Recognizing Complex Trauma | Psychology Today

Recognizing Complex Trauma | Psychology Today.

It is essential for them to understand that their symptoms come from somewhere, so they can have compassion for themselves …

Developmental Trauma Disorder, Frozen Trauma, Complex Trauma, Attachment Disorder — whatever it’s called, it’s been a long time coming for the weight and the cost of repeated childhood trauma to be given its proper weight.


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what’s your book cover

I’ve been having book covers and titles coming to me. What, if anything, I ever end up doing with them, it seems like part of my therapy to express them. What is your book cover?



the concept of the high-functioning borderline

the mental health community in general is still in debate over the existence of bpd subtypes. Whatever the truth is doesn’t change my reality, but that doesn’t mean i won’t still follow the discussion, or participate in it however I can. What are your thoughts?

Article by Bon Dobbs on “mentalization” and “attachment” in BPD (The comments on this article are also very illuminating)

I will be making a longer post very soon about my experience in CBT and why i left the program. blessings, HJ


inwards vs. outwards: no one is better, no one suffers more

I came across a bdp discussion forum last night discussing the notion of the Quiet (or Inwards) Borderline. A post there expressed disagreement with bdp subtypes, and criticism of the notion that Quiet Borderlines either a) Suffer more than “outwards” and / or b) Are somehow less ill or easier to deal with.

painting by tammera

painting by tammera

Some of my writings here on this blog might inspire similar reactions, as if I am demonizing outward bdp and making saints of inwards.

I don’t think it’s useful in any contemplations of bdp to compare levels of suffering — that is completely subjective, and impossible to ever really know or compare.

I think there are indeed many outcomes of the underlying patterns that define bdp, but those underlying patterns are the same in all of us, and we all suffer greatly with them.

Some of us turn our suffering inwards. In my case, it can be impossible for those around me to know what is going on for me until I become desperate enough to let it show; and in my case, I must decide to do so. Consequently, I often feel like I am a fraud, “dramatizing” my feelings in order to receive support that maybe i don’t deserve. Am I over-dramatizing or minimizing my experiences? It is a different reality in every day, or every moment at times. I feel the chronic aloneness, emptiness, self-doubt and fear of abandonment of any borderline; and my sense of confidence, status, personality and role in the world are as unstable. I am inconsistent in mood, energy and personality; which is often devastating to my relationships, and perpetuates my aloneness, self-doubt and abandonment fears in an endless cycle.

In my experience of being an inwards borderline, no one would say that I am a difficult person. I think what some might think (though they would never say it) is that they do sense something a little unsure or unstable, something i am hiding from them, and they therefore do not deem me trustworthy, and are not very comfortable around me. There is a sense of caution, like there is something dark and scary beneath the surface that is scarily subtle and ominous enough as to make people quietly and sneakily distance themselves from me. No one would think that I am mentally ill and may just require a little extra patience, support and encouragement; they just think i’m a little “off” and aren’t really drawn to get to know me too well. Some of my friends are probably saying this is a load of crap, but my recovery depends on my own ability to validate this experience I have, intentionally let it show and receive the treatment that I need around it. I have to choose and work at living more honestly in the world to escape the endless isolation that swallows me whole. It is the degree of this, the intensity to which i feel it, and my ability to hide it that qualify this a dangerous, precarious and pathological reality. The hardship of this outcome of bdp, and the common misconception on the parts of friends and mental health professionals, is the assumption that because I can control what I show, I cannot truly need treatment. This leads me to thinking that I am a fraud, until I read about others this way, and the term “quiet borderline.”

compassion painting

the heart of the matter of living

While the quiet borderline (in my experience) experiences subtle social isolation, invalidation and abandonment by the mental health profession for not being “ill” enough; the outward borderline, it seems to me, experiences overt social isolation and abandonment by the mental health profession for being “too ill to treat.”

Both borderline outcomes end up feeling the same thing–isolation, hopelessness and unworthiness. Both suffer. Both require and deserve radical acceptance, compassion and support. One is not “better” than the other; and one is not more treatable than the other.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. Please comment!

Love, HJ


BPD in France

It is refreshing to read something other than what I am beginning to call the “cliche” or “hollywood” version of BPD. I sometimes feel like some kind of a BPD fraud because i don’t have the angry outbursts and had begun to draw my own conclusions about (what I called) “internal” and “external” versions of BPD.

I’m not really sure who AAPEL is, other than its stated mission to support those with BPD and their loved ones; and, judging by the grammatical condition of this translation, I can assume that this is not written by a trained professional. None the less, I still feel relief that any organized body of bpd experience is making similar observations that help me (and maybe some of my readers) to not feel like a fraud any more.

