Tag Archives: post traumatic stress disorder
So many of us raised with narcissistic parents have heard the phrase “just let it go” too many times to count upon mentioning our awful upbringing. People fail to realize that we would love to let it go & not think about it anymore. Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple!
Narcissistic abuse is incredibly ubiquitous. It doesn’t simply affect one small part of you- it permeates every area of your mind & even body. All of your thinking stems from the perspective of someone who was abused by a narcissist. Your body may reflect that abuse too, even if the narcissist didn’t attempt to hurt you physically. The constant stress of living with a narcissist can lead to adrenal fatigue, thyroid problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, C-PTSD or PTSD (which are both brain injuries resulting from surviving trauma).
Simply put, you can’t “just let go of” such things no matter how much you wish you could. And honestly, why would you? To make some cold hearted, unfeeling person more comfortable in your presence? Life experiences- good, bad or indifferent- made you the person you are. Learn from them all & grow!
There are some things you can let go of, however. You can let go of:
- expecting the person who told you “just let it go” to be caring & supportive of you.
- the warped belief that something is wrong with you for having problems (either physical or mental or both) after surviving narcissistic abuse.
- that sick belief the narcissist instilled in you that you made him/her abuse you.
- believing that you are the only one responsible for making relationships work.
The next time someone tells you to “just let it go,” you can tell them what you have let go, using the above statements as an example. Or, if you really want to throw them for a loop, ask them what exactly do they want you to let go of & how they recommend you go about doing so.
When you first learn that you have PTSD or C-PTSD, you will hear about having nightmares, but very little has been discussed about what kind of nightmares.
When I first realized I had C-PTSD in 2012, I read everything I could find on the disorder, & kept seeing nightmares on the list of symptoms. I assumed it would be dreams repeating traumatic events. Unpleasant, for sure, but I lived through the real thing so I figured I could handle the nightmares.
Not even close!
I have had nightmares ever since I can remember, but the frequency has increased greatly since 2012. And, of the many nightmares, very few were actually reliving the trauma. Instead, many were very strange, such as having my car stolen then totaled, finding a little child I needed to protect or other odd subject matter. I honestly wondered what was wrong with me. How could I have such awful & strange dreams yet nothing of the trauma I have been through? It seemed completely bizarre to me.
Recently I realized something.. these dreams may not be specifically about trauma, but they share similar emotions to traumatic experiences I have had. The nightmares often leave me feeling powerless, abused, unloved (even hated), helpless & more.
I’ve heard a few people say their nightmares are much like mine- not about traumatic events, but about events that trigger similar emotions.
I believe this means such nightmares must be a normal part of having C-PTSD or PTSD.
If you too are having odd, unsettling nightmares, then know you aren’t alone. Nightmares are part of PTSD & C-PTSD, unfortunately.
As disturbing as they are, they may be able to help you. Dreams & nightmares alike have meanings. They’re never random, even though they feel that way.
Dreams can show you areas you need healing in or areas where you have healed well. They can show you things you weren’t aware of or you need to be aware of. They also can simply help you because your brain is processing some information. The brain processes information every single moment, even when you’re asleep.
If you want to understand your dreams & nightmares, prayer is the best place to start. Ask God to help you to understand them & learn what you need to know from them.
A good dream dictionary is a helpful tool too. I use a website (there are many to choose from). They can help you to see what each item in your dream represents, which can make it easier to interpret them.
It’s also a good idea to keep track of your dreams. Write them down & look them over from time to time. That can help encourage you when you see how far you’ve come. It also can help to remind you of things you need to deal with.
Personally I write down my dreams & nightmares, plus what I find the meaning of everything I can remember in them. Colors, objects, people, feelings. Once it’s all written down, I ask God to help me to understand what the dream or nightmare meant. It’s proven to be quite helpful to me many times. It could benefit you as well
Since I have been no contact with my parents, strange but good things have been happening. One of those things is God has helped me to get in touch with the negative emotions I had stuffed inside for years.
I’ve had a lot of nightmares, repressed memories & flashbacks to deal with, especially in the last few months. While it hasn’t been fun by any stretch, it’s been a very good thing. I’ve been able to remember things I hadn’t thought of in a long time, then deal with them. This has enabled me to make great strides in healing. I feel freer & even physically lighter, as odd as that may sound. I feel cleansed of things I didn’t even realized I needed cleansing from.
I can’t help but thinking that this is happening as a result of going no contact. I noticed this has happened to me after being no contact with my parents for several months & also years before after going no contact with my narcissistic mother in-law & sisters in-law.
When you’re in a relationship with a narcissist- be they your parent, sibling, spouse or anyone- so much of your thinking is taken up by that person. Either you’re trying to find ways to appease her to avoid her rage, or survive the relationship with your sanity in tact. Either way, you simply don’t have time to cope with the constant wounds inflicted on you by her abuse. You’re functioning in survival mode.
Once the narcissist is out of your life, it takes some time for your mind to feel safe enough to stop functioning in survival mode. When it does though, finally, it seems to demand that you work on all those issues you weren’t able to face due to constant trauma.
If you too are faced with nightmares, flashbacks &/or repressed memories after going no contact, please don’t panic, Dear Reader. Your brain may be doing as mine has done- it stopped functioning in survival mode & wants to be healed. I would suggest going with it. Work on your healing from narcissistic abuse however helps you. Pray. See a therapist. Whatever works for you. After all, maybe one of the reasons for you being out of that toxic relationship is so you can heal.
Going no contact with a narcissistic parent (or two) is an incredibly difficult thing to do. It takes a tremendous amount of prayer, thought, discussion & energy to make that decision. Chances are you feel peace about your decision even though it hurts things came to this. You read about the smear campaign & flying monkeys, so you feel prepared, but the truth is, you aren’t. Other things can happen that no one warns you about.
One of the other things is the incredible influx of memories, nightmares & even flashbacks that happen.
I functioned my entire life with my parents in survival mode. It wasn’t until they were out of my life for almost one year (this past May 5) that survival mode finally stopped. I finally felt safe enough to let my guard down, not worry that at anytime they may show up at my home, may call or I may see them in a public place. It was as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders! At least until the nightmares, repressed memories & flashbacks started.
While I’ve experienced them all for many years, the sheer amount was shocking. It seemed like I couldn’t go a day without something happening, often a few times a day, & frankly, it was overwhelming & scary at first. Upon praying about it, God spoke to my heart saying I no longer have my parents in my life demanding so much of my attention & focus, so now is the time to heal. When memories came up, or nightmares or flashbacks happened, pray, & He would enable me to heal. He truly has!!
Each time something happens, I pray about it. I feel the anger or hurt, & tell God about it. I often journal about it too, because something about seeing things in writing is so validating. It’s a good reminder that I didn’t deserve the things that happened to me & that none of it was my fault, as I was told.
Doing such things has brought me a tremendous amount of healing in a short time! Yes, it’s been difficult, but I’ve been through much more difficult things. And, as a bonus, at least these difficulties have a purpose- to help me to heal. Thankfully, things have slowed down quite a bit. I can go a couple of days without a nightmare, repressed memory or flashback.
If this happens to you too after going no contact with your parents, Dear Reader, don’t be surprised. In fact, I would encourage you to go with it. This may be a time of great healing for you. If it happens, I would recommend you start by praying. I don’t even know why I didn’t pray as soon as things began to happen, but it was a mistake on my part. As soon as I did pray though, my healing started to make real progress. I’m sure yours will too! All you have to do is trust God & work with Him however He suggests.
2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (NKJV)
As many of you know, I have agoraphobia. Leaving home, sometimes even to go into my yard, is very difficult or impossible. Anxiety takes over & logic that nothing is going to go wrong or hurt me goes out the window. Quite frankly, it sucks.
Recently I’ve been wanting to go for a drive. That’s all- just enjoy a short drive in my awesome car. However, the agoraphobia left me at home & my car sitting…
A few days ago, I opened up my email first thing in the morning. I get a Scripture delivered daily. That particular day the Scripture I shared above was in the email. When I read it, something clicked in my mind. No, God didn’t give me a spirit of fear. My agoraphobia is NOT from Him.
The agoraphobia started in 1996, just after my paternal grandmom passed away. My husband told his mother, who didn’t even acknowledge my loss- she changed the subject. A short time later, this exact same experience happened with his sister. Somehow, these experiences cemented in my mind that I don’t matter. I shouldn’t bother anyone with my problems or even my presence, which is a belief that stems from my upbringing with my narcissistic parents. Their behavior made this belief evolve into feeling like I don’t even have the right to leave home, possibly bothering people in public places.
