Part of an ongoing series about life with complex post-traumatic stress disorder

People didn’t want to believe me when I told them I’d become an angry tyrant at home; it felt like they didn’t want to label me as an abuser because I have experienced so much trauma and because I am so (relatively) young. But for about a year, I was controlling, manipulative, dismissive, unfriendly, belittling, demanding…in short, many things my parents were to me. This was all triggered due to some extreme life circumstances and unusual stressors (serious health issues, moving 4 times in a year, being laid off from a job with a toxic boss, living in a new…

Part of an ongoing series about life with complex post-traumatic stress disorder

We all have parts to us — you know when you want to make a decision, and feel pulled in different directions? Or maybe, you feel like there’s a part of you that self sabotages and clicks, “watch next” on Netflix when another part of you just wants to go to sleep.

There is a theory / modality (IFS) in trauma psychology that most of us who experienced childhood trauma have younger parts, that as you heal, present themselves at the ages where their development stopped. These are parts that never received the acceptance, instruction, and nurturing that they should…

Part of an ongoing series about life with complex post-traumatic stress disorder

Therapists, at least in my experience, seem reluctant to give people labels. Maybe it distracts people from doing the work that they need to on themselves, or tags them in the system in a deleterious way, I don’t know. But in my experience, labels are absolutely crucial to getting the right resources and support, from coaches to medicine to just about everything else. I am proud to be in the camp where I can proclaim that hey, I have PTSD and CPTSD: that means that I’ve been through some stuff, and like anyone else, I deserve kindness and understanding.

But…

Part of an ongoing series about life with complex post-traumatic stress disorder

I once had a couple’s therapist suddenly ask me to list all the types of trauma I’ve experienced in a clinical type list to prove that I was traumatized. Despite my best efforts, I became completely overwhelmed, left the session, and had panic attacks and cried for twenty minutes because 1) being disbelieved by an authority figure was triggering and 2) I couldn’t handle how triggering all the memories and flashbacks that started popping up were.

It’s so tempting to say to someone who has PTSD, “wait, how, you seem so normal, what on earth could have caused it? Your…

Part of an ongoing series about life with complex post-traumatic stress disorder

I like to think of therapists as guides, helping us to discover and explore aspects of ourselves and our histories. Shining a flashlight into those blind spots that we might not want to see, or finding paths down roads that look too tangly or overgrown to venture down alone. Sometimes we disagree about where to go next, but we chart a path together as thought partners.

As someone with CPTSD, opening up to journeys like this that spell danger, risk, and newness can be very scary, triggering, flashback-worsening, etc. So it’s especially important to me that I provide as much…

Part of an ongoing series about life with complex post-traumatic stress disorder

I was brought up to believe that psychiatrists were crazy people obsessed with brains, who needed to study them to find out what was wrong with themselves. They were really villainized in my household, probably because my parents kept getting referred to them and were afraid of what they’d be told (oh dysfunctional home lives…but enough about that!)

So, I was pretty freaked out when while recovering from a concussion, I was finally referred to go see a psychiatrist. I thought that they might try to give me medicine that would make me not feel like myself. But, I knew…

Part of an ongoing series about life with complex post-traumatic stress disorder

Grounding techniques are meant to stabilize you, bring you back down to earth, when you’re having intense emotions, reactions, or lack thereof. They are not substitutes for working on trigger management or regulation of your emotions, but they are helpful for short term situation management. The techniques that are most helpful will vary a lot depending on the types of symptoms or flashbacks people experience. For someone with PTSD and C-PTSD like me, sometimes I need to practice grounding where I have a visual flashback when I see in my head events replaying, have intrusive negative thoughts or feelings, or…

Part of an ongoing series about life with complex post-traumatic stress disorder

It feels…angry, volatile, alone. Cold, afraid, scared when you reach farther down. Sometimes, commanding. Sometimes, cruel, but righteous. Young, immature, disproportionate. Lofty. Irrational. Anxiety crops up like a tidal wave and it feels impossible to take responsibility for it yourself, so you lash out at everyone else. You’ll do anything to keep from being reminded how afraid you are that others control your happiness and sense of self worth, because you did not receive the acceptance you should have when you were young, and do not know what it sounds like, or feels like, or should feel like. You do…

Part of an ongoing series about life with complex post-traumatic stress disorder

Flashbacks get a lot of the attention from media and television when it comes to PTSD. But, dissociation is an incredibly common symptom that also affects millions of people with the disorder.

There are many types of dissociation, but they are all some sort of escape from the present. Flashbacks happen intrusively or in response to triggers, and dissociation can happen in response to triggers, overwhelm, or at random throughout the day. Often times, the dissociation I experience is related to a type of freeze response; that may be different for other people.

“Spacing out”
This is the type of…

Part of an ongoing series about life with complex post-traumatic stress disorder

Ok, hyperviligance…is kind of a big word. Basically, you know when you feel all tense and jumpy like something bad might happen? Kind of like in a horror movie when it’s a little too quiet? Your senses are all riled up, tuned in for a something scary to happen?

That’s what being hyper — extra — vigilant — on guard — is like, except for people with PTSD or CPTSD, we often feel like that all the time. It makes us snappy, prone to outbursts, tired, cranky, and have a whole lot of trouble relaxing. But there are some performative…

K. Mintner

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