What C-PTSD Looks Like for Me

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or C-PTSD as it’s commonly known is a psychological disorder that can develop in response to prolonged, repeated experience of interpersonal trauma in a context where the persona has little or no chance of escape. What the heck does that mean? It means C-PTSD is the result of exposure to traumatic events over a period of time.

How is it different from PTSD? Post traumatic stress disorder is typically the result of a single traumatic event. So a car accident, earthquake, tornado, violent attack, or any other single event can lead to PTSD. On the other hand, things such as child neglect, child abuse, or an abusive relationship will lead to C-PTSD.

For me, my C-PTSD is a result of my childhood. I wish I could share all of those details. In reality, I can’t. I have very little memory of my childhood. I can kinda remember 2-3 events. My life is mostly a blur. As I’m going thorough therapy, I’ve found that most of my memories are there. They’re just hidden. This is my brains way of protecting me. Protect me from what? I’m not entirely sure. Frustrating right? Memory loss is one of the many side effects of C-PTSD. Imagine walking through life not remembering much of your childhood. Now imagine going through life not remember what happened last week. Well, that’s my life.

Another thing that has resulted from my C-PTSD is my Hyperarousal. This means that I’m always alert for danger. This is oftentimes confused with being super observant. Well yes! My mind thinks life depends on it. This also comes with the ability to read people/situation incredibly well. I will say this has served me well with pets/foster pets. It’s nice to notice the small changes and catch an issue before it becomes a big issue. It’s saved my bunnies life. Other than that, it’s pretty annoying to always be vigilant.

Now imagine having a lack of emotional regulation. This means that my feelings can go from completely numb to explosive anger. I struggle with controlling my own feelings. Most of the time, I’m not sure what they are. By the time I notice, they’re pretty intense. For most of my life, I’ve suppressed my feelings in favor of autopilot. As I type this, I’m working through understanding my feelings. It’s about conscious effort into feeling my feelings. I’ll share a secret… it’s terrifying.

One of my favorite “side effects” of C-PTSD is difficulty in relationships. For me, this means I have a hard time trusting people. I have a hard time trusting myself. Remember, I’m always vigilant. I’m also terrified of recreating the romantic relationship I grew up around, so I’ve decided to be single. To my family, this translates as “she must be a lesbian.” It’s not like “she’s terrified of making real connections.” Besides a few close friends, my best friends are animals. Let me tell you, I’ve learned that most trauma patients end up being animal lovers. As my therapist says, animals do not judge and love unconditionally.

Finally, C-PTSD gives me a great deal of guilt and shame. This leads me to feel like I’m not like other people. It also connects my worth to what I’m able to produce. Growing up, I was the “smart one, or the “hard working one,” so I’ve made it my mission to produce. I identify as what I’ve accomplished. I feel the constant need to achieve and to receive approval. This approval had to come from my family. This was especially true of my father. Spoiler alert: it never came and I doubt it ever will.

My C-PTSD is seeped into every fiber of my being. Sometimes I’m not sure what is trauma and what is me. Who am I outside of this identity? I’m not sure, but I’m finally willing to find the answer.

*I am not a mental health professional. Everything written here is from my personal experience. If you are suffering, please reach out to a qualified professional for assistance.

What My Anxiety and Depression Feels Like…

Today is a bad day. I woke up and I instantly knew that today would be a bad day. What is a bad day? For me, it’s a day where anxiety and depression take over.

My bad days are different from others. Until recently, it never occurred to me that I had depression. From ‘y limited understanding, I thought of depression as someone who was constantly crying or sad. You know, the stereotypical depressed person. In my case, my depression looks different. I’m what is known as a highly functioning depressed person or persistent depressive disorder (PDD). To the outside world, I would seem just fine. I’m able to push through and go to work. What people don’t see is how long it takes me to get up, the sadness I feel, the desire to sleep that is almost unbearable, and the feeling of hopelessness.