Thinking about this angered me a great deal. As is common with many adult children of narcissistic parents, I’m suffering because of other people’s cruelty. This agoraphobia isn’t from God at all, & that Scripture was a reminder of that.
2 Timothy 1:7 enabled me not only to go for a ride, but a longer one than I originally wanted to do. And, I got on smaller interstates too! (After getting sick in 2015 & being unable to drive for a long time, I lost a lot of confidence in driving. I’ve avoided bigger roads & interstates since.)
I’m not saying I’m cured. Even thinking of leaving home now makes me tense up. However, I do know that keeping these things in mind is going to be helpful for me leaving home in the future.
I’m sharing this with you today, Dear Reader, because I know so many of you also live with anxiety &/or agoraphobia. Please consider what I wrote about here. Know that such awful things are NOT from God. It helped me to remember that & get mad at those who put the anxiety & agoraphobia on me. Maybe it can help you as well to think about it. What is the root of your anxiety? If you don’t know, then ask God- He will show you. He showed me why I have agoraphobia. I never would’ve guessed that on my own! He can do the same for you. Once you get to the root of the problem, you can work on healing it properly.
Mental illness is very different from physical illness in many ways. One of those ways is the fact most people don’t usually believe someone has a mental illness. If you have diabetes, people can see there’s a problem. They see you testing your glucose or giving yourself an insulin shot. If you have cancer, you have xrays, mri’s & maybe even a visible tumor that people can see. But if you have a mental illness, there isn’t such evidence.
If you have Bipolar disorder, you’re just “moody.”
If you have C-PTSD or PTSD, you’re “dwelling in the past, need to stop thinking about things, need to get over it or you can’t have it because you weren’t in the military.”
If you’re depressed or anxious, “you’re feeling sorry for yourself, stop being sad or anxious, need to get out more or take a pill & get over it.” “Everyone feels sad/anxious” is another common comment.
What people fail to realize is you can’t control the symptoms of mental illness any more than you can physical illness.
As someone who is not only suffering with mental illness but also frustrated with the lack of compassion & understanding many people have about it, you may do like many people, & try to explain & justify your illness. Chances are, this will only frustrate you further.
As someone with mental illness myself, I get it. You want people to understand & not judge. You don’t want to be invalidated either. After years of thinking any problem I had wasn’t important (thanks, Mom & Dad for the invalidation), I assumed my mental health wasn’t important either. It took a long time for me to accept that I have real problems, & being invalidated by subject changes & such stupid statements as “Just take a pill- you’ll be fine” make me feel as I did growing up, like I don’t count. Frankly, I’ve come too far to live with that feeling anymore. I’ve also realized if I continue to explain to certain people who say such invalidating things, it will leave me feeling even more frustrated & angry. They only dig their heels in deeper & become more committed to know nothing of the problem at hand. They don’t want to understand, so nothing I can say will make them understand. It’s not worth my time & energy trying to make them understand
If you are in this situation as well, Dear Reader, I would like to encourage you today. You don’t have to explain your mental illness to anyone. Some people are going to want to know about it, but some won’t. Those people are committed to not knowing or understanding, & it’s not your place to make them understand or know what you live with. You will know if someone is genuinely concerned for you & wants to know what you experience. They won’t try to tell you what to do to “get over” your mental illness. They will offer understanding & support, not judgment. They will offer to help you if they can. People like this are the only ones that deserve your time & any information you wish to share about your illness.
Triggers are things that trigger PTSD or C-PTSD symptoms to flare up. A certain sound that makes you have a flashback or a scent creates a panic attack are triggers.
Unfortunately triggers are everywhere. There is no avoiding them entirely, as wonderful as it would be if that was possible. I have realized there are times when you can be more easily or less easily triggered. Certain dates (an abusive parent’s birthday for example) can make you more sensitive to triggers. Some people also are more or less triggered at various stages of healing.
So what can be done about triggers? Since they can’t be avoided completely, they need to be managed.
Prayer is the best place to start. Ask God for help showing you ways to manage your symptoms during triggers or ways you can avoid them.
Identify your triggers & avoid them when possible. This isn’t always easy, as thinking about your triggers can be upsetting. But, you need to know what upsets you so you can either avoid it or be prepared to deal with it when you can’t.
Triggers can show you what areas you need healing in, so pay close attention to them. For me, hearing someone talk about being sick & having their family care for them is a big trigger for me. I barely saw a doctor growing up, my mother complained when I was sick about having to take care of me or being stuck at home with me. As an adult, my mother doesn’t believe me if I have a health problem, blames me for getting sick or injured or accuses me of faking it. When I hear someone talking about their awesome family who was there for them during a health crisis, I know that I couldn’t experience the same thing, & it hurts me. It also makes me angry at my mother for being incapable of feelings that any normal mother feels for her child, for seeing nothing wrong with her behavior & instead getting upset with me for being rightfully angry with her. All of this shows me I still need healing in this area. The good part about all of this is the more that you do heal in that area, the less power the triggers will have over you.
Also focus on the here & now. Being well aware of your surroundings can help you to stay focused on that rather than get caught up in a panic attack. This also can help you to stay in reality during a flashback. Touch something with an extreme texture- very soft or coarse fabric, maybe hold an ice cube. Smell something with a strong scent, such as lavender (which also has anti-anxiety properties) or that holds good memories for you, such as the perfume your favorite aunt wore when you were a child.
Write in a journal. Writing can be extremely therapeutic. It also can be validating when you see things in writing rather than speaking about them.
Learn what self-soothing techniques work best to relax you. They should involve at least one of your senses. Soak in a bubble bath, wear soft & comfy clothes, stretch, listen to calming music, listen to nature sounds, sing, drink herbal tea or flavored coffee (decaf is best), light a scented candle or incense, smell some flowers, read a book, watch a funny movie or tv show, look at pictures of those you love or that inspire you.
If you have read much at all about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you have read about the benefits of going no contact. It is often the only solution, as many authors on the topic will feverishly tell you. After all, it’s not like you can reason with someone who refuses to accept any responsibility for their actions. Many times, all you can do is hope to escape the narcissist with your sanity in tact.
Unfortunately though, one thing I have noticed is many people who say that no contact is the only solution fail to mention that is it not a cure all.
Certainly, eliminating an abusive narcissist from your life is beneficial. You no longer have the daily struggles. Without their gaslighting, you can think clearer. Your finances may improve as well, if the narcissist was draining your bank accounts. You finally can focus on yourself & healing. However, without the narcissist in your life, you still will have problems that stem from your time being abused by that peson.
Please believe me, I’m not speaking against no contact. While I believe it is an individual decision & no one should attempt to force anyone into making that decision, I also realize it is usually the best solution. I just think it is very important for people who opt to remove the narcissist from their life to realize that doing so won’t solve all of their problems. Yes, it will improve daily life since they won’t have to deal with new, frustrating, abusive situations, which is fantastic. But, it also won’t solve some things.
No contact doesn’t cure PTSD or C-PTSD. In fact, there is no known cure for either. All you can do is manage the symptoms, which, by the way, can be much easier without a narcissist around!
It also doesn’t stop repressed memories from returning to the forefront of one’s mind sometimes.
It also doesn’t mean you won’t have times of missing the narcissist. They all have something that made you love them. If they didn’t, deciding to go no contact wouldn’t have been a difficult decision at all.
No contact doesn’t mean you won’t think of the narcissist anymore. Whether he or she is a parent, relative, romantic interest or friend, you have shared experiences together. You won’t forget them just because that person is no longer in your life. Birthdays, anniversaries or other special occasions will pop into your memory periodically.
Please don’t lose hope after reading these things! They don’t mean there is something wrong with you or you are irreparably damaged. They simply mean you are a normal person who has been deeply affected by narcissistic abuse.
These things also don’t mean no contact is a bad idea. Like I said, it is often the only solution to an extremely painful & impossible situation. The reason I wanted to share these things with you, Dear Reader, is so you will be prepared if you do opt to go no contact.
Something crossed my mind recently.
People with PTSD/C-PTSD, depression or anxiety that stems from being abused are referred to as having a mental illness, or mental health problems. It occurred to me though that this is, in a way, false.
Yes, C-PTSD/PTSD, depression & anxiety are proof of damage in the brain, so they are in that sense mental disorders. But, such things are also normal reactions to highly abnormal circumstances. The truth is actually that these disorders were brought about by an abusive person determined to hurt you.
Having C-PTSD, PTSD, depression or anxiety aren’t signs that you are weak, a failure, stupid or anything else. They are simply proof that you have been through some traumatic things, & you survived! You are strong!
