Trying to start the road to this whole "recovery" thing.

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Moon

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Trying to start the road to this whole "recovery" thing.
« on: October 30, 2019, 12:32:14 AM »
(Sorry for the length, I am utterly incapable of summarizing my own thoughts.)

Hi there. I’m a nearly 24-year-old transgender and nonbinary individual ("he" or "they" pronouns are cool with me :thumbup:), and have been greatly struggling with the consequences of developmental trauma throughout my life.

I’ve been receiving mental health treatment for 9 years now, since I was 14. In that time, I’ve accumulated a number of psychiatric diagnoses, namely bipolar II disorder, ADHD, and social and general anxiety (at one point, also, avoidant personality disorder).

Earlier this year, for the very first time, I had a mental health professional acknowledge my trauma in the form of a diagnosis after an extensive psychological assessment — well, diagnosis-ish. She recorded a rule-out for PTSD. Her explanation of this to me was not that she believes I may currently meet the criteria for PTSD itself, but instead that she believes repeated and chronic experiences of trauma in childhood and adolescence have clearly impacted my emotional, cognitive, and social development, and are still causing me immense struggles in adulthood.

This is not news to me. I was reading a lot about C-PTSD a few years ago when I first heard of it, and have had a few long stretches of ruminating over it, and trauma, in the time since. I’ve always given very brief outlines of my trauma to mental health professionals, and have always received in return those validating responses of, “That sounds horrible, I’m sorry you went through that,” but I’ve never gotten into any of it deeply enough that it’s been properly addressed… until now.

So, having this psychologist point out to me that, hey, actually, a lot of what I’m struggling with right now is likely in direct relation to childhood trauma… it’s made me take my own trauma just a little more seriously. And it’s also brought the ruminating back, stronger. I’ve now been thinking very often, quite obsessively, about my various traumas since receiving the results of this assessment around 4 months ago.

In a recent therapy intake interview, I had it suggested to me that it sounds like this psychologist was describing “developmental trauma disorder”, which is not currently in the DSM, though there has been much fighting to establish it as a recognized diagnosis. I’ve now been reading specifically about developmental trauma, the effects it has on a child’s brain, and relating it back to my adult self and what I’m experiencing now. This concept of “developmental trauma disorder” feels more stunningly accurate than trying to read more broadly about C-PTSD.

It’s just that the bulk of my trauma has been social and emotional. There has been some sexual abuse, and a single instance of physical abuse, but most of what I’m really suffering with right now seems to be coming from other sources: A. the severe emotional abuse I experienced from a terrifying and monstrous adult authority figure in my life during the ages of 9 and 10 (in such a situation where I felt completely helpless, isolated, and unable to escape during those years), and B. the unstable family environment I grew up in (parents fighting a lot; excessive drug and alcohol use causing emotional and physical unavailability; inconsistent and unpredictable emotions from my mom with volatile anger often taken out on me in the form of vicious criticism, insults, and unreasonable punishments; emotional distance, invalidation, and entire lack of interest in my feelings and experiences from my dad — etc., etc.).

A lot of C-PTSD resources I’ve read from have tended to heavily reference overtly violent sources of trauma, and that’s always made it more difficult to feel like anything I went through was… well, “bad enough”, even experiencing the sexual and physical abuse that I have. But now having shifted my research towards this concept of “developmental trauma disorder”, I’m finding a lot more that acknowledges how sources of significant childhood trauma can and do originate from purely social experiences like emotional abuse and neglect.

Even doing the research that I am and finding so much to relate to, it’s all still so hard for me to process. My memories don’t help — aside from particular instances I can remember of feeling fear and despair and confusion and shame in direct response to what the adults in my life were doing and saying to me, there’s a lot of blank space in my memory, and then otherwise so much that just seems “normal”. It makes it hard to feel like I have any claim to a “traumatic childhood”. Logically, though, I think it’s just that it’s impossible, as a child, to truly measure what’s happening to you and what’s happening in your own head as a result — especially when you haven’t learned how to properly deal with, let alone identify, your own emotions.

