Archive for March, 2019


You don’t define me. Ch1

No one has the right to just abandon their child, because no matter what happens, that or those kids will always blame themselves, will always feel broken. My mother was not the greatest; she was a manipulator and a monster. Now I’m not saying that she was terrible all the time. She had moments where she could be very cool, kind and motherly. She would often fix me a separate meal because I was a picky eater and on rare occasion she would sit with me and watch T.V, then sometimes, just sometimes, we would talk and even make each other laugh and it would be real. However most of the time my mother was just plain cruel towards me and it often made me wonder why me? Why didn’t she love me? What was wrong with me? And what do I do wrong?

 

I watched as she showed love to my older brother, I watched how much she loved my younger brothers, but not me, no matter how hard I tried, or wanted her to accept and love me, she never did. In the very end, when it was all said and done she let me go, as if she hadn’t begged me to forgive her, to give her a second, third and fourth chance. It almost felt like it was all some weird, twisted and messed up game.

 

Of course I know I’m better off without her in my life, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less, because at the end of the day I still lost my mother. It still hurts whenever I see someone being a good mother and I can’t help but wish I got to experience that myself. Worse is the fact I didn’t just lose a mother, I lost an entire family. Some of whom I loved very much. With this being said, let me just say if you don’t want kids, or if your partner doesn’t want kids, don’t try to talk them into it, don’t force them. Because if both parents don’t love that child, that child will spend their whole life feeling like they did something wrong and they’ll feeling broken for all of their life. This is of course why I often say, I’m morally opposed to abortion, but I support pro-choice. Because I know what it’s like being denied loved, of being abused and broken. I’m well in my thirties and I still feel incomplete and just broken. It still hurts when the wind blows through this brokenness that’s inside of me. I keep hoping someday, I’ll find someone who’ll shake this broken out of me. Of course I’ve heard in a million different ways, a million different times, that I will never find love until I’m able to love myself. I even had a friend once tell me how strange it was to see how much love I had to give and show others when I never seemed to love myself. But I’ve learned that self-love doesn’t always come first, or second, or sometimes not ever. But I’m hopefully that someday, I’ll love someone enough to give them all the love I couldn’t give myself and find a reason to breathe again, to face tomorrow and the day after. .

 

But for as long as I can remember I’ve always been a very imaginative and creative soul. Even to this day, I sometimes play pretend whenever I’m alone, imagining myself being or doing something heroic, imagining what it would be like to be a hero. I’ve dreamed and fantasized this almost every day, with this belief, that if I saved the day, stopped a bad guy, saved someone, that I would be something. I would be talked about and people would open their eyes and see the real me for who I am. That also in doing so I would be loved and accepted, so much so that even my mother would see the value in me.

 

Growing up, I never belonged to a group or a clique; I only ever had a very small group of friends that I could count on one hand. This was mainly because they took a chance on me when everyone else saw an outcast, a loser, a dweeb, or a freak. I had speech problems growing up, buckteeth and warts and I had been made fun of and mocked so many times by both my peers and family, that in time, I gradually began withdrawing from people. I grew shy and backwards because I saw people as cruel and mean.

 

I never really knew why I was the way I was, or at least I didn’t for very long time. It was only recently in my life that I discovered that I have C-PTSD, complex post traumatic stress disorder. Which I spoke about in my previous chapter.

 

Over the years, I’ve struggled. I believed I just had depression and anxiety. It wasn’t until friend suggested I get checked for C-PTSD because she had been diagnosed with the disorder and saw I had many of the similar symptoms as her. At first I was resistant, I had always assumed that PTSD is something reserved only for those who have seen or experienced combat of some kind. But as resistant as I was, I grew to accept that I do have C-PTSD, and it opened up my eyes. I recognized that a lot of my traits that I could never really understand before now made sense. For example, when I break down and cry during an argument, or when I’m stressed. Why I often rationalize taking my own life. Also why I sometimes over-reach out of a desire to be accepted and liked, such as at time times when I have been too nice. Wanting to buy gifts for people I just met, or wanting to do something special for people I meet to win their acceptance, or sometimes just me being overly friendly without seeing how it can seen from an outside perspective. Sometimes I wish I could just wear a sign, or a warning label that just reads.

