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.
This day is a difficult one for me. On November 28, 1990, my mother physically assaulted me.
It was the day before Thanksgiving. I got home from work & as soon as I walked through the door, I could tell my mother was itching for a fight. No idea why. My father could see it too, so he quickly said he got a new model airplane & wanted me to see it (we shared a love of models). I practically ran downstairs. I knew it was best never to give in when she was in that mood, so I was grateful for the means of escape.
We were downstairs for a few minutes when my mother stood at the top of the steps, yelling at me. I’m not proud of it, but I finally had enough when she called my car “a hunk of junk” or something like that. I snapped & cussed her out. It just happened. I don’t think the words went near my brain – they just came out. This enraged her, & she started yelling at my father. “Did you hear what she just said to me!? Are you going to let her get away with that?!” My father quietly went upstairs, & left the house while my mother raged at him.
Meanwhile, I went into my room to grab my keys & purse so I could do the same. As I walked back down the hall to get to the door, my mother stepped in my path. She told me she wasn’t going to let me leave. I told her get out of my way before I make you do it. She blocked the doorway by putting her hands & feet against it. I pushed her aside (not knocking her down, just knocking her a bit off balance so I could rush past her). I ran to grab my shoes & by then she was steady on her feet again. Before I knew it, she was in my face, & slammed me into the wall beside the front door, & held me there. My head was the only part I could move.
Two things went through my mind at that moment…
Suddenly I blacked out, I assume from the intense pain & fear. When I came to a moment later, I was biting her on the arm. She & I were both shocked at what I had done. My shock wore off a bit faster than hers, so I ran out the door & to my car & sped off in a cloud of tire smoke.
I believe my mother wanted to kill me, & if I wouldn’t have blacked out like that, she probably would have succeeded.
Interestingly, I caught up to my father at a traffic light. We pulled over & I told him what happened. We then went to my now ex husband’s parents’ home since it was nearby. My father later went to his parents’ home in Virginia. I moved in with a friend’s parents that night, & got my things from my parents’ home a couple of days later.
Naturally, my mother never accepted any responsibility in this. In fact, when I had to quit working a few months later, she told people I was just lazy & faking back problems to get out of working. And, in 2014, my father mentioned this incident.. He told me it’s ok, I didn’t have to apologize for busting up his wall. How kind, right?! I never even thought of how the wall was damaged, but he said it was really bad. He fixed it though, so I didn’t need to apologize. I told him I had no plans on doing so! Not my fault my mother broke it by slamming me into it!
This incident along with having extremely selfish in-laws who have demanded my husband & I spend the day with them no matter what (I spent it alone when I refused to go) is why I absolutely hate Thanksgiving. Kinda hard to feel warm & fuzzy about the day when there are memories like this assault & years of jerky acting in-laws associated with it.
I honestly thought I was ok with this incident. (Well, as ok as one can be when they think about their mother trying to kill them & father abandoning them to an obviously raging lunatic.) What makes it even harder, I think, is this year, the dates have fallen on the exact days they fell on in 1990, so in some weird way, I almost feel like I’m reliving that time of my life. I feel some of the same shock & anger I felt when it happened, just to a much lesser degree. I feel disappointment too. In my father for abandoning me that night, in my ex for making it all about how he felt about the incident & not caring about my pain (I think he even spent Thanksgiving with his family out of state the following day, if memory serves correctly), & my friend’s father who found it hilarious I bit my mother. I’m even disappointed in my mother for not only attacking me but using it as one more weapon to trash me to other people then expecting me to act like it never happened. I’m also disappointed in myself for failing to press charges against my mother. The thought never crossed my mind until not long ago when I friend mentioned it.
I’m also less than thrilled that thinking about this has made my C-PTSD flare up. Hardly surprising though. So if there are spelling or grammar errors in here, please pardon me. I tried to catch them all a couple of days after writing this, but it doesn’t always happen with flare ups.
I don’t even know why I’m writing all of this as a blog post. I do promise to keep my writing real but even so, this isn’t like me. Usually things like this I write in my journal, maybe sharing details later once I have had some time to come to terms with whatever the trauma was. For some reason though, I felt I needed to write this in my blog instead. Maybe someone who reads my blog needs to see this. If that describes you, Dear Reader, I really hope this post helps you somehow. ❤
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.
Today’s post is a reminder for everyone who has been invalidated…
Your pain is real, & there is nothing wrong with you for feeling that pain. You aren’t crazy, stupid, weak, “wallowing”, living in the past, looking for attention or whatever other invalidating things you have been told. You have no reason to feel shame for what you’re feeling. Other people have no right to judge you. They aren’t you & they haven’t experienced the things that you have experienced. How can they say that you should or shouldn’t feel what you feel?! They can’t!
You, Dear Reader, are just fine. I know it may not feel that way, but it’s true.
Anyone who has survived narcissistic abuse is going to have some issues as a result. It’s just what happens due to the horrible nature of the abuse. Admittedly it, well, it sucks, but it’s also unavoidable. People lacking compassion & empathy fail to understand this. Or, they may see you dealing with your own pain & it serves as a reminder of their pain that they are working hard to ignore. That is why many people invalidate others- to shut them down so they don’t have to face their own issues & pain.
You’ve survived a lot, & if others can’t understand that or feel they must hurt you for it, they obviously have some problems! You hold your head up high & ignore the invalidating jerks! You go on, doing what you need to do to heal, & pay no attention to the invalidators of the world. You have survived so much, you can survive a person who doesn’t possess the humanity to display basic respect & love for a fellow human being!
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!
It seems like there is a strange believe among many people that processing trauma quickly is a sign of strength. People are admired for getting back to work or a normal routine quickly, & it’s assumed they’re “over it” when they do that. Unfortunately a lot of people who others think are “over it” are actually avoiding dealing with their pain.
Healing from trauma of any sort isn’t a quick process. How could it be? Trauma overloads your mind, emotions & even body. It’s impossible to simply shake it off & move on. It’s even worse when you’ve been exposed to repeated traumas, such as in the case of child abuse.
Never let anyone make you feel weak or ashamed because you’re not “over it” yet. Truly processing trauma takes time, & lots of it. It also takes a great deal of energy & courage to face the ugly truth, to get angry about it, & to grieve about it. It may take a lifetime to do. There is no shame in that. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you’ve been through unimaginable circumstances.
I realized something recently that has been a big help to me, & I believe it can be to you too.
