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Celebrating My Small Victories With Complex PTSD

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I have complex PTSD. (It’s taken a long time to “own” my diagnosis.)

One of my past traumas has prevented me from wearing scarves or necklaces or even a t-shirt that isn’t a v-neck. I can’t stand anything around my neck. I’ve stretched the neck out on lots of tops in the last few years from pulling or tugging on them to keep them away from my neck.

• What is PTSD?

I have worn a winter scarf (when I’m outside) around my neck for a couple weeks now without pulling excessively or taking it off after less than a minute. This is progress, and I’m calling it a victory.

I went to get my hair coloured at a salon the day before my birthday. I haven’t been able to do that for three years either. The cape around the neck, lying back to have my hair washed or having the colour rinsed has been impossible for me. (Hypervigilance mixed with fear — with my head back in the sink, I can’t see who’s coming and going or assess threats/non-threats, and that was way too risky in my mind.)

Until now. I had blue, teal and purple hidden highlights done as a birthday gift to myself. (Peacock hair — you can image search on google for
examples.) I told the stylist I have a problem with items around my neck and that I couldn’t have the cape tight. Also, that I might pull at it or have to take it off completely, and I understand that it may result in colour on my shirt, and I’m OK with that if it happens.

I kept the cape on the whole time!

I did tug at the neck a few times, but I managed to keep it on by focusing on breathing (mindfulness) and distracting myself from the sensation of having something around
my neck. Bonus — I love my hair colour!

These may seem like trivial things to most people, but for me they are victorious moments. It shows me I am making progress. I am celebrating these as small victories. It’s a step in the right direction to becoming whole again.

I might even try on some necklaces next; maybe I can manage that, too.

Image via Thinkstock

Originally published: December 23, 2016
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