Complex Trauma & Re-victimization

This post is really just bits and pieces taken from this and this research paper that I was reading after google searches in a desperate attempt to make sense of my experiences. So yes, it’s 4am and I’ve just read through a 23 page long psychology paper and for once it’s not for school. I’m such a typical psych student, gosh. It’s not always good, trying to put my experiences into words to avoid dealing with them. I intellectualize everything when I don’t know how else to cope. I think I just wanted it on paper, evidence that what I’m experiencing is legitimate. I don’t know, maybe even to just prove that I’m not crazy. A large part of my brain still feels like I’m not sick. I’m not diagnosed. I can’t use the words, I really don’t think anything I’ve been through would be as bad as ‘abuse‘ or ‘trauma‘ or ‘rape‘ or ‘assault‘. It feels like anything that happened to me doesn’t matter, nothing that happens to me ever feels like it matters. Not the awful memories & pain I’ve been running away from all these years, not the awful memories of the two incidents that have happened in the past year & week, not the (still) searing pain of the words my parents had said years ago. But what I found in the research gave me some comfort and this post consists of aspects that I personally relate to in some way, and I wanted to remember.

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Complex trauma has been described as cumulative, underlying trauma and it is the name given to symptoms recognised as occurring frequently in people who have suffered severe, ongoing trauma, particularly where that trauma is caused by abuse that is of an interpersonal nature, and especially where it occurs in a childhood context, which has particular impacts on the development of a person’s sense of self, and a negative impact on attachment with caregivers.

Complex trauma differs from the “memory imprint” of PTSD in two aspects—the circumstances of the trauma event/s, and the effects this has on core aspects of a person’s
sense of self. The literature identifies issues of attachment and child development as a key factor, whereby early onset trauma has a particular impact on the developing brain especially when the trauma is prolonged, repetitive and unrepaired. Where early caregiving relationships are dysfunctional, either as a source of trauma or an inability to nurture and protect a child, the child’s developmental competencies in the areas of sense of self, agency, communication, and interpersonal relationships can be negatively impacted, thereby setting the scene for many of the problems associated with complex trauma. The presence of familiar caregivers plays an important role in helping children modulate their physiologic arousal and in the absence of a caregiver, children experience extremes of under-and over arousal that are physiologically aversive and disorganizing. Forming primary attachments to caregivers who are “either dangerous, or from [the victim’s] point of view, negligent, [developing] a sense of basic trust and safety with caretakers who are untrustworthy and unsafe” and maintaining a sense of control in situations of unpredictability, requires a range of adaptations and survival strategies that can manifest in a variety of ways such as denial, dissociation, fragmented/disordered attachment or self blame

Confrontations with violence challenges one’s most basic assumptions about the self as invulnerable and intrinsically worthy and about the world as orderly and just. After abuse, the victim’s view of self and world can never be the same again: it must be reconstructed to incorporate the abuse experience. Assuming responsibility for the abuse allows feelings of helplessness to be replaced with an illusion of control. Children are even more likely to blame themselves: “The child needs to hold on to an image of the parent as good in order to deal with the intensity of fear and rage which is the effect of the tormenting experiences.”  Instead of turning on their caregivers and losing hope for protection, they blame themselves. They become fearfully and hungrily attached and anxiously obedient, a pattern of behavior in which avoidance competes with desire for proximity and care and in which angry behavior is apt to become prominent.

Anger directed against the self or others is always a central problem in the life of people who have been violated and this ‘acting out’ is seldom understood by either victims or clinicians as being a repetitive re-enactment of real events from the past.

Symptoms

Although these are often adaptive reactions at the time of experiencing abuse, in the
longer term they may become maladaptive. Six “symptom clusters” are involved in a complex trauma response:

Alterations in self regulation and impulses

Components: Affect regulation, Self-destructive, Suicidal pre-occupation, Difficulty modulating sexual involvement, Excessive risk-taking

Expressions: High levels of self-harm, Substance abuse & addiction, Overwhelmed by anger, Casual & unprotected sex, Suicide plan, Eating disorders

Alterations in attention or consciousness

Components: Amnesia, Transient dissociative episodes, Depersonalisation

Expressions: Clouded perception, Feeling/being dazed, Automation/being on “autopilot”, Difficulty remembering appointments/discussions/events

Alterations in self perception

Components: Personal ineffectiveness, Changes in personal identity, Disturbances in identity formation

