Updated: Awareness: know your trauma Patterns

An example of what a functional MRI scan looks like. Brain activation is averaged across 20 PTSD patients compared to healthy controls in an emotion regulation task.

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Yes, I am drawing a pattern out of only two episodes of trauma in my life.

Here are a few patterns I notice.

The obvious, my trauma buries itself quite deeply for decades.

This pattern allows trauma to have subconscious impact without anytime spent trying to heal.

My childhood abuse did not erupt until I was in my fifties.

Secondly, the first couple of months are extremely intense.

My nervous system is agitated and intrusive thoughts seem to come at a rate of a Gatling gun firing.

I see that my whole personality changes.

One of my symptoms brings the feeling of imminent danger to my being.

It is irrational and very confusing.

Imminent danger for me is not physical, I fear the annihilating of my ego, emotional death in a sense.

I am intense, consumed and out of my gourd for a couple months.

You have witnessed this in my recent posts.

I sound and act like a victim, hopeless, helpless, it is embarrassing but sharing will help others push through their humiliating thoughts.

At my lowest, agoraphobic, hiding in my dark garage during the day, I thought something was going to come through the tile roof and do something worse than death.

Look how abstract that fear is. I have no idea what is coming through the roof, man, animal or alien.

My danger does not need a gender or even an origin but it is what I fear most, the unknown.

PTSD has that unknown quality about it.

The tragic memory is incomplete at the time trauma happens.

If it happened in childhood, the brain has not fully developed, storing an incomplete, distorted memory.

Somewhere in our background we need that skill that does not give up when all Common sense says it is the prudent choice.

At my lowest, Agoraphobic, contemplating suicide, a moment of clarity and strength surfaced for me.

From somewhere deep inside my head, the words, my abuser, my dad wins if I give up.

That may seem a feeble judgment by some, but every fiber in my body would not allow him to win.

In a crazy moment of crisis, I accepted my suffering, decided I would rather sit and suffer than let my dad win.

I did not realize this was a pivotal moment on my healing journey, inside my ego, that inner voice knew I would never give up.

Healing from PTSD is a war zone, expect the turmoil as part of the journey.

Ironically, surviving my fathers abuse developed the traits that helped me heal.

We have to fight for our wellbeing, fight the demons our childhoods created.

Thoughts?

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14 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by rudid96 on December 15, 2020 at 4:35 pm

    The see-sawing between managing the well-being and the depression and intense trauma reactivation is not child’s play. That precious balance somewhere between the two is incredibly tangential, elusive, for those with PTSD & C-PTSD. It’s not madness. The inability for o let go, trust, move on, is as foreign as another continent. The footsteps of reclaiming oneself from the brink are so familiar. Just yesterday, the pain was too much. The raw emotion seeped from my buried soul and spilled out during a therapy session. Frozen between the relief of being heard and the red-faced shame of being heard. No this is NOT child’s play!

  2. As an old guy now, finally I see all my trauma, I hope, globally.

    That is I see the consequences for a lifetime.

    Also, as you describe, we suffer when our trauma explodes, then we spend enormous time healing, and then we earn brief periods of our symptoms going dormant.

    Experiencing wellbeing is questionable.

    My daughter tells me I have been a successful high functioning man.

    Others can not feel how childhood trauma devalues even our self worth

    Others look at my life as this positive, highly successful guy

    I have to learn to not be embarrassed or feel guilty when ptsd impacts m6 mood and behavior

    As I say, I am two completely different people.

    I have been charismatic and a leader at times

    But those times were on a athletic field or work.

