Not out of the woods yet - A diagnosis: 22 years later

Updated: Jun 1

Like driving with one foot on the accelerator and one on the brakes, I had bumbled my way through 22 years, burying the painful past so deep I could no longer remember it with any clarity. The trauma that had affected my life for those 5 years, had produced a complex inability to control what was happening around me. I was vulnerable, my world no longer safe and secure, and no matter how hard I tried to seek it, I could make no sense of what I was left with. Scary when you think that you allowed yourself to bring two children into the world when you your self could not make sense of it. But, in my mind it was the past and dealt with, I had no idea that every little bump in the road from there was the warning signs of the underlying damage and pain trying to erupt like a volcano.

It is now my aim to help others to be able to regain their lives, as I attempt to rebuild my own.

I have remained undiagnosed and treated for depression with medication, held inaccurate beliefs about myself, felt overwhelmed, dysfunctional and helpless for so long. I had read my way through the entire available self help and mental health library of books available, completed a Masters (MSc) in Mental Health Psychology and been pushed from pillar to post by the Mental Health NHS support team, until now.

I had believed that the pain that was inflicted on me for those 4-5 years of my life, was my own fault, it was a normal behaviour I learned to live with. For someone educated and intelligent, to many this sounds preposterous to allow yourself to be; emotionally abused, physically abused, hospitalised on more than one occasion, manipulated to do things against all of your values, cheated on publicly, financially drained of over £30k worth of debt and living every day scared for your life. I have thrown friendships, relationships and jobs away because of the contained pain within me.

So, what is Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)? It is not a character weakness, but a learned stress disorder, which after some 22 years in hiding I am sure will be stubborn to shift. As humans we seek stability and safety, we yearn for familiar, repeated routines which simplify our lives and conserve our energy. There is comfort in what is known, even if this is unhealthy thinking habits.

As a result I have many challenges to overcome;

  • Cognitive Distortions - Inaccurate beliefs about the world around me

  • Emotional Distress - Feelings of overwhelmed, anxiety, helplessness, despair and depression

  • Disorientation - Inaccurate beliefs, emotions and body sensations

  • Hyper-vigilance

  • Avoidance - Denial, irritability, social anxiety, difficulty concentrating, impulsivity, outburst of anger, suicidal thoughts and difficulty maintaining a job.

  • Interpersonal problems - Blaming, pushing away, criticising friends or loved ones, dysfunctional family relationships.

  • Shame - Belief that you are bad and a distorted sense of worthlessness

This unfortunately describes me perfectly and I am not proud to admit this publicly, however in order to recognise this, support others with mental health disorders, we need to recognise that a common reaction is to feel hurt still in the present moment and that these inaccurate interpretations of events in our past can lead to avoidable painful losses in our present.

We struggle to think through situations and the emotion centres or our brain become active, which reduces the brain activity which would normally rationalise in many others minds. My unmanageable stress has caused my body to be on constant alert and yet totally shut down.

I long for connection in all relationships, with painful memories which tell me that relationships are not safe.

These strong walls that I have placed around my most vulnerable feelings are not my intention, nor my fault, but my self protection.

Follow my blog as my journey begins to unfold. My aim in doing so is to support others to identify their own mental health struggles and support wellbeing.

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