Sticks and Stones Can Break My Bones and Names Can Really Hurt Me: Bullying and PTSD….

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We moved from Rochester N.Y. back to the reserve in Canada when I about 8 years old. I was excited about this move because all of our family lived there and I was always sad every time we left to go home because I really missed them. My grandfather was there. the one man who I felt truly loved me in this world, he was such a beautiful man and I loved spending time with him. He passed away when I was about 12 or 13 and I was devastated that I didn’t get to say goodbye to him.

Moving meant attending a new school, which excited me too since I was a child to who liked to experience new things, although I was shy and introverted. It was grade three when I started at my new Mohawk school and I instantly disliked it. I didn’t know anybody and they didn’t know me, so from day one I felt like an outcast. Since I didn’t grow up in the community I was automatically branded as “white” and not “native” , which meant I didn’t belong either in the community or at the school I was attending. I had no clue what they were even talking about because my parents neglected to tell me we were Mohawk and I had no idea what that even meant. I remember going home and asking my parents if we were Indian and I may have even asked them what that was, I don’t remember. The ironic thing was that both my parents were natives so that meant that I was a full-blooded Mohawk, probably more so than the kids who were calling me “white”.

This started my private hell of being bullied and teased every day, most of the time just verbally but sometimes physically as well. My already low self-esteem took a nose dive and I don’t think it could get any lower. I was called names day in day out and usually threatened, along with my best friend, almost every day after school on our way to get on the bus by a group of much larger girls who were one or two grades ahead of us. Adults always tell children to walk away but we couldn’t because they would grab us and do things like twist our arms while verbally assaulting us.  This was the fourth rung on my ladder of PTSD, I had no safety at home and now no safety at school either. I remember feeling sick all the time at just the thought of having to go to school and face yet another day of bullying and this lasted for 5 years until I went to high school.

The teasing and name calling took its toll on me, not only did I not feel good enough, but I felt ugly and I like I didn’t belong anywhere and like I was an outcast. I felt like I was always outside looking in and never able to be a part of things going on around me. Luckily for me and I’m sure she was my only saving grace, I met my best friend at this little piece of hell on earth and we are still best friends to this day, 40 years later. We got each other through, not only school, but also our home lives, because she had a home life even worse than mine.

We are now just seeing how bullying affects children, I attended public school in the 1970’s so it wasn’t even a thought then, although I could have told people a thing or two about its effects even then.

What is Bullying?

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.

In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:

  • An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
  • Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.

Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

Types of Bullying:

There are three types of bullying:

  • Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things. Verbal bullying includes:
    • Teasing
    • Name-calling
    • Inappropriate sexual comments
    • Taunting
    • Threatening to cause harm
  • Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying includes:
    • Leaving someone out on purpose
    • Telling other children not to be friends with someone
    • Spreading rumors about someone
    • Embarrassing someone in public
  • Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions. Physical bullying includes:
    • Hitting/kicking/pinching
    • Spitting
    • Tripping/pushing
    • Taking or breaking someone’s things
    • Making mean or rude hand gestures

http://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/definition/

“In clinical terms, to officially be considered “bullying,” the behavior needs to take place repeatedly. Interestingly, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was traditionally considered to be a disorder that arose from a single traumatic incident. However, in recent years, experts have begun to identity a second definition for PTSD that allows for the victims of repeated traumatizing incidents. Bullying falls into this category.

Bullyonline.org (link is external) points out that the most recent version of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistic Manual, which all doctors use to diagnose mental illness) recently updated its definition of PTSD to note that, although PTSD has traditionally been thought to be caused by a single, life-threatening event (or, at least, an event that seemed to be life threatening), in the case of trauma such as bullying, PTSD can also come about by way of an “accumulation of many small, individually non-life-threatening incidents.” 3 (Note that this is often referred to as “Complex PTSD.”)

So by its most simplest definition, PTSD is brought on by one or a series of terrifying events and results in delayed and prolonged symptoms such as anxiety, depression, withdrawal, suicidal behavior, alcohol and drug abuse, and emotional issues.

In worst-case scenarios, the abuse of bullying can lead its young victims to suicide, sometimes called “bullycide.” But even though most children grow out of the stage of bullying and being bullied, victims of this hateful crime are still at risk for the long-term effects of PTSD.

With Complex PTSD, victims are “held captive” by their situations. Children who are subject to regular bullying may not have any way out of what they perceive as a trapped situation. Reporting incidents to teachers or other authority figures can be a daunting prospect, as this sort of “tattle-tale” behavior is so apt to exacerbate the bullying instead of halting it. A pattern of bullying can also be exacerbated by parents – especially, and traditionally, fathers – who may believe that being pushed around or beat up by your peers “toughens you up” and is just a “natural part of childhood.”

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/somatic-psychology/201103/child-bullyings-consequence-adult-ptsd

Children need to feel safe in their environments and that includes their homes, schools and even online as we have seen a number of suicides related to online bullying, it has the same detrimental effects on a child’s mind as if the person or persons were standing right in front of them. We are seeing the consequences of childhood bullying either by children committing suicide or as children grow into adults and battle things such as PTSD. I don’t think there is enough emphasis placed on psychological harm and the damage it does, particularly to children, and it’s long-term effects. Clearly this is an area that is screaming to be addressed.