“I’m a broken individual and emotionally damaged, I want to be accepted and just want everyone to like me.” Or something along those lines, or maybe I should just get business cards made just inform people of my diagnoses that say

“I’m not my depression, I’m not my anxiety, I’m not my C-PTSD, I’m just me and I’m trying my best, I want to be better, I’m trying.”

I have scars; we all do and having scars don’t say or define who we are. Maybe you used to cut yourself, maybe you still do. Maybe you were hurt, been in an accident, seen combat, or maybe you were physically, emotionally or sexually abused. These scars don’t say who we are, or even who we were. They simply tell a story of what we’ve been through. Some scars we’ll carry our entire lives, while others fade in time. But we all heal at different speeds and sometimes we’re cut deeper, which is why the worse thing anyone can say to someone who’s been hurt, is telling them how you dealt with an issue you believe to be similar. Because sometimes, what wounded us, cut us deeper, it doesn’t make those of us who were wounded any less, or weaker than you. Just means the situation was different for us. Which is why some wounds never fully heal and why some scars will always remain. I know most of my scars are hidden and impossible for anyone to really see, I’ve pretended I was okay when I wasn’t. I smiled and laughed on the outside while in reality I was dying inside. I’ve been out with family and friends, pretending I was happy all the while thinking about taking my own life. Because I’ve grown so tired of hurting, of being alone and feeling broken.

 

When I first attempted to talk about my struggles and my past, I admit I was scared. I was afraid no one would believe me, or they would just think less of me and see me as some sort of victim. I was also a little afraid that those who knew my mother would try to defame me in some way. Like when my older brother found my blog and wanted to deny everything I was saying, because he rarely ever saw the mother that I did.

 

I told him as much and I told him that, I think deep down he knows something was off about how she treated me. But he didn’t want to see it, because growing up, my mother always said the same thing to him, “

Your real dad and Robert (my dad) never loved you or wanted you, I’m the only one who wanted you and who loves you.” She also treated my brother very well, always defending him, talking to him when he acted out and always supported him. So I told Dominic, that he couldn’t see the truth because of what it would mean. The truth for him would mean that he ignored me the few times I told him how I believed our mother hated me, or the times he saw me crying, alone in our room. Admitting the truth would mean, he let it happen, he let it go on and he didn’t try to stop it, speak up or protect me. He never saw the correlation between the times he would tease and make fun of me and how our mother would laugh with him, or even join in on making fun of me. But whenever I made fun of him, our mother would beat and ground me.

You see, as anyone would tell you, the most unreliable witness in any circumstance is memory. The human brain is spectacular at playing tricks on itself to help people remember what they want to remember. It’s why some people will swear with all sincerity and zero doubt that a light was green; when it really wasn’t or recall details they couldn’t possibly have known. It’s not that any of these people are really wrong, or less intelligent then those who can remember every detail of a specific event, or moment in their life, it’s just basic neuroscience. Recollections often fade, like photos left in sunlight.
As for me, I’m broken and I’m in pain, I’ve been hurt by someone who should have loved me more than anything, but she broke me instead. I’m not special, I don’t have a photographic memory, I’m terrible with names and I’m just awful with dates. I can’t tell you what I wore two weeks ago. But I do have a knack for remembering events, conversations and the way things felt and how they affected me. I can’t tell you what the love of my life wore the day she broke up with me, I can only tell you the words she said and how I felt my world spiral and fall apart.

