I'm Just A Birb with CPTSD
I took a trip back to Olmalis this morning and I can feel the magic at my finger tips. It's one of the things that many authors don't really talk about - that feeling you get when you need to write. There's a magnetic pull back to your world, the voices of your characters whispering "Write me." in your head. Some days, the want and will is in the right place and you can't help but obey the people sharing your brain space. Others, not so much. You turn defiant even if you don't want to, and the magic doesn't seem to cross over into your imagination. I've been dealing with this for a while now. It's the longest stretch I've ever gone without writing.
The last two years have been a whirlwind, and not just because of COVID. I went from believing everything was okay in my life to realizing there were some pretty deep flaws in a lot of my relationships. It took a traumatic experience with my mother, a lot of tears, and three different therapists to get me on the path to healing myself. But that meant I lost my ability to write for a little while.
A few months ago, I was on the phone with my therapist, crying up a storm (per usual these days) because I couldn't figure out why I was having such crazy emotional outbursts and panic attacks. I felt like there was something wrong with me, something off with me in my brain, and as someone who works in a hospital with a mental health unit, I was absolutely afraid this meant I needed to be admitted. My therapist, who is a wonderful human being, gave me a book to read and reassured me that I was perfectly okay, that this was normal, and that I needed to look into something called "complex trauma". Armed with my assignments, I dove into "Reinventing Your Life" by Jeffrey Young and began my healing for real this time.
I wasn't sure that writing about this on my author blog was the best thing to do, but I'm all about transparency and I just let the words flow. This is why book 2 is on pause. This is why everything has stopped for the time being. It's cathartic to write and put my words out there for others to read, and even though my best friend has been my sounding board for quite some time, it's probably best that I start looking for another outlet instead of sending them long, drawn out emails like I do on occasion.
So Complex Trauma (or CPTSD) - what is it?
If you do a google search, you'll see complex trauma (CPTSD) is associated with abuse and neglect in childhood. It's also associated with poverty and lower income levels, generational trauma, and toxic relationships. It differs from PTSD in that it is a result of a continuous string of events, not a single traumatic episode.
It's really hard for me to say what the cause of it was for me, but being the child of an alcoholic, living in one of the poorest communities in the rural Midwest, and having parents coping with their own stuff, it makes sense that I would struggle with this. It presents in different ways in every person, but it centers around fear and your 4F responses - fight, flight, freeze, and fawn. Some of the things I've noticed about myself that show my CPTSD include emotional dysregulation, chronic procrastination, hypervigilance, emotional flashbacks, difficulty trusting others, persistent negative beliefs about myself, feelings of hopelessness or emptiness, feelings of guilt and shame, and constant feelings of fear. I'm afraid of keeping people close while yearning for intimacy of all kinds. I find it very hard to connect with other people, but I'm very empathetic and highly sensitive to others. I give way more of myself than I should in many relationships. I ignore my own needs to make others happy. While I've been able to work on all of these things, the only one I have yet to really figure out how to address is the intense feeling of being defective, of feeling like there is something about me that makes me unlovable and not worth being loved, that I am broken.
Writing was a symptom.
One of the other big things that I struggle with is dissociation. I didn't quite understand what that meant when I first started reading about CPTSD and it was one of the reasons why I was in denial for a long time after my therapist started to talk to me about this. Everything points toward a complex trauma diagnosis - the lack of sleep, the chronic fatigue, the insanely busy schedule, the triggers and my emotional responses - but because I wasn't zoned out during conversations all the time or staring blankly at the wall, I didn't believe this was my life. Then I realized what writing was for me: a dissociation, an escape.
I wrote daily for hours and hours. It wasn't unusual for me to write 10,000 words in a day. I would think about my stories and characters constantly, absorb myself in these worlds as if they were the only thing that mattered. I was present when I needed to be, but after work was done and my responsibilities at home were complete, I hid away and lost myself in magic. It started to get problematic when I was writing my book, The Serpent Lord. I was obsessive with the story, fell in love with how emotional and intense it made me feel. It was the romance I wanted. It was the life I craved. It made the one I was living seem dull and depressing because it wasn't the one I wanted.
I still enjoy writing. It is my favorite thing in the entire world. It makes me feel free and safe to express myself. My world is lonely without it. It gave me the ability to connect with someone, even though they were imaginary. It was always a comfort, something I knew I would always have and would never lose. No one could judge me in my made up world. No one could hurt me either.
As I've started working on myself, I have been stopping the dissociations. I haven't quite figured out how to let myself dip back down into the comfort of my imagination without staying stuck there. I guess there's this fear behind it because I've worked so hard to keep myself out of it and I don't want to go back to that toxic place I used to be. I've been told that once the things in my life settle, I'll find my way back to my stories. I really hope I find my path sooner than later.
So what this blog going to be about?
Consider this my personal dumping ground. I'll talk about my mental health journey and recovery, authoring, writing projects, and #momlife. I also love to travel and do so as often as possible so I'll share some of my tales along the way. Thanks for reading and for sticking with me through this adventure in bookish things. If you have any questions or comments about the material I post or the stories I write, feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in learning more about CPTSD and developmental trauma?
Reinventing Your Life by Jeffrey Young
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00G3L1C2K/
Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving: A GUIDE AND MAP FOR RECOVERING FROM CHILDHOOD TRAUMA by Pete Walker https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HJBMDXK/
Want to support Wren? Find her book, The Serpent Lord, here: