Archives for category: PTSD

Thanks to Athina at Courage Coaching for sharing this video about complex trauma!

Originally posted on A Broken Blue Sky: The following video is one of the best videos I have watched on Complex PTSD. If you suffer from C-PTSD, it will be very emotional to watch. But it will also be very validating of all that you went through and help you to understand your reactions to…

via “Complex Trauma: Understanding and Treatment” — Courage Coaching

The Questions:

Quite a few people have asked me how I can love the people who hurt me so badly throughout the years.  Why don’t I hate them instead?  Don’t I feel resentment or hurt?  Don’t I feel angry?    And if I love them, why did I walk away?  Cut them out of my life?

The Answers:

Love, true love, is unconditional.  It is universal, all-encompassing, non-judgmental, compassionate, accepting, supportive, and freely given.  Love is inclusive instead of exclusive.

This kind of love is NOT the same as conditional love, romantic love, approval, or obligation.

Yes, I do feel anger, resentment, hurt, intense dislike, sometimes hate, guilt, and shame too.  But these emotions are pointed at words, thoughts, actions, reactions, choices, behaviors, and experiences; not the individual human beings.

Yes, those people made the choice to be abusive.  And maybe some of them enjoy being mean and hateful, etc., but I’m not responsible for their feelings.  All I can do is try to understand their perspectives and make choices to protect myself.

I’m learning to let go of the anger and resentment, the shame and guilt, because holding on to that negativity only hurts me in the end.

I can’t/won’t change anyone else; can’t/won’t make their choices for them; can’t/won’t be responsible for them or the consequences of those choices.

I can only make my own choices, live up to my own values, and be responsible for myself.

By doing that, I can open my heart enough to feel compassion, love, and acceptance for the people who hurt me.  And I can give them another chance to see if we can have a positive relationship as the people we are now.

The Why’s:

Every person has a story.  Every person has been through experiences (nurture/nature) that shaped who he was and who he is now.  Some of those experiences were her choices; others were not her choice.  Each experience, and how the person coped, influenced the person he or she is now and how that individual interacts with others.

The people who hurt me chose to treat me and talk to me that way.  I hold them responsible for their choices even as I can understand why.  That DOES NOT mean I have to spend time around people who chose to act and be abusive and hurtful to themselves and others.

So, as much as I love my family and feel a universal love toward the others, I still hold them responsible for what they said and did.  I forgive them without forgetting.  And I set my boundaries to protect myself even as I pray that someday they will stop hurting themselves and others.

Religious?  Spiritual?  Or something else?

I don’t know.  The religion I learned as a child taught me to fear and hate God, men, women, and life equally.  This life was advance payment for a glorious afterlife (if I was a man) or a lifetime of servitude without abuse (if I was a woman).  And maybe that’s not really what being a Mormon is about, but those are the lessons I learned.

These days, I choose to believe in a universal force/spirit/energy that works with nature to provide what’s needed.  Nature or nurture.  Science or religion or magic.  In my mind, all of these are different sides of the same coin.

Is saying “I love you” to people not family foolish?

No.  I’ve said those words to many people who are not family or close friends and meant them.  Those people may have brushed off the words or responded with condescension, thinking I’m naive and sappy, but I’d rather live in a world with love, compassion, empathy, resilience, and courage than one without those traits.

Conclusion

So I will keep on saying “thank you”, “I appreciate…”, “I love you”, “I apologize…”, “I’m sorry…”, “how can I help”, “no”, “not right now”, “I don’t know”, “Please respect my…” to people.  I will keep on treating them the way I want to be treated.  I will bounce back from the pain.  I will give second chances, but not third ones.  I will continue living life on my terms and cultivate friendships with like-minded people while accepting those with different mind-sets.

Thanks for reading

Fear keeps me awake.  Anxiety disturbs my thinking processes/cognitive ability.  Adrenaline gives an energy boost until the crash.

But anger???  Anger does two things:

  1. In the moment, I feel like I could take on a legion of warriors and win.  Energy is swirling around me and adding strength to my muscles.  Not so much aggression (although it looks like that to most outsiders) as battle-readiness
  2. After that, or if the anger lasts a long time, I feel exhausted.  Instead of waking up ready to take on the day, eating or doing chores, or enjoying myself with people and hobbies, I feel sleepy.  And if I don’t listen and sleep, I start to feel sleep deprivation even though I am not sleep deprived.