Today’s bad day brings with it slight shaking (hello anxiety), feeling hopeless and trapped, and a general nervousness that won’t subside. It’s subtle enough to allow me to function, but loud enough to make it a challenge. My mind is racing. The thoughts that run through my mind have to do with not being good enough, trapping myself in a career that is not for me, feeling like there is no way out, and overall wanting to go home and falling asleep for days. At the same time, it feels like needing to do so much. I have a list of things that need to be done in order to “be happy.” There’s an inner voice that is judging me for being sad and for wanting to “give up.” My inner critic is shaming my inner child.

There is some disassociation to go with this. This feels like some numbness sprinkled into the shaking nervousness. Feeling like I have no control over my body. The challenge? Trying to remain fully in my body as this passes through. Another challenge? Remaining productive at work while this washes through.

Anxiety and depression look different in different people. Just because someone is able to carry through their day doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering. In the last year, I’ve learned so much about my mental health. A year ago, my answer would’ve been “of course I’m not depressed!” Today, I know that I am. I know that there will be bad days and good days. I’ve decided not to take medications for my depression, as I feel like I can deal with it at this time. Will that change? Maybe. For now, I will breathe through it.

Meeting my Shadow

In my opinion, the most important thing we can do for ourselves is shadow work. It’s also one of the most difficult things we can do. Shadow work is unearthing the parts of ourselves that we try to hide or deny.

Our shadow begins to form at a very young age. Our parents/guardians and society condition us to believe that some things are “good” and others are “bad.” We take our “bad,” and we bury it. Our shadow is our core wound(s). It’s the little child that desperately wants to be acknowledged and loved. It’s the place where all of your demons reside. It’s where your repressed feelings, animal impulses, and “evil” exists. In order to heal, we must integrate our shadow. Is it easy? Absolutely not. Is it rewarding? Absolutely.

Meeting the shadow is a personal thing. Uncovering the parts that have been rejected is excruciating. Facing those inner demons can be liberating. Imagine fearing the boogeyman in the closet, and finally being able to open the closet door and finding a friend. That’s what meeting my shadow has been like for me. I won’t lie… my shadow is still not fully integrated. My shadow still looms over me casting a black cloud of judgment.

I’ve encountered my shadow through automatic writing, meditation, shamanic journey, journaling, and more. So what resides in my shadow? My compassion, my empathy, my love. Seems weird, right? I completely agree. Here’s the thing, I grew up in a household where you were punished for crying. A frequent memory involves my dad daring me to cry. “You want to cry? I’ll give you something to cry about!” Mind you, I was already terrified of him. In fact, I’m tearing up, as I type this. The animal lover in me often cried at the misfortune of animals. That was also wrong. It was irrational and stupid to cry. It’s only natural that my younger self saw these things as unacceptable. Those sensitivities must be repressed was the message, and I received it loud and clear.

To this day, I struggle with compassion, empathy, and love. My walls are high. My walls are probably as tall as Mount Everest. I’m working hard to bring them down, but it’s a work in progress. My feelings are mostly shut off. Most of the time, I walk around on autopilot. The most difficult question I receive is “how are you feeling?” I really don’t know. I’m not in touch with my feelings. Those are my personal demons. Those are the monsters under my bed. Of course, there are other demons. They’re not all the “good stuff.” I’m human. It’s a good mix of things. We’re all light and dark. There is no “good” or “bad.” There is just us. All of our beautiful and messy parts. Our humanity.

So, how can you work with the shadow? First, and foremost, ensure that you are in a place where opening up the shadow is best for you. If you’re in a place of low self-esteem or depression, shadow work may not be the best thing for you to do. It takes a lot out of us to face our shadow. It’s ok to seek professional help.

