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I’ve suffered from Complex PTSD for most of my life. I wasn’t even aware of it until a couple of years ago. I thought that the symptoms—anxiety, hyper-vigilance, body armouring, 4F behaviour (fight, flight, freeze, fawn)—were just how I rolled. And that’s only when I was aware I was doing those things.
But over time I realised that something was amiss. Firstly through discovering help for dealing with a narcissistic parent. Then I joined the dots to hyper-vigilance. And thence to CPTSD.
It was maybe a couple of years ago that I discovered Pete Walker’s book, Complex PTSD: From Surviving To Thriving, and I’ve been picking my way through the inner work since then. I had previously discovered Michael Browns The Presence Process which was fascinating and life-changing, but it seems that with CPTSD there are a number of layers to deal with before going into the somatic presence that The Presence Process suggests.
And so I have grown my awareness of my situation. I have acknowledged the problem – an important first step.
Then I have worked through shrinking the inner critic – a huge amount of work that is never truly done. And then begun to navigate the grieving process for the loss of childhood, the loss of safety and the loss of self.
I actually took a year off paid work between the summers of 2022 and 2023 to really work on this stuff.
But you know what? I still don’t feel like thriving is on the cards. Some days are excellent; the emotional flashbacks stay away and I’m able to function ‘normally’ and produce work of a decent standard.
But other days I wake up in a flashback and despite having a huge number of tools to manage those situations, it can still take all day to get clear. (This is a major step forward – in the past I could be trapped in a flashback for weeks or even months).
Interestingly, whenever I’m working with a client, the CPTSD takes a back seat as my service to others takes precedence. (This is partly because my inner critic is happy when I’m helping others, as I used to do with my abusive mother for all those years).
I guess it’s a lifetime’s work to truly get clear of CPTSD, and I do see the benefits every single day. But I just wish it would be quicker. I wish there were a ‘magic pill’. I know there isn’t and I know that a large number of unscrupulous people are willing to part me from my money and/or my dignity by offering such a pill.
The last stage of CPTSD recovery (just before acceptance) is to go through the ‘abandonment depression’. This is what’s been at the core of the problem all along – when you’ll do anything to avoid feeling that dark, deep pit of despair.
And I guess that’s where I find myself now… embracing the abandonment depression. Knowing that it’s okay. Knowing that it will get better. Knowing that there is a bright future just around the corner.
It just doesn’t feel like it when you’re sitting at the bottom of the dark pit.
When will “Thriving” come? It will come when it comes. And I will celebrate that day!
(And no, forcing “Thriving” does not work. I’ve tried it. When you push yourself at the first sign of recovery you simply overdo it and burn-out again. This is a slow process. I must be patient…)
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