Complexities: Episode 1
So my amazing friends Pat and Austin do this podcast called "Complexities" (available on iTunes, Spotify, and wherever else podcasts are found. Show them some love!), and it's all about Complex Post Traumatic Stress (Disorder). They've been doing this show for many weeks now, and only recently did I start listening to it. Not because I wasn't interested, or because I was too busy, or because I couldn't find it (seriously guys, it's even on youtube!), but because as someone with CPTS(D), the idea of listening to someone else talk about a condition that has fucked up my brain and turned my life upside down seemed... overwhelming.
It's only been in the last year that I have started addressing my 30 years of trauma, demons, and scars as CPTS(D). I've done a lot of therapy for depression/anxiety/general hot-mess-ness over the years, starting when I was like 6 or 7, but figuring out exactly what the fuck is wrong up in my brainpan has helped me (& some wonderful, qualified professionals) figure out how to actually address and work with my "issues." I'm glad I got a diagnosis that has allowed me to actually use useful therapy techniques and identify my trouble areas, but at the same time, it was a really frustrating moment to realize that the *counts on fingers* 22+ years of therapy that I had done up to this point was kind of useless. Not entirely, but wasn't treating the root. It was helping me manage some of my symptoms, which, okay, isn't useless at all, but I hope you see what I'm saying.
I got my CPTS(D) diagnosis about 5 or 6 years ago or so (I've lost track now), but dismissed it as "psht, I don't have PTS(D)! I just had a suboptimal childhood and have depression/anxiety, but PTS(D)? Nah" and proceeded to ignore it. Which, shockingly, fixed nothing. So about a year ago, I started thinking about it again. Then Austin (who has CPTS(D) herself, as she openly discusses on her podcast... I'm not just outing people here) started talking to me about it, sharing books and resources, and together we started a support group. But more to the point, talking to someone else with my condition (or "brain fuckery," if you prefer) made me realize for the first time ever "OH MY GOD THIS IS AN ACTUAL THING I'M NOT JUST CRAZY/BROKEN/FUCKED UP!" It turns out another one of my very close friends also recently got a CPTS(D) diagnosis (like attracts like, I suppose!), and so we all started talking and sharing and it was this huge awakening in me. This moment of hope that maybe, just maybe, if there is a specific thing actually wrong, there's a way to understand it. And If I can understand it, maybe I can actually heal it!
So all that being said, I've been working really hard on myself for the past year, and very diligently from around the beginning of the year. And acknowledging my own flashbacks and triggers, traumas and lack of identity, fight-or-flight responses, all for the first time ever has been... eye opening and really, incredibly painful and draining. Everything is currently very emotionally raw, very tender. I'm easily triggered - or perhaps I'm acknowledging my triggers and flashbacks for what they are for the first time, instead of just thinking I'm being overly emotional/sensitive/bitchy/etc. I'm learning to set healthy boundaries, which has included threatening to file a restraining order. I'm getting a handle on my night terrors. I'm learning to be open, learning to connect with and trust people, and how to communicate with them, to be honest, and vulnerable. I'm trying new things, getting to know myself; the good the bad and the ugly, and then respecting that person and her needs and feelings. And it's been... just so much. Almost too much. There have been times I've broken down crying, wishing that I could go back to just being crazy and emotional instead of this hot mess of CPTS(D) that seems to have its fingers in every aspect of my life, every choice I've ever made, every defining thing about me. But here we are, and the only way to go is forward.
So, as you can imagine, as I'm kinda just barely holding myself together a lot of days while I let stuff go, learn to feel things, and begin to heal, the idea of listening to someone talk about their trauma and abuse and dissociations and suicidal tendencies and basically my life but from the perspective of a beautiful doe-eyed woman and her incredible "normal" partner, seemed like just so much more than I could handle. But over the weekend I decided that I'm ready, whether I'm ready or not, I'm ready. And I played episode 1. And it was... incredible! First of all, Pat and Austin are fucking hilarious, super genuine, and also the sound quality of the podcast is great (good job, Paddyface). It was difficult to listen to at points, resonating so closely with my own experience, but it left me feeling hopeful, connected, and happy I had tuned in.
I wrote up a little blurb on Facebook about it, and said that I'd do that for each episode, a little review if you will, then someday compile them, but I think each episode, or at least most of them, deserve their own space. Also, it's good for me to write about these things, get them out there, instead of just thinking endlessly about stuff, as I tend to do. So here we are.
I don't really know where to start, or how to talk about this at all, but perhaps this format will help me get started, stay somewhat focused. So aside from the first episode being great and funny and making me feel seen, as the kids say, it also reminded me that there are narcissistic people in the world. And they hurt people. And even if they're "doing their best" that doesn't make it okay. It doesn't mean damage wasn't done. But also, okay, so as Austin puts it, CPTS(D) is like a superpower. Unlike classic PTS(D) which is triggered by acute trauma, CPTS(D) is caused by chronic trauma and abuse, usually in childhood. The mind existed in a state of "Holy shit we're gonna die" for so long, it actually changed the way we perceive reality in order to keep us alive. And that's amazing! Fucking hacking reality like a total badass. But that fight or flight response needs to turn off now, but it hasn't. And therein lies the problem. Living life in this constant, traumatized, disconnected, fearful, identity-less, panicked, depressed state of "we might die, run away run fast." And hearing someone I respect so much talk openly about this, and about how healing is possible, is beautiful. And it makes me think that maybe, just maybe, I can be a whole, functional, happy person who can hold down a healthy relationship, respect myself, respect others, feel things properly, and then know what to do with those feelings, be able to sleep at night, exist in public without panicking, interact normally and relate to other people, and generally function in a more "normal," healthy way. And, as the kids also say, I'm so here for that!
So to my loved ones who put up with my mood swings, my panic, my dramatizations/panic responses, my just dropping off the face of the earth, my needing to explore myself, my need for space, my lack of having any fucking idea who I am (see episode 2 for more on that) or any idea how to handle my own thoughts and feelings, thank you. I love you, I appreciate you, and you're the best.
Also, as always, Stoicism has made all the difference in the world for me, and has kept me from giving up (you know what I mean) so many times. I recommend the book "How To Be A Stoic" to learn more about this beautiful philosophy.
Okay! Go listen to Complexities Episode One HERE. Leave me your thoughts about this super random ramble in the comments or on Facebook, Twitter, or by DM/Email... unless you have hateful/judgmental/holier-than-thou things to say or want to recommend cures (see every article I've written about health issues for more on this), then go fuck yourself.
I'll write more about the next episode (which I have already listened to) soon. It's about identity, and that's a big one for me. So it should be pretty heart-wrenching yet informative. Stay tuned!
And yes, I'm sure at some point I'll actually talk more about my own history, and what CPTSD (specifically) looks like for me, but for now, I think this is the best I can do. And as Seneca once wrote, "what little I have will go far enough."