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Living With Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

My qualifications to write about complex PTSD are, BA(Hons) mental health and I am a trained person centred counsellor who has Complex PTSD

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What Is Complex PTSD And PTSD Distinction?

PTSD was first recognised as an anxiety condition that affected mainly war veterans who experienced traumatic events of war. PTSD is a condition officially recognised in main stream society in the 1980's and describes exposure to a relatively brief but devastating and traumatic event. The event could be a war, near death experience, an accident, a terrorist incident, a rape, or, through being the victim of an act of violence or abuse. PTSD can be caused by a single traumatic event.

Complex post traumatic disorder (C-PTSD) is caused by long-lasting and repeated abuse and trauma that was ongoing for months or years and was, or is, ongoing. C-PTSD is an anxiety condition brought about through the constant exposure to frightening, stressful and distressing traumatic life events.

Both conditions of PTSD and C-PTSD result from the experiencing of a deeply traumatic event which can leave us feeling constantly afraid and intensely anxious. We feel frightened and untrusting in most situations we find ourselves in. We are constantly in a high state of controlled fear, in flight or fight response and always alert to danger.

Someone with PTSD or Complex PTSD often relive the traumatic event's through memories, nightmares and intrusive flashbacks. Seeing vivid images of the traumatic experience in the mind feels like reliving the event and we feel traumatised as if the event were happening now.

There were times I thought I could not cope with the images and memories of the past. Like many out there who are feeling traumatised and trying to get on with life, I felt the pain of being unable to feel happy, Often when we are traumatised but are not aware of the cause, we live with feelings of loneliness, isolation, irritability. anger and guilt as we try and deal with the constant negative thoughts. feelings and behaviours we experience.

Mental health disorders are common with the condition of both PTSD's and I experienced depression, panic attacks, have difficulty with concentrating, thinking and memory problems as well as insomnia and nightmares. These symptoms have been severe enough and persistent enough to have a devastating impact on my day-to-day life. Repeated traumatic events can leave us feeling mentally scarred and we struggle to deal with the damage of emotional or psychological trauma.

Both anxiety conditions can leave us feeling intensely afraid and unable to relax even when we are free of the danger we experience in the past. We live with the fear that comes with feeling unsafe in the world we live in. The slightest noise or disturbance can be a trigger for our bodies to go into feelings of high alert as anxiety escalates. Constant intrusive memories, thoughts or flashbacks can be triggers of a panic attack.

So, the difference between the two disorders is the frequency of the trauma. While PTSD is caused by a single traumatic event, C-PTSD is caused by repeated and long-lasting trauma.

Cause Of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, My Experience

Constant emotional and physical abuse in childhood or adults can be the cause of complex PTSD. Often abused children develop PTSD but do not show symptoms of this condition until later on in life, or, symptoms can manifest very early on in someone who has experienced repeated constant abuse. It is possible to suppress feelings of severe distress and forget about the traumatic event but those that do try and forget, tend to live a miserable life until they become aware of how they are feeling and why.

I tell my story of living with treatment resistant Complex PTSD in the hopes of highlighting and bringing awareness to how this disorder can affect the life of those who have experienced many traumatic events. This is my story and how I developed complex PTSD from a very early age and how I manage my emotions and fears.

I was given the last rites on my day of birth and the ceremony was recorded in my local church and I am grateful I survived to tell story.

My mother was a raging, violent, alcoholic women who rejected me at birth. She often inflicted serious injuries on me and I was traumatised from a very early age. When I was eighteen months old my mother threw a garden spade at me and it hit me in the head. She left me for dead and bleeding on the kitchen floor whilst she chose to run away and get drunk. I am grateful that my neighbour found me on that day and got me to hospital. The injuries were severe and there were more severe injuries that I experienced at the hands of my mother including strangling me unconsciousness on more than one occasion.

I was described by others as a withdrawn child but my mother called me a backward child. She blamed my injuries on me being stupid and clumsy and so, there was no escape from the constant state of trauma. In my mothers care the abuse was traumatising and from a very young age I was experiencing PTSD.

My father sexually and physically abused me from a very young age. I was terrified of him and in his care I had traumatic experience after traumatic experience. A child who has been repeatedly abused have a risk of developing Complex PTSD in later life.

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Symptoms Of Complex PTSD

I was diagnosed at a very young age with an anxiety, depression, panic disorder, complex PTSD and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I had difficulty controlling my emotions and I always felt that I had to keep my bubbling emotions and feelings under control. I was not allowed to feel sad, happy, hurt, angry or needy because If I showed any emotion in front of my parents, I would be punished. I became withdrawn and I suppressed all my feelings and retreated to an inner world.