Rather than being ashamed of yourself for being “mentally ill”, why not instead embrace the fact that you are a normal, mentally healthy person who has been through some terrible things?
I’m not saying embrace your disorder- I doubt anyone could enjoy flashbacks, suicidal thoughts, panic attacks & more. Instead, I’m saying see your disorder as proof of your strength & that you have been through trauma. Not everyone survives being abused. Many victims develop terrible addictions & still others commit suicide. You haven’t done those & should be proud that you haven’t!
Something crossed my mind recently…
I thought about how I dealt with the abuse as it happened to me in my younger days. I didn’t deal with it. For one thing, I didn’t have the time. It was one crisis after another after another for years. I didn’t have time to deal with something before something else happened. For another thing, I grew up thinking I never had any real problems. It didn’t matter how much something hurt me. My pain was never validated, so I believed it was no big deal.
As a result, I went on with life as if nothing happened no matter what trauma I’d just endured. Like, when I was 19 & had my first nervous breakdown. I locked myself in my parents’ bathroom & was catatonic for roughly 5 hours. By the time I came out, I had about one hour to get to work. I was at work on time, & went through my day as if nothing happened, in spite of being tired & feeling very “off.” The prior year, my mother came to my job, screamed at me in the parking lot, humiliating me. When I went back inside, I took a few minutes to relax only because my supervisor told me to, then got back to work. In fact, after both situations, I ended up comforting my now ex husband because he said such situations were hard for him, rather than receiving comfort from him or anyone for that matter.
I used to think these things meant I was strong but I realized something today. I wasn’t strong- I was dysfunctional. True strength would have meant I faced these situations & took care of myself after. Instead, I told myself they were no big deal.
When you are abused by a narcissist, you get a very warped view of all sorts of things, including what true strength is. Pretending things don’t bother you when they do isn’t true strength. It’s merely setting yourself up for these things to manifest in bad ways at a later date.
I’m telling you this today, Dear Reader, because if you feel weak, like so many victims do, because you can’t seem to “get over” the abuse you endured, you need to realize you aren’t weak. Quite the contrary. It takes a lot of strength to face past abuse & trauma. It doesn’t take a lot of strength to ignore it.
It takes a lot of strength to live daily with PTSD or C-PTSD. It’s incredibly difficult living with constant memories of things you wish you could forget but can’t, managing symptoms, pulling yourself out of a panic attack, calming yourself after nightmares or coming back to reality after a flashback. Things things take a great deal of strength.
It also takes a great deal of strength to change, to try to live a healthy life instead of a dysfunctional one. Change can be scary since it’s going into foreign territory. The familiar is comfortable, even when it is painful, so many people find it easier to stay dysfunctional than to change.
Developing new & healthy boundaries is downright terrifying when you haven’t had them before, so setting & enforcing them also takes a tremendous amount of strength. When people who had weak or no boundaries first start to set them, they meet with a LOT of opposition. To press on even though everyone around you is calling you selfish or wondering what happened to that “nice” girl you used to be takes a lot of strength!
So you see, Dear Reader, just how strong you are? Give yourself some credit today. You are so stronger than you give yourself credit for!
Anyone with PTSD or C-PTSD knows about triggers. Triggers are those things that send us rocketing into a flashback or emotional flashback, or at the very least, remind us of some painful trauma we’d just as soon forget about. They also can trigger a panic attack or dissociation.
As painful as triggers can be, they also can serve a good purpose. They can show us the areas in which we need healing.
I have a very hard time going into the neighboring town where my parents live. It is full of awful memories for me, so I avoid the town as much as possible. Going past the library is the worst though. That was where my first job was, & where my mother did some very abusive & hurtful things to me. She once screamed at the top of her lungs at me in the parking lot in front of my now ex husband, the patrons & my coworkers. She humiliated, belittled, shamed & degraded me there too. Repeatedly. When I see the library building, even just driving past it, I either get a panic attack, flashback or dissociate. I’ve done them all. The one time I went inside that library a few years ago, I had to leave immediately because of having a panic attack & flashback at the same time. Naturally, I haven’t gone back to that library since.
One good thing about this is I realize that I need further healing in the area of the things my mother did to me at that library. I have dealt with so many things my mother did to me, but not the events that took place at that library. I know I have repressed some of them, but not all. I need to deal with what I do remember.
Have you ever thought about triggers this way, Dear Reader? As painful as it can be, it is a good thing when you learn about some area where you need further healing. You can’t heal from what you don’t acknowledge, so you need to know what areas you need to work on. Every event you heal from brings you one step closer to wholeness, one step further from the trauma you have endured & fills you with more joy & peace than you had previously. If you can look at triggers as a sign that you need healing in a certain area, they truly can help you.
I recently had an interesting revelation that I’d like to share with you today, Dear Reader.
A friend of mine has PTSD as a result of time in the military. One story he told me was how he was on patrol in the gunner hatch of a humvee, in the lead vehicle, when they were approached by a 12 year old boy carrying a teddy bear. My friend told him to stop, but he wouldn’t. Even firing a warning shot into the air didn’t deter this boy, & my friend had no alternative- he had to shoot the boy. It turns out the boy’s teddy bear contained 6 pounds of explosives- he could’ve killed so many people!
When this story crossed my mind the other night, something else crossed my mind: I’ve been through enough trauma at the hands of narcissists to give me the same disorder as this man who has been through unspeakable trauma.
Wow. Talk about giving a new perspective! It really showed me just how bad the abuse in my life has been.
So many people with PTSD or C-PTSD due to narcissistic abuse tend to trivialize their experiences & I have been one of them. They think it’s not so bad because they weren’t in the military or their narcissist didn’t hit them. They even try to hide their awful symptoms because it’s embarrassing they have the disorder because the abuse “wasn’t so bad.” They think they’re weak for having PTSD or C-PTSD.
Having PTSD/C-PTSD aren’t signs of weakness. They are anything but! They are signs of having experienced trauma so severe, it actually physically broke your brain. They are normal reactions to extremely abnormal circumstances. They are a sign you survived something pretty horrific.
If you live with either PTSD or C-PTSD, please know you have nothing to be embarrassed about. Would you be embarrassed if you got diabetes? Cancer? Then why be embarrassed about having a mental illness? Also, just like you can’t do anything to get a physical illness like cancer, you didn’t do anything to get PTSD/C-PTSD.
If you feel able to, please talk about your experiences with PTSD or C-PTSD or even the abuse you endured. Talking things out is good for you- it helps you to heal. Also, talking about what you live with as a result of the trauma can help to raise awareness of PTSD/C-PTSD. People truly have no idea what it’s really like to live with such an awful mental disorder. They have these crazy, false ideas of what it means to have PTSD/C-PTSD & those ideas need to be eliminated & replaced with the truth!
I would like to encourage you to ask God to show you if He wants you to discuss what has happened to you or the PTSD/C-PTSD, & if so, how. Does He want you to speak to groups? Write a book? Write a blog? There are many ways to raise awareness. Maybe you have a calling to one of those ways.
Today, September 6, the day I’m writing this, was one rough day for me. I’m hoping sharing it here rather than in my private journal can help others. I also hope my writing makes sense- it’s really hard to write when the C-PTSD flares up.
To start with, I woke up first thing in the morning after a restless night full of nightmares I barely remember & repeatedly waking up for no obvious reason. I started out my day very tired, which made concentration harder than usual. It also means my moods are more erratic.
I decided to go to the local craft store for some yarn for a new crochet project. Although I spent 3 days prior out all day & it wore me out beyond description, I thought maybe going for a brief drive & visiting a craft store alone when it’s not busy would be doable. Yea… that sounds good in theory.. in practice though? Not so much. The parking lot was super busy since other stores in the shopping center were packed apparently. Then, the cashier at the craft store was on her first day, so she was confused & learning as she went rather than being fast like the lady who was training her is. UGH.. I wanted out fast & there was no escape! Not one other register was open! I got my yarn & made a mad dash for the parking lot since I felt like the agoraphobia was going to overwhelm me.
After leaving, I went to visit a dear friend. The brief drive shouldn’t have been full of triggers & anxiety, but it was. On the way to her home, I followed a car for a good part of the journey that resembled a car an old boyfriend of mine drove. This ex died in 2014 after killing his boyfriend, then himself, in their home. It was all over the local news at the time & very hard for me to come to terms with for a while after that, since I didn’t realize how he was. The story was a complete shock to me. Seeing this car reminded me of our brief relationship, & how incredibly sad his story was. Also it made me grateful I escaped him unharmed. I have no doubt he would’ve killed me if I’d stayed with him. When I left him, I had NO idea how dysfunctional or dangerous he was. All I knew was he spent hours screaming at me when I broke up with him that evening, telling me I was making a huge mistake, he was a great guy, I’d regret leaving him, I was ruining his life, etc. (Nothing out of the ordinary for me since my mother screamed at me constantly in my last couple of years before moving out of her home.) As a result, I spent many years beating myself up for ruining his life. Learning of his death in 2014, I realized how dysfunctional he was which set me free from that guilt, however, the story was so sad, I still feel pity for him, the man he killed & their families.
