Tag Archive: c-ptsd


  “It is not okay for someone you like to treat you poorly and then pretend it didn’t happen, making you question your own grasp on reality. This dynamic is called gaslighting. It’s a common tactic of abusers to shift the focus of the blame from their bad behavior onto the person they are victimizing. One important side effect of gaslighting is having your memory “black out” after a fight (because your brain is trying to protect you from the cruelty of the abuse), which results in not being able to remember how an argument started. You may start to internalize the idea that there is something wrong with you and that you did something to provoke the situation as you’re increasingly beaten down and confused.”  ― Shannon Weber

I don’t know how to ever really describe what it was like growing up with my mother and being around her family. It’s the question I get asked more often, which is “Why didn’t you ever say anything, or tell anyone? Over the years I gave a few reasons, which were all true. The first being I was afraid, I was afraid of the many threats my mother made to me. She used to also tell me if I told anyone they wouldn’t believe me and would just think less of me. I was also afraid of being believed and being made fun for being abused by my mother, I don’t know why, I guess I would have to blame media who portrayed fathers as being these, imposing and terrifying figures, as oppose to mothers who have often been a victim themselves or at worse a someone who denied the abuse was even occurring at home.

In therapy, I have learned one of the more prime reasons I didn’t say anything sooner, was because I was afraid of being called a liar, as the result of my mother’s gaslighting me for several years. Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s beliefs. All of which my mother was a master at. My mother was so skilled at this, that when she overheard my older brother and I talking about how she used to backhand and beat us at the kitchen table if we chewed with our mouths full, put our elbows on the table, or made too much noise while taking a drink, my mother became livid. She denied ever hitting us at the dinner table, going as far as breaking down into tears for thinking she would have ever done that. She was so effective in her denial, that in two weeks, my older brother came to believe her. Later telling me that she had never hit either of us. When I still distinctly remembered being backhanded and beaten cause she saw me chew with my mouth open, or because my elbows touched the table. He had become so adamant about it not happening, it was unsettling. Thankfully, I knew and still remembered clearly the numerous times I was beaten at the table. Granted not a good memory at all, but in the way my brother and I had talked and joked about it, because we were commenting how my younger brothers would get time out and we would get beaten. Although yes, my older brother occasionally gotten beat, whereas I would get beat all the time.

Still it was strange seeing how quickly my brother not only seemed to forget but would deny ever happened. However, my dad remembered seeing her haul off and beat me or my brother at the dinner table at the slightest infraction. My dad even told me the first time he saw it and asked why she was beating me, she said it was because my elbows were on the table. So my dad had pointed out that I was four and then sat his elbows on the table and dared her to hit him, like she was hitting me. (I don’t remember this particular instance, but I do remember being hit a lot for stupid little things and the one time my dad got so furious over it, he threw his plate in the trash along with all the other food she had cooked, except for what was on mine and my brother’s plate.)

My mother is a narcissist who uses  gaslighting techniques to have power over others. Which is more effective than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique used by abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. For example, the few times I tried calling my mother out on how she was treating me, she would tell me that I was crazy. She would insist that my dad was responsible and that he had brainwashed me into  believing she was this horrible person. Sometimes she would break down and cry, telling me she loved me because she always made me dinner and special meals just for me because of my being a picky eater, which I am. She used the gifts she had gotten me for my birthday, or Christmas to tell me it was proof that she loved me. Ironically she would always bash my father to me, telling me how my father was the one who always beat me, that he used to beat her and my older brother and how selfish he was. However my father never struck me out of anger and when he did used to give me whooping, it was two or three swats then he was done. My dad used to tell me how much he hated having to give me a paddling and it showed. Because when my mother would beat me with the paddle, she would hit me as hard as she could, several times, more if I cried out, or tried to wiggle away. Then she would beat me some more if I ended up crying afterwards. She didn’t just beat my ass, by my hands, lower back, the back of my thighs, etc and this was with a thick, wooden paddle.

The few times I’ve tried calling her out on her treatment of me, she would accuse me of being dramatic, tell me I was being crazy. Say I was exaggerating things, making things out to be worse than what they were. Which often made me wonder if she was right. I can’t tell you how many times I wondered if she was right, if I was really crazy or not. A part of me even acknowledged that she did make me my own little meals every day, she did on rare occasion treat me well.  However she would always use the good things she done as a way to tell me she loved me and that if she didn’t she would have done those nice things for me. Even though it didn’t change the fact that I slowly found myself becoming afraid of her. Because I never knew what she would do, or how she would react, but I did know that she liked to ruin me every chance she got. If I spent a summer with my dad and came home talking about all the things he and I did together, she would say, “Oh he’s not treating you like a son, he’s treating you more like a buddy. He only did those things, so you’d go live with him and stop him from having to pay child support, he doesn’t really love you or care about you. Not like I do. He’s just using you and trying to manipulate you.” And just like that, the euphoria I had over a summer well spent would be suddenly tarnished. I would be hurt and devastated and a part of me always wondered what if she was right?

Such was growing up with her. If I ever questioned her methods or tried calling her out on how she treated me, she would tell me I was crazy, tell me it was all in my head, insist on telling me how much worse things could be. Once she even told me if I ever told anyone about what was going on at home, the police would come and take me and my brother away, she told me my dad wouldn’t be able to get custody of me and I would go to an orphanage, where I would get molested and raped. And explained to me in a rudimentary way of what that entailed, because at the time of her telling me that I was still quite young and didn’t know what those words meant.

