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Tag Archives: post traumatic stress
My ebook publisher is offering a sale on all of my ebooks from July 1-31, 2020. They will be 25% off. They’re available on my website or use this link to go to the site directly: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/CynthiaBaileyRug
I decided to try something new.. podcasts. The idea popped into my head recently, even though I know nothing of podcasts. It felt like God was leading me in a new direction, so I decided to give it a try.
To get started, I’ve decided to use the audio from my YouTubes. Yes, it’s a repeat of information having it on podcasts, YouTube & in this blog, but not everyone learns the same way. Some are visual learners & love YouTube. Some learn best from reading & others prefer learning audibly. I doubt many people will benefit from all three formats, so by doing them, it enables more people to (hopefully!!) learn from my work.
If you’d like to check them out, here is the link:
I only have a few out there at the moment, but I’ll add more as time goes on. I was hoping to get all of them done asap, but yanno something? I can’t get them done quickly. Not with my mental health. So, I hope you’ll be understanding & patient with me taking my time in adding more podcasts.
A breakdown is often referred to in different ways such as a mental breakdown, emotional breakdown or the less commonly used nervous breakdown. All terms are used to describe a state in which a person can’t function normally due to overwhelming stress.
When I was 19, & my mother raged at me after I came home late one night. Her screams woke my father who came in to see what was happening & then they began screaming at each other. I ran into the bathroom & locked myself in. I sat on the floor, unable to move, function or think. I was catatonic for about five hours.
Other times, like when my beloved grandmom passed, the breakdowns weren’t quite as severe. The catatonia lasted much shorter durations, but they were still awful.
I really don’t think most people take breakdowns nearly as seriously as they should. They don’t believe such a thing exists or they claim the person having the breakdown is weak or seeking attention. The sad truth is that breakdowns are serious & can damage a person’s mental health. It’s vital to recognize the signs before one happens.
One of the first signs is feeling very anxious. I don’t mean the normal anxiety that you feel before a job interview. I mean anxiety that threatens to overwhelm you when there is no obvious reason to feel anxiety to such an extreme. I mean panic attacks, headaches, tense muscles, tremors, upset stomach or high blood pressure.
Depression is another warning sign a breakdown may be on the horizon. Sometimes, depression overwhelms a person, & a breakdown can happen. This is what I experienced one after my beloved grandmom died.
Being over sensitive is another warning sign. It is a big hint that your emotions are at their limit. They’re overworked which is why they’re so sensitive.
Behavioral changes can be another sign of a pending breakdown. Because your mind is so overwhelmed, naturally your behavior is different. You may isolate yourself, lack patience, be short with people or lose interest in things that you normally enjoy.
Trouble with concentration is another red flag that a breakdown may be on the horizon. Stress makes concentration harder, but when that stress is ongoing, it’s even worse. Ongoing stress can increase cortisol levels in the body which over time can deteriorate your memory, ability to make decisions & problem solving skills.
Sleep changes often happen if someone is coming close to experiencing a breakdown. Some people sleep too much while others sleep too little. The exhaustion of being overwrought emotionally can cause a person to sleep too much. At the same time, a can person to think too much, making sleep impossible.
Weight loss or gain & appetite changes can be another sign of a possible breakdown in the future. Some people when stressed don’t like to eat while others overeat. When a breakdown is likely on the horizon, those changes can be even more prominent. Over eating in particular because cortisol can trigger cravings for high fat or sugary foods.
If you recognize these signs in yourself, it’s time to take action now. Breakdowns can be avoided with proper self care. Pray. Talk to God like the Father that He is to you. Write in a journal. Talk to a trusted friend. Reduce as many activities that are unnecessary as possible so you can have more time to relax. Watch your eating habits to be sure you eat properly. You still can indulge in a slice of cake or whatever treat you enjoy sometimes though- the key is balance, not cutting treats out entirely. Get extra sleep, even if you need to take a sleeping pill to help you. Do things that make you feel nurtured & comfortable. Taking steps like these can truly help you avoid having a breakdown & are good for your mental health.
My ebooks are currently on sale until May 31, 2020. Check them out at the following link:
Recently I was speaking with a fellow blogger, Linda Lee at https://ablogabouthealingfromptsd.wordpress.com (it’s a great blog! Check it out!). We were talking about how we don’t believe God created people for things like surviving abuse & losing someone we love which is what makes coping with such things so incredibly hard. During this conversation, she told me something very interesting. Some time ago, she spent time under the care of the well known Meier Clinic. In fact, she was blessed enough to be under the care of Dr. Meier directly! After a lifetime of abuse & bad mental health diagnoses, this was an incredible blessing! What he told her made so much sense in her situation, but I believe in other people’s situations as well. It sure fit mine! It probably will fit your situation too!
“You are NOT mentally ill. What you have is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Although PTSD is classified as a mental illness for insurance purposes, the reality is that having PTSD after experiencing overwhelming trauma is perfectly normal — no less normal than it is to bleed, if somebody cuts you with a knife. You see, God did not create us for abuse. God is love, and He made us in His spiritual image, which means that we were created for kindness and love, not for abuse and hatred. God created us to love and be loved. But when we get hate instead of love, when we receive abuse instead of kindness, we are damaged by that. Being damaged by abuse does not mean that you are weak or crazy. The strongest, sanest person in the world will develop PTSD, if they go through enough trauma and abuse. Just as the strongest man in the world will bleed, if you take a knife and cut him. Human skin was not created to withstand the sharp blade of a knife. In the same way, the human soul was not created to be traumatized and abused.”
I have beat myself up a LOT since learning I have C-PTSD. I’ve told myself I’m so weak & other people had it worse & all kinds of heartless, invalidating things. It doesn’t help when other people’s words & actions re-enforce such things. I have found that sometimes those who have suffered abuse yet don’t have C-PTSD can be as judgmental as those who lack empathy for those who have been abused.
Anyway I find Dr. Meier’s words to my friend so comforting!! Having C-PTSD or PTSD is a very normal response to a very abnormal situation! These disorders aren’t a sign of weakness. They are a sign of being normal.
Also, notice that he said. “The strongest, sanest person in the world will develop PTSD, if they go through enough trauma and abuse.” That tells me that no one is immune to traumatic responses. Every single person has a breaking point, a point where enough is enough, & the trauma they experience will cause their brain to develop PTSD or C-PTSD. Everyone’s breaking point is different, so there is no point in judging others who have one of these disorders. No one is immune!
The next time you’re feeling weak or like a failure for living with PTSD or C-PTSD, I hope you’ll remember what Dr. Meier said. Print them out. Save them somewhere on your computer or phone. Share them on Facebook. Whatever you do, please remind yourself of them! I certainly plan to do so & do so often! It can get too easy to go down the rabbit hole of thinking you’re a failure for having such a problem & that isn’t right! No one is immune! They are natural reactions to highly abnormal circumstances, nothing more!
Living as someone with mental illness yet is high functioning, I can tell you it’s utterly exhausting. Doing things takes more energy than it would for someone without mental illness because I have to focus harder. I also do my best to put the problems in a box when necessary so they don’t affect other people. It takes energy to keep that box closed & on a shelf!! Add in having a brain injury & I spend a lot of time exhausted.
If you too are high functioning with mental illness, I’m sure you can relate to what I said, even if you don’t also have the brain injury. You truly are not alone! This post is to help you to understand that.
