If you want to know more about this cycle within Complex-PTSD take a gander at this post.
CPTSD is a strange thing to grow up with.
Even stranger to live with it.
My latest InstagramPost-
There it is the manuscript for Book 4 in the Unhomed series. Still debating titles. I do like to stick with one word – but this particular word is proving elusive.
Despite that this manuscript will be placed into a drawer to ‘marinate’ for a year, at least. I’ll come back to it in Jan 2022. Provided I’m still here.
You might be wondering what is so ‘typical’ of CPTSD in that little post above. I’ll point out the last line. Now, while it may be very appropriate in 2020 to not take making it to tomorrow for granted it goes a bit deeper than that.
From Pete Walker’s Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving I pull this quote from the section on “Toxic Shame and Soul Murder.” (If that isn’t a powerful phrase I don’t know what is?)
Quote: When our emotional intelligence is restricted, we often do not know what we really want.~ Pete Walker
I don’t think I can convey how estranged I was, and let’s admit still am, from my feelings. I can see that emotional emptiness echoing back through my life. With it I can follow the ambivalence I had about life.
One of the questions I have always struggled with is “Where do you want to be in ten years?” Or even five. Hell, I don’t know where I want to eat lunch let alone what I want to do with myself in a year. Never mind ten years.
Learned helplessness is a survival tool. Additionally, it is a phrase I absolutely loathe. But, love it or loathe it, learned helplessness is a firm part of my past. I still wrestle with it.
I never really planned for anything because promises were broken, plans were ignored, asking for something was too much. I became able to be grateful for what I was given and not to expect or hope for more. This is the core of learned helplessness. There is nothing you can do to improve your situation, so you learn to endure. Later when the cause of the suffering is removed the mind is still locked in the role of the abused and cannot see that circumstances have changed.
How does all that relate to planning for tomorrow? For me there was no planning for any future. I dealt with what was given to me. My future was to fulfill the expectations of my family. I didn’t think about my future. I didn’t get to.
So, although I have every intention of revising, editing, and publishing the book above, I know that nothing in life is promised, not even tomorrow.
Yesterday was a remarkable day. So many people felt as if they were coming up for air after fighting to breathe for years. The announcement of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris being elected as the next president and vice-president of the United States was literally celebrated around the world.
All the aspects of life that bring my CPTSD into full bloom were central at that moment; change, relief, uncertainty, hope. I was caught between feeling the moment too much or not feeling it at all.
That first instant of glorious relief was cut short by the fear that this was an illusion and would not last. As I watched the celebrations erupting around me the only thing that passed through my mind was, How long until we find out this is a lie?
I couldn’t dive into celebration. My brain, my past, kept telling me that this was a mirage. Don’t trust it. Wait until you see if it sticks. Don’t let go. So, I kept that death grip on myself that I call rational self-control.
Change can bring such a relief. It can also throw everything into the air indiscriminately. With change I wonder will it stay? How long? Can I trust it? What are the rules for survival now?
Folks with CPTSD often live with the knowledge that what you have been given can just as swiftly be taken away. So many parts of me were echoing with past experience last night that I felt ready to fly to pieces. The memories were jumbled and pressed in from every direction. This was the moment of the backlash, or the crushing blow.
This was the moment when if you allowed yourself to believe the world contains goodness you invited disaster. Happiness only exists in milliseconds because inevitably the hope is smashed, the toy broken, the dream shattered.
With CPTSD you try to remember that this moment can’t last. We guard our feelings so closely because we have been taught that to show emotion is like placing a drop of blood in the water. To demonstrate a moment of happiness is the same action that summons the monsters which will destroy it.
Hope. Hope is the most treacherous emotion of all. That is the driving force that makes you pull yourself over the glass time after time. Hope is so often an illusion, untrustworthy. For those of us who live with CPTSD hope is a double edged sword where both sides can wound .
So, last night, with the world celebrating around me, I clung to my husband unable to breathe. I lay there feeling the muscles around my eyes tighten, my jaw clench, my throat close, my chest contract. Afraid to breathe, I was waiting for the blow to come.
I like to think I am relatively ‘easy going’. I’ve had folks tell me that I was a pleasure to work with. Huzzah. And I like to think that not many things send me into a point of anger. Of course, that could just be the CPTSD and the fact that I have virtually no emotions talking. But, hey. It’s chill. I’m good.