    Then I would retreat

    So I have this funny, sarcastic extrovert who has way less inhibitions

    The other guy is rigid, closed off, paranoid, short tempered and extremely anxious

    We fight to keep the suffering, damaged Marty in hibernation

    PTSD decides when it will raise its ugly head

    The only thing that worked for me during the times when hope seems impossible is never giving up

    I came to a point where I did not even have to win

    If I got up everyday, had a good attitude and gave all out effort

    That was my goal, my measure of success

    So that let me free of being responsible for healing

    I was responsible for effort and attitude
    In reality that’s all we control

    Results are way above our pay grade

  3. A passage from Childhood Disrupted (pg.24) reads: “Well-meaning and loving parents can unintentionally do harm to a child if they are not well informed about human development …”

    Sure, people know not to yell when, for instance, a baby is sleeping in the next room; but do they know about the intricacies of why not?

    For example, what percentage of procreative adults specifically realize that, since it cannot fight or flight, a baby stuck in a crib on its back hearing parental discord in the next room can only “move into a third neurological state, known as a ‘freeze’ state … This freeze state is a trauma state” (pg.123). This causes its brain to improperly develop; and if allowed to continue, it’s the helpless infant’s starting point towards a childhood, adolescence and (in particular) adulthood in which its brain uncontrollably releases potentially damaging levels of inflammation-promoting stress hormones and chemicals, even in non-stressful daily routines.

    How many potential parents are aware it’s the unpredictability of a stressor, and not the intensity, that does the most harm?
    When the stressor “is completely predictable, even if it is more traumatic—such as giving a [laboratory] rat a regularly scheduled foot shock accompanied by a sharp, loud sound—the stress does not create these exact same [negative] brain changes.” (pg.42)

    Also, how many of us are aware that, since young children completely rely on their parents for protection and sustenance, they will understandably stress over having their parents angry at them for prolonged periods of time?

    Yet, general society continues to perceive and treat human reproductive rights as though we’ll somehow, in blind anticipation, be innately inclined to sufficiently understand and appropriately nurture our children’s naturally developing minds and needs.

    A psychologically sound as well as a physically healthy future should be all children’s foremost right—especially considering the very troubled world into which they never asked to enter—and therefore basic child development science and rearing should be learned long before the average person has their first child.

    By not teaching this to high school students, is it not as though societally we’re implying that anyone can comfortably enough go forth with unconditionally bearing children with whatever minute amount, if any at all, of such vital knowledge they happen to have acquired over time?

    “It has been said that if child abuse and neglect were to disappear today, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual would shrink to the size of a pamphlet in two generations, and the prisons would empty. Or, as Bernie Siegel, MD, puts it, quite simply, after half a century of practicing medicine, ‘I have become convinced that our number-one public health problem is our childhood’.” (pg.228)

    [Frank Sterle Jr.]

  4. Very nice

    We now are told the two years of life is extremely important

    The American Indian knew intuitively their babies needed touch more than anything else, besides food and warmth.

    The left hemisphere is not even on board yet, the babies know touch, not words but sounds, are you angry, sad, happy or a worrier.

    Your baby reads your nervous system. He/she will sense your demeanor.

    Many many can make a baby, not as many are good parents

    Thanks for your input

  5. You’re quite welcome. …

    In his book The Interpretation of Dreams, Dr. Sigmund Freud states: “It is painful to me to think that many of the hypotheses upon which I base my psychological solution of the psychoneuroses will arouse skepticism and ridicule when they first become known. For instance, I shall have to assert that impressions of the second year of life, and even the first, leave an enduring trace upon the emotional life of subsequent neuropaths [i.e. neurotic persons], and that these impressions—although greatly distorted and exaggerated by the memory—may furnish the earliest and profoundest basis of a hysterical [i.e. neurotic] symptom … [I]t is my well-founded conviction that both doctrines [i.e. theories] are true. In confirmation of this I recall certain examples in which the death of the father occurred when the child was very young, and subsequent incidents, otherwise inexplicable, proved that the child had unconsciously preserved recollections of the person who had so early gone out of its life.”

    Decades before reading Freud’s theories or any others regarding very early life trauma, I’d always cringe at how producers and directors of negatively melodramatic scenes—let alone the willing parents of the undoubtedly extremely upset infants and toddlers used—could comfortably conclude that no psychological harm would result in the baby ‘actors’ screaming in bewilderment.

