Life is a roller-coaster ride, no matter who you are. Hardships, emotional blows and the unexpected are a part of daily life.
But for those of us who grew up in a home where abuse was something to be survived every moment of every day for years on end, daily stresses and hardships can be much more than just the expected routine.
For us and others who have been exposed to long-term helplessness and victimization, the demands of daily life can trigger panic, depression, anger and other overwhelming emotions, or the numbness of shutting down completely. Changes in the brain can cause memory and attention problems. Sleep and eating habits may be affected. The sense of identity may be distorted or lacking. We feel disconnected from the rest of humanity. We may have compulsions. We can have problems making and keeping friendships and other relationships. We may have crippling social anxiety.
It doesn’t matter how others have handled similar situations. What matters is that it was a survival situation and we survived.
The problems arise when our fight-or-flight responses remain on a hair trigger, or when anger or hurt over the unfair treatment just won’t go away. We may not even realize where the feelings are coming from and why we can’t just “be normal.” It has become our normal. But it still interferes with our jobs, relationships and inner peace.
It is often diagnosed as Depression, Generalized Anxiety, Social Anxiety, OCD, Maladaptive Daydreaming, Fantasy Prone Personality, Borderline Personality and a slew of other emotional disorders. But this isn’t an illness. It is how our brains adapted to survive a long-term situation where there was incredible pressure and no way out.
This is Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When I realized this is what has been going on with me since childhood, it was like a road-sign lit up the night, finally telling me where I’ve been this whole time.
The good news is that it is treatable, and curable. We can build on the strength we found in adversity to have a happy, peaceful life with direction and meaning.
Little did I know that I have been using many of the techniques suggested to aid healing for years before I heard of this “disorder”. Despite attacks of self-loathing and self-pity, hatred for life and resentment of everything in the world, I determined in my 20’s to figure out what was wrong with me and get it under control, for the sake of my family. I focused first on mastering gratitude, then positive thinking, meditation for stress-management and journaling to deal with painful memories. It has all WORKED. Slowly. Some of my most crippling issues are pretty much gone. However, I’m not healed yet. I’m working in my first supervisory position, which has thrown light on a lot of things I still need to deal with, like the focus and memory issues, over-reaction to stress, social awkwardness and general inability to form a clear self-image.
But I know I will reach my goals, with the help of supportive management, loving family, and hopefully soon a competent therapist. I’ve come so far, not even knowing what I was doing battle with!
Talk to a professional or reseach CPTSD to learn more. And never give up. “While there is life, there is hope.” – Cisero