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How It Feels to Learn I Likely Have Complex PTSD

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced domestic violence, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233.

Life has a way of throwing you curveballs when you least expect it, but when you need it most. I have spent years feeling I needed to do something; that something was off and needed fixing or realigning. I felt I couldn’t pursue all my goals or reach my full potential until I accomplished something or learned some lesson.

• What is PTSD?

I had no idea how right I was at the time. Repressed memories have started resurfacing. Only a few for now, but I know more are on the way. Some of this has come from talking with my sister about childhood trauma I had forgotten.

I recall some memories clear as day, but for some reason, they disappeared from my life for many years. There are other memories my sister has that I have no recollection of and probably never will. Those memories are the ones that have the most impact on me because so many things about my life and personality now have an explanation. It was jarring to the point of destroying my self-image. I felt everything I knew about myself was now a lie. I thought I was no longer the person I had led myself to be.

I don’t think this change in self-image would have occurred if I was not going through some hard times. I am currently unemployed and having trouble finding work. I have had several interviews and, as of today, have a couple more scheduled, but there is still no income being generated. I have no more money to use to survive. My sister and niece are staying with me until they get a place of their own. Three people in a tiny one-bedroom apartment can make one more anxious than they were before. I don’t think I’ve hit rock bottom yet, but I’m close.

Some many factors affecting my mood and mental health have in a way opened parts of my mind I had closed off and now everything is falling into place. Seeing domestic violence at 4 years old, and this violence continuing for several years, has had a tremendous impact on how my young mind developed. I need professional help to deal with wounds I’ve ignored for so many years and to get a proper diagnosis. I know I have anxiety, but I’m learning this is not the problem but a symptom. Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) is likely the official diagnosis.

Of the many symptoms caused by this disorder in children, I will only list the ones I am aware of within myself. These are from the Wikipedia page.

1. Problems with relationship boundaries, lack of trust, social isolation, difficulty perceiving and responding to others’ emotional states.

2. Poor affect regulation, difficulty identifying and expressing emotions and internal states, and difficulties communicating needs, wants, and wishes.

3. Fragmented and disconnected autobiographical narrative, disturbed body image, low self-esteem, excessive shame, and negative internal working models of self.

4. Difficulties regulating emotions, including symptoms such as persistent dysphoria, chronic suicidal preoccupation, self-injury, explosive or extremely inhibited anger (may alternate), or compulsive or extremely inhibited sexuality (may alternate).

5. Variations in consciousness, including forgetting traumatic events (i.e., psychogenic amnesia), reliving experiences (either in the form of intrusive PTSD symptoms or in ruminative preoccupation), or having episodes of dissociation.

6. Changes in self-perception, such as a chronic and pervasive sense of helplessness, paralysis of initiative, shame, guilt, self-blame, a sense of defilement or stigma, and a sense of being completely different from other human beings.

7. Varied changes in the perception of the perpetrator, such as attributing total power to the perpetrator, becoming preoccupied with the relationship to the perpetrator, including a preoccupation with revenge, idealization or paradoxical gratitude, seeking approval from the perpetrator, a sense of a special relationship with the perpetrator or acceptance of the perpetrator’s belief system or rationalizations.

8. Alterations in relations with others, including isolation and withdrawal, persistent distrust, anger and hostility, a repeated search for a rescuer, disruption in intimate relationships and repeated failures of self-protection.

9. Loss of, or changes in, one’s system of meanings, which may include a loss of sustaining faith or a sense of hopelessness and despair.

10. Disconnection from surroundings accompanied by feelings of terror and confusion.

I see everything in my life as defined by these symptoms. I recently realized that my joy and desire to write horror or speculative fiction is my brain’s way of trying to deal with or get me to remember my past trauma. It is also my way of escaping. As a child, I had a counselor who helped me create a kind of survival kit.  When my parents would argue, I would pull this out this coffee can wrapped in construction paper and remove the many toys I kept within.  My sister described it as going off into my own little world. That’s why I write; to escape and go off into my own little world.

This is the difficult point in life where I must rebuild myself from nothing. I feel I’ve lost the person I was, but somehow have finally become who I always was or should be. Is it weird that I have this new zeal and ambition for life? I don’t think so. Every day gets me closer to being happy with the person I’ve become and the person I am. This was the lesson I needed to learn. This is the beginning of the rest of my life. I must deal with this before I can truly succeed in this world. I’ve been beaten down so far; the only place I have to go is up. And nothing will stop me.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Photo by Matthew Hamilton on Unsplash

Originally published: April 16, 2019
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