Q I saw something on Facebook last week that has got me wondering if I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I haven’t had an accident or been attacked, but I do have the symptoms of always being on edge and expecting something bad to happen; having nightmares, and having flashbacks to the years of my mum and dad either beating or belittling me.
I know this stuff happened over 20 years ago but I’ve been living in a daze for as long as I can remember. It’s as if I’m in some sort of emotional limbo – until I get angry at the slightest thing and lash out.
I feel cut off and detached from people and have few real friends and no partner or kids. I always feel like I want to run away – but I don’t know what from, or where I want to run to! Might all this be due to PTSD and if so what can I do about it?
A There are different types of trauma – both physical and emotional – and our brains are affected and shaped by them, which in turn affects our thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
There is a form of trauma that comes from having experienced an abusive childhood, and having had toxic parents (who poisoned your childhood due to their lack of proper care for you and your emerging needs). This is a type of ‘prolonged duration’ stress disorder.
As a child we can’t defend ourselves or escape. The fight-flight-freeze response causes us to become flooded with the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol. We might then ‘freeze or flop’ as we give in to what we can’t stop happening to us.
When this happens regularly it sets us up to become hyper-aroused and less able to think straight or calm and soothe ourselves.
Those stress hormones can cause damage to our body, mind and behaviours!
You’ve mentioned having had an abusive childhood and so it seems safe to assume that you have been emotionally and physically traumatised by what you had to endure.
The extent to which this affected you will also have been influenced by who else you had in your life back then that you could talk to and have your feelings understood and validated. To be able to tell our story and be believed and supported is a vital stage of healing and recovery.
Safety is now the key that unlocks the prison door of PTSD – or Childhood Trauma Stress Disorder (it’s also know by other names).
You will need to soothe your troubled mind and rescue your inner child who has had to hide away from danger. You can become your own loving parent now and heal your past.
To enable this to happen your brain will need to be re-shaped. Fortunately it’s been designed to allow for this to happen. There is a process called ‘neuro-plasticity’ in the brain which enables it to be changed based upon the repetition of new input (in the form of new thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and safer relationships).
The first step is Self-awareness – of knowing what the underlying cause of the problem is and how and why it’s been affecting you as it has.
Then comes Education and Learning new skills that will enable you to get the Emotional balance, clarity and Control back into your life – allowing you to Transform into the person you’re able to become… free from the after effects of past trauma(s).
(These are also the steps of my S.E.L.E.C.T. Your Life © approach to healing and recovery)
It’s never too late to change, and to heal our emotional wounds, re-parent our inner child and make peace with the past.
You have taken the first steps already…and now the choice is yours whether to continue ahead. You now have the power that you lacked as a child, and you can repair your own wounded soul… I call it ‘Care & Repair From The Inside Out’ ©
It may well be that your previous adult relationships have each been impacted by your early trauma and the consequent behaviours this has set up in you.
There are some inexpensive quick-fix methods around to help with several types of trauma (e.g. chronic illness and terminal diagnosis, combat veterans, transport accident, fire burns etc.)
In my opinion relationally based traumas need the presence of an ongoing healing relationship – whether personal or professional. This really helps us from a neuro-scientific point of view (the way the brain functions and changes from being in relationships), as well as the good feelings we get from the genuine emotional and empathic connection. Our story heals and changes in the presence of caring people.
(For more information about how relationships are affected by a troubled childhood you can get some free information from my website link below).If your parents are still affecting your life there’s also some help for this available from my website.)
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)
www.maxineharley.com – where you’ll find a page of FREE RESOURCES to help you on your road to recovery and healing from childhood trauma.