When remembering some of the traumatic & abusive events I’ve been through in my life recently, suddenly I started seeing just how wrong those things were. Oddly, doing that small gesture has helped loosen the hold the damage from such events had over me. I think that happens because I never really questioned these things before.
If you’re reading my blog, chances are you too have experience with narcissists, so you probably know just what I’m talking about. Narcissists don’t allow you to question anything. Whatever they say or do, that is the end of the matter. They’re right, according to them, & you aren’t allowed to think otherwise. Especially with parents, when this happens often as a child, you learn not to question things, just accept them as fact. Seeing clearly that they were wrong & accepting that is a big step in breaking the hold this abuse has over you.
I recently had a flashback about something that happened to me in late 1989 when I was 18. My current ex husband & I were dating, & I hadn’t moved out of my parents’ home at that time. I forget why, but he wanted to use my car one day, so we swapped cars. I was off work that day & my mother insisted I go to the grocery store with her. I said before I went, I wanted to put gas in the car since it was low, as usual. I’d do that then meet her at the store. I did, & on my way to the store, I lost control of the car & landed in a ditch around a turn. It was raining, & the ex’s car had bald tires, so it’s no surprise this happened in spite of me being very careful. Thankfully I wasn’t hurt, & his car only had minimal damage. This happened close to my ex’s parents’ house so I went there. A nice man driving a dump truck took pity on me walking in the rain & gave me a ride. When I got there, I told the ex’s dad what happened. He arranged to get the car towed & I called my mother at the grocery store (pre-cell phones, obviously).
You’d think ditching the car was the trauma, but it wasn’t. When I called my mother, she yelled at me, telling me she knew when I didn’t show up, I’d been in an accident & it served me right for driving that piece of junk car. The ex’s father was furious at what happened, blaming me for driving recklessly. The ex’s mother also blamed me but was at least nicer about it. The ex, believe it or not, was glad it happened, because it meant his parents would finally buy him the new tires he wanted. Later that evening, the ex & I visited my (narcissistic) grandmother who wouldn’t have cared less what I had went through that day.
For years, I accepted that this accident was my fault & I deserved what I got. It simply hadn’t crossed my mind to question that until my recent flashback. Suddenly it hit me how incredibly wrong this whole event was! I didn’t know just how bad the tires were- all I heard was they were wearing out so be careful. I never thought to check for myself. It wasn’t my car, so why would I, especially when my ex was a mechanic? Also, this could’ve been avoided if I’d had my own car- it was ridiculous my ex wanted to have mine as often as he did at that time. Granted, mine was the better of our two cars, but if he wanted better, he should have got his own better car! My ex’s parents should have replaced the tires, too, since they knew just how bad the tires were. And lastly my mother.. that is how she treated her own daughter after her first car wreck?! No “Are you ok?” or any sign of concern, just yelling at & blaming me. Considering her mother didn’t care either, it’s obvious where she got her lack of compassion.
For the first time, I finally realized how wrong all of this was. Every single person in this scenario was wrong except me, the one who got all the blame! I realized how wrong it is that the only person who was nice to me in that incident was the dump truck driver- a total stranger! This entire situation was wrong- every single thing about it!
Looking at the situation differently reminded me of turning a kaleidoscope. One small turn & the scene inside looks entirely different. At least kaleidoscopes give a pretty picture. This was far from pretty, but at least it helped me to release the guilt I felt for almost 29 years!
Since this happened, I’ve been looking at other situations in a new light, & having the same type of results. The slight turn of the kaleidoscope gave me a new perspective, & enabled me to release guilt, shame, & false beliefs while accepting the truth in their place.
Dear Reader, I urge you to try this too. Think about a specific trauma in your life from a more objective perspective. Try to look at it as if you’re watching a movie, for example, or as if it’s happening to someone else, so your emotions are not so involved. Chances are, you’ll see how wrong & unfair it was as I have. Did it help you to release any guilt or false beliefs you had received as a result of that awful experience? If not, ask God to tell you the truth about it, & I have no doubt He will help you to release those things!
Recently, seemingly out of nowhere, I suddenly felt as if a ton of bricks landed on me. I have had one very hard, painful year & currently have quite a bit going on. The intensity of it all hit at once. I really felt overwhelmed for a while & couldn’t stop crying.
Eventually I did though, & realized what was happening. I hadn’t really dealt with things very well. In fact, I avoided thinking about some things, stuffing my emotions like I always used to do. Old habits die hard, & apparently that one resurrected briefly without me realizing it. I think my old habit returned because I had so much happening at once. I didn’t have time to cope with one thing when three more bad things happened.
Upon realizing all of this, I have formed a plan. I will take things one issue at a time. When I first realized I had problems stemming from my childhood, I thought I could deal with everything at once. Forgive my parents, accept the fact they were abusive, face being depressed & anxious, think positive, & all would be fine. Naive? Oh yes.. but truthfully, I didn’t realize how deep my issues went or have any grip on this emotional healing stuff. Now I know better, & I have learned that a lot of times, it’s best to face one issue at a time, as it arises.
What I mean is this…
As an example from my life, part of my issue is the fact that when my father was dying, so called “family” came out of the woodwork to tell me what I needed to do regarding my parents,what a horrible person I was for not obeying them or “forgiving & forgetting” & not “honoring” my parents. Mind you, this is on top of the death of my father. Instead of lumping this all into one thing to deal with, I’m dissecting it, & dealing with each issue as I am able. Here are the issues:
I think it’s healthier to deal with things this way because the events of that time are very distinct & complex, not to mention overwhelming to face all at once. Even just the one part with family is difficult because there were two very different dynamics at play. My relationships with these people were very different, so naturally that means I must deal with the situations differently. Plus, doing this also gives me smaller things to cope with rather than trying to tackle one huge issue. Smaller bits will be easier to cope with, which is especially important since I have C-PTSD. Having the disorder means my brain is broken. I have to treat myself gentler than a person without C-PTSD treats themselves.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed too, Dear Reader, I’m sorry. It happens sometimes & it’s rough, I know. Just try to remember to approach the situation in small doses, especially if you too have C-PTSD. Break it down into manageable parts, & deal with those however works best for you rather than tackling the big picture all at once. The little things will add up to form the big picture. Also 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.” (KJV) Sometimes when you’re facing your pain, it feels like you are all alone. People don’t understand, & may avoid or even abandon you during your darkest hours. God isn’t that way though. He loves you & is with you no matter how bad things may be. xoxo
When you first learn that you have PTSD or C-PTSD, you will hear about having nightmares, but very little has been discussed about what kind of nightmares.