It feels like you’re being fake a lot of the time, doesn’t it? The truth is you aren’t being fake. You’re just hiding a part of yourself from others you don’t want to know about that part of you. There is nothing wrong with not being 1000% open with everyone. Sometimes it’s best to keep some information private from some people.
It also feels like people don’t believe you have any illness at all. People seem to think if you have mental illness, you need to be incoherent, hearing voices, attempting suicide, or even not taking care of your basic needs such as showering & changing clothes regularly. If you’re clean, your home is in order, you’re working & maintain relationships, many people don’t think you’re struggling with your mental health. They miss the small, subtle signs such as an increased or decreased appetite, sleeping more or less than usual, difficulty focusing, or feeling tired.
Your good & bad days look very similar to most people. They truly have no idea that on bad days, it took every ounce of willpower to pry yourself out of bed, to bathe, to do whatever you need to do on that day. Chances are, most wouldn’t believe you if you told them because they see no real differences between this bad day & your good days.
Sometimes people may say you’re gloomy or a “Debbie Downer” because sometimes your sadness or negative views show. They don’t realize that is depression talking. Or, maybe sometimes you jump at the slightest move from someone or sound & it irritates people. It happens because you have an anxiety disorder, PTSD or C-PTSD.
Although you may not look like it, you feel you are struggling so much. Mental illness consumes so much energy! Focusing on a simple conversation can take a lot out of you. People don’t often understand why you’re tired, but this is exactly why.
Do you recognize yourself in any of these situations? If so, I hope it comforts you some to know that you’re not alone. Many of us understand because we’re on the same boat.
And please remember, just because you can function & function well, don’t think that means you don’t have a real problem. I know, sometimes it’s easy to think this way when you have a few good days in a row. That being said though, mental illness is just as serious as physical illness & should be treated as such. Sometimes it can be more serious in the sense that some mental disorders can be life threatening by making a person suicidal. Don’t neglect to rest when you need to, take your medication as directed, talk to safe people & let them love & encourage you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking care of yourself or asking for help. If you broke your leg, you would do those things, wouldn’t you? Then why not do the same thing to take care of your mental health?
I think most of us who suffer with C-PTSD hide when we’re having bad days. It can be scary to be vulnerable enough to let another person see how things really are, because people can be cruel. There is never a good time to hear insensitive & invalidating comments of course, but on a bad C-PTSD day? That is the absolute worst time.
Having a bad C-PTSD day, it is TOUGH! I’ll explain how it goes for me. Feel free to show this to anyone in your life that may need to understand your experiences with C-PTSD.
Often I wake up from a night of fitful sleep, too little sleep or a night full of nightmares. The nightmares can be of reliving trauma or more often, something strange or unrelated to the trauma, yet stirs up the same emotions that traumatic events in my life did. This leaves me exhausted, anxious, depressed & on high alert.
Before getting out of bed, I lay still, often with my eyes closed, trying to relax after a bad night. I focus on my breathing to help me calm down, yet in spite of the effort, anxiety comes in waves. I have to remind myself that I am safe, this is merely the C-PTSD doing what this disorder does.
Sometimes a few minutes, sometimes an hour later, I am able to get out of bed & start my day. The anxiety & hyper-vigilence are still there, but a little better at least. Usually I can function at this point, but some days, it’s about impossible. Sometimes, I have panic attacks. If you’ve never experienced one, count your blessings. My chest gets incredibly tight, making me feel like I could be having a heart attack. My breathing gets rapid & feels so strange. I feel like when I’m inhaling, I should be exhaling & vice versa. I end up breathing very shallow & fast until it eventually subsides, making me lightheaded.
Other times, flashbacks start. Imagine trying to discern whether you’re in reality or somehow transported back in time to a traumatic event. Fighting to make sure to stay in reality while dealing with the emotions of a traumatic event is a LOT of work! As if the bad night’s sleep wasn’t enough to make me feel exhausted, this makes the exhaustion even worse.
Between the mental & physical exhaustion, being able to think or focus on tasks like a normal person seems impossible. Even something simple as getting a drink can be difficult. It can be hard to remember where the glasses are, decide if I want ice or not, & decide what do I want to drink. Little things like this that most people take for granted become very daunting & challenging. Often my moods are erratic but get moreso when these days happen.
All of these things are a real blow to the self-esteem. I often think, “I’m so stupid for having C-PTSD!” “Other people have been through worse, yet I have C-PTSD. What’s wrong with me?!” “Why am I not better than I am?! I’ve dealt with this disorder for years!” These thoughts leave me filled with even lower self-esteem than normal, ashamed of myself & doubting why I write about what I do, even considering quitting. If I’m such a mess, how can I help anyone else, after all?
Eventually though, I return to normal, which is still not even close to what normal for most people is. I am able to remember that C-PTSD is a terrible disorder. Just because I have it also doesn’t mean I’m weak. It means I’ve been through some terrible things.
If you experience similar days to mine, know you aren’t alone. There are plenty of others who understand your struggles! Pray. Remind yourself of the things I mentioned. Be understanding of yourself & always take good care of you!
Those who don’t have flashbacks usually have no idea what a flashback truly is. They sometimes think those of us who have them are exaggerating or being dramatic about something we remembered, & have little patience for us because of our “drama queen” ways.
People who think like this need to understand something. Flashbacks aren’t the result of someone being overly dramatic. They also aren’t simple memories or even repressed memories. They are much different. They’re intense & complicated.
Flashbacks aren’t as simple remembering a traumatic event. All of your senses kick in & you see, hear, smell, taste & feel the same things you felt when the event originally happened to you. It literally feels as if you’re reliving the traumatic event, even though logically you know you aren’t. It can be very hard to tell the difference between reality & the flashback.
If you’re very lucky, when a flashback happens, you still maintain enough composure to remember to ground yourself somehow. Touching something with an extreme texture, such as burlap for example, can help. Or, smelling something with a very strong scent like lavender also can help. The trick is to override your confused senses with something real in order to get them to focus on something other than the flashback. Grounding yourself like this can be quite effective in helping you to get through the flashback. Even so, remembering what to do in the midst of a flashback is something else entirely. It’s incredibly hard to have focus on anything when your mind & body are trying to convince you that this horrible memory isn’t just a memory, but it’s happening to you all over again.
As if all of this isn’t quite enough, once the flashback is over, you’re drained both mentally & physically to the point of exhaustion. I have described it as feeling like I was hit by a huge truck. The anxiety of it tenses your muscles greatly. When it’s over, those muscles can ache badly for a while. Your heart races during the flashback & it takes time for it to slow back down once the flashback dissipates. Chances are very good your stomach will be upset & you’ll have a nasty headache for a while as well.
In addition to the physical side of flashbacks, there is also the mental ones. Flashbacks are utterly depressing. It’s so unpleasant remembering traumatic events under any circumstances, but it’s even worse when you feel as if you just relived it. They also can make you feel ashamed for not being healed from the trauma by now, embarrassed if it happened in front of another person or other people, & they take away your hope of having a normal life without flashbacks.
They also make you incredibly anxious because you wonder when is the next one going to strike? Will it be just like this one or will it involve another traumatic event? What if it happens when I’m driving? What if it’s worse? Is it possible to get stuck in the flashback & never come out of it?
If you’re one of those folks who never has experienced a flashback, I’m telling you, count your blessings! Thank God for this!