 

 

Shattered Hearts: Child Abuse and PTSD….

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Today child abuse is rampant in this world, its like an epidemic that leaves an epidemic proportion of hurt and wounded children behind who then grow into hurt and wounded adults if there is no help or intervention for them. Are these children getting the help they need if they’re lucky enough to be removed my social services? Are they getting counselling to deal with their trauma or does it stop at their removal from the home?

Early intervention is what’s needed for these children lucky enough to be removed from their homes to deal with their trauma. It’s not enough to just remove a child, that child is wounded and traumatized and needs help. PTSD has likely already settled into these children depending on the severity and longevity of their abuse. I say children lucky enough to be removed from their homes because many aren’t and are left to suffer in silence because their abuser hasn’t been caught. These children, if they survive, are left to try to pick up the shattered pieces of themselves in adulthood. PTSD has likely had years to do its damage and take control of their bodies and minds.

There is not enough understanding or awareness of PTSD and its effects, particularly when children have been exposed to trauma. That should be the first thing that is examined when any child or adult comes from an abusive home. There needs to be as much focus on the child’s healing as there is on making sure the child is safe and removed from the abusive home. That is the only way the cycle of abuse is going to be broken and these children are going to have a chance to grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults. Imagine having to spend the majority of your adulthood having the undo the effects of trauma and abuse? That’s only if people choose to heal and don’t succumb to the pain by self-medicating with drugs and alcohol or worse succumb to suicide because they can’t take the pain anymore.

What is Child Abuse?

“Child maltreatment can be categorized into several broad types including physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect/failure to provide, and emotional maltreatment.

Physical abuse (child abuse) is the deliberate application of force to any part of a child’s body, which results or may result in a non-accidental injury. Physical abuse may include shaking, choking, biting, kicking, burning, poisoning, holding a child under water, or any other harmful or dangerous use of force or restraint. Most child physical abuse is associated with physical punishment or is confused with child discipline.

Sexual abuse (child abuse) occurs when an adult or youth uses a child for sexual purposes. Sexual abuse includes fondling, intercourse, incest, sodomy, exhibitionism, and commercial exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.

Neglect/failure to provide (child abuse)occurs when a child’s parents or caregivers do not provide the requisite attention to the child’s emotional, psychological, or physical development.

Emotional maltreatment (child abuse) involves acts or omissions by parents or caregivers that cause or could cause serious behavioural, cognitive, emotional, or mental disorders. Emotional maltreatment can include verbal threats, socially isolating a child, intimidation, exploitation, terrorizing, or routinely making unreasonable demands on a child.”

http://canadiancrc.com/Child_Abuse/Child_Abuse.aspx

What’s missing off the above definitions is exposure to domestic violence which I talked about in my last blog post, that can be just as detrimental to the child witnessing it as it can to the person being abused.

Long-term Effects of Child Abuse:

“The impact of child abuse does not end when the abuse stops and the long-term effects can interfere with day-to-day functioning. However, it is possible to live a full and constructive life, and even thrive – to enjoy a feeling of wholeness, satisfaction in your life and work as well as genuine love and trust in your relationships. Understanding the relationship between your prior abuse and current behaviour is the first step towards ‘recovery’.

Over two decades of research have demonstrated potential negative impact of child abuse and neglect on mental health including:”

  • depression
  • anxiety disorders
  • poor self-esteem
  • aggressive behaviour
  • suicide attempts
  • eating disorders
  • use of illicit drugs
  • alcohol abuse
  • post-traumatic stress
  • dissociation
  • sexual difficulties
  • self-harming behaviours
  • personality disorders.

http://www.blueknot.org.au/WHAT-WE-DO/Resources/General-Information/Impact-of-child-abuse

“Failure to acknowledge the reality of trauma and abuse in the lives of children, and the long-term impact this can have in the lives of adults, is one of the most significant clinical and moral deficits of current mental health approaches.

Trauma in the early years shapes brain and psychological development, sets up vulnerability to stress and to the range of mental health problems.”

Complex trauma generally refers to traumatic stressors that are interpersonal. That is, they are premeditated, planned, and caused by other people, such as being violated and/or exploited by another person.