When I first realized I had C-PTSD in 2012, I read everything I could find on the disorder, & kept seeing nightmares on the list of symptoms. I assumed it would be dreams repeating traumatic events. Unpleasant, for sure, but I lived through the real thing so I figured I could handle the nightmares.
Not even close!
I have had nightmares ever since I can remember, but the frequency has increased greatly since 2012. And, of the many nightmares, very few were actually reliving the trauma. Instead, many were very strange, such as having my car stolen then totaled, finding a little child I needed to protect or other odd subject matter. I honestly wondered what was wrong with me. How could I have such awful & strange dreams yet nothing of the trauma I have been through? It seemed completely bizarre to me.
Recently I realized something.. these dreams may not be specifically about trauma, but they share similar emotions to traumatic experiences I have had. The nightmares often leave me feeling powerless, abused, unloved (even hated), helpless & more.
I’ve heard a few people say their nightmares are much like mine- not about traumatic events, but about events that trigger similar emotions.
I believe this means such nightmares must be a normal part of having C-PTSD or PTSD.
If you too are having odd, unsettling nightmares, then know you aren’t alone. Nightmares are part of PTSD & C-PTSD, unfortunately.
As disturbing as they are, they may be able to help you. Dreams & nightmares alike have meanings. They’re never random, even though they feel that way.
Dreams can show you areas you need healing in or areas where you have healed well. They can show you things you weren’t aware of or you need to be aware of. They also can simply help you because your brain is processing some information. The brain processes information every single moment, even when you’re asleep.
If you want to understand your dreams & nightmares, prayer is the best place to start. Ask God to help you to understand them & learn what you need to know from them.
A good dream dictionary is a helpful tool too. I use a website (there are many to choose from). They can help you to see what each item in your dream represents, which can make it easier to interpret them.
It’s also a good idea to keep track of your dreams. Write them down & look them over from time to time. That can help encourage you when you see how far you’ve come. It also can help to remind you of things you need to deal with.
Personally I write down my dreams & nightmares, plus what I find the meaning of everything I can remember in them. Colors, objects, people, feelings. Once it’s all written down, I ask God to help me to understand what the dream or nightmare meant. It’s proven to be quite helpful to me many times. It could benefit you as well
Children of narcissistic parents often experience similar types of abuse when growing up. So many of us have spoken to others & said things like, “Yea!! My mother did that exact same thing!” Many of my readers have told me their stories & they sound oddly similar to my own. Their mothers told them they were crazy, fat, stupid, ugly, worthless, etc. They used similar gaslighting phrases to my mother’s, such as “I don’t remember it that way.” “You’re crazy!” “What is wrong with you?” The similarities are uncanny! In fact, I’ve often wondered if they all have some sort of secret narcissistic instruction manual since so many narcissists act very similar.
The abuse isn’t the only thing that’s similar about being raised by narcissistic parents. The damage done is oddly similar.
Dear Reader, chances are you have experienced symptoms like this, probably more. Maybe it’s even what brought you to my blog today. If you are experiencing such things, then please know you aren’t crazy! You’re far from it in fact. You’re a normal person who has experienced extremely abnormal things, & had a normal reaction to them.
I can’t tell you today that the symptoms will all go away quickly, because they won’t. Prayer, love & support from those around you, counseling will help you get healthier. Prayer in particular is the most important thing you can do to help yourself. Remember, the Bible referred to Jesus as “The Great Physician” & “Wonderful Counselor”- who better to help you get through this? Also, the more you learn about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, the more it will help you to see that you were not the real problem, contrary to what you were told. You may need to go no contact for your healing to progress, or at the least go low contact. The more distance between you & your abusive parent, the better it is for your mental & physical health. You’ll gain clarity you can’t have when in their presence often. You also will stop functioning in survival mode, which will allow you to think of yourself for once rather than your parents.
The symptoms resulting from narcissistic abuse are nothing to take lightly. Take care of yourself. You deserve to be happy & healthy! xoxo
If you have PTSD or C-PTSD, you know about nightmares. You have them so often, they aren’t a surprise. They’re just a way of life. Yet, little is mentioned about the nightmares.
I’d always had frequent nightmares, but it got much worse in 2012 which is when I realized I had C-PTSD. I began having several almost every night, which of course led to a lot of fatigue. The nightmares also became even more vivid than usual, which is saying something since I’ve always had very vivid dreams. They became so vivid in fact, that often I would wake up feeling as if I’d just done whatever I did in the dream. If I dreamed I ran a marathon, for example, I woke up physically tired & achy.
After learning about C-PTSD, I assumed the nightmares would be about reliving traumatic events, which does happen, but only rarely. Most of my nightmares are about strange things- being an adult yet having to repeat high school & relying on my mother to take me rather than driving my own car; while repeating high school as an adult, being unable to find or remember the combination to my locker; my car being stolen &/or totaled; my husband mocking me when I was obviously upset or rejecting me somehow; or someone letting my cats outside & they ran away. Strange stuff! I finally asked God about it after waking up for yet one more bizarre nightmare. What He shared made a lot of sense & I think it will if you too suffer with odd nightmares like I do.
The brain constantly processes information, whether the information is good, bad or indifferent. Our dreams are often a result of that processing, because the brain doesn’t take breaks. Sometimes we don’t remember dreams because they weren’t important- the brain simply processed something unimportant. Other times, it tries to make sense of horrible things that have happened, which is where nightmares come into it. Sometimes the brain relives those awful, traumatic events in an attempt to understand it, but not always. Sometimes nightmares look as if they have nothing to do with traumatic events on the surface, yet they actually have a lot to do with them.
While the circumstances of the dreams may be different, the emotions they stir up feel exactly like some trauma you have experienced. My nightmare of my car being stolen & totaled? It caused a huge amount of anxiety & fear, & I felt completely helpless. Eventually I realized it triggered the exact same emotions of my seventeenth birthday. That day, my mother took my gifts from my then boyfriend/now ex husband & destroyed them on the way home from school. She blamed me for making her do that & making her car messy. The event caused me so much anxiety (knowing I’d have to tell my ex what happened to his gifts), fear (wondering what she was going to do next) & I felt helpless (she destroyed the gifts as I was picking up her Avon order & gone for maybe 3 minutes- I couldn’t have known what she was going to do or stop her from doing it)
When these nightmares happen, the good news is that they have a purpose. They show you that there is an area in which you need more healing. It can be hard to figure out, so I highly recommend asking God about it. He loves you & wants to help you, so let Him! Ask Him what did that dream mean? If you like, you also can look up symbols on a dream dictionary website- I’ve done this. I write down everything I can from my dream- items, colors, feelings- then look up what each means & write it down beside each item. Sometimes things make more sense to me when I see them in writing so that can be a helpful tool.