More often than sometimes, people ask me how I can remember the things that I do about the way something happened or how I recall past conversations with such clarity. So I tell them it’s not a trick, I just remember details and the way a particular event affected me. I was always a little bit strange in this aspect, because for as far back as I can remember, I would use any and every solitary moment in my life to reflect, contemplate and just think about everything that happened on that particular day. Such as when I surprised my dad recently when he asked if I ever saw him cry and I told him just once. He laughed and asked when and I told him, it was at Grandma’s house, I was playing on the couch with my ninja turtles and giant army tank, when I heard him tell my grandma that it was really over and he broke down crying, saying how much he loved her.  I quietly stopped what I was doing and went over to him, wrapped my arms around his neck and told him I loved him as I climbed up into his lap. I will always remember how he wrapped his arms around me and how my grandma soon joined in on this hug. It was the first time I ever really felt worried and hurt for someone other than myself, for someone who was real. Because yes, I would often cry from watching sad movies, reading sad stories and would often be called names because of this. But back then, I was still too young to really know what a divorce was, or what it meant. But I knew my dad was hurt and I knew he loved my mother despite how bad it was between them or how often they had fought.

Now I don’t know how I’ll turn out in my retelling of these events, victim, hero, villain, or simply a survivor. But I can tell you this is my story and I’m coming clean, I may not always be the hero, I know I didn’t always make the right choices. I don’t know who I am in my story; I’ll leave that to you. I know I’m not the hero, that station I reserve for those who helped me through it all. Some have been family, but the majority had been friends who have become my family.  In the past I’ve always been incredibly reluctant and guarded about my past, something born out of fear of being ostracized, accused of playing the victim, or simply crying out for attention, or worse, not being believed at all. A lot of I’ve come to learn is the result of me being gas lighted by mother. Who always told me I was making things worse than what they were, or tell me how I was brainwashed by my father and his family. She would always bring up how she made my separate meals because of how picky I was, then tell me how my father wouldn’t put with it and that he wanted to send me to military school, etc. Sometimes she would even break down crying, pretending she was hurt that I would even question if she loved me or not.
But I was also often threatened with what would happen if I ever told anyone about what happened when I was at home. Once she told me I would be put up for adoption and would be raped if I told anyone about what was going on at home. She then told me what rape was and I was a child. I was told time again, that family business shouldn’t be talked about or shared with anyone outside that immediate family unit, followed up with the thinly veiled threats, of all the things she would do and would happen to me if I did. This is my story, from beginning to end, told as honestly as I know how.

If you read this far. I could use your help in getting this series published into a book format. It’s my hope that as a book this would reach more people and hopefully help them. But I’m broke, lost my job just before Christmas and slowly getting back on my feet. So if you can help with the publishing cost, I will greatly appreciate it. I thought about trying the kickstarter thing, but I don’t have any rewards I could offer anyone who donated, because at the end of the day all I have are my words.
https://www.gofundme.com/getting-published-quotyou-don039t-define-mequot

You don’t define me.

The first time I attempted suicide I was eighteen years old and I had just graduated High School. I should have been looking forward to the future, getting a job, working, continuing my education and having the time of my life. Instead, what should have been one of the best days of my life, quickly turned to one of the worst days of life and for the longest time, things didn’t get any better.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was suffering from depression, anxiety and C-PTSD. Back then I really didn’t know what depression was, or what it meant to suffer from it. I only I was unhappy with my lot in life and had often hoped and prayed to be involved in a school shooting or an accident, just so that I would die. The only thing that kept me from killing myself up until I attempted to so was my faith, I didn’t want to risk going to hell and the fact I was terrified of the pain, as well as surviving having done serious damage to myself. I was suffering and didn’t know what to do and no one seemed to want to listen.

 

Whenever someone mentions being depressed, having anxiety, a form of PTSD, most people tend to just roll their eyes. Which is understandable, they’ve become such thrown about phrases that they’ve almost lost all meaning, no one knows if someone is just being dramatic, just wanting attention, or is honestly crying out for help. It’s this fear of not being taken seriously, or mocked that often prevent us from speaking up.

Worse though for me, is when people tell me to get over it, or try to compare their struggles with mine and how they’re fine. Telling me I need to buck up, toughen up and just let go as if it were that easy. In truth no one can really understand what it’s like being me unless you’re like me. This goes for everyone, I know everyone gets depressed from time to time, that everyone experiences anxiety in one form or another. But that’s different from being clinically depressed and living with anxiety every day.