Expressions: Feelings of hopelessness & helplessness, “Malignant” sense of self (contaminated; guilty; bad; self hatred, shame)

Alterations in relations with others

Components: Inability to trust, Re-victimisation, Victimising others, Perceives perpetrator as all powerful

Expressions: Difficulty seeing danger signs/unsafe situations, Confused boundary setting, Conflictual relationships, Desire for a “rescuer”

Somatisation

Components: Digestive system, Chronic pain, Cardiopulmonary symptoms, Conversion symptoms, Sexual symptoms

Expressions: “Acid” stomach, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Pelvic pain, Headaches, Unexplained symptoms (e.g., numbing, tingling)

Alterations in systems of meaning

Components: Fatalism, Viewing world/people as malevolent, Loss of hope, Loss of belief

Expressions: Lack of self-efficacy, Despondency, Despair, Anger, Apathy

Revictimisation

Extensive re-victimisation over the lifespan and poly-victimisation (co-occurrence of different forms of abuse) is linked to complex trauma. Poly-victimisation includes multiple types of abuse, including sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect or psychological abuse, and emotional abuse. Revictimisation later in the lifespan is likely to compound the effects of prior abuse experiences. Severe and repeated victimisation experiences are strongly related to a range of mental health outcomes that often take the form of depression, addictive and self-harming behaviour, substance abuse, and dissociative and personality disorders. Moreover, these adverse outcomes are rarely singular and co-occurring disorders are prevalent among traumatised populations. Those subjected to early abuse and deprivation are vulnerable to engage in violent relationships with peers as adults and people who are exposed early to violence or neglect come to expect it as a way of life. Men and boys tend to identify with the aggressor and later victimize others whereas women are prone to become attached to abusive men who allow themselves and their offspring to be victimized further. It is clear that experiencing childhood abuse creates an increased risk of revictimisation and revictimization is a consistent finding. Victims of rape are more likely to be raped and women who were physically or sexually abused as children are more likely to be abused as adults.

High arousal causes people to engage in familiar behavior, regardless of the rewards. As novel stimuli are anxiety provoking, under stress, previously traumatized people tend return to familiar patterns, even if they cause pain. A history of victimisation strongly predicts future victimisation regardless of other potentially protective factors such as education and income.

One perspective suggests that revictimsation becomes an issue of the broader social context in which psychological and interpersonal functioning increases vulnerability to perpetrators, for example, by self-soothing with alcohol or other substances or engaging in compulsive sexual behaviour. This view reflects an ecological approach to understanding sexual victimisation. The victimisation can be multifaceted, can occur over time, may include childhood and adult instances of abuse, and may co-exist with other factors in the social environment that the person is situated. It is important to understand the interacting factors in order to see the complete picture of revictimisation over the lifespan. Grauerholz (2000) hypothesised that individual experiences (e.g., the initial victimisation) combine with factors in the microsystem (such as a victim’s decreased ability to be assertive) and the macrosystem (such as perpetuation of victim blaming culture) to create an environment ripe for revictimisation of the individual.

Part of Complex PTSD is what therapists call “repetition compulsion”, an effort by the victim to bring resolution to the traumatic memory. By repeating the experience, the victim tries anew to figure out a way to respond in order to eliminate the fear. Instead, the victim simply deepens the traumatic wound. The number of traumas one experiences simultaneously will factor into the strength of the trauma repetition cycle. Traumas compounded with other traumas will increase the overall risk for trauma repetition in adulthood. Repetitive maladaptive behavior of traumatic origin is characterized by defensive dissociation of the cognitive and emotional components of trauma, making it very difficult for the person to integrate the experience. Survivors become conditioned to engage in negative self-talk, blame themselves for the abuse they’ve suffered and continue to the vicious cycle of abuse, they may struggle with a shame and develop maladaptive ways of coping as attempts to survive unbearable, overwhelming lifelong trauma through destructive means that inevitably reenact and reinforce the trauma.

Toxic shame that arises can lead to behaviors such as sustaining abusive relationships, addiction, eating disorders, and reckless sexual behavior as futile attempts to avoid the trauma and create “numbing” in response to the symptoms. This reenactment of past trauma is not a coincidence – rather, it is a consequence of the trauma itself.  

