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Complex PTSD and Trauma

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What is Complex PTSD?


Complex Trauma is when someone undergoes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional, verbal abuse and neglect repetitively over months, years and decades. While what happened TO you is significant it is what happens inside of you as a result that matters most. The daily exposure to not having secure and safe connections with your caretakers leave with you an emotional imprint that for many can become problematic in adult life. It may be important to make a distinction between PTSD and Complex PTSD. PTSD can typically be confined to 1 or 2 acute traumatic events, while complex trauma points to repetitive exposure to neglect, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse and otherwise disconnected caretakers.. Complex PTSD includes some combination of emotional flashbacks, toxic shame, self abandonment, a vicious inner critic and social anxiety.


How do I know if I might have Complex PTSD?


Complex trauma is exactly as it suggests, complex. It is complex in the unique ways in which it  presents. Generally speaking though, CPTSD feels like hiding in plane site. At other times it may feel like an eruption of expression that nobody could possibly miss.  You may feel everything, may feel nothing and may feel repulsed by your own being. . Sometimes it is more gentle and sometimes it is a tidal wave and feels difficult to harness. The factor that tends to cause the most distress is how we feel that something about us is taking away and even ruining relationships with our loved ones. We tend to want nothing more than connection but seem compelled to behave in ways that all but ensures that does not happen in a meaningful and long term way. Sometimes it can present as codependent tendencies in a relationship context. CPTSD is commonly written off as “just being moody” however moods do not change drastically on a regular basis for no good reason. In the context of CPTSD, mood swings are actually emotional flashbacks.


You may also notice that in response to stress you tend to engage in extreme measures of fighting, avoidance, freezing and fawning (codependent tendencies) over others in order to maintain connection even if it compromises your own wellbeing. Thoughts about death and not wanting to endure another moment of discomfort often creep in. These are most always passive suicidal thoughts. Complex trauma resembles depression and anxiety at times but many people report an intuitive sense it is something more.  Ultimately CPTSD can make you feel like you know what your truth is but cannot seem to live your life close to that truth.


Can I Get Better?


Absolutely. Therapy is meant to provide you with a safe container to experience everything that you experience in a supportive and accepting environment. You will always be in the driver seat during sessions with your therapist as a helpful guide when needed. Sometimes you may need your therapist to take the lead and that is perfectly ok too. Often just by showing up and further developing your relationship with your therapist you are well on your way to getting and feeling better.  The healing path here requires patience and practice all of which you are more than capable of. RIght now you have a story of your life and who you are and we will work together to re author that story in a way that provides you with a renewed sense of dignity, strength and inner connection.

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