At the start of this year I was finally diagnosed with Complex PTSD. I say finally as this is around 30 years overdue but better late than never as they say. Greater appreciation of the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and the profound effects of developmental trauma on a person’s physical and emotional wellbeing are increasingly to the fore of mental health awareness.
The diagnosis did not come as a surprise to me, having spent the last couple of years in particular working out the face of what I’d been dealing with my whole life, fleshed out by research and mounting recognition in all I read. To have it confirmed, however, elicited a number of conflicting emotions within me.
Relief came first, like ‘it’s not just me then, this is an actual thing that’s happened to me’, some bluster came next, a ‘I told you so, and I bloody knew it, go me for working it out’. Then came fear, because it’s quite a serious thing and therefore scary. Because it means doing something about it. Anger waded in, anger at my father for causing the repeated traumas as a result of his out of control drug use and violence perpetrated against my mum, my pets, my home. And anger against my mum, for despite being compromised herself, didn’t or wasn’t able to do anything until it was too late, and for still being physically and emotionally absent. I feel like an orphan, with both parents still alive. Last to the party snuck in shame, like an uninvited guest sliding in the back door, settling down and whispering poison. I became quite indignant then, I was not going to allow myself to be shamed by myself for this any more, this is what was done to me, not by me, and I’d had enough of feeling shame at what I came from and what I had to and then chose to hide behind masks for so long.
Everyone I told at that time thought it was a positive thing that it had a name, and a plan of action. That finally I could access what was needed to deal with it. The thing is, this scares me shitless. I want to say thanks very much for the diagnosis and forget it. To walk away and get on with things. To invalidate myself.
I know, sadly, that developmental trauma doesn’t just go away no matter how hard you try to will it away, you can’t just ‘move on’ and forget it. I’ve learned that developmental trauma actually changes the cells, the chemistry and make up of the brain, and that it can be life limiting. That toxic stress caused by ACEs damages the function and structure of developing brains, and such toxic stress affects short and long term health, and can impact every part of the body, leading to autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis, as well as rapidly increasing the odds of developing heart disease, breast cancer, lung cancer, etc. That there’s even links to historical and generational trauma (epigenetic consequences of toxic stress) in how toxic stress caused by ACEs can alter how our DNA functions, and how that can be passed on from generation to generation.
So as much as I’d love to run away, put my fingers in my ears and go ‘lalala’, I can’t. I owe it to my children, my husband Cuiplash and myself to tackle this head on. Because it is really serious and I’m really angry about that. And really sad for the little me who experienced all that shit.
I have since started trauma therapy. I get to attend a group with other survivors of Complex PTSD and attempt to….not sure what. Heal? Manage? Accept? Share, learn, shed shame. Although shame nearly stopped me you see. Because to access this meant telling my work, and that felt just too hard to do. I’m in quite an important profession, the type where you need to have your shit together at all times, managing multiple people, needs, projects, deadlines, responsibilities, amongst other things. And I’m bloody good at that. Under the shame lies the fear of being viewed differently, but it’s time to shed my masks and search for absolute authenticity.
I say it nearly stopped me as initially I outright refused that route. Until the second professional, who also confirmed the diagnosis and posed that option said to me ‘you self deprive though, don’t you’. And yes I do. Because that’s what happens. And I realised I needed to start stopping old ways of being and start standing up for me. And so I went to work and I told them, and it was really hard and I had to be really brave but I did it. More telling will need done over the next few weeks but it’s all part of me shedding shame and moving forward towards a more healthy, peaceful and carefree future.
I need my people to support me during this, as few as they are. I need safety and strength, and patience and honesty. I need to be called out on any bullshit and held accountable. I need consistency and to trust. I need to find continued peace in my submission and I need to embrace the strength in the vulnerability I have in my relationship with Cuiplash and integrate this in all areas of my life. And I will because, despite how much this hurts, I’ve already experienced it once and so can do it again, this time with an armour of ‘let’s get this done’ and one arm around little ca and Cuiplash’s arms around me. We’ll try hard not to forget how to laugh and have fun along the way…bear with me.