“It stands to reason that the most devastating types of trauma are those that occur at the hands of caregivers. Child abuse, occurring in the context of a trust relationship, involves significant betrayal of the responsibilities of those relationships. In addition, it is often private and the child is cautioned or threatened to not disclose its occurrence. Unfortunately, when such abuse is observed or a child does disclose the abuse, adequate and helpful response is lacking, resulting in another betrayal and another type of trauma that has been labeled secondary traumatization or institutional trauma. It is for these additional reasons that complex traumatization is often compounded and cumulative and becomes a foundation on which other traumatic experiences occur repeatedly over the course of the individual’s life. Research studies have repeatedly found that when a child is abused early in life, especially sexually, it renders him/her much more vulnerable to additional victimization. As a result survivors of child abuse can become caught in an ongoing cycle of violence and re-traumatization over their life course, especially if the original abuse continues to go unacknowledged and the after-effects unrecognized and untreated.”

http://newzealandchildabuse.com/adult-survivors-of-child-abuse-and-complex-trauma/

Children are our most precious and vulnerable human beings and we need to do everything we can to ensure their safety, healthiness and happiness. Healthy adults raise healthy children and the only way that can happen is if the cycle of abuse is broken for good.

 

Wounding the Soul: Emotional Abuse and PTSD…

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I grew up believing that I was stupid, couldn’t do anything right, that I was never good enough, that mistakes weren’t allowed and that I had to be perfect. I was constantly put down and criticized, my accomplishments went unrecognized, I attended events alone that were important to me and never had parents who took part in my life at all.

This was rung number 3 on the Complex PTSD ladder. I had no self-esteem at all and I was shy and very introverted as a child growing up. Verbal and emotional abuse was rampant in my dysfunctional home and praise and acceptance was absent. In fact I don’t even believe that my family ever knew me or knows me to this day, that’s how little they paid attention.

I lived in fear of the next verbal assault, constantly walking on egg shells, constantly on the look-out for mood changes and spent a lot of time in my room to get away from it all. I took solace in reading quietly on my own most days and lost myself in places and characters just to escape my reality for a while. I felt unloved, not seen or heard almost like I was invisible. Living in a constant state of fear every day takes its toll on the body, I remember having trouble sleeping even as a young teen and most days feeling exhausted. I remember never feeling comfortable in my own body and thinking that there was always something wrong with me, most of all I remember feeling lonely in my own home.

Luckily I have healed those wounds and I now know I am worthy, there is nothing wrong with me, I am intelligent, I am beautiful and most of all I have a beautiful heart. I learned to give myself the emotional support and love that I need and took the time to find out who I really was.

 What Is Emotional Abuse?

“Emotional abuse of a child is commonly defined as a pattern of behavior by parents or caregivers that can seriously interfere with a child’s cognitive, emotional, psychological or social development. Emotional abuse of a child — also referred to as psychological maltreatment — can include:

  • Ignoring. Either physically or psychologically, the parent or caregiver is not present to respond to the child. He or she may not look at the child and may not call the child by name.
  • Rejecting. This is an active refusal to respond to a child’s needs (e.g., refusing to touch a child, denying the needs of a child, ridiculing a child).
  • Isolating. The parent or caregiver consistently prevents the child from having normal social interactions with peers, family members and adults. This also may include confining the child or limiting the child’s freedom of movement.
  • Exploiting or corrupting. In this kind of abuse, a child is taught, encouraged or forced to develop inappropriate or illegal behaviors. It may involve self-destructive or antisocial acts of the parent or caregiver, such as teaching a child how to steal or forcing a child into prostitution.
  • Verbally assaulting. This involves constantly belittling, shaming, ridiculing or verbally threatening the child.
  • Terrorizing. Here, the parent or caregiver threatens or bullies the child and creates a climate of fear for the child. Terrorizing can include placing the child or the child’s loved one (such as a sibling, pet or toy) in a dangerous or chaotic situation, or placing rigid or unrealistic expectations on the child with threats of harm if they are not met.
  • Neglecting the child. This abuse may include educational neglect, where a parent or caregiver fails or refuses to provide the child with necessary educational services; mental health neglect, where the parent or caregiver denies or ignores a child’s need for treatment for psychological problems; or medical neglect, where a parent or caregiver denies or ignores a child’s need for treatment for medical problems.”

http://www.americanhumane.org/children/stop-child-abuse/fact-sheets/emotional-abuse.html

The Effects of Verbal Abuse on Children:

“The effects of verbal abuse on children, women and men follow the same general principle: verbal abuse causes people to feel fear. However, victims may deny or not recognize their anxiety and feelings of wanting to get away as fear of the abuser.

When the victim feels kindness or love from the abuser, they know that it is short-lived and abuse will re-occur. Victims live in a constant state of hyper-awareness, watching for clues of impending abuse. Victims can’t trust the smile of someone they love, and that is a very big deal.”

http://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/verbal-abuse/effects-of-verbal-abuse-on-children-women-and-men/

“The report suggests that, when verbal abuse is constant and severe, it creates a risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, the same type of psychological collapse experienced by combat troops in Iraq. The research on which the report is based points out that children who are the target of frequent verbal mistreatment exhibit higher rates of physical aggression, delinquency, and social problems than other children.”

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2007/04/verbal-beatings-hurt-as-much-as-sexual-abuse/

“The victims of psychological maltreatment suffered from anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal tendencies at the same rate — and in some cases, an even greater rate — than those physically or sexually abused. Joseph Spinazzola, who lead the study, points out that since psychological abuse has no physical wounds associated with it, child protective case workers have a particularly hard time recognizing it.”

http://testtube.com/dnews/emotional-abuse-is-far-worse-than-you-think

We may think words don’t harm, but when they’re constant put downs, criticisms and verbal assaults in atmosphere that creates fear: they cut into the soul of a child that can wound for life.

