How do we begin to accept our lives flashbacks and all After Narcissistic Abuse. Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), as a Lived Experience.

It can be extremely difficult when our waking hours along with our resting hours are hijacked by flashbacks unnerving memories nightmares and seemingly endless thoughts of circulating abuse, it can feel like a slow death and like we have no control. The affects of trauma and the loss of control over our inner world can often feel like we are in a permanent state of disconnect from the exterior world around us and from ourselves.

For myself it’s felt much like being in a permanent dissociative state if you will, we are so disconnected from our bodies after the event or events it can be much like watching ourselves from the outside. We no longer feel like ourselves or who we used to be, yet we try desperately to cling to what we have known, and to what has made us feel safe in the past. While we try everything in our power to cling to the past for soothing and comfort the traumatised self searches for relief desperate to numb out or numb down the fear, the shame, the pain and the horror that keeps resurfacing over and over in our mind in a subconscious memory loop.

When we are stuck in this memory loop we can feel completely helpless as everything begins to happen around us with seemingly no means or way to control our thoughts or our emotions. In the beginning we are at the mercy of our thoughts, and our emotional states that we are faced with and coming at us throughout our day. This loss of control begins to wear us down often into a state of panic with an overwhelming amount of things coming at us from all directions inside and out.

This state can feel extremely uncomfortable and for me this was initially my normal while I began to blindly navigate my way through healing, combating and managing Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) symptoms while unraveling it’s long lasting affects.

For this piece I will now be referring to CPSTD as ‘Complex Trauma’ as this is what resonates with me.

In the initial stages of healing I didn’t have control over any of it, I was living completely at the mercy of my thoughts and my emotions. I was walking around in a constant state of fear and dread. I was also grieving the loss of my family, my friends, my support network, my partner, while also living a great distance from my son. I was completely devastated, and I wanted anything but this to be my new normal.

How was I going to live with this ‘disorder of the mind’? How was I going to function in the world? How was I going to support myself and hold down a full time job and how long was I going to have to struggle with these nightmares, cold sweats, racing heart and flashbacks?

My emotional state was fragile and tumultuous, I was scared, scared of what the future held and so scared of being judged by others. What if someone noticed there was something wrong with me? What if I cannot control myself? What if I burst into tears in front of everyone? What will people think? Would this affect the way people interact with me? Will people notice I am suffering with complex trauma? I was terrified, desperate for connection and desperate to be understood within the chaos of my mind.

I was so sad, yet I was completely angry, so angry I had to deal with this, angry at myself angry at my ex for his abuse. I was angry at my body and my brain for the reactions they were having post abuse. I was angry no one was here to help me, I was angry at a world that had little understanding or compassion for people who are experiencing the side effects of complex trauma.

When being sad and angry didn’t work, I broke down, I broke down but in breaking down I had a break through. I made a choice I would do whatever it took to overcome these symptoms I was experiencing on a daily basis and I made a commitment to myself and to my healing. A light of hope was cast that day and from there self care and self compassion became my mantras. A new perspective was born and I was open to learning new ways of being and of living.

I began to read articles and books on whatever information I could find on PTSD and complex trauma, I searched and watched YouTube videos on trauma, searching for answers on how I could be healed from this debilitating state of being. What I found was not complete healing, but ways in which to minimise the effects of complex trauma.

Everything about PTSD and Complex Trauma changes your life and because it changes your life, it is my belief we must learn to embrace the changes it brings. Some call this a form of radical acceptance. All I know is once I began to accepted what I was experiencing as my normal, slowly my normal began to become more manageable and more liveable. The less fixated I was on getting rid of my symptoms the easier life became. As I began to accept my thoughts my emotions my reactions, nightmares flashbacks and all, it was okay. It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t life as I had known before but it was lighter, and it gave me room to breathe.

We may not have control over when we have flashbacks, but if we can take a step back acknowledge our emotions, flashbacks or state of overwhelm while they are happening, or on waking from a nightmare it gives us some time and permission for the unravelling to begin. We are ultimately then giving ourselves permission heal. We cannot expect our minds and bodies to be the same after trauma, but we can make it okay to unpack and process the inevitable impacts it will have on us.

When we fight against what ‘is’ it will only ever get louder stronger more disturbing and in our face. When we ‘remember to breathe’ through every panic attack, every trigger, every dissociation. When we ‘become more aware’ and conscious of these episodes and events we slowly begin to ‘build our resilience’ to them. Acceptance of what is occurring even though it is out of our control is key. The more we practice bring ourselves back into our bodies, and reassure ourselves we are safe the less severe our PTSD and complex trauma symptoms and reactions become. It takes practice, it takes time and it takes commitment and perseverance, but we are worth every effort.

Since the repercussions from the abuse became real, I have had no choice, but to take on a whole new way of being and living. I still have flashbacks most days, sometimes they might be visual, sometimes emotional, but the way in which they affect the rest of my day and the way in which I respond to them has shifted and now feel more manageable than ever before.

Counselling and trauma work with a professional psychologist or therapist were my first go to’s and is always recommend, however to complement this work I would highly recommend using some additional healing modalities to offer additional support outside of counselling and also to help speed up the process of getting our body out of the stress or trauma response. I have gained so much headway in my healing just from the combination of modalities.

Complementary healing modalities have always resonated with me and here are a few I continue to use to assist me on my healing journey.

  • Chiropractic Care – Helps to restore the nervous system, while placing the body back into a state of rest and digest, the opposite of fight, flight or freeze.
  • Reiki – Works to shift stuck or trapped energy in the body, which is ultimately what trauma is.
  • Kinesiology – Helps with processing difficult emotions and to restore equilibrium in the body. This is important especially after shock from a traumatic experience. Kinesiology can also help in rewiring the brains blueprint, which is important for us to do after years of abuse and trauma.

What has also been especially helpful with my self healing work is to have a daily routine. Adding simplicity and predicability to my life especially after coming away from narcissistic abuse has been a godsend. Being in contact or living with a narcissist or psychopath can be highly unpredictable and unsettling. Our bodies have been trained to be in a constant state of fight flight freeze or trauma response. It is up to us to take our lives back and to take control over what we can and to accept what we cannot. I hope by practicing or bringing any of these things into your life they will slowly offer you some relief.

Remember it takes time to build new habits, but once they become part of your everyday you can then start to add and integrate more and more new things into your life that may have major impacts on improving your everyday experience and existence.

Much love to all 💛

All Words Written by Evelyn Wayde © 2020