My mother even went out of her way telling the rest of her family and my older brother that I was crazy, how I had been brainwashed into disliking her by my father, how I would always overexaggerate, making things worse than what they were and how I always played the victim. So the few times I tried reaching out and asking for help, they would look at me and say “Oh yeah, your mother warned us you would say something like that, you know she doesn’t hate you, she buys you clothes and makes you food.” Which doesn’t prove one way or another that someone loves you. The best manipulators and abusers out there will do some good things for you. Just so they can make you doubt yourself just enough. Luckily for me, I did wonder if everything was in my head, so I got to the point where I wouldn’t say anything negative about my mother or her family. Then I would invite friends over or leave my phone on when she would yell and scream at me, insult me. It got so bad that one of my best friends had told his parents and they offered to adopt me, or to just let me live with them on more than one occasion. I also mentioned before how I once brought a girlfriend for her and her family to meet during the holidays and afterwards she told me how she didn’t like my mom or her family. When I asked why, she said,

“Because they all talk down to you and walk all over you and it was clear they were constantly trying to make you look bad the entire time. It was like they were going out of their way to do it too and it was horrible.” For me this was a revelation. It wasn’t easy for Rebekah to tell me the truth the way she had. Up until then, she didn’t know anything was wrong in my family, or back home. She helped me see that I wasn’t crazy and that the way they were treating me wasn’t just in my head. It let me know if you become suspicious about how you’re being treated. Don’t be afraid of going to a trusted person and asking them for help, or advice. 
It’s just not parents or a parent who can gaslight someone, I’ve seen people do it their boyfriend, girlfriend and spouses. So you have to be ever vigilant.

People who gaslight typically use the following techniques:

  1. They tell blatant lies.

You know it’s an outright lie. Yet they are telling you this lie with a straight face. Why are they so blatant? Because they’re setting up a precedent. Once they tell you a huge lie, you’re not sure if anything they say is true. Keeping you unsteady and off-kilter is the goal.

  1. They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof.

You know they said they would do something; you know you heard it. But they out and out deny it. It makes you start questioning your reality—maybe they never said that thing. And the more they do this, the more you question your reality and start accepting theirs.

  1. They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition.

They know how important your kids are to you, and they know how important your identity is to you. So those may be one of the first things they attack. If you have kids, they tell you that you should not have had those children. They will tell you’d be a worthy person if only you didn’t have a long list of negative traits. They attack the foundation of your being. For me, my mother would often attack my identity. She had a problem with everything about me. How I stood, how I walked, my hair, she would tell me horrible things about my father, tell me my friends weren’t really my friends and that they were all using me, or making fun of me behind my back. She would even tell me horrible things about my grandmother, who was more of a mother to me then her, or anyone else I’ve ever known.

  1. They wear you down over time.

This is one of the insidious things about gaslighting—it is done gradually, over time. A lie here, a lie there, a snide comment every so often…and then it starts ramping up. Even the brightest, most self-aware people can be sucked into gaslighting—it is that effective. It’s the “frog in the frying pan” analogy: The heat is turned up slowly, so the frog never realizes what’s happening to it.

  1. Their actions do not match their words.

When dealing with a person or entity that gaslights, look at what they are doing rather than what they are sayingWhat they are saying means nothing; it is just talk. What they are doing is the issue.

  1. They throw in positive reinforcement to confuse you.

This person or entity that is cutting you down, telling you that you don’t have value, is now praising you for something you did. This adds an additional sense of uneasiness. You think, “Well maybe they aren’t so bad.” Yes, they are. This is a calculated attempt to keep you off-kilter—and again, to question your reality. Also look at what you were praised for; it is probably something that served the gaslighter.

  1. They know confusion weakens people.

 

Gaslighters know that people like having a sense of stability and normalcy. Their goal is to uproot this and make you constantly question everything. And humans’ natural tendency is to look to the person or entity that will help you feel more stable—and that happens to be the gaslighter.

 

  1. They project.

They are a drug user or a cheater, yet they are constantly accusing you of that. This is done so often that you start trying to defend yourself, and are distracted from the gaslighter’s own behavior.

 

  1. They try to align people against you.

Gaslighters are masters at manipulating and finding the people they know will stand by them no matter what—and they use these people against you. They will make comments such as, “This person knows that you’re not right,” or “This person knows you’re useless too.” Keep in mind it does not mean that these people actually said these things. A gaslighter is a constant liar. When the gaslighter uses this tactic it makes you feel like you don’t know who to trust or turn to—and that leads you right back to the gaslighter. And that’s exactly what they want: Isolation gives them more control.

  1. They tell you or others that you are crazy.

This is one of the most effective tools of the gaslighter, because it’s dismissive. The gaslighter knows if they question your sanity, people will not believe you when you tell them the gaslighter is abusive or out-of-control. It’s a master technique.

  1. They tell you everyone else is a liar.

By telling you that everyone else (your family, the media) is a liar, it again makes you question your reality. You’ve never known someone with the audacity to do this, so they must be telling the truth, right? No. It’s a manipulation technique. It makes people turn to the gaslighter for the “correct” information—which isn’t correct information at all.

 

The more you are aware of these techniques, the quicker you can identify them and avoid falling into the gaslighter’s trap.  So be careful out there.

Looking back on my recovery so far.
It only takes one mistake to destroy Everything-Shorty Hoffman

It’s strange for to say, that I think I’m doing okay these days. I still have bad days and occasional setbacks where I start freaking out, fretting about the past, fearing the future. Days where I feel like everything is closing in on me and like I’m being pulled down into this deep dark ocean, where I can’t seem to catch my breath and I feel like I’m drowning. But, for what it’s worth, I feel more grounded these days and less like a bullet that strays into a crowd looking for a home and passing through bone as if it was another big city stop. Because I now say her name in a prayer without feeling hurt.