  1. Work on self-love. You must be able to love yourself as you are. Love yourself with reckless abandon. Understand that you are perfectly imperfect. Commit to yourself, as you would to another.
  2. Self-care. As you undertake shadow work, you must make time for self-care. Some days that’ll mean a warm blanket and good book. Other times, it’ll be sleep. Whatever self-care means to you, commit to it.
  3. Allow the feelings. As you go through shadow work, you’ll have a lot of feelings emerge. Allow them. Hold space for them. Do not judge them or yourself (hello self-love).
  4. Be self-aware. Self-awareness is paramount in this process. You must be conscious of your intention, your feelings, your thoughts, etc. Without self-awareness, you won’t get very far. You must also be able to recognize when a break is needed.
    Those are just some of the things you must possess for this process. I’ve included some ways in which you can do start shadow work below…
  5. Creativity – allow the shadow to surface through some form of art. Perhaps that’s through drawing, painting, writing. For me, my first choice is writing. I love journaling and storytelling. I create characters that embody my shadow attributes.
  6. Explore your shadow by exploring archetypes – if you’re familiar with archetypes, use them to get to know your shadow. As you can tell, I love archetypes. They’re just so useful.
  7. Meditation – use guided meditations to explore the depths of your shadow. Or simply, visualize! Set the intention that you’re going to explore your own shadow. Be open to what feelings, images, and thoughts come through. Remember, don’t judge (I know, easier said than done).
  8. Pay attention to your projections – what triggers you? What angers you in others? What feelings and thoughts come to mind? Whenever you’re triggered, ask yourself “am I projecting anything?” “Does this belong to me?” Honestly, not everything is a projection. I don’t believe that at all. Sometimes a person is just being a jerk. Other times, you’re truly projecting. This is where self-awareness will come in handy.

There are so many ways to explore the shadow. The more familiar we get with our shadow, the more we heal, and the more we connect to wholeness.

Living in Hell

Growing up, I was often told that I would go to Hell if I didn’t obey. It would often revolve around the idea that things were “bad,” and that I would end up in the depths of Hell for doing said things. That’s pretty scary for a child. Seriously, at least once per day, I was told something was “bad.” It ranged from saying I was bored to not asking questions. Apparently, God looks down on people who are bored, as it means that they’re ungrateful. Imagine being taught that as a child!

I was pretty terrified of Hell. It was explained as a fiery place ran by the Devil. My mom would tell me to pray to keep the devil away. My mom also told me that God could hear all of my thoughts. I don’t know about anyone else, but that was the most terrifying thing for me. If God was so strict and he could hear my thoughts, did that mean I would be going to Hell? Was he mad at me? I was a prisoner in my own head. I would sit, and try to control my thoughts to only include “pure” or “good” thoughts. As soon as I felt bored, I would freak out. I would try to convince myself that I wasn’t bored, so that God wouldn’t be mad. I didn’t want to go to Hell. Funny thing is… I was in Hell. My childhood was Hell. What I realized was that Hell wasn’t a place. It’s a state of mind. People carry Hell around with them.

A lot of people are afraid of this place, but they’re already there. Imagine being a prisoner in your own mind? Imagine living a life where you’re afraid to be bored because it’s wrong. Is that really living? The older I got, the more I realized that I wasn’t afraid of this Hell that people supposedly went to after their lives ended. I was afraid of continuing my life in restriction. I was afraid of worshiping a God who was cold and unyielding. I was afraid of not being in control of my own life. I was afraid of being forced to be grateful even in times of sorrow.

I understand that my upbringing isn’t the universal representation of religion. I’ve met a lot of people who grew up religious, and they’re well adjusted. Thing is, I can only go by my experience. It’s my experience for a reason. I’ve had the privilege of living in the darkest and deepest depths of Hell. In those depths, I came face to face with my own inner demons. I faced my own Satan. I still am facing my own Satan. I realized he wasn’t all that scary. Just like the Devil card in tarot, I was in control. I could choose to remain there chained by choice, or I could break free. I decided to break free. I decided to take control of my own life. I decided to face the God of my childhood. I told that God that I would not worship a God that I had to fear. I told him that I would no longer participate in this abusive relationship. If I wouldn’t allow this treatment from a human, why allow it from him? I decided what my definition of God was. My God is compassionate, forgiving, loving, and wise. My God is living within me. My God is not outside of me. My God can be found in every single person I meet. As I embraced who my God was, I began to ascend. I was no longer afraid of my thoughts. I was no longer condemning myself to this inner Hell. I was free. I was living within my own ethics and morals. I was finding signs of God all around me. I saw God in the cashier at the supermarket. I saw God in the man who cut me off on the way home. I saw God in my dogs eyes. I saw God in myself. I am no longer living in Hell, and I know that if I find myself back there again, I can and will crawl back out.

