Complex Trauma

This is very much worth listening to, all 51 minutes. Thank you Broken Blue Sky and GettingRealwithPTSD for sharing this. Although reblogged this morning, I updated it twice making it hard to access. So I’m posting it again to ensure its availability to readers. 

There are portions where her faith is referred to but all spiritual beliefs could be put in place of her beliefs for the short duration she speaks of it. For instance in referring to he for god, I interject she, and envision my mother earth angel who feels much safer and trustworthy.

Diane Langberg is amazingly compassionate and knowledgeable. It is the first time I’ve heard Complex PTSD explained so succinctly. 

The second part of the lecture is available at the you tube site where this takes you. 

 

The Courage to Live

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FEAR

I have lived a life-time of fear since age 8 invading every moment in one way or another. Forced to grow up within a male population called brothers who attacked in the night, or even during the broad light of day, made fear a constant companion. Even though Chet, Dan, and Pete are dead, and the most evil, Tom, still lives spreading his poison, I live in fear at the easiest upset. 

It is hard not to resent what they did. Living with low esteem added to continual fear of people, and the inability to speak up for myself, eroded my natural abilities and has been debilitating.

Yet I persevere. I can get over what they did to my body. But what they did to my trust, shattered beyond repair, what they took from ever feeling safe with touch and loving sex with my husband, the betrayals of each attack, and this list goes on… these I can heal from or after time have learned to live and accept as the damage done.

But fear? Anxiety? Jumping at every loud sound, or medical people working on my body in any way sending me in panic for days, even months after? These are just some of the life-long effects I resent living with that were caused by these tormentors.

These challenges erode my courage, weakening me, and in the wee hours of the morning tend to make me wonder how I can continue to cope; especially since an aging body needs many more medical interventions to keep functioning.

It pisses me off. I’d like to put my real name on my blog and use real names for who did what when. Not to get even, but to stand up and say NO. No this is not alright. NO, it is not alright to silence me out of your own shame and fear of how it will make you look.

Yet the anonymity of the freedom to talk openly without hurting anyone offers a resource I cherish, as if this outlet is a replacement for therapy. Expression of honest feelings, which aren’t right or wrong but just there, is a freeing experience. Dumping it all and feeling heard and acknowledged is a human need as crucial as air.

I do not want to give that up. So even though I could put my name on my blog, I chose not to. Not out of fear, (I don’t think so) but out of my own need to talk freely when and how I like; and for the first time ever in my life.

Taught to be pleasing, to live with and love the criminals who attacked me masked as ‘brothers,’ makes it a challenge to discover who I really am even now. I continue to search for ‘her’ going below the surface of the ‘nice’ girl my mother manipulated and trained me to be.

Mom’s need reined, that of ensuring the fallacy of an upstanding family was on show, but at the expense of her daughter. I acquiesced because I craved her love to the very end unable to provide a moments warmth for myself and needing what little she had to give.

The book erupted out of me after her death 8 years ago. It was finally safe to speak of her sons. All that had been suppressed arose; the joys, the traumas, the black tarry secrets of others, and the wonders that sustained me. 

Yet I am left with challenges I resent. It makes me turn resentment into fortitude, grasping courage like an old tree rooting it deeper, transforming the bitter truths into beauty. This I will do, or try to day after day. 

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STEADY

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You are an inferior citizen, person, child. That was the message given when expected to contain such vile, unwanted, and confusing sexual attacks on my body. Do not speak of it. And since I was born a child to speak up with strength, silencing me took a good deal of shaming.

“You should be ashamed of yourself,” she would say if I spoke up about anything. I am Mom, I am. But not anymore. 

“Stupid,” she’d admonish. It took till middle age before relinquishing the idea that I was stupid.  Raymond, my psychiatrist at the time, mentioned the A’s earned in preparation for nursing school which begrudgingly awakened awareness of my intelligence. That was undeniable proof.

Whatever tactic needed was used to keep the shameful secret. Those manipulations were also readily employed by siblings whether they were the perpetrator or not. Families do not speak of such things.

My wish is that they would and doing so is the first and most monumental step in providing the desperate help needed for all within the family system. So many issues have come out of closet and so should this. Intervention at the time childhood sexual abuse occurs helps greatly reduce a hellish life for both child and perpetrator.

Being an older model means much tuning up. Taking care of myself takes time and it also takes being in my body to notice what it needs. I work throughout the day reminding myself, it is OK to take care of yourself. It’s perplexing to need that much affirmation over and over, having to repeatedly give myself permission and believe it. Yet the basis of how my personality was formed is explanation enough.

You are bad, unworthy, unlovable, and not capable. These are the messages which cement a child’s personality when no one comes to her aide after she has been sexually abused and attacked by those she once loved and trusted. The negatives embed themselves like granite.

Others give themselves love and self-care automatically. Others who have not been broken into many pieces strewn about. I gather the parts like fireflies but one escapes here, another there.

Progress is made. Meditation brings a feeling of wholeness and groundedness. Sticking with it day after day, week after week, and year after year brings results. Less anxiety. I can be around others in peace. Not always, or with everyone, or for too long a period depending on who it is, but a great relief than for most of my life.