I guess what matters the most, in any case, is how I’m being impacted now as a result of childhood trauma. As an adult, I…

  • Am often overcome with way too strong emotions (especially in response to emotional triggers like people close to me — i.e. romantic partners — getting angry) and have absolutely no idea how to regulate or cope with those emotions.
  • Have extensive, permanent hypertrophic scarring from years of moderate to severe self-injury being used as the only way I've ever known how to "regulate" my emotions.
  • Become completely overwhelmed with intense feelings of shame and self-hatred when it feels like I’ve done something wrong, and very often end up in a downward spiral of self-loathing and beating myself up which I feel powerless to stop.
  • Have felt totally emotionally isolated from anyone and everyone for my entire life, severely struggle to make and maintain meaningful friendships, severely struggle to emotionally connect with other people, (have for as long as I can remember considered myself essentially “inhuman”), always feel absolutely misunderstood by others, and experience severe social anxiety and constant fear of judgement, ridicule, rejection, and failure, to the point of avoiding much of my own life.
  • Have always struggled with the 100% firm belief that I am utterly helpless and fundamentally incapable of functioning as an independent human. I’ve struggled for years with the intense fear and feelings of worthlessness I’ve experienced around, for instance, getting a job. I’ve only gotten my very first job within the last 6 months of my life, and thus for the first time ever, have started to consider that maybe I’m not as totally helpless and dysfunctional as I’ve always thought I was. Maybe.

So, now, the problem is that I've been struggling to find a therapist who feels like they can successfully work on all of this with me from a hands-on, trauma-informed standpoint. It's been a long time since I've found a therapist who I feel is actually helping me. I can't afford any of the local private therapists or therapy organizations that I've researched and am actually interested in, so it's been really frustrating only being able to afford therapists who are still in training and kind of just ask questions but don't actively work with me or give me any real coping strategies. I'm feeling really grim about mental health treatment right now, and really angry that any decent treatment seems to only be reserved for people who are financially well-off.

I'm still trying, though. And I guess part of that might be me doing some venting here.

If you've made it this far (or even at least just skimmed through everything to this point), I commend you, and thank you for lending an ear.
« Last Edit: October 31, 2019, 11:57:36 PM by Moon »

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woodsgnome

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Re: Trying to start the road to this whole "recovery" thing.
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2019, 03:46:06 AM »
Much of what you describe here will resonate to differing degrees with many who post and read here. I know it did with me.

What was obvious though is that you seem to be starting to see some breaks with aspects of the rough ride you've been on to this point. Much as others can help, that instinct from inside always seems to provide an extra boost. Even if it seems trivial, it's something you should be proud to have found at least that tiny sliver of hope.

Being aware of that inner strength is hard to come by; but also well worth it when it happens. It's also very hard to not give in, but it appears that's something you seem to realize you don't have to accept anymore.

It's also pretty common, it seems, that many of us shrink back from realizing how truly awful our traumatic experiences really were, and somehow we try to convince ourselves that somehow they probably weren't as bad as someone else had it. This comparison trap only feeds our doubts and builds the confusion. It's very hard to have enough resilience to unlearn these false beliefs. Even knowing it was bad, one just doesn't want to think it was, even with so much evidence to the contrary. It sounds like you're turning the corner on this, which is a good sign. Understanding this tendency to denigrate the seriousness of what happened can be an important first step away from the messy lives this all creates. As to the type of abuse, they all involve some form of emotional excess.

This is where some abusers actually thrive, as even they think they're better for not appearing violent; except inside they're first-rate narcissists and enjoy that perch as a base for dealing out woe and pain to others; even without bruises (the better to not be suspected).

I hope you can keep on the track of finding good trauma-aware therapists. And congrats on that job -- that too I hope works to your benefit as you seek the better life you deserve.

And, as you said so well, you're recognizing that ""for the first time ever, have started to consider that maybe Iím not as totally helpless and dysfunctional as Iíve always thought I was. Maybe." Keep on building that inner strength as best you can.  :hug:


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Three Roses

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Re: Trying to start the road to this whole "recovery" thing.
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2019, 02:54:47 PM »
Hello! Welcome to the forum.