Trauma and Pain

Pic found on Pinterest

As I sit on my couch writing this, I’m surrounded by my warm dog, heating pad, and lavender essential oil neck pillow. My upper back, neck, and shoulders are on fire. The pain is sharp and dull at the same time, if that’s even possible.

My relationship to my body has been an interesting one. I walk around mostly disconnected. It takes conscious effort to know what exactly I’m feeling. I’m mostly unaware of feelings and sensations.

In the last few months, that has changed. I’m now making more of a conscious effort to connect to my body. As my therapist says, “the body keeps the score (amazing book as well).” It definitely feels like my body has been keeping the score. Every single time I was afraid. Every single time I felt danger. Every single time I was frustrated. Every single time I was sad. My body has kept the score.

Now that I’m working on my trauma, it’s all surfacing. It’s a reminder of everything that needs to be dealt with. A reminder of all that has been ignored. Most importantly, it’s a reminder that I’m not as numb as I thought. The pain is reminder of the realness of everything I’ve been through. It’s a reminder of how bad it was, and a reminder of how much I have yet to go through.

Right now, it hurts while I sit, sleep, or partake in any other activity. According to my online searches, trauma and chronic pain are common companions. I’ve also found charts of how we hold certain emotions in certain parts of our body. According to this chart, we hold emotional burdens on our shoulders, lack of emotional support on the upper back, and lack of forgiveness on our necks. I’ve never read something that resonated more.

As I move forward, I’m going to focus on these, as I make time to get to know my inner child. While there is a lot of resistance about this, my therapists is insisting it’s very necessary. I’m also working on being more active to try and work through my pain.

Recalling Nothingness – Living in Darkness

*This entry is from earlier this year. I’ve decided to post things from the beginning of this journey.

I sit at my desk typing. My coworkers are talking about their childhoods. I’m purposely avoiding the conversation. They continue to recall the games they played and the shows they enjoyed. I continue to type. I hear one of them call my name. I pretend I don’t hear her. She calls my name again. She wants to know if I recall the games and shows. Truth is… I don’t know.

This scene has played out more times than I can remember. Sometimes it’s childhood memories. At other times, it’s a random person coming up to me with a familiar tone. The end result is always the same… frustration. I can’t recall most of my life. When I’m trying to recall information, it’s always the same. There is nothing. There are dark shadows that are just outside of my grasp. I’m always so close, yet so far. At other times, the mention of something random will flood me with memories. For example, someone mentions reading The Babysitters Club book series, and I’m flooded with the recollection of those familiar stories and the smell of used books.
Thing is, I can’t predict what I’ll be able to recall. More often than not, I have no memories to draw upon. This makes me anxious. Why can’t I remember my childhood like my peers? What happened to me? What was done to me? Those are the most frustrating questions. What if something horrible was done to me, and I can’t even recall it? The feeling of powerlessness is overwhelming at times. This isn’t exclusive to my childhood either. There are events in my adult life that I simply cannot recall.

Recently, I decided I could no longer live this way. I decided to try finding a therapist once again. After 5 failed attempts, I was a little hesitant, but I had also gone as far as I could alone. I needed support. I was in desperate need of professional support. Thankfully, I found someone. So far, she’s been amazing. In a few weeks, I’ve received two diagnosis. The first one C-PTSD. This one was a bit of a shock. I had never heard of Complex PTSD. According to my research, many victims of childhood abuse have C-PTSD. It happens as a result of prolonged exposure to interpersonal trauma in which the individual has little or no chance of escape. As soon as I left, I ran to find books. I had to know all of the information. The diagnosis has helped. A couple of weeks after I was diagnosed with C-PTSD, I was also diagnosed with dissociative amnesia. This means that I have disruptions or breakdowns in my memory, consciousness, awareness, identity, and/or perception. This is also due to trauma.

