CPTSD and the Miracle of Survival

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.

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”

Positives we have learned from CPTSD

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.

#Complex-PTSD : Dissecting my inaction

I have #cptsd and I want to save everyone.

When I read through the thoughts and questions posted here my heart breaks. I know the loneliness some of you are going through. I know that feeling of ‘not enough’. I know that place where laying down and just ending is the most appealing wish to ever infiltrate your heart and mind. Those places are engraved on my heart too.

When I see that pain I want to reach out. To tell the bruised and hurting soul that they are understood, valued and loved. All the truths that I need when I am trolling those depths of self-harm and self-hatred. I know the importance of a single word. How lives can turn on a phrase or gesture.

More times than I would ever want to admit I remain silent.

My fear makes me mute. The drumbeat of ‘what if’ plays over and over in my mind. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I give bad advice? What if I’m not enough? What if… That beat continues. It is the double echo of my own heart.
“What if? What if?”

I want to say it is the #CPTSD that robs me of my voice. Years of self-erasure have made me timid, frightened to even share my hope for another person. Or is it that I am not enough? I have no degree in helping people. I have no experience in helping others. Looking at my own life I have very little success at a personal level. Why should I reach out when I have nothing to offer except another heartbeat in the dark as confused and labored as their own? Isn’t that a gesture that would saddle someone with my own deficiencies?

If I was brave I would reach out. I would follow my heart into fire and ice to let people know that their voice is essential to this world. Essential.

But, I’m not brave. I’m an old woman as lost as those I would help, plagued with self-doubt, fear of doing the wrong thing, and the ever-present knowledge that I am ‘not enough’.

So I find myself limited to ‘thoughts and prayers’, snarling at my own inaction.

Perhaps, I could begin to be brave by admitting my fear.

An open letter to the #bonsai people – #CPTSD

I have #cptsd. I’ve struggled with it for nearly 40 years. Until – I finally found someone who could put all the pieces together and give my basket of problems a name.

That in itself was one triumph. Knowing.

When I see those ‘conquer’ posts or those “I’ve recovered” posts… I’m envious. And I wonder if I’ll ever be ‘healed’.

Then I remember the #bonsai. We are the bonsai people. Tiny seedlings shaped, trained, even mutilated into forms that their nature never intended.

And as horrible as that process was, the twisting, the shaping at a person’s hands they survived. And each is entirely unique.

Like the bonsai it is that uniqueness which makes each survivor of #CPTSD a little universe of our own. We all responded to the pressures and dangers of our lives in our own way. So do not judge your successes by someone else’s.

All of us are as different from one another as can be. Your healed is going to look different from mine.

I will admit that I don’t think of myself as ‘healing’ from my past so much as growing beyond it. You will grow. You will take yourself in new directions. You will fly. And you will fail. And you will learn, and fly again.

Like the forces that shaped the bonsai, #cptsd cannot be removed from us, or eradicated. It has shaped us. But, now that we know we can choose to grow beyond that limited shape.

You will grow, and thrive, and be magnificent.

We are the bonsai people, bent, pared away, shaped by our environment.
And despite all of that, we survive, we grow, we thrive in places others fear to tread, because we are as fearless and tough as we are unique.

We are the bonsai people and we are beautiful.

A thread… about this mornings flashback. Joy. Not.

#CPTSD #mentalhealth #morning First off. I’m ok. I’m wired. I’m exhausted. I’m dropping things left and right. I’m moving too fast. But all that is manageable. I’m ok. I’m and hour and a half late starting my day. so #fml. But even that is manageable. Thread /1

This is the morning after a night of #flashback city. Fck. This is not a new thing for me. So at least – I know what it is. I know it will pass. I know I can outlast it. I know how to pull myself through it. So, it was a morning working a #countdown . /2

And the #anger is really close to the top today. Gotta #meditate after this if I can. A countdown: 5 things I can see. 4 things I can touch. 3 things I can hear. 2 things I can smell. … and 1 thing I can taste, but that’s hard to do when you are glued in your bed. /3 #stuck in your bed with #anxiety and the ? (I don’t know that word for watching your brain do its insanity and carries you along for the ride.) #dissociation (maybe). Did I mention I’m #wired? Fck. /4 I’m glad the cat is in another room and that I’m typing. Otherwise I might just rub all the hair off the poor thing. (Just kidding, but you get the idea.) Ok. Calm it down. Try to find some center in all the meshegas. /5 “Hello Kitty!” (no, she’s good. Curled up next to me. ) Did I mention I’m ok? Really. Methinks she doth protest too much. (B1) My mental chorus is being a bunch of bitches right now. Some of them are quite witty, the rest are just my mother’s voice. Fck. /6 This is one of the things that happens in the wake of a #flashback. All the fragments come out and feel like they have to grab the mic. (OK. That sounds really crazy. But you get it, right? ) So, I spent most of last night somewhere between #nightmares and #flashbacks. /7 Thank God and the #mentalhealth profession that I now know what these are. Imagine doing this for 35 years and NOT knowing what it was. Fck. That was me. I’ll have to #Write about that later. Not this morning. I had a point to all this… /8 Yes. My morning is a mess. I’m pretty much in the #hotmess category too at the moment. BUT, I know what it is. I have my tools to work my way through it. From here I go meditate and write… and I talk to my husband about . /9 The main thing I am trying to say is Storms pass. There are tools to help you get through them. Learn them. Use them. After the storm is calm. (maybe a wicked #emotional #hangover ,those can be dealt with too.) Hang in there. It’s what we do. #CPTSD #Survivor. /fin

Underground: Fiction Under 100 words

“One. Two. Three.” I counted in the dark. People huddled in the crowded subway tunnel smelling of damp wool coats, black-market cigarettes, coal dust and fear. Momma held my hand squeezing it tight to calm us both. Papa was upside fighting the fires that followed the explosions of Hitler’s rockets. People shifted uncomfortably on the floor as the shelter shook. Everyone counted the time between the engine’s death and the detonation above. Momma picked me up holding me tight in her lap.
“Let’s count together.”
I nodded in the dark leaning on Momma’s salty cheek. We waited together.

Instead of Mother’s Day / Father’s Day

That’s it. No more Mother’s Day for me.  No more Father’s Day for me.  I’m done.

I know I can’t be the only person who watches their social media feeds fill up with heartfelt tributes to moms and dads, and feel, well, left out. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day for me are not filled with sparkles and bad ties, grilling hot dogs and glitter. Instead they come with an emptiness and a specter of jealousy that I fight to keep in the closet. It isn’t attractive and no one wants to see that.

It’s not my friends’ and cousins’ fault that they are celebrating the parental lottery. Just as it isn’t my fault that I lost. So instead of staring at everyone’s good fortune and feeling that rising bitterness, I’ve made a practice of not watching the social media on those parental celebration days.

But that just keeps the scars from being irritated. It’s a good start, but I’d like to be able to celebrate good parenting right along with my friends. It’s probably one reason that they are such good friends, well worth celebrating. It doesn’t seem very beneficial to be over in a corner ignoring other people’s happiness. Kind of reeks of being a ‘sad sack’. So, I decided this year, and celebrated my first Toxic Parent Monday.

Toxic Parent Monday falls immediately after the Sunday of celebration for the parent of record. So that means you have two of them in any year. This holiday can also be called Dysfunctional Family Survival Day.

You see Toxic Parent Monday (TPM) or Dysfunctional Family Survival Day (DFSD) isn’t about pondering the ways your parents fell short or the wrongs that were done.  It isn’t about the missed plays, the neglect, or the broken arms, the insults or the abuse. The day is about the survival. Your survival. It’s about breaking the cycle of abuse. It’s about all of us who grew up and grew strong despite our families.

It’s not about competing with other survivors, it’s about celebrating that we survived the crazy-making. It’s about looking at each other and saying “I see you, and I’m so glad you are here.”

This is a day dedicated to all the kids that didn’t have the story book beginning. We’re patient, we’re scrappy, and we can endure. So the next time TPD/DFSD comes around, if you grew up in a broken or dysfunctional home take a moment to congratulate yourself and say,
“Ya know.
    I may not be perfect, but look at where I came from.
    I have myself together in so many ways despite that start.
   Yeah, I’m going to make it. I raised myself, and damn if I didn’t do an ok job.”

Midnight Writing Jan 9, 2016

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.

But I lived in the Shadowlands. I ate of the fruit and drank from bitter and saline 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.

Just one of those things…

Today is just one of ‘those’ days.  A day when even thought the sky is blue my whole world appears to be one flat shade of grey.  My depression can be like this, sneaking up out of a stressful moment to make an appearance days later.  These are the days that I just concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.

Chores get done. I plod through tasks, head down unwilling and by and large unable to look up.  My world collapses to the edges of my task list and extends no further.

My thoughts go dull and I find myself fighting the tide of thoughts as they turn again and again to topics that I try to forget. Or at least I try not to wallow in them.  Tears come easily on days like today, the well of sadness and despair seems to provide tears endlessly.  I look for anything that can help pull me out of this space, and it always seems to be a doomed, or self-defeating proposition.

There is only one door marked ‘exit’ from this place.  The rest of the time I simply have to hold on, persevere and hope that my mood lifts, tomorrow or the next day, or the next.

Depression is really a bitch.