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Tag Archives: post traumatic stress
I’ve been getting tired of writing the same type of book so I’ve been considering other options. One of them is this book. It’s a journal created to help the reader help themselves heal from the damage of narcissistic abuse.
Each month in the journal will focus on one traumatic event, & each week, one aspect of the event. It also schedules time to relax so the healing work doesn’t become overwhelming.
In the future, I may create other similar journals on different topics, but honestly I’m not positive yet. We’ll see where God leads me.
The journal is available only in print, unlike many of my other books. It can be found at this link:
All of my print books are 10% off until December 11, 2020 with code FESTIVE10 at checkout.
Find my books at the following link:
During a conversation in my Facebook group, I mentioned how for years, my father would call me later in the evenings, up to 10 sometimes, usually just to complain about my mother. Emotional incest isn’t the best way to end your day! Plus, being an introvert & talking to people a lot during the day, nights are when I want to avoid people. I want to relax with hubby, maybe some music, tv, or a craft project. I also get up early & don’t want to be awake at all hours. I explained this to my father & although he said he understood, he clearly didn’t. Not only because he lacked empathy but also because he was very extroverted. He continued his calls until I was at my wit’s end with it.
As a result, one evening, he called at 9:58. I decided to ignore the call. He called back several times during the next twenty minutes. About half an hour later, one of my cousins who lives 450 miles away called. I almost ignored it because I had a feeling my father put him up to this. Since he never calls so late, I thought what if this was the one time something is actually wrong? I answered the call & found out it was my father’s doing. He called my cousin asking him to call me & have me call my father. We got into an argument because I refused to call him that night. The next morning, my father called before 7. He shamed me for not taking his call & blamed me for making him worry so much that he had to call my cousin & my in-laws. I was livid yet in spite of that & knowing he was being manipulative & controlling, I felt guilty. This was on top of already feeling anxious because he clearly thought he had the right to “barge into” my home anytime he wanted via the phone.
This happened in late 2014. The conversation in my group about this incident made me think of something… I wonder if me having such trouble falling asleep is connected to my father’s upsetting late evening calls. It could be that my brain still expects my phone to ring at any & all hours to deal with a very stressful conversation. Logically I know it’s impossible. My father passed away in October, 2017. I have no other narcissists in my life, so there isn’t anyone left who would do this to me. Yet, it happened for a long time & I naturally became “programmed” to expecting late & upsetting calls.
The dear lady I was discussing this with came up with the term anticipation stress to describe my situation. Thinking about it, I believe this anticipation stress is pretty common with victims of narcissistic abuse.
Narcissists can be quite unpredictable & they use that to keep their victims on a state of constant high alert. The more a person is in that state, the more willing they can be to do anything to end this misery. This means they are more susceptible to being controlled & doing the narcissist’s will.
Even if the narcissist is no longer in the victim’s life, when something miserable happens repeatedly like in my situation, the brain may get stuck in a place of expecting some sort of stress. It seems to me it’s somewhat like hyper-vigilance. With hyper-vigilance, you’re constantly looking for signs of any potential danger. Anticipation stress is somewhat like that, except instead of danger, it’s a stressful & unpleasant situation.
Unfortunately at this time, I don’t know how to release this anticipation stress, but I absolutely will share anything I figure out! In the meantime, I hope it helps you to understand what is happening if you are going through something similar.
Sister Renee of Luke 17:3 Ministries is the lady who coined the term “anticipation stress”, so I’d like to provide a link to her website. Please check it out. She is an amazing lady who shares a lot of true, Godly wisdom on the topic of narcissists & surviving their abuse.
My publisher is having a really good sale on print books. 30% off!! To take advantage, use code BFCM30 at checkout.
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My publisher is having yet another sale on print books. 10% off until November 20, 2020. Use code SELFPUBLISH10 at checkout
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I’ve done something for so long, I didn’t even realize I did it until recently. When I drive past a building with big glass windows or some sort of reflective surface, I look at myself driving.
Recently I caught myself doing this & thought, ok, I’m weird. I’ve known this for years & accepted my weirdness. This looking at myself driving thing though.. wow. I don’t even like looking at myself in a mirror when I put on makeup or looking at pictures of myself. Making my YouTubes is a big struggle for me, so why am I doing this?!
Suddenly it hit me… because when I was a teenager, I had to fight my mother terribly to get a driver’s license. My friends were driving at 16, & their parents often bought them their first car. Their parents put everything in their name to keep insurance costs down. Meanwhile I had to fight my mother badly to get a license. She wouldn’t even let me see my birth certificate. She showed it to the employee at the Motor Vehicles Administration after shielding me from seeing it. When I failed the first test, she told me she knew I would because I wasn’t ready to drive. When I got my permit & wanted to get myself a car, she told me she’d take me shopping one day so I could see how stupid I was for thinking I could afford a car. She picked a car out for me that I absolutely HATED. It was ugly & over priced.
A month or so later, I picked out my first car & got my license.. here is a picture that my mother took of me with that special & I still think absolutely adorable little car..
This is me in 1989 with Baby, my 1978 Buick Skyhawk that I hope to restore one day.