I was deep in denial of the pain and trauma of my childhood for most of my life. I bought into the minimization - "surely, it can't be as bad as you say" or "that never happened" - and shoved my pain and terror deeper inside. I thought that was the way to cope.

In 2012 at the age of 56 I was diagnosed with ptsd. I'd seen counselors and therapists for over 30 years at that point but none of them had ever given me this diagnosis. I suppose a non-militarily female, a wife and mother, didn't fit their narrow views of who can be damaged by trauma! So I'm thankful to that therapist (thank you, Ms G) for seeing the truth.

Still, even though it answered so many questions I'd always had about my own behavior, the diagnosis threw me off balance, and I went searching for answers and eventually found this forum. Here I learned that I was not alone! There was a whole community of others who were like me in their thoughts, feelings, reactions, backgrounds, etc. Before this forum I felt like an alien, a non-human.

There is so much information here, both in book form and contained in the minds of the forum members, that it can be overwhelming. We are truly fortunate to live in a time when cptsd is being more and more widely recognized and accepted. Cptsd is already in the ICD11 and hopefully will be in the DSM soon. The forum's founder, Kizzie, is well informed in research and information about cptsd on the global level, and she has compiled for us here many forms that are printable to take with us to appointments with health care professionals. There's a list of books that are very helpful to those of us who want to educate ourselves, two of which I think are truly indispensable in our quest for understanding cptsd - "The Body Keeps The Score" and "CPTSD: From Surviving To Thriving". These two books have been inexpressibly important in my own evolving view of myself and the effects of trauma and I recommended both of them to my last therapist. For now, I'm not in therapy, deciding instead to work from a self-help standpoint while I wait for the therapeutic community to catch up.

If you do decide to stick with the "therapists who are still in training", I strongly urge you to consider Pete Walker's book "From Surviving To Thriving" as a resource by which you can guage your therapist's knowledge and also help yourself in the meantime.

Well, that's probably the wordiest welcome I've ever written, so I'll close by saying that I hope to hear more from you.
 :heythere:

Book list
https://www.outofthestorm.website/books-1/

Downloads & printable information
https://www.outofthestorm.website/downloads

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Bach

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Re: Trying to start the road to this whole "recovery" thing.
« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2019, 03:53:55 PM »
Hi, Moon  :heythere:  Welcome to the forum.  I could not read your post as thoroughly as I would have liked to because I'm having a highly trigger-sensitive day, but today especially I can relate to your pain and frustration over having difficulty finding help both because of the high cost of treatment and the confusion caused by the fact that all of the diagnoses have elements in common with your experience but none of them fully explain it and nothing adds up.  It's a hard road for sure.  This is a good place with a lot of knowledge and compassion.  I hope you find helpful things here. 
 

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notalone

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Re: Trying to start the road to this whole "recovery" thing.
« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2019, 09:48:56 PM »
Hi Moon. Just wanted to let you know that I read your post and to welcome you.  :heythere:

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Jazzy

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Re: Trying to start the road to this whole "recovery" thing.
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2019, 11:00:22 PM »
Hello Moon, and welcome!

Its great you are working on recovery. It sounds like you've made an excellent start. It is a tough road, but I would say it is certainly worth it to go through a healing journey.

I thought it was particularly interesting that you said things seemed normal. I feel that way a lot too, until I have another example to contrast it with. I think we just feel like things are normal, because that's the reality that we have.... maybe that doesn't make too much sense. We all have our own experiences, and only our own, so our minds tell us that our experience is normal, as that is all it really knows (from an experiential point of view). When we can compare that experience against others, it gives us a broader perspective, to see how things really compare.

Anyway, all the best to you. Take care! :)

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Moon

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Re: Trying to start the road to this whole "recovery" thing.
« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2019, 12:07:18 AM »
Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts! I wasn't expecting so many to take an interest in my endless ramblings, haha.  :blahblahblah: It's really nice to hear people relate, though, and I'm really grateful for the warm welcomes <3

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Snowdrop

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Re: Trying to start the road to this whole "recovery" thing.
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2019, 08:24:26 AM »
Hi Moon, pleased to meet you. :wave: