Out of My Mind in Costa Rica-Living with CPTSD

C-PTSD and 2020 - Endings and New Beginnings

December 31, 2020 Ray Erickson
Out of My Mind in Costa Rica-Living with CPTSD
C-PTSD and 2020 - Endings and New Beginnings
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Out of My Mind in Costa Rica-Living with CPTSD
C-PTSD and 2020 - Endings and New Beginnings
Dec 31, 2020
Ray Erickson

C-PTSD and 2020

Out with the Old and in with the New

It’s New Year’s Eve and the end of 2020. Yeehaa! Today I am looking at endings and beginnings, like everyone else, I am sharing my resolutions for the new year, although I don’t call them resolutions, I call them priorities, because that is what resolutions are.

We’ve all been waiting for this day to arrive and it is just like 2020 to go and fuck our New Year’s Eve celebrations. What has the world become. Anyway, for people with PTSD or C-PTSD this time of year usually brings about a lot of anxiety.

We know, from experience, that the new year will probably just like the old year. But for a few of us faithful, there is always the possibility of healing.

I talk about Attachment Theory and Attachment styles today and if you are in a roller coaster relationship, then maybe, this episode will help nudge you along in a direction that will yield real results. I’m not saying it will be easy. Quite the opposite in fact, healing and change is never easy, so buckle up and hang on, 2020 will likely spill over into 2021 so you had better get your priorities straight.

Here is a great website on psych issues overall, but this article give you a quick look at attachment styles and you will be able to get a good idea of where you fit into the models. All you need to do is be honest with yourself.

https://psychcentral.com/lib/how-to-change-your-attachment-style#3

Here’s a great article on healing from C-PTSD by Dr. Arielle Schwartz. A key component of healing according to her article is it is critical for the survivor to take personal responsibility for their habitual thoughts and actions. It’s straight forward and easily digestible. Give it a read.

https://drarielleschwartz.com/hope-for-complex-ptsd-recovery-dr-arielle-schwartz/#.X-5OkthKhEY

The Wellness Society has published a great handbook for those of you who are suffering from the symptoms of C-PTSD. Your loved ones will benefit from checking it out as well.

https://thewellnesssociety.org/healing-cptsd-the-ultimate-online-guide/

Until next time, remember:

Be courageous. Be Strong. Be Kind. I’ll catch you later. Bye

Show Notes Transcript

C-PTSD and 2020

Out with the Old and in with the New

It’s New Year’s Eve and the end of 2020. Yeehaa! Today I am looking at endings and beginnings, like everyone else, I am sharing my resolutions for the new year, although I don’t call them resolutions, I call them priorities, because that is what resolutions are.

We’ve all been waiting for this day to arrive and it is just like 2020 to go and fuck our New Year’s Eve celebrations. What has the world become. Anyway, for people with PTSD or C-PTSD this time of year usually brings about a lot of anxiety.

We know, from experience, that the new year will probably just like the old year. But for a few of us faithful, there is always the possibility of healing.

I talk about Attachment Theory and Attachment styles today and if you are in a roller coaster relationship, then maybe, this episode will help nudge you along in a direction that will yield real results. I’m not saying it will be easy. Quite the opposite in fact, healing and change is never easy, so buckle up and hang on, 2020 will likely spill over into 2021 so you had better get your priorities straight.

Here is a great website on psych issues overall, but this article give you a quick look at attachment styles and you will be able to get a good idea of where you fit into the models. All you need to do is be honest with yourself.

https://psychcentral.com/lib/how-to-change-your-attachment-style#3

Here’s a great article on healing from C-PTSD by Dr. Arielle Schwartz. A key component of healing according to her article is it is critical for the survivor to take personal responsibility for their habitual thoughts and actions. It’s straight forward and easily digestible. Give it a read.

https://drarielleschwartz.com/hope-for-complex-ptsd-recovery-dr-arielle-schwartz/#.X-5OkthKhEY

The Wellness Society has published a great handbook for those of you who are suffering from the symptoms of C-PTSD. Your loved ones will benefit from checking it out as well.

https://thewellnesssociety.org/healing-cptsd-the-ultimate-online-guide/

Until next time, remember:

Be courageous. Be Strong. Be Kind. I’ll catch you later. Bye

2020 And C-PTSD 

Out With the Old and In With the New

December 31, 2020

Hello and welcome to Out of My Mind in Costa Rica. I’m your host, Ray Erickson.

