Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Trigger warning:

  • Sexual abuse
  • Child abuse
  • Sexual violence
  • Swearing

In this part I publish texts about my own process of dealing with my complex trauma or complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and other related topics. These are texts that I wrote at the time, and writing these texts was almost always a therapeutic process as well.

It all started in the summer of 2016, when my childhood trauma made it impossible for me to continue "functioning", and the question of whether or not I was sexually abused in my childhood was dominant, an obsession. With this began my search, for the child that was me, to reconnect with the pain and fear of my childhood. It was the beginning of a rather painful process of dealing with complex PTSD.

The confinement during the health crisis caused by COVID-19 in the spring of 2020 caused a prolonged flashback, and I especially flashed back to my adolescence, to the feeling of impotence, of not being able to escape from a painful situation. But I also flashed back to other aspects of my early childhood: texts like Falling? or The House of My Fears are results of this process. Thankfully, this prompted me to get more to the ground of my complex trauma, and allowed me to make huge steps towards recovery.

I now understand my trauma as a complex trauma, and putting a name to it helps me to understand what is actually going on. I am now on a long journey of recovery.

The process is not over, and I keep adding new texts when I feel like it.

Emotional confusion? Sexual harassment?

Yesterday at midday I took a walk along the Alameda. I went out with my headphones on, listening to music. When I got to the Alameda, a man with a bicycle spoke to me, and he accompanied me for a while until I told him I wanted to be alone. I continued my walk, and encountered the same man again and he asked me to talk. I thought 'why not?', and we sat down on a bench in the Alameda. We talked a bit, and he told me that he is a physiotherapist and lives in a village 10km from Seville. I told him I live in Seville, and we talked some more.

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The horror of the face masks

Every time, when I see news about making the use of face masks mandatory in more and more spaces, I panic, and I get anxious. I instinctively feel that wearing a mask whenever I want to go out would be a trigger for my own traumatic reactions. But I didn't understand why.

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Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

It always helps me to put a name on things, what I'm going through, and complex post-traumatic stress disorder is the name that fits best, although I don't recognise myself in everything either.

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Flashbacks

In the last few weeks I've been experiencing two kinds of flashbacks. Some flashbacks I have when I think about certain things from my adolescence, like two nights ago. And another type of flashback, more painful, that comes to me without me being able to identify a trigger, and that is not linked to memories - purely emotional flashbacks, as I experienced last Saturday. To some extent I'm living in an emotional flashback since the beginning of the confinement.

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The love that could not be

Another bad night, after a brief respite the night before. This time I wasn't able to find sleep until at least 5:00 in the morning. It was a struggle not to fall completely, and in the end I had to cry, cry for a love, my first love, that could not be.

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A break

Tonight for the first time in weeks I slept well, and I didn't wake up at 4:00 in the morning or even earlier. I am enjoying a day with little anxiety and little tension in my body - at least so far.

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Investigating my complex trauma

Thanks to Meg-John Barker, I discovered Pete Walker's texts on complex trauma. What I suffered Saturday night through Sunday was clearly an emotional flashback, and in fact, what I did instinctively was not so bad, compared to Pete Walker's 13 steps for managing flashbacks.

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Fear. Pain.

Yesterday, after writing about the "new normal" and my complex trauma, I was left all day with chest pain and fear in my stomach, and a very tense back. When I finished the Spanish translation, I listened to music and then I prepared my lunch. Friends of my flatmates arrived, and I joined them for a while on our roof terrace. I was there, but I wasn't really there. My mind was elsewhere, and it was hard to follow the conversation, not to speak of participating or talking.

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The “new normal” and complex trauma

Caring for myself
is not
self-indulgance,
it is
self-preservation,
and that is an act of

political warfare
Audre Lorde

 

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