Category: About me.

My very personal PSA

I have depression, anxiety and recently been diagnosed with C-PTSD.

Several people like to tell me I should get over it, or say “Oh I’ve been depressed a few times, but I did this thing and it stopped it.”

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. Always thinking 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 you that every negative thought you ever had about yourself is true, and how bleak your future really is. I’ve come to learned that depression lies. But I still wrestle with my depression; I have good days, bad days, and worst days. I often try to combat it by keeping myself busy.

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, overthinking and over analyzing every little, irrelevant thing. Sometimes, it makes you feel restless and 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 you are different from everybody else.

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 lightbulb 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.

When I discovered I’ve also been dealing with C-PTSD from the years of childhood abuse I’ve endured. I was like “Wow…aren’t I lucky.” 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 abuse was 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 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 as a complex trauma survivor. I often feel 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.

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. 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 lightbulb moment of finally understanding why I have intense emotions, when they do not reflect the issue occurring now, but are in fact emotions felt during the trauma, being triggered. 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 skillset of discernment about people. The aim of healing fear-based hyper-vigilance is turning it into non-fear-based discernment
6. Loss Of Faith
Complex trauma survivors often endure a loss of faith. This can be about people, about the world being good, about religion, and a loss of faith about self.
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 ideation and being actively suicidal. Suicide ideation 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.

Why I write.

-Sometimes, we must journey through an eternity of darkness and pain in order to find our true selves.”-J Cooper

Seriously, writing is hard, and I am occasionally crazy and sometimes I can be a bit spacey. I can normally be found staring into space, talking to myself, or acting out elaborate scenes almost as if I’m choreographing an epic play. Because sometimes I kind of am. When it comes to my writing, I tend to skip making your basic outline, and web, instead I simply begin writing little mini chapters, or (type being the more opportune word or if you simply want to be a jerk about it and call be a typist) I sometimes skip around and write summaries or even chapters I’ve already played out and planned in my head. So I guess you can say I’m a very unconventional writer.

Although before I even begin writing I often create character bios, background, making an entire history to shape and mold the characters I write about. Each character has his or her mini story, so before I even begin to write, I already have my characters in place, their motivations and reasons why they are the way they are. I often imagine what it would be like to be each one of my characters, or simply be the casual observer, passing my characters by along the street.

Then I usually tell myself my writing sucks and no one would ever read my crap. (It’s always good to keep a realistic grasp of the situation.) But I always dive into the story regardless, knowing that the characters have taken on a life of their own and want their stories to be heard, stories that need to be explored.

Once I’ve written or typed (if you still want to be a jerk and call me a typist) the equivalent of 30-40 pages, I usually read, or skim over it for mistakes, revisions before I feel comfortable enough to let someone else read it, at which point I become a twelve year boy, who just passed a note to a pretty girl in class, because I get all giddy with anticipation to hear their feedback, thoughts and to talk to them about my story. Because I love feedback both the positive and the negative, because I can always correct the negative and the good always assures me I’m on the right track.

But I write almost every day, including when I’m on vacation. Sometimes for ten minutes, sometimes for 2 hours, sometimes for 12 hours; most often something rational and in-between. I don’t have a daily quota. I just write however much I write, and my plan is always changeable. I don’t force myself to write if it’s not working. I try not to check email or do other distracting things, but I don’t succeed very often, and that’s okay, because small rests and distractions are part of the process and help get those brain juices flowing.

My ideas tend to start with characters in my head who are having a conversation– usually arguments, or find themselves being tested, be it their faith, relationships, their dreams, or just their lives. Although most of my stories come from my dreams, where I often become more of a passenger in someone else’s body, witnessing their triumphs, their failures, their victories and their defeats, and  I’m always there with them along their journey. But then I listen to my characters, they’re so angry sometimes, or sad, so introspective and they all talk to me, like ghosts from another life who wants their stories to be heard and I can’t disappoint them. They want the world to know who they are and why, to know what their fighting for, and what it is they want. There’s everything from hate and vengeance, to redemption and salvation, all the way to stories of all-encompassing and all powerful love. More importantly however these characters want to live!

And so it all starts to come together.

Characters, relationships, and feelings come first. Then the setting, plot, and so on, till the story begins forming, coming together and much like Frankenstein’s monster, begins taking on a life of its own, writing itself at that point. Which is also usually when my fingers struggle to keep up with everything flowing and racing to get out of my brain and there are parts of the plot I don’t know until I get to them in the book itself, and (breath) it’s then they happen and even I get surprised and feel the suspense building, and the relief…or sometimes the disappointment in the resolution. Because not every story can end well, or even on a high note. Some and the very best stories are often wrought with tragedy and pain, but more importantly growth.

