Tag Archives: traumatic
Years ago, prior to learning about narcissism, I had a friend who counseled people at her church. She told me how she believed many people were stuck emotionally at the age they were when they experienced deep trauma. This makes a great deal of sense to me, especially knowing what I do now about Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Looking at some of the narcissists I’ve known in my life, they were abused, neglected or both in their childhood, or faced something very traumatic such as a life threatening injury. My father, for example, nearly died at only fifteen from a traumatic brain injury, thanks to some drunk driver hitting his car head on. Although he was a mature adult in ways such as keeping a full time job, maintaining & repairing his own car & home, in some ways, his behavior was very immature. He seemed to think he should have whatever he wanted, just because he wanted it. That is entitlement but it’s also a very immature behavior.
My late mother in-law grew up in an extremely dysfunctional environment. At 15, she got pregnant & married my father in-law. By all accounts, their marriage was not a happy one for many years. Her behavior was quite immature, & often reminded me of a teenager. Like my father, she seemed to think she should have what she wanted simply because she wanted it.
Obviously, not everyone who has experienced trauma, abuse or neglect in their childhood is like this. However it seems to me that many narcissists are. So many act very immature, & if you look at their lives, many also had some sort of trauma in their childhood.
I’m not telling you this to excuse the abusive behavior of narcissists, of course. There is no valid excuse for abuse! However, understanding them can help you a great deal. It can help you not to be as hurt or angered by their abuse because you see it’s something wrong with them. (This information is always a good reminder since they love gaslighting so much.) It enables you to predict their behavior so you can protect yourself. It also can help you to remember that basically, you’re dealing with a bratty child in an adult’s body & deal with them accordingly.
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, 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.
I’ve been reading lately about discussing abusive & traumatic experiences. It seems many people have very definite opinions on the matter. Some think it is the duty of the victim to talk about it, to raise awareness & help other victims. Others think talking puts unfair pressure on the victim, & they’ve been through enough.
It seems to me that in a way, they’re both right.
Proverbs 31:8-9 says,
“8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (KJV)
I believe this clearly states that it is right to speak up against abuse. But, if you notice, it says to “speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.” That could be those who are still being abused & unable to escape, but it also could be those who are recently traumatized or even those who only recently realized they were abused (as abusers love to convince victims they are helping, the victim made them hurt them, it isn’t abuse, etc). It can be hard or even impossible to talk about your trauma when you’ve only recently escaped your abuser or learned what was done to you was abuse.
So how do you know what is right for you to do? Pray. Ask God to show you what He would have you to do.
If you feel speaking about your experiences is the answer for you at this time, it can be scary, I know. Lean on God to enable you to do it. Not everyone who discusses their abusive experiences is in the public eye. God may not want you to write a book or blog. He may instead send people across your path periodically who need to hear your story. That calling is no less important than those who are in the public eye. Helping people cope with their pain is an extremely important calling, no matter how it is done.
If you don’t feel the need to discuss your experiences, probably this means you have some healing to do first. Talking about things really isn’t easy. Abusers always make victims afraid to talk. When you first escape the abusive situation or first realize what was done was actually abuse, you may need to think & pray a lot to come to terms with things. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that! Do what you need to do! Prayer, writing in a journal & even writing letters you never show to the abuser are excellent places to start. Never feel bad if you’re in this place! Everyone starts their recovery somewhere, & often it’s alone. Besides, if you hope to be one who can help other victims, you have to be able to do so. Self-care is vital! You have to take care of yourself if you want to be of any help to others.
Today, my lower back began to hurt after a long time of no pain.
I hadn’t pay attention to the date. This time of year in 1990 was turbulent for me. I was 19 & had moved out of my parents house immediately following my first nervous breakdown that May. I had been engaged to my now ex husband, but broke up with him shortly after. I dated two other men over the next few months, one of which I moved in with. We were very ill suited for each other, & on our third month anniversary, November 23, I told him I was moving out. He spent most of that night screaming at me. (Sadly, I was so used to my mother screaming at me, I fell asleep during his ranting- he wasn’t nearly as volatile as she was). I moved back in with my parents the next day. That arrangement lasted until the 28th (yes, 4 days) before I had to leave my parents’ house again. That was the evening my mother threw me into a wall & hurt my back during an argument.