I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the past, the decisions that I’ve made, the regrets that I have. Which brings me to this post.

Before I got in a relationship with my ex, (Star, not her real name obviously) I was doing pretty well for myself. I was recovering from my past trauma, I wasn’t looking to get romantically involved with anyone after my ex Olivia whom I dated before Star. Olivia had been one of my healthiest and positive relationships, up until she decided to breakup, on my birthday. When just three days prior she asked me if I would consider moving in with her, since she just got a new apartment. An apartment she chose because it was only a ten minute drive from me, because she wanted to be closer to me. Needless to say the breakup not only caught me off guard, I really didn’t understand why. Because her and I never had a fight, we talked all the time, every day and the few times we made plans to be apart, she would message me that she missed me. Then either she or I would go see the other, also we were admittedly one of those annoying couples who had our own inside jokes and a shorthand with each other. Even though her and I had only been together for 8 months, I had fallen truly, deeply and madly in love with her. Not only did her and my breakup caught me off guard, it left me completely devastated. It took me a long time recover. To this day I still don’t know what prompted her to break up with me and on my birthday no less. But I would be lying to say it no longer hurts and it’s not that I still have feelings for her, it’s the time her and I had spent together, how well we got along, the memory of how happy I was being with her. I had opened up more to her than I had with any previous person I had dated.

In time, I decided to better myself, I began eating healthier, taking my workouts a little more seriously and reading more. I also made the decision to focus on my cosplaying goals and doing things that made me happy.

During this time, I had promised myself that I would no longer jump into another relationship, nor would I actively pursue a relationship. I wanted my next romantic relationship to happen naturally, after we had taken the time it takes, to take the time to get to know one another. About a year later I met my ex Star. Whom I told at the very beginning that all I wanted was to be friends, while she clearly wanted more than that. So I decided to be honest with her, I told her that I wanted my next relationship to be something real and long lasting, I wanted a relationship where if we had a problem we would talk through it and not immediately pull the rip cord and bail out of the moment things got hard. She had told me she wanted the same. Then I went told her about my past, the abuse I’ve suffered, I did my best to convey that I was broken, messed up and still trying to piece myself back together. I told her all of this so that she’d understand, that I didn’t think I could handle being hurt again, that I wasn’t where I needed to be to be good relationship material.

Star told me she understood, told me she felt herself falling in love with me and knew I wanted to be with her. She then told me how her dad used to beat her when she was a kid. She told me stories how her front tooth got broken was because her dad had quite literally knocked her teeth out from one of the beatings he had given her. She told me how her mother was always verbally abusive and constantly putting her down. Which unfortunately I didn’t question, and I felt myself resolve softening. It was true I did like her and I was telling the truth when I had told her I didn’t think I was ready. But a small part of me thought we could help each other. For most of my life I had felt like no one really understood me and I’ve experienced close friends and family who didn’t understand what I was going through. Because they would always tell me to let go of the past, to get over it and just move on. So with Star I felt like I had found someone who would understand. It endeared me to her. I didn’t see any reason why anyone would lie about being abused, since for most of my life all I’ve ever wanted was to be and to feel normal. It was later that I learned everything she had told me about her parents were lies she told just to get closer to me which worked. Star had also told me most of the guys she had dated ended up being both physically and verbally abusive. That of which may be true.

I’ve since learned to trust my gut instincts and things that strike me as odd. For instance, whenever we would see her parent’s car, or run into them while we were out she would always get super happy and excited to them. Whereas, whenever I would run into my mother or step-father out somewhere, I would secretly hope they wouldn’t see me. Even when I was trying to mend the fences with my mother, I still feared talking to her, because she would always find some way of putting me down and make it sound like she was doing me a favor by doing so. Also her father would send her funny videos and memes every morning before he went to work and tell her how much he loved her. Her mother always praised her and would always brag about her. Even when Star and I broke up the first time, her mother would call me and check up on me, telling me she was praying Star and I would get back together. Star’s mother always defended her and clearly always wanted the best for her. All of which made me think about my situation with my mother, step-mother, step-father and the few friends that I have who grew up in an abusive home. None of our parents ever acted like they really cared about us. Although my step-mother did eventually reach out to me and apologize, then did her best to make up for the past, becoming almost like a mother to me. But that took quite a few years. It took her time to realize how she treated me wasn’t fair, or right, then it took her longer to work up the courage to talk to me about it.

It still took me some time to start putting the pieces together, I knew when I was a kid, whenever friends or people were around my mother would act like mother of the year, but the moment they were gone, her true self would come out. I also hesitated on calling her out on her abuse claims, since one of the major reasons why I never told anyone about my past, was because I was afraid that no one would believe me, as well as afraid people would think less of me, or pity me.