If you know someone who has flashbacks though, I hope you will remember this information & treat your loved one accordingly. Remember that this person isn’t seeking attention or being overly dramatic. They are dealing with a very difficult & painful mental illness. They have experienced something or some things so traumatic that their brain physically broke! It isn’t your loved one’s fault they have flashbacks, & chances are excellent if this person could find a way never to have them again, they would. So please, be patient & understanding with anyone you know who suffers with flashbacks. A little gentleness can help us more than you know.
Many people tell those of us with C-PTSD some pretty stupid, insensitive & even invalidating comments about our disorder. It’s utterly frustrating how people can say things like these & think it’s ok or even that they’re being supportive. It’s also frustrating how sometimes when these things are said to us, thanks to our disorder, we can’t think of what to tell these people about why this is a bad thing to say.
Below are some frequently used comments & retorts to them. Feel free to share this post with anyone who you think can benefit from reading this.
“I know how you feel!” I don’t think so. C-PTSD is a very weird & painful disorder. You can feel like you’re going crazy when symptoms flare up. You also can be suicidal. Even two people with C-PTSD can experience their symptoms differently.
“I think a lot too.” Really? You think that’s what C-PTSD is? No. There is a big difference between the average person thinking a lot & C-PTSD. When a person is “always thinking”, they can control it at least to some degree. Good luck doing that with the thoughts that come with C-PTSD. There are ruminating thoughts which are thoughts that play over & over again. There are also intrusive thoughts, which come to mind at any time, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. We also can’t forget hyper-vigilance, which is being completely focused on one’s surroundings in an attempt to spot any hint of danger to our physical or mental health. These things are awful & often impossible to control.
“Everyone has nightmares!” True. Everyone does have nightmares. Not everyone has nightmares nightly or almost nightly, often even multiple times in a night. Not everyone wakes up in a blind panic from a nightmare, either. Not everyone has nightmares about utterly bizarre things that stir up similar emotions to the traumatic events they have survived.
“You need to stop thinking about the past.” Well, thank you for that insight. I never thought about that! *sigh* Those of us with C-PTSD want to stop thinking about the past, but our brains won’t let us!
“Everyone has flashes of bad memories.” Flashbacks are so much more than that. They’re bad memories that feel like they’re happening all over again. They can make it very hard to discern between the memory & reality.
“Think happy thoughts!” “Be more positive!” C-PTSD isn’t about thinking too negatively. It’s an actual mental disorder. Our brains were broken due to the traumas we survived. The damage means we can’t control our thoughts like someone without C-PTSD can.
“You need to see a counselor!” It’s not that easy! Not all counselors understand C-PTSD. Also, not all counselors understand the best ways to treat people who have suffered through trauma, period, let alone multiple traumas. There is also the fact that many of us have tried counseling, only to find some counselors are as toxic as the people who abused us in the first place, so we have a strong lack of trust in those in the mental health field.
“You just need to take a pill.” Also not that easy. Do you have any idea how many anti-anxiety & anti-depressants there are available?! I don’t but I do know that it’s a lot! There are also varying classes & strengths of these medications. Most also take at least about two weeks to start working, so you may take something for a long time before seeing any changes, good or bad. Finding the right dose of the right medication can be a very long, frustrating task.
“It’s all in your head!” Well, C-PTSD is a mental disorder. Where else would it be?
“You can’t have C-PTSD! You weren’t in the military!” Maybe not, but C-PTSD doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to anyone exposed to any traumas for an extended period of time. While it happens to many prisoners of war, it also happens to those who survived child abuse or domestic violence.
I hope this post helps you to have a good response the next time someone invalidates your experiences with C-PTSD. xoxo
Often a physical injury results in a scar. Did you ever think about the fact that psychological injuries also result in scars? They may not be so easy to see like physical scars, but they are there nonetheless.
PTSD & C-PTSD are scars that result from exposure to extreme trauma or multiple traumas. The traumas were so bad they literally “broke” a person’s brain, causing physical changes, that create some very difficult problems to cope with.
Depression is a scar resulting from living through the horrors of emotional abuse. The constant berating, gaslighting & more of emotional abuse created depression that can last even long after the relationship has ended.
Anxiety is a scar that comes from living with someone, either a parent or a spouse who is demanding, highly volatile & unpredictable. The constant feeling of walking on eggshells in an attempt to avoid angry outbursts creates anxiety that can last a lifetime, whether or not the volatile person is still in a victim’s life or not.
These scars are incredibly difficult to live with, I know. I live with C-PTSD as a result of the narcissistic abuse I’ve endured. It is a horrible disorder to live with but for me, the anxiety & depression are probably the worst parts of it. It could be very easy to get caught up in the heartbreaking, discouraging & unfair nature of it all. Honestly, there are some times that happens. However, there are also times it doesn’t happen because of the perspective I try to have on these scars. My hope is this information will help you too.
Scars remind you of what you’ve been through so you retain what you learned. Having survived narcissistic parents, an ex husband, in-laws & countless so called friends & family, naturally I’ve learned a lot. That’s a good thing, because now I spot unsafe people easily. I know quickly either to avoid them or to have firm boundaries in place if I must deal with them. I also know when they are attempting to manipulate me, & avoid falling for their games.
Scars also remind you that you survived something that was meant to destroy you. This can be really hard to remember when you’re facing suicidal thoughts, flashbacks or paralyzing anxiety or depression, but it’s true. The goal of narcissists is to destroy their victim emotionally. (If they can tear a person down enough, that person will be easy to bend to their will, so it just makes sense that is the goal of narcissists.) You survived that! Yes, you still have issues from it but who wouldn’t?! You survived something really terrible, & that is the main thing!
What I think is the best part of all is that scars also are an excellent reminder of God being by your side, through this “valley of the shadow of death,” so to speak. Remember Psalm 23:4 says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;” (KJV) Your scar is reminder that although you went through something utterly horrific, God was by your side the entire time helping you to survive. He loves you so much, & your scars are a reminder of that wonderful fact.
When you have problems because of the scars you have as a result of surviving narcissistic abuse, please try not to get discouraged! I know it’s hard, but you can do it. Remember the points in this post. Be gentle & understanding with yourself. Acknowledge your feelings & accept them. If you feel things like you’re damaged, a burden to your loved ones or other negative things like that, remind yourself that they are simply old beliefs stemming from narcissistic abuse. And, most of all, lean on God. Pray often. Ask Him for comfort, strength, wisdom, guidance & anything else you can think of. Remember, He was there with you “through the valley of the shadow of death.” He is still with you!
General anxiety & anxiety associated with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or C-PTSD, are very different. Generalized anxiety involves things that might happen. What if I get fired? What if I get into a car accident? Anxiety that stems from C-PTSD is nothing like that. For me, I seldom even know the cause of my anxiety. I just feel crippling anxiety with no clue why.
One aspect of this anxiety that has baffled me the most is sometimes when I wake up, either during the night or first thing in the morning, it attacks. It comes in these awful waves where I feel like the anxiety is going to overwhelm me, then it passes, then it comes back again & passes again. This happens usually for a good half hour at least until eventually the anxiety just stays away until the next time. For quite some time now, I’ve tried learning what this is about with no luck… that is until recently. I wanted to share what I learned since I have no doubt many others live with this obnoxious phenomenon, too. If you’re one of the “lucky” ones like me, I hope this helps you.
After having survived trauma, in particular repeated traumas, your brain knows the worst case scenario. It’s seen some really ugly things, up close & personal, & quite frankly does NOT want to go back to that. Understandable, of course. The problem is the brain will do anything to avoid this, & can take things too far.
The traumatized brain is in a constant state of fight, flight or freeze. Sometimes, the brain acts like it believes danger is about to happen at random, such as I mentioned happens to me when I first wake up. Whether danger is actually there or not, it thinks danger is lurking & triggers the fight, flight or freeze responses kick into overdrive. It’s kind of like car alarms when they first became popular in the late 1980’s & early 1990’s. They were so easily triggered that virtually nothing could make them sound. This is like anxiety in a brain that’s experienced repeated traumas.
And good luck at this point convincing your panicked brain that no danger exists. It knows better because it’s seen some pretty terrible things. It won’t be reassured that there is no danger because of that.
When this type of anxiety kicks in, you can handle it. I know it’s hard, but it’s possible.
Remind yourself of what is happening, that this anxiety is only a symptom of C-PTSD. It isn’t a sign that there is any potential danger. It’s a symptom of a brain that has been broken due to experiencing horrific traumas. Nothing more. Maybe think of it like a toothache. If you have a cavity, your tooth will hurt until you’ve seen the dentist. If you don’t know that you have a cavity, that pain will scare you. However, if you are aware of having a cavity, the pain will still hurt of course, but at least you won’t be scared because you know why you have the pain. When you know what is happening, it can make it much easier to cope with a difficult situation.
Try to understand why the anxiety is so bad. You may not be able to figure that out, but hopefully you can. If you can, then you can calm the anxiety by figuring out a solution to the problem or reassuring yourself that the problem isn’t so bad.
Never forget to pray, too. God understands us even better than we understand ourselves. When you don’t understand why the anxiety is happening or how to calm it down, He will. Let Him help you! He will be glad to!
When you are healing from narcissistic abuse, it can be incredibly discouraging. It sometimes seems like no matter what you do, you still have problems that you cannot fix, which can be incredibly frustrating!
Recently, my husband turned a movie on tv whose subject matter was football. This is not good for me. When I was growing up, my father was utterly obsessed with football. He was so obsessed that his normally civil demeanor turned into something resembling a screaming demon if a game was on. If my mother or I walked into the room, he would yell at us about making too much noise. If I wanted his attention, I had to sit still & quiet until there was a break in the game.
As a result, I absolutely hate football. It stirs up memories of feeling less valuable than a leather bag of air & a bunch of guys playing an over-glorified game of fetch. Just hearing the sounds of a football game makes me angry.
I am in my late forties as I write this. I have tried to let this go. I have tried forgiving my father for his jerk-like behavior surrounding this game, & I think I have. I also understand it is simply the result of some very dysfunctional behavior of my father’s more than a reflection on me. Yet in spite of it all, football sounds still make me angry.
This has been incredibly discouraging to me! I have healed from so much of the abuse I have experienced. So why is this still a problem??
One day several years ago, God showed me this verse….
Philippians 1:6 in the Amplified Bible says,
“I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return].”
Suddenly everything clicked…
On this healing journey, there are going to be issues we do not heal from in this lifetime. God will work with us & on us. He will continue to improve us & heal us. Yet, even so, some things are going to be an issue for as long as we live.
When this happens, Dear Reader, know it does NOT mean something is wrong with you. It simply means you are normal. It can be incredibly frustrating I know, but at least it does not mean you are doing something wrong, or are broken beyond repair. It just means you are a normal human being!
Rather than be upset about this, why not do what you can to accept this as a simple shortcoming & rely on God to help you get through? Remember, Psalm 23:4 says,
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
The valley of the shadow of death is never pleasant of course, but even so, you can get through it. In my experience, it is those trips through that awful valley that brought me closer to God. Also sharing my ongoing issues like this often mean someone who reads my story also can relate & is comforted by knowing someone else understands their struggles. This means something good can come from those dark times! That pain has a purpose! As bad & painful as the bad times are, it truly helps when you know that something good can come from them & your pain was not in vain. If you have trouble understanding what the purpose is, ask God to show you, to help you see the purpose. He truly will not disappoint you!
Those of us who have experienced narcissistic abuse, in particular at the hand of our parents, tend to share many characteristics. One of them is the inclination to minimize any & all traumatic experiences, whether or not they had anything to do with the original abuser.
Some indicators that you are doing this is if you say things like:
- “It wasn’t that bad.. at least he didn’t hit me.” after leaving a relationship with someone who was verbally abusive.
- “Yea, that person held a knife to my throat but all he did was take my wallet…”
- “I know my parents did some bad stuff to me but others have it way worse than I did.”
See the common thread in these statements? Each one minimizes something very traumatic.
Another way people do this is to use the words “just” or “only” often. Think of statements like, “It was just verbal abuse” or “He only hit me the one time.”
I realized some time ago that I have done this same thing. What got my attention was watching a tv show about a serial killer, believe it or not. The killer’s ex wife was interviewed, & many things she said that he said as well as some of his behavior that she described reminded me a great deal of my ex husband! No, he’s no serial killer, but to realize he shared some behavior & personality traits with one was a big wake up call to me. It showed me that in spite of what most people said, that marriage truly was bad! His behavior really was abusive, & he had some serious mental health issues. Yet, when I discussed that marriage, I often downplayed the abuse. Realizing all of this showed me how unhealthily I’ve behaved, & also how many other people do exactly the same thing.
Minimizing one’s trauma is a terribly unhealthy thing to do! It contributes to a root of shame, & toxic shame affects every area of your life. Toxic shame makes you feel unworthy in every possible area of your life. It’ll make you willing to settle for the job you hate because you don’t think you’re qualified to do a better job you would enjoy. It’ll make you settle for a romantic partner who isn’t good for you since you believe you wouldn’t be attractive to someone better. The same goes for friendships. Someone with toxic shame will settle for friends who mistreat you because you don’t believe you deserve a better caliber of friends.
Minimizing also gives other people the message that what you went through wasn’t so bad. This can lead to people having no compassion for you or others who have experienced abuse. Since you act like it’s not a big deal, they will assume it isn’t. It also can send the wrong message to others in similar situations. They may think that since you don’t see the abuse as bad, maybe they’re overreacting to their situation. Of course, this will lead to toxic shame & all of the problems that go along with it.
Dear Reader, I want to encourage you today. Listen to yourself. Do you minimize your traumatic experiences? Do you use “just” or “only” often? If so, STOP! Trauma is trauma, no matter if someone else had it worse than you. Don’t minimize your suffering! Acknowledge it for what it is so you can heal. Minimizing only causes problems!
Anyone who has experienced a relationship with a narcissist knows that they love to reinvent the past. In their version of events, they weren’t abusive. They were just trying to help.
Narcissists aren’t the only ones who are able to reinvent the past, however. Sometimes their victims do as well. I have a very good example of this phenomenon.
I know of someone who was what I refer to as a holiday Nazi. She demanded her adult children, their spouses & grandchildren spend holidays with her, & they had to celebrate on the exact day. There was no acceptable reason not to do this, it seemed.
