Healing Complex PTSD is not glamorous

Healing is far from glamorous! It is painful, chaos, confusion, self doubt, balance, rejection, stigmatization, tears and panic attacks, and everything in between.

The transitions from surviving to recovering, to healing, to stabilizing, to growing to thriving have been the wildest, profound, and fulfilling moments of my life. I called on myself to stand up in ways that I had never done before; because I needed to change my circumstance.

I wanted to live, not survive, that is until I found out about thriving in post traumatic growth.

This meant that I needed to change how I was showing up for myself in my life. I had to find the literal strength to live (from my bed), the desire to recover (through complex trauma, stigmatization and isolation), the motivation to do the emotionally treacherous labor of love that goes into healing and doing “the work”. (While navigating chronic illness)

It wasn’t until I decided that I was living no matter what that the impacts of the changes began compounding and forming the foundation that my growth will be based off of for this chapter of my life.

The amount of time I spent researching, learning, solving, creating, setting goals, writing, journaling, and then strategically creating action for myself to be sure that I was not over-extending my energy and creating an adrenal crash became my purpose. My health and living my life became my purpose. My healing became my purpose. Post traumatic Growth became my goal.

I made it my mission to learn my way through this and get myself to the best possible health before I begin to endure the next phase of my healing. Whether that be a physical component, or a mental health component or a combination of both- as all things are. The trauma informed approach that I use now addresses both the physical and emotional components of my basic needs.

Healing, the beginning phases, are the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced, and I honestly wish someone would have given me a heads up that what I was experiencing was normal! Healing hurts, but it is worth it. Consider this your warning!

What I learned along the way is the “work” is never really finished; the hardest parts subside as you heal and release the grip that trauma has on your life. That’s the reason we heal!

The characters in this chapter of my life at the time shamed me and isolated me for the emotions, reflections, and very sensitive and intimate vulnerabilities that I expose during my ptsd episodes, which were activated for an extended period of time. The life I knew was taken from me because of my cptsd symptoms and how I chose to take my journey.

This happens and is part of the process. People who don’t want to understand will criticize, judge and provide unsolicited and very harmful attempts at their version of “helping”. They mean well, or think they do- the damage they cause usually confuses your own process with this injection of “shoulds” from others.

It isn’t usually until someone is through something that they are comfortable sharing their experience… and even then people shy away from anything big- in fear of being emotional or needy, and being isolated or stigmatized, like I was.

Part of my healing path has been this blog, for this exact reason. I share before I butterfly on you, I share so you don’t have to feel so alone in your journey. I share while I still feel the emotions.

I want anyone navigating their path to Health to know that everything you are experiencing is normal and relative to the experiences in your life. There is no shame in healing… it doesn’t belong here regardless of what those close to you do or say, you have the right to choose your own healing path.

Healing was necessary for me to survive, but I believe it is the path for everyone to thrive!!

I’m so glad I made the commitment to myself to start when I did. I had a lot of work to catch up on.

I guess what I am trying to say is it isn’t easy; but if you find a way to be worth the effort it gets easier, and you will feel better. Post Traumatic Growth as a lifestyle feels amazing.

You want to live not just survive, so you can move forward and thrive rather than simply live.

It is possible. Find your path to post traumatic growth… or make one!

-B.💋

It’s okay to come back to being yourself now.

It’s okay.

It’s okay to move forward now, even if you don’t have it all figured out.

It’s okay.

It’s okay to be authentic, even when people don’t want to understand.

It’s okay.

It’s okay to be relentless when it comes to taking care of yourself.

It’s okay.

It’s okay to be less productive, but happier on the inside.

It’s okay.

It’s okay to feel feelings, they alone can not hurt you, they are feelings.

It’s okay.

It’s okay to be your beautifully imperfect self.

It’s okay.

It’s okay if you are sad, scared and even telling yourself that you can’t.

It’s okay.

It’s okay to hold new values while you release the old ones that are not helping you achieve your goals.

It’s okay.

It’s okay that people start to notice that you aren’t the same anymore, that there is something different about the way you are now. That’s growth, you want to be different because you want to be different. People will notice.

It’s okay.

It’s okay that the people that aren’t meant to grow with you find reasons to distance themselves from you. What you are achieving is finding space for yourself in your life. Most people don’t choose that, and when others do there is a jealousy that arises and creates chaos or distance.

