C-PTSD and Self-Love
The Care and Feeding of Your Soul
Today’s episode is about surviving the storm and building a safe harbor for yourself. I provide an update from last week’s episode where I read a heartfelt letter I planned to send to my wife. I also talk about realizing that the problems go much deeper than I anticipated. In addition the weather has been windy, windy, windy and order to deal with all of this I have been hunkering down inside and going out only when it is necessary. It makes me edgy.
Weekly trips for groceries keep me engaged with the community, but for the most part I have been taking advantage of my solitude. Besides working on this podcast, I am actively trying to understand what happened in my relationship with my wife. I do this with almost no input from her.
My wife is more than willing to address the business end of our relationship, but when it comes to the emotional aspects of our marriage, No Way José. She’s out of here. It doesn’t get discussed. Not even a little bit. There are no signs of this changing, so I need to look after myself.
I am slowly letting go of my need for reciprocation when it comes to intimacy in my marriage. I am realizing that what I see is what I get. I don’t have to like it and I don’t have to tolerate it, but I need to accept it. This is why I am 95% convinced that the best route for me and probably for her as well is to terminate the marriage. Yeah, that’s a hard thing to say, but I honestly don’t see anything changing, therefore I must make the change that is best for me.
Thanks for listening and I hope you appreciate this week’s episode.
Here are some websites that I hope will enhance and expand todays focus. Thank you for listening.
The experience of Flow is unforgettable. As children we experience it quite frequently in our play, but the magic of flow becomes diluted in adulthood. I encourage all of you to look into this amazing experience. You can find out more when you click on the link.
I talk about Mindful Eating as a means to greater fulfillment. By intentionally watching what happens to the food that you chew as you chew it. It is a great approach to weight loss. Check it out at this website.
This is one of many websites that address the problem of narcissism and it addresses it in a clear and understandable way. This website is a very good resource for all things related to health and mental health.
C-PTSD and Self-Love
The Care and Feeding of Your Soul
February 4, 2021
Hello and welcome to Out of My Mind in Costa Rica. I’m your host, Ray Erickson. This is episode 14 God damnit. How about that? Today I want to talk with you about C-PTSD and Self-Love: The Care and Feeding of Your Soul. I hope everyone listening realizes that I live with C-PTSD, every fucking day, which makes many aspects of my life extremely challenging, the biggest challenges, of course, come with relationships, in particular, intimate relationships. This podcast is my effort to bring to you a real-life experience of what it is like to have C-PTSD and let you know what I am doing about it. Maybe it helps, maybe it doesn’t. This is a real time account of life with C-PTSD and at times, it may seem like I am stuck. This means, I probably am stuck. Hang in there and I will get unstuck soon. I haven’t been stopped yet.
At this particular moment, I am wrestling with whether or not to end my marriage. I’ve been talking about this in previous episodes, but this past week the picture has come into greater clarity and I am afraid the handwriting is on the wall.
If you are a regular listener, then you know that last week I sent to my wife a heartfelt letter. The letter I read on last week’s podcast. I sent this to her last Friday and as of this week’s recording, there has been no response. This letter, I felt, was a deeply loving example of my truth. I felt really good about it. I should feel good about it, I spent the better part of the week writing and re-writing it before finally sending it off.
Sadly, I realize now, after years of fruitless effort, that my wife is not going to educate herself on C-PTSD and she is not going to practice being a better listener and she is not going to suddenly become the empathetic partner that I have craved. She is going to remain faithful to herself and her belief system. She is going to do more of what she has been doing. Not in a mean or a spiteful way, but in the only way she knows how. She is no more the bad guy as I am the bad guy. There is no bad guy here. We are both good people, but it takes two to tango and it takes two to dance a different dance. We tried extremely hard and we hung in there for a long, long time, but I am done hanging in there. It is too painful.
The big thing I realized this week was that I may be dealing with a problem that was there long before I entered her life, and it will probably be there long after I am dead and gone. So, I acquiesce to this truth and I am hoping it will set me free. When I step back and look at our marriage it becomes clear that I am not the only one with significant problems. C-PTSD is just a lot more obvious than her problem. Here’s what I think is going on. I believe I married someone who may be a covert narcissist. These people look and act quite normal, but they are intensely fearful of intimacy. My wife is so afraid of intimacy, she is willing to bet our marriage on a belief the C-PTSD isn´t real. Tell that to those of us with this condition. It’s real, alright, very real.
I can’t just cut bait and run either. We will be, in some form, in relationship for the rest of my days. We own property together and our lives are entangled in a number of ways. I said last week that ending the marriage would not be the worst thing that could happen. I would like to believe it can open up an opportunity for a real friendship to develop. As soon as the threat of intimacy is removed, she is much easier to work with.