 

Those of us who suffer as I do know that it doesn’t just go away, I wish it did, I really do. But I struggle with my demons every day; I have both good days, bad days and really bad days. They’re days when I want to avoid people, just because it’s so exhausting or just because I don’t even like being around myself. Then I have terrible days, those are the days when I need to be rescued more than ever. But almost every day I think about taking my own life. Yes, it’s because I have depression and I have C-PTSD, it’s also that most of the time, I’m just so tired of hurting, of being lonely, of struggling just to get by and just being let down. I once told someone that the only person, who disappointed me more than God, was them.

 

Truth is, depression isn’t cute or funny and it’s definitely not sexy. It’s a living thing. It exists by feeding on your darkest moods and emotions and it’s always hungry. It never really goes away. Anything that challenges it, anything that makes you feel good, anyone who brings you joy, it will drive them away so it can grow without interference. Its goal is to isolate you. At its worst, it will literally paralyze you, rather than allow you to feel anything at all. At its worst, you are numb and you are drained and immobilized by it. And it’s not that those of us who suffer from the disease want to push you away. For there have been times I could be in a room surrounded by friends and family and still feel no one else’s’ warmth or touch. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been surrounded by people and still felt alone, hurt and like a burden or a joke to all those I loved and care about.

 

I’ve always believed that everyone else would be so much happier if I just went away. You see depression sucks, I mean it literally sucks, it takes away your happiness, your joy, leaving you as nothing more than a hollowed out husk of the person you were before. But that’s how depression works; it’ll drive you to your knees with the soul crushing weight that no one should ever have to bare alone. It will prey on your darkest thoughts, telling you that no one loves you and it’ll tell you that every negative thought you ever had about yourself is true and how bleak your future really is.

 

I’ve come to learn however that depression lies. But I still wrestle with it. It’s an ongoing thing that never goes away. Yeah there’s medication out there, but that takes awhile to find the right dosage. Even then I had stop taking it, because the pills just made it hard for me to focus. It was like my head was in this thick fog and my creativity; my dreams and passions couldn’t find their way through. And the pills never really stopped the suicidal thoughts that still crept into my mind. So I try to combat it by keeping myself busy, staying active. But every day is still a struggle. Because depression doesn’t play fair, it’ll take any advantage it has to gain control, to grow and to eventually destroy you, worse is how seductive it can be sometimes. Like someone calling you to bed after a long hard day and telling you how you deserve a little rest and relaxation.

 

Having anxiety on top of depression often validates your depression. Anxiety is debilitating. It feels like a constant heaviness in your mind; like something isn’t quite right, although oftentimes you don’t know exactly what that something is. But it feels like acid in your stomach, burning and eating away at the emptiness and taking away any feelings of hunger. It’s like a tight knot that you can’t untwist. Anxiety feels like your mind is on fire, over thinking and over analyzing every little, irrelevant detail. Sometimes, it makes you feel restless, becoming constantly distracted. It feels as if your thoughts are running wild in a million different directions, bumping into each other along the way. Other times, it makes you feel detached, as if your mind has gone blank and you are no longer mentally present. You dissociate and feel as if you have left your own body. For me anxiety feels like there is a voice in the back of my mind telling me that everything is not okay, when everything in fact is. Sometimes the voice tells me that there is something wrong with me and that I’m different from everybody else, that I’m a failure, that everyone is judging me, or just pitying me. Other times, it feels like taking a test you’ve been studying for and when you look down at the questions nothing makes sense and you don’t know any of the answers, worse is it feels like your whole life, your future is determined by how you answer.
In short, It’s like this voice that tells you that your feelings are bad and that you’re a burden to the world and that you should isolate. It makes everyday tasks, such as making simple decisions, incredibly difficult. Anxiety can keep you up at night — tossing and turning. It’s like a light-bulb that comes on at the most inconvenient times and won’t switch off. Your body feels exhausted, but your mind feels wide awake and racing. You go through the events of your day, analyzing and agonizing over every specific detail. Much like depression, anxiety never really goes away. It sucks and I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy.

