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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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Trigger #2millionfourtytwo.five:

How am I:

I’m either in crisis, incredibly scared and shaky and just barely staying out of the hospital right now OR I’m doing more wonderful than I’ve ever been. Coming to bloom in the garden of life. Experiencing enlightenment. A bright shining light of inspiration and wisdom. Enjoying summer and friends and my happy new home.

On Friday, I began the day by reaching out for help in the face of having been distracted by increasing thoughts of how to kill myself, feeling hopeless, that no one was ever going to get me. Coming up with a plan for how to stay alive over the weekend, alone in the house with my roommate gone. It was an accomplishment that this was taken seriously and I received the caring I needed in order to have a re-do.

That the doc was not treating me less seriously than the ones who act out instead of hold it all in. That I need to feel the depth of these feelings in someone else’s presence, and how hard that is. Finally, I felt got!

I went for a walk with a friend that afternoon, mentioned nothing to her of my morning or what was going on. Took her lead instead to speak about writing and indulge ourselves in simple time together in the sun by the river, feeling peaceful and content and having good conversation about creativity and healing. Feeding the creative muses in both of us.

I got home, thawed out some home-made chili from the freezer, ate it, and went to my ACA meeting.

As soon as I walked in the door, I was struck by the feeling of not knowing how I was – was I in crisis, or was I enjoying the fruits of my labour in life? I honestly did not know.

This confusion was (is) so terrifying for me that I went into shock. I felt the Dead Feeling in my body and face, barely able to rouse a facial expression, sitting slumped in my chair, unable to look at anyone. Managing to read aloud my part in the opening to the meeting, managing to function just barely enough to not disrupt the meeting or draw attention to myself, and meanwhile sliding further into shock and the Silent Panic.

By the end of the meeting, it was so intense that I reached out for help, and concluded with a close recovery friend that I should not spend the night alone, and should go to the hospital if I couldn’t get a hold of anyone else to stay with.

The recovery friend went back into the meeting room for the second part of the meeting, and I moved to my car with my cell phone to find a place to go that night. I finally cried and shook when she hugged me good night. I was really scared and not in control of myself – not myself, and feeling exposed in that state, unable to think clearly and make decisions.

I couldn’t get a hold of anyone on the phone, so I decided to show up at someone’s house. But it was near the hospital too, so maybe I should just go there. I turned around several times, driving back and forth between the person’s house and the hospital, eventually up to the hospital. But then I realized I was almost out of smokes, and didn’t want to spend the night in the emerg room without smokes. So I went home and continued my phone search. By this time, my abdomen was in pain, enough for me to be slightly doubled over and moving quite slowly. I equate this with emotional stress, as that is where it tends to be stored in my body. I spoke with a couple other recovery friends, telling them what was happening. But they were unable to put me up for the night. I had never reached out in this way before.

Finally found someone who could. As soon as I left the house, on my way to be with someone in my time of need, I felt calmer, and began to come out of the shock and panic.

By the next morning, I felt like myself again. I invited some people for a potluck, made soup, and went for a hike and a swim with the same friend as the previous day.

This friend had no idea that my visits with her had been sandwiched between near admission to the hospital.

Is this real yet? What will it take for my Child to believe that her pain is real, her feelings are real, her distress is valid. What has been happening to me?

Does this not sound insane?

It scares me that I have this range, and the capacity for such extremes.

 


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Trigger #2millionfourtytwo.four

Your leg’s not missing; you just need to think more positively.

OR

Of course your leg is missing; everyone’s leg is missing, so buck up and suck it up, also like everyone else.

“I’m broken Dale” — that’s not a cry for pitty and love; it’s one of confusion.

It’s like having had a missing limb, and people continually telling you that it wasn’t missing. To a degree that created permanent confusion.

I’m constantly wanting to prove to you how broken I am, so that I can change my confusion around whether or not it is real. So you can say, “Yes! I see that!” Oh, what glorious words to me.

It’s soothing when circumstance brings the brokenness to show without my control, and in a way that is undeniable to others, in a way that confirms the missing limb, without any doubt or questioning.

