees pressed to your lips to stifle the cries.

How do you convey that the world is dangerous?

Not just in crime and betrayal, but love and touch and trust. The world comes to you wrapped in razor wire.

The Gift

There are moments recovering from trauma where your mind connects two unrelated things.

That revelation’s power is enough to double you over.

You fall to your knees.

The unstoppable feelings pour over you. 

It doesn’t matter where you are, kitchen, bedroom, or the street, you are struck immobile as your mind seizes this new connection. 

You barely breathe as you trace this new idea back through your life. 

Other parts of the brain begin firing. 

Car horns. 

The asphalt under your hands. 

Slowly you right yourself and continue on clutching this new revelation tight to your chest like a gift.

CPTSD and recovery: A letter to someone who is struggling.

First off. You are enough. You are worthy of love.

Secondly. Things can get better. And, no, not everyone will leave.

Continue reading “CPTSD and recovery: A letter to someone who is struggling.”

Such a tiny thing, which can seem so very dangerous with CPTSD

Facebook, how you bring all my insecurities to light.

I could hate you for that.
Or I could embrace you.
I’m not sure which. Check back in an hour.

Continue reading “Such a tiny thing, which can seem so very dangerous with CPTSD”

A Mashup of Thoughts on Kanye, Mental Health, and Something My First Therapist Said That Blew My Mind.

The Thinking Read

This might not be my most coherent essay. 

It’s more some random thoughts that all got mashed together. 
So, the first item is a discussion that I had with friends over on Facebook about Kanye
Let me give you a recap:
Friend 2: He is. So, why doesn’t he do something about it? 
Friend 3: He has the resources and money to get help. I would kill for that situation. 
Friend 2: Honey, do we need to talk? 
Friend 3: Oh, no, I wasn’t being literal. Geez. I’m taking my meds. 
Friend 1: Yes, it would be nice if Kanye got help, but you can’t force people to seek help. 
Friend 2: But, there is a distinct difference between supporting someone and enabling them. 
Friend 1: Why do you say he is being enabled? 
Friend 3: It’s pretty obvious he isn’t being helped by the people around him. 
 
So here we get to the next item. Personal responsibility and mental health.
This is an idea that I bump into pretty regularly. 
A common scenario is when someone behaves horribly and then says ‘oh, I was off my meds’ or ‘I didn’t know I was so messed up. I’m in therapy now.’ Essentially, when mental health is used as an excuse to justify bad behavior. 
I won’t argue that sometimes we have bad days. I have a stack of ‘oh, wow, that wasn’t good’ moments in my past. Thankfully there was no internet in my youth. I’m sure we all have moments that we can look back on and see how our mental illness influenced a situation. 
So, I employ the ‘innocent’ man rule. I assume everyone is NOT casually using ‘mental health’ as an excuse. That is until I have evidence to the contrary. Because I would rather support/ attempt to support anyone who was having a mental health issue, even if that means there are some posers in the group. 
 
Another point in this knot of thoughts is: 
What responsibility do we have to the mental health community to seek treatment?
Bear with me. 
I don’t think it can be argued that in the past mental health was very misunderstood. And, that the mental health institutions of the day were pretty horrific. The mental health system was also abused as a place to confine those who opposed the social order. And we, the mental health community, still bear the brunt of a mountain of stigma. 
So, what do I owe to other people, not just myself, to understand my issues, my triggers, my tools for handling flashbacks? 
I think I do owe something to the mental health community as a whole to demonstrate that even though my brain is wired differently, I can still operate within society. Even though I carry the label of ‘Neuroatypical’ (I hope I got that right.) I see it as a way – a responsibility – to help break the stigma that surrounds mental health issues. 
 
This brings me to the third point. When I first began therapy all I knew was that I was depressed out of my skull. I also had a sense of being permanently stuck. I think I described it as ‘paddling in eternal concentric circles.’ 
Sometime in my first few sessions, my therapist hit me with an idea that I found mind-blowing.
She told me, don’t laugh, that I was responsible for my own happiness.
*MIND BLOWN* 
I’ll admit I feel a little silly looking at that now, because, honestly isn’t that something everyone knows?
And yet, the idea was new to me. I was always the dutiful one. The good one. The reliable one. The invisible one. The one that never caused trouble. The one that never needed, anything. 
I was maybe 20 at this time, and I was just putting my foot on the mental health path. At that time the knowledge of #CPTSD had not trickled down to where I was.
I spent another 30+ years trying to root out the problem, to understand myself. In those 30 years, I accumulated a lot of wreckage in my wake. The ability to understand myself and to look back over my past is both gratifying and horrifying. But, in both the good and the bad I can see how my mental problems influenced me, or trapped me. 
 
To tie all this up with a neat little bow, I’ll circle back to Kanye. 
Sometimes our mental health, or ill-health, is all we know. It is our ‘normal’. I understand that he is bipolar, and I will readily admit that I have no experience with being bipolar. But, I do understand what an untreated mental health issue can do to your life, your relationships, your goals. For that reason, I hope he can make the commitment for himself to pursue some help before the wreckage he leaves behind spans decades.

CPTSD : The Positives We Have Learned

Weird title, right?

I saw a thread over on Twitter, some of you all may have seen or participated in it as well.

What it was about was looking at the positive side of the traits of CPTSD that we have. I was skeptical at first. It struck me as rather ‘wishful thinking’. But, I stuck around and listened and I realized there was something amazing happening.

Folks in the thread were giving examples of the parts of CPTSD that they struggle with, and sometimes another reader would turn that struggle into a positive. Sometimes the person who still struggled with the trait could express how it influenced their life in a positive way.

It was, for me, a lightbulb moment. So I started thinking: What is one of the biggest things I struggle with or a trait of CPTSD that still influences me? And, has that had any positive outcomes in my life?

For me, a trait that I know I still possess is the inability to ask for anything. Which results in a distinct pride of being able to do without, or do with less. To make do. I’ve been called Spartan in the manner that I live.

The positive side of this is that I have skills that are quickly vanishing from the 1st world. I can preserve food, I can mend just about anything, I know basic carpentry and electrical work, and I’m thrifty.
And those are some worthwhile skills to have.

What is it for you? Give it a think. Perhaps you can see the positive outgrowth of some of your traits. Please share them so that others who might be struggling with something similar can see that there are some useful/positive aspects that we can dig out of the mud of our past.

CPTSD: Unicorn Farts and Lollipops

I saw this meme this morning and it just made me cock my head to the side to take another look at it. And I thought about it. Probably too much.

Continue reading “CPTSD: Unicorn Farts and Lollipops”

CPTSD: Growing up in a Minefield

I don’t know when I discovered that not everyone had a family like mine. But, I do remember the shock. The disbelief that other people didn’t have to hide or make themselves invisible rocked me to my core. I always thought my childhood was good. To admit that my family had problems and that those problems affect me to this day was one of the most painful parts of moving from denial into healing.