Out of My Mind in Costa Rica-Living with CPTSD

Episode 13: C-PTSD and Patience - Staying Grounded, Positive and Hopeful

January 28, 2021 Ray Erickson Episode 13
Out of My Mind in Costa Rica-Living with CPTSD
Episode 13: C-PTSD and Patience - Staying Grounded, Positive and Hopeful
Show Notes Transcript

C-PTSD and Patience

Staying Grounded, Positive and Hopeful

This week has been a bit up and down, with a lot more down than up. This gives me an opportunity to talk with you about these mood swings and what works for me. In addition to that, I talk about my wife’s response to the letter I wrote last week. You know, the one I read to you. 

Much of today’s episode is focused on taking care of myself, mainly because that is what I needed to do this week. It wasn’t totally a bummer. I had a surprise visit by a friend who lives in Texas and an encounter with a dear friend of his.

So, I didn’t just mope around going, woe is me. No, I did my best to listen to my body and respond in a way that would nurture it. All things considered; I believe I am doing alright. Let me know what you think about my approach to wellness and healing. 

Here’s a blog post from GoodTherapy.org where it points to the contradictions all of us with C-PTSD experience. Within the article is a focus on switching off your auto pilot and switching on you Self-Awareness. This is a key ingredient to healing.


Here’s a nice synopsis of the three phases of C-PTSD recovery from Theravive.com. It is important to be aware of what you are up against and what some of the therapeutic options are. There is a lot of information in a compact article.


Here’s a PDF put together by Jessica VanArsdale, MD, MPH, from Humbolt State University in Northern California. It’s really good summary of what I talk about in today’s episode, plus one or two things I missed.


Last, but not least is a wonderful article from the Gottman Institute. You know the place where they study relationships. I’ve checked it out, more than once and it is filled with good stuff and you want all the good stuff you can get.


So, until the next time.

Be Courageous. Be Strong and Be Kind.

I’ll catch you later,


Episode 13

 C-PTSD and Patience

Staying Grounded, Positive and Hopeful

 January 28, 2021

Hello and welcome to Out of My Mind in Costa Rica. I’m your host Ray Erickson. It has been a long week and to catch you up on all that is going on, I need to take you back to last Monday. Last week’s episode was recorded on Monday because I had an appointment with Migración on Wednesday and the plan was for my wife to come here on Tuesday, spend the night and we would go together to San José on Wednesday morning. That plan changed. 

We still had the meeting on Wednesday, but my wife’s plan to come to Grifo Alto did not come to fruition. There was some confusion about where the meeting was going to be held, in San José or in Puntarenas, where our last meeting with Migración took place.

Given this change in venue, it worked out much better for her to find her own way to the meeting. I have to tell you; I was a bit relieved when this came up. I was really feeling anxious about the whole idea of an overnight experience before we have even had one conversation about where we were going and what each of us want. We still have not had this discussion, by the way. 

Last week I read to you the letter I planned to send to my wife in response to her response to my big email the week before. I decided not to send this until after we had met with Migración. That way the focus would be on my residency that day.

It was an awkward meeting, but both of us were polite and managed to maintain good boundaries throughout the meeting and the lunch we shared afterwards. I felt pretty good about the encounter and I think she did too, as evidence by a video call she made to me after we had each arrived at our respective locations. Not surprisingly, we were both in bed, resting at that time. We were both exhausted from the activity of that day and we had a good laugh over that. We talked about another  safe issue, the Subaru. Neither one of us wanted to go into a feeling place at that moment.

Let me talk a little bit about Migración or Costa Rica Immigration. Oh, gosh, I don’t really know where to start and I am thinking this could be a separate episode unto itself. First of all, every country makes it difficult to become a legal resident and Costa Rica is no exception. My process began nearly 6 years ago when we were still in the US. With my wife’s help, which I am eternally grateful for, I began to file basic paperwork with the agency. We thought we were ahead of the game. Hahaha.

The real drama began after we were living in Costa Rica. Let me say this about Costa Rican bureaucracies, they are not big on communication and just like most democratic countries, they are besieged with a flood of people trying to get into this little piece of paradise. The lines are long, as are the waits. There is a sense of “hurry up and wait” and most people quietly adjust to the pace of life here. This is difficult for Americans to deal with and they are often frustrated with the process, frequently making big deals about little things. That does not fly here in Costa Rica, the land of Pura Vida.

