Can you pinpoint the moment you became a person you were never meant to be? The moment your life was thrown off course? I will spare you the details of my moment however we all have one, a fork in the road of life. In 2005 I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD. Symptoms include but by no means limited to:
- Deep Fear Of Trust – trauma wires the brain for fear and distrust. It becomes the way the brain copes with any further potential abuse.
- Terminal Aloneness – This is an intense loneliness you can feel in a room full of people.
- Emotion Regulation – Intense emotions are common with complex trauma survivors. It is understandable that ongoing abuse can cause many different and intense emotions. This is normal for complex trauma survivors.
- Emotional Flashbacks – the least known and understood type of flashback, and yet the type complex trauma survivors can experience the most. These are where emotions from the past are triggered. Often the survivor does not understand these intense emotions are flashbacks, and it appears the survivor is being irrationally emotional. When I learned about emotional flashbacks, it was a huge lightbulb moment of finally understanding why I have intense emotions, when they do not reflect the issue occurring now, but are in fact emotions felt during the trauma, being triggered. But, there is no visual of the trauma – as with visual flashbacks. So, it takes a lot of work to start to understand when experiencing an emotional flashback.
- Hypervigilance About People – Most people with PTSD have hypervigilance, where the person scans the environment for potential risks and likes to have their back to the wall.
- Helplessness and Toxic Shame – Toxic shame is a common issue survivors of complex trauma endure. Often the perpetrators of the abuse make the survivor feel they deserved it, or they were the reason for it. Often survivors are made to feel they don’t deserve to be treated any better.
- Repeated Search For A Rescuer – Subconsciously looking for someone to rescue them is something many survivors understandably think about during the ongoing trauma and this can continue on after the trauma has ceased.
- Persistent Sadness and Being Suicidal – While I do not suffer from this symptom as an adult this was a daily struggle as a teenager. The thing about PTSD symptoms is that you may have all the symptoms come at you at once, on a daily basis or one at a time.
- Muscle Armoring – This is where the body is continually tensed, as though the body is “braced” for potential trauma. This leads to pain issues as the muscles are being overworked. Chronic pain and other issues related such as chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia can result. After many years of trying to find a source to my pain I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2017.
Up until I had children, I knew that I was all messed up inside and my young adult life was a roller coaster. A train wreck, if you will. In fact we have a poster sized print of an actual train wreck that happened in Reading Pa 1910 hanging in my dining room, my husband tells everyone it is a picture of me, and he’s not wrong. When our first child was born, I did everything by the book, called our doctor 25 times a day and still had mounting anxiety. Am I doing this right? I was constantly looking over my shoulder to see who might be judging me. By the time I had three toddlers running in separate directions going out would cause a complete panic, but like any good mother we still made frequent trips to the zoo and local parks. The only difference is these trips would take every ounce of energy and completely drain me emotionally that it would take days of relaxation to completely recover. This of course meant that my house was almost always a disaster. Dishes not done, toys strewn across the floor. During this time I decided to seek counseling at a PTSD clinic. Most of my therapy included writing my story and different forms of journaling and while this worked well for me this may not work for everyone struggling with PTSD. After my therapist announced she was moving for Florida in 2010 I decided not to find a replacement.
I was a teenager when this story began and now that my daughters are entering their teenage years I can feel my anxiety rising. There are things that will always trigger you. but we make it through. If you have been diagnosed with or show symptoms of PTSD I encourage you to seek help. If not for you, than so your children can have the mother they deserve.