Once you realize what the dream was trying to make sense of, you can heal. Work on coping with the traumatic event however works for you- pray, talk to a therapist, talk to a close friend, write in your diary. What you do doesn’t matter, so long as it works for you.
I know nightmares are a very difficult part of C-PTSD & PTSD, but they are also unavoidable. Why not make them work in your favor by learning what they’re trying to help you cope with? Once you do, the nightmares often go away or at the very least don’t happen nearly as often. I haven’t had a dream about my car being stolen or totaled in a couple of years. 🙂
2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (NKJV)
As many of you know, I have agoraphobia. Leaving home, sometimes even to go into my yard, is very difficult or impossible. Anxiety takes over & logic that nothing is going to go wrong or hurt me goes out the window. Quite frankly, it sucks.
Recently I’ve been wanting to go for a drive. That’s all- just enjoy a short drive in my awesome car. However, the agoraphobia left me at home & my car sitting…
A few days ago, I opened up my email first thing in the morning. I get a Scripture delivered daily. That particular day the Scripture I shared above was in the email. When I read it, something clicked in my mind. No, God didn’t give me a spirit of fear. My agoraphobia is NOT from Him.
The agoraphobia started in 1996, just after my paternal grandmom passed away. My husband told his mother, who didn’t even acknowledge my loss- she changed the subject. A short time later, this exact same experience happened with his sister. Somehow, these experiences cemented in my mind that I don’t matter. I shouldn’t bother anyone with my problems or even my presence, which is a belief that stems from my upbringing with my narcissistic parents. Their behavior made this belief evolve into feeling like I don’t even have the right to leave home, possibly bothering people in public places.
Thinking about this angered me a great deal. As is common with many adult children of narcissistic parents, I’m suffering because of other people’s cruelty. This agoraphobia isn’t from God at all, & that Scripture was a reminder of that.
2 Timothy 1:7 enabled me not only to go for a ride, but a longer one than I originally wanted to do. And, I got on smaller interstates too! (After getting sick in 2015 & being unable to drive for a long time, I lost a lot of confidence in driving. I’ve avoided bigger roads & interstates since.)
I’m not saying I’m cured. Even thinking of leaving home now makes me tense up. However, I do know that keeping these things in mind is going to be helpful for me leaving home in the future.
I’m sharing this with you today, Dear Reader, because I know so many of you also live with anxiety &/or agoraphobia. Please consider what I wrote about here. Know that such awful things are NOT from God. It helped me to remember that & get mad at those who put the anxiety & agoraphobia on me. Maybe it can help you as well to think about it. What is the root of your anxiety? If you don’t know, then ask God- He will show you. He showed me why I have agoraphobia. I never would’ve guessed that on my own! He can do the same for you. Once you get to the root of the problem, you can work on healing it properly.
I recently was talking recently with a lady about this very topic- can someone be completely healed of the effects of narcissistic abuse? We both shared the same opinion. With God, of course, all things are possible. However, to be completely healed isn’t necessarily the norm.
For one thing, narcissistic abuse infects every area of your being. The stress of it can affect you physically, such as developing high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, or heart disease. The negativity & crazy making affect you mentally. So many victims feel like they’re crazy. Many lose their self esteem or live with depression & anxiety. A lot of victims live with PTSD or C-PTSD after leaving the relationship with a narcissist. Many people in a relationship with narcissists are affected financially. Narcissists see people as nothing more than tools to be used in whatever way benefits the narcissist, so many victims lose a great deal of money to their narcissist. Many victims are also affected spiritually because of the narcissist’s weird religious beliefs or being overly “religious”, using God to make the victim feel like a bad person, God is punishing them or the like.
For another thing, if you had a narcissistic parent (or two), the abuse is even worse simply due to the nature of the relationship. It goes so deeply against nature for a parent to abuse a child instead of loving & caring for her, that it’s virtually impossible to accept. That can deeply affect a child no matter that child’s age. Many are in denial, saying their narcissistic mother was just quirky or over protective rather than narcissistic. Some believe their covertly narcissistic parent was naive, & didn’t know any better. Or, they believe the covertly narcissistic parent was incapable of stopping the overtly narcissistic parent from abusing them for various reasons.
Also, childhood forms who you are as an adult. Whether you had a good or bad upbringing, you are a product of your childhood. I think childhood is much like the foundation of a home. If a home’s foundation is damaged, the home won’t be safe. If you had a bad childhood, your adulthood won’t be healthy until you fix the damage done to you in childhood.
You may never fully heal from the abuse. It’s quite normal. If you get to the place the abuse doesn’t consume you, you’re doing great. If you can think or talk about certain events without feeling devastated, but instead feeling more like you’re remembering an unpleasant dream, you’re doing great. It’s quite possible you may not be healed more than that. In my personal experience plus observations of the many other victims of narcissistic abuse I’ve spoken with, complete healing isn’t common. In fact, I haven’t seen it myself.
If you are like most of us & still struggling even many years after the abuse happened, please know you’re not alone! Not by a long shot! You also aren’t weak or a failure. God hasn’t abandoned you either. In fact, He is with you during the worst times, whether you feel His presence or not. I’ll close this post with a beautiful reminder of that fact..
1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 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.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Mental illness is very different from physical illness in many ways. One of those ways is the fact most people don’t usually believe someone has a mental illness. If you have diabetes, people can see there’s a problem. They see you testing your glucose or giving yourself an insulin shot. If you have cancer, you have xrays, mri’s & maybe even a visible tumor that people can see. But if you have a mental illness, there isn’t such evidence.
If you have Bipolar disorder, you’re just “moody.”
If you have C-PTSD or PTSD, you’re “dwelling in the past, need to stop thinking about things, need to get over it or you can’t have it because you weren’t in the military.”
If you’re depressed or anxious, “you’re feeling sorry for yourself, stop being sad or anxious, need to get out more or take a pill & get over it.” “Everyone feels sad/anxious” is another common comment.
What people fail to realize is you can’t control the symptoms of mental illness any more than you can physical illness.
