First, I must say that I am not a medical professional and if you suspect you may be suffering from PTSD and CPTSD please seek medical help. This article is to take a peek at the terminology and my own personal trauma and struggles.
Complex PTSD is a new term in the medical field and one you do not hear much about. I think as my generation and the ones behind me mature, it will become more commonly used and talked about. We associate PTSD with combat warriors that have come home from war after experiencing a traumatic event. It is easy for us to understand if the traumatic event involves some kind of physical affliction, but the truth is it most commonly appears in those without external blemish or scar. To understand this, we must first understand there are 4 different bodies that make up our one. In my book I describe these and touch on them, but today I am just going to touch a little on them. They are:
Each of these bodies represent us as a whole. I believe they are intertwined and when healing the body, we must treat all areas and not just one. Our medical field and insurance companies are not set up this way. To get help in all areas at the same time cost a fortune, takes applications and multiple physicians and often people do not get the help they need to heal. For PTSD sufferers, I believe the trauma they have experience affects the mental body due to a threat to the physical body of ourselves or others we are close to. A continued state of arousal to protect the physical body messes with our Mental stability while triggering an emotional response. I call it survival mode. PTSD is used to describe those who have suffered one life altering event, while Complex PTSD is used to describe those who have suffered a series of life altering events that have occurred over an extended period of time. Those life altering events keep you in a heightened state of survival mode. Fear of what will come next, constantly being proactive to avoid the next round of mental threat or physical blow to your person. While at the same time keeping your emotional body under control. Sounds very complicated right?
In my personal experience I could never understand why my anxiety and depression appeared when it did in my life. Let alone extreme panic episodes where my body felt like it was so out of control. Why at this time in my life was this happening? Some call it a “midlife crisis”, others call it a “mental break down.” For me I call it my “had enough alarm.” My body simply had enough trauma that it was overwhelmed and could not deal with any more. I learned that my bucket was overflowed. My body had dealt with so much that my mind could not take on anymore. The series of things I experienced in my life and the order in which they arrived, left me in a state of constant survival mode. Everything triggered me. I never realized it before this happened, but I always sit in the corner of a room with my back to the wall. Loud noises and especially yelling or arguing triggered my defenses as well as my severe need to put walls up and not trust anyone. I trusted no one and had a right not to. I had been hurt over and over again. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.
First, it started with sexual abuse as a child. When that person was finally out of reach, in enter this smooth-talking teenage guy who gave me the attention and affection I so strongly needed. Until my naivety with men and relationships found me pregnant at the age of 14. 14 and pregnant and I was trapped. I was told that this man would be in my life forever and I had to make the best of it. So, I did. Within a month of finding out I was pregnant; he was living with me and I made the best of it. Little did me or my family know that path we would go down from that day forward. To make the story short. I loved him dearly and I think at one time he loved me too, but something changed in him. He became very mean and emotionally abusive. He started drinking all the time and I found myself at 15 and 16 taking him to bars and being his DD. (Yes, there are bars in the backwoods that will allow teenagers in.) We fought constantly as well as with my parents. He would leave and come back a total of 13 times in our relationship. He dated almost every one of my friends till I had very few people I could trust or count on. He told me I was a tramp, and no one would want me when he got done with me. That I was used goods. That I was stupid and ugly. Most of all he said that no one liked me, and no one could stand me. They all just put up with me because they had to. That he was only with me to get what he could from me. I believed him. I believed it all. When he told me that last statement, I found my exiting backbone and proceeded to the closes exit. On my way out the door, he would threaten my families lives, my child’s safety in my arms, and my reputation in the community. It became a toxic relationship to me and threatened my security and mental well being. Little did I know at the age of 16 how this man that I had loved so dearly, could impact my life and mental health indefinitely.