One Christmas season, her adult children decided they wanted to spend the day with their respective families rather than their parents. Apparently, Mom didn’t approve. She stopped taking her insulin a few days before Christmas & ended up in the hospital either Christmas day or within a couple of days after, I can’t remember which. She told her adult children that she did it because she was too busy baking Christmas cookies that she didn’t have time to take her insulin.
Some time after this fiasco, her son who had heard what she said & even repeated it said that never happened. It was during the time when she was having trouble regulating her insulin dosage.
Rather than admit how manipulative his mother was, & how she would risk her own health just for some attention, he convinced himself that was not the case. He convinced himself that this happened because the doctors hadn’t regulated her insulin need at that time.
If you have done something similar, you’re not alone. There is no need to be ashamed of yourself for doing it. There is, however a need to change that behavior.
Reinventing the past only gives the narcissist power, because their actions are being excused rather than holding them accountable for their actions. Narcissists realize they can do anything, & you’ll pretend they didn’t. In fact, you may even end up blaming yourself for what they did. You won’t punish them for their actions, so this makes them believe they can do anything without fear of consequences. There is no reason to limit their abusive actions.
It also makes the victim feel like they have to tolerate the abuse. They convince themselves that what happened was ok by pretending it didn’t happen as it actually did. This means victims will tolerate a LOT of abuse.
You can change your behavior into something much healthier!
Writing is an incredibly useful tool. I don’t mean writing a book or blogging about your experiences. I mean writing in a journal or writing letters you don’t send. Seeing your experiences in writing helps to make them more real somehow. It’s very validating! Writing also gives you an outlet for getting your emotions out with no fear of anyone judging you, which can be incredibly helpful. It can show you, too, just how much you’ve grown & healed, which is very encouraging. And regarding changing this habit of reinventing the past, writing also gives you a written record of events, so you can’t reinvent anything. If you wrote something down, you can revisit that knowing that is what happened rather than this different scenario you started to form in your mind.
Dealing with the traumatic event also will help you to stop reinventing the past. Reinventing things happens as a way to avoid pain. If you face that pain & deal with it. you automatically won’t try to reinvent the scenario. I know that seems terrifying, but truly it will help you a great deal if you face it. It’ll hurt for a while but not forever. You’ll heal & that situation won’t have power to devastate you anymore. At most it may sting a bit when you think of it. Wouldn’t you prefer that to being devastated?
And as always, never forget to turn to God & trust Him to help you to do what you need to in order to release that unhealthy habit of reinventing the past. xoxo
This post is going to sound a bit odd to many of you, I’m sure, but I hope you’ll read it anyway as I believe it can be beneficial to those in similar situations.
I saw a quote on Facebook that got me to thinking. It was long, so I’ll summarize. It suggested that you talk to nature. Before cutting a tree or plant, tell it what you have in mind to do, & talk to animals with respect. That sort of thing.
Having some Native American Indian heritage in me, I tend to do this. It just seems to be in my blood. I never thought much about it though until reading the quote.
I’ve always talked to my pets as if they were people, & treated them with love & respect. Many people including many at their vet’s office have commented how well behaved, smart & loving they are.
After my mother died, I took over some of her house plants. I’ve never been particularly good with plants, but decided to try with some of them anyway. I started talking to them when I decided to bring them home. I told them I was taking them home soon & I’ll do my best to take good care of them. They’re doing surprisingly well!
Before reading this Facebook post though, I began doing this more, & that even includes talking to inanimate objects. Reading the post only confirmed to me that I was onto something.
When my mother died, & I learned I was to be her personal representative, I was less than thrilled to put it mildly. I hated going into her house for years, I even hated the house itself, because of all the awful memories it held. It seemed every room had some bad memories attached. Knowing I’d have to spend a great deal of time there triggered horrible anxiety & even anger in me. I had no idea how to deal with this, so I asked God for help. He told me, “Talk to the house.” I thought I must be imagining things… then my very logical husband said the same unusual thing a day or two later, even though I told him nothing about God saying that.
One day when I went to my parents’ house, I started talking to it. Obviously, I felt strange, talking to this inanimate object, but I did it anyway. I told the house I realized I was wrong for being upset with it for things that people who lived in it did to me. It wasn’t fair to blame the house for the actions of people, & I was sorry. Let’s get to know each other better. Suddenly I began to feel a lot more comfortable in the house. I’m not angry at the house & I don’t cringe every time I see a location in it where something bad happened anymore.
I also did this with my mother’s car, which is now mine. There were a lot of pretty bad memories of times with her in that car, so I dreaded dealing with the car. The first couple of times I got behind the wheel, I talked to the car much like I did with the house. And you know something? I don’t mind driving that car now. I’m comfortable with the car now.
Like many of us in our family, my mother named her car. Her name is Peaches, so when I take her out I often say things like, “Hey, Peaches.. ready to go for a drive?” I also told her she was getting new tires recently. I do the same for the house, saying hi & good bye, or telling the house what I’ll be doing today in what room.
I firmly believe a lot of us who have experienced narcissistic abuse have similar feelings. Some things & places can offer reminders of awful situations, or even trigger flashbacks. I suggest talking to the item in question. It really can help you! I know it sounds crazy, but isn’t it worth a try? Whatever helps you to remove some pain is a good thing. So please, give it a try.. what do you have to lose?
There is a lot of talk lately about being a minimalist. In other words, not having tons of stuff. Some people even give away of most of their belongings & moving into a tiny house or tiny house trailer.
By their definition, I’m not a minimalist. I need a slightly larger house than that! However, I’ve always been of the mindset I don’t need a lot & regularly clean out some of my belongings.
Since I periodically help my husband with the unpleasant task of emptying his late parents’ home & am in the process of doing the same to my late parents’ home, I’ve realized this minimalist thing needs to be taken up a notch in my life. No, I won’t sell my home & replace it with a 300 square foot tiny house, but I am cleaning out.
I’ve found a great deal of pleasure in downsizing. Recently I went through our entire CD collection. Somehow it grew to just over 300 CDs! Since I’d ripped most of them & safely stored those mp3 files on online storage, I figured this is ridiculous. They take up a lot of space in my small house & I’d like my space back. I made sure everything was ripped & got rid of all but 31 CDs that have some sort of sentimental value. They now fit in a storage box that’s slightly larger than a shoe box! I can’t tell you how good it feels not to have that big collection anymore!
I realized that my paternal grandmother was right. Too much stuff is just more to maintain & clean, which takes up precious time that could be put to more pleasant uses. Some of those uses are hobbies, hanging out with people you love, volunteering… I’d love more time for those things, wouldn’t you?
Too much stuff also can create anxiety. Something about living in a cluttered space makes me VERY anxious, as no doubt it does many other people. Since those of us who survived narcissistic abuse usually deal with a lot of anxiety, that is what made me think writing about this topic may be a good idea.
If you’re considering downsizing, I have some tips to help you get started.
When considering getting rid of an item, ask yourself what function it has in your life. Does it make your life easier? Does it bring you joy? If the answers are no, it may be time to let that go.
When was the last time you used/wore the item in question? If it’s been a while, it may be time to let it go. But, if it’s something you do use, just only maybe once or twice a year, that may be an item to keep. As an example, not everyone needs a deviled egg plate daily, but sometimes it can be useful.
Consider what your life would be like without the item in question. Do you think you would feel better or worse without it? If better, send it to a new home!