    Initially I’d presumed there was an educated general consensus within the entertainment industry on this matter, perhaps even on the advice of mental health academia, otherwise the practice would logically compassionately cease. But I became increasingly doubtful of the accuracy of any such educated consensus.

    (And why even designate them as ‘actors’, when true actors are fully cognizant of their fictional environment?)

    Cannot one logically conclude by observing their turmoil-filled facial expressions that they’re perceiving, and likely cerebrally recording, the hyper-emotional scene activity around them at face value rather than as a fictitious occurrence?

    I could understand the practice commonly occurring within a naïve entertainment industry of the 20th Century, but I’m still seeing it in contemporary small and big screen movie productions.

    As just one relatively recent example, in the movie Hustlers (with actress Jennifer Lopez), a toddler is clearly actually distraught, wailing while caught in between a screaming match between mother (“Destiny”) and father characters.

    Within the last two years, I’ve emailed, and left a voice message with, the Union of British Columbia Performers numerous times on this matter, all to which I received no response.

    Meanwhile, in January of 2017, a Vancouver dog-rescue organization cancelled a scheduled fundraiser preceding the big release of the then-new film A Dog’s Purpose, according to a Vancouver Sun story, after “the German shepherd star of the film was put under duress during one scene.”

    The founder of Thank Dog I Am Out (Dog Rescue Society), Susan Paterson, was quoted as saying, “We are shocked and disappointed by what we have seen, and we cannot in good conscience continue with our pre-screening of the movie.”

    This incident created a controversy for the ensuing news week.

    While animal cruelty by the industry shouldn’t be tolerated, there should be even less allowance for using unaware infants and toddlers in negatively hyper-emotional drama—especially when contemporary alternatives can readily be utilized (e.g. a mannequin infant or digital manipulation tech).

    P.S. The actors guild has yet to reply to my query (sent multiple times, over the last two years or so), a copy of which is included below. That indicates to me that either I have a point, or I’m way off and not worth their time.

    Dear Sir/Ms.,
    Are infants/toddlers who are not aware they’re in a fake environment still used in the production of negatively melodramatic or hyper-emotional small and big screen entertainment?
    I’d think the practice would’ve been discontinued by now, due to current knowledge about the susceptibilities of the developing infant/toddler brain, but I’d like to know for sure.
    Thank you for your time.
    Frank Sterle Jr.

  6. Wow look at the wisdom far before functional MRI’s

  7. Yes, including by Indigenous peoples, as you’ve mentioned above.

    They were also smart enough to know not to practice mass land ownership—pre-colonization, of course—and therefore avoid the stresses of always holding onto it.

  8. I feel so much from your post. As someone who has been investigating trauma therapy for a year, I am surprised as the anger. And the longing. How small a thing to say “How you are treating me is not okay and I will not accept it.” I love your blog

  9. Definitely not child’s play, but so hard to deal with as an adult.

  10. Marty, thank you. I believe, at least for me, learning to perform high functioning was part of the escape. I am not that victim if, if, if…. and sarcasm is everything. We have to survive

  11. Thank you

    We have to try and rewire our brain

    I am a grinder

    From being a pro athlete I am trained to workout for five months for the next season

    We have to use our skills and battle the draw to give into the storyline

    Once we ruminate we lose ptsd gains

    It is the basic engine of ptsd

    Stay present ptsd lessens

  12. We have to forgive ourselves

    Future approval will not fill our void

    We heal internally

  13. I totally get what you’re saying about trauma burying itself for years. It’s a bizarre experience once it comes out and you have to learn a whole new set of coping mechanisms because the ones you’ve used before only work for the person you used to be.

    You have to learn your new (or original self), learn new ways of living and at the same time find ways to heal, it’s complex and tough!

  14. I agree

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