I realized something recently…
The reason I still ogle myself driving when I can isn’t just because I like my pretty cars. It’s because I never take driving for granted. I had to fight hard to get my license. I paid for my first car, insurance, maintenance & everything by myself. I worked hard & accomplished what I wanted to. No one can take that away from me. My first car in particular is a symbol of that which is why she’s special to me & I hope to restore her. Driving any car reminds me of what I managed to accomplish on my own though, no thanks to my parents. I’m proud of that, & seeing myself behind the wheel of a car, in particular my own, is a reminder of that.
I mentioned this to my husband recently & was rather nervous about admitting it. He shocked me by understanding completely & said “You should be proud of that! Celebrate it! Enjoy driving! Take pictures of yourself behind the wheel!” That helped me to see that maybe I’m not as weird as I thought I was..
Is there anything “strange” you do that is like what I do? If so, I want to encourage you to embrace that. Don’t think of it as weird like I have done with looking at myself when driving. Instead, celebrate it! Be proud of whatever it is you have accomplished in spite of your narcissistic parent. You did something on your own without the help of a narcissistic parent. That isn’t an easy feat when you consider you have had a narcissistic parent or two trying to keep you down your whole life. Be proud that you overcame that & still did whatever it is that you did. It’s ok to be proud of yourself! You deserve to feel that way! xoxo
Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or C-PTSD, is a rather new mental health diagnosis. It is common among those who have survived repeated traumas, such as those who endured child abuse or domestic violence.
C-PTSD shares many of the same symptoms of PTSD. It also includes other symptoms that make C-PTSD more, well, complex than PTSD.
Moodiness to the extreme. Moods can be difficult to control for anyone at times. A person with C-PTSD has a much more difficult time controlling them on a regular basis, & sometimes is unable to control them.
Difficulty trusting people. A person with C-PTSD has seen the worst of people, & only naturally has a great deal of difficulty trusting people. It takes a lot for someone with C-PTSD to learn to trust anyone. It also doesn’t take a lot for someone with C-PTSD to lose trust in people.
Flashbacks. There are three types of flashbacks. The typical flashbacks where a person feels as if they are reliving a traumatic event. There also is emotional flashbacks. They don’t feel as if the event is being relieved per se, but the emotions of a traumatic event are being relieved. Emotional flashbacks are extremely common with C-PTSD. Lastly there are somatic flashbacks. They are similar to emotional flashbacks, but rather than dealing with the emotions connected to trauma, they deal with the physical pain connected to trauma.
Toxic shame. Toxic shame is extremely common among those who have survived abuse, in particular those who survived child abuse. Their parents told them the abuse inflicted on them was their fault, which instilled a root of toxic shame in them for supposedly making their parents do the terrible things they did.
Dissociation. A survival tactic, dissociation emotionally removes a person from a traumatic or abusive episode. Many survivors of sexual assault in particular describe it as feeling as if they are not in their body as the assault happened. It also can lead to extensive day dreaming when not in a traumatic situation or even Dissociative Identity Disorder in some extreme cases. DID is especially common among child abuse survivors.
Hyper-vigilance. Hyper-vigilance can take two forms. One is when a person is extremely aware of their surroundings. Even in a crowded place, those with C-PTSD are aware of a person heading to the restroom or leaving the building. Another form of hyper-vigilance is when the body is constantly in a state of preparedness for attack or trauma. This often leads to constant pain.
Suicidal thoughts. The most serious & potentially life threatening aspect of C-PTSD is suicidal thoughts. Those who have C-PTSD frequently battle with severe depression, even to the point of suicidal thoughts. Sadly, suicide seems like the only escape from the pain in the mind of many people with C-PTSD.
While these symptoms are very common with C-PTSD, their seriousness shouldn’t be underestimated. All are life altering, & suicidal thoughts obviously can be life ending. They can be managed, however. I find prayer to be my most effective help when these symptoms flare up. Journaling about them is also very useful. It can help you to see what causes the symptoms to flare & figure out ways to cope with them. Another helpful tip I have found is to remind myself of what is happening. I remind myself that whatever is happening is merely a symptom of the disorder, nothing more. I’m safe, nothing can hurt me. Grounding can be very useful during flashbacks, & it needs to be something that is very extreme to the senses. Smelling a strong scent like lavender or touching a scratchy blanket help by distracting your mind away from the flashback.
Lastly, when your symptoms flare, they’re showing you where you need healing. They actually do have a purpose, so use them to help you.
I decided to do one other thing.. I have made available on my website (www.CynthiaBaileyRug.com) my notes that I used in my podcasts & YouTube videos. Since some folks have issues with sensory processing or just prefer to read rather than watch a video or listen to a podcast, I thought I would do this for them. The notes are all on this link. Feel free to download as many as you like for your personal reference. As I add new podcasts in the future, I’ll naturally add the notes to this page. If you lose the link, simply visit www.CynthiaBaileyRug.com & look at the list of links at the top of the page. You’ll see it there.
Also, I added a search bar to my website, so you can find information on there easier now. Rather than read through lots of pages, you can simply type in your search critera & it will bring up results. Enjoy!
Thank you to everyone who has been so encouraging about the changes I’ve decided to make. I truly value your input. 💖
My publisher is offering a 15% discount on all print books until July 3, 2020. You can find my books at the following link: https://www.lulu.com/spotlight/cynthiabaileyrug
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.
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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!