My characters are similarly elusive. A conversation I’m writing may veer off course or get out of hand; I can intend a character to say something, but it doesn’t mean he or she will. Instead my characters often surprise me. And then I realize I was wrong about who it was they were, or I realized my character had been growing this whole time and I adjust my perceptions and stand aside as my characters grow, mature, or sometimes regress and withdraw.

What else can I tell you about my writing process?

I sit in an armchair.

I spend a lot of time staring into space.

I talk to myself….a lot

I make playlist for whatever story I’m writing and call it my soundtrack.

I count the glow-in-the-dark stars on my ceiling.

I act out scenes to see and feel how they would play out, by imagining I’m them and every other character in the scene and thrust myself into their situation, studying every scenario and going over every outcome I can imagine. This sometimes even leads me to me writing a brief side story explaining the minor or supporting characters motives as well as telling their story as a whole.

I walk from the living room to the bedroom in search of something specific and by the time I get there I’ve forgotten what I was looking for and then I remind myself to break myself of the control the TV has over me and I try to sketch, or doodle something I see in my head until I forget whatever the heck it is that I’m doing, before I finally crack my knuckles and dive back into my writing.

When people knock on the door, I hide. When my phone rings, I yell, “Oh, who in the blazes is bothering me now?!” and don’t answer. But always check to see if they left me a nice little message.

Or when I’m stuck on a piece I call up a trusted friend explain a scene to them and ask for their thoughts, then throw out everything they say and come up with something completely different and new as I thank them for all their help and support right before hanging up on them in mid-sentence.

When I go for walks in the neighborhood I carry my Ipad and can often be seen exclaiming in triumph or scowling or laughing maniacally as I type frenziedly on it’s lovely keyboard before screaming out with vengeance, “Damn you autocorrect!” as I raise my fist to the heavens and shake it vigorlessly towards the sky.

Sometimes I worry that the house is going to burn down. This is why I keep my notebook in a fireproof, waterproof safe and have invested a small fortune in USB drives, portable hard drives, which I have scattered all over my house and place them inside my lovely safe. So when I go on vacation, I leave the key on top of the safe with a note for robbers asking them to please open the safe before deciding to steal it, because if they’d only open it, they’d see a picture of me, with a note pleading to them not to steal it, for I am a lowly writer and I will one day write a story that changes the world, because people will read again! And if they steal from me, I will find them and forever immortalize them in my next book, giving them every character flaw known to man, also explaining that I’m most likely broke and don’t keep any useful banking info on my computer, so there’s nothing really worth stealing anyway.

Before I had a fireproof, waterproof safe, I kept my notebook in a padded carrying case, which never left my side. Then Stephen King had told me that sometimes you’re too close and you just have to back away from your writing for a while– sometimes a long while and sometimes even longer than that. Things are a lot clearer after you’ve had some distance. Much like an ex-girlfriend who no matter how hard you tried making things work, the relationship simply falls apart and can’t be saved. But also like the rare ex, when she calls you up after a period of eleven months you begin to discover her all over again and remember why you had fallen in love with her in the first place. Which I’ll remind you, can cause a whole mess of other problems. But I digress…

I worry constantly about whatever book I’m currently writing. I worry about the wording, I worry about the themes, the plot as a whole, whether the characters seem to others the way they seem to me, whether the book is getting too long, whether my protagonist is likable, whether my fantasy world is consistent, whether I’ll be able to hold everything together, whether there’s even anything worth holding. There is never a moment when I don’t have something to worry about. I have learned however that this is just what it feels like to write a book. Most of the time, I can keep it from bothering me. You get good at ignoring the voices. Or giving them the attention that’s best for them: listening to them and laughing and giving them a hug, and saying, “Yes, I know you’re worried. It’s okay. Let’s go watch a pretty sunset and oh, let’s go get us a nice strawberry smoothie!”

I take my writing way too seriously. I can’t help it. I love it so much and writing is my life. Without I doubt I would have ever survived craziness of it all.

And writing is a strange activity, but humans are weird, right? A writer is an extreme type of a human being, we tend to over analyze everything, although we seem very good at reading people and noticing subtle plot changes, which by no means do we ever like it when it happens. I for one love and embrace change, while I also hate and fear change as well. But that’s just me and I’m a writer and writers are a little eccentric, a little weird and we’re all complex souls and I’m no exception. Because I also find that everything has its own soundtrack and whenever I write a new story I can be often be found making a playlist to coincide with my story, which helps me get into tune with my story and even helps with some much needed inspiration at times, and helps block out all the white noise after a long and arduous day of maintaining one’s sanity at their day job, along with all the little nuances that come with having a personal life.

So this is why I write and I hope I hadn’t bore you much, for I did try to be humorous because writing is supposed to be fun and should have some personality, and I think we can all agree that (Good) writing should inspire some kind of feeling, hope, love, fear, excitement or leaving you feel simply inspired.

-J Cooper.