Now I don’t hate Star, I’m not bitter towards her, I really don’t know what I feel for her these days, or if I feel anything for her at all. But she did text me three months after we were officially over and told me she got diagnosed with Bi-polar and borderline personality disorder. I knew when we were together she did suffer from severe anxiety. I do believe she sufferers from both bi-polar and borderline personality disorder just from things I’ve witnessed, and her mom kept wanting Star to get checked because she also believe Star had borderline personality disorder. Which does explain some Star’s actions and no I’m not making excuses for her either. But I wrote all this just to say, despite everything, what issues people have, we are still responsible for our own actions. I know what depression, anxiety and other disorders can cause you to feel and think, I know these things all too well. But the choice is still always ours. I know things I struggled with, what I’ve always struggled with, I know how tempting some behaviors and actions can be. So I don’t put myself in situations that could I know could cause me to lose control. This is why I don’t own a gun and why I stopped going out shooting. Because even when I would go out to a shooting range, I would have those dark thoughts in the back of head, telling me how easy it would be for me to put that firearm to my head and pull the trigger. How quickly it could all end and sometimes I struggle with telling that little voice, that desire to shut up. I don’t want to give in to it, so I distance myself from any situation where it would be easy for me to harm, or kill myself.  I know I have to stay vigilant, keep myself busy and keep finding ways to be happy. To surround myself with good people and amazing friends. I’ve also learned that if someone is willing to cheat on someone who loves them, willing to do anything and everything for them, always doing your best to make them happy, them cheating on you isn’t about you. It’s about them, some people cheat because their selfish, others cheat to make themselves feel better and more confident because they have low self-esteem, sometimes people cheat when they feel like their partner isn’t trying anymore or giving them enough attention. But once they cheat, they’re telling you they chose someone else. If they come back and swear they’ll never do it again, take some time to really think about it, ask them why they did what they did. Because people don’t cheat by accident and it usually takes time for people to change. When it comes to infidelity, it takes a long time. I’m not saying cheaters deserve a second chance. I’m just saying don’t always take them at their word. If you do give them another chance, make sure they understand that your trust, needs to be earned. Let them know it won’t be easy for them and it takes awhile for the heart to forget.

If you’re with someone who loves and thinks the world of you. Willing do anything, give everything for you. You should really think about your actions and ask yourself if its worth risking losing that. Because the grass isn’t always greener and I understand temptation, I know there are people out there who’ll sell you a story just to get you in bed, to have you leave your girlfriend/boyfriend, spouse or partner, these people usually realize too late, that they were sold a false bill of goods and actions can’t ever be taken back, words can’t be unsaid. It’s like squeezing out all the toothpaste from the tube, then trying to shove it all back inside. All actions have consequences and rewards. Be sure it’s worth it. Also, be decent if you want to leave your S.O. for someone else, break up with the person you’re with first. Talk to them, be an adult. They may get hurt, get upset, or angry. But in time they’ll respect you more for it.

 

 

The Broken Road of Recovery.

After I wrote “I’m not okay,” I got messages and comments from many of you who are fighting the same battles. So for anyone’s who’s struggling, I want to tell you once more that you’re not alone and I’m here for you all. I try my best to reply to every private message, or comment, I’m here for you.

My hope here is that by chronically my journey with Complex-post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the healing process I’m beginning to walk down, I can keep myself from falling into any of the old pitfalls of the past. Such as my innate desire to look for a savior, it was something I was doing without ever realizing it. But what’s my therapist brought it up, I knew she was right. I remember that it started at a very young age, where I started fantasying about meeting someone, falling in love and for that love to fix that brokenness within me. I often imagined, falling in love and having someone fall in love with me, would make all the pain and suffering worth it, that once I attained happiness, everything would suddenly make sense. I often imagined what it would be like to start my own family without the pain or the burdens of the past. This is something I carried with me into every romantic relationship and I would devote myself completely to that girl. Being with that girl often made me happy and that relationship would often heal me to the point where I wouldn’t think about suicide anymore, my outlook would become happier, more positive. However, once that relationship failed for whatever reason, I would be completely devastated. Even though I always made an effort to mature about the breakup and just walk away. Because I never saw the point of being ugly, or nasty to someone you loved and cared about. Because in my mind, being petty, or mean only serves to make the other person believe they might decision. Although, I get it when people do lash out, it sucks being hurt, let down and feeling like you failed. It’s always an emotional time when you’re in love with someone and they tell you they don’t love you anymore, or maybe they never did. So I get it, I understand people sometimes say things they do, because they’re hurting, they’re scared, they’re confused. So shit happens, I don’t know why most of my relationships didn’t work, I know sometimes it was me and sometimes it wasn’t, sometimes I think we just meet the right person, but the timing is off, or the other person, or I need time to grow and mature. Sometimes the other person just gets scared, become afraid of getting hurt and doubt that they’re even good enough.

Regardless though of the reasons why a relationship fails, I would always take it hard, I would fall apart. I would find myself reliving all my past traumas, all the time my mother hit me, every time she would call me weak, stupid, pathetic, I would relive all my greatest failures and disappointments. I couldn’t stop it, the memories of the past would often slam into me, over and over again like waves and I stranded out in a deep and endless sea, feeling like I was unable to even breathe. Often times, I wouldn’t be able to escape and I would be pulled down into the suffocating darkness, where a part of me liked the hurt and pain, because it was familiar to me and I felt like I didn’t deserve happiness. I would become distant, pushing people away and I would want to die. Something that has gotten only harder the older I get. I couldn’t control it, I couldn’t stop the pain, or the flashbacks, it all just kept coming, over and over again like a bad movie stuck on repeat.

 

 

So I’m learning to cope and to heal. I now find myself putting my guard up whenever a girl expresses romantic interests in me and makes it known she wants to heal me. It’s hard telling someone in that situation, “No, you can’t be my hero, I have to learn to heal myself and be my own hero, I need to grow and can’t rely on you, or anyone else to be my hero. I’m sorry, I know you mean well, but you can’t save me. But you can help me save myself, you can help me by being there, encouraging me, being patient with me and listening to me when I talk, when I want to talk. But you can’t force me to talk or open up if I’m not ready, or if I don’t feel like it.”

