You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2012.

One of the more difficult aspects of healing Complex PTSD is the fact that often it’s hard for me to follow my own progress.   Therefore, I have attempted to list some of the road marks along the way, the indicators that I can really put my finger on as points of healing.  These points are reference markers that I can use to prove to myself that I am healing.  Of course, seeing proof of my healing encourages me to continue my journey.  Perhaps sharing my list with you will help you develop your own list or will simply encourage you to keep on truckin’ if you already have a list. 

 

If I had not developed this list and used it to take inventory of my progress now and then, I might have grown discouraged and quit therapy long ago.  If I had done that, the lens through which I view my world would be much darker than it is now, and my field of vision would be much narrower.  Hanging in there, difficult as it has been, has paid off! 

 

  • For the most part, I have learned to manage the pesky “side effects” of Complex PTSD.  I have no car, so I use public transportation.  Now, when somebody gets on the bus and argues with the driver loudly and angrily because he or she doesn’t want to pay, I simply sit and think, “What an ass!”  I no longer space out into la-la land, numb out, or shut down. 

         I attribute my improvement to all the hard work I’ve done with my ego states, bringing   peace into my psyche by getting to know these ego states, helping them get to know one another, and bringing about harmony within my “inner family.”  For a very basic explanation of EgoState Therapy, see this site: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8480666  For more detailed information, search Google and read any articles by Helen or John Watkins.  Please note:  The use of hypnosis has not been a factor in my therapy.I have more work to do in EgoState Therapy, but I’m well beyond the halfway mark now.

  • I am beginning to see beyond the labels that significant others gave me in the past, labels such as “stupid,” “ugly,” and all the other nasty, mean, vicious labels people gave me when they needed to protect themselves from whatever.  Since these significant others included my parents and my former husband, at one time extremely important people in my life, shedding these labels is a long, hard process.
  • I have closed the door on my marriage.  It’s taken me thirty years to do this, but that’s okay.  I was married in 1961 and separated in 1981.  My divorce became legal in 1983.  My former husband abused me sexually, emotionally, and mentally.  During my marriage, I learned that if I let him use me sexually, he was less likely to have a temper tantrum.  Sex seemed to soothe him, and keeping the peace at any cost was my goal.  After having no contact with him for over twenty years, I finally contacted him this year in order to get some photos from him.  I also wanted to see if he had changed.  From our exchange of correspondence, I discovered that he apparently has not changed.  To his credit, however, he did lend me the photos I wanted. 

Since contacting him recently, I can think of him without the fear, anger, and other emotions of the past.  Those of you who have come from abusive marriages and who are trying to heal can probably appreciate the relief I feel now that I have finally closed that door.  After some EMDR work on some of the traumas I experienced during my marriage, I believe I’ll feel even more relief and peace.

  • I am getting to know the part of me that carries my emotions and beginning to work on the task of achieving some sort of working partnership between my head and my heart.   For those of us who have spent most of our lives protecting our emotions by depending on our heads, our rational thought, to get us through our days, the thought of expressing our emotions is horrendous and can be terrifying.  For example, I can’t cry in front of another person.  Sometimes I can cry if I am where nobody else can hear or see me, but even those times are rare.  Maybe I’ll never be able to cry openly.  However, I’m going to assume that I can accomplish this. 

How did I get to this state?  From the time I was a tiny child, my parents laughed at me, jeered at me, when I would begin to cry.  They pointed their fingers and teased me, told me to get a milk bottle and fill it with my tears.  That started my education.  When I cried at my father’s funeral, my mother poked me in the side and said, “Don’t make a spectacle of yourself!”

By the time I was married, I had learned that tears are a sign of weakness and vulnerability, so I did not cry no matter what my former husband required of me.  I dissociated, but I did not cry.  I would have been better off if I had cried, for my ex revealed to me that he ramped up his sexual violence because he “wanted to find out if there was somebody inside” my body.

The points I have discussed above are the points that come most readily to mind.  These are the points I consider most important at this moment.  I hope they will help you to know that with the help of a competent therapist, you, too, can heal.

Here is a Scottish blessing to take into the New Year—

If there is righteousness in the heart,
there will be beauty in the character.
If there is beauty in the character,
there will be harmony in the home.
If there is harmony in the home,
there will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
there will be peace in the world.
So let it be!

My bet is that the journey of therapy leads to, among other rewards, “righteousness in the heart.” If so, then world peace is possible!  However, I’ll settle for “beauty in the character” and “harmony in the home,” my inner home.  Blessings for the New Year, Everyone! 

Advertisements

Dear Readers,
The following liturgical poem or prayer was written by my daughter-in-law, Reverend Michelle Manicke.  She has captured the tragedy and the hope so much more effectively than I could at this time.  My heartfelt wish for you is that her words give you hope.   Jean

 

Advent Lament
(poured out in response to the shootings
in Newtown and Everytown)

We’re in the middle of Advent…
but it feels
like Good Friday has broken in:
O Come,
O Come now, Emanuel….
Why on earth
is the manger empty–but for blood-soaked swaddling cloths?