 

 

When Home Isn’t a Safe Place – Children of Domestic Violence and PTSD….

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I grew up in a home where domestic violence was a way of life and as a child I heard and saw thing no child should ever see or hear. A place where home was not safe but filled with fear and anxiety and where my voice was never heard. No safe arms to run into to tell me it was going to be ok, in fact we never discussed it, not once that I remember. I felt like I was on my own taking care of myself and my own feelings and fears at a very young age. I often felt like I was the adult in the house frequently standing in between two adults who were arguing and fighting and telling them to stop.

I felt like I was the only one who knew that fighting and hitting and arguing were wrong, especially in front of the kids. I felt like I didn’t matter, like my feelings didn’t matter and more like a piece of furniture in the house, rather than a child who should be loved and cherished. I was just sort of there and that was it, having to watch all this play out in front of me. I never felt like had a safe place to say how I felt about anything so those feelings stayed bottled up inside of me for years, and even as an adult voicing those feelings I always felt like they were downplayed in some way. Now I realize that I don’t need any outside validation of my feelings or my pain. but they just are what they are on their own and all they need is my own validation.

Not feeling safe, never feeling safe and all that I saw and heard was another wrung on the PTSD ladder. I lived it for years, day in and day out carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders and unable to utter a word about it. Then later on when I got married it was to someone who carried on the domestic violence when he was drunk. I divorced that man after making a promise that my children would never see and hear the things that I did and I kept that promise. The cycle had to be broken for my kids because there was no way I wanted them to ever know what abuse felt like and how much it hurt.

Definition of Domestic Violence:

“Domestic violence and emotional abuse are behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control the other. Partners may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; living together, separated or dating.

Examples of Abuse Include:

  • name-calling or putdowns
  • keeping a partner from contacting their family or friends
  • withholding money
  • stopping a partner from getting or keeping a job
  • actual or threatened physical harm
  • sexual assault
  • stalking
  • intimidation

Violence can be criminal and includes physical assault (hitting, pushing, shoving, etc.), sexual abuse (unwanted or forced sexual activity), and stalking. Although emotional, psychological and financial abuse are not criminal behaviors, they are forms of abuse and can lead to criminal violence.

The violence takes many forms and can happen all the time or once in a while. An important step to help yourself or someone you know in preventing or stopping violence is recognizing the warning signs listed on the “Violence Wheel.”

ANYONE CAN BE A VICTIM! Victims can be of any age, sex, race, culture, religion, education, employment or marital status. Although both men and women can be abused, most victims are women. Children in homes where there is domestic violence are more likely to be abused and/or neglected. Most children in these homes know about the violence. Even if a child is not physically harmed, they may have emotional and behavior problems.”

http://www.domesticviolence.org/definition/

Impacts of Family Violence on Children:

“Family Violence research indicates that even when children are not direct targets of violence in the home, they can be harmed by witnessing its occurrence. Children who live in situations of family violence can suffer immediate and permanent physical harm, even death. They can also experience short and long-term emotional, behavioural and developmental problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

In some cases of physical and sexual abuse, the victims have considerable problems with behaviour, negative peer involvement, depression, anxiety, violence to others, developmental delays, irregular school attendance and inappropriate sexual behaviour.

It is known that witnessing family violence is as harmful as experiencing it directly. Often parents believe that they have shielded their children from intimate partner violence, but research indicates that children see or hear many of the incidents. Children who witness family violence suffer the same consequences as those who are directly abused. In other words, a child who witnesses intimate partner violence is experiencing a form of child abuse.”

http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cp-pc/chi-enf-abu-eng.htm

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, get help and leave immediately. If you have children, please don’t think that by staying for the children’s sake you are doing them any favours: you are actually causing them great harm instead.

Childhood Sexual Abuse: Just One Cause of PTSD….

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I’m going to get more in-depth about some of the causes of PTSD, I will speak about those I know of from personal experience and some that I don’t. So the first one that I have experience with is childhood sexual abuse.

Childhood sexual abuse robs children of their innocence, safety, trust and is a severe violation of their boundaries which induces in them fear, guilt, shame and self blame. Children are taught to trust and respect adults from a very young age but that can be dangerous because of the adults who use that to prey on children.

What is Child Sexual Abuse?

“Sexual abuse represents any kind of sexual contact between an adult or older teen and a child. This behavior is used to gain power over the child and often involves a betrayal of the child’s trust.