I think I speak everyone with a mental illness and a traumatic past, it really sucks when someone doesn’t really know what you’ve been through and want to compare your life to theirs, as a means of telling you to stop dwelling in the past, to get over it. Because we all deal with tragedies differently, if you been abused or broken and came out of it with no scars, no psychological damage, you’re the minority and you have a strength I truly admire, or you’re not being honest with yourself. I hid my pain for the longest time, I often hid behind a smile while I was dying inside. Granted growing up a part of my logic was, if I pretend I’m happy, I won’t bring anyone down with my unhappiness and no one will feel compelled to stop me if I decide to kill myself. Because no one would suspect I would do something like that. I was hurting and if I was going to take my own life, I didn’t want anyone to stop me. So I learned to lie and put up a false front, telling everyone I was okay, that I was doing alright and how happy I was to be me, how happy I was being alive. It was the mask I wore every day and very few people ever saw through my façade. The first was one of my good friends, her name’s Dawn and one day she was bragging about how easily she could read people. So I asked her to read me and she said, “You always act like you’re happy, but you’re very clearly hurting and you seem afraid to talk about it. But I’m here for you if you ever need someone who’ll listen and I’ll do my best to help if I can.”
I never did take Dawn up on that offer, but it did stun me to know that someone saw through my carefully crafted façade and how I thought I had everyone fooled into thinking that I was okay. But I was wrong. It didn’t take long for my friends to figure out something was wrong, for they became my second family. They always made time for me, invited me out to their family gatherings and outings. They always went out of their way to make me feel accepted, to encourage me and they were always the first ones to be there when I needed them.

It was through my friends that I realized that how my mother and her family were treating me wasn’t normal. You see, my mom would often tell me that because she catered to my picky appetite that she loved me. Or convince me that what she was doing and how she was treating me was for my own good. Whenever I would question her behavior, she would say “Josh I often make a separate meal just for you because you’re so picky, that’s how you know I love you!” But then I would get hit for eating with my mouth full, back handed if my elbows touched the table, or if I slurped instead of sip my beverage. Or the many times she made fun of me, mocked me, or laughed as my older brother made fun of me. Not counting the numerous times she had beaten me without mercy and because my brother denied having done something wrong, which would always make me guilty by default.

 

With my mother it never mattered if I was innocent or not, she would beat me until I confessed. 8 out of 10 times I would be telling the truth, or even know for a fact my older brother had done the very thing I was being accused of. In her mind, everyone else was totally incapable of lying, everyone except for me. Then after every confession she beat out of me, she would use that confession as more of a reason not to believe me. Sometimes, I often tried to hold out, taking the beating she was laying on me, doing my best to push through the pain, in hopes she would see reason and that I was telling the truth. But she never did stop, not until I confessed to whatever it was she wanted me to admit I had done. She never believed me, because she didn’t want to. For her, it was easier to show me cruelty then love. For her it was more fun to break me and broke me she did. It eventually got to the point where if something happened, I would admit it was me rather I did it or not. I didn’t see the point in fighting when I knew what was coming. Sometimes she would attack me, or put me down, sometimes she would walk away saying how it wasn’t even fun anymore if I wasn’t resisting.

 

Growing up the way I had, afraid to cross paths with my mother, the bullies who often harassed me in school, I soon began enjoying the night, which is why I think I struggle so bad with insomnia now. Because the nighttime often became my time. No one bothered me, harassed me, I didn’t have to hide or avoid anyone, because everyone was already asleep. At night I felt free and relaxed, because the world becomes quiet at 1 am. A part of me also feared the next day, so I would stay up as late as possible, to delay the coming day. But I then enjoyed sleep, because I’ve always dreamed vividly and in color, my dreams were often my escape. Because I would often dream about living a better life, where I was a hero, or I was loved, or a famous explorer, adventurer. In my dreams, I was often at my happiest.

 

To this day, I still feel more comfortable at night when everyone else is fast asleep and everything is quiet and peaceful. I’ve also come to find that people are their most real when you stay up late into the morning just talking about anything, everything or just nothing. Strangely enough I found myself reliving this a bit with my Friday night D&D game I have with my friends, where many of us just relax afterwards, just talking. Its night like those and ones like it that I find myself truly healing. In a strange way the friends I play dungeons and dragons with, are feeling more and more like family to me.

Speaking of family. I know many of my dad’s family often get upset with me, because of how little I come around and visit. I’ve been working on trying to work up the courage to tell the truth. You see I used to try and see them all the time, even took off work early so I could meet up with them for dinner every Thursday. But my dad’s family has a bad habit of wanting to tease someone in the group, usually I’m the target. Then they all like take their turns at making jokes at my expense, or just screwing or messing with me. Which I can usually handle, but they don’t know when to quit, or what lines to cross, or which ones not to. Whenever I had mentioned I didn’t appreciate it, they would often laugh and tell me how they were all just teasing, before continuing again. Sometimes they’ve pointed out that my friends often tease me too. In which I have to say they’re right, but my close friends actually really know me. They figured out I was broken and damaged before anyone else did, before I even knew what was really wrong with me. My friends had been there for me, even when it was hard, when I pushed them away, even when I tried making them hate me. They never turned their backs on me, they never gave up on me, they supported me, encouraged me, they were there. No one had to spell it out for them, no one had to tell them, “Josh is suffering from depression.” They listened to me when I needed to talk, they didn’t judge me, or tell me bad things happen and I should get over it. They accepted me, got together and came over to my house just to drag me out of my funk, or just to check up on me. They showed me love, they became my family. When we tease each other, we all know what lines to cross and which ones to avoid, we also know when to stop. When they any of us goes too far, we apologize and begin making fun of ourselves to take attention away from whoever is beginning to feel hurt or attacked.

I have c-ptsd, so sometimes if I’m sitting there with everyone around me teasing, mocking, or making fun of me, I feel like I’m six, eight, twelve years old all over again and I’m reliving everything I had ever endured, reliving every insult, every time my mother or someone told me I wasn’t good enough, every time I was called weak, pathetic and that no one would ever love me. I relive the moment when my mother told me I should just kill myself, because no one would ever love me, because I was just a joke and a burden to everyone around me.

Those words haunt me, as much as most of my past. I remember it all, I relive it all the time. Every day is a battle for me and every day it’s the hardest battle of my life. Because every day, I have to give myself reasons to go home, to get up in the morning and to not go out and kill myself. I’m struggling all the time, wrestling with these demons that haunt me. The battles I and those like me fight are hard and they’re never ending. It helps whenever someone tells me they love me, that they care, or appreciate me. Those things help and they cost nothing to give, a few words of encouragement, or show of friendship really does go long a way. Because I don’t know about everyone else, but I don’t always like to talk about what’s bothering me. I don’t always show it on my face, or in my mannerisms, I often pretend I’m okay and everything is alright, because I don’t want anyone to worry, I don’t want to be a burden and I don’t any false sympathy.  So I keep moving forward, placing one foot in front of the other, trying to be better myself and not be the person I was yesterday, or the day before. I throw myself into writing, playing dungeons and dragons, reading, cosplaying, video games, working out and forcing myself to talk to people and practice opening up to those around me. But it’s not easy, I still get bad, I still have my bad days and there are nights where I can’t sleep and all I can do is think, tormented by my own thoughts and memories. But like all of you, I know I’m not alone.

 

 

 

 

 

No, I’m not okay.

“Sometimes I think tolerance can be void of compassion and sometimes we can forget that in the end we’re all only human.”

This is for everyone suffering from any mental disorder. Because I believe if you have C-ptsd, ptsd, anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, or bi/tri-polar disorder, people often don’t understand the battle we fight every everyday. Because I noticed how fleeting everyone’s memories are, when I’ve told them I have c-ptsd, anxiety and depression. I have come to realize how quickly people tend to forget I’m fighting this battle everyday and how many of them think I’m fine, that I’m cured because I finally opened up and said, “This is me, I’m broken, but I’m working on becoming better.”

Even when my dad found out, his first response to me was,
“Why don’t you just let go of the past and live your life?” And I responded with a sigh,
“It’s not that easy. It’s like you asking me not breathe, I can’t help it, it’s both biological and psychological and its beyond my control. I don’t like being the way I am. I wish I wasn’t this way, I wish I was normal. But I’m a long way from being okay and I’ve come to terms with that, I’ve accepted it. I’m getting help now yes, but there’s no easy cure. There’s no pill I can take, or advice I can receive that will suddenly be okay. It’ll take time.”

Then he asked if they told me how long I will be the way I am. And I had to inform him, that no one knows and I doubt I’ll ever be completely cured. I can only get better by a matter of degrees and that’s the best I can ever do. Then he told me his solution for these problems and issues of mine, which was me going to church and finding a nice Christian girl.
I can’t expect anyone to save me, I used to look at those I’ve become romantically involved with as a solution to a problem I didn’t know I had. Looking back and knowing what I know now, I know a part of me had looked at every relationship as a chance to heal, to have them fix this broken part of me and fill this hollowness I often feel deep within my heart, my soul, me. I also grew up Christian and loved God with all my heart, but after praying everyday for years for my mother to love me, my faith became shaken. With every bad situation, or cruel act I had to endure, I often found myself asking God why. Gradually my prayers shifted, I stopped praying for God to let my mother love me, but began praying for God to kill me. It’s what I wanted at a very young age, because I was tired of hurting. I was tired of being abused at home, of going to school where I often got harassed and ridiculed, often trying to tell myself that old nursery rhyme about sticks and stones, but truth is, words do hurt more than a broken bone. As far as bad names go, I was called them all. Then I would go home, get beaten, or my older brother would mock and make fun of me and my mother would often be in the room and just laugh at his insults to me. When I asked him to stop, he would ignore me and make fun of me even more, when I asked my mother to make him stop, she ignored me. But the moment I insulted him in return, I would get beaten and grounded.  This was my life for years, if you want to know what it was like for me growing up go back and read my Scars of who we are series. It explains a lot. But I never told anyone about the abuse for several reasons. One I was afraid, I was afraid people would judge me, or think less of me, or worse they would think I was lying and making it all up. Second, she often threatened me with what she would do to me if Told anyone, if she didn’t think that was working she would blackmail me. By telling me my dad wouldn’t put up with my struggling grades and how he would think so much less of me. She would also fill my head with thoughts, that he didn’t really love me and was just pretending just so I would go and live with him, saying if I did, he had told her he would send me off to military school. Also, I was always afraid if I said anything I would hurt my older brother. Because he biological dad didn’t want anything to do with him after he divorced our mom, then when my dad and mom got a divorce she had told my brother that my dad didn’t want him. Which my dad says is untrue and I believe him.