There was also a surprising amount of traffic out today & the exhaust fumes made me feel sick, thanks to the over-sensitivity I have to carbon monoxide. Surviving carbon monoxide poisoning can do this to a survior, & frankly, it’s a real nuisance! I got a nasty headache, stomach ache, & I felt woozy after breathing in the fumes that doesn’t want to go away.
I also realized the date on my way to my friend’s house.. September 6. On that day in 1990, I hurt my back at work. Not terribly, but pretty painful. As it was healing, my mother threw me into a wall during an argument which made the pain a thousand times worse. Shortly after, I had to quit working outside my home. My mother never believed my back was injured, & told anyone who would listen how I was so lazy that I was faking the injury so I wouldn’t have to work again. In fact, my doctors even thought I was faking it, & said similar things. I was told so often that I was faking it, I wondered if I really was faking it. Years later I learned people with PTSD often have lower back pain with no known physical cause- you’d think a doctor back then would’ve sent me to a counselor, but no one did. Instead they shamed me for being lazy. The memories of that experience made me angry.
Thinking of how my mother responded to my back pain triggered other intrusive memories I really don’t want to have. For one, about a year ago, my mother called one day & said my father told her my ex husband hit me. She said she had no idea, & if she’d have known, she would’ve called a lawyer about this & straightened it out! The fact is she did know- she blamed me for making him hit me right after it happened. She saw the bruises I wore- the most obvious injury was the shape of his hands were on my wrists in the form of bruises. It was just one more time she didn’t care about my pain. Other memories intruded my mind, against my will & I was unable to push them away. They reminded me of many painful times that my parents have abused me & I was supposed to tolerate it all quietly, with a smile, including our most recent fight in May & how they have quit speaking to me since then, even though they were in the wrong. I was angry & sad all at once remembering these things.
Did I mention I’m still having difficulty grieving the loss of my 2 cats since May? Grief seems to magnify other issues, making them even more challenging than usual to deal with.
This awful, miserable day meant I had to hold in my tears or anger until I was alone since no one was responsible for the emotions. It’s just a part of the disorder & no one I was around today should be forced to feel bad for making me cry or making me angry.
I’ve also reviewed this post at least 10 times to make sure my writing makes sense, because making sense is so hard to do when the C-PTSD flares up.
This is typical of a day in the life of someone with C-PTSD or PTSD. Any little thing can trigger thoughts that they don’t want to have yet are helpless to prevent. Mood swings & anger &/or depression can be triggered easily too. To be honest, it’s sheer hell to live with.
PTSD or C-PTSD are not a result thinking too negatively. They aren’t wallowing in the past or looking for pity. They aren’t playing some “poor me” card, looking for attention or pity. They mean someone has experienced such trauma in their lives, it literally broke parts of their brain. They are serious mental disorders with symptoms that can easily be out of control. They mean the person who is sick has good days & bad days. On good days, it may seem like the patient is totally fine. That isn’t the truth however. On good days, this usually means the patient is just better at hiding his/her symptoms than on other days.
I’m not explaining this because I want pity. I’m putting it out there because I know many people who read my work live with PTSD or C-PTSD, & can’t always explain it to other people in their life. I’m hoping this will help those people relate to my crappy day. Maybe they will now be able to explain to their counselors or their friends & family just how triggering & difficult a typical day with PTSD or C-PTSD can be. Sure, my specific circumstances may be different, but I’m sure the basics are the same- agoraphobia, unexpected triggers, & intrusive thoughts & wicked mood swings. Please know, Dear Readers, I pray for you daily. Living with PTSD or C-PTSD is horrible, & I pray for God to heal you & until He does, show you how to live with the awful symptoms.
Also, you’re not alone! You’re not crazy! There are so many of us who live with these symptoms due to traumatic experiences. Having PTSD/C-PTSD doesn’t make you weak or a failure or any other ridiculous thing you’ve been told. It’s a sign you reacted normally to very abnormal circumstances.
Human beings aren’t the only ones who can suffer from mental illness. Animals can as well.
Contrary to what many people seem to think, animals have emotions like people do, & even process them much the same way as humans. This means that animals can develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, following trauma.
Unfortunately for animals, they can’t verbalize their pain. You have to observe your pet to figure out if they have PTSD, & it can be tricky to identify.
My 2 year old cat, Punkin, has Feline PTSD. When he arrived in our home at 3 months old, I had no idea of this fact. All I knew was he showed up on the deck of the neighbor of my friend’s friend, & he was in need of a home. He was immediately friendly with the other cats, & seemed indifferent towards our dog, Dixie. A few months later, Punkin attacked Dixie out of the blue. My husband & I hollered at him immediately. He stopped, looking completely baffled, then ran away & hid. Thankfully Dixie didn’t even have a scratch, but she was visibly shaken, understandably so! My husband was mad at Punkin, but I realized he looked like I felt during a flashback. Once Punkin calmed down & apologized to Dixie (looking sheepishly at her & trying to be nice to her), I did some research & learned that yes, animals can have PTSD. I realized some signs to look for, at least in cats, but probably they are much the same in other animals:
- Kitty has been exposed to trauma. The lady who gave Punkin to me never knew of any trauma, & certainly there hasn’t been any since he’s been living with me. But, his attacking Dixie tells me he’s been through some terrifying experience with a dog before coming to me.
- Kitty avoids things that remind him of the trauma. For quite some time Punkin avoided Dixie. He wouldn’t even walk past her or nap on the bed or sofa if she was napping there.
- Heightened startle reflex. If your cat doesn’t see you’re going to touch him, he may jump drastically when you make contact. He can be very skittish.
- Sudden loud noises (for example, dropping a pan) upset your pet.
- Kitty can appear agitated or uneasy sometimes.
- Flashbacks. These can be harder to spot. Punkin looks different when it happens. He turns vicious (he’s normally very gentle, sweet & loving) for a very short time, then looks confused, & then runs & hides. After, he is skittish for a while.
- Kitty can respond disproportionately to what is happening. For example, someone suddenly picking up the cat startles the cat, who scratches &/or hisses. This behavior may trigger memory of the traumatic event.
After realizing what was going on with Punkin, I had to pray to figure out how to handle this problem. It’s not like I could take Punkin to a therapist, & he could discuss his feelings. As far as I know, veterinary medicine doesn’t even acknowledge PTSD in animals, so even a vet check up wouldn’t help. Thankfully God showed me some things.
- I pray for him. PTSD is nothing to take lightly, whether it’s in a human or animal. Although Punkin is doing very well most days, he has his bad days too. I pray for him on bad days as well as try to make him feel better if he’s open to it by offering extra love, playing or treats.
- I follow Punkin’s lead. If he wants to be left alone after a flashback, I leave him alone while keeping an eye on him from a distance to be sure he is OK. When he’s feeling playful or loving, I go with it. If he doesn’t want snuggles, I don’t snuggle him.
- If Punkin does something that warrants correction, I don’t holler at him, since noise upsets him. Instead, I say his name & tell him to stop it in a slightly louder than normal volume, but using a stern voice. He gets the point without aggravating that startle reflex.
- I try to keep life as consistent as possible. (Since I have Complex PTSD, it benefits me too.) I have a routine that rarely changes much. This helps Punkin know what to expect. It helps him to feel safe & secure.
- I give Punkin a lot of love & reassurance. He has no doubt he is loved & safe.
- We’re very blessed with Dixie- she has been a great help with Punkin learning to trust her. He sniffs her sometimes, as cats do, & she stays perfectly still, allowing him to sniff as much or as little as he likes. She’s never aggressive with him, which has helped him see that not all dogs are mean. She instinctively knows what he needs from her. As a result of efforts on both his & her parts, they are now on civil terms. In fact, sometimes he actually gives her a little love.
Not everyone realizes the differences between flashbacks & repressed memories returning, so I thought today I would explain them.
Repressed memories are memories of events so traumatic, you were unable to deal with them at the time they happened. To cope, almost immediately, you unconsciously pushed it to the dark recesses of your mind, & forgot about it. Then some time later (could be months, could be years later), something triggered a reminder of the event. The trigger could be anything- a facial expression, a scent, the sight of something that resembles an item that was there when the event happened or a sound. When the trigger forces the memory back to your conscious mind, suddenly you remember what happened. It feels the same as remembering anything else you forgot in the sense that you are well aware it is simply a memory.