Over the next 5 years, my wife and I have had at least 10 meetings with Migración each of them a key step in the goal of getting my permanent residenent status. After about 4 of these meetings, I was granted Temporary Resident status and I was scheduled to report in a year. I was given a Cédula, the Costa Rican version of a Green Card and we both breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

Most immigrants from North America enter the immigration system as a Rentista which involves a completely different set of rules than the route I am taking. I married a National and my residency status is based on proving to the government that our marriage was real and not one of those marry for residency marriages. We understood, for the last 3 years, that once we have completed 3 years of reporting a positive status of our marriage, then I would be eligible for Permanent Residency status. The key word here is “eligible”. Neither one of us realized what this meant.

Both of us naively understood that after the 3rd year, my permanent residency would be granted. We learned last week that we were sadly mistaken. Yes, I was eligible for permanent residency, BUT, and this is a big but, I need to apply for said residency and deposit $200 into one of their accounts. We both felt like Sisyphus-pushing that rock back up the hill after it had rolled over the both of us. I was really confused at first, which makes it hard for me to think clearly. My wife did her best to be steady and on task. 

The agent we met with referred us to the information desk to get more information. For some reason the gentleman could not give us any information other than deny my permanent resident status for the lack of an appropriate application and payment of the fee. The line for the information desk ran out the door and up the sidewalk for 30 meters where we stood inline for the next 25 minutes. When it was finally our turn, we were told pretty much the same thing. The best news was this. Because I was a “senior”, over 65, I had priority and could walk into Migración and make an appointment, but I need to pay the $200 and have a completed application on file. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but the next appointment available for non-senior people was in March of 2023. You heard me. Over two years down the road. I felt grateful for being old.

Here’s the deal. As soon as I have $200 free, I need to drive to Migración, present proof of a completed application for permanent residency and make the $200 deposit. Once that is done. They will give me another appointment for 3 months down the line. During that time, a committee reviews my application to determine if I have the moral fiber and economic whereabouts to become a permanent resident of Costa Rica. The committee has 90 days to make the decision. Jueputa! Nothing is easy.

That’s where it stands at the moment. My temporary status was renewed, and we were on our way. It looks like it will be sometime in the summer when I finally get my permanent status. Maybe. We shall see. It depends upon how soon I can scrape up the extra $200. This was a Puta Vida moment. Make sure you read the fine print. I’m not complaining, I’m just saying that my life is filled with moments like this. At this point in my life, they are like water on a duck’s back. I shrug my shoulders and go on from there.

Nothing is really easy, but nothing is really hard either. It’s like I live on a cobblestone road and my teeth get rattled every time drive on it. By now you might be getting the idea that my life has been filled with bumps and you would be right. It’s been bumpy as hell, but I am not dead yet. I am blessed with an unimpeachable sense of optimism, even in my most cynical moments. The cynicism passes and in its wake is a tiny spark of optimism which then builds into a nice little campfire where I can hang out and sing songs. I swear this is the reason I am still alive.

If you are thinking about becoming an expat and you end up here in Costa Rica, I don’t want you to be over here whining about the God Damn Migración. And don’t tell me I didn’t tell you so. Everything that goes on here is an opportunity to practice patience. Relax, go with the flow and try not to swim upstream. Honey, you are not in Kansas anymore. 

Speaking of swimming upstream, this week has been challenging for me. I have felt heavy and a bit depressed all week. Maybe that is the impact of my disappointment with not becoming a permanent resident. That would make sense, but residency is like a thing to me and I don’t get too attached to things. It feels more like an emotional disconnection and I am inclined to believe it is in response to having a lot of contact with my wife last week. It could also be because both of my football teams lost last weekend, but I doubt that. I’m betting is has to do with the encounter with my wife.

We had not seen each other since I made it clear I needed her to leave, which she did, and I am grateful for her recognition of my need for solitude. She had more subtle ways of letting me know she was not happy about it, none of which involved speech. I don’t want to go there. That day, suffice it to say, was another really difficult day. 