If you’re going through items like books, scrapbooks, pictures, movies or music, do you enjoy the hard copy or could you be content with digital only versions? Digital versions don’t take up space like hard copies do & can be right at your finger tips, so they have a big advantage like that. However, some things are irreplaceable, so it would be very hard & even depressing to get rid of them. Use wisdom & balance in these situations. I have a ton of pictures stored online, but I also have quite a few printed pictures from years ago. Also, if you opt to keep digital versions, remember – phones, computers, & external hard drives crash. I recommend using a reputable cloud storage for such things to be sure nothing gets lost. I like Dropbox but there are also Google Drive & other online storage options.
Is the item a one of a kind item? That can make it trickier to give away. If the item has sentimental value because it once belonged to someone you love that has passed on, I recommend keeping it if you can. If you don’t feel peace about that though, find someone special to pass it along to that you know will love it as you have.
I firmly believe in downsizing, balance is the key. Clean out! Give away things that don’t serve you well, but keep things that do serve you & bring you joy. You may be surprised how much less anxious you are when you realize you have a lot less stuff in your home than you once did.
In today’s society, keeping busy, even too busy, is seen as admirable. When people haven’t seen you for a while, & ask how have you been or what have you been up to, “Been busy” is an answer that always seems to get approval. Saying, “Not much” on the other hand gets looks of disapproval.
I don’t subscribe to the admiration of busyness. While I’m not advocating for being lazy & unproductive, I don’t think being too busy is wise in many ways. The stress of it can cause physical & mental exhaustion. That stress also can cause health problems such has high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease & heart problems. Most people are aware that these things can happen.
What I don’t think most people are aware of is that making yourself too busy also can be an unhealthy way to cope with trauma.
After experiencing trauma, some people cope with it however works for them. They do what they can to heal & they move on as best they can. On the other hand though are people who have been through so much pain, they feel they can’t take anymore. They don’t see that facing their pain is going to help them, or they’re afraid of the pain. Maybe they think that it’ll take over & or they can’t recover from it, so they decide to hide from it. Many in this position turn to addictions such as drugs, alcohol, sex or even shopping. Making their lives too busy is a much lesser known addiction, but it is just as dangerous as the others.
A person who is too busy has no time or energy to devote to healing. This enables the person to avoid their pain very well by removing the opportunity even to think about it. Stuffing pain inside is unhealthy! Doing so can cause big physical & emotional problems. Emotions demand to be felt, & if they are ignored, they’ll find other ways to manifest, & chances are that manifestation isn’t going to be a healthy one.
It is much better to face your pain than to ignore it. Yes, it’s painful, but it is much less painful than living with dysfunctional ways of trying so hard to ignore it. Think of it like draining an infected wound. Sure, the draining process is painful & well, pretty gross. Once it’s done though, the wound heals much quickly & may not even leave a scar. Ignoring the wound means it’ll take much longer to heal, if it does heal, & an ugly scar will be left behind.
Traumatic events are like the poison in an infected wound. You can drain your traumatic wound by dealing with that pain. Face the trauma, admit it happened, admit it was terrible, admit you never deserved it, admit you didn’t make anyone abuse you & feel those feelings attached to it. Doing these things will help you so much to heal!
If you’re too busy, however, you can’t do this so easily. You’re going to need to make some life changes first. To begin, I strongly recommend prayer. Ask God to guide & help you in this situation.
Also consider all of the things that are taking up your time. How necessary is each activity? What is your motivation for participating in each activity? Which activities bring you joy? Which ones do you dislike?
Once you know which activities you need to eliminate & which to continue, think about creating more efficient ways to do these things. Let your dirty dishes soak while you run the vacuum so you spend less time scrubbing dishes. Take turns with another parent of a child on your child’s sports team driving your kids to practice. Common sense little time savers like these may not seem important, but they really can add up quickly, giving you more time to relax, enjoy your life do what you really need to do, including working on your emotional healing.
Ruminating thoughts are very common after someone has experienced trauma, in particular in cases of PTSD & C-PTSD. They are when a person can’t stop thinking about their awful experiences.
Like many people, I experienced them once C-PTSD developed, but I still had a slight degree of control over them. Sometimes, I could force them to stop & think of something else. After surviving carbon monoxide poisoning though, my brain was damaged. Part of that damage was no longer having the ability to control those ruminating thoughts. I had to learn new & effective ways to cope with them.
After my mother’s sudden death in April, my ruminating thoughts got really, really bad! At first it was incredibly hard to handle them on top of everything else about the situation. With God’s help, after a few months of this, I’ve gotten a much better grip on the awful ruminating thoughts.
When they happen, I’ve learned it’s best if at all possible to get alone & sit with the thoughts. I let them run their course, reminding me of whatever awful thing they are about. I also allow myself to feel the emotions that the thoughts trigger. Whatever it is, be it anger, sadness, hurt, I feel them. No, this isn’t easy. In fact it’s incredibly difficult, but it is also well worth it. The more I do this, the less frequent the ruminating thoughts on that particular topic are.
Immediately following my mother’s death, I kept having ruminating thoughts about the night the police came to give me the news of her passing. It was hardly a pleasant experience to say the least. I would relive their visit over & over in my mind. At first, I did my best to ignore these thoughts. I didn’t see it could do me any good to think about that night.
As time went on though & the thoughts were still frequent, I realized something had to give. I started allowing myself to think about that awful night, & to feel the emotions that I remember feeling that night. I leaned on God to help me but even with Him, it was still quite painful. However, the more I did this when they happened, the less painful remembering that night became. As an added bonus, the less frequently the ruminating thoughts about that night became. I still remember that night pretty frequently & it still hurts to be honest, but now I think it’s on a much more normal level. After all, it’s only been just under 4 months since my mother died. That isn’t a long time at all, so it’s totally normal considering the length of time, our lack of relationship & the rest of the odd situation that I’d still be very upset about her death.
If you suffer with ruminating thoughts, I recommend that you do the same things I have. Get alone with the thoughts as soon as you can. Let them run their course & feel your feelings. Let God help you to get through them, too. Tell Him what you feel & allow Him to validate & comfort you. It’s going to hurt at first, but I promise, it gets easier as you do it! I also promise it’s well worth the pain you feel at first when those ruminating thoughts come less frequently or even disappear in time. It’s kind of like lancing a boil. That doesn’t even sound pleasant & must be awful to experience, but it must be done in order to release the infection so the body can heal. You’re doing the same basic thing – you’re going through the discomfort of facing these ugly things head on so your mind can heal.
Ruminating thoughts are a miserable thing, I know. They don’t have to cause you unnecessary suffering anymore, however! You can make these miserable things work in your favor. You can use them as a tool towards healing!
Most everyone is aware of the fight or flight response. This describes how a person reacts to extremely stressful situations, such as being attacked.
Fight means you aggressively fight back, because you believe you can defeat the danger. When it happens, you feel intense anger, may cry or punch people or things, you may grind your teeth & chances are excellent your stomach will be in knots.
Flight means you run from the danger, because you believe you can’t defeat it. When it happens, you feel fidgety & anxious. You can’t stay still. You want to run for the hills immediately.
There are two other responses beyond fight or flight that are seldom mentioned. Freezing & fawning are the other two responses.
Freezing means when you’re unable to act in these awful situations. You can’t think clearly. Think of a deer in headlights. That deer sees the danger heading straight for him, but is frozen in place. This happens when you believe you can’t escape or defeat the attacker. Freezing literally makes you cold when it happens. Your body feels heavy & hard to move, sometimes it can feel numb as well.
Lastly, there is fawning. This happens when in an acutely stressful situation, you do your best to comply with their attacker as an attempt to save yourself. Like freezing, it happens when you believe you can’t escape or defeat your attacker. Fawning is a typical response of those who have been in abusive relationships. People who fawn realized that fighting, flight & freezing didn’t work, which is why they resorted to fawning. They found that concerning themselves with the well being of their abuser was their best chance at diffusing the situation.
While fight, flight, freeze & fawn are very different responses, they all share the same goal: to diffuse or preferably end the situation & protect yourself. A problem is often people get stuck in only one or maybe two responses when each one can be helpful in different circumstances. This is especially common in those with PTSD or C-PTSD. The responses become habitual. The best way I know to overcome this is to recognize what you do in such situations. Considering how you acted, without any judgment of course, can help you to discern which acute stress responses you have used. When faced with danger after doing this, you’re more likely to respond after a bit of thought rather than react as in acting without thought.
Another issue can be for those who have experienced multiple traumas. We can perceive threats when there isn’t one. It helps to learn to slow down your thinking a bit so you can decide whether or not the threat is real. Taking a long, deep breath in then releasing it slowly only takes a couple of seconds, but it can slow your body & mind down enough to help you figure out the situation as well as the best way to respond.
Past trauma can affect your life in so many ways. Learning to manage your responses can be one way to help yourself handle stressful & even new traumatic situations in healthier ways.
I would guess about everyone has heard of flashbacks, but I don’t think all that many people realize there are different types of flashbacks. This post is going to explain them.
The first flashback is the type everyone knows. It’s where the person having the flashback feels as if they are reliving a traumatic event. It’s much like you’re watching a movie in your mind, but it seems so real, it can be very hard to differentiate between reality & the flashback as it’s happening.
There are also emotional flashbacks. Instead of feeling as if you’re reliving a traumatic event, you feel the emotions of a traumatic event flooding back to you. Something seemingly unrelated can trigger this, such as someone using a phrase your abuser used during the traumatic event or speaking to you in a similar manner to your abuser.
Both types of flashbacks also can trigger a sort of body flashback where you feel physical pain that you felt during a traumatic event. As an example, I’ve told the story before of how my mother threw me into a wall when I was 19. I had back pain for 10 years after that, then God healed me. Although God healed me over 18 years ago at this time I’m writing this, if I have a flashback of the night that happened, or sometimes if I just think about it, my back starts to hurt.
Having had all three types of flashbacks, I’ve learned some ways to cope with them that help me, & I hope will help you too.
During the flashback, I find it extremely important to keep myself grounded. People do all kinds of things to make that happen. Some clap their hands loudly, stomp their feet hard or hold an ice cube. I prefer touching something with either a very coarse or very soft texture. Smelling something with a strong scent is helpful too, such as lavender essential oil. A bonus of lavender is it has anti-anxiety properties to it, so not only does it smell lovely but it helps calm you naturally. I actually keep a small vial of lavender essential oil near me at all times just in case I need it. Whatever you choose to do, it needs to be something that basically “assaults” your senses to override the flashback & keep you grounded in reality.
It’s also a very good idea to remind yourself that this is only a flashback. It isn’t real. There is nothing that can hurt you happening right now. You’re completely safe.
Also try not to focus on anything else as the flashback is happening. Instead, focus only on getting yourself through it. Nothing else.
Once the flashback has subsided, chances are you’re going to feel tired. They take a lot of energy, physically & emotionally. That is totally normal. Try to take it easy if you can, & get some rest.
When you have recovered & feel able, I really recommend thinking about the topic of your flashback. If it was reliving a traumatic event, what was the event about? If it was an emotional one, do you know why this flashback was triggered? What happened that made you feel the way this event did?
From there, you can begin to deal with the event however works best for you. Pray, journal, talk to a close friend, a pastor or therapist or a combination of these things. Don’t forget to really feel the emotions connected to this event. You’re allowed to cry or get angry about it! In fact, you need to do so. Feeling the emotions will help to get the out of you & help you to heal.
A wonderful thing will happen as you heal from this painful & traumatic event. It will lose much of its power over you. It won’t hurt so much to remember it anymore, & it’s likely you won’t have a flashback about that particular event again.
As I’ve mentioned a few times, I have a wonderful kitty by the name of Punkin who has feline PTSD. Here is his picture.. is he not incredibly handsome!?
A few months after adopting him in 2014, one morning out of the blue, he attacked our little American Eskimo dog, Dixie. She wasn’t even looking at him when he suddenly jumped her. My husband & I both hollered Punkin’s name, which got his attention fast. He looked almost as if he woke up. He looked at us & Dixie, then ran off & hid. We checked on Dixie & thankfully she was fine, just very shaken up. While consoling her, my husband & I talked about what happened, & I told him that the way Punkin looked reminded me of how I felt after a flashback. I knew animals could be traumatized of course, but I was unsure if it could develop into PTSD. I did some research & learned it absolutely can. Since I have C-PTSD, I felt somewhat equipped to deal with the situation. It’s been quite the learning experience to say the least! But, my husband & I have learned & I wanted to share it for you other cat parents out there in case you too have a traumatized furbaby on your hands.
In all fairness, I’m not positive how the symptoms show up in other animals, but I believe they’re rather similar. Our late dog, Bear, had been abused & once in a while he acted quite a bit like Punkin does. I believe he had a milder case of PTSD than Punkin has. That leads me to believe the symptoms are probably quite similar among animals, not just among cats.
PTSD symptoms in cats are quite similar to humans. They have an extremely sensitive startle reflex, so they sometimes react inappropriately to situations. If they get scared, fight or flight instincts may take over. Punkin tends to freeze- his pupils dilate & he won’t move. They can be very anxious too, which means they may be skittish, hide or potty outside the litter box. Separation anxiety can happen too. They’re hyper vigilant, always extremely aware of their surroundings. Getting angry easily can be another symptom. as can being depressed. Signs of depression can mean losing interest in things they normally enjoy such as food, playing or snuggles, They may have nightmares, which you can see by how they sleep. Most cats twitch a bit in their sleep, but a cat with PTSD will do so more often & violently. Another big clue is they avoid things that can be similar to the traumatic event. I believe due to how Punkin attacked Dixie his trauma was related to a dog. She was the only animal or person in our home he ever attacked. And yes, they can have flashbacks. If you haven’t seen someone have a flashback or if you don’t have them, it can be hard to identify. When Punkin has had them, he doesn’t look quite like himself. His eyes get huge & you see fear written all over his face. He also acts completely out of character, like when he attacked Dixie, then suddenly stops. The first time it happened, he hid for quite a while, but after that, he returns to normal in a few hours. They also make him very tired.
There are some ways to cope with feline PTSD that I have found to be pretty successful.
I talk to Punkin. I tell him I understand what he’s going through, & it stinks. It’ll be ok, though, there is no one or nothing here that will hurt him. He’s safe & surrounded by other cats & people who adore him.
I also follow his lead. Punkin is very loving, but not particularly snuggly. Sometimes when the PTSD flares up, he wants to be left alone & other times he wants me to hold him. I do whichever he wants.
When Punkin has bad days, I do my best to remain completely calm in his presence. Cats pick up on the energy of their humans, so if I’m calm, he’ll be calmer. I don’t tell him “calm down”. Instead, my energy says everything is fine, & there is nothing to be upset about.