Do your meditation. Ingest the foods that make your body work right. Drink 64 oz. of water. Do the pelvic exercises three times a day that tighten appropriate muscles. (Kegel’s) And though these can be done anywhere and anytime by most, I need quietness to concentrate on the right muscles. Walk the 20 minutes, more if you can. Rest. A life of living constantly on edge has worn out the adrenals and a lot of rest is needed. Keep thoughts steady trying not to allow them to go to the negative as they tend to do. If you feel down or bored don’t try to change it, just be with it. Keep sleep routines and stick to them.

This is my work, satisfying work because the results help form a person healthy, happy and whole.

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TRAUMA BRAIN

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(ornament from Cory when he shopped in a little European village at Christmas time while living in London)

Cindy’s exuberance brings smiles to our faces. Samuel says, “Can we bottle it?” as she crawls around on the floor meowing. Pretending to be a kitty she jumps up next me curling into a little ball like Molly. Such joy we are exposed to daily!

She brought a full bag of Christmas stickers and we work on the little table constructing scenes. I dust off the old camera because the newer one doesn’t do justice to close-ups. My urge this past summer to investigate flowers and gardens sprites all but dissolved. But this old camera makes the kids eyes glow red like children zombies.

I’ve had this cheap-o camera for about 14 years and never learned how to adjust the date, time or anything else except macro mode. Samuel hears my lament about glowing eyes and looks at it.

“Have you ever used the Portrait setting?” he asks after a moment. 

“NO!” I exclaim. The camera has 14 settings, but I have used only normal and macro. How do others do these minuscule tasks so calmly? Such fine tuning causes me great anxiety and a feeling of being greatly overwhelmed. Bigger obstacles impede the ability to complete finer complicated tasks. I call it Trauma Brain.

As peace settles and neurons mend I’m able to travel into new worlds of exploration and abilities. It is rewarding, full-filling and exciting. Today I set the date and time. I did it! And found a long lost friend that feels like an extension of myself and my hand. 

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FINDING MY VOICE

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Since May and my dealings with Seth and the periodontist, I lost my way, my voice and me. The inability to speak up to the periodontist, going through with a surgery I didn’t feel was right nor had been explained properly had a lot to do with the confusion and loss over Seth and his wrath that I wrote a book. He rejected me for months after I sent a link to my book by never responding to my emails until I confronted him about it.

I felt WRONG and BAD because I dared send him a link to my book, taking it all on my shoulders, blaming myself as I’m accustomed to doing since childhood. ‘They’ still would prefer that and use every leverage so that I abide. Abandonment is number #1. Learning not to abandon myself saves me and strengthens me. 

Seth’s protestations, what he kept saying and coming back to “But you didn’t want me to have a relationship with Tom!”

I deflected, never wanting to directly be caught up in his shit or bad mouthing Tom. But I should have, and head-on…

Tom didn’t suck your vagina when you were 8 years old.

And years ago when Mom would often try to cajole me into becoming closer to Tom, telling me how special, enjoyable and funny he is, I could have simply said that. Instead of leaving her apartment abruptly with so much stuffed inside me I felt I might explode, I could have simply said the truth no one wants to hear, “Mom, he didn’t suck your vagina when you were eight years old.”

Simple. That is enough. Of course I don’t have a relationship with Tom. And why would I want to have one with anyone who cleaves to him? Including you Seth. My relationship with Seth feels over but with love, because I feel love, and Tom has cost me that.

I tried going back to a newsy note and he responded but it felt so hollow, so wrong. He needs to pretend that my real life doesn’t exist. I need to be whole and cannot pretend, though I tried. I could dwell on what feels like a fact that Tom took Seth, along with Don. Because Don cleaved to Tom during my Mother’s decline and I cannot or will not move past that either.

I wondered all summer where I went. Where was the person who fought her whole life for a life? I felt like a slowly turning merry-go-round; indecisive, overly tolerant, without a voice, or a stand. I realized this at Walmart yesterday where I stood up to the giant to insist on a refund.

Every time in the past when a confrontation took place my anger or rage came too, and each interaction spun me into the stratosphere of adrenaline soaked fury then deep sadness. No tolerance existed for being taken advantage of, and why should it?

Never again. Yet clerks were not my abusers. Nor Adele, but I needed to say a big NO to her and her antics. cleaning off the grime of unethical behavior. No one else needs to agree because not everybody will, but I know what I need and what is right for me once I clear out the clutter.

Yesterday after the elderly gruff man said, “No, you cannot return on-line items unless they are a Walmart item,” I felt very unsatisfied, not raging but irate and said so evenly in a calm yet pointed and firm voice.

I moved my cart back down the isles wondering, Is it worth getting a manager and getting all worked up, or just let it go and try to return it through the mail getting burned on the shipping and wasting all that time on the phone with more people who really won’t help?

My cart almost bumped into a pow-wow of managers and we had a little talk. I was able to be upright, powerful yet graceful…assertive not aggressive, nor full of rage. The manager took me to the desk and refunded the $34 and I thanked him. And it may seem a little thing, a refund—

I found me and the fire kindling within. I have a fire for life and no one has put it out, dampened it yes, not extinguished.  

CALM

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Good morning Rose. Samuel put one on the window sill. Even in October they bloom on the same morning I watch Christmas movies and wrap presents for Cory, his wife, and their cats. Shane and family are driving to Massachusetts for the upcoming baby shower in November and can take the bulky gifts to Cory. Then they will have them under their tree instead of the check I was originally going to send. Shipping has become outrageously expensive costing more than the gifts shipped.

Yes, I love Christmas unabashedly. I always have, even throughout high-school; counting the days till, checking them off a hand-made calendar with little Christmas icons on each day.

Christmas has always made me happy, just like the joy Grandma glowed with during the season. I have a Christmas closet and when the deep reductions occur especially after the season is over, I buy, buy, buy. Why not at 75 or 90% off? I do this after every holiday, collecting the best stuff at the best price.

Well-being has occurred and when the chaos calms I confuse that with boredom. Six weeks of medication to heal the internal wound are finished and maybe I’m safe for now. It’s OK to feel calm, enjoy it. The thing with Adele bothered me more than I realized. After sending the farewell and speaking up, I sleep like a bear, a full 8 hours. I know this won’t last, but will enjoy it while it does. It’s OK to feel calm, to feel at peace, to just be…

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Coloring with Cindy after preschool… The new baby in Shane’s family, due one month after Cory’s, is a boy! (revealed after Wednesday’s ultra-sound. Cory’s remains a mystery because they want to be surprised)

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PEACE and GRACE

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I think therapy for me is needed in times of crisis. And when that happens I can trust myself to seek it out. And this summer was a crisis, one I’m still grieving from. I don’t have ‘family’ connections in terms of ‘family of origin.’ Only if on other’s terms, which requires I play a part that extinguishes my very existence in order to inter-relate; to be a puppet that fits their needs.

I have made my own family both in blood with sons and grand-children, in marriage and with a few close friends who are more open and loving to me than ‘family.’ It is still a loss all over again.

I had clung to these three siblings (out of seven) who did not attack me sexually, and thought at least I had them. No, not if one speaks of the truth. They are there only on their terms and each one has them.

I’m to be a mute robotic doll, and rejected when not doing as each wants. It is a very powerful and successful tool to silence me. Rejection works and it is used coldly with ferocity.   

Two collude. Two knew of what was happening and did nothing. I am sad. I will have to live with what my brothers did to me for the rest of my life; post traumatic stress symptoms are the hardest to deal with though loss of trust for any living human being is another of the many significant losses.

The three that ignore and deny will never say, “I’m sorry for what you suffered. And I’m sorry I didn’t help you then.” No one helped, not them, not the school nurse who was also my aunt and knew, not my mother, no one.

I was deserted. I am deserted once again. My last trip to the hospital in an ambulance that felt like a heart attack this past summer, was an attack on the heart by desertion. It is a very sad loss to grieve.

A simple garage sale sets off alarms in my system with anxiety. I wake in the night with a start, ‘Did I price this right, or that?’ And it doesn’t matter because I am donating it anyway. So why the freak can’t you calm down?

Because I really can’t. That’s all it takes to set off an automatic response and I’m awake in the night again making friends with the 3 AM news team.

It makes me feel bad, a failure. Why can’t I do these things like others do; travel (though short trips with Samuel works nicely), sleep at another’s house with ease, have a freaking garage sale? And each time I must remember my real life that these so called ‘brothers’ ignore and deny.

I’ve been traumatized so deeply and had to hold it all in— as a child, an adolescent, a young adult, a middle-aged adult, and now on the cusp of the next stage— the PTSD stays. With no intervention at the time of traumas damage is done, and for me it is for a life-time.

If anything it is worse. Or I have made such a life of peace and harmony that even little disruptions in routine set off my nervous system interfering with sleep. After waking at 3 AM for several mornings, the usual attempts to find my center and move through the day smoothly with contentment vanish.

Peace comes while walking in the warm sunny meadow, and I am grateful for these moments which make each day worthwhile…and stunning. Autumn with less daylight upsets the balance also. Some thing broken cannot fixed just managed. 

I don’t know why Don can’t be bothered to answer my email. He was one out who of the blue contacted me via email a month or so ago. Of course I answered though I thought I might not because he usually never answered mine. That is why I stopped emailing. So he opened up that channel of communication only to ignore/reject me once more.

Don’t share yourself again that way. I will never know how Don, Seth, or Stevie feel about anything except their anger. They readily express anger. I have felt their anger but not their love. And that does not look like it is changing except that is has worsened. 

Adele stated with surety, “Stay with the present. Spend short periods of time with each one or via email and stick with the present even if it is fake.” 

I protest. My present is my past. A therapist with wisdom will not tout such sureties because there are none, no real answers or right and wrong, only what is right for me. Guide me towards that. ‘I don’t know’, is more helpful than seeming to know what you don’t.

Back to the life I’ve created which makes me happy.