Flashbacks are quite different. Flashbacks aren’t necessarily something you forgot. You may or may not remember the event before the flashback. The main difference between repressed memories & flashbacks is flashbacks feel like you’re reliving the event. For me, this is what makes flashbacks so much worse than repressed memories- the feeling of reliving a traumatic event while trying to stay in reality. Flashbacks can be triggered by something, such as the soldier who has flashbacks when he hears fireworks, but sometimes they simply happen without an obvious trigger. Also different than repressed memories are the physical symptoms that can accompany flashbacks, such as elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, sweating or chills, & trembling. My husband has seen me have flashbacks many times, & even so, he can’t always tell when it happens. I tend to get very quiet & still. Sometimes I cry, sometimes not. Flashbacks aren’t always obvious to those witnessing someone have them. Not everyone having a flashback is vocal or shows obvious physical signs when they happen.
If you’re having a flashback, it is vital for you to know how to ground yourself so you stay in reality rather than get lost in the awful memory, which obviously is different than having a repressed memory return to the forefront of your mind. Grounding techniques basically assault your senses, which forces your mind to focus on them instead of the flashback. Touching something with an extreme texture such as a soft fuzzy blanket, silk or even burlap can help. Some people swear by holding ice cubes or stomping their feet hard on the ground. Smelling something with a strong scent can help too. Lavender is good because not only is it strong, it has anti-anxiety properties. A strongly scented cologne, perfume or soap can help.
I’ve found that pets can be very helpful while having a flashback, even if they aren’t specifically trained to be service animals. While taking my cat, Sabrina, to the vet when she was a baby, I drove us past a place I used to work when I was a teenager. Looking at the building, I immediately had a flashback to a time when my mother screamed at & berated me in the parking lot. (Thankfully, I was stopping at a red light when it began- I can’t imagine having to deal with a flashback while driving!) As I sat there & tried to ground myself, Sabrina reached over & scratched my hand. Not bad, but it was enough to jolt me out of the flashback. She’s never scratched me before or since, but I’m grateful she did that day. Her brother, Zippy, will get in my face & head bonk me to get my attention. Neither are trained service animals, but they instinctively know what their mommy needs.
Most people have heard of flashbacks, where you feel as if you are reliving a traumatic event. It can be so difficult to tell reality from the awful memory during a flashback. They are horrible, & I wouldn’t wish them on anyone.
But, this isn’t the only type of flashback. Emotional flashbacks happen too. They are when something triggers an overwhelming feeling in you. For example- being late makes me feel tremendous anxiety & shame. My mother would get me to high school at the last possible moment to show me she was in charge, telling me how lucky I was she would do this or anything at all for me, considering how awful I treated her. It’s been almost 30 years since she did this yet anxiety & shame still kick into overdrive if I’m running late.
Other examples of emotional flashbacks are things like believing if you make a mistake it makes you bad or feeling shame if someone disagrees with you, or doesn’t like something you like.
There is also such a thing as a sensory flashback. Sensory flashbacks are brought on by something that affects the senses. For example, smelling a certain perfume or seeing a style of clothing like your narcissistic mother wore creates terrible anxiety in you.
Emotional & sensory flashbacks can be managed with the same methods used to manage regular flashbacks. Grounding techniques can help you to get through it. Use something to stimulate the senses, such as smelling something with a very strong scent, or touch something with a very coarse texture or even hold an ice cube. Something that strongly stimulates at least one of your senses will force your mind to take notice, & help to loosen the flashback’s hold on you, keeping you in reality. And, once it’s done, don’t forget to take care of yourself while you recover. Flashbacks, even mild ones, can take a lot out of you. You need to rest & pamper yourself to recover afterwards.
Although flashbacks can be extremely painful to experience, they also can be beneficial. They show you what areas you need healing in. I encourage you to try to use that awful flashback to help you in this way. As you feel strong enough, face whatever issue came up & cope with it the best you can. Pray- ask God to help you to heal. Learn about ways to forgive your abuser, because you deserve to be happy, without carrying around anger or bitterness. Learn ways to take care of yourself, to be the nurturer you never had.
So many who grew up in happy homes tell those of us who didn’t that we can’t blame our abusive parents forever. We have to take responsibility for ourselves one of these days!
While this sounds good, I have an issue with it.
Parents are responsible for raising their children. Some do a wonderful job, putting a great deal of time & effort into making sure their children grow up happy, healthy & loved. Other parents aren’t so good. They tear down their child rather than build her up. They expect their child to take care of them, rather than taking care of her as God intended. They are so self-absorbed that they have no time or energy to devote to their child. Some may not even meet the child’s basic needs such as food, clothing or shelter. Others may use their child to meet their needs, & take their anger out on the child or sexually abuse her. When parents behave in such ways, that child will grow up scarred, either physically or emotionally or both.
Abused children grow up with problems. Some have lifelong injuries because of the physical or sexual abuse they survived at the hand of their parents. Some have addictions due to their desire to escape the pain inside caused by their upbringing. And often, many have PTSD or C-PTSD.
How can you not blame your abusive parent as long as you have such problems because of that abusive parent, especially when those problems interfere with your daily life even years later?!
I firmly believe that the abusive parent deserves 100% of the blame for the problems that he or she caused. No one can do anything to deserve being abused! Abusing is the responsibility of the abuser, never the victim.
That being said, the victim does have some responsibility.
It is the victim’s responsibility to heal as best she can from the abuse she endured. It is up to the victim to seek help, to research or do whatever she needs to heal. While some problems may be lifelong such as PTSD or C-PTSD, she certainly can learn ways to manage her symptoms.
It is also the victim’s responsibility to be sure that she doesn’t repeat the familiar patterns of abuse. Sometimes those who were abused as children become abusers. I don’t understand how this works exactly, but it is a pretty common phenomenon. It is up to the victim not to allow this to happen!
It is up to the victim to learn & grow as a person, rather than stay the stifled person she was raised to be. It is her responsibility to become the person God wants her to be, even when it clashes with what her abusive parents wanted her to become.
It is also the victim’s responsibility to forgive her abuser. Mark 11:25 says, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (ESV) I know it is hard to forgive others, especially when they deliberately hurt you. I know they don’t deserve your forgiveness. However, I also know that you deserve better than to carry around bitterness & anger inside of you! Don’t get me wrong- I don’t mean you need to forgive & forget. That only sets you up for further abuse. I am saying that you can, in time & with God’s help, release the anger you feel inside. You will be so much happier for it! Your health will benefit too, as repressed anger can create a myriad of physical & emotional health problems such as high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, heart problems, kidney problems & more.
Lastly, I believe it is also the victim’s responsibility to educate others & help to raise awareness. For example, many people have heard the term narcissistic abuse, but do they really know what it means? Probably not, so why not start a blog on the topic? Write about your experiences or what you are learning as you heal. If you wish, do so using a false name. Writing the truth using your real name can be a scary prospect since you wonder if the abuser will learn about your writing. I know- it honestly makes me very anxious sometimes that my parents will learn what I write about (as it is, they don’t have a computer, but they do have flying monkey relatives who do). If you don’t feel confident in writing a blog, then what about checking into laws on the kind of abuse you endured? Do you see where the laws need changing? Then look into changing those laws! Start petitions or create a website on the topic. There are plenty of ways you can make your painful experiences count for something!
As mentioned in my previous blog post, agoraphobia is a part of anxiety. It is the fear of public places. It commonly accompanies PTSD & C-PTSD.
And to put it bluntly, it sucks!
I have a hard time going out with someone, but alone is an extremely nerve-wracking prospect. It’s been very challenging trying to come up with ways to cope. I have found a couple of things that help some, so I thought I would share them with you today in the hopes they help you as well.
Valerian root is an herb with anxiety combating properties. Taking a pill before going out can be quite helpful. It may not make you super calm, but it does help to take a great deal of the edge off. If you haven’t tried it before, you’d be best trying it on a day when you don’t have to drive. Normally one pill won’t make you sleepy, but there is a chance it may. Not something you want to deal with behind the wheel! I have found one pill about every 12 hours can help with anxiety, but more than that puts me to sleep unless my anxiety levels are exceptionally bad. Many people are the same way, so just be forewarned you may be as well. Valerian root capsules are readily available in some stores that sell vitamins & herbal supplements as well as online. It’s usually quite inexpensive too. Also be sure to follow the dosing on the bottle, as manufacturers sometimes make different strengths. If you’re taking other medicines, it would be a good idea to check with your doctor to make sure it won’t interact with valerian.