Catnip is a life saver! I started giving it to him to try to help his anxiety levels. It didn’t take him long to learn that it helps, so he goes to it often & voluntarily when his symptoms flare up. I got some very soft, fuzzy socks from the dollar store for this purpose. I put some catnip in a small rag, tie it up, & put it in the sock. Punkin also likes jingle bells so I have some with bells inside, some without. He picks whatever he likes as he needs his ‘nip. Since it doesn’t work for dogs, I used to give Bear valerian root pills. The smell is very strong & it tastes pretty yukky, so it wasn’t easy to get him to take it at first. It didn’t take him long to realize that it helped though, so he began going to where I stored it to let me know when he needed some valerian.
Some pet parents also get tranquilizers for their pet from the vet or use other calming aids that are readily available.
If you too have a pet with PTSD, following these steps really can help. I’m happy to say that Bear turned into a very loving, gentle dog from an aggressive one & Punkin’s symptoms are managed very well. He rarely has flashbacks anymore, & his anxiety levels are much lower in general.
I have a knack for remembering dates, including kinda obscure ones, that even having brain damage hasn’t affected. I graduated high school on May 13, 1989, for example.
Two other dates I remember are August 23, 1990 & November 24, 1990. Those were the dates I met & then broke up with a man I was involved with. He made me feel so guilty for breaking up with him that ever year for many years, I dreaded those dates because I’d feel such guilt. Although he was only in my life briefly, the dysfunctional relationship had quite an impact on me.
January 31, 2014, I learned that he shot & killed his boyfriend & then himself two days before. The news came as a complete shock to me since I had absolutely no clue of his orientation or capacity for murder. Keeping in mind my knack for remembering dates, all those dates bring him to mind & every time, make me sad for him, his family, his victim & his victim’s family.
A few times, I’ve mentioned the date in passing conversation & the person I was speaking with told me, “Just don’t think about it.” It sat very wrong with me, even when I knew the person had good intentions, & I’ll tell you why.
“Just don’t think about it” is invalidating. You’re thinking about something that bothers you & are trying to talk it out, yet the other person shuts you down. That is invalidation. Why they do it doesn’t change that fact.
If you “just don’t think about it”, how are you supposed to heal from the incident? If you want to heal, you have to think about it & process the emotions connected to it. Not thinking about it is no help at all!
Not thinking about it also contributes to mental & physical problems. It can create anxiety, depression, anger, high blood pressure, heart disease, & kidney disease. It also reduces the effectiveness of your immune system, leaving you open to sickness.
Obviously, “just don’t think about it” is not good advice & you should NOT follow it!
I’m not saying you should think of nothing but the traumatic event you were told not to think about. Instead, I’m saying work with it. Realize you feel as you do for a reason. Maybe it’s there to let you know now is the time you should face this issue. If so, face it. No, it isn’t easy to face past trauma, but do it anyway! If you face it, it will lose much maybe even all of the negative effect it has over you. It also won’t affect your physical health.
If it’s something you’ve already dealt with like I have dealt with my situation, maybe it’s a reminder to pray for the people involved. I know, praying for a person who has abused you, especially one with no remorse or who has made you out to be the abusive one is tough, but do it anyway. Do it not because this person deserves your prayers, but because God wants you to do it & because it really can help you. Praying for those who use & abuse you is incredibly helpful at releasing the anger & even bitterness you feel towards them. Carrying such things around isn’t good for your health, so why do it? You can maintain boundaries or even no contact while not carrying around anger.
Whatever you feel when something traumatic comes to mind, honor those feelings & know they are there for a valid reason. Accept them without judgement. Face them however you feel you need to do in order to heal. Pray for the abusive person if you can too. Whatever you do though, remember that “just don’t think about it” is terrible advice. Ignore the advice, & take good care of yourself!
Recently I read an article about symptoms of PTSD. I didn’t think much more about it at first, but it kinda bopped around the back of my mind a bit for a few days.
A couple of days later, my husband & I had to go to the doctor for our health insurance. His appointment was first, & we texted periodically. He mentioned the doctor was concerned about his depression. When I saw the doctor, I asked him about it & he said, “I see a lot of people day after day. He has the look many have who have been depressed for years.” I thought it was an interesting statement- he’s very observant!
A couple of days later, something hit me. Our doctor didn’t say a word about my mental health. Not a comment one about me looking like someone who’s been depressed for years, even though I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t depressed. Somehow, my lazy Susan-esque brain connected that with the article I read about PTSD symptoms. In that moment I realized just how much I have been ignoring my C-PTSD symptoms. I’m so good at it that even my observant doctor had no idea I struggle with C-PTSD.
Yes, I’m hyper-vigilant, but you probably wouldn’t know it to look at me. Rather than upset people by startling easy, I am on constant guard, surveying my environment so not much surprises me.
I also get very quiet when I have flashbacks. Naturally I’m quiet anyway so that isn’t a huge red flag My husband has seen me have many flashbacks, but hasn’t noticed a lot of them because of that. I don’t even tell him most of the time when I have flashbacks. I just recover & go on the best I can.
These are just two examples, but there are others.
Thinking of such things I realized how incredibly unhealthy this is that I ignore so many of my symptoms. On the outside, I look like I’m managing the C-PTSD just fine, but on the inside is a very different story.
In considering all of this, I think this happens simply out of habit. Growing up with narcissistic parents, I learned early never to “bother” my parents with my problems. My purpose was to take care of them, not the other way around. As a result, like most children of narcissistic parents, I learned to hide or even ignore anything that didn’t please them. I ignored emotions, illness, thoughts, wants, & needs. Now here I am, an adult in my 40’s with my own life, still hiding & ignoring important things that I shouldn’t be hiding or ignoring.
No doubt I’m not the only person in this position, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on the issue with you, Dear Reader.
It’s important with PTSD & C-PTSD to manage your symptoms. Ignoring them isn’t the same thing. Managing them means you have some control over your symptoms. Ignoring them means you’re working hard to pretend they don’t exist, which shows they have control over you.
Ignoring symptoms also means the problem won’t get fixed or at least controlled. It also can mean you face health problems because emotions that are ignored can cause stress & we all know stress is terrible for your physical & emotional health.
With both PTSD & C-PTSD, there are some symptoms that are just a part of life but others that can be managed. Flashbacks come to mind. Rather than ignoring them or simply accepting them, why not make them work for you whenever possible? Flashbacks can be a sign of a particular issue that you need to work on. I’ve learned that if I deal with the issue my flashback was about, I don’t have another about that particular issue. The same goes for nightmares. This also can work with anxiety. Figure out what is the root of this anxiety. Ask God to help you if need be. Once you know the root, you can face the problem & eliminate one cause of your anxiety. Chipping away at it one issue at a time can help make it more manageable.
Maybe your symptoms are flaring up because you’ve been pushing yourself too hard lately or it’s near the anniversary of some traumatic event. If that is the case, your brain is trying to tell you to slow down & do some good self care. Listen to the symptoms! They’re trying to get your attention for a reason!
Remember, PTSD & C-PTSD are potentially life threatening disorders. They should be taken very seriously. Ignoring your symptoms isn’t going to help you & can hurt you. Pay attention to your symptoms- your brain is trying to tell you something, so listen to it!