When my dad remarried, his 2nd wife was a woman named Patricia. In the beginning she was super cool and kind to me. She had two kids from a previous marriage who I got along with and my step-brother would grow to become more of a brother to me then my own brother ever was to me. So when my dad got married to Patricia I found myself giving some serious thought about leaving my abusive home and taking the chance at this new family. I wanted Patricia to  be my mother, because I was growing to think of her as such. But then things started to change, Patricia began making subtle and not so subtle jokes at my expense, calling me stupid, lazy, queer, etc. Anytime someone broke something, or didn’t clean up a spilled drink she blamed me. Then she began making me do all the house chores, while telling me how pathetic I am. This eventually made me afraid of her and I would always try to avoid her. My dad knew that she was often a bit hard on me, but I don’t think he knew how bad it was whenever he wasn’t around. But I never said anything to him about it, because I believed she made my dad happy and that was all that mattered to me. So if I had to put up with my step-mother being awful towards me, I felt like it was the least I could do for my father. I wanted to see him happy. Also I loved having a step-brother and step sister, I thought of them both as blood related family and Patrick was my brother as far as I was concerned. It was Patrick though who taught me how a real brother should act and should be. Whenever he saw or heard his mother treating me poorly or unfairly he would always stand up for me, even though standing up to his mother on my behalf often resulted in him getting grounded, he never did stop defending me.

Years after my dad and step-mother’s divorce Patricia did eventually look me up and apologized for how she had treated me, telling me she knew it was wrong and explained to me her mindset way back then. She even apologized for hurting my dad and wanted me to tell him that she was genuinely sorry. Her and I did have a good relationship after that and I was moved when I heard her referring to me as her son and bragging about me. I don’t think I ever had anyone really brag about me before, so it was nice and I find myself missing her after she passed away.

  In a few years after I finally broke free from the toxic relationship with my mother, I ran into my older brother and things were different between us, because we got along pretty well. We started hanging out on a regular basis, talking and I was feeling like I was finally getting to know him, he was finally feeling like a real brother to me. I didn’t have a car at the time, so he would often have to pick me up and I would repay him by treating him out to dinner, even got him an air conditioner for his place when I discovered he didn’t have air at his place. When he couldn’t pay his rent, I helped him pay it. We began training in martial arts together, hiked the Red River Gorge, saw movies as he advised me on girls and tried helping me build up my confidence. He even told me he knew our mother, had a falling out and he began begging me to give her another chance. I had tried once before but things blew up in my face, when she let her family talk down to me and I overheard her and her sister trying to talk the first girl I ever brought over into breaking up with me and dating my older brother because they believed he would be a trade up from me. So when he first brought up the issue I didn’t want anything do with her, I even tried telling him the mother he knew, wasn’t the mother I knew. But he eventually talked me into it. Then when she and my step-dad accused me of stealing a large sum of money, they stole my laptop and I had to go the police to have my belongings returned to me. My brother turned his back on me almost immediately. It hurt seeing someone who I loved and greatly respected turn his back on me and forget everything I had ever done for him as if it was for nothing and like I was nothing.

I’ve had a cousin whom I saw as a best-friend and a brother who betrayed me for a girl and I got to see how he really thought of me, as I read him trash talking to me to a girl I was seeing and didn’t even know he was interested in. Also it bares saying my cousin has always been a player and never very interested in having a meaningful romantic relationship with anyone. Worse was he knew a lot about what I had been through, how I’ve always struggled with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. So seeing how easy someone who I had grown up with, whom I always defended and how quickly and easily he’d unapologetically betray me and throw me under a bus, without any hesitation, really, really hurt.

Most of my personal, romantic relationships managed to further the damage already done to me. Because usually, whenever I entered a relationship I was all in. I wanted me and the girl I was with to go the distance. But I was almost always, used, taken advantage of, cheated on, or left for a better model. My second to last relationship was with a girl named Olivia. That one had hurt the worse until my most recent breakup. Because Olivia and I had both been hurt before and we had both wanted to take things slow. We were together for eight months and we talked every day. She would even come by my place to see me throughout the week, wanting to just spend time with me. Three days before my birthday, she had asked me if I would be willing to move in with her down the road. I said yes, then on my birthday, she asked me over to her house and told me she wanted to see other people. For a moment I didn’t believe this was happening, because we had never had a fight, or so much as a disagreement, up until that day, she would tell me how I was the greatest guy she ever dated, the best boyfriend she ever had. So I was more than a little devastated.

Worse was we had tickets to a comic con the following weekend, I had originally told her she could just have my ticket and take anyone she wants. But a day before the convention, she talked me into going with her as friends. I agreed, but when we got there we and into some of her friends who just gotten engaged and after congratulating them, Olivia began complaining how she was forever alone, how she wished she could find a good guy while I was standing right there.

Later after the second time she had blown me off to hang out with her friends who were also there, I had enough and finally decided to leave and let her get a ride home with her friends. But she ran into me as I was leaving and asked what I was doing and I told her I was going home. She was upset and more than a little angry that I was going to leave her there. Then she spend the next 20 minutes in the car telling me about things she thought I would do to her and how she would screw up my life. (Usually when I’m hurt, I just walk away. I don’t ever beg someone to take me back and I don’t resort to acting petty, because I believe all that does is tell that other person they might the right decision by leaving you.