I also make sure to go out during quieter times. The middle of the afternoon during a Tuesday is often a time stores are less crowded. Early Tuesday or Wednesday morning for DMV. Also, off times also mean less traffic- an added bonus!
I like to reward myself with a little something when I’ve had to go out. A milkshake, a new bottle of nail polish, or something similar can help motivate me to do what needs done.
If I’m able, I try to either go out with someone or meet someone. Even if I go to lunch with someone then do the errands I need to do, it helps because I had some fun.
Motivational thoughts can help some too. Things like,
- The sooner I get this trip done, the sooner I can come home & relax.
- Once this trip is done, I can do something I enjoy- watch that movie I’ve been wanting to see, do a manicure, snuggle the furkids, etc.
- I also try to focus on something positive, like I am grateful I have this wonderful car to drive, & I am able to go out without having to rely on someone to take me out.
I hope these tips help you to better manage living with agoraphobia!
Agoraphobia can be a crippling phobia. It is a part of anxiety, & is common among those with PTSD & C-PTSD. Agoraphobia is a fear of public places. In fact, some people are even afraid to step outside the door of their own home.
I developed it in 1996 when my paternal grandmom died. When my husband told his mother then later his sister of my loss, both completely ignored the news, changing the subject back to themselves. Something in their reactions made me think that I do not matter. Nothing about me is worth acknowledging, & I shouldn’t bother anyone with my problems or even my presence. Granted, this wasn’t new- growing up with a narcissistic mother certainly made me feel that way. However, God showed me that their lack of acknowledging my loss cemented such awful, dysfunctional beliefs in me, & made me believe I shouldn’t even bother people with my presence. Then, developing C-PTSD in 2012 made the agoraphobia even worse.
Not everyone develops it in a way like I did. Some people develop this nasty phobia along with C-PTSD or PTSD. No matter how it starts, anyone with agoraphobia knows it is extremely challenging to live with. It strips you of your independence. It devastates your self-esteem since you feel crazy or useless by not being able to go out as you once did. You feel like a burden because you need people to go with you or do your grocery shopping for you.
If this describes you, please know that you are not alone, Dear Reader. Many people, especially those who have been subjected to narcissistic abuse, suffer with agoraphobia. It doesn’t mean you’re crazy or useless or even a burden. It means you have been through some bad things that made you sick. I’m sure you don’t feel that is the case, but truly it is! You are fine- you simply have a problem resulting from trauma.
Tomorrow’s post will offer some suggestions I have found for coping with agoraphobia when you simply must leave home.
Trauma actually can cause physical changes in the brain. That is why PTSD & C-PTSD happen- the brain is actually broken due to traumatic experiences. The physical damage to the brain causes the awful symptoms of both disorders.
However, I don’t believe you have to have an actual disorder to be changed by trauma.
I have C-PTSD, but the symptoms didn’t fully manifest until the spring of 2012. Prior to that, I have experienced many traumas, & I realized I changed after several of them, long before the C-PTSD.
In 2010, my house was hit by lightening while my husband & I were at a friend’s wedding reception. When we came home we learned a window unit air conditioner had been hit, & caught fire, but somehow the fire went out. The neighbor’s tree beside our driveway, where my car sits, was hit, as was their brick chimney. There were large limbs & bricks surrounding my car, but nothing touched my car. Coming so close to losing my car, furkids & home was extremely traumatic. It made me appreciate them all even more. I constantly snuggle & tell the furkids how much I love them now (sometimes to their disappointment..lol). Cleaning my home & car also aren’t as big of a nuisance as they once were.
Shortly after the lightening incident, upon leaving a store, my shoe got caught on the curb & flung me into oncoming traffic. Thankfully I was only sore & embarrassed, but that oncoming truck that came within inches of hitting me scared me! It made me realize that life can change or even end in an instant. Since then, I take better care of my mental health now instead of ignoring when the C-PTSD flares up. I am less rigid in my routines, opting to do fun things whenever the opportunities arise. I also constantly reevaluate things in my life & am much more open to making changes than I was.
Things like what I have experienced are normal. Trauma is so dramatic, how can it not change you in some way?
The changes may not be as drastic as mine have been. Sometimes, it’s small changes. For example, since I developed C-PTSD, I am not as interested in knitting & crocheting as I had been. I loved doing both ever since I was five years old, so suddenly losing interest has been very strange to say the least.
Have you changed as a result of trauma? If so, you are completely normal! It’s ok! These changes may simply be a part of the new you. Why not embrace the changes? You may discover new interests or a renewed passion for an old one. You may have a new appreciation for the people, pets or even things in your life. You may wish to end old relationships that aren’t beneficial to you or the other person, & that too is fine. It may be a good thing. Maybe it’s time for a fresh start. You also may change often, your likes or dislikes changing frequently.
I encourage you to pray if you are unsure of or uncomfortable with the changes happening to you. God will reassure you of what is fine & let you know if something is wrong.
Many of us who survived narcissistic abuse have trouble with being sick or injured. We repeatedly have heard statements like, “Others have it worse so you should stop complaining!” “That’s no big deal. What I have is so much worse!” “You have a bad back? It’s nothing compared to mine..” These kind of things sink in.
As I’ve mentioned here before, last February, I got sick with carbon monoxide poisoning & when I passed out, hit my head, resulting in a concussion. Since that time, I haven’t fully recovered, & may never do so. In spite of that knowledge & the symptoms I live with on a daily basis, there have been plenty of times I wonder if I’m faking it. My husband was floored when I told him that, & he said it’s impossible- I even look different when the symptoms are really bad & I can’t fake that look.
I firmly believe my irrational behavior is a direct result of being raised by a narcissistic mother.
As a child, I rarely saw a doctor or dentist, not even when I experienced anorexia when I was around 10 years old. Fevers didn’t mean anything, I was fine according to my mother. She made sure I knew it was hard on her if I had a problem. Mother’s Day, 1986- I was on crutches & my father had hurt his back. She has complained since that she had to sacrifice her Mother’s Day waiting on us hand & foot, it was such a hard time for her. As an adult, any problem I have, she doesn’t believe. I have had arthritis in my knees since 2002. I told my father that was why I couldn’t do more to help my parents out sometimes around their home. He told my mother & her response was to call me later & ask if that was even true. Have I even seen a doctor? Did she say I need a knee replacement? That’s all I need- to get my knees replaced, it’s no big deal. For 10 years I lived with back pain she caused, yet she accused me of faking. She would slap me in the back or hand me something heavy every time she saw me.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? If so, please know I understand your pain & frustration & that you are ok! This is a normal reaction to an abnormal lack of empathy.
I know it is maddening when you are raised this way & as an adult, you don’t even believe yourself that you are sick or injured. The doctor said you have a problem or you feel the pain, so why do you doubt it? Then add in feeling that you don’t deserve to take it easy when you need to because someone else has it worse, & you really feel awful.
It’s time to start rejecting what the narcissist says. Remember, they say nothing to help others- everything they say & do is about themselves. Your narcissistic mother accuses you of faking your illness? That’s because she is projecting her bad actions onto you. She’s faked an illness before. She says what you’re experiencing is no big deal? It’s because she doesn’t want to be bothered with your problems, because it doesn’t provide her with the coveted narcissistic supply.
Trust the symptoms are real. How could you fake them anyway?! You aren’t doing this for attention or sympathy! Narcissists do that, not normal, mentally stable people.
Another helpful tip is to read about the disorder or disease you have. It helps make it more real. Once I read about Edgar Allan Poe’s experiences with carbon monoxide poisoning, it helped me tremendously! I realized that someone else felt the exact same way I did, I wasn’t crazy & I wasn’t making anything up!
While you are coming to accept what is happening, also don’t forget to ask God to heal you as well. He wants you to be happy & healthy! Allow Him to do that for you!
The other day, I went out with an old friend for an afternoon of lunch & shopping. It was a perfectly lovely day full of lots of fun & laughs.
For a normal person, this would be all there is to the story. I, however, am not normal, thanks to C-PTSD.
Driving to my friend’s home was nerve wracking. I was unable to drive much for about 18 months for various reasons, then add in the concussion I endured last February that has warped some of my perception, & I feel like I’m learning to drive all over again. Plus, being out in public makes me anxious, thanks to the agoraphobia. I also don’t do change in my regular routine well. And, the concussion made my already high anxiety levels worse & harder to control. All of these factors made my anxiety level really, really high.
After getting home, my husband asked how the afternoon went, & I told him all about it, including my awful anxiety. He told me he was proud of me for not only doing this but managing to enjoy myself in spite of the anxiety. I should have said “thank you” & gone on with my day, but ohhh noooo. I said, “I just did what anyone can do- I’m just the one stupid enough to have problems doing it.”