As well as being at risk of experiencing difficult and often violent interpersonal relationships, women with a history of child sexual abuse are more likely to engage in casual and unprotected sex while reporting less satisfactory sexual rewards and greater sexual costs. In examining self-dysfunction (i.e., dysfunctional behaviour such as substance abuse and indiscriminate sexual behaviours) as an aspect of sexual revictimisation, a study noted a link between risky sexual behaviour and sexual revictimisation, suggesting tension reducing and maladaptive sexual behaviour may function as a strategy to cope with post-traumatic symptoms related to previous victimisation experiences.

Physical Impacts

Chronic physiologic hyperarousal persists, particularly to stimuli reminiscent of the trauma and later stresses tend to be experienced as somatic states, rather than as specific events that require specific means of coping. Thus victims of trauma may respond to contemporary stimuli as a return of the trauma, and hyperarousal interferes with the ability to make rational assessments and prevents resolution and integration of the trauma. Disturbances in opioid systems have been implicated in this persistenence of all-or-nothing responses. Reactivation of past learning is relatively automatic: contextual stimuli directly evoke past memories and the more similar are the contextual stimuli are to conditions at the time of the original memories, the more likely the probability of retrieval. Both internal states or external events reminiscent of earlier trauma can trigger a return to feeling as if victims are back in their original traumatizing situation. Disinhibition resulting from drugs or alcohol strongly facilitates the occurrence of such reliving experiences, which then may take the form of acting out violent or sexual traumatic episodes. In traumatized people, visual and motoric reliving experiences, nightmares, flashbacks, and re-enactments are generally preceded by physiologic arousal.

Exposure to inescapable aversive events also has widespread behavioral and physiologic effects including deficits in learning to escape novel adverse situations, decreased motivation for learning new options, chronic subjective distress. Under ordinary conditions, most previously traumatized individuals can adjust psychologically and socially. However, they do not respond to stress in the same ways as their nontraumatized peers. Stress causes a return to earlier behavior patterns. Under ordinary circumstances, an animal will choose the most pleasant of two alternatives but when hyperaroused, it will seek the familiar, regardless of the intrinsic rewards.

People, particularly children, who have been exposed to severe, prolonged environmental stress will experience extraordinary increases in opioid responses to subsequent stress which may produce both dependence and withdrawal phenomena which could explain in part, why childhood trauma is associated with subsequent self-destructive behavior. Depending on which stimuli have come to condition an opioid response, self-destructive behavior may include chronic involvement with abusive partners, sexual masochism, self-starvation, and violence against self or others. Reports of early childhood physical and sexual abuse were highly correlated with self-mutilation and self-starvation in adulthood. Self-mutilation is a common response to abandonment; it is accompanied by both analgesia and an altered state of consciousness, and it provides relief, return to normality, and attempts at “repairing the cohesiveness of the self in the face of overwhelming anxiety.”

Treatment & Services

People experiencing complex trauma have a very strong need to feel safe. Healing and recovery is stage-based and emphasises establishing safety first. Core stages for treatment and recovery are: stabilisation/establishing safety, processing trauma—the exploration and reintegration of traumatic memories into a personal narrative; and the positive reconnection with others. Although there may be no “final” resolution, healing from an experience of trauma should be focused on the need to increase the capacity of survivors to be aware of and control their reactions to a range of trauma stimuli, including flashbacks, extreme emotion states, and interactions with others.

Compulsive repetition of the trauma usually is an unconscious process that, although it may provide a temporary sense of mastery or even pleasure, ultimately perpetuates chronic feelings of helplessness and a subjective sense of being bad and out of control. Gaining control over one’s current life, rather than repeating trauma in action, mood, or somatic states, is the goal of treatment.

Although verbalizing the contextual elements of the trauma is the essence of treatment of acute post-traumatic stress, the essential elements generally are retrieved with difficulty and failure to approach trauma-related material very gradually leads to intensification of the affects and physiologic states related to the trauma, leading to increased repetitive phenomena. Prior to unearthing the traumatic roots of current behavior, people need to gain reasonable control over the longstanding secondary defenses that were originally elaborated to defend against being overwhelmed by traumatic material, such as alcohol and drug abuse and violence against self or others. The trauma can only be worked through after a secure bond is established with another person, and healing needs to occur within a safe and predictable external environment. A safe environment is one which supports and encourages, and which does not recreate situations of humiliation, isolation, danger, unpredictability and disempowerment.

Despite a lack of settled diagnosis, the terms “complex trauma” and “complex PTSD” are relevant to the care of victim/survivors of interpersonal abuse. Becoming trauma-informed is a way for services to be able to provide clients with a service that is attuned to the whole person’s array of needs and provide survivors with a more comprehensive approach. Given the absence of an over-arching construct for trauma-related behaviours, individuals are often diagnosed with a range of other disorders such as major depressive disorder, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, conduct disorders etc, and behaviour such as self-harm, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse as symptoms of these. This complexity has impacts on treatment approaches and about what the most important element to address is—the trauma, the mental health problem, or the substance use? It is often the secondary (e.g., substance abuse) or tertiary (e.g., drug-induced mental illness) expressions of trauma that result in treatment and/or support. Flexible and individually focused care is a very important factor in the care of people with complex trauma. The nature of victimisation is such that cases can be varied in type, intensity of abuse and impacted by factors such as the relationship to the abuser and the age and developmental stage of the victim. Because each victimisation experience can be so vastly different and result in different symptoms or degrees of need, it is important that care can be attuned to the level and type of need of that person.

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I never really went through abuse or trauma, I don’t think. Nothing.. really bad. I was never raped or sexually assaulted or abused as a child, my family was okay-enough, I never went through anything majorly traumatic. But oh boy, do I relate to so so much of what has been in the literature, and oh boy do I have.. almost all of the symptoms of Complex PTSD? Things like flashbacks, intrusive memories, anxiety, shakiness etc have always been short term symptoms but everything else like inability to trust, dissociation, high levels of self harm, disturbances in identity, affect regulation, re-victimisation etc have been present for as long as I can remember.

I don’t know. I’m honestly exhuasted, the past 2 days have felt like months. Too much has happened and I don’t know what to make of any of it. All I can think about is my fault my fault my fault i want to die i want to die i want to die.

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Post-war

As the floods tear apart the dam

I cling onto my best friend and cry

Curl into a ball and rock from side to side

Stare into doctors and therapists’ eyes and tell them I am so very very sad

Whimpering and kicking in my sleep as my roommates watch another nightmare unfold

Hum myself a lullaby to feel safe enough to close my eyes and sleep a bit

Too much pain to carry

The walls have been reduced to a pile of rubble

everything I’ve built, defeated

They try to break this down

Incinerate the rubble

But walls are constructed for a reason

An almost-19 years in the making

Every brick of pain keeps them up

Everyone that left

Mom. And Dad.

They look in and see these 4 walls- prison, they say

Look closer and you’ll see safety that comes with home and a numbness from all the pain in the world

Too much pain to carry

And nobody to trust

The heart keeps score, every scar a different story

And some wounds never heal

How many times do they want to tear me apart?

They don’t get

The pain of being left alone

The pain of being scared alone

The pain of never ever trusting anyone

The pain of carrying the weight of the world alone

And the worst is the searing sharp pain that comes with human connection

The ripple through the heart as it tugs you away and reminds you of old wounds

Pain that’s fuelled years of starving and binging and purging and cutting and running away

Running and running and running

They say the war is over

But the soldier never forgets

Every brick they tear apart, another shot to the heart

So please don’t make me talk

About feelings and memories

And anything at all

Please don’t let me trust

The floodgates have broken

This brain scampers to rebuild its defences

Close yourself off

Stop eating

Shut everyone out

Tear yourself apart so no one else can

Opening up is getting hurt

Trusting is being played a fool

And the heart never forgets old wounds

I hear her inside, the little girl crying to not be left alone again, the little girl crying because nothing in this world has ever felt safe. Because protectors turned into monsters and guardians turned their backs. Please stay with her.

I am so worn. worn from years of war and years of running and running and running as fast as I can. Alone.

somehow the war around me turned into the war inside me.

I am so worn. They tell me to stop running- you’re safe now. I’ll tell you a secret: all my life, I’ve longed for a safe place, stayed within these walls and longed for someone to trust. But the battle is within me and I am so worn. Trusting is painful and talking is painful and eating is painful. Just eat, they say. Just talk. They don’t see how it tears apart years and years of natural protective systems. They don’t see how my safe haven is all I have. How do you go against something your brain has literally constructed to save your life when the pain was too much to handle? I need to be alone. I don’t want to be alone.

This little girl is so scared. And I am so worn. Help.

it’s always night-time here

when the shadow creatures emerge from their hiding places in the dark

grip of curved black talons suffocating a heavy chest

midnight mist silently sweeping over the maze of neurons, blurring it all

visceral pain slices through flesh

threatening to split the soul

//

author’s note: for reference, this was written with a flashback in mind, how it all feels. shadow creatures = nightmares and memories, black talons = suffocating anxiety, midnight mist = dissociation.

Connecting ED and C-PTSD

Note: Reading up on articles about EDs and PTSD/C-PTSD, I decided to compile the things that are most relevant to me for future reference. what I have posted below has all been taken from research and not my own writing.

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Eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorders share certain core features that explain some of their co-morbidity. The development of both disorders is based on emotion dysregulation. When a child has experienced chronic interpersonal trauma, he/she will experience dysfunction in multiple areas of functioning: including somatic, affective, behavioral, dissociative, cognitive, interpersonal, and self-concept. These areas are equally adversely impacted developmentally when a person has an eating disorder. Traumatic life events presumably trigger eating disorder gene expression in predisposed individuals, which leads to a cascade of events in the brain that is associated with trauma-related thoughts, feelings, memories and behaviors, as well as associated symptoms of anxiety, depression, and dissociation.

With C-PTSD, the danger of falling into eating disorders is even greater. People suffering from C-PTSD typically have difficulty with ‘affect regulation’, or managing strong emotions. Life for a sufferer from C-PTSD is an emotional roller-coaster with frequent and often unpredictable triggers sending him or her into extremes of anger or sadness. The urge to self-medicate is, therefore, very strong, and often uninhibited by the sort of ‘common sense’ instinct to hold back that most people develop over the course of a more healthy and secure upbringing.

Emotional Regulation

Traumatic experiences overwhelm the person’s internal (neurobiological) and external (psychosocial) resources, and behaviors typically associated with experiential avoidance develop, such as binging, purging and/or substance abuse, and they represent attempts to not only avoid trauma-related thoughts, feelings, and memories but to reduce emotional arousal as well. Clients with eating disorders often experience hyperactivation of their emotions as intolerable. When these clients have a history of avoidant attachment, their desire is to cut off or numb their emotional experience, so restrictive behaviors will become more apparent.

Another way that eating disorders are used for affect regulation is in a manner similar to other forms of self-harm. Binging and purging is essentially a cycle in which an individual would experience trauma symptoms, dysphoria, or another unpleasant affective state and the client would then engage in a binge episode to interrupt or stop the mood state. At times that can produce a dissociative state or another episode of problematic cognitions so purging behavior is needed to provide regulation.

Control

People who have been through traumatic experiences often feel a sense of powerlessness, brought on to them by their inability to prevent the traumatic incident from happening or prevent themselves from being traumatized by it. The act of consciously starving oneself or engaging in purging in order to change one’s body shape is a method the victim uses to reassert control over his/her or own body. In effect, the individual with the eating disorder assumes roles of both the victim and abuser. S/he is typically at the mercy of the eating disorder symptoms as well as simultaneously assuming the role of the abuser who is in effect doing the harm to her own body. The sufferer is able to assume “control” by taking on both roles. The individual therefore is able to maintain recurrent and intrusive abusive events through the use of the eating disordered behaviors while simultaneously enabling herself to dissociate, distract and sooth the pain through the obsession with food.

Family impact

Families with children who develop eating disorders display more conflict and disorganization, low maternal and paternal care, less cohesion and expressiveness, more conflict, and less emotional support than families who do not have children who develop eating disorders. Similarly, in families who have children who experience attachment trauma or childhood abuse or neglect, many of these characteristics are present. The two disorders co-occurring in families with these dynamics is clear, particularly when additional characteristics such as increased isolation, less involvement, less supportiveness, increased contradictory communications, increased belittling, ignoring, trust, nurturing, and helpfulness, increased chaotic patterns, and hostile enmeshment are added to the description. Given this constellation of qualities, the child’s negative response to abuse or an attachment injury at the time it occurs and a negative evaluation in retrospect of the experience, is associated with eating disorder symptoms.

Eating disorder symptoms can become the transitional object for the client, so that when the client who has been traumatized needs comfort, the eating disorder behaviors soothe him/her like the primary caregiver would have, but when this soothing fails due to its very nature, then self-hate and blame arise, creating an addictive cycle. This experience is often re-enactment as it reflects the early experience of needing the primary caregiver as an attachment figure to soothe, and thereby needing to dissociate the experiences of abuse or neglect or attachment injury, which led the child to internalizing the blame for the traumatic experience in order to receive some safety and care and attempt to make sense of his/her internal and external experiences.

Treating eating disorders is hard, but treating eating disorders with co-morbid conditions is way harder.

When a person with PTSD seeks therapy for an eating disorder or other issue, it usually becomes clear very quickly that they have PTSD, often they will have vivid memories of this event which they struggle to escape from. By contrast, C-PTSD is frequently characterized by absences of memory. Indeed, one way of understanding C-PTSD is an elaborate and self-destructive strategy by the brain to force out memories that are too painful to bear. People starting therapy will often have forgotten entire chunks of their childhood and be highly resistant to the idea that their problems are related to childhood trauma. (this is so accurate for me though)

 

 

reignite

This?

This sadness is not familiar

Not the soothing numbness of the waves

or the tide that pulls me down

This sadness is

Born out of the embers

of fires once ignited

This sadness is

the scorching flame

blazing everything in its path

//

and they say a Phoenix rises from the ash.

It doesn’t feel that way.

It feels like pain.

and they yell at me for saying sorry.

And it is now that I realise,

after all these years,

the thoughts that run through my head

remain the same.

same reel of thoughts

every time he gets angry

every time they look at me that way

every time I feel so

small

and sad.

I’m sorry

I’m sorry for existing

Sorry for being me

I’m sorry

I don’t know what I did

But I’m sorry for what I did

Sorry for saying anything, doing anything, feeling anything.

It’s my fault

It’s all my fault

I’m sorry

Please just go away

I want it all to go away

The feelings, the yelling

fear

And helplessness

The overwhelming

Pain

Please just stop

I’m sorry, really, I’m really really sorry

Please

don’t be angry

I promise to be good

I’m sorry

But the one thought I never realised

was there

Please don’t hurt me

Again

I’m sorry.

//

I seem to revert to this exact same set of thoughts every time, usually when something triggers it, like when my dad gets angry again, and in the midst of my anxiety I just become a child again, the way I speak- the things I said. Even my voice changes to that of a small child. It surprised me when it happened and still surprises me now, that I would end up in that state. That when he yells, I turn into this.. fearful child again? And all I do is apologise over and over again. I’ve always known that I always get bad anxiety and panic attacks when people yell or get angry, and I know that’s because of my dad but I didn’t realise this thought process is also something that happens a lot. I’m assuming it was something I learned I was younger, and then it became ingrained in me. I suppose that’s why I also feel so.. unworthy. Empty. I suppose that’s why I feel like I’m a mistake, because all my life I’ve learned to apologise. And the worst part, is when they start yelling at you for saying sorry and I don’t know what else to say but I am sorry. I am sorry for everything.

who are you, now?

when reality seeps through

the gaps between your fingertips,

pain quickly eroding the solid ground,

two feet on cold glass

and a number staring up at you

is all you can run back to

 

when reality seeps through

the gaps between your fingertips,

nothing is what is seems

what it seems isn’t what it was

where is my safe haven now?

//

when you question all that you feel, all that you are. when memories lie and your head spins. when nothing seems to matter and everything doesn’t seem right. where love is pain and pain is anger. where little girls cry alone. and big girls cry alone.

none of this matters, you’re just making it up // your pain isn’t real, stop pretending it was more than it is // you’re not really sick, are you? how dare you claim it was trauma or abuse or ptsd // what is wrong with you? // i hate you // worthless and useless and good for nothing // perhaps it’s all your fault, you’re the problem // go ahead and self-destruct.

the weight of your being

It’s been on my mind all day again today, the words trauma and complex ptsd floating around in my head, emotional flashbacks, obsessive thoughts. I can’t think of anything else, I can’t write about anything else so I write and read and write about this as if it will somehow help. I’m not quite sure what’s happened to me.

On the way to school, I was re-reading up on the impact of witnessing domestic violence on children, as if the facts would help make it more valid in my head. I already knew all those things from last time I did research but one thing that I didn’t know however, was that children who witness domestic violence are fifteen times more likely to be in an abusive relationship themselves. I knew the number was high but not that high? it terrifies me, it still does. I’ve been obsessively reading articles and even research papers and I came across ‘complex-ptsd’ which is not a diagnosis in the DSM but recognised as a form of PTSD and I realised the symptoms describe me almost perfectly. I don’t know if I would even have it, or maybe I’m just blowing things up but honestly it was a little comforting to find something, a label of sorts.