I always had a negative view of myself thinking I was ugly, stupid and not worthy of better. I had a negative self belief system that I got from my parents that had a negative impact on every aspect of my life. I had constant intrusive negative thoughts about myself and a constant internal critical voice that said hurtful things to me. I believed that I was unworthy of love and happiness and so I never felt love and I never felt good about life or my role in it. I never felt good enough to have the good things in life. I was always desperate for love and to get snippets of love I desperately needed, I accepted abusive partners into my life. I was a teenage mother and a battered wife by the age of 18 and had been beaten by my boyfriend since the age of 14. I had no idea of the feeling of love or how love was supposed to feel because I had never felt it. I felt anxious and constantly insecure in life.

As a teenager and young adult, I developed obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) as a way to deal with my distress and feelings of trauma. I had a compulsion to clean house and I cleaned my house for up to seven hours a day. If I could not clean I would feel panicky and distressed as if my life depended on me cleaning. I could not stop cleaning. I did nothing but clean and worry.

I had no friends and no social life and never socialised with anyone because I felt too stupid to be a friend. I had no education because I believed that only people better than me was worthy of an education. I used to believe that I was a nothing and not worth the air that I breathed.

I did everything I could to avoid situations that could make me feel more anxious than I already felt. I had constant intrusive, morbid thoughts about being better off not being alive to deal with all the pain. I avoided people and avoided life by withdrawing into my comfort zone which was inside my home. I lived like a hermit for many years to avoid life experiences in an effort to protect myself from further hurt and possible triggers that could cause me to feel the traumatic feelings buried deep within myself.

I had terrifying dreams which intensified my feelings of fear. My nightmares had me screaming out in the night and sometimes I still scream myself awake and then be afraid to sleep. Often I struggled with insomnia which left me struggling with fatigue and feeling like I could not cope with life and the anxiety I felt from feeling exhausted. The stress hormones surging through my body caused havoc with my body and I was constantly ill and then diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, which is a condition that can be triggered by physical and/or sexual abuse in childhood

Like so many of survivors of abuse, I felt unworthy of a life worth living because I was not worthy of feeling love and happiness. When we are traumatised we feel trapped an emotional prison of our own making. We might feel jittery and edge all the time due to hyper arousal of our fight or flight response being triggered. We feel constantly in fear and scared so we adapt ourselves and our lives so that we can try and be as normal as possible.

Those experiencing complex PTSD can have memory problems and difficulties concentrating as well as intrusive flashbacks of traumas of the past.

With PTSD there is often an absence of the feeling of self love. I learnt that we need to feel love for ourselves and not rely on, or expect love to come from outside of ourselves. When we love our self, we will be loved by life and others around us. Life feels like a safer place when we feel love.



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Self-Management of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Life can feel dreadful when it is controlled by PTSD and this is why we need to take control of the PTSD. How do we learn to take control of what we think and feel? By learning to listen to our own thoughts. It is our thoughts that frighten us long after the trauma has happened. It is the thoughts we have and the beliefs we carry that make us suffer. Learn to identify which thoughts made you feel frightened or angry, frustrated, guilty, ashamed or some other negative emotion.

See the flashbacks and realise that the memory is traumatising you years after the traumatic event. When you are traumatised you are in shock and that shock freezes somewhere inside of our brain. You can release the shock of past trauma by being kind to yourself and being aware of the trauma.

Learn to love and forgive yourself for anything you think you might have done. Learn to forgive others. Use one or all the following processes to relieve some of the trauma that is trapped within you and feel good about yourself.

Meditation

Meditation to me is a rest from the internal chatter and thoughts that I have. Meditation is to quieten the mind and let the body rest from all the drama going on in my head so that I can become more aware of what I am feeling. You can find a spoken meditation or meditation music to suit yourself on Youtube.

Affirmations

We can use affirmations to retrain the brain to accept a new belief. If you have negative beliefs about yourself as a result of the past, affirmations really can help. Repeating an affirmation to yourself as often as is possible can change a negative belief into a positive belief and I am proof of that. Here are some of my affirmations to give you an idea.

I am worthy.

I am good enough.

I am love and I am loved.

I am health, wealth and success.

Gratitude

Feeling gratitude for what I have and what I expect to have helps me to feel better when I am feeling low. Try keeping a gratitude diary and focusing on the things you are grateful for. Be grateful for awareness and understanding of the knowledge that our thoughts affect how we feel. Be grateful for knowing we can change our thoughts and so change how we feel. Be grateful for everything that helps you through life. Write a list of all the things you are grateful for and write until you feel your feelings change to gratitude.