I realized two things as soon as I said those words…
- I blame myself for way too much that is beyond my control.
- I really don’t talk nicely to myself. In fact, I’m downright verbally abusive.
These issues need addressing, & I’m sure if I need to address them, other adult children of narcissistic parents do as well. So in this post, we’ll address self blame & the next one, how to talk to oneself.
Growing up with my narcissistic parents, I learned that I was responsible for pretty much everything. When my parents would fight, if I wasn’t in the same room, sometimes they would come into the room where I was so I could stop the fight. Both would talk to me about the other & the problems in their marriage (they still do today & I try to avoid it). If I had any problems with a friend, my mother always told me “to have a friend, you have to be one.” Basically she meant I wasn’t doing enough to make the friendship work. It was all my responsibility & the other person had zero responsibility. I was solely responsible for my grades in school- I wasn’t reminded to do my homework & not helped study once I got out of elementary school.
God showed me that being so overly responsible for pretty much everything led to me believing that if something is wrong, it’s my fault. I feel that I should’ve done something to prevent that, I should fix the damage, etc.
Plus my mother openly blames me for things that are beyond my control. For example, a few years ago, I got the flu 3 times in one winter. It’s never happened before or since. I assume it was because I was so stressed that winter that my immune system was very compromised. My mother, however, said I deserved it because I didn’t get a flu shot. A little over a year ago, I was helping my husband split wood with the wood splitter. A large log slipped from his grip, landing on & breaking my big toe. I tried to move but wasn’t fast enough. My mother said it was my fault for not being more careful.
Such abusive behavior towards me cemented the false belief in me that most things are my fault, even things beyond my control. Yesterday was proof of that.
I realized just how ridiculous this is. Not one thing about my anxiety being so bad was my fault, & I need to not take responsibility for it. So many other things aren’t my fault either that I have taken responsibility for.
Does this sound familiar to you? If so, it’s time for you to make changes too!
Since this is new territory for me I’m honestly not entirely sure how to go about it. I have some ideas that I believe should work though..
I plan to ask God to help me have a more appropriate sense of responsibility. Call my attention to blaming myself when it’s not my fault. Help me to assign blame to the one who is really responsible.
If I catch myself blaming myself, I think it’s a good idea to ask God if this is truly my fault. Should I accept responsibility for it or not? If not, please help me to shake feeling responsible for it.
And, when my mother (or anyone really) starts blaming me for something I know isn’t my fault, I will refuse to accept that blame. Whether that means standing up to the person or simply telling myself that I’m not to blame or both, I need to do it.
I hope these suggestions help you, Dear Reader. If you have any others, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to write in the comments or email me privately at CynthiaBaileyRug@aol.com
In case you don’t know, intrusive thoughts are thoughts that shove their way into your mind & are often impossible to get rid of. They are very common with PTSD & C-PTSD. In my experience, a brain injury combined with C-PTSD made them even worse. Yay me..
A few minutes ago, I had yet another experience with intrusive thoughts. My newest cat, Minnie Rose, is named after my great grandmom, who I absolutely adore. She passed when I was 11, but I still have many fond memories of her, some of which replayed in my mind when Minnie Rose walked into the room with me. Suddenly, I remembered that my parents never asked if I was ok or offered comfort when she died. My granddad held me & let me cry at her viewing, & that was the only comfort or love I was shown regarding her passing. I began to get angry that my parents didn’t care that I was grieving or even talk to me about her death. I decided to get on facebook & distract myself for a little while as I really didn’t feel like dealing with this anger right now. Even a short break so I could finish my housework in peace would have been nice. That was a bad idea. The “today’s memories” feature popped up & in there was a link to this old blog post. Remembering how cruel my mother was to me last year at this time was very painful.
So now, I’m sitting here pretty pissed off. Fun times… Not.
This type of thing has happened enough times that I’m used to it. I also have learned how to handle it in a way that works for me, & I want to share it in the hopes they will work for you as well.
I have yet to find a way to stop intrusive thoughts. They seem to have a mind of their own. Also, I’ve noticed when I try, often something else happens that pretty much forces me to deal with what is on my mind. This has shown me that intrusive thoughts have a purpose. They serve as a reminder to say, “Now is the time to deal with this! Get alone, get quiet & get with God so you can do it.” This is actually a good thing, even though it doesn’t feel like it at the time. (Apparently for me they also can serve as fodder for blog entries..lol)
When I can get alone, quiet & with God, I tell Him how I feel. I let it out, all the anger & ugliness. In return, He comforts me. Sometimes (well, often..) I don’t feel like saying things out loud, so instead of talking to Him, I write in my journal as if I am talking to Him. Either way, God does the same thing- helps me to get rid of the anger &/or hurt & comforts & often heals me from that painful incident. It’s really that simple. Healing isn’t always complicated. Sometimes you just need to get your feelings out, be validated & receive some comfort in return.
Sometimes, I also ask God to tell me the truth about what happened. Was it right? Did I deserve it? His answers are always amazing! When God tells you that you didn’t deserve to be abused, you can’t help but believe it! I’ve often sensed His anger at the injustice of the experience I went through, which also, believe it or not, is very healing. It validates the fact that you were done wrong, very wrong.
Another thing I have noticed is that doing this may help you to release some anger, but acquire a new anger. A righteous anger. I know this can be difficult for victims of narcissistic abuse, because we were never allowed to be angry. Often we carry that dysfunction well into adulthood. And, as a Christian, many folks misunderstand anger. They often believe you should forgive & forget, anger is from the devil, & shamed if you feel any anger no matter the situation. We often feel wrong & ashamed if we feel any anger, so we try to ignore it. I want to tell you today, Dear Reader, that there is absolutely nothing wrong with righteous anger! Remember Jesus in the temple, overturning tables & freeing sellers’ livestock for sale? That was righteous anger. People were doing something offensive to God, & that enraged Him, as it should have! Abuse is also offensive to God- why shouldn’t anyone be enraged by that?!
Righteous anger has its place. It lets you know that something is very wrong & change needs to happen. It also motivates you to make that change by stirring up your emotions. I have only recently learned to embrace righteous anger. It has helped me when I have to deal with my parents & their abusive, dysfunctional behavior. Realizing that they expect me to behave as they want after how horribly they have treated me makes me angry with that righteous anger. That anger gives me the strength to be firm in my boundaries & not tolerate things I would have tolerated without that anger.
In conclusion, I know intrusive thoughts are painful, upsetting & disturbing, but please be encouraged, Dear Reader. They do have a purpose! Dealing with them as quickly as possible will help you to heal & grow stronger.
Also, when you are done dealing with your intrusive thoughts, don’t forget to take care of yourself! Emotional work is so exhausting. Be gentle with yourself. Pamper yourself. You’ve earned it!
And now, I’m off to write in my journal then take a relaxing, long shower & goof off for the rest of my day…
I was reading something this morning by someone with PTSD. She was discussing the limitations she has gotten as a result of the awful disorder. I found one thing especially interesting about what she said. She said rather than getting depressed about these changes, she has chosen to celebrate them, to look at them as a gift.
While this sounds good in theory, I was thinking about it. I’ve had C-PTSD since 2012 (well, that’s when all the symptoms started- I had many of them all my life), then in February, 2015, I got carbon monoxide poisoning & passed out from it resulting in a concussion which has caused still more damage to my brain. There is a lot I can’t do like I once did. I can’t read books without getting a headache & anxiety. I can’t write easily- it takes much longer to write anything, even a short email, let alone a book. My short term memory is awful, & learning new things is extremely difficult. Loud noises are a problem too, including music, which means I can no longer drive around with my radio blaring- one of my favorite activities. I now have mild dyslexia & chemical sensitivities. I also get tired very quickly & my personality is quite different.
I’m not really feeling like these things are a gift. I’m going to go out on a limb here & guess that others with PTSD, C-PTSD or other problems with similar symptoms due to traumatic brain injuries don’t feel it either.
While I’m not saying you should wallow in misery for what you have lost, I think it is a good idea to be realistic. In my experience, I have learned to grieve, then accept the changes. It’s painful losing so much of yourself, how can you not grieve that?! Grieving also clears the way for acceptance, in time, as it is the final stage of grief.
Allow yourself to feel sad that you have new limitations. You have lost a part of what makes you, you. You are allowed to feel sad for that! Angry too! In time, you will feel less & less sad & angry. Then you will be more ready to accept these limitations & get to know the new you.
As you’re getting to know the new you, remember to treat yourself gently. There may be times you feel strong & brave- push yourself as best you can during those times. Other times, you feel weakened for various reasons, & need to relax. Just do what you can do & don’t worry about the rest! I know, easier said than done, but try it anyway. Pushing too hard does you no justice. It can make you sick. When I have pushed myself too hard, there have been times I’ve needed to rest in bed for a day or two to recover.
Also, I am still trying to look at getting to know the new me as something enjoyable. Like, getting to know a new friend. That perspective helps some too.
Dear Reader, be gentle with yourself. If you have C-PTSD, PTSD or a TBI, you obviously have been through some bad, bad things! Although you are obviously stronger than what tried to hurt or even kill you, you aren’t quite as strong as you once were. It’s ok! It’s normal, considering the circumstances. Just remember that you aren’t quite as able to handle things like you once could, & adapt to that. And, don’t forget- with God, all things are possible. And, He loves you & wants you healed. Don’t forget to pray for healing too!
In talking with a lady I just met about her traumatic brain injury, I realized we share something else in common. We both feel the need to hide our injuries & apologize for whatever symptoms we can’t hide.
I think this is a very common phenomenon for adult children of narcissistic parents to apologize for their issues as well as those with the so-called “invisible illnesses” such as mental illness, fibromyalgia, & arthritis.
Why is that? Why would anyone feel the need to apologize for things that are beyond their control? I think there are a couple of potential reasons.
One reason is people are often uncomfortable with unpleasant things. They often respond inappropriately & without empathy. They may make jokes in an attempt to lighten the mood or change the subject, but whether they intend it or not, it feels as if they are making fun of your illness or troubles. It’s impossible to feel safe with people who do that, & often easier to hide your symptoms or apologize for the ones you can’t hide in an attempt to pretend you don’t have the problem.
Another reason is so many people seem to think if you don’t have obvious, glaring symptoms like a 5 pound tumor on your face, you can’t be too bad off or you’re faking your problem. For example, I had awful back problems for 10 years after my mother threw me into a wall when I was 19. I had better days sometimes where I could deal with the pain enough to wash my car or do other somewhat physical things. Since I could do things sometimes, people thought I was faking my injury. I learned quickly it was easiest to hide my pain rather than hear the nasty comments.
Many illnesses don’t affect your appearance, & if you don’t look obviously sick, many people assume you don’t have a problem. I’ve experienced carbon monoxide poisoning which gave me plenty of lasting problems, but if you look at me, I look healthy. You’d never know that I live with symptoms of it daily if you spend only a short amount of time with me. Any time though reveals I stumble over words when speaking, have virtually no short term memory & get very tired, very easily. When that happens, sometimes people insult me saying I’m old or dumb. It’s easier for me to hide the symptoms or apologize if they show up.
Mental illness is its own special entity. So many people believe having a mental illness means you’re weak. You need to pick yourself up by your bootstraps! Shake it off! Let it go! Stop wallowing in the past! If you just did those things, you would be fine. They fail to realize many mental illnesses are exactly that- illness. You can’t just shake off illness. Your brain is actually broken. Many people refuse to believe this, unfortunately, which means it’s easier to hide your symptoms than to risk showing any & hearing about how weak you are.
And still other people who have experienced their own life threatening illness seem to think if you haven’t experienced what they have, you haven’t got a problem. I knew 2 ladies who both went through cancer several times each. One had a generous, loving heart, & understood that although cancer was terrible, there were other serious problems in the world. The other, however, whatever your problem, she would tell you (or at the least imply) to be glad you didn’t have cancer, as if it was the only real problem or real illness anyone could have & nothing else mattered.
I know these types of situation are painful, & wanting to hide or apologize for your symptoms is a very natural reaction. But I want to encourage you today, Dear Reader, to stop doing that like I am going to try to do. Your illness or its symptoms are nothing to be ashamed of. You have nothing to apologize for, either. The person who makes you feel that way is definitely the one with the problem, not you.
While I’m encouraging you to stop hiding your symptoms, I also would encourage you to have balance in what you discuss. People who discuss mostly one topic, in particular the awful disease or disorder they suffer with, tend to put off others, even those with great empathy. It can be frustrating for a person who wants to have a relaxing conversation or even look for support regarding their problems to be forced to listen to someone who drones on & on about their condition every single time they speak. It’s not good for either person. The listener gets frustrated, may say hurtful things in their frustration or even end the relationship. The talker is so focused on something negative (their disease or disorder) that they ignore the more positive, good parts of life, which can lead to depression. The talker also ends up hurt because they feel rejected when the listener is obviously tired of hearing about their condition.
Lately I’ve seen memes & statuses on facebook stating basically the same thing- that no matter what horrible thing you have experienced, you should be grateful for it because it made you who you are today. Frankly, it’s getting on my final nerve…lol
How can anyone be grateful for being a victim of narcissistic abuse, beaten daily by a spouse, being in a car wreck, losing their home to a fire or even a nasty mother in-law?! I can’t fathom that.
I’ve been a victim of narcissistic abuse & other types of abuse by several people. I’ve been physically abused. I’ve been in a car & a motorcycle accident. I even have a nasty mother in-law who has hated me from the day we met, before I was even dating her son. I’m not even close to grateful for going through any of those situations. Not that I’m still angry or bitter about them, but honestly, I’m not grateful for what happened to me.
Instead, I am grateful to God. Grateful He brought me through such awful situations & even made sure good came from them. I’m grateful He put it in my heart to learn about Narcissistic Personality Disorder so now I can spot narcissists easily & know how to handle them when I have to deal with them. I’m also grateful God showed me I deserve better than to be treated so badly by people, as I once thought I deserved all of their abuse.
If someone tells you that you should be grateful that you were abused or suffered in some way, ignore them. Even if their hearts are in the right place, those words can be so hurtful & shame inducing. Don’t let that into your heart! You are allowed not to feel glad that you have suffered through some rough situations! You don’t have to try to change how you feel! Instead, just remember what you are grateful for- the strength God gave you to survive, the love He showed you as he helped you to heal, the things you learned from the situation, maybe new friends you met at a support group or the love of those close to you who supported you through your painful time.
The last few days, my C-PTSD has been flaring up. I’m not entirely sure why. I’ve been especially moody, anxious, depressed, & having more nightmares than usual. Then last night, I had a very odd experience.
My husband & I were lying in bed, watching tv. He was starting to nod off, & I was relaxed, hoping to go to sleep soon, when suddenly I smelled coconut. Immediately, an ex boyfriend of mine came to mind, as he used coconut scented air freshener in his car & I felt extremely anxious, almost to the point of having a panic attack.
A little background on this boyfriend.. I dated him in 1990, when I was 19 & he was 28. I wasn’t in love with him, yet he told me I would marry him (no proposal, just a command) & we’d have lots of kids (another command). He was controlling, jealous & angered easily. I was not happy in this relationship at all & spent most of our short time together anxious, miserable & trying to avoid his anger. The night I broke up with him, he spend hours screaming at me, telling me how stupid I was, how great he was & how much I’d regret leaving him. Fast forward to January, 2014. I read on my county police’s facebook page that he shot & killed his boyfriend, then himself. I had no clue he was gay or capable of murder. It was very traumatic when I realized the kind of person he was & how utterly clueless I was to that. Even looking back, I don’t recall any signs of him being gay or that dangerous.
So back to last night…
As I lay there, smelling coconut, it quickly turned into an actual emotional flashback. I felt like I was 19 again, back in his home & full of anxiety. No specific event played out in the flashback, only the awful emotions that were a daily part of our relationship. Eventually it passed & I was fine, just tired & emotionally drained. I went to sleep a little while after this.
This morning I prayed about it & the term “sensory flashback” popped into my mind. I did some research online & found very few details. At least what I found was somewhat helpful. Sensory flashbacks involve the senses, such as feeling someone is touching you when no one is. They are not very different than the typical type of flashback in that you feel like you’re reliving a traumatic experience. Last night, I had a hard time telling reality from flashback, just like during a typical flashback.
Dealing with a sensory flashback seems to be about the same as dealing with other flashbacks. You need to ground yourself- touch something, smell something, taste something. Something that is strong to the senses helps to keep you grounded- hold an ice cube, smell lavender, taste a little lemon juice. Something that basically “assaults” your senses will help you to stay grounded.
Focus on deep, slow breaths to help you to avoid hyperventilating.
If this happens while you are away from home, try to find somewhere safe to work through it.
Don’t beat yourself up for this. Many people have flashbacks. It happens sometimes when exposed to trauma.
Be understanding & gentle with yourself. Flashbacks can leave you feeling very tired & drained for a couple of days.