But it never stops hurting. I drifted in and out of dissociation in class today, I desperately wanted to numb out the pain again, to self destruct.

A sign that things are shitty is when I start considering self-destructive behaviors like going out to drink or casual sex as a way to hurt myself (which I haven’t done.. yet. I’m a virgin and I’ve just been avoiding going down that path but it does get tempting at times like this). As if maybe doing that to myself, putting myself in a dangerous situation, letting myself be used or hurt by someone else would hurt so much everything else stops hurting. Just to numb it out. Just so it all hurts less. I don’t know why, but I can easily imagine myself in such situations. I can picture myself being hurt or abused, I can picture myself just being in these awful, dangerous situations almost all too easily- and that’s a scary thought sometimes. But it almost feels right, like that is where I’m meant to be or what I deserve. I wonder why this urge (to use sex/dangerous situations as self harm) only pops up after traumatic memories though? In most situations when I feel really really bad, the usual self-destructive tools are suicide/cutting/purging/starving and sometimes drinking. So why this different urge now?

I think I just feel overwhelmed and incredibly scared and unsafe, which is probably the same way I felt back then, and Ihaving emotional flashbacks. The weight of not just these particular memories of my parents, but every other bad memory is blurring together into a storm threatening to sink me. I am sick and tired of working through all these god-awful memories. It’s barely been half a year since I’ve had to deal with the PTSD symptoms of the sexual assault I went through back then, as well as the recurring memories of my dad being violent towards me. I have worked through so much pain, for so long, and I don’t know if I can deal with any more pain. This almost feels too much.

I guess it is not all bad though, because as much as it hurts, I am coping, I am surviving and I’m not really giving in to self-harm or self-destructive urges (ok, except arranging to go out drinking/clubbing on saturday. That is self-destructive- the urge to numb, and to put myself in risky situations to potentially hurt myself. Why does it seem so appealing?). I talked to my closest friends, multiple of them, I admitted that I was having a hard time and told them what’s going on. I am writing a lot. I made a call to reschedule for a psychologist appointment sooner. I am trying.

I am also trying to put together the puzzle pieces but no matter how hard I try, I cannot recall anything but the core of the memories. I cannot recall when exactly all of this happened, cannot recall why it started or stopped, cannot recall what happened before and after the situation. I cannot piece together the timeline that’s made me who I am, I barely remember anything from when I was 8 until I was 10 or 11. I cannot remember anything about much of my childhood life apart all the bad moments. It’s like everything is shrouded in darkness, the only spots of light, are ironically the worst memories. I cannot remember much, and all of a sudden it seems like I am standing atop a cardboard foundation, if I cannot remember the childhood that has shaped me into who I am then who am I, really?

All of a sudden I just feel so empty in a different way. Like I am not whole, no longer concrete.

And I’ve never had this question pop up in my mind until now- how am I to know what is real and what isn’t? It’s like I’ve never been on the ground long enough, never been in touch with reality long enough to know what’s reality. How can I trust my memories? All of a sudden I have this fear that I’m just dissociating. I have never had that fear before and that in itself, is scary. And all I can remember are moments in these awful, awful memories- and all of a sudden that is all that I am. I want to run away. Where to? I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore and I hate this feeling of not knowing not being sure- this feeling that haunted me for years in the thick of my depression. I feel so helpless and lost. I could read all the journal articles I want but still doubt myself, the same fears or ‘not sick enough’, ‘not serious enough’. With emotions, I have this need to control it, to either push it away or to understand and analyze it, I am hardly able to just ‘let myself feel’ and I’m starting to realise that might be the same reason why I obsessively read and learn about what i’m facing- to have control over the problem, to label and compartmentalize it so I don’t have to let myself feel it. Partially why I’m so determined to ‘have control’ is probably because of how much I hate feel helpless, and how distressing helplessness is for me.

Now that I look back, all my teenage years have been spent running away, but was I running from? Now that I’ve finally stopped running and started trying to heal, it hits me. I’ve been running from the fear of inadequacy, running from the self-hatred, from the overwhelming emotions, from the fear of getting hurt- and more than anything, running from the immense pain inside of me. I’ve stopped running, slowed down a little- it all snowballed as it landed on me. Sometimes I think I contain too much pain and not enough person. How could it all hurt so much?