There are many types of sexual abuse, some include physical contact or touching offenses. This includes fondling, touching sexual organs, masturbation, making the child touch the adult sexually, and vaginal or anal penetration with self or objects. Non touching offenses include exposing a child to pornographic material, indecent exposure, leering and deliberately putting the child in the position of having to witness an act of sexual intercourse.”

http://www.psychotherapist.net/adultsurvivors.html

In some cases it’s a stranger who grooms or abducts the child and in other cases its someone who is known by the child who grooms them for abuse. My abuse was by a neighbour and started when I was approximately 5 yrs old and lasted until I was approximately 8. I have to give approximations because my mind has blocked out most of the abuse but for some occasional flashbacks. He was a grandfatherly older man who had a granddaughter that I played with when she visited him. He indeed shattered my innocence, I was never the same little girl again and grew up having trust issues with men, boundary issues and intimacy issues.

If childhood sexual abuse is not treated, long-term symptoms can go on through adulthood. These may include:

  • PTSD and anxiety.
  • Depression and thoughts of suicide.
  • Sexual anxiety and disorders, including having too many or unsafe sexual partners.
  • Difficulty setting safe limits with others (e.g., saying no to people) and relationship problems.
  • Poor body image and low self-esteem.
  • Unhealthy behaviors, such as alcohol, drugs, self-harm, or eating problems. These behaviors are often used to try to hide painful emotions related to the abuse.

http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/types/violence/child-sexual-abuse.asp

Outcomes of sexual abuse:

“By far the most common effect of sexual abuse is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Symptoms can extend far into adulthood and can include withdrawn behavior, reenactment of the traumatic event, avoidance of circumstances that remind one of the event, and physiological hyper-reactivity.

Another legacy of sexual abuse is that children abused at any early age often become hyper-sexualized or sexually reactive. Issues with promiscuity and poor self-esteem are unfortunately common reactions to early sexual abuse.”

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/somatic-psychology/201303/trauma-childhood-sexual-abuse

I never told anyone until I was in my 20’s about my abuse so there was never any treatment until I was well into adulthood already. Thus started my journey on the road to PTSD. This is why when child sexual abuse is disclosed there needs to be immediate intervention to begin healing the trauma hopefully before PTSD has a chance to take hold.

This is just one type of trauma that can lead to PTSD and there are several more, which leads me to believe there are many people walking around today who have no idea that they have PTSD. Misdiagnosis of PTSD seems to be a leading factor and impediment to healing. In discussing the causes I am hoping to generate a greater understanding of the types of trauma that lead to PTSD. Knowledge is power which hopefully can lead to proper diagnosis in the future so the healing can begin.

Acceptance: You Can’t Heal What You Aren’t Willing to Accept…

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PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: What does it mean? It means that people with PTSD have suffered through one or more traumas and they continue to suffer the initial stress reactions of the mind and body anywhere from months to years. PTSD can be debilitating and can also get worse over time if the traumas are not healed and can become cumulative.

Cumulative trauma can be explained by using the analogy of a train wreck, once the first car crashes there is a chain reaction and all the other cars crash along with it. It’s the same for trauma when it’s cumulative, which means more than one trauma built up over time. When one traumatic event is triggered they all get triggered at the same time which heightens stress and anxiety and becomes completely overwhelming. It is also known as Complex PTSD and the type I have to deal with every day.

Complex PTSD:

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder describes the long-term effects of severe, prolonged or repeated trauma, particularly due to child abuse or domestic violence. This has a wide range of effects on personality, identity, memory, mood change and emotional regulation.

Symptoms of Complex PTSD:

Complex PTSD describes a more severe and long-term condition that can occur after prolonged and repeated trauma, particularly in childhood. Trauma can cause problems with memory, and disrupt the development of a person’s identity and the ability to control emotions and form relationships with others.

People with Complex PTSD can have a wide range of symptoms including:

  • an inability to control their emotions
  • dissociation
  • blanking out or losing memories
  • difficulties with their sense of identity or body image
  • physical symptoms that can’t be explained medically
  • disturbed relationships
  • an inability to trust others
  • being vulnerable to abuse or exploitation
  • self-harm, suicide attempts and substance abuse.

http://www.mindhealthconnect.org.au/complex-ptsd

The difference between PTSD and Complex PTSD:

Usually, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.) is the result of exposure to a single traumatic event, for example, a terrorist attack or single event in war. Complex trauma consists of multiple traumatic events, of the same type, which the victim experiences over a period of time. The effect of these traumatic events on the person is cumulative.

http://www.natal.org.il/english/?CategoryID=233

Causes of Complex PTSD:

It seems that Complex PTSD can potentially arise from any prolonged period of negative stress in which certain factors are present, which may include any of captivity, lack of means of escape, entrapment, repeated violation of boundaries, betrayal, rejection, bewilderment, confusion, and – crucially – lack of control, loss of control and disempowerment. It is the overwhelming nature of the events and the inability (helplessness, lack of knowledge, lack of support etc) of the person trying to deal with those events that leads to the development of Complex PTSD. Situations which might give rise to Complex PTSD include bullying, harassment, abuse, domestic violence, stalking, long-term caring for a disabled relative, unresolved grief, exam stress over a period of years, mounting debt, contact experience, etc. Those working in regular traumatic situations, eg the emergency services, are also prone to developing Complex PTSD.