It took me a long time to pull myself back together after Olivia, which is how I ended up meeting my most recent ex. In the beginning she wanted to date me and I insisted I didn’t want a relationship. All I wanted was to be friends, I was kind of done with love. I did everything I could to make Star disinterested in me. (not her real name, but I don’t want to put her on blast.) I told Star I was broken, she told me she was too. I told her I wanted my next relationship to my last and she told me she was also ready to settle down. I told her I was a geek, a cosplayer and a dork. She laughed and told me she was too. Two months later, she finally broke down my defenses and we started dating, that’s how without ever intending to do so, I fell in love. We were amazing together, or we were for about eleven months when she started cheating on me with her ex-boyfriend and I found out. We broke up and she kept sending me messages telling me how it was not what I thought, that she wished she could explain it to me, telling me that she loved and wanted to be with me. About two months later, she asked me to take her back and I foolishly did. I’m not sure why, or why I worked so hard to forgive and try to forget what she had done to me. Why I doubled my efforts to make her happy, but I guess I really did fall helplessly in love with the girl. I had believed we were working and that I was making her happy, then the lies and excuses started all over again, once more I discovered she was talking and seeing someone on the side. Which made me feel like a failure and like I was inadequate, broken, a mess of a human being. It also caused me to have an emotional breakdown, Star destroyed something in me when she hurt me a second time. I believe a part of me was so affected, because when I told her how I’m a child abuse survivor, she told me she was too and told me stories about things she’s endured, which lowered my defenses and made me see someone I could relate with, someone who understood things I’ve suffered ad endured. I can’t help but feel manipulated, lied to and used. Which doesn’t help me with my C-ptsd, anxiety and depression. I hate having these issues and problems, most days I hate just being me. More than anything I wish I could just get over it, forget it. But for people like me, please stop telling people to just get over it. It’s something we can’t control, or help and it makes me pull away and withdraw from whoever tries telling me those three little words, even though I know you mean well when you say them. I have an illness, when I talk about my past, I’m talking to you to work through them. What people like me need when we talk about it, is support and love. Tell us you’re sorry, hold us and remember we’re trying. I’m trying to heal.

I can’t help it when I push anyone away, or when I withdraw. I have been hurt by numerous people, numerous times who were varying degrees of closeness to me.

I look at scars on my body and think about how they healed in such an understandable process. Like, I could see it healing. I saw the bleeding stop. I saw the scab form. I saw the scab fall off into something else. I saw the car tissue form and watched as the scars healed and faded. But emotional healing doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t get lighter every month. You can work so hard, you can come so far and still fall back down without any warning. It doesn’t nullify what you’ve done. It doesn’t erase your progress. It’s just a reminder that healing doesn’t work in any linear way. It takes time.

 

I wish I could forget, I wish I could wake up with amnesia and not remember any of the pain of my past. I wish I could start over, with a clean slate, without these memories I sometimes feel as though I can’t escape. Because I’m not fine, I’m not okay. I have my demons, I have issues and problems I can’t even begin to describe. I have C-ptsd, anxiety, depression and that’s not going away anytime soon. They say for however long you were abused, or suffered, its going to take at least half that time to undo some of the damage done. So I’m looking at sentence of at least 15 years, but even then there’s no promises. I will still bad and have bad days. I may never be completely cured of my c-ptsd and I’m certain my depression and anxiety is going to be a life sentence for me. But I’m working on becoming better, but it will take time.

It hurts being me with these memories that I have, I wish I could forget the cruel things people I loved and who were suppose to love me. Sometimes the memories creep inside of me and I get angry, a part of me wants payback. But it mostly just hurts, somedays I go without sleep, because my anxiety kicks off at such a high gear, my resting heartbeat goes from 52 beats per minute to 140 and I don’t sleep. I lay there at night alone and in pain. Pain I wish I could shutout, I wish I could ignore.

It’s hard for me to trust or let people in because so many people who said they loved me, had hurt me and hurt me bad. So I sometimes lash out, say things I don’t mean, but mostly I just push people away and withdraw into myself. Because a part of me doesn’t trust people, I no longer see the best in people like I once did.

here are a few things that, if said to a person with C-PTSD anxiety, or depression, are more upsetting than anything. Here are some of them:

  1. “Get over it.”

This is one thing that someone with C-PTSD hates to hear. We want to move on; we don’t want to be haunted by our past. If it were a switch we could flip we would, but we can’t. Please don’t tell us this.

  1. “That was so long ago.”

The events we experienced may no longer be happening, but we relive them most days. The flashbacks, nightmares and daily reminders make us feel like it wasn’t long ago. It may have happened a long time ago for the person who says this, but for us, it’s still so real.

  1. “Change your ways; stop thinking that way.”

When people tell us to change our ways, the things we do because of C-PTSD, they don’t realize that this thought process or way of doing something has been drilled into our heads. We are scared of changing; we are scared this will bring back the abuse and fear.

  1. “I don’t remember it that badly.”

You did not live my fears and worries. I never asked what you remember. You were not there all the time; there were closed doors. I have reasons I have C-PTSD and I don’t want to argue about what you remember.

With PTSD or C-PTSD, even just the tone used and word choices can make the brain feel like it’s being attacked. Try and be there for the person, allow them to gain trust in you. Let them talk to you and cry on your shoulder. Ask how they are and if they need anything. Trust can be the hardest thing for many people with PTSD and things like those above can make us even less trusting in others. Think before you speak; it can save lives, confidence and friendships.

 

 

Please educate yourself before you try telling me or others like me, that we need to let go of the past and move on with our lives. It isn’t that easy. I’m not okay, I’m broken and I’m going to be broken for a long time. But I’m working on it, I’m trying my best. But you have to be patient with me and give me some grace. Going to church isn’t a cure all. I dedicated myself to a small church for two years. I volunteered, woke up early just to help then set up, stayed late just to help them break everything down. I met some friends, some who also ended up hurting me in the end. And every time I was struggling my fellow Christians told me the same thing. “You’re not giving your pain to God!” or, “You have to trust in God more!” “Let God move you” “God wants your brokenness! Give more!” I’ve heard it all. I’ve been prayed for, prayed at, lectured, preached to and at. No one knew how much pain I was really in. Or what was really wrong with me and their words were band aids on a wound that needed a real doctor and professional to mend back together.  This post was longer then I intended, I hope you were able to stick it out with me.

https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/ptsd-overview/complex-ptsd.asp

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
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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.