When you live life teetering on whether or not anxiety is going to hit at any second or if you’re going to have another emotional flashback, it gets difficult to focus on the positive of everyday living. I live with complex post traumatic stress disorder or more commonly known as CPTSD, this is caused by prolonged trauma such as abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, over a long period of time. It is somewhat similar to PTSD in some of the symptoms but, there are differences, I don’t know all the differences. I do know that emotional flashbacks are one of the main differences, I don’t experience the events in the same manner, I don’t see the event over and over but I do feel the emotions that I felt when something triggers me. Such as anxiety, fear, abandonment and the list goes on.
I wasn’t diagnosed with CPTSD until I was in my mid-30’s, I have been in and out of therapy since I was around 20 years old, I am now in my mid-40’s. Life isn’t easy for someone like me but, somehow I have managed to stay focused on the positives in my life, even when the symptoms hit me harder than I would like them to. I have spent a lot of nights where I couldn’t sleep due to nightmares, so the insomnia kicks in and I won’t sleep for days, which of course heightens my emotional state and puts me into a high alert state for awhile.
I have been told by people who don’t understand what it is like to suffer from this disorder that “I’ve been through similar and I’m fine,” “Just get over it, it’s not happening to you anymore,” “You are just seeking attention when you talk about what you’re going through,” or “I feel so sorry for you, no one should have had to go through that.” All these things don’t help someone like me, in fact those things make me feel so much worse when my symptoms arise, thus causing me to go hide and disassociate from the world around me for awhile. While I sympathize with people who have PTSD because, I understand how difficult it can be to function when the symptoms hit you, I am always the one that sits and tries to explain things only to get the reactions that I get and causing me to fall deeper into the darkness in my mind.
This disorder has just recently been recognized by psychologists and they are still trying to do more research on it and figure out the best ways to help people like me. I feel like I’m pretty lucky though because, I have had some great therapists along the way that haven’t just pushed me aside, they have actually listened and talk therapy is such a great relief when you have a great therapist to help you along the way. For me most medications did not help at all, I just felt overwhelmingly numb, I had little to no emotional response to anything and I felt like a shell of myself. So I don’t take medications for my symptoms, I do take CBD oil, it helps to relax me and my anxiety is not as bad. I’m not saying that medications won’t help everyone, I’m just saying for me it didn’t. I felt like in a way it made it worse, I couldn’t function normally, I wasn’t able to focus like I needed to in order to do day to day tasks. So I have had to learn ways to cope and being a very tactile person, I have found different shaped stones with different textures help me when I get triggered and my fight or flight kicks in. It’s like it gives me something to focus on other than what is going on around me. Also smells, certain smells calm me down such as sandalwood, bergamot and peppermint. I like to have my “emergency trigger bag” with me at all times when I’m out in public. Most people wouldn’t even know that I’m triggered, I pick my nail beds, sway, bite the inside of my cheeks or lip when I start to feel it. Anyone that knows me knows that is a sign that I’m having a meltdown inside of myself and I want out of there like now!
For such a long time, I have hidden all of this away, I was too afraid to admit that I suffered with all of this and now I’m ready to live, actually live life and for me to do that I feel as though I need to start sharing things. I need to stop holding in all my demons, I need to tell my story. My life has been hell and I’ve walked through the fires more than once and I’ve made it out on the other side with all my battle wounds and still manage to smile, still manage to love, still manage to be so positive most of the time. I think that is the one saving grace that I have, I never let anything that happened to me turn me into a person who is bitter, I never want to be that person, I want to remain who I am deep down at my core.