It’s okay.

It’s okay to be conscious about how the ego will make attempts to hide and mask the fundamental changes that would really benefit you, and choose to make those changes anyway.

It’s okay.

You see, it is okay to choose your own adventure in life, in healing, in success. It is up to you to make the choices to propel you towards your dreams and desires.

Once you start to recognize that no matter what, it is okay, your life will change.

When you acknowledge the reality of your specific situation (ie: the obstacles that you may or may not have to face in addition to the regular life tasks), plus acknowledge that 50% happiness is considered a good human life, many of us find that we can achieve more from a place where we feel like we aren’t the comparative underdog.

When we feel abundant with what we already have we feel more capable and confident when we shoot for a more realistic expectations and goals. All together if you put acknowledgement of yourself and your specific situation you will be more fulfilled.

It is when we allow the opinions of others to make impressions on us that tell us that it is NOT somehow okay to follow our healing that we butt heads with those who love us. Mostly because your situation needs your expertise, not theirs. Your solutions, not theirs.

Your journey is your journey, and if anyone else is placing expectations on how you “ought” to be (insert unsolicited advice here).

It’s okay.

You don’t have to listen to their unsolicited advice.

And, this might be an indication that you need to set some boundaries with loved ones around your healing journey, and how they don’t get to “expect” anything on your life.

It’s okay to come back to being your full, authentic self, or even to arrive there for the first time.

It’s okay.

-B.💋

Sure, Let’s talk. Let’s talk about the stigma!

I have been experiencing it first hand since I was deemed disabled and unable to return to work. Stigma navigation is probably one of the most challenging aspects to healing outside of the actual healing part, and stigma is literally everywhere because hurt people hurt people!

My condition has been diagnosed as Centralized Sensitization Syndrome and complex PTSD I also manage chronic pain as a result. The condition itself is a hybrid of symptoms stemming from central nervous system dysfunctions, and adrenal issues that follow the dysfunctional hormone exchanges.

Since hormones are controlled in the brain, and the central nervous system is controlled by the brain; it made sense to me very quickly that it is largely a brain problem.

This made even more sense the more I understood about my conditions and how they connect.

Then I learned about the trauma link and the mind- body connection as I was learning about the central nervous system.

This solidified my understanding of my situation and condition, and allowed me to release the stigma for myself because it was out of my control, and I just needed to put in the work.

To be really really honest I was just elated that I was curable. I was worried before my diagnosis that is was going to end up being something terrible. The big c was a very serious consideration for how I was feeling.

I didn’t care that I had to travel the mental health path to get better.

I thought we had made some progress in removing the stigma of mental health.

I was very wrong when it comes to people in our day to day life.

I had a false sense of the progress, in a real way.

The stigma might be worse now than before in some ways, and in other ways there have been improvements… but many more improvements need to be made.

I had no shame about it at first with my false sense of stigma free ideas of how healing could go for me… I was wild and free and figuring it out.

I was excited- ultra extra excited about the fact that I was curable. I was elated. literally floating!

I was so elated that I was having cognitive malfunctions, illusions and hallucinations because my adrenals could not keep up to the cascade of hormones pulsing through my body.

And so the pendulum swung. The polarity that I experienced was confusing for others, hell it was confusing for me too, and in hindsight, it is perfectly logical for what I was medically experiencing, psychologically experiencing, and socially experiencing combined. “Right on schedule” one therapist said to me! And we laughed because I know logically that if you lose balance in all three areas something is likely to snap in a human. Add a stigmatizing society, and this is where we lose people to self sabotage or suicide.

I held on to my emotions in for so long that when they came out it was like a flood gate had been opened up.

When I finally got my diagnosis all of the fear came out of me at once, in the most bizarre ways; and for this I was stigmatized and removed from my community of friends. My whole family was.

I partially blame the meds I was on for some of the extra issues that just made everything “extra” anxiety, and obsessiveness and a desire to be understood by any means possible. Those are the side effects that amplify the worst in me. I’m a lot for people to handle on a good day sometimes, these were not good days.

In the months preceding the existential crisis I had I was depressed, anxious and living in constant fear.