This week turned out to be a bit more difficult for me than I anticipated. As I began putting this episode together, I found myself struggling with higher-than-normal levels of anxiety and self-doubt. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is true for a lot of people with C-PTSD and PTSD. The holidays have a powerful effect on us and not necessarily in a good way. So, I am beginning this week’s episode, with some processing. Hopefully, that will lower my anxiety and I will be able to focus and produce for you.

The week has also been interrupted not by flashbacks or emotional overwhelm, but by allergy attacks. I don’t get them very often, but when they do occur, I am useless. My head is filled with phlegm, my nose is plugged, and I am sneezing every 3 minutes and not just one sneeze. I unleash a tirade of sneezes and this goes on all day and all evening until I go to bed. There is no amount of antihistamine I can ingest that will calm my hypersensitized auto-immune system.

This happened not just once this week, but twice! One reason for this is the Navedades or the Christmas winds are ever so present at this time of the year and with me hanging out here on the side of a hill overlooking the Central Valley, the wind is ferocious as it hurls itself out of the east.

Along with the wind comes the sun. The rainy season is officially over, and we now have endless sunshine for the next 5 months. The sun brings with it flowers. Lots and lots of flowers. Flowers everywhere and along with the flowers comes the pollen and hence my sensitivity. I have no idea why, I can go most of the time and not have much of a problem with allergies, but now and again, I am overwhelmed by a histamine response from hell. My day is shot and this week, there was not just one day, but two days like this. 

On the 2nd day, I was determined to do something about it. I needed to go to town and mail an Out of My Mind Art order, so I took advantage of that and picked up a new antihistamine and made an appointment to see my doctor. The attack had been relentless since 5:00 in the morning and I was exhausted by the time I returned home. I took the medicine and sat down to meditate. No way, my leaky nose was not going to permit any mindful activity, so I tried taking a nap. Sometimes that works to interrupt the histamine response, but no dice. I finally acquiesced to the inevitable and watched TV with a hankie in my face.

People with C-PTSD and PTSD know they put pressure on themselves to be consistent and to be productive and to stay present, no matter what is going on. What’s going on this week is the after Christmas blues mixed with the New Year’s anticipation and excitement. It’s like taking an 8-ball. For those of you who do not know what an 8-ball is, it is a blend of speed and heroine. Yeah, really. I’m only guessing what it’s like because I’ve never done one. But my sympathetic nervous system knows all too well what it’s like to have ups and downs going on at the same time. I’m sure many of you know those feelings as well.

One of the things about me is that I don’t tolerate routine very well. I’m terrible at keeping a routine. I was able to do it in high school because I had teachers and coaches who structured the routine and would keep me pointed in the right direction. I didn’t have to do much structuring at all. They did it for me. This system broke down pretty fast when I went to college. Without the tethers of those well-meaning adults, I quickly spiraled downward and by the end of the 2nd semester, I was on academic probation. But that story is another episode.

Right now, spitting out a weekly podcast requires that I follow some sort of routine and brother, let me tell you, it has been a real challenge, but I am also growing and becoming a bit more disciplined in the process. Maybe I won’t practice guitar every day, but I will have a podcast ready for you every week. Once I get this routine down, then maybe I will work on my guitar licks.

I am applying huge amounts of pressure on myself to produce 20-30-minute of good content every week and this week at the end of a tremendously stressful year is particularly difficult, especially after losing 2 days being inundated with snot. Now I’m behind schedule and frantically working on something that is of interest to you and provides a therapeutic benefit.

