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How Twitter Helped Me Find Myself With Complex PTSD

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A common theme for those who struggle with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) is a loss of self and where we fit in the world around us. Many of us are extraordinarily competent in chaos; yet, when life is easygoing, we can become restless and uncomfortable, no longer knowing what box we belong in, looking to others for direction.

• What is PTSD?

Before developing chronic illness, I was a 4.0 GPA college student on the fast track to success. I felt secure in schedules, assignments and having a path given to me by the career center. Praise from my professors also gave me validation I was doing a good job. For the first time in my life, I knew what I was doing and where I would be going. Then, slowly but surely, a mass wave of symptoms came over my body, debilitating me. Test after test was negative, no one knew what was wrong with me. I had previously been diagnosed with gastroparesis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and scoliosis, but there were no answers for chronic pain and profound fatigue.

After years of this, my frustrated primary care physician, having zero ideas for what to do with me next, asked about my childhood. I took a deep breath and spoke a little bit about my mother’s suicide right before my “sweet 16,” my father’s abusive alcoholism and my history with anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) — and wondered what this painful story had to do with my body revolting against me. I was then diagnosed with C-PTSD, a type of PTSD due to multiple traumatic events over time and childhood trauma versus what we commonly understand PTSD to be, with one immediate venomous strike of trauma. For me, the common consensus is this trauma has begun to eat its way out, taking my health with it.

Now, with both body and mind so far removed from where I pictured them, I had to leave college and my campus job, just a few credits shy of my master’s degree. I wandered like a ghost, waiting for the shoe to drop at any moment, sometimes I wished for it to so I would have something — anything — to make me feel like there was a reason for me to take up space in the world. I tried freelancing, volunteering online and hoping to find value in being a good housewife, but nothing fit or made sense. I started making small improvements through eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy until COVID-19 hit and my therapist was unable to continue with in-person treatment, so I wandered like a ghost haunting an old abandoned house, waiting for the cue.

Around October of 2020, my therapist encouraged me to get back into things I loved — writing, sketching, painting — something just for me, where family, responsibilities and illness did not take part. This led to a series of self-portrait sketches I eventually started sharing online through Twitter. I’m not sure what possessed me to share them because my art has always gone straight to my closet after completion, never to be seen again. When the world did not burn, rejection did not throw me into a tailspin, I began to share other parts of myself — music I enjoyed, things I wanted to learn and life with chronic illness. Slowly, I began to realize: I am parts — of what and who I love, my life experiences, what I’m good at — each making me whole, each making me who I am.

I was not my trauma or my education, nor did I need to be told I wasn’t. I found me, she was there all along, I just had to let her out. This was a salve on my broken heart like skin blistered in the sun.

So, hello, my name is Lauren.

I’m a writer. An artist. A wife and mother. Spoonie. Warrior. This healing process is my battle cry.

If you are struggling with similar feelings of loss and hopelessness in your journey to become yourself, please know you are not alone. You are not the whole of your wounds; you are a beautiful blossoming tree in the middle of a forest with others just like you. There is hope. There is help. And you are so worthy of both.

Original art by author

Originally published: March 2, 2021
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