This is not a blog about finding the beautiful. This is about the dark contrast of trauma against beauty.
Complex PTSD is a set of symptoms related to being exposed to trauma continually or repeatedly over months or years time as opposed to the individual trauma that results in PTSD. Complex PTSD has the symptoms of PTSD with additional symptoms with which psych professionals sometimes tag a person with other disorders. You can Google all sorts of information on PTSD and lesser on Complex PTSD, but what is harder to sort out is what it is like on a personal level.
Without the diagnosis of Complex PTSD, there is just the trauma. I hate to say “just,” because the years of physical, emotional, mental, and sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of my parents dominates my every thought and feeling even now almost half my life years away and without my immediately knowing it. The Complex PTSD (C-PTSD for our purposes) is what we call my experiences resulting from sustained abuse and inability to physically or emotionally get away from danger.
I’ll stop there a moment to address questions people about why I never reached out for help. Think back to being a child yourself. From a very young age you are, for good or bad, indoctrinated into that family’s belief system. Your parents, when you were a child, whether your realize it or not, were like gods. They determined what and when and if you ate, slept, played, chored, and so on. The gods I depended on were bad, and part of the belief I learned is “I cannot trust anyone. I am alone.” That was instilled by and includes my parents. They were still the gods who decided how life would be. You don’t really have a clue what lies beyond the boundary of your parents influence. It is the great black unknown that you have been told is worse. Isolation via bad homeschooling, country living, and lacking social interactions in my teen years continued the program of childhood or the cult of my “Christian” family.
Yes, I meant program. It was a program to dehumanize me like an extermination by literally sociopath people. I could go into the abuse, but you have seen and heard enough in this world without my adding yet another dismal experience. No, this is about what I deal with in the now, and not for a few weeks or months, but years in varying ways and degrees that includes my Chronic, Reoccurring, Severe Major Depression and anxieties.
Sometimes not wanting to go to bed is because I dread tomorrow. The only way I function to the high degree that people see me do is because of learning as a child that emotions are bad and they are to be locked away and because of learning as a depressed adult that I have to schedule and make things a habit, taking out having to think about whether I want to do it or not. I fail sometimes and the schedule and habit goes out the door, but it hurts me in more ways than one. I learn habits easier. However, in shutting out any possible bad feelings about things, I shut out positive feelings as well. It is almost impossible for me to just be in the moment–to appreciate it.
Plus, my anger is either inhibited or explosive (C-PTSD). Mostly I don’t ever feel anger even sometimes when it is righteous, but that eventually backfires on me when I get hurt and strike out with explosive relationship-destroying anger. I just go off before thinking about a healthy response.
My C-PTSD also includes forgetting and reliving traumatic events. Though I know that the rest of the story of only the beginning I remember is more sexual abuse of some kind and though I don’t like the experiences already pressed into memory, I can’t help trying to gain some control over it by trying to know what my father did all those other times. On the other hand there is the not just remembering, but reliving of the abuse–feeling their breath, feeling the horror of what happens, and so forth. It is as if you are there again. In fact, I have felt terrorized in my very own apartment, because I dreamed that being in that place in bed in my apartment as an adult I still live with and by rule of my parents.
I am mostly ashamed of myself whether I show it or not. I am ashamed of my very being–who I am, how I act, what trauma I relive, and so on. I don’t dwell on it or I wouldn’t do anything or go anywhere. However, I know everyone around me has had a taste of it in one form or another—it isn’t good enough, I don’t appreciate enough, people are not saying what they really think of me, and it isn’t good and more such. You see, somehow I picked up along the way the gospel of Hope that tells me how I need to live and think, being perfect, and tells me how worthless I am for not meeting the standard.
I have gone on a while on this subject, so I leave you with one more of my experience, diagnosed as C-PTSD–disassociation. I can only say what it is to me because it is experienced in different ways by different people. I can’t say very easily what it is for me even because until you experience it and in my case are told about it, you really don’t know. There are different ways I experience it and can describe it that make it sound like a fun psychedelic trip. It is a trip alright, but I either just completely lose myself not realizing I am gone or I feel the sickening pulling apart. These aren’t kiddie rides.
I guess most of us zone out or daydream sometimes, but disassociation is the black hole of zoning out. Everything goes blank pulled into this time- and place-ignorant thoughtlessness. I am just not there, not experiencing what those around me are experiencing, missing out. You know why? Because some word, smell, set of circumstances, or anything, just anything at all has triggered me. It is as if I am reliving the trauma, or better expressed, I checked out to not experience the trauma my brain thinks it is experiencing or to avoid regular life challenges that seem like the trauma. It is my brain’s way of saving me, even if I no longer need to be saved.
The other way I tend to disassociate might be slightly like very suddenly spinning downwards on a roller coaster–the one where you feel like you lost a part of you like your stomach back there. Part of you got left behind for just a second, so to speak. I disassociate so that I do feel sick–nauseous and diminished, but it lasts for more than a second.
The other day between meds and the regular trauma of surgery, I had trouble “keeping myself together” all day. My brain said “danger!” and I responded by having a body I don’t feel at the moment, not the floor beneath me, not the pain from surgery.
I am only reminded by the growing nausea that, though I never had motion sickness, seems like that. I am beyond my self, not caring about what is happening in the world with me in it. The world is literally out of focus. Sometimes things that aren’t moving are like optical illusions like the one where by staring at it a certain way it always seems to be getting bigger and smaller all over again, moving, but not really. And I don’t really care. It is just something happening that has nothing to do with anything. I don’t care that it seems as if I am outside my body, with a pull between like taffy. And it too, is a safety mechanism triggered by the mundane and the momentous.
I didn’t use to know that I disassociate. I thought all of it as just zoning out like I hear others talking about or maybe a quirky day with my meds or whatever, but now I know I disassociate a lot to try to get out of life at the moment. I can be with people or by myself. I don’t know if I can truly describe the way it is, but that is as close as I can get.
Seeing the beautiful contrast from the dark keeps me in the moment, away from danger signs and triggers.