As someone who is not only suffering with mental illness but also frustrated with the lack of compassion & understanding many people have about it, you may do like many people, & try to explain & justify your illness. Chances are, this will only frustrate you further.
As someone with mental illness myself, I get it. You want people to understand & not judge. You don’t want to be invalidated either. After years of thinking any problem I had wasn’t important (thanks, Mom & Dad for the invalidation), I assumed my mental health wasn’t important either. It took a long time for me to accept that I have real problems, & being invalidated by subject changes & such stupid statements as “Just take a pill- you’ll be fine” make me feel as I did growing up, like I don’t count. Frankly, I’ve come too far to live with that feeling anymore. I’ve also realized if I continue to explain to certain people who say such invalidating things, it will leave me feeling even more frustrated & angry. They only dig their heels in deeper & become more committed to know nothing of the problem at hand. They don’t want to understand, so nothing I can say will make them understand. It’s not worth my time & energy trying to make them understand
If you are in this situation as well, Dear Reader, I would like to encourage you today. You don’t have to explain your mental illness to anyone. Some people are going to want to know about it, but some won’t. Those people are committed to not knowing or understanding, & it’s not your place to make them understand or know what you live with. You will know if someone is genuinely concerned for you & wants to know what you experience. They won’t try to tell you what to do to “get over” your mental illness. They will offer understanding & support, not judgment. They will offer to help you if they can. People like this are the only ones that deserve your time & any information you wish to share about your illness.
Triggers are things that trigger PTSD or C-PTSD symptoms to flare up. A certain sound that makes you have a flashback or a scent creates a panic attack are triggers.
Unfortunately triggers are everywhere. There is no avoiding them entirely, as wonderful as it would be if that was possible. I have realized there are times when you can be more easily or less easily triggered. Certain dates (an abusive parent’s birthday for example) can make you more sensitive to triggers. Some people also are more or less triggered at various stages of healing.
So what can be done about triggers? Since they can’t be avoided completely, they need to be managed.
Prayer is the best place to start. Ask God for help showing you ways to manage your symptoms during triggers or ways you can avoid them.
Identify your triggers & avoid them when possible. This isn’t always easy, as thinking about your triggers can be upsetting. But, you need to know what upsets you so you can either avoid it or be prepared to deal with it when you can’t.
Triggers can show you what areas you need healing in, so pay close attention to them. For me, hearing someone talk about being sick & having their family care for them is a big trigger for me. I barely saw a doctor growing up, my mother complained when I was sick about having to take care of me or being stuck at home with me. As an adult, my mother doesn’t believe me if I have a health problem, blames me for getting sick or injured or accuses me of faking it. When I hear someone talking about their awesome family who was there for them during a health crisis, I know that I couldn’t experience the same thing, & it hurts me. It also makes me angry at my mother for being incapable of feelings that any normal mother feels for her child, for seeing nothing wrong with her behavior & instead getting upset with me for being rightfully angry with her. All of this shows me I still need healing in this area. The good part about all of this is the more that you do heal in that area, the less power the triggers will have over you.
Also focus on the here & now. Being well aware of your surroundings can help you to stay focused on that rather than get caught up in a panic attack. This also can help you to stay in reality during a flashback. Touch something with an extreme texture- very soft or coarse fabric, maybe hold an ice cube. Smell something with a strong scent, such as lavender (which also has anti-anxiety properties) or that holds good memories for you, such as the perfume your favorite aunt wore when you were a child.
Write in a journal. Writing can be extremely therapeutic. It also can be validating when you see things in writing rather than speaking about them.
Learn what self-soothing techniques work best to relax you. They should involve at least one of your senses. Soak in a bubble bath, wear soft & comfy clothes, stretch, listen to calming music, listen to nature sounds, sing, drink herbal tea or flavored coffee (decaf is best), light a scented candle or incense, smell some flowers, read a book, watch a funny movie or tv show, look at pictures of those you love or that inspire you.
If you have read much at all about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you have read about the benefits of going no contact. It is often the only solution, as many authors on the topic will feverishly tell you. After all, it’s not like you can reason with someone who refuses to accept any responsibility for their actions. Many times, all you can do is hope to escape the narcissist with your sanity in tact.
Unfortunately though, one thing I have noticed is many people who say that no contact is the only solution fail to mention that is it not a cure all.
Certainly, eliminating an abusive narcissist from your life is beneficial. You no longer have the daily struggles. Without their gaslighting, you can think clearer. Your finances may improve as well, if the narcissist was draining your bank accounts. You finally can focus on yourself & healing. However, without the narcissist in your life, you still will have problems that stem from your time being abused by that peson.
Please believe me, I’m not speaking against no contact. While I believe it is an individual decision & no one should attempt to force anyone into making that decision, I also realize it is usually the best solution. I just think it is very important for people who opt to remove the narcissist from their life to realize that doing so won’t solve all of their problems. Yes, it will improve daily life since they won’t have to deal with new, frustrating, abusive situations, which is fantastic. But, it also won’t solve some things.
No contact doesn’t cure PTSD or C-PTSD. In fact, there is no known cure for either. All you can do is manage the symptoms, which, by the way, can be much easier without a narcissist around!
It also doesn’t stop repressed memories from returning to the forefront of one’s mind sometimes.
It also doesn’t mean you won’t have times of missing the narcissist. They all have something that made you love them. If they didn’t, deciding to go no contact wouldn’t have been a difficult decision at all.
No contact doesn’t mean you won’t think of the narcissist anymore. Whether he or she is a parent, relative, romantic interest or friend, you have shared experiences together. You won’t forget them just because that person is no longer in your life. Birthdays, anniversaries or other special occasions will pop into your memory periodically.
Please don’t lose hope after reading these things! They don’t mean there is something wrong with you or you are irreparably damaged. They simply mean you are a normal person who has been deeply affected by narcissistic abuse.
These things also don’t mean no contact is a bad idea. Like I said, it is often the only solution to an extremely painful & impossible situation. The reason I wanted to share these things with you, Dear Reader, is so you will be prepared if you do opt to go no contact.
Something crossed my mind recently.
People with PTSD/C-PTSD, depression or anxiety that stems from being abused are referred to as having a mental illness, or mental health problems. It occurred to me though that this is, in a way, false.
Yes, C-PTSD/PTSD, depression & anxiety are proof of damage in the brain, so they are in that sense mental disorders. But, such things are also normal reactions to highly abnormal circumstances. The truth is actually that these disorders were brought about by an abusive person determined to hurt you.