So there, that’s where I’m at right now and I feel better getting that off my chest. Thank you for your indulgence. Now let’s talk about the end 2020 and the hope that 2021 brings with it. To set the mood for last year, I remembered a quote by Charles Dickens. In his book, A Tale of Two Cities” he began his novel about the French Revolution with this line:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

If this doesn’t describe 2020 then I don’t know what does. Maybe everyone should read this book again. The similarities are uncanny. What I’m saying is the year 2020 has been a real bitch for a lot of people, yours truly included. First of all I want to thank all of the first-line responders. They are the true heroes of 2020. They are dedicated and courageous and I’m sure most of them would tell you they were just doing their job. This is the beauty about humanity. Humanity, at its core, is humble. 

When I look back at last January…..shit, I don’t even remember January or most of February. I do know that my wife and I were getting tired of living in the lake house and we were both anxious to move to the farm where our lot is. We wanted to be on the property while the construction was occurring so we could keep a better eye on the process. We had hoped that construction would begin at the first of the year, it didn’t. In fact, it wasn’t until April when ground was broken, and the construction began. Then we moved into a rancho on the farm and pitched our tent. 

It was the beginning of the rainy season and here in Costa Rica, that means rain. Daily rain. Not just showers, but thunderstorms and deluges of rain, every day. We were on alert 24-hour, 7 days a week because these storms would drop down on you suddenly and within a minute of the first rain drop, the clouds burst open up and we are besieged in a torrent of rain. As the rain poured down, we sequestered ourselves in the rancho hoping the plastic sheeting used to protect our tent and much of our belongings, held up. There were many occasions, where I was in the “bedroom” adjusting the various posts we needed to keep the rain from collecting and collapsing the roof. The structure eventually looked like a circus tent.

At times we would discover a pocket of rain so big that it took both of us rocking the bubble of water back and forth until it splashed out over the support beam and it was empty. We were amazed the roof never collapsed. That would have been a real bad thing. On one occasion we were too late and the weight of the water the snapped the main bamboo crossbeam holding up the roof. This bamboo was over 6 inches in diameter. Imagine how heavy that water bubble must have been. Fortunately, we had another section of bamboo nearby and with some ingenuity and perseverance, , I was able to install the new cross beam and all was well, for a while.

Meanwhile, my wife is in the rancho, closing the saran we used in place of actual windows in an urgent effort to keep the rain from coming in and flooding our main living area. We work really well together under conditions like this. You know, your basic, life or death situation. We manage that stuff pretty well. Feelings? Not so well.

These storms clear out just as fast as they come in and they rarely last more than 2 hours. On many occasions in 2020, hurricane activity in the Gulf of Mexico, caused the rain to continue for days at a time. Then the rain stops and the sun shines, until the next day. The dry season is called dry because there is no rain. It’s an all or nothing thing here in Costa Rica. We may be in the northern hemisphere at 9° N Latitude, but the seasons are all backwards. What every other northern hemisphere resident experience as winter, we experience summer, and the skies are clear. Summer begins in December and ends in May. 

We have two seasons here. Winter (Wet) and Summer (Dry). When it is snowing and blowing up north, the sun is shining and the surf is up here in Costa Rica and when it’s summer up north, it is rainy here. I am just now getting used to it. This weather pattern makes Costa Rica an ideal winter destination for northern snowbirds. Did you know that two-thirds of the Costa Rican economy is based on tourism? The impact of COVID here has devastated the tourist industry and even though it doesn’t get much press, a lot of people have lost their jobs and fortunately unlike in the states, the Costa Rican government has comprehensive programs to help those who lose their jobs.

So there we were, living in a rancho and sleeping in a tent under a plastic “Visqueen” roof, supported by bamboo posts and rails. It was a real Swiss Family Robinson adventure. And my wife was amazing throughout this process. This is one of the things I love about her. She is adventurous. I mean, how many women in their 60’s would put up with living in a rancho and sleeping in a tent for 5 months. She is a real trouper. But, by the end of October, we were both incredibly stressed and we couldn’t wait until we were out of that situation.

Let’s add to that, the freaking Corona virus. COVID-19 certainly didn’t help things much either. All of these pressures brought out the worst in each of us and the conflicts were going nuclear. I was getting triggered on a near daily basis. We had exceeded our limits. I was exhausted. She was exhausted. We stopped being friends and we became rivals. We could barely speak to each other without being anxious the other person would respond badly. We acted like we expected each other to not be there for us. The life was being choked out of our relationship. We needed a time-out. Are any of you relating to this?