From there I finally gained some independence. I worked to graduate from High school as well as take some college courses while holding down a manager job for a local fast-food chain. I finally felt like I had some control over my choices and circumstances. I met my husband at the age of 18 and got married to him at the age of 20. He was a breath of fresh air. I had found someone who truly loved me and support me. I would not realize the extent until late in life, but God gave him to me and His timing was impeccable, but I never did stop looking over my back. I Never knew when chaos would come around the corner and destroy what happiness I had. Even when me ex finally signed his parental rights away. I still worried he would enter and turn it all upside down. Then at the age of 22 and the birth of my second child my life took another turn. Illness.
At the age of 15 I struggled with a heart arrythmia that was brought on due to stress. A Benign condition that I dint’ know was benign until 23 years later. Then I was diagnosed with cystic acne and had nickel size pockets of infection appear on my face. Then at the age 22 I became pregnant with my youngest son and was extremely sick for the whole 9 months. When he was 5 months old, I was diagnosed with ulcerative proctitis. I spent 10 years struggling with the disease that later became ulcerative colitis as well as IBS. Then came migraines, then Interstitial cystitis, with minor bouts of depression creeping in. Then I struggled with Gastritis and GERD with a sore throat I could not get to go away. Six years struggling with this sore throat, and finding a doctor that would believe it was not all in my head, I was finally diagnosed with a positive blood test for Sjogren’s Syndrome. But my victory was not accepted well. During this six year I had my tonsils removed, my gallbladder removed, had to leave my job, and was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. But that’s not all folks. I also had an extreme flare of endometriosis which led to 3 more surgeries in six months. Exploratory surgery for diagnosis, a complete hysterectomy and later a pelvic mass that enveloped one of my tubes that went from my kidney to my bladder. Six weeks post op I mentally crashed. You see, just before my last surgery my doctors pulled me off all depression and anxiety medications to let my body detox because I was struggling to find a medicine that would help with my depression. I tried out-patient group therapy, but I was too far gone at that point. The trauma of all these threats to my physical body played its toll on my mental stability and I finally checked myself into the hospital for help. From there I was diagnosed with insomnia, unspecified panic disorder, major depression disorder, and later Complex PTSD.
My body will attack itself without warning. The wonder gift of multiple autoimmune disorders. The food I eat, the environment I’m in, and the stress I experience. They all have an influence whether or not I will experience any physical pain today. The more I try to avoid the physical pain the more anxious I become. Sometimes I will be eating and become extremely nauseous and start shaking, because my subconscious brain is triggered by knowing that food alone will make me sick today. Sometimes it can be a group of people that are loud, or the threat of a stomach bug or another migraine. Years of not being in control. Years of physical pain. Years of traumatic experience and medical diagnosis left me with a beautiful mixed up brain and a diagnosis of Complex PTSD.
I never thought it could happen but I do have better days than not. It is absolutely amazing how much a person can go through both physically, mentally, and emotionally and still come out on top. This is where my spiritual body comes into play. The spiritual body is where my core belief systems lies. With lots of class on coping skills and counseling, as well as bible studying, I have a foundation that I can put my trust and faith in. “I can do all things through Christ which strengthen me,” Philippians 4:13. Before I was wandering around struggling to trust, and a mind so confused by the chaos and mixed up core beliefs, I could not move forward. Today I find myself repeating three verse. These verses are my heart and soul of what I strive to keep my faith in every day. As well as Philippians 4:13:
“For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Jeremiah 29:11 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that loves God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect, establish, and strengthen, settle you.” 1 Peter 5:10
These are the truths I hold dear and make my foundation. It gives me hope. Hope to embrace the struggle, hope it will not be forever, hope there is a purpose in it. One of the biggest truths for me to accept is that I will struggle with this all my life. The goal is not to avoid it or cure it, but to accept it as part of who I am and learn to live with it. Not as a burden on my back, but as a strengthening tool necessary for my next steps in life. Right now, that next step is to share with you and let you know there is hope and you are not alone. To Edify you and instill you with love and hope for a brighter day that is ahead. With God you are strong enough to live with your trauma and let it raise you up with purpose.
What truths do you hold onto that help you in your struggle this day? I would love to hear them!