Having C-PTSD, PTSD, depression or anxiety aren’t signs that you are weak, a failure, stupid or anything else. They are simply proof that you have been through some traumatic things, & you survived! You are strong!
Rather than being ashamed of yourself for being “mentally ill”, why not instead embrace the fact that you are a normal, mentally healthy person who has been through some terrible things?
I’m not saying embrace your disorder- I doubt anyone could enjoy flashbacks, suicidal thoughts, panic attacks & more. Instead, I’m saying see your disorder as proof of your strength & that you have been through trauma. Not everyone survives being abused. Many victims develop terrible addictions & still others commit suicide. You haven’t done those & should be proud that you haven’t!
Something crossed my mind recently…
I thought about how I dealt with the abuse as it happened to me in my younger days. I didn’t deal with it. For one thing, I didn’t have the time. It was one crisis after another after another for years. I didn’t have time to deal with something before something else happened. For another thing, I grew up thinking I never had any real problems. It didn’t matter how much something hurt me. My pain was never validated, so I believed it was no big deal.
As a result, I went on with life as if nothing happened no matter what trauma I’d just endured. Like, when I was 19 & had my first nervous breakdown. I locked myself in my parents’ bathroom & was catatonic for roughly 5 hours. By the time I came out, I had about one hour to get to work. I was at work on time, & went through my day as if nothing happened, in spite of being tired & feeling very “off.” The prior year, my mother came to my job, screamed at me in the parking lot, humiliating me. When I went back inside, I took a few minutes to relax only because my supervisor told me to, then got back to work. In fact, after both situations, I ended up comforting my now ex husband because he said such situations were hard for him, rather than receiving comfort from him or anyone for that matter.
I used to think these things meant I was strong but I realized something today. I wasn’t strong- I was dysfunctional. True strength would have meant I faced these situations & took care of myself after. Instead, I told myself they were no big deal.
When you are abused by a narcissist, you get a very warped view of all sorts of things, including what true strength is. Pretending things don’t bother you when they do isn’t true strength. It’s merely setting yourself up for these things to manifest in bad ways at a later date.
I’m telling you this today, Dear Reader, because if you feel weak, like so many victims do, because you can’t seem to “get over” the abuse you endured, you need to realize you aren’t weak. Quite the contrary. It takes a lot of strength to face past abuse & trauma. It doesn’t take a lot of strength to ignore it.
It takes a lot of strength to live daily with PTSD or C-PTSD. It’s incredibly difficult living with constant memories of things you wish you could forget but can’t, managing symptoms, pulling yourself out of a panic attack, calming yourself after nightmares or coming back to reality after a flashback. Things things take a great deal of strength.
It also takes a great deal of strength to change, to try to live a healthy life instead of a dysfunctional one. Change can be scary since it’s going into foreign territory. The familiar is comfortable, even when it is painful, so many people find it easier to stay dysfunctional than to change.
Developing new & healthy boundaries is downright terrifying when you haven’t had them before, so setting & enforcing them also takes a tremendous amount of strength. When people who had weak or no boundaries first start to set them, they meet with a LOT of opposition. To press on even though everyone around you is calling you selfish or wondering what happened to that “nice” girl you used to be takes a lot of strength!
So you see, Dear Reader, just how strong you are? Give yourself some credit today. You are so stronger than you give yourself credit for!
Anyone with PTSD or C-PTSD knows about triggers. Triggers are those things that send us rocketing into a flashback or emotional flashback, or at the very least, remind us of some painful trauma we’d just as soon forget about. They also can trigger a panic attack or dissociation.
As painful as triggers can be, they also can serve a good purpose. They can show us the areas in which we need healing.
I have a very hard time going into the neighboring town where my parents live. It is full of awful memories for me, so I avoid the town as much as possible. Going past the library is the worst though. That was where my first job was, & where my mother did some very abusive & hurtful things to me. She once screamed at the top of her lungs at me in the parking lot in front of my now ex husband, the patrons & my coworkers. She humiliated, belittled, shamed & degraded me there too. Repeatedly. When I see the library building, even just driving past it, I either get a panic attack, flashback or dissociate. I’ve done them all. The one time I went inside that library a few years ago, I had to leave immediately because of having a panic attack & flashback at the same time. Naturally, I haven’t gone back to that library since.
One good thing about this is I realize that I need further healing in the area of the things my mother did to me at that library. I have dealt with so many things my mother did to me, but not the events that took place at that library. I know I have repressed some of them, but not all. I need to deal with what I do remember.
Have you ever thought about triggers this way, Dear Reader? As painful as it can be, it is a good thing when you learn about some area where you need further healing. You can’t heal from what you don’t acknowledge, so you need to know what areas you need to work on. Every event you heal from brings you one step closer to wholeness, one step further from the trauma you have endured & fills you with more joy & peace than you had previously. If you can look at triggers as a sign that you need healing in a certain area, they truly can help you.
I recently had an interesting revelation that I’d like to share with you today, Dear Reader.
A friend of mine has PTSD as a result of time in the military. One story he told me was how he was on patrol in the gunner hatch of a humvee, in the lead vehicle, when they were approached by a 12 year old boy carrying a teddy bear. My friend told him to stop, but he wouldn’t. Even firing a warning shot into the air didn’t deter this boy, & my friend had no alternative- he had to shoot the boy. It turns out the boy’s teddy bear contained 6 pounds of explosives- he could’ve killed so many people!
When this story crossed my mind the other night, something else crossed my mind: I’ve been through enough trauma at the hands of narcissists to give me the same disorder as this man who has been through unspeakable trauma.
Wow. Talk about giving a new perspective! It really showed me just how bad the abuse in my life has been.
So many people with PTSD or C-PTSD due to narcissistic abuse tend to trivialize their experiences & I have been one of them. They think it’s not so bad because they weren’t in the military or their narcissist didn’t hit them. They even try to hide their awful symptoms because it’s embarrassing they have the disorder because the abuse “wasn’t so bad.” They think they’re weak for having PTSD or C-PTSD.
Having PTSD/C-PTSD aren’t signs of weakness. They are anything but! They are signs of having experienced trauma so severe, it actually physically broke your brain. They are normal reactions to extremely abnormal circumstances. They are a sign you survived something pretty horrific.
If you live with either PTSD or C-PTSD, please know you have nothing to be embarrassed about. Would you be embarrassed if you got diabetes? Cancer? Then why be embarrassed about having a mental illness? Also, just like you can’t do anything to get a physical illness like cancer, you didn’t do anything to get PTSD/C-PTSD.