A key feature of Complex PTSD is the aspect of captivity. The individual experiencing trauma by degree is unable to escape the situation. Despite some people’s assertions to the contrary, situations of domestic abuse and workplace abuse can be extremely difficult to get out of. In the latter case there are several reasons, including financial vulnerability (especially if you’re a single parent or main breadwinner – the rate of marital breakdown is approaching 50% in the UK), unavailability of jobs, ageism (many people who are bullied are over 40), partner unable to move, and kids settled in school and you are unable or unwilling to move them. The real killer, though, is being unable to get a job reference – the bully will go to great lengths to blacken the person’s name, often for years, and it is this lack of reference more than anything else which prevents people escaping.

Note: there has recently been a trend amongst some psychiatric professionals to label people suffering Complex PTSD as exhibiting a personality disorder, especially Borderline Personality Disorder. This is not the case – PTSD, Complex or otherwise, is a psychiatric injury and nothing to do with personality disorders. If there is an overlap, then Borderline Personality Disorder should be regarded as a psychiatric injury, not a personality disorder. If you encounter a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional who wants to label your Complex PTSD as a personality disorder, change to another, more competent professional.

http://bullyonline.org/old/stress/ptsd.htm

Trauma is trauma, it just depends on how much we have endured whether it becomes complex or not. In the end those with PTSD and Complex PTSD will experience the same symptoms no matter whether you have a career as a first responder, a police officer or have been in the military or you have never worked in any of these fields. That is where the mental health field falls down and the reason why so many people have been misdiagnosed. PTSD and Complex PTSD is based solely on trauma and it does not discriminate by career choice.

 

The Best Battles Are Always Fought With a Winning Team…

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You know one of the hardest things about having PTSD is the isolation factor. We slowly isolate ourselves from family and friends who don’t understand what’s going on with us and we get tired of trying to explain. The biggest problem with that is it leaves us without a support system at a time when we need it the most. I have gone through my journey mostly alone able to talk to very few people about what I go through on a daily basis.

I had very little help with the exception of some extremely kind neighbours and my daughter who was living with me at the time, but working long hours at a time when I was extremely vulnerable. I was suffering from panic attacks for a month straight on and off through the day and night and I was alone most of the time.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt more afraid or alone during that time thinking any moment I was going to die because I couldn’t breath during them. My dog passed away suddenly 2 yrs ago and that’s what brought on the sudden panic attacks. She had been my constant companion for 10 1/2 years and in 4 days she was gone. I was traumatized to say the least and piled on top of my other traumas it was just too much to bear and I ended up going on medication to stop them.

“A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming anxiety and fear. Your heart pounds and you can’t breathe. You may even feel like you’re dying or going crazy. Left untreated, panic attacks can lead to panic disorder and other problems. They may even cause you to withdraw from normal activities. But panic attacks can be cured and the sooner you seek help, the better. With treatment, you can reduce or eliminate the symptoms of panic and regain control of your life.”

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/panic-attacks-and-panic-disorders.htm

There are several symptoms that can develop over time while dealing with PTSD besides triggers, flashbacks and hypervigilance  : such as insomnia, panic attacks, irritability, anger or rage, nightmares, exaggerated startle response, loss of focus and concentration and memory loss and/ or retention.

Isolation is not a good thing though, being surrounded by understanding family and friends is a better choice all around. The key is balance, there are times when you will need your down time or just want some time alone due to sheer mental exhaustion and that’s ok. A good support network is imperative though to help you heal. I suggest that family and friends do some research on PTSD and also on ways they can help be supportive along with your added input of what you need.

One of best ways for trauma to gain a complete hold on us is lack of support particularly directly after the initial trauma. That is why early intervention is a must in stopping PTSD in its tracks before it can gain a foothold in our minds and bodies. We need to be and feel safe and supported with love and compassion because all those were lacking at the time we were traumatized. We need to be able to trust again and feel safe in doing so, therefore we need a good strong support system behind us every step of the way.

I would just like to say that I am not a therapist and the things I speak about in my posts are things that I have found that work for me: they may or may not work for you but you can always give them a try to find out.

I’m tired after being up all night due to insomnia, so I will stop here for tonight before I start to ramble. ha ha ha

Taking Back Your Power: Love Thyself

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Today I take back my power, fear and circumstances nor other people shall have no power over me. My identity is not based on PTSD, it’s based on who I am as person, as a woman and the core of my being. Sorting all that out can be a challenge at the best of times, let alone with demons screaming in my head that I am pain, that I am less than and that I am a victim. I choose to see myself not as a victim or a survivor but as an over-comer. The reason I choose not to see myself as a survivor is because for those of us who live with PTSD we have lived in survival mode the entire time. I want to live not just survive, I choose to overcome and heal and not just cope.

I let go of shame and guilt long ago, they no longer have a hold on me because my traumas weren’t my fault and that is important for me to know. Flashbacks no longer have a hold on me because I allowed myself to be triggered choosing to work through them rather than avoid them.