Right now, I’m going through therapy. My hope is to be a more healthy version of myself. I don’t know that I’ll regain access to my memories (therapist feels that I have memories, but they’re blocked). I do know that I want to integrate and move forward from my trauma. I’m also beginning to explain to people that I simply cannot remember certain things. Until recently, I avoided speaking this truth. It felt embarrassing, but I’m now realizing it’s part of who I am.

Swimming in Your Own Murky Waters

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

**this was written earlier this year.

As I sit at work surrounded by chatty coworkers, I feel the familiar pang on my chest. The scene is pretty normal. My 4 coworkers are playing a game and chatting about celebrity gossip. “Did you watch the show last night?” “Yes, wasn’t it great!” I smile. The heart pangs continue. They grow into full blown chest pains. I try to pay attention to the conversation. “When are you going to download the game?” They ask. I let them know I don’t plan on downloading. They continue the chatter.

This is a typical day for me. I sit surrounded by people. Everyone seems happy with the routine. No one wants to think too deeply. It’s scary. When serious conversations come up, everyone rushes to go back to the surface. None of us are truly happy, but we strive to find happiness in our routine. We come into the office Monday through Friday, and we just get by. When we talk about our dreams, no one dreams of being here. The conversation moves back to surface level topics.

As a society, our normal is to follow our routines. We must go to work, cook, clean, etc. Everything is on autopilot. Most people don’t want to dig deeper. Happiness is just out of our reach. If we play the lottery and win, we’ll be able to (fill in the blank). Once I retire, I’ll be able to (fill in the blank). Happiness is just over there. It’s in the tomorrow. It’s never really in the today.

We continue to avoid our pangs. We continue to ignore the gaping hole we feel on the inside. We continue to avoid our own murky waters. It’s scary. What lies underneath? What never before seen monsters are lurking in those waters? Most of us would rather never find out. That leads to more of what we know. More routines. More mediocrity. More grayness.

Truth is, if we are brave enough, we can swim into our own murky waters. We can explore those buried emotions. We can bring them to the surface. We can begin to heal. We can understand our motivators. We can face our monsters. Once we face those monsters, we can leave behind the mediocrity. We can fill our emptiness. The only way around pain is through it. We can only avoid it for so long. We can only mask it with distractions for so long.

Who am I?

As I write my first post on this blog, I wonder who am I? How can I explain that to the reader when I’m not exactly sure myself? I’m not sure, but I do know I’ll try.

So what am I? My name is Ginnette. I’m soon to be 31 years old. I’m an animal lover who dreams of saving as many lives as I possibly can in this lifetime. If you follow my social media accounts, you’ll see 90% of posts are animal related. I am mom to 3 fur babies. I have a wonderfully neurotic dog named Dobby. He’s proof that dogs are like their owners. I have a bunny, Baxter, who has more attitude than most teenage girls. Again, goes to prove that pets are like their owners. Finally, I have a guinea pig, Sorcha, who is a mix of her siblings. I’m also a foster parent to kittens.

I’m also someone who struggles with mental health issues. In the last few months, I decided to seek professional mental health care. It’s not the first time I seek help, but it is the first time I’ve found the right therapist. In the last few months, I have been diagnosed with C-PTSD, Anxiety, and Depression (highly functional). I’m working through therapy with a focus on EMDR. My goal is to be able to recall and move on from childhood trauma. I also hope to become a better version of myself. At 30 years old, I don’t truly know who I am, because who I am is based on my trauma.

So why this blog? This blog is an exploration of self. I find that writing liberates me and gives me permission to be who I am. At least, who I’m becoming. Remember, I’m not sure who I am outside of my trauma. Also, this blog is a result of people reaching out every time I share my struggles saying “I go through that too.” This blog is for the little girl within me that wished she had something to read as she was growing up that would make her feel seen. It’s to break all stigmas around mental health. It is to break out of my own shell.