I was trying to figure out how to build my life back up from my bed, keep my marriage alive, make sure my kids feel my presence, and figure out how to get better while I wait for the system to call my number to meet my medical needs. All while living my life in adrenal fatigue living like a zombie, unable to shower or go to the grocery store without a special band around my waist. Agoraphobia was not far off, and the pain kept me close to my bed. The cancelled plans piled up.

Figuring my life out was chaos, and it required my full attention, and energy that I didn’t have. I gave finding out the solutions to my problems every ounce of my heart and soul.

Because of this I lost connections and friendships, attention was given to my health over spending time with my kiddos (the mom guilt!!) my marriage struggled because I was lost in finding myself and then I was stigmatized and abandoned by everyone but like three people for surviving it all the only ways I knew how.

And in the end, I offered apologies for any disrespect and opportunities for each person I love to meet the new me along the way and find restitution.

The people that love me and respect my journey celebrate my accomplishments with me; and those that don’t, don’t.

That’s what the stigma highlighted for me who has my back, and who really doesn’t.

The actions (or inactions) that people take with you will speak very clearly to you.

I noticed that people would rather see you “go away” then ever have to deal with acknowledging that they were shitty to you, or even to have to witness your struggle is too challenging for some.

If you are being stigmatized just know that it’s only hurt people who hurt people. Being stigmatized is equal to being abused and if someone is trying to hurt you like that… they must really be hurting inside.

Hurt people hurt people, that’s just a truth. I hurt people when I was hurting, we all do on some level- that’s why it is true.

Keep going on your journey, even if there is stigma, it will likely always be there… the world holds many hurt people.

Keep your chin up.

Don’t hurt people with your hurt, and move forward through all of the stigma and lack of understanding that the world has to offer.

Start looking at those who stigmatize you like bullies… hurting bullies and adjust your attitude and responses to that behaviour accordingly. Bullies often need boundaries.

Through the stigma, through it all… Love yourself first!

-B.💋

Why must I exchange vulnerability for access to care?

The exchange of vulnerability that I have to endure due to the current structure of the medical system is trauma inducing for me; every single time.

Every resource I need access to requires me to exchange vulnerable pieces of information in hopes of receiving the help that I have been begging the last year and a half to have access to might be what is hiding on the other side of this practitioner.

Its a referral gauntlet, an endless exchange of dignity for access to services.

As I alone, literally, dove into what my diagnosis meant for me and navigated my rights to choose the care I want to receive. I faced so many challenges and systematic obstacles to care. I fought them every way I knew how. Then when I was put down for fighting for my life I learned new ways to fight harder, louder and with more courage.

I had put the need to heal ahead of my former need to please everyone else first. I didn’t care what people thought of me anymore; I found the determination I needed when my health threatened my life.

I did the best, most self-defining, awakening work from the rock bottom of my “highly functioning” life.

I still have to exchange myself in unimaginable ways to obtain access to the care that I need to put my life back together to achieve full time health.

The emotional impact of needing this exchange has been devastating to my self worth- it was the high functioning part of me that actually saved my life.

It was my practiced ability to make sense of the nonsense and bring logic to the table as an option that many don’t even consider an option anymore that actually saved my life. Many people get caught up in the irony of ego and systematic structures rules for the sake of rules and traumatic intake processes for the sake of gaining access.

In the face of all of that I bring logic. Structured, fully processed logic as a personality trait and a trained trauma response all in one.

I can imagine what prostitution feels like, as I can liken the emotional process of giving over intimate pieces of yourself in exchange for something you absolutely need to survive.

Helplessness is the underlying feeling.

I have to give over every piece of me, endure emotionally invasive conversations that devastate me to the point of inducing my complex ptsd.

I am left alone after each encounter to pick up the pieces and reconcile the cost benefit of the exchange; which always feels like I get the short end of the stick when I spend the days after the appointments in a CPTSD fawning/ processing zone out from the adrenal crash coming down from the stress of the traumatizing interaction in my damaged adrenal processes.

What happens during these very vulnerable interactions is that I am forced to condense my very complex conditions into a 15 minute appointment that is mostly taken up with the practitioners questions. I leave feeling unheard, unseen and unable to access the abundance of care I need; due to structural reasons or staffing or wait times etc.

I have been a product of a series of unfortunate events, made more complex by the circumstances I endured rather that enhanced on the other side of the spectrum with the advantage of having parents who are healed or at least had found love for themselves as a baseline.

