Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been a topic of interest to me for years. Last year, I was diagnosed with severe C-PTSD, which is Complex PTSD. Complex means it wasn’t a one time occurence, it’s something that you had to endure for an extended period of time, and is very common with people coming back from war, and those held captive for longer periods of time. While I am still deep into the research to fully understand it, there are a few things I have learned which have become clear.
Unresolved trauma will stay in our physical being until it’s resolved. In my case, it was a repressed memory that I kept down for 40 years. Over the years, I had inklings of who it involved, but until I really started to put effort into healing myself, I didn’t discover the full truth. The symptoms I experienced over the years included night terrors where I would wake up screaming and think something was after me in real life too, insomnia, anxiety, and addiction. My addictions alone could be another blog...I ran the gamut until I healed what was compelling me to continue addictive behavior, including cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, sugar, sex...you name it, I was probably participating in some form of addiction around whatever it was.
One of the things that has become very clear to me, is that we will continue to repeat our trauma cycles until we heal them. In my case, I wasn’t fully aware what my initial trauma had been, but I still repeated the patterns. For me, one pattern was to keep looking for love after abuse, because that’s what I learned as a child. My abusers would snuggle me and give me lots of love and affection when they were done hurting me, before giving me back to my parents, who had no idea this happened to me until very recently. My brain separated the events, buried the abuse, and created the cycle where I kept reaching out to people who hadn’t treated me very well. The result was that everyone thought I loved these people and wanted to be around them, because that’s how they taught me to survive them. They threatened me and threatened to hurt my parents too, if I ever told the truth. The way they presented the abuse, made me think it was my punishment that I deserved, which is another reason I never spoke up as a child.
This pattern showed up throughout my life, especially once I started dating. I would pick men who didn’t treat me well, then kill myself trying to get them to love me, after they were horrible to me. Even with female friends, I allowed myself to be mistreated. Over and over again, I did this for decades and didn’t understand why. I have fantastic parents who were continually baffled by my urge to go back to people who were cruel to me, and by my behavior. The more I tried to seek out love after the mistreatment, the worse I felt about myself and the more certain I became that I wasn’t as good as the next person. For most of my life, I didn’t feel lovable, likeable, or worthy of love and belonging.
When I was in my 20s, I started to go to therapy to help the anxiety and depression that was a constant shadow at that point in my life. I couldn’t stand myself, and I thought I was fat and gross. In a word, I was miserable. While I really needed someone to talk to, I wasn’t ready for the deep work, it was too scary back then. It actually wound up taking me 13 years of therapy, and 2+ years of coaching before I could face my deeper truths to heal them. All that therapy provided me with a lot of skills, like better communication about my feelings, but unless you have the courage to go deeper, its just talk. Once I started to work with a coach, I was able to look deeper. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel judged, and that allowed me to let my true self out. Once I let my coach see me, and she still loved me and wanted to work with me, then I could let others see me too. This allowed me to see for myself that I had been wrong. I was lovable, I wasn’t gross, and I was just as good as the next person. Certainly, I was worthy of love and belonging.
Despite making a lot of changes in my life, and taking over a year off from dating, I still hadn’t dealt with the deeper trauma yet, and attracted men who were very much in victim mode themselves, and deeply engaged into their own patterns of pain and self destruction. Energy attracts like energy, and I was very much wrapped up in my own victim energy. I didn’t want that trauma to be my truth, and did everything in my power to deny it. Needless to say, those relationships didn’t last long. One of them heard every word I said about what I wanted in a man, and did a great job of showing up to be that man. I thought I finally had the man I had been waiting for, someone in alignment with my beliefs and goals. He lacked authenticity though, which continued to feed my anxiety and insecurities with him. When he broke up with me, he became the catalyst I needed in order to finally face my truth. Despite feeling like I just had endured a great loss, when he tried to play the games with me that had worked with other women in his life, it didn’t work. For the first time in my life, I didn’t let the person who hurt me to get close again.
That point was where I really started to dig deep into my healing. I cried out what felt like years of tears, I indulged in some addictions again, namely sugar and numbing out with games like Candy Crush. This was the point where I started to tell my close friends and family my truth. With each tough revelation, I healed more, and felt lighter. Especially when I told my parents, and cried with my mom over what had happened. Then, all at once, I felt better. I mourned the little girl who had lost so much in her childhood, and I looked at how it had happened to me, and owned the effect it had on my life. Somehow, I cried out the last tears related to that trauma, and I was free.
Today, I still consider myself an addict and I always will. But I do not feed into any of my former addictions anymore. My blood sugar has dropped over 10 points, I haven’t played a game in quite a while, and all the food in my kitchen is healthy. I’ve been sober for over 18 months, and can’t recall the last time I did drugs. My insomnia has been broken, and sleep is relatively easy to find without any outside medication. I have the patience to build something good, and something real, with a man I know to be in alignment with me, because he’s already doing the same work I have done, and we have had many long conversations without any pressure or obligation. The future remains unwritten whether we will ever become more than friends, and that’s okay. If he and I stay friends, then I am lucky enough to add another amazing person into my life. If it becomes more, then it becomes more, but for now, its not the time. For once, I am content with where things are and willing to let things progress organically, rather than trying to fit him into my ideal and ignoring the parts that won’t click. Plus...I have my own goals that I am laser focused to achieve this year, and nothing, including a man, is going to deter me from those goals.
Everyone’s path to healing looks different, and that’s okay. Mine took 40 years, including 13 in therapy, 3 in coaching, and a whole lot of unnecessary heartache, before I faced my truth and healed it. There is no anger left, there is no victimhood within me at all. The trauma is just a fact of my past, and because of it, I have learned a lot about trauma and chronic pain and how they are related. My own story gives me the experience and knowledge to help others find their path to healing too. Because of that, I am grateful for the pain. I am grateful to have survived the trauma. Without my history, I wouldn’t have the skillset to help others the way I want to help. And that, my friends, is worth everything to me.