Part three: What Does Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Look Like?

https://www.encourageplay.com/blog/the-zones-of-regulation

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“There are several and various psychological aspects to CPTSD and we have tried to list as many as we could below with associated explanations.

* Problems with Emotional Regulation. Survivors find they have a very difficult time experiencing, expressing, and controlling emotions. Not only are survivors unable to describe, comprehend and label them correctly, feeling emotions is terrifying and might express in a volatile manner.

Survivors may experience persistent sadness, suicidality, or either explosive anger or be incapable of expressing it. Survivors often feel numb and are incapable of leveling out their moods after they have experienced an extreme emotion such as elation or grief.

One common symptom any survivors encounter is the re-experiencing of their childhood trauma through flashbacks. These flashbacks are intrusive and often the triggers causing them are elusive. This symptom is known as an emotional flashback.

* Difficulty with Relationships. One might think that when we talk about having difficulty with relationships, we are only speaking about having trouble forming and holding an intimate relationship but that’s not all there is to it.

Survivors often have feelings of isolation and haven’t the knowledge of HOW to form relationships. The fear involved in trusting another human being will not harm them leaves these survivors in a morass of harboring the intense needs to hide away and refuse to try to trust others with also desperately wanting someone to love them.

However, some survivors swing the opposite direction and trust too much leaving them vulnerable to victimization to people who will repeat the pain and abandonment of the past.

Below are listed and described some of the difficulties people living with the diagnosis of complex post-traumatic stress disorder experience.

* Difficulties with Self-Perception. Due to the messages given by their childhood abusers, survivors often have problems with perceiving themselves as worthwhile and worthy of dignity and respect. Unfortunately, due to the signals sent by caregivers, many believe they are fundamentally bad or damaged beyond repair. This leaves survivors feeling powerless, hopeless, and helpless. Many survivors take on the role of rescuer, sacrificing their own health and happiness to care for others; while others feel a sense of entitlement that blocks their healing.

There is also a permeating feeling of not belonging in the world that, somehow, they are a mistake and should never have been born. This brings a deep sense of loneliness that may result in isolating from other people.

However, these beliefs and feelings are far from the truth as survivors are compassionate, competent, strong, and intelligent human beings.”

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Part two: What is Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Pixabay: sahinsezerdincer

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Complex post-traumatic stress disorder is a developmental trauma disorder (DTD) which is wildly different than post-traumatic stress disorder that normally, but not always, forms in adulthood.

The trauma model states that children who experience chronic sexual, psychological, physical abuse and neglect develop CPTSD.

However, it also forms in kids who suffer slavery, human trafficking, working in sweatshops, war or survivors of concentration camp environments and cults.

The trauma which causes this disorder may also include having experienced betrayal, defeat, and shame.

The reason children are vulnerable to forming CPTSD is that children do not have the cognitive or emotional skills to understand what is happening to them.

Since the abuse and neglect, they are experiencing is normally perpetrated by people they know and trust, to admit to themselves that these same people want to hurt them is akin to emotional suicide so they use other means to manage the trauma.

The psychological implications are enormous leaving the child with a complex mess of their core beliefs about who they are what they are.

This tangled mess becomes even more complicated by flashbacks, nightmares and other symptoms that are worse in adulthood.

Often, children experiencing interpersonal traumatic events experience a conundrum in their minds and some choose to dissociate the events away.

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Part one: What is Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD)? by Shirley Davis | Sep 3, 2019 | CPTSD Research, What is CPTSD

Pixabay: geralt

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Most people have heard of post-traumatic stress disorder that afflicts many men and women returning from a war zone.

It is characterized by flashbacks, unstable mood, and survivor’s remorse. However, many have never heard of a condition that often develops in childhood and changes the course of the child’s life forever, complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD).

For a good definition of CPTSD, we turned to Beauty After Bruises, an organization that offers outreach focused on adult survivors of childhood trauma who have complex PTSD with or without the presence of a dissociative disorder.

Their definition of complex post-traumatic stress disorder as follows:

“Complex PTSD comes in response to chronic traumatization over the course of months or, more often, years.

This can include emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuses, domestic violence, living in a war zone, being held captive, human trafficking, and other organized rings of abuse, and more.

While there are exceptional circumstances where adults develop C-PTSD, it is most often seen in those whose trauma occurred in childhood.

For those who are older, being at the complete control of another person (often unable to meet their most basic needs without them), coupled with no foreseeable end in sight, can break down the psyche, the survivor’s sense of self, and affect them on this deeper level.

For those who go through this as children, because the brain is still developing and they’re just beginning to learn who they are as an individual, understand the world around them, and build their first relationships – severe trauma interrupts the entire course of their psychologic and neurologic development.”

CPTSD forms in response to repeated interpersonal violence that leaves the victim, a child or adult, feeling trapped with no hope of escape or of imminent death.

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder is a developmental trauma disorder (DTD) which is wildly different than post-traumatic stress disorder that normally, but not always, forms in adulthood.