Yeah, this week has been kind of up and down. The owner of the farm where our lot is located was here from Texas for a few days. He was busy getting all of the lot lines fettered out and fenced off. This he did with the help of his Tico caretaker and another Tico. The three of them laid out like a mile of fence in a few days. Ticos are amazingly productive when they need to be. It was nice to see him and I was privileged enough to meet an old college roommate of his and his roommate’s 9-year-old daughter. Nine-year-old girls tend to be a joy, but the overall impression was there may have been like a million other places she would rather be than hanging out with 3 old me. I can’t blame her.

Another lot on the farm has been sold and I will soon have actual neighbors. People I can wave to as I walk by and people I can BBQ with. I have mixed feelings about that. I really like the solitude of being the only human on the property most of the time. Not that I am asocial, I am just really into being with myself right now, even if I feel heavy and out of sorts for whatever reasons. It’s alright. I need this time to myself. Besides, it will take the neighbors a couple of years to get any type of construction going here in Costa Rica. Pura Vida!

Being a bit down and a bit anxious is not a big deal to me. I don’t try to fight these moods. I work with them and this is what I encourage you to do as well. I know many of you may be working or have family or wives or any number of things going on your life and you don’t have the luxury of retreating from life whenever you need to. Take advantage of any opportunity you have to look inside and let yourself just be. Use those moments you have or explain to people in your world that that you are in a personal recession at the moment, but not to worry, you will be back as soon as the mood has moved along.

Which it does. I pay a lot of attention to what is going on beneath the surface of my body and my mind. It is the only way I can hold onto those parts of me that I have not given away and build on them. I also know from experience that these moods come and go over the course of time. Some of these low ebb moments are even predictable, like anniversary dates, holidays, birthdays, etc. We all have these seasonal triggers. Pay attention to them. Put them on a calendar and track those motherfuckers. This will yield you good data that you can use to manage the C-PTSD in your life. Don’t let these dates sneak up on you.

Like I said, I try not to let myself become immobilized, but sometimes that is the only viable action available to me. I do what I can. Like, throw in a couple of loads of laundry. I do my best to prepare actual meals during these lulls because it is a concrete action that is self-nurturing at a time where I might otherwise be trash-talking myself. I figure I might as well be as self-aware as I can be while I am self-absorbed. See, there’s that optimism. 

Mindfulness doesn’t always work, and I need to distract myself. This is when I turn to comedy. Movies, stand-up, FB memes. Whatever is easiest to do at the moment. This distracts myself from the ever-demanding self-critic that stubbornly hides in my head, tormenting me 24/7/365. Comedy works for me. Maybe it’s action films for you. Whatever floats your boat, and you can focus on something other than that grief factory in your head.

Yeah, days like this are exhausting. I am so grateful to have you to share this with. You patiently listen, presumably without judgment and your parasympathetic nervous system may get triggered and your empathy is ignited. I get that energy. I can feel it. And I thank you. I appreciate it. It is not just the download number I am after. I am seeking connection via any way connections are made.

All week long, I meditated, ate well, probably should have walked more than I did, but I’ll get there. I need to pace myself and not fall into the delusionary thinking that I need to do all of this, right now. You need to pace yourself too. Take your time. Be at peace with your process, whatever it is. It’s your process and it is critical that you not just be aware of it, but mindfully and actively engaging in that process, whatever it is for you. 

Part of that process for me has included Cannabis, plenty of it. I’m not going into my whole relationship with cannabis today, but I will produce an episode totally dedicated to cannabis down the road. Besides cannabis, eating healthy, limiting alcohol, getting a modicum of exercise, meditating, and maintaining a positive and optimistic mindset are the cornerstones of my healing. It’s not easy. It takes perseverance, patience, and self-acceptance for where I am at that very moment. It may not be comfortable, but it is real. It won’t take long before the sun shines on my shoulders once again.

As the week goes by, I have still not heard from my wife regarding the email I sent her last Saturday. She has plans to come up later this week, Thursday to be exact. There is a rumor that the Subaru will be ready on Friday and she needs to get some things. If the car is ready on Friday, we would like to get it into COSEVI the same day. COSEVI is the Costa Rican equivalent to the DMV and includes a safety and emissions test. We cannot drive it without this certification and Costa Rica is quite serious about it. We have had our license plates removed from our vehicles on more than one occasion and it is always a pain in the ass and costs us money.