So, from my perspective, 2020 really sucked. It sucked big time. I should really be looking forward to 2021. But I’m not. Cynicism has been eating away at my optimism. I know this attitude is temporary until I get myself grounded, and I am living, consistently in more balanced state of being. C-PTSD has a way of eating away at your self-esteem and your sense of well-being until there is nothing left, nothing but an empty shell. A shell that was built to protect, but all it did was imprison. Now that I’ve broken that egg, let’s see what kind of omelet I can make with it. I’m down, but I am not defeated.

If you have ever been there, then you know what I mean, and you know what you need to do. There is no rescuer. There is no one who is going to kiss your wound and tell you everything is going be OK.  There is only you. And in my case, I’ve been putting this off for a long time. I needed to reset. I needed to do, once and for all, take on my fear of abandonment and this required solitude.

In 2020, I kept reading about Attachment Theory. I was desperately seeking an explanation for the troubles in my marriage, so I began to look into it. I’ve known about Attachment Theory for a long time, but I never really explore it. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy was my primary treatment modality. And as I learned more about this perspective on human development and relationships, I saw myself within its models. This theory attempts to describe how humans connect with each other. It seeks to explain why we do what we do in relationship with ourselves and with others.

According to Attachment Theory, there are 2 basic attachment styles, Secure and Insecure. Within the Insecure Attachment style there are 2 types, Anxious and Avoidant. Since people with C-PTSD tend to have insecure attachment styles, this means we come in two flavors, anxious and avoidant.

People like me, with anxious insecure attachment styles tend to be clingy and push too hard for togetherness. We want our partner's love and attention and we become distressed when it's withdrawn.

People with avoidant insecure attachments styles often have a dismissive attitude. They shun intimacy, and have difficulties reaching out to others in times of need.

These polar opposite and competing styles fed into our fears and reinforced our need to double down on our positions. In our situation, me, having an anxious style of attachment would sense her withdrawal and try to engage her. This action triggered my wife’s avoidant style, which compelled her to retreat even further. It was Fight or Flight, nearly every day. I was fight and she was flight. We got nowhere and the stressors of living under these conditions contributed to the futility I began to feel. It occurred to me that this dynamic was not going to change. Rather, I needed to change. I needed to change my circumstances and if we couldn’t do it together, then I needed to do it myself. I needed solitude just as much as she needed her space. We agreed to separate for the time being and this is where we are right now.

The question I have is this; Can two people with polar opposite attachment styles continue together or will the tensions that arise, ultimately destroy any possibility of being together? Will either party get their emotional needs met? This dichotomy gets played out when my need to talk has a head on collision with her need to not talk. It has always been my belief that talking resolves problems and it has always been her belief that talking makes problems worse. Can we do it? Can each of us change our attachment styles enough in order to accommodate for the other? Or do each of us need someone with a secure attachment style even to be in relationship? I don’t know. The research I have done paints a bleak picture when it comes to couples like us. According to the research, couples who have both anxious and avoidant attachment styles have a real hard time staying together. We both need to change if we are going to be together.

Change is hard. It’s always been hard, no matter who is doing the changing and what they are trying to change. For a human being to change their fundamental sense of self is like climbing Mr. Everest. It takes, courage, fortitude, persistence and desire, strong desire to change. It don’t come easy.

Which brings me to 2021. Americans, you know, are amazingly optimistic when it comes to the New Year and this year has made it especially difficult to be optimistic, but nevertheless, like clockwork, people are busy at this very moment crafting their new year’s resolutions. I’ve never been big on commitments made on New Year’s Eve mainly because my track record with resolutions has been more of a source of discouragement as opposed to a source of inspiration.

Part of that lies in the fact that along with C-PTSD, I have had ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder all of my life. People with ADD have a difficult time with time management and for me I tend to get bored quickly, especially if the task at hand has a steep learning curve. It’s not that I can’t hold focus, but for me to do so, I must remain interested in the process. As soon as the process gets bogged down or there are multiple setbacks, I quickly shift my attention to a task I feel more comfortable with. This is one of the many ways I self-sabotage and hold myself back. Self-sabotaging may be an area of concern for you as well. 

2020 has been a hellhound of a year. And even though there are some positives in the final moments of this year as the vaccines are rolled out, I am not convinced that we are nearing the end of the COVID crisis. Therefore, I am more cynical than optimistic for a turn around in 2021. There is still plenty of mask wearing and social distancing to do. These protocols will continue throughout new year and probably the year after that. I’ve read a number of studies that claim life will not bear any resemblance to “normal” until 2023. You need to keep in mind that as we stumble into 2021 there will be plenty of turbulence to deal with. So, fasten your seatbelts.

That said, let me toss out two of my main resolutions or what I call, priorities for 2021. They are coming right off the top of my head and through my gut. I didn’t put a lot of thought into this, but my intuition tells me these are the two main areas I need to focus on in 2021. Here we go:

My first priority for the coming new year is to re-establish a connection with myself. I tend to lose myself in relationships but, I am now aware that this is because I developed an insecure and anxious attachment style. The other major factor, of course, is the addition of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress which keeps me hypervigilant and highly reactive to real and perceived threats. The C-PTSD has effectively sabotaged each and every intimate relationship I have been in. My current marriage is no exception.

The second priority for me is to practice keeping myself intact and not letting C-PTSD kidnap my emotions along with my ego and compel me to jump into fight or flight mode. Given my attachment style I tend to go into fight mode and I engage in a way that drives my partners away. It’s scary for both of us, even though I am not threatening with my words or my gestures, my affect is over the top and intense. I want and I believe I need resolution immediately and the longer it takes to resolve, the more anxious I become. In my childhood, there was no resolution, there was no empathy and there was no support. This is why I turn into a 6-year-old boy when I am triggered.

These are the two major priorities for my in 2021. I need to work on whether my marriage survives or not. These resolutions have nothing to do with anyone else, but both of them require interaction in an intimate relationship to be tested and practiced. Practice makes perfect, right? I know I am not going to get much practice being here on my own and at the moment, I am too afraid of sabotaging myself if my wife were to reenter the picture. The thought of getting back together right now freezes me which tells me I am not ready.

It is best for me at this time to focus on reconnecting with myself and honestly, I have no idea how long that will take. I have no timeline. I would love it if I could surgically alter my historical impressions in such a way that I am able to dive deep and suggest to my younger self, a new ending to the story. A new life narrative where his needs get met. Where it is safe to engage in intimate relationships. Where I develop a deeper connection with myself. 

To do this I need to establish healthy boundaries and set limits for myself and with others. As a clinician, I stressed these very things to my clients who were experiencing a crisis of self. You know what they say, “Physician, heal thyself.” That’s my priority in this new year and I’m bringing you along with me for the ride. Hopefully, my experiment will result in some positive results. I encourage each of you to look at one or two factors related to your own growth and development and change that which is fucking you up. It’s OK. I’ll be here.

You must take responsibility for how you respond to life. This is what I am doing here. I’ve been a victim way too many times throughout my life and victims do not see a need to change, it’s always the other person who needs to change. Stop playing the victim role and change your way of being here. Change is the only constant in life, so embrace it. We must be more like the natural world. Nature is always changing, always evolving, but that’s difficult for humans to do. We cling to the familiar and we reject the unfamiliar.

I can let C-PTSD and an insecure attachment style ruin my life or I can practice the skills I need in order to improve my response to being triggered. I can learn to accept that I will not die if my partner leaves me. I do not need to continue self-sabotaging. I am living MY life and I am responsible for MY response to life’s scary moments. The same is true for you.

Thanks for being here and please, spread the word about Out of My Mind in Costa Rica. Let me know what you think about the podcast. Your engagement is what makes this podcast a place of healing and growth. I’m not just doing this for me. I’m doing this for you and the people who love you. Drop me a line. [email protected] Let’s do this together. Together is better.

As usual, I have found some websites that will deepen your understanding of today’s main focus. I hope you find them helpful. So, until the next time.

Be Courageous, Be Strong and Be Kind. I’ll catch you later. Bye.