Visualisation

Visualising is the focus of your energy and whatever you focus on in life is what you will receive. If you focus on negative situations you will draw into your reality more negative experiences. By using my imagination to consciously think and visualise how I want life to look, I create more good feelings within. Visualisation is a powerful tool for reducing feelings of anxiety.

Close your eyes and imagine life as you want it to be and focus on what you want from life. Be honest with yourself about how you truly want your life to be, and then visualise that life and feel the feelings you would experience if you were living that life in reality. When visualising it is important to feel the feelings as if you are living the life of your visualisation. Feel what you imagine as being true and eventually what you visualise will become your reality. I am proof that visualisation of the ideal life really does work and my life as changed through visualising.

Keep a Journal

Journalling about how you feel helps to relieve inner tension. Take a few seconds to feel what you are feeling each day. Listen to your negative thoughts and write them down. Give your negative feelings a name. Is it anger, sadness, fear, frustration, disappointment, worry, embarrassment, jealousy, shame? Writing in a journal about how we feel helps us to identify what negative feeling or belief is fuelling our discomfort.

Answer questions in journal.

How do I feel?

What am I thinking right now that makes me feel bad?

What is a word for what I am feeling?

Where in my body can I feel this negative emotion?

Use imagination as well as the written word for the next questions.

How would I like to feel?

What would it feel like to feel good?

How do I know when I am feeling good?

What am I doing when I feel good?

Who am I with when I feel good?

Where am I when I feel good?

How do I want my future to look?

What is the next step I can take towards a better future

Pretend diary

Write a pretend diary at the start of each day. Each day, regardless of what happened the previous day, start the diary with, 'Today was the most wonderful day because......Write about your perfect day and how it would look and feel.

See a counsellor

It is good to be able to let of steam by talking to someone you can trust about how you feel. Talking things through can sometimes be helpful for us to hear the negative thoughts and fears we feel so that we can be aware of what is making us feel so distressed.

If you are struggling with PTSD and none of the processes above work for speak to your doctor or counsellor and get some advice because you don't have to suffer in silence.

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Comments

Louise Elcross (author) from Preston on November 09, 2020:

Thank you Doloras. I appreciate you having a read.

Doloras from Lancashire on November 09, 2020:

Very informative information Louise. So sad to hear about your repeated traumatic events in your life , I hope you find peace

Louise Elcross (author) from Preston on September 25, 2020:

Anupam I thank you for your lovely comments. Love and blessings to you too. Thanks for reading

Anupam Mitu from MUMBAI on September 25, 2020:

Oh dear! you are indeed a brave girl. And with your strength you can build up the strength of many more.

Lots of love and blessings dear. I wish you get a very loving person in your life to take care of your every feeling.

Louise Elcross (author) from Preston on September 21, 2020:

Connie I am happy for you that you found a way to healing. I know that when we become aware of the trauma of the past we can start healing. The negative feelings and beliefs that hold us stuck in the grips of a traumatic event become more understandable, and, like you say, we can find normalcy in our lives once we are aware. All the best to you on your healing journey too.

Louise Elcross (author) from Preston on September 21, 2020:

Charlene I am grateful that my story has helped you to identify what you are going through. I wish you all the best for your future and new awareness. Thank you for reading and leaving a comment.

Connie S Owens from El Cajon, CA on September 21, 2020:

One of the best gifts I received was a referral to a trauma therapist, she is very skilled in treatments for PTSD. Together we brought me through some rough years to bring me to healing. Not cured, but healing. We can recover, gain some sense of normalcy in our lives.

A guide is the best decision we can make on our journey to healing. Thank you for writing this and reminding me of how much I have to be grateful for in my life.

Blessings on your journey.

Charlene Gallant from Cape Town, South Africa on September 21, 2020:

Thank you Louise for being so brave to share your story and to raise awareness. This article has really helped me identify what I too am struggling with and up until this point, I had no idea. I did not go through all the awful things you went through, in fact, mine is pretty mild by comparison but you helped me see it for what it is so I thank you.

Louise Elcross (author) from Preston on September 21, 2020:

Pamela thank you for your comments. I am sad that some children are still living with abusive parents and not given a good chance in life. I was removed from my parents care many times and put into children's homes but was always returned to my abusive parents. Too many children are abused and I wanted to raise awareness of how that abuse can affect us in later life. I hope anyone suffering from PTSD gets some help and relief from reading this because that is my aim, to help others find understanding of what they are feeling and to find relief from fear and distress caused by abuse.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 20, 2020:

It is heartbreaking that you were not taken out of your home s a young child and placed into a loving environment. I think you had multiple good suggestions, Louise. Anyone suffering from any type of PTSD would be helped by reading this article and finding some help. It is awful that some children are raised in the way you described. I hope you have improved greatly at this time.