All I have to do is to keep things on a surface level. Which works for her, but I need intimacy at multiple levels in my relationships, giving and receiving, but she is quite comfortable in a relationship with little intimacy. I want deep, intimate relationships with my friend as well. Looking back, I recognize that I was becoming an empty shell, completely spent while at the same time trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip. If I continued down this path I would die on the vine and I don’t want to go out that way.
I need intimacy in my relationships. I need to be able to be there for others in a deep and meaningful way and I value those people who are able to go there with me. This is who I am. This is my calling, and this is my character. C-PTSD puts a stick in the spokes of my bicycle, and I fly headfirst over the handlebars and into the path of an oncoming 18-wheeler. Ouch! It hurts and it takes a long time to recover, but I do recover. I am pretty clear on the unsustainability of our relationship. I cannot keep giving and continue to have my needs go unmet.
In past episodes I have discussed, to some degree the role of attachment styles, but I realized this week that attachment styles may very well be relevant to my marriage, but there was something else going on. Like C-PTSD, it was a driving force in our dysfunction. First of all, let me say that I am no angel and for years my inability to realize that my triggers were my responsibility and this denial had created many problems in intimate relationships, with lovers and with friends. I am not saying I am innocent in any way, shape, or form. I am responsible for just as much of our dysfunction as she is. We share this load.
The problem lies in the fact that she doesn’t see her part in our marital strife. She has made no secret that me and my triggers are the entire problem, and she is the innocent victim of my outrage which she claims is directly due to my family’s abandonment of me when I was a child. In my wife’s viewpoint, sh plays no role whatsoever. She is right, in that what happened to me as a child was an outrage, but she expects me to just forget about it. It’s simple don’t get triggered. She does not understand the physiological changes that happen to the brain under Complex Trauma. Her wish is that somehow, I could, through my own willpower stop the triggering and I would be cured. There is little to no insight into how her behavior is part of the triggering dynamic.
Anybody who knows anything about PTSD and C-PTSD knows that there is no “cure” in the classic sense, but this is what her expectation is and when I become triggered, usually in response to her, then I am weak and pitiful. At times, I have been mocked, not unlike the way Donald Trump mocked Serge R. Kovaleski, the reporter with a medical condition that causes joint contracture in his right arm and hand. My wife’s mocking, in the midst of an already painful trigger experience, was like throwing gasoline onto a fire. I melted down.
I felt utterly and completely abandoned. Not just abandoned but booted off to the side of the road, like roadkill. Empathy was nonexistent and in its place was distain and loathing for my emotional weaknesses. Yet, I kept trying…talk about co-dependency! I was a poster boy for co-dependency, and I didn’t even realize it. This probably needs to be addressed in a separate episode as well because so many of us with C-PTSD have strong co-dependency traits. I never imagined myself as co-dependent until I realized codependency was alive and well beneath the surface of my life experiences. Hell, I was a clinician who trained other clinicians on working with codependent clients. How could I possibly be a co-dependent? Yeah, I know, it’s ridiculous. But I was good at it. I was a very good co-dependent.
Therapists as a group, are pretty fucked up people. Most of us are born out of crises that occurred a long time ago. But all of us have a kind heart and an enormous amount of empathy for others. I say this because it’s true. Most therapist, me included, are willing to look at their experiences, assess the damage and do our own healing work. Only in this way are we able do the healing work we are called to do. In my opinion, the wackier someone was, the better they did their job. It was the ones who pretended not to be wacky who were doing the damage out there.
I’m a wacky person. The people I treated were wacky people. We are all wacky people and that’s OK. Problems occur when we fail to acknowledge our wackiness and we fail to take responsibility for the wacky within us. This cannot be over-stated. The key to recovery at any level, is to take personal responsibility for your life. Eventually, it became clear to me that my wife was unable to reflect upon her feelings of vulnerability, self-doubt, and misguided judgement. She would go to great lengths to deny these feelings or she would project them upon me. Remember, I am the sole problem in our relationship. If I would just stop being triggered, then all would be well. OK, but if you believe that, then I have some lovely swampland in Florida I would like to sell you.
When it comes to waking up, I don’t deny it. I have always been behind the curve. For crying out loud, I woke up to Jimmy Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janice Joplin AFTER they had died. That’s how out of touch with reality I was when I was 18, back in the glory days of Rock-N-Roll. Back in 1968. Knowing this about myself, it came as no surprise that it took me over a decade to put 2 and 2 together. Fortunately, in classic optimistic style, I know that it’s never too late. Your life can always be reclaimed, but it may take some drastic measures. Well, I am about to take some drastic measures.
