PTSD: Avoidance

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The question is not if we avoid, but how much.

I avoided the most when my fight or flight mechanism was firing 10 plus times a day.

My agoraphobia lasted six months, it left me scarred, afraid, and lost.

Meditation and exposure therapy helped me past agoraphobia.

It was a great victory however it was painful and I suffered.

Childhood abuse (Complex PTSD) wires the brain differently, mine searched for danger, then fired my fight or flight mechanism for protection.

Remember that shuts down some of the executive branch, our prefrontal cortex.

Triggered, we sense a near-lethal threat, the prefrontal cortex is confused and partially offline.

Our whole being shifts to surviving, we are scared to death.

Thinking is confused as cortisol and adrenaline flood our system.

Forget trying to explain this to others, you have to experience an out-of-control nervous system, the severity, and FEAR produced.

My PTSD and avoidance have matured.

Now, I navigate life a little better but do not even think about going to social functions, crowds, or certain events.

If I have to go to a function, I can block out and distract myself to limit the damage.

Normal people do not understand how much energy and pain we go through preparing to face our PTSD Triggers.

Then there are all the questions and exploration of the interaction afterward.

Our mind wants to judge, and prepare for the next time we venture into dangerous waters.

Childhood abuse brings a danger that never leaves our brain, it is like a big stain ruining the whole carpet.

How does avoidance impact your life?
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PTSD: Failure is Subjective

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My father raised me to fear failure and demanded perfection, a regular narcissistic behavior.

He told me I needed to be twice as good as everyone else, it was not a suggestion.

It was hard to fit in, to make friends when I was tasked with destroying them.

He wanted me to be separate, and isolated to strengthen his influence.

I was a thing to my father, a tool to make him look good.

Lacking empathy, he enforced his doctrine with violence and criticism, the whole experience was abusive.

Most of my desires in life were connected to this pursuit. Failure would trigger me, fear of failure impacted my behavior and nervous system

I would do almost anything to not fail.

This was true at 10, at 25 and now at 70. It has survived untouched for six decades.

How?

The drive to be perfect, a success, dominated a frantic childhood, then followed me into baseball and adult life.

Survivors of serious abuse live a life without direction, it is a dysfunctional and confusing existence.

At 30 I felt like a failure after graduating college and playing 6 years of pro baseball.

The only explanation is Complex PTSD?

Normal kids acted differently than me when I entered school.
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Part two: How Emotional Abuse in Childhood Changes the Brain

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“This outcome could be related to attachment theory, or the idea that our early relationships with caregivers influence the way we relate to people later on in life.

Emotional abuse and neglect don’t allow for a secure attachment to form between a child and caregiver, which causes distress for the child and influences the way they see themselves and others.


Adults who went through childhood emotional abuse or neglect may also experience:

. Emotional dysregulation

. Feelings of hopelessness

. Low self-esteem

. Negative automatic thoughts

. Problems coping with stressors

How childhood abuse or neglect affects children later in life depends on a variety of factors:

. How often the abuse occurred

. The age the child was during the abuse

. Who the abuser was

. Whether or not the child had a dependable, loving adult in their life

. How long the abuse lasted

. If there were any interventions in the abuse

. The kind and severity of the abuse

. Other individual factors”
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How Emotional Abuse in Childhood Changes the Brain By Leonard Holmes, PhD

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Effects on Brain Structure

“Childhood abuse and neglect can have several negative effects on how the brain develops. Some of these are:

. Decreased size of the corpus callosum, which integrates cortical functioning—motor, sensory, and cognitive performances—between the hemispheres

. Decreased size of the hippocampus, which is important in learning and memory

. Dysfunction at different levels of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is involved in the stress response

. Less volume in the prefrontal cortex, which affects behavior, emotional balance, and perception

. Overactivity in the amygdala, which is responsible for processing emotions and determining reactions to potentially stressful or dangerous situations

. Reduced volume of the cerebellum, which can affect motor skills and coordination

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Effects on Behavior, Emotions, and Social Function

Because childhood abuse, neglect, and trauma change brain structure and chemical function, maltreatment can also affect the way children behave, regulate emotions, and function socially. These potential effects include:

. Being constantly on alert and unable to relax, no matter the situation

. Feeling fearful most or all of the time

. Finding social situations more challenging

. Learning deficits

. Not hitting developmental milestones in a timely fashion

. A tendency to develop a mental health condition

. A weakened ability to process positive feedback

These effects can continue to cause issues in adulthood if they’re not addressed. Adults who experienced maltreatment during childhood may have trouble with interpersonal relationships—or they may avoid them altogether.

This outcome could be related to attachment theory, or the idea that our early relationships with caregivers influence the way we relate to people later on in life.

Emotional abuse and neglect don’t allow for a secure attachment to form between a child and caregiver, which causes distress for the child and influences the way they see themselves and others.
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PTSD: Our Mood Swings

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I have been observing my mind more intently, the inner workings, and the judgments.

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Yesterday morning arrived with a feeling of impending doom. A weird uneasy, anxious feeling.

Internal observation showed nothing concrete to trigger this foreboding emotion.

So PTSD, the mental constructs of trauma fuels some of our mood swings.

I could not touch that awkward sensation, that tenseness in the solar plexus, that tightness in the gut, or that panic in my nervous system.

Mechanically, I hiked a little harder to flush out all the poisons and anxiety.

