My Chronic Childhood Trauma Resulted in Complex PTSD - by Mandy Emmerling

There is a big difference whether a traumatic event remains the exception, or whether it happens repeatedly, such as sexual abuse or multiple rapes. It's crucial, whether it is a stroke of fate or an injury, the fellow humans inflict on us. This mental injury throws many people off track. Days, weeks, perhaps months or even years later, symptoms may occur. Particularly trauma-endangered are children, because their psyche is not yet stable and mature, as that of an adult.

Childhood trauma can be fatal to further brain development and even reduce the volume of certain brain structures. Possible consequences include behavioural problems, learning difficulties, depression and other mental disorders. That's why it is so important to respond quickly when a mistreatment or abuse of children is suspected because what happens to them not only hurts the body but also the soul quite massively!

No phase of our lives is as intense as our childhood, whether in the positive or negative. Traumatic experiences are already bad for adults - but they are often catastrophic for children. Adults know that, for example, beating, kicking or rape is a bad thing. A child experiences the bad happenings and cannot classify it - and barely even talk about it. Childhood experiences are forever shaping not only a large part of our life but also the idea we have of it. The bond that we build to our protectors, our parents, who guide, care for, and provide for us, paves our development process to become self-assured personalities. But when we experience trauma in childhood, such as violence, abuse, and neglect, it is an incision into childhood; an injury that will remain forever. Unfortunately, that is a fact. And as children, we are little human beings who are not yet able to defend themselves and even less do we understand why the "evil" in life actually exists. We just have to deal with it.

These physical, mental and emotional wounds have a major impact on our development and maturation process. These deep wounds, caused by mental stress and suffering, we carry within us forever. They are deeply rooted in us. And they will always be there because they are part of us.

The most difficult traumas to treat are those that started in very early childhood and were caused by confidants (teachers, parents), especially in the case of family abuse. A child cannot rationally understand what happened. And sexual violence is the most psychologically harmful thing that can be done to a child. I have suffered from PTSD since childhood.

My childhood trauma became too strong at a young age because I was not treated early. During my long-term trauma, I was held in a state of captivity, physically and emotionally. In this situation I was under the control of my parents and unable to get away, because I was too young. I grew up with contempt, rejection, neglect, abandonment, withdrawal of love, maltreatment, violence and sexual abuse. I have experienced hell for almost 13 years. That has shaped me, and it has burned into my soul and my brain. My past burdens and haunts me to this day.

There are things in the subconscious mind that I don't perceive but have a profound impact on my physical health and my daily life. I'm jumpy, suffer from sleep disorders and severe anxiety. I don't trust anyone, I'm sceptical of strangers. I don't like crowds, or if someone comes too close to me. I keep my distance because I'm afraid that someone will hurt me again. My everyday life is limited because I avoid things and places that might remind me of the trauma. My body is under constant stress, on alert and always ready to flee. My body is very sensitive to physical and mental stress because my immune system does not work as well as others. I am more prone to skin disease, and infectious diseases (stomach, intestinal, bladder and kidney infections, colds, flu). I get headaches very quickly, and the longer I am exposed to a stressful situation, the more exhausted and feeble I feel. Sometimes I even feel sick, even though I'm physically completely healthy.

The subconscious mind is a dangerous confidant, it knows all the things that I really don't want to know anymore. The memories break out of me, in unexpected moments, and my body reacts with a panic attack. Sometimes I cannot even say what triggered me. It's just there. For me sometimes the tiniest things are triggering. It can be very trivial things like colours, sounds, smells or even a taste. I even avoid physical exertion or sport because I try not to get out of breath as much as possible because an accelerated heartbeat evokes the experience in me again.

These recurring, sudden memories in the form of nightmares or flashbacks are like a horror movie. But worst of all are the emotional flashbacks, where my feelings overwhelm me. Then suddenly I feel like the frightened, rejected and hated little girl of yore. I feel useless, worthless and unloved. In those moments helplessness makes me cry. And my mind cannot act against such moments. Then I need help from dear people who support me and show me that I am not alone and wait patiently for my inner child to calm down again. But it's mostly the demons, those little evil beasts, who've settled in my mind, telling me over and over again that I should be on my guard. Those who want to warn me of situations, although there is no danger, but cause anxiety in me. They show me these ghastly pictures, to remind me again and again that I am not safe, and something terrible could happen at any time.