What I have been referring to over the past few minutes is waking up and realizing that I married someone who may be a “covert narcissist”. How do I know this? Well, after one has been chewed up, spit out and stepped upon repeatedly, you get a feeling about things and you just know it’s true. I began to research covert narcissism. I rarely saw them in the therapy office because that would imply something might be wrong with them and narcissistic people don’t believe they have a problem. They will go to therapy, but only to prove their point that they are not the problem.
The pieces began to fit together and what emerged was a clear picture of a deeply well-meaning woman who, out of her own need for self-preservation developed a viewpoint of the world as hostile and dangerous. She needed to be on guard constantly looking for enemies who, without this vigilance would overwhelm and overpower her. I believe she is completely unaware of these patterns and would deny them if I were to confront them. There would be no good that would come from calling her out on this.
My wife is able to keep the world at bay using her keen intelligence and independence. She does not trust others. She has had to depend upon herself for the vast majority of her life. It has been her against the world armed with only one survival strategy. Contrary to her beliefs, the problems are not from the outside where she focuses her defenses. The enemies lay within. Just like all of us. Her internal world is in turmoil and she is doggedly determined to keep these demons locked up. She does this through an elaborate labyrinth of denial, denial, and more denial. Failure is not an option, and should failure occur, it is because of something beyond her control, like me, for instance.
I have also showered this woman with praise and acknowledgment and have received little in return. She says she’s a doer. She will clean the house or do the laundry or cook dinner, but there is little investment in her emotional life. People who know me, know that I am not one to compliment a person if that person is not equal to the compliment. My praise reflects how I genuinely feel. On the other hand, my wife is unable, even to respond to or acknowledge my compliments. I literally had to remind her that the appropriate response to a compliment was “Thank you, that was nice.” This inability to respond really confused me because I believe it is a normal part of discourse to acknowledge someone who has just paid you a compliment. I realized her son was inflicted with this pattern as well. It became evident one evening when he and his wife were visiting. I thanked them for their help with cleaning up the kitchen after dinner.
There was no response. Nothing. Nada. Neither one of them responded in the slightest way to my sincere expression of gratitude and thanks. I repeated the compliment. Nothing. This struck me as odd, so I brought it up. Then all three of them began to rationalize why they don’t believe one needs to say anything because they just assume that you appreciate their effort. I argued that it feels good to be recognized, in a genuine way for your efforts. It was as if I was speaking Russian. They truly did not understand my point. This experience really stuck in my mind.
All of these players are nice people, my wife, her son, and his wife. All of them are perfectly nice people, but it became clear to me that connecting with others in a meaningful and intimate way was a foreign concept to all of them. They thought their way through life and I feel my way through life. There is a big difference.
I am not going to get into the criteria for Covert Narcissism because you can do that very easily with a simple Google search. I want to talk with you today about the need to take care of yourself if you have C-PTSD and especially so if by chance, you too, have fallen in love with a covert narcissist. I will provide you with some links to some good information related to covert narcissism, codependency and self-love.
Out of My Mind in Costa Rica – Living with C-PTSD is devoted to my story, (I know that sounds narcissistic) and how my life has been impacted by Complex Post-Traumatic Stress. There are lots of websites and podcasts out there that will give you those other facts. With Out of My Mind in Costa Rica, I hope to be a mirror for your experiences, plus give you some useful tips.
By telling my story and by the simple fact that I am alive and at this moment talking with you about this, is proof that you too, can take back your life and, if you are willing to do a few simple self-loving gestures, you can overcome your fears of being triggered and fucking everything up around you. You no longer need to be a bull in a china shop. You can be a gazelle on the Serengeti. But if you are going to be that gazelle, you better be on the lookout for the lions and cheetahs and the crocodiles. They are out there too.
So, what are these self-loving gestures I refer to? Right off the top of my head by way of my intuition here they are.
1. First and foremost is One Day at a Time and don’t be afraid to break this down to One Hour at a Time or One Minute at a Time. Do what you need to do to stay grounded, peaceful, and loving in the moment. The Twelve-Step programs have been saying this for decades. It is a cornerstone of their program for recovery from addiction. If this simple idea can help addicts, then it certainly can help people with PTSD and C-PTSD. One Day at a Time takes the pressure off having to function beyond today. Believe me, and you may agree, that it is way too easy to get caught up in future events and past regrets.