I just don’t agree with the statement that the perception of friends and family is a criteria of mental illness; not with bpd anyway. I believe and understand how a person can be mentally ill without anyone suspecting it and how this is, in some ways, more painful and isolating.

The document is taken from the website of AAPEL (France): The formatting below is clunky because i couldn’t get the bullets to publish correctly …

NOTE: I didn’t translate this, but I have made grammatical corrections to the translation that appears on the website above, for clarity, and have omitted some sections in what I am posting below. In red are the aspects I have not read or heard talked about outside of my own head before reading this.

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CoDA 12-Step: My own criteria

I never posted this here, but I think it belongs, in my effort to collect all the ashes:

CoDA 12-step program — Step One: What is Unmanageable

• Desperate need for validation & feedback
• Chronic loneliness & low self worth
• Inconsistent personality & mood, dependent on external people and events (contexts)
• Need and ability to impress, like an autopilot function
• Forcing things to happen by working harder & longer
• Compulsive working, getting carried away in the vision of how good it could be and what a great thing I could do. If I could do something really great, I would finally be loved and all my problems would disappear. Maybe this time … Over and over again.
• Sense of faking it till I made it; pretending I wasn’t desperate or unstable, having it leak out uncontrollably and unpredictably and feeling rejected and abandoned as a result, then hating myself, progressively more.
• Memories of tiny moments that haunt me, causing me to relive the humiliation of the moment with a visceral and physical reaction. Moments that really devastate me emotionally, cutting me down like a reed.
• Growing sense of overall humiliation in life from the lack of lasting relationships and professional endeavors. All the starts and stops.
• Progressive shame, embarrassment and exhaustion over the degree of chaos and instability in my life, and the lack of social support I had to help me deal with the chaos. It was so much for so long that it became too embarrassing and awkward to talk about.
• Alone in these feelings cause no one would OUTWARDLY believe or admit that I could possibly really have problems. People were trying to be supportive by continuing to tell me how brilliant and intelligent and capable and special i was. They didn’t realize how alienating these words felt to me because they denied and invalidated the internal experience I was having. “I must be even crazier than I’d thought, for thinking I’m crazy in the first place.”
• Most recently, feeling these things while having to keep the face of extraordinary leadership. The ship finally broke in two.
• My whole life seems like a bad memory; i would wipe it out of my brain, but then i’d have no past, no roots, though now i have been describing my past like decapitated limbs floating around inside me. Where’s my continuity.
• The feeling of hopeless isolation; after all the personal growth work i have done, these things continue.

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core beliefs: making sense of the chaos

Parts of my story are revealing themselves. Not the physical who’s and what’s but the internal experience of the events in my life, while looking at Core Beliefs and how they were formed in me.

The situation that caused me to remove myself this spring was a “damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t”. It was a gradual build-up that crescendo’d, as everything in my life became unbearable and my authentic self seemed to be demanding I:

change.         everything.            leave.             everything.

my marriage, my job, my career identity, my home, my geographical location and a $50,000 national scholarship award for leadership.

leaving all these things at once was unbearable, and felt impossible with the level of cumulative stress and exhaustion i was feeling. who in their right mind would leave all these things at once? and yet, not leaving them was also unbearable.

I’ve spent my whole life with one foot on the ledge of validating the dysfunction in my present life, and one foot on the ledge of needing to have it validated for me. All the common affirmations of “seeing things in a more positive light”, “not focusing too much or dwelling on the negative” and “not being too hard on myself” are what have kept me straddled between the two realities.

By the time of my crescendo, I had lived in one place for long enough that I felt enough people were “on” to the negative core beliefs I was hiding / over-compensating for / resisting through positive thinking, for me to feel humiliated and isolated; yet no one would tell this to my face. Once again, I didn’t know what to believe. The crevice between the two worlds — 1) There’s nothing wrong with me; it’s how I’m choosing to see myself and 2) There IS something wrong with me and I need to get honest with myself and others and stop over-compensating — this crevice opened up wide, and I fell down the middle because I couldn’t decide.

Looking back on my childhood tonight, I wrote:

I was repeatedly, and then traumatically, invalidated and abandoned. The foundation of my ability to perceive reality was neglected, bombed and then left to rot. Inside me there is this chronic landscape of the aftermath; rubble, chaotic and desolate disarray.

I think this might be my own personal description of bdp. another one floating around in my brain lately is that I am awake during the operation of living — the anaesthetic didn’t work, but no one knows. i wish i could stop pretending to be asleep.

what’s your definition?