So when I discovered I’ve also been dealing with C-PTSD from the years of childhood abuse I’ve endured. I was like “Wow…that’s swell.” I didn’t want to believe I had yet another psychological disorder. But understanding what it was I had, helped me understand more about myself, why I am the way I am. Because for years I’ve had people tell me I was just weak, how I should have went into the military to be toughened up. But in truth, I’m a bit of a badass, because I’m still here despite my issues.

You see In PTSD, your brain may replay a incident over and over again to help you process your emotions. It can become an endless loop that is actually more upsetting than the initial incident, as your unexpressed emotions continue to pile up.

 

C-PTSD is ongoing or repeated interpersonal trauma, where the victim is traumatized in captivity, and where there is no perceived way to escape. Ongoing child abuse is captivity abuse because the child cannot escape. Domestic violence is another example. Forced prostitution/sex trafficking is another.
The following are some of the symptoms and impact most felt by complex trauma survivors.

 

1. Deep Fear Of Trust People who endure ongoing abuse, particularly from significant people in their lives, develop an intense and understandable fear of trusting people. If the abuser were parents or caregivers, this intensifies. Ongoing trauma wires the brain for fear and distrust. It becomes the way the brain copes with any further potential abuse. Complex trauma survivors often find trusting people very difficult, and it takes very little for any trust built to be destroyed. The brain senses issues and this overwhelms the already severely-traumatized brain. This fear of trust is extremely impactful on a survivor’s life. Trust can be learned with support and an understanding of trusting people slowly and carefully. This takes times and patience. Believe me when I say, people like me are trying.

 

2. Terminal Aloneness
This is a phrase I used to describe to my Therapist — the terribly painful aloneness I have always felt little connection and trust with people, people like me often remain in a terrible state of aloneness, even when surrounded by people. I described it once as having a glass wall between myself and other people. I can see them, but I cannot connect with them. Another issue that increases this aloneness is feeling different to other people. Feeling damaged, broken and unable to be like other people can haunt a survivor, increasing the loneliness. It’s like feeling like a living ghost.

3. Emotion Regulation

Intense emotions are common with complex trauma survivors like myself. It is understandable that ongoing abuse can cause many different and intense emotions. This is normal for complex trauma survivors. Learning to manage and regulate emotions is vital in being able to manage all the other symptoms, but it’s not easy and incredibly difficult. Best way I can describe this is, imagine you’re on a strict, healthy diet, and every day you have to drive in a car, or sit at a table watch someone eat your favorite food, where they’re always asking you if you want some and you always have to say “No.” Now multiply that by like a thousand.

4. Emotional Flashbacks flashbacks are something all PTSD survivors can deal with, and there are three types:
Visual Flashbacks – where your mind is triggered and transported back to the trauma, and you feel as though you are reliving it.

 

Somatic Flashbacks – where the survivor feels sensations, pain and discomfort in areas of the body, affected by the trauma. This pain/sensations cannot be explained by any other health issues, and are triggered by something that creates the body to “feel” the trauma again.

 

Emotional Flashbacks – the least known and understood, and yet the type complex trauma survivors can experience the most and what I suffer from. 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 light bulb moment of finally understanding why I have intense emotions. Why I tend to break down in tears when having an argument, or just trying to tell someone I can’t do something they were counting on me to do. This is because the emotions I felt back when I was a kid are being triggered all at once. 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.

 

5. 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.
But complex trauma survivors often have a deep subconscious need to “work people out.” Since childhood, I have been aware of people’s non-verbal cues; their body language, their tone of voice, their facial expressions. I also subconsciously learn people’s habits and store away what they say. Then if anything occurs that contradicts any of this, it will immediately flag as something potentially dangerous.
This can be exhausting. And it can create a deep skill set of discernment about people. The aim of healing fear-based hyper-vigilance is turning it into non-fear-based discernment
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6. Loss Of Faith
Complex trauma survivors often endure a loss of faith. I have struggled with my faith more times tan I care to admit. I often thought if I take my own life, God would have to apologize to me.
But this loss of faith doesn’t have to just be about religion, but faith in people, the world being good and about yourself. Complex trauma survivors often view the world as dangerous and people as all potentially abusive, which is understandable when having endured ongoing severe abuse.
Many complex trauma survivors walk away from their religious beliefs. For example, to believe in a good and loving God who allows suffering and heinous abuse to occur can feel like the ultimate betrayal. This is something needing considerable compassion.