2. Secondly, Be Here, Be Now. Be in the moment. I don’t know about your head, but mine is switched on all the time and when I am triggered it goes into overdrive and suddenly has quadrupled the horsepower and put the petal to the metal. Zoom, I can be off to the races is a nanosecond. However, going off is not a constructive life strategy. It really undermines me and my integrity and afterwards I battle the various demons who have taken up residency inside of my head. Being here and being in the moment is what life consists of. We all know that the past is gone, and the future is not here yet. That leaves us with this very moment, the present.
3. Which brings me to Meditation. I learned about meditation in the mid 1980´s, in part because it was very much in vogue at the time. And being a former Hippie, I was naturally drawn to this self-reflective path and it has served me well. I keep it simple and I have few rules about meditation. In this way, even my ADD hyper focus becomes a meditation and an opportunity to experience one of the real joys in life, Flow, a state of mind where the rest of the world disappears and what remains is a tiny sliver of consciousness where you and what you are doing are the only things that exist. It’s a beautiful experience and you don’t need to be doing anything “productive” in order to get into the flow. The very act of deep engagement with the moment is meditation.
4. Eating Well. That doesn’t mean you need to go all vegan or anything like that. I am talking about eating food that you like and is good for you. For instance, I am snacking on some peanuts right now. I love peanuts and I eat a lot of them. They are good for me and they elevate my blood sugar just the right amount so I can continue focusing on what I am doing, working on the new episode of my podcast. Otherwise, my brain, just freezes up and nothing intelligent comes out of it. Eating well doesn’t speak to the quality of the food I eat, but to the quality of the attention I put to my eating. I’m talking about Mindful Eating. The food we consume is a multilevel gastronomical experience when you take the time to watch yourself eat.
5. Drink Lots of Water. I personally love the taste of water. I just do and I see no point in adding anything to water unless it’s ice. I like ice. Juice is nice, but I would rather eat the fruit. Soda’s are the devil incarnate. It doesn’t matter if they are diet soda or a full-bore sugar bomb. Either way, they are destructive to your health and I highly encourage you to stop drinking those sweet, carbonated beverages. Beer is another story. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Probably the same could be said about wine as well, but there is something about a nice ice-cold beer on a hot summer day. Also, I used to brew beer which makes me kind of a beer snob and I say, fuck Budweiser and Miller Lite. Those are beers in name only. Life is too short to drink shitty beer.
6. Exercise. Move my body. It’s that simple. My preferred exercise these days is a casual walk around the farm, which, admittedly, I need to do on a more consistent basis. I don’t need a gym membership and I don’t need fancy shoes or clothing. I just need to put one foot in front of the other. You know, like our ancient African ancestors. Imagine the world if nobody ever left Africa. I don’t think I can. Lately, there is lack of physical activity in my life, but I’m OK with that. I am not one who can sit around forever, and I know at some point, my grief will be satisfied sufficiently for me to get off my ass and out into the streets for a nice walk in the neighborhood. I’ll let you know when that happens.
These are the basics of life for me at the moment. It’s as simple as I can make it, yet my life remains incredibly complicated. Here’s a good example of how nothing can be really difficult to deal with.
For the last 2 week the winds have been howling out of the east which have kept me housebound because I don’t do well in windy weather. I never have tolerated a lot of wind. My wife and I didn’t know about the wind in Grifo Alto when we bought the lot, and we didn’t know about the wind when we built the house but living here for the past few months has enlightened me to how local the weather can be in Costa Rica.
For example, when I leave to go into town which is about 10 miles away it is really windy. About 4 kilometers up the road the wind almost disappears and when I arrive in town the weather is beautiful. Then on the way home, as I approach my tiny, adopted town, the wind picks up again and by the time I am back on the farm, the wind is howling and rattling my teeth. It might not stress you out, but it is extremely stressful for me.
I don’t fully understand why windy days are so hard for me but, I do have an intention to look into it. “Alexa, why is the wind so fucking irritating?” Damn, I don’t have Alexa, I guess I need to Google this myself. Which is what I recommend you do. Don’t take my word for it. Fact-check me. Do what you need to do to determine whether or not I am full of shit. I could be and to some people I know I am definitely full of shit. You be the judge. Nobody is forcing you to listen to Out of My Mind in Costa Rica, but I sincerely appreciate that you do.
Please make your voice heard. Comment or review Out of My Mind in Costa Rica on those platforms you can. Refer OOMMCR to people you know who might benefit from my fucked-up life. Send me and email at [email protected]. Do what you can to spread the word. This is the work I have been called to do.
Well, I think that is about all I have to say for this week. Be sure to look at the Episode description and check out the websites that will enhance today’s focus. With that I bid you a fond farewell and until the next time…Be Courageous. Be Strong and Be Kind. I’ll catch you later. Bye.