I try to avoid situations, of which I know that I get triggered and that they cause a bad panic attack. But sometimes it happens when I don't count on it. And I cannot control it. An example: I go shopping in a supermarket. I am in good spirits and working my shopping list off. The moment I pick up a bottle of milk, terrible memories of the basement suddenly come rushing in, without warning and, above all, no apparent cause. I see myself lying on the ground, only vaguely recognizable in the darkness above my father.

Since then, about 30 years have passed, and my mind knows that the supermarket is safe and brightly lit. But I panic through memory, from one second to the other: My heart is beating like crazy, my pulse is racing, my palms are getting wet with sweat, my whole body is shaking, my face is pale, and I can barely breathe... One tiny, triggering stimulus is enough, and I relive the terrible events of my childhood again. All the emotions, all the feelings and impressions, the smells, the sounds, even the taste in my mouth are as present as if the terrible experience happened right now!

I try as far as possible to handle my everyday life alone, which is not always easy because I have a few quirks. For example, I always buy too many foods because I'm afraid to go hungry. I wash very often, shower three times a day because I want to feel clean. And I change my clothes several times a day to just feel good. I just want to make sure that I smell good and look good. I felt so terrible when I was a kid when I had to go to school unwashed and dirty with dirty, broken, holey and much too small clothes. That's deep.

My mental health is very important, so I go to my therapies twice a week because they are vital to survival. If necessary, I commit myself when I feel really bad and I can't handle it alone. And for my well-being, I take regular breaks to rest my body. And I make sure that I get enough sleep.

To keep my mind clear, I listen to music or meditate to sounds of nature. And I go for a walk or I go hiking to get my strength directly from the source. Sometimes I just sit outside somewhere in the solitude of nature (especially in summer), enjoy the sun in my face, feel the wind on my skin, and bathe my feet in the water of a stream. I enjoy the silence, listen to the birds or grasshoppers. That's calming and relaxing. I often take my camera with me and focus on the beauty and beautiful uniqueness this world has to offer. I take photos of animals, flowers, blossoms and other things that fascinate me. In this way I recharge my batteries when a day is very stressful and exhausting. Or when a storm rages in my head, or when my demons try to tear me down. Some days it's a really tough fight...

I Want You to Want to Live - by Jody Betty

SUICIDE….Catch your attention yet? It’s a shame if it didn’t because the actions most certainly will.

The rate of suicide is on the rise worldwide in all age categories. It affects all ethnicities, cultures and religions.

 It is bias free.

It is a last resort, a desperate attempt to quell the never ending and relentless pain that monopolizes your mind. It has become the only feasible way to rid yourself of the burdensome weight that has dragged you to this level of despair.

That is how I feel anyway, the countless number of times I have and do fall into the darkness, and because I can empathize, take a minute to read this letter to you.

Dear You.

If you are reading this there is a small piece of you that wants to hold on.

I am so proud of you for reaching out, even if you have done so without words. You have kindly given me a few minutes of your time, and I do appreciate that.

I want you to live.

I want you to want to live.

I won’t feed you some bullshit like it’s all going to be ok with time because it may not be, and it may not turn out as you wish, but you will never know if you don’t stick around to find out. I will instead tell you I am here with you and let’s take this a minute at a time.

 I will remind you that although I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, I will be by your side to find out.

You are so important.

I won’t make you feel selfish by telling you to stick around for your family or friends, because I know you feel that leaving would not only end your burden, but theirs as well.

 I will tell you that someone loves you despite how you feel inside. I will remind you that you are not and never will be a burden. You may not see or even hear it, but your life is valued by someone out there; it is valued by me. I don’t know you, but I do care because I can empathize with your pain; I feel it myself.

You are incredibly strong.

I won’t ever tell you that you are being dramatic and don’t really want to die.