7. Profoundly Hurt Inner Child
Childhood complex trauma survivors, often have a very hurt inner child that continues on to affect the survivor in adulthood. When a child’s emotional needs are not met and a child is repeatedly hurt and abused this deeply and profoundly affects the child’s development. A survivor will often continue on subconsciously wanting those unmet childhood needs in adulthood. Looking for safety, protection, being cherished and loved can often be normal unmet needs in childhood, and the survivor searches for these in other adults. This can be where survivors search for mother and father figures. Transference issues in counseling can occur and this is normal for childhood abuse survivors. I can’t tell you how many times I met a girlfriend’s parents and would often begin viewing their mother as a motherly figure for me. Even my last supervisor, I found myself thinking of her as a motherly figure and she inherently had a very motherly personality, where my department would often refer to her as the mother of the circulation department.

 

8. Helplessness and Toxic Shame
Due to enduring ongoing or repeated abuse, the survivor can develop a sense of hopelessness — that nothing will ever be OK. They can feel so profoundly damaged, they see no hope for anything getting better. When faced with long periods of abuse, it does feel like there is no hope of anything changing. And even when the abuse or trauma stops, the survivor can continue on having these deep core level beliefs of hopelessness. This is intensified by the terribly life-impacting symptoms of complex PTSD that keep the survivor stuck with the trauma, with little hope of this easing. 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.

 

9. 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. The survivor can feel helpless and yearn for someone to come and rescue them from the pain they feel and want them to make their lives better. This sadly often leads to the survivor seeking out the wrong types of people and being re-traumatized repeatedly.

 

10. Dissociation
When enduring ongoing abuse, the brain can utilize dissociation as a coping method. This can be from daydreaming to more life-impacting forms of dissociation such as dissociative identity disorder (DID). This is particularly experienced by child abuse survivors, who are emotionally unable to cope with trauma in the same way an adult can.

 

11. Persistent Sadness and Being Suicidal
Complex trauma survivors often experience ongoing states of sadness and severe depression. Mood disorders are often co-morbid with complex PTSD.
Complex trauma survivors are high risk for suicidal thoughts, suicide idealization and being actively suicidal. Suicide idealization can become a way of coping, where the survivor feels like they have a way to end the severe pain if it becomes any worse. Often the deep emotional pain survivors feel, can feel unbearable. This is when survivors are at risk of developing suicidal thoughts.

 

12. Muscle Armoring
Many complex trauma survivors, who have experienced ongoing abuse, develop body hyper-vigilance. 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. Massage, guided muscle relaxation and other ways to manage this can help.

 

All of these issues are very normal for complex trauma survivors. Enduring complex trauma is not a normal life experience, and therefore the consequences it creates are different, yet very normal for what they have experienced and endured.

 

Not every survivor will endure all these, and there are other symptoms that can be endured. I always suggest trauma-informed counseling if that is accessible. There are medications available to help with symptoms such as anxiety and depression. But they tend to be fairly expensive.
Lastly, I advise that empathy, gentleness and compassion are required for complex trauma survivors. We are not people and trust me when I say, we are trying and doing our best.
Now all of this was a long way of be saying, I’m going to try to publish a book based off my series “Scars Of Who We Are.” but through the lens of now knowing that I have C-ptsd. I’ll also be going more in depth about what it was like growing up in an abusive home, developing c-ptsd, surviving bullies and my own suicide attempts when it all became too much for me to handle, but more importantly how I survived. If you like to help, please donate to my campaign, give as little as or as much as you’d like. Then maybe together we can work to end the stigmata and help those who need it, get the help they need. Thank you. https://www.gofundme.com/getting-published-quotyou-don039t-define-mequot&rcid=r01-155172294681-3f3710972b504c1c&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w

Josh A. Cooper.