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Reflections

Pixabay: sasint

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My daughter says I try to do things heroically at times.

That stung!

Instead of just healing, I ran a mindfulness group and a blog. Does she have a point, some truth in her statement.

I am guilty, oh my.

In the chronic pain group of 15, I threw my pills away and started hiking uphill strenuously. My therapist thought that was dramatic.

Maybe so, but it worked and I helped one other quit most of his meds, the rest suffered miserably.

Wow am I a drama king?

I do not apologize for my actions there. How many chronic pain patients quit their pain killers on their own?

Not many.

When I was paralyzed from guillian beret, in pain, in rehab, I refused to pace myself. They always preached, do not overtrain.

I said no, you have no idea where overtraining was at.

Arrogant as hell, I said I am an ex pro athlete and a meditator, I am different.

That embarrasses me, such arrogance, it is how athletes compete beyond their abilities.

I did their routine and then put my legs under the biggest load they could handle.

From being told I would be paralyzed, in that wheelchair a minimum of one, maybe two years, needing special chairs and nurses, ten days later I took three steps.

They were surprised. I told them if my upper legs fired, the rest of my body would follow. It happened.

To me this was not heroic. They put me in a gym, called it physical therapy, with an important goal, my life, and nothing else to occupy my mind.

Many of my peers, pro athletes could have done the same thing. We are trained to handle a load like this.

I am excellent at physical challenges, PTSD is my kryptonite.

Our greatest challenges come from our weaknesses people.

This one is kicking my ass lately.

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PTSD: Things that are automatic; Worry

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Pinterest: Zachary Phillips

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Worry.

Worry starts way before thought for me. I know the reasons, know that severe trauma in childhood impacts our genes and undeveloped brain.

My mind worries subconsciously. I have observed it, felt how even in happy times, I never felt safe or free.

I guess it stems from the inevitability of being a prisoner, I could not escape my father, I was trapped, isolated, helpless.

My father told me athletically I needed to be twice as good as everyone else, so no one would question him as coach.

With his constant criticism, this mantra evolved into I need to be twice as good as others just to be normal. Adding to this, school brought ridicule from having a big nose.

Nowhere was safe and free in childhood.

I tried to be perfect everyday. It was the only way I could survive.

That is immense pressure on an extremely unworthy kid.

Worry was always close, always percolating, always with a level of hypervigilance, on guard, life was never safe.

In childhood my worries were accurate, and every week there would be violent beatings and criticism.

When my PTSD is active, danger is alive, close and worry becomes acute.

My work, my goal is twofold. First unplug worry when it surfaces, second change the subconscious patterns.

Exploring my inner world has revealed a mind that is partially hijacked from PTSD.

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Observing my mind::::::::::::Patterns

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Observing my mind during morning meditation, using that space between me and the thoughts, I saw my mind’s pattern.

Before meditating, an email bill from Comcast was double a normal month, my mind engaged automatically.

Ten minutes later focused on the breath, my mind added many trauma worries from the past, emotionally charged events, then I saw my survival mode from a distance.

Subconsciously my mind has always hunted for danger, things that would worry me. My father raised me with violent criticism, he never said a kind word.

I had to know where he was, what mood he was in and make sure I did not do anything to disappoint him.

He wanted perfection, a cold narcissist, fear was my closest companion.

This explains the depth of what I am trying to modify. I would be frustrated if Healing was expected to be easy or quick.

Meditation has allowed me to observe my mind from a distance, I watch my thoughts and patterns at times.

It is scary, depressing to admit or write it down to share.

A decade of therapy has helped me improve, but my mind has always functioned in a hybrid survival mode.

When my complex PTSD is active, survival mode is intense, spotting danger gets the highest clearance. Looking back, I lived in some form of survival mode everyday.

Even when things were going well, feeling some happiness, I was on guard, never trusting life fully. That is difficult to write and know it is true.

I strive to change this everyday.

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Can Trauma Be Passed Down From One Generation to the Next? There’s some pretty strong evidence that parental trauma, like extreme stress (we’re looking right at you coronavirus) can alter how genes are passed down.

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Karina Margit Erdelyi:

We are living in strange times, with much of the world under quarantine for the novel coronavirus—and that’s precisely the kind of stress that may impact future offspring according to some scientists.A growing body of research suggests that trauma (like from extreme stress or starvation among many other things) can be passed from one generation to the next.

Here’s how: Trauma can leave a chemical mark on a person’s genes, which can then be passed down to future generations. This mark doesn’t cause a genetic mutation, but it does alter the mechanism by which the gene is expressed. This alteration is not genetic, but epigenetic. 

We spoke with Dr. Chris Mason, Associate Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine, with appointments at the Tri-Institutional Program in Computational Biology and Medicine between Cornell, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Rockefeller University, and Director of the Mason Lab. He shared that epigenetics, in simplified terms, is the study of the biological control mechanisms of DNA—the light switches that turn genes on or off. What does that mean? In essence: epigenetics control how or why your genes are expressed.”