There was a moment in our last session. I was telling you about the two ways I presented myself at the party, and when I spoke about the presentation of a successful career woman, you were saying that it’s not confusion, because I know that that presentation is not true – that I am not a successful career woman. You said that, looked at me, and added, “Right?”

I actually felt an enormous amount of relief when you said that. I was relieved that you weren’t saying “Yes you are; you will recover to being that. You will eventually be success that way. You are too talented not to eventually find your way back there. Don’t start selling yourself short in the world. Don’t underestimate yourself.”

I felt that you were admitting that aiming to be that may not be realistic with my injuries in this moment, but that I may get there in a much more unique and authentic way.

When I make the wound real, I can find the healthy loving response; if it’s not real, I can’t respond, and then that part of me is abandoned again. That part of me has had a lifetime of abandonment.


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living amends

It’s not a sense of entitlement; it’s the need to make a living amends to the Child within. To do things differently than they have been done in the past — to replace the unworthiness and the unloveability, with worthiness and loveability, on the most basic of levels, which cannot be accessed or changed with words.

A living amends to me is expressing and validating all the unspoken things in a way that is un-deniably reflective of the past lack, aka abandonment. Saying to my Child, “That shouldn’t have happened; here’s what should have. Here is what a healthy response would have been.”


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visceral healing in therapy

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Two private therapy sessions ago, I sat on a beach by the ocean with my therapist and told him about a visceral memory from my abuse by the teacher.

The memory is one that I hadn’t had before, of a specific moment. It came to me while writing a ptsd inventory sheet in my ACA program. It is the moment the teacher first kissed me, after a long, full-body hug, and eye-to-eye contact, noses brushing. I was 10 years old, staying over at his house to get away from my parents, who had been arguing.

It’s the moment when my adrenaline system first became overwhelmed. My heart began racing immediately; I went into my room and began fantasizing, sexually for the first time. It was the start of my first crush — an obsessive infatuation that would see me waiting by the phone every day for his call, fantasizing wildly about sex on the beach with him, completely disregarding and abandoning my friends at school. My fantasies would involve him rescuing me in various ways, and then making love to me.

In the session, I sat in the sand and wriggled my toes in it, my legs stretched out in front of me. My therapist embodied the healthy, caring adult response to the scene I recalled. As it was a new memory, I had never spoken it aloud, or received this healthy, caring adult response. It felt like I regressed into my young girl self, which ended up lasting for several days. This was a re-do: An acting out of what should have happened so many years ago. I saw how different my life would be if I had been able to tell a caring adult about what had happened. If appropriate disciplinary action had happened at the school towards this teacher, if we had both received therapy out of even just this moment, not to mention all the inappropriate and damaging moments that happened in the coming year afterwards.

The feeling that lingered, from regressing into my young girl state, in the presence of a healthy and caring older man, was a feeling I described at the following session a couple of days ago as “tenderness”.  We talked a lot about what this word means for me, in this context; and this post is a result of that conversation.

At the session, we got to the description of ’emotional intimacy and attunement’, and he began conjuring any memories I had of being touched, swathed, cooed and coddled as a baby and young child. “Being touched with the awareness on the part of the parental figure of how their touch was feeling for me.” These memories do not flow freely in me. Simply imagining myself being touched in this way, as perhaps during a diaper changing, are actually totally repulsive to me. My physical response is to want to writhe and coil up into a ball, shuddering inside my torso.

I cannot recall the experience of being touched by my Father. There are no memories of ordinary moments of touching, such as diaper changing or dressing, bathing, cuddling, etc. with my Father. With my Mother, I remember brash and bold movements, not so much sensitive to how her touch was felt by me — not tender.

I recalled showering with my Father, even up until age 9, but even then, there was no touching; by the time I was showering with him, I was old enough to get in and out of the shower by myself. I also recalled being in a hot tub with both my parents, at around age 12, completely naked, while eating pizza, at a hotel. He had me find a living example of a healthy loving adult, and imagine him or her wrapping me up in a towel, protecting me, and removing me from the situation.

At the end of the session, I had to voice the inner critic that was blasting me with shame and denial — “you are being ridiculous. This is ridiculous. You are making a big deal out of nothing. You are such a flake and a drama queen. You just want attention. Shame on you. He is bored and only humouring you with all these explorations, but sooner or later, he is going to abandon you, and you will be alone again. It’s time you stop belly aching and get over it. Others have had it a whole lot worse than you; you don’t deserve these sessions. You shouldn’t be here. He is laughing at you. You’re not bad enough or sick enough to deserve this.”

When I got home, I cleaned house mindlessly, in a bit of a trance state, as is the norm after these sessions. That night, I sat out on my balcony by the river and wrote. What emerged was an awareness of the part of me that is still not being seen or validated, and would rather die than continue without. A couple of different names have come to mind for this part: My Psychiatric Self, or The Watcher. I don’t know why yet, but this part of me is a He.

I wrote a list of all the things I have been missing and pulling out of lately. It is quite an extensive list — one thing after another. All the people I have had to let down in the last few weeks. I realized that this Psychiatric Self is being honoured in all these cancellations in a way he has been longing most of my life. That I am not emotionally / psychologically well enough to attend … is an accomplishment and an immense relief to him, in the fact that it is being witnessed. I am acknowledging his experience, letting it be seen and seeking the healthy response; and this is something that has never been done in my life.

Letting positive things show around certain others — including my therapist — BETRAYS him; yet, around others — particularly and especially work-related / professional contacts — the positives are all on display. It comes back to my experience of being split, containing two different selves that are in opposition to each other, incongruent. And I am feeling that dynamic very strongly in my present. My gifts and talents are coming out and being seen, but also being undercut by my Psychiatric Self wanting and needing to be seen, acknowledged and responded to in a healthy way.

There is a player in me, and so really there is always one act or the other at play, while the other feels betrayed. It is compulsive and completely out of my control at this point. It is insidious and slippery like an addiction. It creates a constant underlying pain, anxiety and fear of abandonment.

The Watcher is the one in between, experiencing this incongruence and contradictory experiences. The Watcher sees how much pain, instability, isolation and failure this opposition creates in all areas of my life. He says that if he has to continue to witness and experience this, he cannot bear it, and he would rather die. Someone needs to understand and reflect this reality in me. I need to know how to present myself. I can’t bear to continue living this extreme identity crisis. The habitat of the Watcher is so dark that I cannot go fully into feeling it all at once right now.

Finally, I also came back to the definition of tenderness we had been working on. I realized that it is more than just emotional intimacy and attunement. It’s not just intimacy, it’s love. Love, innocence, fondness, affection and caring from a healthy, male, adult figure. These are the things I felt on the beach with my therapist; these are the things I remember also feeling when I was with the teacher. A list of phrases this energy would speak came to me:

I’ll look after you. I’ll always love you and be there for you, no matter what happens.

I’ve got your back.

I think you’re a wonderful person.

I will defend, protect and empower you, and I will never ever leave your side.

I care for you and your well-being deeply, and I will be a guardian and protector of it.

It’s okay. I’ve got you. Let me hold you. It’s okay. I’m here for you. I’m here for you.

I’m not sure how this all relates or doesn’t relate. I’m not sure where it’s all going, but I will speak it out, write it out. Follow it to find the gems that can heal me.


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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?

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way of council

Last Wednesday, i began a series of about 10 weeks of therapy every week, alternating between group and individual sessions.

I feel very lucky; not many people get this experience here, without paying for it themselves.

So, I have moved out from my Mom’s place, replaced my car, and begun this intensive period of therapy. I am beyond broke, currently living off what little I’d saved for my training in Systemic Family Constellations, which also begins this month. ‘Hoping to sell my car and a couple of other random items in the next week or so.

My first therapy session in these series was a clearing with my regular therapist, using the technique of Way of Council, with the assistance of another therapist. Both are also trained in Heart Centred Hypnotherapy, and this was also part of the session.

These are the notes the Way of Council therapist made on the session, and I wanted to put an image to them, do something with them other than have them on a lined piece of scrap paper lying around.

Next week, I begin the group therapy, which is a Way of Council group, for patients of my therapist only.

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