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Recovery I

I have felt somewhat better since a few days, despite my experience on Sunday. However, sometimes a lot of emotions come up. I've started reading Pete Walker's book, Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving: A Guide and Map for Recovering from Childhood Trauma, and there are a lot of times when I have to put the book down because it's too much to cope with. These are the moments when I recognise myself in what Pete Walker writes.

The day before yesterday I read a part about relationships, and it was hard. Pete Walker describes social anxiety, which makes it difficult to relate to others without anxiety and stress, especially in informal situations. I have learned to function quite well in certain settings - trainings and workshops, assemblies - and with much more anxiety in other settings - talks, presentations, etc. I have learned to appear strong, confident, although internally I often don't feel that way.

Informal meetings are worse, especially in groups. The groups I know are easier, although I always prefer to relate only to one other person. But other informal social environments - receptions, parties, ... - with many unknown people cost me a lot, and I usually look for the people I know.

The other aspect that Pete Walker describes has to do with the depth of relationships. I think that until very recently - until my first breakdown four years ago - I haven't been able to really trust, open up, show myself with all my vulnerability. Even though I had long-lasting friendships and a few sexual relationships, I never really got around to trusting completely and opening up, talking about my childhood and adolescence, showing myself to be vulnerable. Nor was I in touch many times with what I was feeling.

When I read this in the book, I felt again the pain and anxiety of many years, of many situations. The pain and anxiety of a large part of my life. I cried, a little, but I felt a little blocked because of not wanting to bother my flatmates. I started to breath deeply, and managed to relax, but I put the book down. This morning I went to the river and sat by the river and thought about the emotions I had when I read this part of the book. Again I felt the pain and anxiety of my life. I also felt sad that I had not lived for so many years of my life that I can now live: deeper, safer, more intimate relationships. Showing me with my strengths, but also my vulnerability. Pete Walker writes about his own experience, and that he cried over the loss of his dog and was unable to confront his flatmates and show himself in this state. He also talks about how comforting crying can be, which reminds me of my experience four years ago, when for the first time since my childhood - probably four decades - I was able to cry, and that I needed to cry a lot. Today, by the river, I didn't cry. I was able to hold the emotion, I was able to hold the memories that came to me. I took a deep breath to relax, and to hold the emotion.

Back home I'm still in quite moved. I have not been able to participate in a webinar on climate justice scheduled for now. Instead, I feel the need to vent, to write. I am still left with the emotions of this morning, the anxiety and insecurity I felt for most of my life in many social situations (not that I don't feel them anymore - I am more aware of my emotions and where they come from).

The road to recovery is long, and sometimes painful. There is still a lot of pain, there is still a lot to unlearn and relearn.

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Article | by Dr. Radut