Over the years, I’ve tried not to think much about that time in my life. The man I lived with has since committed suicide, & after 10 years of back pain, God healed me. It all seemed over & done with. Apparently not, though since my body is acting up.
This is what a body memory is like.
Your mind may not remember a traumatic incident, but your body remembers everything.
I think body memories can be a good thing, although they certainly don’t feel good at the time. They make you question what is happening, which can reveal a repressed memory. Once a repressed memory is revealed, you must deal with it or continue to repress it. The best thing I have found to do is deal with it. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s painful. However, I believe memories come back to the conscious mind at a time when you are most able to deal with them. I think God allows things to be hidden when you simply cannot deal with them, then brings them back to your remembrance when you can.
If you experience sudden pain, anxiety or depression with no known cause, you too may be experiencing a body memory. Often, body memories are physical but they can be emotional too. Today before my back began to hurt, I realized I’ve been extremely emotional, mostly anxious. If such things happen to you, you aren’t crazy. You are simply experiencing a body memory!
I would urge you to ask God what is happening, then listen for His answer. That’s what I finally did, this afternoon when my back began to hurt. I am glad He showed me what was going on! Now I know I haven’t physically injured my back & I’m not crazy for being so emotional!
Once He shows you what is happening, then it is time to work with Him on your healing. Ask God to show you what you need to do. He truly will!
Also, you need to get your feelings out. If you can, tell God how you feel. Sometimes, talking out loud can be too difficult when the subject matter is especially painful. During those times, you can pray silently, write in your journal or write a letter to the person who abused you. I urge you never to send that letter- chances are, it’d only cause a great deal of trouble- but writing it then throwing it out, burning it or even keeping it hidden where it can’t be found can be surprisingly helpful.
Rest assured, Dear Reader, if you experience body memories like I do, you really aren’t crazy! What you are is someone who has experienced trauma, & that is nothing for you to be ashamed of.
No one can go through something life altering & not change in some ways. Whether the experience is losing someone you love, a divorce, abuse or something that threatened your life, that experience will change you somehow.
While sometimes the changes aren’t positive ones, like developing PTSD or C-PTSD (which are unavoidable, unfortunately!!), sometimes the changes can be good. That can take a deliberate choice to make the changes good, but it’s worth it. Some examples are:
- Losing a loved one, which causes you to realize how suddenly life can end. You can either become terrified or you can decide to enjoy life more. Also, you can decide that it’s time to start showing those you love just how much you love & appreciate them more often.
- Going through a divorce can make you give up on love, or you can think of it as a stepping stone to find the person God meant you to be with.
- Abuse can make you bitter & afraid, or you can learn from it. You can learn how to identify abusive people, how to be compassionate with & help other victims of abuse & learn ways to heal. Also, surviving abuse gives you a different perspective than others who haven’t been abused. You can appreciate the fact that you’re strong & don’t get flustered easily over the little things.
What have you been through that has changed you? Are you trying to learn from your experiences? If not, I encourage you to do so. If you’re at a loss as to what good could come from your pain, ask God to show you. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (KJV) Although it may not feel like it, there is some good that can be gleaned in your painful situation, & God will show it to you, gladly.