Why talk about it now?  Because I don’t want to feel tired when I am this angry.  I want to find a safe way to let it out so that my body/mind/spirit can feel some relief.  I want to listen and attend to the needs of my physical self through exercise, and yes, a punching bag or some kind of activity that involves self-defense/fighting.

Growing up, I didn’t like sparring, but I also didn’t fear it.  Sparring taught me a lot and helped me feel confident I could protect myself.  Not until the teachers and classmates started criticizing and humiliating me on purpose did I start to fear classes.  And when the flashbacks started in college, I couldn’t stop the rage from taking over and making me more aggressive during sparring and practice sessions.  Something that did not go over well with my teacher, younger brother, friends, or other classmates.

Eventually, I got so scared of hurting someone that I stopped all together.  When you can’t tell what’s real and what’s not, it’s hard to feel in control and able to spar without hurting someone.  And when everyone around you is talking about you behind your back and watching you like you’re going to “lose it” and hurt someone, you just want to get out and leave.  Or at least, we felt that way.

I want to not be afraid of going into the “zone” of rage and dissociation whenever I feel angry or scared.  I’d like those parts of me to come out into the light and be an active part of our system.  I am proud of them.  The other parts in our system are proud of them.  We want to feel what they feel when they defend us.  We want to participate in learning self-defense and protection.  We want them to be able to use our body and experience the endorphins and happiness that comes from physical activity too.

But enough of that for now.  I am tired.  My parts are tired.  Yesterday at therapy was intense.  And the self care we did after our morning session was even more tiring.  So a nap is in order for now.  Then following up on our new routine and some more self-care to get ready for work tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

This is not properly formatted…using the app annoys me so I avoid using it as often as possible…sorry if it’s confusing or difficult to follow
This month, I pared down my apartment to less than the basics.  Most of my stuff has been given away or put in the dumpster.  What I kept has been boxed and shipped to the new apartment.  

My clothes are in suitcases. I got rid of my cooking utensils and stopped cooking a little over a week ago.  And because of the “not cooking” part I have had to confront many of my food fears, body anxiety, and personal biases about skinny versus fat in terms of health and my body.

Many people in my circle think I am a healthy eater and lucky not to be addicted to junk food or fat and overweight like they are.  I am a little less than my ideal weight right now because of stress, but not terribly so.  And sure, I prefer eating real food with lofs of nutrients.  But I also love chocolate and cheese; eat way too much chocolate; and get lots of discomfort from eating cheese.

But the easiest kinds of food to prepare without pots, pans, and a microwave are the same foods that being back bad memories and trigger fear.  Even typical snacks do that to me.  But I wanted this time to be different.  I wanted to stay healthy and grounded and present for this entire move.

So I started wondering why eating or even thinking about eating sandwiches, canned/spreadable meats on crackers, salads, wraps, granola and energy bars or drinks, chips, dip, jerky, deli meat and so on made me feel sick and lose my apetite.  Also certain kinds of trail mix, bagels, english muffins, and spreads like hummus can be added to the list.

Sadly, my avoidance of these foods stems from childhood.

I spent a lot of time at home with my mom for a variety of reasons.  I was “her little helper” from a young age and spent most of my days cleaning, doing laundry, and playing by myself.  Mom was sick a lot; she slept often and forgot to cook or prepare food.  And waking her up was impossible sometimes. If I did wake her up, I got smacked and punished.

So I learned to feed myself with what was available in the cabinets I could reach.  The refrigerator was too heavy to open, so a lot of what I ate came from boxes, cans, and bags.  I still can’t eat cereal with milk or toasted bread without feeling queasy.

And often, mom would wake up and find me eating “her” snacks or pastries because that’s what I could reach.  My punishment for stealing: no dinner or lunch, etc.  If I showed a preference for certain food, they never reappeared in the house.  So I started sneaking in food and snacks when no one paid attention.  Plus: I never gained much weight.  Minus: I never had enough nutrients to grow and get strong either.

And then I would hit growth spurts that made me “hungry all the tine” my mom complained.  And I “ate like a bird” and was “too picky” about my food.  Oh, and I was getting fat from eating to much even though I was “on the go” all the time between school, activities, and being “mom’s helper”.  “Mom’s helper” included letting the babysitters and other people picking me up, take me away for hours, and bring me home again. During those times as “mom’s helper”, the people gave me lots of sweets and soda and other stuff filled with drugs and alcohol to make me compliant.  Eventually, though, that stuff made me sick instead.  Then the people couldn’t use me or make money off of me.

I guess that makes me lucky in one way because I never got addicted to the illegal drugs they forced into me.  Between my mom putting me on diets to keep her company or because I was getting fat and my worry that whatever food I ate was going to make me sick, I started restricting myself to only eating foods I knew were safe and only other foods in relatively safe places.

Fast forward to now.  My body hates any kind of chemical and synthetic foodlike substances.  I can smell and taste the chemicals long before the food reaches my plate.  All that time spent eating those foods and watching my parents/sibling get sicker and sicker from those habits scarred me.  Made me think all fat people are evil and unhealthy and not safe for a long time.  But then seeing skinny people or average people or muscle bound fit people did the same.  My perpetrators came in all shapes and sizes, both genders, and a variety of religions and sexual orientations.  All they had in common were pedophilia, sadism, and a love of mind-altering substances.

And eating many of these foods makes my body hurt later.  Sometimes to the point where I don’t realize the food brought back body memories.  And then I wonder why massage and other coping strategies aren’t working or how I got triggered.  

At least now I know that food fearscan trigger   body memories and panic attacks.  And that I can survive on triggering foods without getting sick or fat or turning into my mom.  My weight has mostly stabilized now that the end is close.
And next week I hope to start posting 2x a week again.

Thanks for reading.

Introduction

I was talking with a friend of mine over dinner earlier this week, and she mentioned not wanting to take meds for depression.  Another male friend of mine said the same thing a few months ago.  Both said that the medicine makes them foggy and feel numb, so preferred not taking the psychiatric prescriptions.  And during my final visit with my dietitian yesterday, depression and stress related food issues came up.

So I thought this would be a good time to share some facts I’ve learned about depression and anorexia as related to (symptoms of) my PTSD.  You see, the complex posttraumatic stress disorder sometimes includes symptoms and side effects that can also be standalone diagnoses.  Depression, anxiety, OCD, eating disorders, self-harm, phobias, Dissociative Identity Disorder, and dissociation to name a few.

Depression

I struggle with depression often.  It comes and goes in waves depending on a schedule of personal holidays and anniversaries embedded in my mind and body.  For a long time, psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses tried to give me all kinds of pills.  Sometimes they gave me the same ones my mother was on; this made sense to them as our supposed symptoms of anxiety and depression were similar.

Then they started giving me other pills to help with the psychotic symptoms: hearing voices; hallucinations, sleep issues, and so on.  The pills were supposed to make the symptoms go away – i.e. I wouldn’t hear voices or hallucinate anymore.  The nightmares would disappear.  And I’d sleep through the night.

Well I did start sleeping a lot.  And for a few months at a time, my mind would be quiet.  But, I felt numb and spent most of my time living in a fog.  Nothing penetrated the fog.  And my coordination problems got worse.  Concentration became difficult.  I started to get sick often.

So I stopped taking medicine and tried to find other coping strategies.  But I kept wondering what was wrong with me that the medicine couldn’t fix a biological/chemical problem like depression the way it did for others.  If I had depression, then it was a chemical imbalance.  Medicine fixed chemical imbalances.  Right?

Not exactly…my last psychiatrist explained to me that people who have experienced severe trauma do have problems with depression.  But their depression is not biological or chemical based.  It comes from having been traumatized; only therapy modalities that focus on healing from trauma can help with that kind of depression.

He said that about anxiety too; the symptoms of anxiety can be masked by medicine, but the cause of the anxiety cannot.  So when the medicine wears off, I will experience all of the symptoms of anxiety and/or depression that were masked.  Sometimes, the symptoms will be worse because they were repressed (backlash).  It’s a risk I would take every time I took one of the pills.

These days, the only time I take one of those pills is if I haven’t slept for more than 24 hours and need to knock myself out.  Hence the nickname “knockout pills”.

Final Thoughts

Find a mental health provider who understands trauma (trauma-informed or trauma trained).  Not all of them understand trauma or how it affects mental health.  Then discuss symptoms and past experiences with medication with this person and see if medication is the right path.  If it’s not, ask for other suggestions and options.  If medicine does seem like a good path, keep a journal of the different symptoms and side effects that occur or not occur when on and off the pills.

I am not opposed to taking medicine or pills.  I am opposed to having my mental clarity and independence compromised.  So if ever there comes out an FDA approved pill that can help with my symptoms without making me foggy or so tired I sleep 20 hours a day for weeks or sick to my stomach, I will try it.  Until then, I am better off without the pills.

Thanks for reading

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