If you feel able to, please talk about your experiences with PTSD or C-PTSD or even the abuse you endured. Talking things out is good for you- it helps you to heal. Also, talking about what you live with as a result of the trauma can help to raise awareness of PTSD/C-PTSD. People truly have no idea what it’s really like to live with such an awful mental disorder. They have these crazy, false ideas of what it means to have PTSD/C-PTSD & those ideas need to be eliminated & replaced with the truth!
I would like to encourage you to ask God to show you if He wants you to discuss what has happened to you or the PTSD/C-PTSD, & if so, how. Does He want you to speak to groups? Write a book? Write a blog? There are many ways to raise awareness. Maybe you have a calling to one of those ways.
Today, September 6, the day I’m writing this, was one rough day for me. I’m hoping sharing it here rather than in my private journal can help others. I also hope my writing makes sense- it’s really hard to write when the C-PTSD flares up.
To start with, I woke up first thing in the morning after a restless night full of nightmares I barely remember & repeatedly waking up for no obvious reason. I started out my day very tired, which made concentration harder than usual. It also means my moods are more erratic.
I decided to go to the local craft store for some yarn for a new crochet project. Although I spent 3 days prior out all day & it wore me out beyond description, I thought maybe going for a brief drive & visiting a craft store alone when it’s not busy would be doable. Yea… that sounds good in theory.. in practice though? Not so much. The parking lot was super busy since other stores in the shopping center were packed apparently. Then, the cashier at the craft store was on her first day, so she was confused & learning as she went rather than being fast like the lady who was training her is. UGH.. I wanted out fast & there was no escape! Not one other register was open! I got my yarn & made a mad dash for the parking lot since I felt like the agoraphobia was going to overwhelm me.
After leaving, I went to visit a dear friend. The brief drive shouldn’t have been full of triggers & anxiety, but it was. On the way to her home, I followed a car for a good part of the journey that resembled a car an old boyfriend of mine drove. This ex died in 2014 after killing his boyfriend, then himself, in their home. It was all over the local news at the time & very hard for me to come to terms with for a while after that, since I didn’t realize how he was. The story was a complete shock to me. Seeing this car reminded me of our brief relationship, & how incredibly sad his story was. Also it made me grateful I escaped him unharmed. I have no doubt he would’ve killed me if I’d stayed with him. When I left him, I had NO idea how dysfunctional or dangerous he was. All I knew was he spent hours screaming at me when I broke up with him that evening, telling me I was making a huge mistake, he was a great guy, I’d regret leaving him, I was ruining his life, etc. (Nothing out of the ordinary for me since my mother screamed at me constantly in my last couple of years before moving out of her home.) As a result, I spent many years beating myself up for ruining his life. Learning of his death in 2014, I realized how dysfunctional he was which set me free from that guilt, however, the story was so sad, I still feel pity for him, the man he killed & their families.
There was also a surprising amount of traffic out today & the exhaust fumes made me feel sick, thanks to the over-sensitivity I have to carbon monoxide. Surviving carbon monoxide poisoning can do this to a survior, & frankly, it’s a real nuisance! I got a nasty headache, stomach ache, & I felt woozy after breathing in the fumes that doesn’t want to go away.
I also realized the date on my way to my friend’s house.. September 6. On that day in 1990, I hurt my back at work. Not terribly, but pretty painful. As it was healing, my mother threw me into a wall during an argument which made the pain a thousand times worse. Shortly after, I had to quit working outside my home. My mother never believed my back was injured, & told anyone who would listen how I was so lazy that I was faking the injury so I wouldn’t have to work again. In fact, my doctors even thought I was faking it, & said similar things. I was told so often that I was faking it, I wondered if I really was faking it. Years later I learned people with PTSD often have lower back pain with no known physical cause- you’d think a doctor back then would’ve sent me to a counselor, but no one did. Instead they shamed me for being lazy. The memories of that experience made me angry.
Thinking of how my mother responded to my back pain triggered other intrusive memories I really don’t want to have. For one, about a year ago, my mother called one day & said my father told her my ex husband hit me. She said she had no idea, & if she’d have known, she would’ve called a lawyer about this & straightened it out! The fact is she did know- she blamed me for making him hit me right after it happened. She saw the bruises I wore- the most obvious injury was the shape of his hands were on my wrists in the form of bruises. It was just one more time she didn’t care about my pain. Other memories intruded my mind, against my will & I was unable to push them away. They reminded me of many painful times that my parents have abused me & I was supposed to tolerate it all quietly, with a smile, including our most recent fight in May & how they have quit speaking to me since then, even though they were in the wrong. I was angry & sad all at once remembering these things.
Did I mention I’m still having difficulty grieving the loss of my 2 cats since May? Grief seems to magnify other issues, making them even more challenging than usual to deal with.
This awful, miserable day meant I had to hold in my tears or anger until I was alone since no one was responsible for the emotions. It’s just a part of the disorder & no one I was around today should be forced to feel bad for making me cry or making me angry.
I’ve also reviewed this post at least 10 times to make sure my writing makes sense, because making sense is so hard to do when the C-PTSD flares up.
This is typical of a day in the life of someone with C-PTSD or PTSD. Any little thing can trigger thoughts that they don’t want to have yet are helpless to prevent. Mood swings & anger &/or depression can be triggered easily too. To be honest, it’s sheer hell to live with.
PTSD or C-PTSD are not a result thinking too negatively. They aren’t wallowing in the past or looking for pity. They aren’t playing some “poor me” card, looking for attention or pity. They mean someone has experienced such trauma in their lives, it literally broke parts of their brain. They are serious mental disorders with symptoms that can easily be out of control. They mean the person who is sick has good days & bad days. On good days, it may seem like the patient is totally fine. That isn’t the truth however. On good days, this usually means the patient is just better at hiding his/her symptoms than on other days.
I’m not explaining this because I want pity. I’m putting it out there because I know many people who read my work live with PTSD or C-PTSD, & can’t always explain it to other people in their life. I’m hoping this will help those people relate to my crappy day. Maybe they will now be able to explain to their counselors or their friends & family just how triggering & difficult a typical day with PTSD or C-PTSD can be. Sure, my specific circumstances may be different, but I’m sure the basics are the same- agoraphobia, unexpected triggers, & intrusive thoughts & wicked mood swings. Please know, Dear Readers, I pray for you daily. Living with PTSD or C-PTSD is horrible, & I pray for God to heal you & until He does, show you how to live with the awful symptoms.
Also, you’re not alone! You’re not crazy! There are so many of us who live with these symptoms due to traumatic experiences. Having PTSD/C-PTSD doesn’t make you weak or a failure or any other ridiculous thing you’ve been told. It’s a sign you reacted normally to very abnormal circumstances.
Human beings aren’t the only ones who can suffer from mental illness. Animals can as well.
Contrary to what many people seem to think, animals have emotions like people do, & even process them much the same way as humans. This means that animals can develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, following trauma.
Unfortunately for animals, they can’t verbalize their pain. You have to observe your pet to figure out if they have PTSD, & it can be tricky to identify.
My 2 year old cat, Punkin, has Feline PTSD. When he arrived in our home at 3 months old, I had no idea of this fact. All I knew was he showed up on the deck of the neighbor of my friend’s friend, & he was in need of a home. He was immediately friendly with the other cats, & seemed indifferent towards our dog, Dixie. A few months later, Punkin attacked Dixie out of the blue. My husband & I hollered at him immediately. He stopped, looking completely baffled, then ran away & hid. Thankfully Dixie didn’t even have a scratch, but she was visibly shaken, understandably so! My husband was mad at Punkin, but I realized he looked like I felt during a flashback. Once Punkin calmed down & apologized to Dixie (looking sheepishly at her & trying to be nice to her), I did some research & learned that yes, animals can have PTSD. I realized some signs to look for, at least in cats, but probably they are much the same in other animals:
After realizing what was going on with Punkin, I had to pray to figure out how to handle this problem. It’s not like I could take Punkin to a therapist, & he could discuss his feelings. As far as I know, veterinary medicine doesn’t even acknowledge PTSD in animals, so even a vet check up wouldn’t help. Thankfully God showed me some things.
Not everyone realizes the differences between flashbacks & repressed memories returning, so I thought today I would explain them.
Repressed memories are memories of events so traumatic, you were unable to deal with them at the time they happened. To cope, almost immediately, you unconsciously pushed it to the dark recesses of your mind, & forgot about it. Then some time later (could be months, could be years later), something triggered a reminder of the event. The trigger could be anything- a facial expression, a scent, the sight of something that resembles an item that was there when the event happened or a sound. When the trigger forces the memory back to your conscious mind, suddenly you remember what happened. It feels the same as remembering anything else you forgot in the sense that you are well aware it is simply a memory.
Flashbacks are quite different. Flashbacks aren’t necessarily something you forgot. You may or may not remember the event before the flashback. The main difference between repressed memories & flashbacks is flashbacks feel like you’re reliving the event. For me, this is what makes flashbacks so much worse than repressed memories- the feeling of reliving a traumatic event while trying to stay in reality. Flashbacks can be triggered by something, such as the soldier who has flashbacks when he hears fireworks, but sometimes they simply happen without an obvious trigger. Also different than repressed memories are the physical symptoms that can accompany flashbacks, such as elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, sweating or chills, & trembling. My husband has seen me have flashbacks many times, & even so, he can’t always tell when it happens. I tend to get very quiet & still. Sometimes I cry, sometimes not. Flashbacks aren’t always obvious to those witnessing someone have them. Not everyone having a flashback is vocal or shows obvious physical signs when they happen.
If you’re having a flashback, it is vital for you to know how to ground yourself so you stay in reality rather than get lost in the awful memory, which obviously is different than having a repressed memory return to the forefront of your mind. Grounding techniques basically assault your senses, which forces your mind to focus on them instead of the flashback. Touching something with an extreme texture such as a soft fuzzy blanket, silk or even burlap can help. Some people swear by holding ice cubes or stomping their feet hard on the ground. Smelling something with a strong scent can help too. Lavender is good because not only is it strong, it has anti-anxiety properties. A strongly scented cologne, perfume or soap can help.
I’ve found that pets can be very helpful while having a flashback, even if they aren’t specifically trained to be service animals. While taking my cat, Sabrina, to the vet when she was a baby, I drove us past a place I used to work when I was a teenager. Looking at the building, I immediately had a flashback to a time when my mother screamed at & berated me in the parking lot. (Thankfully, I was stopping at a red light when it began- I can’t imagine having to deal with a flashback while driving!) As I sat there & tried to ground myself, Sabrina reached over & scratched my hand. Not bad, but it was enough to jolt me out of the flashback. She’s never scratched me before or since, but I’m grateful she did that day. Her brother, Zippy, will get in my face & head bonk me to get my attention. Neither are trained service animals, but they instinctively know what their mommy needs.
Most people have heard of flashbacks, where you feel as if you are reliving a traumatic event. It can be so difficult to tell reality from the awful memory during a flashback. They are horrible, & I wouldn’t wish them on anyone.
But, this isn’t the only type of flashback. Emotional flashbacks happen too. They are when something triggers an overwhelming feeling in you. For example- being late makes me feel tremendous anxiety & shame. My mother would get me to high school at the last possible moment to show me she was in charge, telling me how lucky I was she would do this or anything at all for me, considering how awful I treated her. It’s been almost 30 years since she did this yet anxiety & shame still kick into overdrive if I’m running late.
Other examples of emotional flashbacks are things like believing if you make a mistake it makes you bad or feeling shame if someone disagrees with you, or doesn’t like something you like.
There is also such a thing as a sensory flashback. Sensory flashbacks are brought on by something that affects the senses. For example, smelling a certain perfume or seeing a style of clothing like your narcissistic mother wore creates terrible anxiety in you.
Emotional & sensory flashbacks can be managed with the same methods used to manage regular flashbacks. Grounding techniques can help you to get through it. Use something to stimulate the senses, such as smelling something with a very strong scent, or touch something with a very coarse texture or even hold an ice cube. Something that strongly stimulates at least one of your senses will force your mind to take notice, & help to loosen the flashback’s hold on you, keeping you in reality. And, once it’s done, don’t forget to take care of yourself while you recover. Flashbacks, even mild ones, can take a lot out of you. You need to rest & pamper yourself to recover afterwards.
Although flashbacks can be extremely painful to experience, they also can be beneficial. They show you what areas you need healing in. I encourage you to try to use that awful flashback to help you in this way. As you feel strong enough, face whatever issue came up & cope with it the best you can. Pray- ask God to help you to heal. Learn about ways to forgive your abuser, because you deserve to be happy, without carrying around anger or bitterness. Learn ways to take care of yourself, to be the nurturer you never had.