I will instead be here to listen and validate your feelings because they are as significant as you are.

I am so proud of you for still staying with me.

I won’t ever tell you things could be worse, or that other people have it worse than you and don’t want to die.

I will acknowledge your despair and lack of hope. I will never compare your pain to another’s. It would be like observing two gunshot wounds, one in the chest and one in the leg. Yes, it is worse to get shot in the chest, but it does not take away the pain of being shot in the leg.

You are beautiful.

I won’t use the old adage “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

 I will say that your problems might not be temporary but I will be with you and help you to find a coping mechanism that works for you. I will tell you that suicide is simply not a solution.

I won’t shove the ideas of therapy or medication down your throat as that will not help at the moment.

I will ask some of the most important words of all “how can I help?” I will provide you with a suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255 or text the word “start” to 741-741.)

You are a warrior.

You are a survivor. Your track record of making it through trauma, heartbreak and devastation is 100%.  Despite the rocks life has thrown at you, you have emerged with scars and grit. You have proven those wrong who expected you not to make it, those who gave up on you long before you gave up on yourself.

You are amazing.

You have a purpose in this life, whether you realize it at this point or not. Your book has so many chapters to be written. You are needed, your voice and your story are essential for someone, be it a stranger or a friend.

You are your own hero. You have done what you think you cannot do. You have looked death in the face, stared it down and walked away having won another battle in your war.

If you are still reading this, I am incredibly proud of you for stopping what you were doing, and giving me a few moments of your precious time. Just reading this is the beginning…you have extended your arm, you just have to unclench your fist. I implore you to keep this conversation going, be it with a hotline, a friend or family member, or even me (@onelastkick71). You have taken the first step; let’s make it to the second together.

You are loved.

Jody Betty

 

**You can read more about Jody at http://jodybetty.com/

You may not get to show your love tomorrow, show it today💕- by Alyssa Gingras

I let someone make me feel bad about who I am the other day.

I received a nasty message from someone blasting me because "it's wrong for me to tell people that I love them and I miss them if it's not a close family member or a spouse"

I let it bother me. I questioned if how I speak to others IS in fact wrong. I even considered minimizing how I feel about all the amazing people in my life. Then it hit me; if I did that, I wouldn't be ME. I never want my kids to feel like they can't be exactly who they are and I decided I wasn't going to let anyone make me feel like that either.

I do love with my whole heart. I tell people exactly how I feel because I may not get to tomorrow. I do kind things for strangers because all of us are human beings and deserve to feel accepted and loved. It saddens me that the man at Costco (I let go ahead of me because he only had a few items) was so shocked that I called him over from 4 registers over. I will raise my kids to be like me because that's all I know how to do.

To everyone of my friends and family members; I love you all with my whole heart no matter what anyone else thinks. I may love you as a parent, I may love you as a family member, I may love you as a friend, I may love you as someone I have something in common with or I may love you because you were in my life at the exact moment I needed you to be. Regardless, I have love for every single one of you because you've all helped make me who I am today. You may not get to show your love tomorrow, show it today💕

I'll Love you Forever... - by Venessa Hannah

To My Mother,

You were robbed, WE were robbed…
Robbed of the bond between mother and daughter. Robbed of the unconditional love that a daughter feels for her mother.

I spent over thirty years questioning everything. I was told you didn't want to be a mother, you didn't want me, you were too lazy to have kids and (unfortunately) SO many other terrible lies…

The truth is, up until 7 months ago, I wasn't able, wasn't strong enough to question all the things I'd had driven into my brain from such a young age by some of my most (then) beloved family. They were driven into my head in the most manipulative and deceiving ways…
So much so that I never questioned ANY of them…

But I digress, what I really want to tell you is that while I cannot take back the mistakes of the past, I can and will continue to strive for better, to nourish our relationship, to see you for who you are, more importantly who you have ALWAYS been. Someone of INCREDIBLE strength, perseverance, unconditional love and many more admirable qualities.

A Mother who adores her children and would give and do ANYTHING for, a mother who wanted nothing more than to be the best Mom to her children that she could be. A survivor who fought against ALL the odds, who overcame the terrible past she had endured to BE that amazing Mom she was, is and continues to be today. One of compassion, empathy, care, unconditional love and ALL the amazing and incredible characteristics indicative of a good Mother.

Did she make mistakes? Sure, but all Mothers do, especially the good ones. 
In fact, so many times I catch myself and I think how did she do it? Single mom, working to provide for her girls with basically no help, support or encouragement from her own parents, from any of her family of origin. They pretended to care but there was always judgement, ridicule and even that 'pretend' support never lasted long.

I have so much to say but I'm a mess of emotion so for now what I will say is this – THANK YOU, you 'done' great, Mom! I feel so very proud to call you my Mom and if I turn out to be half the Mom you were, are and continue to be… well I'm #winning

I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living, my mother you'll be. How fu$king lucky am I?!?!

One last thing, unfortunately we can't go back in time to fix things and this is something I struggle with daily because I feel as though I got "screwed" but I will continually strive to grow our relationship and instead be grateful that I now know. What do 'they' say? Better late than never, right?! Xoxo

**You can read more about Venessa here: https://oneramblingmamablog.com/

Yes, #LetsTalk - by Venessa Hannah

Let’s talk about how crippling it can be to even think about your own mental illness, never mind talking about it with others. 

Let’s talk about how even in 2017, there is still SO MUCH stigma surrounding mental illness. That there are still intense feelings of shame and guilt for the sufferer; not to mention the judgement we get from some people when they know or find out. 

Let’s talk about how when you’re having an anxiety attack or spiralling downwards from depression that the feelings of loneliness and shame can be so possessing, almost insufferable; so in actuality: you want to ‘forget’ talking about them because you don’t even want to be ‘living’ them. 

Let’s talk about the fact that although you can be surrounded with loving family and friends (for the most part) — when you are mid attack or deep in depression, you are also feeling embarrassed, worthless, alone and genuinely unable to reach out.

For those who have never been ‘here’, it’s unimaginable; unthinkable. For example, they may even think “Oh, just get over it.”  “Can’t you see how fortunate you are, your life is?”  

The truth is, deep down we are already thinking this!  I myself often feel a considerable amount of guilt for my thoughts and feelings of both depression and anxiety.  I catch myself thinking or even speaking aloud to myself – “Why can’t I be happy, I AM lucky!”  “Why can’t I just chill out?”  “I’m focussing on the worst case scenario, the odds are it WON’T even happen.”  

I cannot speak for others, but I can assure you that I would love to “get over it.” Whatever “it” is at that present moment in time (a downward spiral, an anxiety attack). However, I am also quite aware that much as I have tried, it doesn’t work that way.  Please believe me when I tell you that living in my head is not a place I enjoy being. It’s a place where I ‘sit’ on edge, in hyper-sensitive mode 24/7, where I am anxious about EVERYTHING, and likewise (self) loathing. It’s most definitely not a loving place; it’s a place of constant (self) judgement and (self) criticism. It’s a place where everything I say and do is over analyzed. Conversations I have (or don’t) and then catastrophic thinking like “Oh man, did I really say that?”  “Do they hate me, did I talk too much?” ...and much, much more.  It is a lonely place, indeed.   

When things are spiralling,  I don’t want to talk to anyone, see anyone, do anything, or go anywhere – I want a cloak of invisibility so I can still walk my daughter to school, get errands done, etc. but without having to really ‘be’ wherever I am. And all of this is for no other reason than I begin to turn inward, and shut down. 

So #letstalk, let’s share our struggles and our victories. Perhaps the only thing that gets me through most of my days (aside from my wonderful husband and children) is knowing that I’m not alone in this fight, that by talking we have won this battle, but only by ending the stigma, will we win the war! 

**You can read more about Venessa here: https://oneramblingmamablog.com/

 

An excerpt from If I Really Wanted to Die: A little book of FAQ's About Surviving Chronic Suicidality - by Josey Quinn

April 27, 2016

My suicidal ideation stems from bipolar disorder, but many other conditions, including anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), borderline personality disorder (BPD), anorexia nervosa, and bulimia nervosa, also can cause a person to have ongoing self-destructive thoughts. According to research cited by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), studies show that "the overwhelming majority of people who die by suicide--90% or more--had a mental disorder at the time of their deaths. Often, however, these disorders had not been recognized, diagnosed, or adequately treated."