But then I meet folks who want to redefine my story of my life. They sit there and explain to me how my representation of my experience is ‘wrong’. Yeah. I ran into one of those recently. Oh… I really wanted to ‘rage post’, but my interior editor stopped me. Thank goodness for that titanium trap in my mind that usually keeps me from uttering something that might later be – ahem… unfortunate.
So, instead, I sat down and wrote this 100-word essay. I hope you enjoy.
And, just as a tip. When someone is divulging their truth to you, do not attempt to invalidate their experience in any way. It makes us grumpy.
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 I still cling to? 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 that 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.
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.
Some people travel through the Shadowlands and after trial and tribulation they emerge. They shake off the dark soot of so many sorrows and return to the sun.
I did not travel through. I lived in the Shadowlands. I ate of the fruit and drank from bitter streams. Years have passed here and the Shadowlands have swallowed decades. Now even though I, at times, emerge into the whiteness of the midday sun, I know that the Shadow is with me, hidden beneath my heel. For I have learned, after long and ardent denial, that the Shadows live within me.
Since they never develop a sense of safety, they distrust others while simultaneously searching for a “rescuer” who can finally give them the unconditional positive regard they were robbed of in childhood.~National Center for PTSD
My earliest fantasies were of a man, a Prince, who would rescue me.
In my dreaming, I was always asleep, or sick, or injured before this magical person arrived. Their presence rewrote me. With them, I was well. With them I was alive. I physically ached for that person. The hole in my chest that remained exposed and empty hurt. Because I knew, I knew with all my heart and soul that this magical being would make me complete. So I remained in my prison, waiting.
Because people were dangerous. They put me in this cage. People cut the hole in my chest. People taught me I was hollow, defective, broken. They – those outside – could not be trusted. In my cage, I was separate from them. I was so alone. I was broken. I was voiceless. I was forgotten.
Being forgotten by all the world made me safe.
No one ever came to my rescue.
There was no knight, no prince. There was no magic to make everything better. No touch to soothe away the fear. I was singular, alone, a broken thing that marked time pacing the limits of my cage. For decades. There is a track worn along the inside of my prison. I know it grain by grain. I could close my eyes and tell you where I stood in the gray nothingness of my life by the feel of the sand beneath my feet.
I have never lived. I have only paced my circles. Over and over and over. Waiting for a fantasy.
We often ask ourselves ‘Why Bother?’ as we are healing. We ask it when we are hurting, or when the amount of work seems too much, or in those moments when we feel we are not ‘enough’ of what we want to be.
In those moments, remember, you are a light.
You may not feel like a big, bright light, but that doesn’t matter.
What matters is that healing from your past, helps someone find their way to their own healing journey.
As we heal we light the way not only for ourselves, but for others as well.
Usually when we talk about survival we talk on a grand scale. We think big. Our mind’s eye conjures up disasters and world changing events, daring adventures and the impossible quest, things on an epic scale worthy of eighty point type on the front page or a close-up on the television.
Survival is the story of the hard choices, endurance and the will to live. The struggle. True stories like Aron Ralston’s choice inspire us. Fictional stories like Sophie’s Choice move us. We thirst for those big moments.
The drama calls to us.
But not all survival comes with sirens, ticker tape parades, spot lights and the crowd of the paparazzi. The tales that make the world gasp and hold their breath are the exception, not the rule. Most of the stories of survival I know are very quiet with almost no one aware that they transpire, day in and day out.
While the treatment of mental ill health has progressed beyond the Hell-like Bedlams of the past, there is still a social stigma attached to it. The struggle faced by the mentally ill is largely unseen by the populace because, in general, we work very hard to appear normal. Our external calm can be the result of tremendous effort to suppress the internal chaos that an individual is feeling.
Most people don’t think about actively choosing life. For those who struggle with severe depression it is a question that can become a daily exercise. In the grip of my deepest depression survival was often facing the day and simply saying, “I can. I will.” The decision to face another day is itself a tiny miracle. It is the victory of hope over what seem to be insurmountable obstacles. And, that is what survival is all about.
You do not know my story.
Do not dare to soften my reality
to fit your comfortable limited view.
If I make you wince, good.
Is my honesty too much?
I spent years stuffing myself
Into silence for the comfort of others.
You will not use my truth as a tool
To advance your fiction.
I do not accept your rewriting of my experience.
I have come too far
To allow a fantasy
Composed by a stranger
To limit me.
I am my own.
You do not define me.
My truth is not yours to alter.