What would have seemed preposterous 20 years ago has become a fast-emerging field of study. Today the idea that a person’s experience could alter their biology, and behavior of their children and grandchildren has gained serious traction. Animal and some smaller human studies have shown that exposure to stressors like immense stress or cold can trigger metabolic changes in subsequent generations—and we may just be living in such a time as we grapple with the mounting COVID-19 crisis.

So, What Exactly Are These Epigenetic Studies?

Differences among groups who had gone through extreme physical and psychological stress, like Holocaust survivors, those who were born to parents who lived through “The Dutch Hunger Winter,” and sons of Confederate prisoner-of-war soldiers in the American Civil War, all make the case the most clearly, but they’re not the whole picture. There has also been a lot of work in the lab focused on this phenomenon, and that work really accelerated after The Human Genome Project (HGP) was completed in 2003. Here’s a look at what scientists have learned from both case studies and experiments.

How Extreme Situations Have Impacted Offspring

Mason shared that the field of epigenetics gained real traction about a decade ago, when scientists published seminal research on the Dutch Hunger Winter, an extended period of famine that took place towards the end of World War II when the Nazis blocked food supplies in October 1944, thrusting much of the Netherlands into famine. When the Dutch were liberated in May 1945, more than 20,000 had died of starvation. Pregnant women were particularly vulnerable; and the famine impacted the unborn children for the rest of their lives.

Scientists found that those who had been in utero during the famine were a few pounds heavier than average. (The thinking goes that the mothers, because they were starving, automatically quieted a gene in their unborn children involved in burning the body’s fuel.) When the children reached middle age, they had higher LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They also suffered higher rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and schizophrenia. When scientists looked into why, they found that these children carried a specific chemical mark—an epigenetic signature—on one of their genes.

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Dr. Rachel Yehuda, Director of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, conducted a 2015 study on the children of 40 Holocaust survivors.  She found that they had epigenetic changes to a gene linked to their levels of cortisol, a hormone involved in the stress response. She also found a distinctive pattern of DNA methylation, another epigenetic marker. The study concluded that both parents and unborn children were affected on a genetic level.

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Yogi Berra explains awareness

Yogi Berra during the 1960 World Series – photo Marvin E. Newman

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“You observe a lot by watching.”

He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.” – 

Yogi Berra

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PTSD: Revenge or Forgiveness?

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For me, intrusive thoughts are the big issue living with PTSD.

Once a trauma memory gets rolling all the negative emotions engulf us. 

One of my weaknesses is wanting revenge, wanting my abusers to pay a price, basic human nature.

This has not worked out well, actually it has damaged me more, made me suffer.

Forgiveness has been difficult, I have many harshly held resentments for the damage done to me.

This is the essence of PTSD for me now.

My PTSD has become a hybrid form since many of my traumas have been integrated or partially healed.

How much time my intrusive thoughts spend in my consciousness determines the outcome of everyday.

For that reason my mantra, I forgive everyone for everything they have done to harm me, was shortened.

I made the acronym FEE, Forgive Everyone Everything.

When an intrusive thought invades my space, immediately the acronym FEE appears followed by forgive everyone everything. 

FORGIVE EVERYONE EVERYTHING……FORGIVE EVERYONE EVERYTHING…….FORGIVE EVERYONE EVERYTHING…..FORGIVE EVERYONE EVERYTHING.

Am I a little OCD?

Repetition till it’s reflexive and intuitive makes our acronym much more effective.

Know your mind, it’s patterns and habits intimately.

When intrusive thoughts are broken, the emotions attached do not get a chance to draw me in.

This is a war between me and my PTSD, who will dominate my thoughts is the ultimate winner.

I healed the first time by not thinking about my father or my abuse.

So far it has helped clear my day of some of traumas turmoil.

Anything we can do to stay present, to stop dissociating, leaving this moment to ruminate, bodes well for us.

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Forgiveness: fertile ground for healing

Pixabay: BenteBoe

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The zoom kundalini groups focus this next 40 days is forgiveness.

My long held trauma wants to punish or take revenge on offenders in my life. Do we not want some to pay, to suffer for betrayals or damage done to us?

So this mantra, I forgive everyone for everything they have done to harm me, startled my inner world. Forgiveness is my most fertile ground, ready for healing.

Forgiving everyone first for harming us, then asking for forgiveness and receiving from anyone we have harmed, followed by forgiving ourselves for all we have done to harm ourselves.

I was taught my Zen meditation practice was better than all others, my Ego relished that feeling of superiority.

Now, I have stumbled on another form of meditation, that is better at healing trauma and much easier to practice for beginners or experienced meditators.

The lesson: Always be open to new ideas and paths, life offers a myriad of new choices.

Healing has only happened when I was able to take action.

I had to be humble and vulnerable to heal.

It is not like we are riding on a white horse conquering the vile enemy, it is being scared to death, vulnerable but still exhibiting the courage to lean into what scares us the most that brings the soothing touch of healing.

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