“Flashbacks are like little movies playing in your head of the original trauma you suffered. Your body experience all the feelings and emotions you had at the time of the original trauma as if you are really there.”

I used the same method as I explained to use while dissociating: first of all realize that flashbacks aren’t real and tell yourself that while having a flashback even if you have to say it out loud; second of all pull yourself out the flashback and look around the room to see that you are safe and where you are, again say it out loud if you have to and walk around the room and touch things that are tangible so you know exactly where you are; thirdly tell yourself that what you were seeing and what you went through is over and the memories that you are seeing can’t hurt you; fourthly acknowledge and except all the feelings that you are feeling because those are what you felt when the original trauma occurred and they are looking for validation; fifthly let them go so they don’t continue to be trapped in your mind and body anymore, you can say it out loud or in your mind but it’s important to consciously let them go. Repeat for every flashback and you will notice they start to decline.

It’s important to face your fears head on and work through them because one of the major symptoms of PTSD is avoidance. Avoiding your fears only allows them to have power over you and to fester into something bigger. I did this on my own but having a therapist work with you in controlled conditions might be a better choice for you.

Identifying your triggers and working through those is also another step toward healing and you can follow the same steps as with flashbacks when you’re triggered. What was it that triggered you? Allow yourself to feel what you feel and remember there is no right or wrong when it comes to feelings, they just are what they are and they’re all valid.

“For people with PTSD, it is very common for their memories to be triggered by sights, sounds, smells or even feelings that they experience. These triggers can bring back memories of the trauma and cause intense emotional and physical reactions, such as raised heart rate, sweating and muscle tension.”

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder

It’s important to know yourself and your body, when you have been triggered your going to notice you get more anxious or become afraid, your heart rate goes up and your emotional reaction to whatever triggered you will be excessive for the situation. That’s because your mind and body are again experiencing the original trauma that has now been triggered by something like a sight, sound. smell or similar situation. You may or may not have flashbacks during this time or your body may just react due to body memories that your mind has no recall of.

These flashbacks and triggers will continue until you give them what they need: validation, acceptance and show yourself the love and compassion that you needed at the time of the trauma. This because at the time you were traumatized you didn’t receive the validation of your feelings that you required and also rather than accept what happened, you have trying to run away from it, maybe deny it but have done anything but accept it.

Also the love and compassion that you required probably weren’t present either especially the love for yourself. It’s time to give what you needed at the time of those traumas back to yourself, you don’t need outside validation from others and others don’t need to accept what you went through in order to make it true or for your feelings to be valid. You also need to love and accept yourself as the beautiful human being you are in order for your journey to begin back to your true authentic self.

Monsters Are Real – They Live In Our Head….

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Today marks the 17,320th day that I have been alive and probably have struggled in some sense for all but about 3 or 4 000 of those days. It hasn’t been easy, I will admit, but some how I managed to make it this far, whether through stubbornness or sheer tenacity, I’m still here. I honestly don’t know how because I have lived through some horrific things, things that even unto themselves were horrific let alone a lifetime of things piled on top of one another.

I started my journey back home (to self) in my early 20’s after my children were born. I remember thinking that I don’t want my children to know abuse, to grow up in abuse or ever have to lay eyes on it, the cycle had to be broken, if not for me than for them.  I went to therapy looking for answers, read every self-help book under the sun and turned my thinking into positive thinking. Still, none of this penetrated the real problem which was undiagnosed PTSD. Oh I knew it all inside and out intellectually, the problem was all of my traumas were still locked inside of me.

The brain has a funny way or protecting us from trauma, it blocks it out either partially or completely, resulting in an almost amnesia like state of those traumatic events. The problem is the body never forgets and  all those traumas are locked in our bodies and recreate themselves in the form of anxiety, depression, insomnia and hypervigilance. Those stored traumas in the body are also what are known as “body memories”.

With this in mind we now have two areas we have to heal from trauma and PTSD, the mind and body and the third is the spirit (our inner being and essence of who we are). This is why just medication and just healing the mind wont work when it comes to PTSD. Our minds are wounded and traumatized, our bodies are wounded and traumatized and our spirits are and traumatized wounded also. Therefore all three  need to be healed.

“The essential psychological effect of trauma is a shattering of innocence. Trauma creates a loss of faith that there is any safety, predictability, or meaning in the world, or any safe place in which to retreat. It involves utter disillusionment. Because traumatic events are often unable to be processed by the mind and body as other experiences are, due to their overwhelming and shocking nature, they are not integrated or digested. The trauma then takes on a life of its own and, through its continued effects, haunts the survivor and prevents normal life from continuing until the person gets help.”

“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition created by exposure to a psychologically distressing event outside the range of usual human experience, one which would be markedly distressing to almost anyone, and which causes intense fear, terror, and helplessness. The trauma is an assault to the person’s biology and psyche. The event may have happened recently or a long time ago. There are 3 categories of PTSD symptoms: 1) hyperarousal, 2) re-experiencing, and 3) avoidance/numbing.”

http://psychcentral.com/lib/understanding-the-effects-of-trauma-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/

Our spirit is the core of our being and the essence of who we are as individuals. PTSD wounds our inner being and makes us question who we are, darkens our outlook on life and makes the light inside us either grow dim or go out completely due to shame, guilt and self-loathing. It detaches us from who we are and makes our mind, body and spirit battle each other rather than working together in harmony as they should be.  The mind also has a way of detaching itself from the body and spirit and this is what results in dissociation.