Following these very intense and often harmful conversations there is always a physical exam of some sort, and due to the nature of my pain and the condition of my body- it is often a thorough examination of my whole physical body including the inside of my vagina with poking and prodding at pain points in my uterus and around my ovaries from the inside of me; as they go through their trained modalities of intake for me to gain access to their care.

I exchange telling my trauma stories and full access to my body in exchange for access to care; then am left to process that emotional piece as well as the endurance of a breach of physical and emotional boundaries while I sit and wait for more access to the same kind of care often because the person I just saw needs to pass me along because I am so “complex”… so I get to wait for a specialist.

Or if I am really lucky, they do decide to take me on as a patient as part of my network of practitioners… So in order to follow this path with this specific practitioner I have do further exchange dignity for help. There is testing that they want done, or additional things that they would like from me to aide them in assisting me. It is its own form of torture and it becomes really challenging for me.

It initiates a trauma response for me on some level, every single time.

I exchange access to my whole being- emotionally and physically for access to care that I need to help myself save my life.

Talk about vulnerability.

This is the reality for people facing chronic illness. This is my reality as I attempt to gain access to medical support.

We exchange vulnerability for access, and get abused by the process along the way.

-B. 💋

Hold your judgements; this is my journey, not yours.

And… I’m late for warrior practice!

Post traumatic growth and judgement from others will always be bonded together in our judgmental,stigmatizing, segregating societies.

It is a social norm, and it is disgusting to me.

Just look at how people are segregating other people however they can by color, sexual orientation, nationality, abilities, wealth, vaccination status, physical stature, race, religion, etc this list could go a mile!

Judgment will come no matter what. Just be aware of that, and be your most authentic self anyway.

Shine your light brighter, right in their judgemental faces. Be you, authentically you, let them judge, allow for it. Remind yourself that if you are bothering them by being you, that’s on them.

So those of us that choose post traumatic growth as a lifestyle are signing up for the relentless judgment and criticism from all of those around us, but especially those who even claim to love us.

The choices we make for ourselves are criticized and often even sabotaged by those closest to us, after all we are making changes away from the bad habits we all created together!

Changing your lifestyle to better yourself is criticized by those who haven’t figured those pieces out yet, and celebrated by those who have.

There has never been much said about the path between trauma and post traumatic growth. Typically this is the butterfly phase , where the majority of the population hides in their Cacoon, only to emerge when they are “all better”. People retreat into themselves or addictions because of the fear of rejection they receive for admitting what they need to survive.

This is why it is so celebrated by those of us who have emerged the other side, we know it is harsh and lonely and we know what it takes to make it through to post traumatic growth.

Warriors celebrate the survival of other warriors it’s what we do!!

So, what about for the people like me, who have come to find out that the cocoon method just isn’t going to be in line with my enhanced values; or moral code of ethics. But I wasn’t quite feeling like a warrior yet?

We practice, and it looks a little sloppy at first, because we need practice. Hence the practicing!

It got gritty there at times, and I wanted to give up. But I didn’t. I practiced being a warrior instead.

It might appear messy the way that I have done my journey but it isn’t. It’s just my journey, the conversations and emotional out bursts were things that needed releasing, then boundaries were established to create a healthy environment (my hypothetical caccoon) followed by repeated efforts, in the face of failures I pushed forward.

I’d be some hypocrite to be asking others to be the changes we wanted to see if I were not doing the work for myself.

I practiced being a warrior, rather than submitting… over and over.

I failed and I learned and I tried again, broken and battered, bruised and scared.

I kept standing up, like a warrior.

Post traumatic growth is unchartered territory for the majority of people. It was new for me too, but I learned to be braver faster to become a warrior in my own story.

The only people who seem to have ever heard of post traumatic growth are emerging trauma practitioners, and trauma focused counselling and coaching practitioners.

Trauma is becoming more widely understood out of necessity as the world is still in the midst of the chaos/ aftermath confusion of the pandemic.

In hindsight we are able to see things more clearly, so I have the advantage of both perspectives here.

This journey is mine, all mine. It might get a little messy, but that’s okay, I’m a little messy sometimes. I think we all are; Ive simply decided not to be ashamed of my emotions, or myself anymore.

I get to choose my path and make my own decisions based on what I know. I ought to be able to live without judgement, but the reality is that judgment is a trait that many carry through their lives. It is easy to judge me I’m sure, and judge away if you believe it will serve you.

You could waste your time judging my journey, or you could set out to be your own warrior or your own journey.

Until you’ve lived my journey your judgement will never have authority over my decisions so put your energy elsewhere and save us all your judgment. We have warrior practice to attend!

Hold your judgment; this is my journey not yours… and I am late for warrior practice.

-B.💋

Dear Trauma,

Dear Trauma,

It’s not you, it’s me.

I’m asking you to leave.

I could sit here and list all of the reasons why our relationship is abusive, but that would be a waste of my breath and your time.

We have both known for a long time that this day is coming, and it is here.

I’ve heard myself whisper “I deserve more” too many times to not listen.

I’ve broken into a thousand pieces and picked myself up over and over again, with the help of few- all because YOU were holding me up when I couldn’t. I didn’t know how to take care of my needs so you decided to lend a hand where you could, always causing more harm than necessary.

Being held by you is a dangerous place for my sensitive heart.

I need you to let go now, please.

You have had plenty of time to adjust your presence in my life to something that we can BOTH tolerate.

For the past two years you have had pretty much free reign to find your place with me to walk the rest of our life together.

Together we walked through cognitive dissonance and existential way finding- for that I will forever be in gratitude.

I don’t even mind the sideways looks when I say that I am grateful for you, the root of my demise and source of my originally perceived brokenness; it is quite a juxtaposition for a closed mind to conquer.

I will come to appreciate your presence more as I release the last remanence of you and me that intertwine; releasing me back into the world where colours are brighter and the weight gravity feels less depressing.

It seems like an odd thing to say in a moment such as this, but I love you.

Thank you for walking me to this part of my journey in life.

It’s time for you to let go.

Goodbye Trauma.

-B.💋

Step Into Awareness

I no longer fear abandonment, because I am aware of how it affects me. I am finally aware.

I spent the early parts of my life appeasing other people to the point of self sabotage in the form of abandonment of my own needs.

I unintentionally abandoned my needs, and I am facing the affects of this in my life today in the condition of my cells, and their ability to keep regenerating.

Abandonment, and the attachment style that nurtured me used to play a guiding role in my life.

I used to behave and act in conditioned ways.

I was practicing behaviours that really didn’t serve anything that I was trying to cultivate or implement in my life.

I was living without awareness.

I was shocked to learn that as you learn what it means to love yourself; this means that you also learn what it means to not love yourself. If you have been there, you know, it is really no surprise that if you are going to change something about your life, you must first become aware of it.

This means that you have to become aware of how you are showing up for yourself before you are capabale of showing up for anyone else. I only became aware of what I was actually in control of after I learned to have awareness.

Before awareness, I was doing “really well” all things considering ; looking back to where I came from, I was thriving…or I thought I was. Right up until my whole world flipped over with this condition, and I realized I was not serving myself in really any of the ways I could be. I was caught in the cycles of life without awareness. I was lost.

If you do not have awareness you have not started the work yet.

Awareness is a prerequisite for this kind of work.

Without it you are often sitting in the dark most likely with discontent scattered around your life.

Being fully aware of the circumsatances you are facing is a messy place to be. It is challenging and it can get pretty dark for most people, but this is where most of us muster the desire to change. This is where the changes happen, this is where the heightened awareness really happens.

Awareness isn’t really about finding all of the good, that comes well after for most of us.

Typically speaking lack of awareness comes from people who aren’t able to see the positives in situations. The most negative people are the most ignorant to awareness and its benefits.

Once you have awareness you have the base for everything else you need, because you understand where you are, the good, the bad and the ugly and then you have to cultivate a plan to get through it all.

Awareness allows you to see yourself in the whole picture, where you stand in relation to everyone and every thing around you.

You can see your own faults, and how you must change to fulfill your personal alignment… you acknowledge the things that don’t serve you and take action away from old habits; but it all starts with awareness.

It’s about taking awareness to the depth that allows you to look at your ego, and acknowledge those shadowed pieces of you too. It took the abandoned shame and guilt and the awareness.

Once you step into awareness, you give yourself more opportunities to heal.

-B.💋