Both internal and external stigma can stand in the way of people with a mental illness asking for help, receiving the care they need, and sticking with a treatment plan.

It is an established fact that suicidal thoughts and actions are often symptoms of mental illness. But stigma tells us that when we display suicidal behavior--especially in public--we are seeking attention or misbehaving. If we are in crisis, it is because we are too weak to control ourselves. If we have lost control, it is because we want to create drama. Stigma makes sure we know exactly how we have failed, no matter how hard we tried to help ourselves.

When I have bipolar disorder symptoms, something in my brain insists that suicide is inevitable, that I must do it to solve my problems, and help my family and friends. It tells me I have nothing to live for, no matter how fortunate I might seem to others.

What does it feel like to have my brain tell me such dangerous lies? From my bipolar perspective, suicide and self-harm are closely related to intrusive thoughts, anxiety, and compulsive behavior. When I'm in a mixed state of hypomania and depression, especially, the self-destructive thoughts are loud and clear, and there is no escaping them.

I find these thoughts terrifying and comforting at the same time. Whatever is going on in my life---negative or positive--intensifies, and I obsess about suicide plans and cutting or burning myself in response to these overwhelming emotions.

How do I know that suicidal ideation and self-harm are not just normal for me? How can I be so sure that these are symptoms of an illness rather than personal failings? For years, I didn't know.

From the age of eleven, I criticized myself as broken, needy, and melodramatic. Fear had me sweating under the covers every night, refusing to pull the blanket down even far enough to breathe. I was frightened of the solid nothingness that represented death to me, but I couldn't stop thinking about it until I finally passed out each night.

When did I realize that it was possible to overcome the fears and compulsions? When did I realize that suicidal feelings were not me; that they were happening to me? The respite between major mood episodes helped me see that it was my "normal," or my baseline. Unfortunately, I blamed myself for losing touch with this sense of normal, making each subsequent mood shift a little more difficult. This is internal stigma.

Most of the time, when I am in a mood episode and feel like I want to die, I understand that it is a temporary desire. It may come back again next week, next month, or next year, but it does subside. Having these thoughts are beyond my control, and they do not represent my true wishes. They are the twisted ideas of my illness. If someone treats me harshly because I've injured myself, she has mixed me up with my bipolar disorder. If someone tells me that if I want to die so badly, I should make sure it works next time, he is condemning me for having life-threatening symptoms of an illness. This is external or societal stigma.

I only recently began sharing my experience with bipolar disorder. For the most part, it has been empowering. The scary part, though, is revealing my long history with suicidal ideation and self-harm, including two suicide attempts. I didn't plan to talk about this aspect of my bipolar disorder until much later in this advocacy journey. I realized, though, that people struggling with chronic suicidal thoughts can't wait for me--for us--to be more comfortable with the topic. We can't continue to let internal and external stigma keep us quiet.

Yes, talking about suicide can be awkward at best. The closest most people come to discussing suicide is making cracks about how they're so stressed, they will kill themselves. I know they mean it in a lighthearted way, but I can't laugh it off. I cling to my sense of humor, even when I'm struggling the most, but this is one topic that simply is not funny on any level.

To reduce stigma, we must be clear in our conversations that suicide is never a joke or a weakness or a failing. It is a devastating premature death that causes profound pain to the family, and friends left behind. Suicide survivors are filled with unanswerable questions and a unique kind of grief, one that has strong undercurrents of guilt and anger. They are at greater risk for dying by suicide, too.

To reduce stigma, we must support suicide attempt survivors. The fact that they are alive is a reason to celebrate, not an excuse to treat them with harsh impatience. They've emerged from one of their darkest times. Let's help them embrace a life that once seemed unlivable.

**You can read more about Josey at http://kindsoulstudio.com/   or   @kindsoulstudio