“People with PTSD may also experience dissociation. Dissociation is an experience where a person may feel disconnected from himself and/or his surroundings. Similar to flashbacks, dissociation may range from temporarily losing touch with things that are going on around you (kind of like what happens when you daydream) to having no memories for a prolonged period of time and/or feeling as though you are outside of your body.”

It’s important to stay grounded to keep from dissociating and also to know when you start feeling like your floating or losing time that you need to do something to ground yourself. You can do this by having a snack or a full meal if you haven’t eaten yet, by drinking a glass of water and also by looking around and identifying where you are at the moment, even touching things if you need to in order to stay present in your body and in the moment.

Well that’s all for tonight. I would just like to let my readers know that I like discussions and I am open to any questions or discussions that you would like to have, so feel free to comment and we can a have a discussion about it.

I Have What?

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“You have PTSD” my therapist said. I had no idea what it was, what it’s effects were or the effects it would have on my life and she didn’t explain it to me. In those days of the early 90’s, I didn’t have a computer or the internet to be able to find out what it was and I certainly in my stressed out state didn’t even think to ask.

This was early in a quest for a therapist who understood what was going on with me, however this therapist didn’t delve into my past or my traumas but diagnosed me based on a current situation where I was being bullied and harassed at work on a daily basis.  I would go through approximately 7 or 8 therapists before I actually found one who really understood what PTSD was.  By then I had a computer and the internet and had done extensive research and put some of my own things into place for coping, flashbacks and further on panic attacks, which I had to be medicated for.

I think a lot of people go undiagnosed because of the misnomer that PTSD occurs only with first responders and the military, which is not true at all, it occurs in people who have suffered trauma and that can happen anywhere. Although not everyone who experiences trauma will suffer from PTSD, the people who do seem to be slipping through the cracks if they aren’t in one of the above listed professions. I am not downplaying what people in those professions endure nor am I saying that they don’t suffer from PTSD on a larger scale, because they do. What concerns me is the inability of therapists to diagnose PTSD in patients who do not work in those occupations. The inability to recognize that trauma can and does happen to anyone at anytime, anywhere.

The definition of trauma is as follows:

“Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. While these feelings are normal, some people have difficulty moving on with their lives. Psychologists can help these individuals find constructive ways of managing their emotions.”

-American Psychological Association-

It’s important to recognize trauma early, because I believe that early intervention can mean the difference between being traumatized and developing PTSD. Talk about the incident, get it off your chest, have your feelings validated, know what symptoms, if any, you are experiencing and begin to deal with them. PTSD is allowed to fester in the minds and bodies of those who keep their feelings and emotions bottled up and who suffer in silence.  It’s the old adage of “you’re only as sick as your secrets”.  You have to let it all out in a safe environment in  order to begin to heal. Safety and trust are paramount because it was the loss of those in some semblance that led to your being traumatized.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop following a traumatic event that threatens your safety or makes you feel helpless. Most people associate PTSD with rape and battle-scarred soldiers—and military combat is the most common cause in men—but any event (or series of events) that overwhelms you with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness can trigger PTSD, especially if the event feels unpredictable and uncontrollable. PTSD can affect:

  • People who personally experience the traumatic event
  • Those who witness the event
  • Those who pick up the pieces afterwards, such as emergency workers
  • Friends or family members of those who experienced the trauma

Traumatic Events That Can Cause PTSD:

  • War
  • Natural disasters
  • Car or plane crashes
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Sudden death of a loved one
  • Rape
  • Kidnapping
  • Assault
  • Sexual or physical abuse
  • Childhood neglect

PTSD symptoms: Everyone is different:

PTSD develops differently from person to person. While the symptoms of PTSD most commonly develop in the hours or days following the traumatic event, it can sometimes take weeks, months, or even years before they appear. There are three main types of symptoms:

  1. Re-experiencing the traumatic event. This may include upsetting memories, flashbacks, and nightmares, as well as feelings of distress or intense physical reactions when reminded of the event (sweating, pounding heart, nausea, for example).
  2. Avoiding reminders of the trauma. You may try to avoid activities, places or thoughts that remind you of the trauma or be unable to remember important aspects of the event. You may feel detached from others and emotionally numb, or lose interest in activities and life in general, sensing only a limited future for yourself.
  3. Increased anxiety and emotional arousal. These symptoms include trouble sleeping, irritability or outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating, feeling jumpy and easily startled, and hypervigilance (on constant “red alert”).

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/post-traumatic-stress-disorder.htm

These symptoms can occur right away or take years to develop so it’s helpful to know what they are and what to watch for in order for the earliest intervention to take place.