Emotionally, I meditated intently, letting go of all the noise I could.

I expect this unrest as part of life. This is a healthy relationship, rather than resent not being normal.

If I expected a calm and easy flow of my days I would suffer.

Know the mood will shift as always.

Happiness looks different for PTSD sufferers.

Set realistic goals for yourself.

Playing defense is part of coping with PTSD.
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How PTSD and Emotions Like Worry Are Connected

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By Matthew Tull, PhD

PTSD and Worry

“Several studies have found that people with PTSD may be more likely to worry than those without PTSD.

Why do we often see excessive worry among people with PTSD?

Well, PTSD is associated with high levels of anxious arousal, as well as other strong emotions.

In addition, people with PTSD may have difficulties identifying healthy ways of managing these intense emotional experiences.

Therefore, given that worry may temporarily bring down arousal and can distract people from more emotionally distressing topics, people with PTSD may worry in order to obtain some relief from their distress.

In fact, one study found that desires to avoid emotions explained the association between PTSD and worry.

Unfortunately, as with other emotionally avoidant coping strategies, this relief will be short-lived.

Because the anxiety is not really being addressed or processed, it will only come back and sometimes stronger than before.“
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My two cents: Worry is connected to fear, survival mode, and PTSD.

Worry helps spot danger, in a way my subconscious uses it to protect me.

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Old age and PTSD

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At 70, therapy has been productive, however, the residual trauma combined with my dysfunctional brain wiring brings suffering.

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It is all emotional but powerful, mostly abstract, and always confusing.

I fight for free parts of my day, space where PTSD thoughts fade for a while.

I do not trust the universe, the unknown, or what else could happen today, tomorrow, or next week.

I am old and weak now, the mirage of being healed has long passed me by.

It has been a driven life, grinding through decades without direction, running from something deep inside.

Deep attachments have been few, as fear and distrust made relationships shallow and dysfunctional.

Covid and old age have given my PTSD enormous power over the last two years.

Life changed instantly and drastically when my PTSD exploded during a family crisis over a decade ago.

It wears you out, even if you are brave enough to take action and improve.

It’s never-ending, the thoughts never stop, and the pain never leaves for good.

How do you stop a brain wired to spot danger, set up to worry for protection?

Therapy never rewired my brain.

How much rewiring is possible?

Do they even know?
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Many more stressors are happening

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I wonder how PTSDers navigated life during the Civil War or the great depression.

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It seems as if the world and America have come unglued.

Covid has changed everything, our political upheaval has such vitriol, and now Roe v. Wade will bring fervent protests and violence.

If you have a dedicated meditation practice, you realize we are on this journey in harmony not competition, our path is to give and help others less fortunate.

It’s inclusion, we are all equal human beings. What a novel concept we have forgotten. Let’s clear out the homeless, they are not real people.

The intensity of hate, racism, and violence saddens me.

Where are the peacemakers and true leaders?

One side hates the other side and vice versa, as an eye for an eye leaves us all blind and lost.

Do you see more happiness, kindness or more healing in this current climate?

If you have PTSD, this turmoil heightens your distrust and fear, life becomes narrower.
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PTSD: our inner world is a Battlefield

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Being aware of my internal world, spotting the negative undercurrent, the danger, exposes some of my daily battles.

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Worry arrives early in the morning, before the sun is up my consciousness is greeted by perceived danger.

During my morning meditation, the unrest enters my consciousness.

When you slow down, focus on the breath, letting thought evaporate, the undercurrent is exposed and inflamed.

It takes special tools to let it go, to be able to come back to now, to my focus.

I avoid things that carry danger and worry as much as possible, now.

Other times it can be white knuckle exposure therapy, tiptoeing into perceived danger, feeling about to explode, or faint.

Some things are just too painful to be worthwhile, crowds and people ignite my distrust, and it is a arduous ordeal that leads to more isolation.

We avoid it differently as PTSD ages, as we slowly heal certain areas.

My fight or flight does not erupt for triggers but my intrusive negative thoughts have taken over carrying my danger.

The time and energy spent dealing with all this turmoil are enormous.

My internal world as you can see is a battlefield.

It is a war created by childhood abuse.

Old age has either weakened me or PTSD has gained power or a combination of both.

There are many pitfalls to combating this mental illness, the chance of self-medicating to stop the pain, the chance of becoming a victim, or the chance of self-harm.

Giving up brings real danger, real consequences.

Be strong, discount the noise, and keep swimming upstream.

Life has always arrived at a fervent pace for us, always too quick and with way too much danger.
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Fear and worry arrive before Thought

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My kid brain was always grappling with fear, worry, and doubt, always receiving negative feedback from my caregivers, always anxious, and on edge.

This made a lasting impact on early habits, the fear must have been off the charts to emblazon such a permanent trait.

Worry, doubt, and fear were my dominant emotions, I hid back then, trying to avoid failure.

I find myself at 70 becoming aware of this negative river flowing under the surface, in my subconscious.

It is all abstract, the mind’s pattern of thought, our neural network, what comes out of the ether.

What’s the point?

To attempt change, awareness is the first necessity.

How do you change that which precedes thought, and consciousness?

My fear and worry show up before thought.

So far my successes have come from discounting the fear and worry after they enter consciousness.

I am at a loss to change my worry and doubt in my subconscious, sort of changing the wiring of my brain.

At 70 is that even feasible.

Healing starts with awareness.
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