It looks like I will have something to talk about next week, eh? Her visit will be interesting in the light that we have not spoken a single syllable about the state of our relationship and where we are going with it. She really avoids this. I can’t imagine how scary it must be for her. This makes me more sad than anxious. Don’t get me wrong, I have a boat load of anxiety about this pending visit, but it makes me sad because the handwriting is on the wall if she is unable to address the lack of intimacy at all levels in our relationship.

Being friends would easy with her. In her world, friends don’t talk about touchy-feely stuff. They share the good times and sweep the bad times under the rug. In this way, being a friend is much safer for me. But that is not the way I feel about friendships. Friendships are where the touch-feely stuff gets talked about and not the other way around. In that way we continue to be on opposite ends of the continuum of talking vs. not talking. The sadness is not for me. It is for her. I can’t imagine a life without emotion. A life of superficial relationships. Not me. I can’t do that. I need deep and profound intimacy in my life to feel fulfilled. Love, after all is the spice of life.

I don’t anticipate any problems because, I plan to be heavily armored against triggers. My boundaries will be strong, and I intend to set limits when limits are needed. I am fully prepared to maintain a calm demeanor and a hospitable presence. We have a long history of working well together on projects that benefit both of us. Although there is still a part of me that is terrified and fears that my resolve will crumble, and the C-PTSD will be activated. Let’s hope not. This is actually an exceptionally good opportunity to practice owning my response to any possible triggers that may occur. That means staying mindful and staying positive.

In this way, I create a safe environment for her. She feels just as vulnerable around me as I do around her. Unfortunately, the elephant will return to the living room where both of us are likely to ignore its presence. I am more than ready and open to talk about what we need to talk about. Unfortunately, she has demonstrated, through her lack of response to my efforts to engage on an emotional basis, that she is not able to speak to these issues and I have learned that any pressure on my part only leads to her shutting down.

Thinking about this is very distressful for me. I am someone who wants to resolve conflict as soon as possible. I don’t like conflict to linger on for days at a time. Her self-imposed restrictions are hers to deal with and if she is not ready, she is not ready. This is incredibly sad for me and leads me to feel hopeless about the survival of our relationship. It’s sad. Really sad.

I intend to meditate on this situation and do the best I can to be grounded and stay mindful, because if you have C-PTSD, like me, then you know that staying grounded under stressful conditions is difficult. I need to calm that part of me that is craving resolution and reassure that little boy that he can depend upon me to be there for him. He is used to whoever I am with being the one who needs to be there for him. That needs to change, and I need to take responsibility for that part of me that is small, innocent, and vulnerable. Not by denying those feelings, but by expressing them assertively. Here’s another topic for a future episode of Out of My Mind in Costa Rica – C-PTSD and Assertiveness. Everyone needs assertiveness training, probably more today than ever.

So, there you have it. I didn’t get permanent residency, but it is on the horizon. I never got a response from my wife and I am not sure if I will ever have the conversation I would like to have with her. I am not in control of how she feels and how she responds to her own feelings of vulnerability and loss. I can only be accountable for mine which leaves me deeply unsatisfied and disappointed in our relationship. This is disturbing to me because of that damn optimism and no matter how optimistic I try to make myself, there is no evidence that this stalemate will end, and we will be able to be open, sincere, and honest with each other. Did I mention how sad this is?

I think this is a good place to wrap things up this week. Please share this podcast with anyone you feel needs to hear what it is like living with C-PTSD. Comment on those platforms that allow you to. Give a review and help me grow my audience. This is important stuff, and I am the right person to present to the world the real experience of Complex-PTSD. Please feel free to email me at ray@rayerickson.com. You will not get an auto-response from me, but I will personally respond within 24-hours. Guaranteed. I love to hear from my listeners and besides, it is your engagement that makes this podcast powerful.

Anything you can do to help me reach my target audience will be greatly appreciated. I’m an idiot when it comes to this stuff and if you can help, fantastic! Your engagement at any level, makes Out of My Mind in Costa Rica that much more valuable as a resource to those out there with PTSD and C-PTSD. I thank you in advance.

As usual, you will find several website links in my episode description that will enhance today focus. 

So, until next time.

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