I mentioned a while back how I went through a potentially life-ending experience with carbon monoxide poisoning. Aside from the fact I survived, I wasn’t sure if any good could come of it, but it did. God showed me through that event that I had a big problem with toxic shame, which was causing me a great deal of pain & suffering. He also showed me what I needed to do to cooperate with Him to set me free of that, & I’m making progress! I also grew up with narcissistic parents, & also have narcissistic in-laws. In the last few years, I have learned a great deal about narcissism, which has enabled me to help others in similar situations. Although I’m not grateful for the painful experiences, I am grateful that God has been able to make something good from them. That is my wish for you too, Dear Reader- that you too can see something good that has come from your awful experiences & appreciate those good things.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been having some really rough C-PTSD times lately. The last few days, it’s been a lot better, thankfully. Going through the rough times lately have gotten me to thinking. I realized I’ve changed a lot since May, 2012 when the C-PTSD became full blown, but I hadn’t really thought about it until a few days ago when I realized I’ve been berating myself rather than accepting myself or trying to discover who I am post-trauma.
There are plenty of books & online counselors on the topic of discovering your post trauma identity. Obviously there is a need for such knowledge- trauma certainly changes you, like it or not. I haven’t ready any of those books yet or spoken to a counselor, so I’m just starting to learn about & pray about this topic. I hope & pray these things I’ve learned so far will help you as they are starting to help me..
I’m seeing that I need to learn to accept the fact I have C-PTSD, & its ugly symptoms without judgment. I keep beating myself up about being so “weak” as to have C-PTSD. You see, I’ve always been very strong. In fact, when I had my first nervous breakdown at age 19, I went to work the next day. I was catatonic for 5 hours that night, had no sleep at all, yet went into work the next morning as if nothing happened. I survived awful abuse, then went on to school, & no one had any idea what had just happened to me. It seemed like nothing could affect me for long, until C-PTSD came along. Now? Let my kitchen sink clog up or me have any small change in my routine, & I’m in a state of panic. It’s beyond frustrating! I’m trying to remember some things. First, C-PTSD isn’t a sign of weakness- it’s a sign of having survived some pretty terrible traumas. Second, C-PTSD is a terrible, life-changing, even potentially life threatening disorder. It’s not something one can control, so its symptoms are going to rear their ugly heads, including the lack of ability to cope well with about anything, crying at the drop of a hat, anxiety attacks, etc. Third, I wouldn’t judge anyone else with C-PTSD. In fact, I have friends with it, & have not once thought they were weak, stupid, useless, etc., so I need to extend that same kindness to myself. Fourth, I need to take better care of myself when the symptoms flare up. It’s ok to take a day off to relax after a particularly nasty flashback, for example. And, I also need to be more aware of what makes my symptoms worse, what triggers I have, & be more understanding of myself regarding them. They’re a normal part of this disorder, & nothing to be ashamed of.
I need to accept the fact that trauma changes a person’s brain, especially repeated, ongoing trauma like I have experienced. Like it or not, it’s a fact. Basically, PTSD & C-PTSD are brain injuries. Brain injuries can make drastic changes in a person! I’ve become very forgetful, very emotional, moody & a lot of times I have trouble finding the right words I need. All are symptoms of C-PTSD & nothing to be ashamed of.
I need to accept changes that have happened to me since C-PTSD. I don’t laugh as easily as I once did. I still have a sense of humor, but I’m a lot more serious than I used to be. I’ve always been an avid bookworm, but now, reading a book overwhelms my brain very easily, which made me lose interest in reading. Reading on my tablet is easier, but I still can feel overwhelmed sometimes. I’ve lost most interest in my favorite hobbies- knitting & crocheting. Writing has become very difficult on most days for me. I don’t know it these things will ever come back. Hopefully they will, or maybe even be replaced by other interesting things that I can enjoy just as much.
I also need to accept the fact I need to ask God for help with the simple things much more often than I used to. Thankfully, God doesn’t mind helping, & in fact, wants to help. However, I still feel weird about asking Him to help me remember to do something or help in accomplishing something simple because I’ve forgotten how to do it. Thank God He is patient & understanding! He has not once made me feel as if I need to do something on my own or not bother Him with my silly requests.
I’m certain there is much more to add to this list, but so far this is what God’s been showing me about handling my post-trauma identity. I hope it helps you as well! xoxo