Teeth-clenching, gut-wrenching
lip-biting, broad-siding
a salt-waterfall
comes cascading down,
deepening despair
and disappearing
into the depths,
its source and destination the same.

Its source and destination the same,
out of the depths,
babbling and
billowing hope
comes burbling up
the tear-choked channel.
Heart-mending, fear-ending
breath-taking, life-shaking.

We’re in the middle of Advent,
but it feels
like Easter is breaking in:
O Come,
O, Come now, Emanuel….
Why in heaven
is the manger empty–but for lily-white grave cloths?

— Rev. Michelle Manicke

When I looked through the search terms that have brought you to my site this week, I found some terms that have given me pause.  I would like to respond to some of these search terms—

·    How long does therapy take for Complex PTSD?

I am assuming that the person who searched for the answer to this question was trying to find out how long it takes to heal Complex PTSD.  The answer to this question is that the healing period varies.  I know this is not the reply the person wanted, most likely.  And I would like to reply by saying that the healing period takes two years or three years or four years, but I can’t realistically or honestly do that.

From what I have learned and based upon my own experience, healing PTSD can take place over an entire lifetime, to one degree or another.  Now, this may appear discouraging, but let me explain. . .

For most of us, probably, becoming burdened with the condition called C-PTSD has taken a long time.  For me, it took the first 42 years of my life because I was repeatedly traumatized as a baby and child, the first 18 years of my life.  I went from a traumatic childhood, then, into a marriage in which I was repeatedly abused for another twenty years.

Thus, it took about 42 years for the C-PTSD to build up and affect my life.  From 1980-1983 I saw my first therapist, and she helped me survive my traumatic marriage.  She provided support when I called the police to report my husband’s abuse of our daughter; she supported me as I picked up the pieces of my life and learned to be a single mom and lost my job, and she saw me through the final stages of my divorce.  Between 1983 and 2010, I saw a series of therapists who varied in their skills and abilities to help me.  They may have been, for the most part, supportive, but they did not really help me specifically heal from C-PTSD.  Then, in 2010, I began seeing the person I am seeing now and have been actively healing.

So, to respond to question of how long does it take to heal, I can only say that it takes as long as it takes.  However, with each increment of healing comes a new sense of life without C-PTSD.  Therefore, each step forward in your process brings with it its own rewards.  For example, it took me a year of working with Ego State Therapy to get the flashbacks and other nasty symptoms alleviated to the point where they didn’t plague me daily.  If I had stopped therapy at that point, I would have been ahead of where I was when I began.  But I wanted to go farther, so I continued in therapy.  My goal is to do what I can do in therapy to prevent backsliding and to make my last years of life as productive as possible without the symptoms of PTSD.  However, I accept the fact that my healing process will continue, with or without therapy, for the rest of my life.  That statement is as tough to write as it is to read, but it is realistic.

·    Complex PTSD and domestic violence

I’m assuming that the person who wrote this search term was trying to find information about the relationship between C-PTSD and domestic violence.  Here is my “nonprofessional” response:

In my case, I can see a direct relationship between the abuse I suffered as a child and the abuse I suffered during my marriage.  The childhood abuse taught me to turn inward and accept that I was stupid, I was worthless, and I was to blame for every bad thing that happened to me.  I deserved everything bad that was done to me.  Everyone else knew what was good for me or best for me better than I did.  I was the only person who had no power over me or what happened to me.

You can see how the above lessons I learned in childhood taught me to be a good, compliant victim of a person who was determined to victimize me.  When I walked in on my husband as he sexually victimized our daughter, however, I awoke to reality and stopped the whole dynamics.  I thought of her and not of myself, and I knew she did not deserve to be abused.  Maybe I deserved to be abused, but my daughter did not deserve that treatment.  Then I called the police and reported my husband’s behavior.  By taking this action, I took my first step down the road to healing.  Not only that, but I helped free my daughter from the chains of C-PTSD.

The above, then, is my view of the relationship between domestic violence and  C-PTSD.  I became a victim of domestic violence when I was a child, and because I had no professional mental health help as a child, I went on in life to become an adult victim in an abusive marriage.  Forty-two years of abuse=C-PTSD.

·    Complex PTSD why now?

I am assuming that the person who typed this into the search engine wanted to know why C-PTSD might manifest itself at a time that may seem puzzling.  Maybe the person who wrote this has been happily married or happily retired, has a relatively non-traumatizing environment, and is in a situation where trauma may be the last thing he or she thinks about.

I’ve been there!  I’ve wondered “why now?”  My marriage with its active abuse ended in 1983.  It was in about 2009 when I had the horrendous flashback that caused me to seek help this time.  My life had been fairly peaceful and productive from the year 1983 until 2009.  I’d had a career I loved, and I was retired and doing things I wanted to do.  Nobody was hassling me, and life was good.  Or so I thought.  When I had the flashback in 2009, I realized that something was going on that I needed to take care of in order to enjoy the last decade or two of my life, and that is what I am still in the process of doing.

I asked my therapist one day “why now?”  She could not give me a definite answer, and I can understand why she couldn’t.  Each person’s psyche is different, and each person has a different innate sort of PTSD “time bomb.”  At some point, if a person has not gotten effective help for the horrors of past abuse, the PTSD “time bomb” will explode and let the person—and perhaps everyone in his or her environment!–know that the time has come to do something about his or her internal situation.  Something will trigger the symptoms that may have lain dormant for years or for decades, and the person either denies the situation and doesn’t do anything about the symptoms or the person decides to get effective, competent help to heal.  For more about this, please see my own story on http://www.jfairgrieve.com.

The above search phrases were the three that I felt were most in need of a response.  I’ve done my best as a nonprofessional to give you my responses.  I hope this helps.

Perhaps these words will help:

“Come to the edge.”
“We can’t. We’re afraid.”
“Come to the edge.”
“We can’t. We will fall!”
“Come to the edge.”
And they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.

Guillaume Apollinaire,   1880-1918
French Poet, Philosopher

 

An update: The end is in sight!

As you are aware, Ego State Therapy as developed after the middle of the 1900s by such people as John and Helen Watkins, is a therapy in which the client identifies his or her ego states and then is helped by the therapist to bring these ego states into a state of harmony so they can work in the best interest of the client to improve the quality of his or her life.  (http://www.clinicalsocialwork.com/egostate.html) This process is much like family therapy, but rather than work with members of a family, the therapist works with the “family” within the client and also teaches the client how to do this internal work on his own.  This therapy is often a precursor to EMDR therapy, but even when used without EMDR, Ego State Therapy can bring about amazing relief from C-PTSD and its symptoms.

How do I know this?  I’ve been engaged in Ego State Therapy for over 2 1/2 years now, and I can testify to its effectiveness.  Wow, can I ever!!  

In one of my recent posts  (November 28, 2012), I mentioned the spaciness and feeling of being “unsettled” that can creep up on me at odd times but primarily before my therapy appointments.  Last week, I mentioned to my therapist that this feeling is very uncomfortable, especially when it makes me feel disoriented.  She replied that she would help me learn how to control the sensations.  I was amazed!  I had no idea that controlling the spaciness and other odd sensations was within my power.  She did not elaborate on her offer to help me, and we ran out of time, so when I left her office, I did not know any more about the “how to” than I did when I entered her office.

However, I left my therapist’s office with one extremely important piece of information:  I have the power to control those psychic sensations that had been making me so uncomfortable!!   I had assumed that those feelings were beyond my control.  I had assumed that, like my liver and my kidneys, my psyche did its own thing on its own without any guidance from my conscious mind.  Boy, am I ever happy to know that my assumptions were incorrect!  Ever since my therapist enlightened me and I realized that I was in charge, I have had no episodes of spaciness and no peculiar feelings that have left me disoriented.  I am confident, now, that when/if I sense the condition beginning to come back, I can keep it at bay by recognizing and acknowledging its approach and negotiating within myself to keep it from coming on full force.  I’m sure this will be tested in the next few weeks, but I’m equally sure now that I can effectively keep myself clear-minded and fully able to function.

In addition to the above, I am now fully aware of my inner family and feel capable of negotiating with the various members whenever I feel the need to do so.  This is another amazing step for me.  I realize that anyone reading this might wonder how I could have been in therapy for several years without being aware that I can control what goes on inside my mind.  All I can say in reply is this: If you are in the throes of trying to heal C-PTSD,  you may understand.  Trauma damage, the major underlying component of C-PTSD, renders one’s internal “family” dysfunctional.  Communication among the various parts of the psyche and communication between the “family members” and the person whose psyche they inhabit is often nonexistent.  Thus, despite the fact that I have been working for about two years to bring about harmony within myself, it’s taken me this long to reach the point where I feel as if that “family” and I inhabit the same body.  But now I do! 

What an amazing feeling!  I actually feel “together” for the first time I can remember.  So this is what it feels like to be “normal”?  I must be healing!  Is that possible?  Is the end in sight? 

I’ve lived long enough to be skeptical, so I’m not jumping up and down and rejoicing and assuming that I’ve “made it.”  No, I know better than that!  But I do know that I feel together, as in the expression “Get it together.”  I also know that I feel empowered, at least I feel that I can manage myself.  I don’t want to manage anyone else.  Beyond those statements I will not go at this point.  It’s too soon.  I’m not planning to stop therapy right now, either.  I need to stay with it until I’ve adapted to my new self. 

Whew!  It’s been a long old haul, but I think daylight is a lot closer than it ever has been.  My short message is this:  If I can do it, you can do it.  With the help of a competent therapist, you, too, can heal.  I’m looking forward now to a downhill journey rather than the uphill battle I have fought in the past.  

In the spirit of the Advent and Christmas season, I ask you, if you are healing from C-PTSD, to pass on the Hope to others.  Here is a quote from Winston Churchill that may inspire you:
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill