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What It's Like Living With Complex PTSD From Childhood Trauma

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We all need to feel at home, especially in our physical surroundings, but early childhood trauma can rob us of that comfort. It’s a double injury — the one we had to survive as children and the one we struggle against as adult survivors.

• What is PTSD?

I have a physical structure to wake from and come back to every day, but it isn’t yet a home. I have placed my sentimental and practical things throughout so that it feels like me, looks like me, welcomes me…but I can never feel like I truly belong. I am aware that my sense of home is one that eludes me because of my childhood trauma. In fact, feeling alone and isolated is a major symptom of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD. I know this is the case, but my rational and emotional selves are at odds.

Having never had an attachment to my parents, having never felt safe or a sense of belonging in my childhood home, having spent my most formative younger years running away (or plotting to run away) from the place that should have been my safety, as an adult I struggle with a kind of homelessness. Not by choice, but by habit, by comfort level and a persistent fear of being trapped.

I reside in a space inside my head that says I have to keep moving. My fear of being in the wrong place prevents me from buying “big girl” furniture, decorating spaces with excitement that I’m making my home, inviting people over to a real house warming. Instead, I live in a place of uncertainty.

I can afford an actual house or a condo, I have been able to for many years. But where most people choose to settle down near a job, family or close friends, I have no such attachments to inform my decision. My friends are coupling or having families, which means little time to nurture our friendship though the intention is always there. My job is working from home, and though I’d like to join a company, I’m too afraid of repeating past incidents where I’m triggered by nasty bosses or client conflicts. My family are all estranged, which means I have no obligations to be within reach for regular visits.

I know that this is all within my realistic control. I have been exploring towns and homes for awhile now. But I can’t get settled in my mind. That “what if” feeling is hard to ignore. The need to have home is top priority; the reluctance to commit is my biggest obstacle. The knowledge that my home is inside me is clear. And yet, I remain immobilized. I am deconstructing this mental block because I don’t want my childhood trauma to fence my life. I don’t want to dwell in its instability. I don’t want to stay locked in my room, so to speak. I am writing this down as my reminder that I can change my fate by changing my address — the one that I allow myself to call home.

Photo credit: stockfour/Getty Images

Originally published: September 23, 2019
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Take Me Home