Out of My Mind in Costa Rica-Living with CPTSD

Episode 23: C-PTSD and Perseverance

April 15, 2021 Ray Erickson Episode 23
Out of My Mind in Costa Rica-Living with CPTSD
Episode 23: C-PTSD and Perseverance
Show Notes Transcript

Episode 23  

C-PTSD and Perseverance

Keep on Truckin’

April 15, 2021

Today’s focus is perseverance, something I believe many of you will relate to. I bring this up this week because the road has been a bit difficult to traverse over the past few weeks. I believe I am coming out the other side of darkness, thanks to my persistent perseverance. I am sure you have done your fair share of persevering which will make today’s episode of Out of My Mind in Costa Rica particularly interesting. Come on in. Give it a listen.

Here are a few websites that may or may not be aligned with today’s topic, but you will find they all have really good information for you regardless of where you sit in your recovery. 

Everyone knows the story of Sisyphus, but do they? Here’s a short video that will familiarize yourself with this Greek deceiver of the Gods.

Sisyphus: The Man Who Deceived the Gods - Greek Mythology Stories - See U in History - Bing video

This a one of the most influential books I have ever read. When you heal the shame that binds you, you heal yourself for life.

Healing the Shame that Binds You by John Bradshaw (goodreads.com)

Here’s a fantastic article. Be ready for a big read. There is lots of information here that may need to be absorbed bit-by-bit. Thank you Eggshell Therapy and Coaching for your work.

Toxic Family Dynamics and Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) | Eggshell Therapy and Coaching

Here is one woman’s journey to healing her Complex Post-Traumatic Stress. Her story is a good jumping off place for those of you seeking alternative healing practices. She achieves remarkable results.

Complex PTSD: How I'm Recovering My Ability to Self-Regulate (recovery.org)

Episode 23  

C-PTSD and Perseverance

Keep on Truckin’

April 15, 2021

Hello and welcome to Out of My Mind in Costa Rica-Living with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress. I’m your host, Ray Erickson. I’m back! And I hope that is good news for you because it is certainly good news for me. Today I want to talk about perseverance and what could likely be the story of your day-to-day life. I want to talk about perseverance because it is such a large part of my existence. Simply put, I persevere. What can I say? All I have ever done is persevere. Maybe you feel the same way. I know this may sound like the beginnings of a rant about whoa-is-me, but I really don’t want to go there. I could go there, that’s for sure. I could make this episode all about my pain and all about my lack of interests in doing anything. I could go on and on about my hideous ability to manage money or about my lack of taste in clothing, or ability to dance, but I don’t want to go there. 

That would be a bummer and I definitely don’t want to be bumming out my audience. I need to tell you about what has been going on for the past few weeks. In case you haven’t noticed, I went MIA a couple of weeks ago and last week I gave you a brief explanation of what was going on. I plan to go into much greater detail today and hopefully end today’s episode with an inspirational and doable activity that will compel you to love yourself through your pain. Hang in there with me and I promise there will be something good that comes out of not just my pain, but the pain felt by all of us with C-PTSD. This pain has been chronic, and I have felt it for much of my life. Maybe you have too. So, let the moaning and groaning begin.

Perseverance is the keyword for this week’s podcast. When you live with C-PTSD it also takes on a life of its own. To say that I have persevered through avalanches of grief and loss would be a serious understatement. I am persevering even when I am enjoying myself. My constant trudging forward, hand over fist, has been a constant for as long as I can remember. This might be true for you as well. Hell, I didn’t even realize that I had been persevering until my wife and I returned to Costa Rica in December of 2015. As I stumbled my way through learning how to communicate in Spanish, life for me became significantly more challenging.

Yes, my wife is a Tica, and she put a lot of energy into helping me become a better Spanish speaker, but like all good things, you can get too much of it. On the streets when I speak my broken-espanol, the listener is way too polite to say anything and simply ignores my grammatical errors, my poor sentence structure and limited vocabulary but somehow, we communicate. It works. It is a different story at home. 

Even though my wife’s efforts had but good intentions, nevertheless, I began to feel like every time I spoke Spanish, I was corrected. Then I became anxious and made even more mistakes to the point where I avoided Spanish in her presence. She did not intend to have this effect, but she did. I told her of this dilemma, but she assumed I did not want her to help any longer, which was not the case. I told her it would make me feel safe speaking Spanish if she chose her lessons with more care and let some things go.

This helped as does any well-placed boundary, but she continues to be a bit more robust in her desire to help me than what I prefer, but it is better. It’s a little thing and I try to keep little things little.  Lately, I feel like I have had more success. I really need to do an episode on Boundaries. It’s a really big deal and needs to be central to your recovery and healing practices. I will get to that right away. Maybe next week.  Meanwhile, let’s persevere onward.

Last week I gave you a little slice of what’s been going on with me over the past few weeks, oh hell, to be honest, this has been going on all my life. I become overwhelmed, emotionally, and not on an infrequent basis. It’s almost, but not really predictable. It’s not Seasonal Affective Disorder and no, it’s not Dysthymia and no, it’s not unipolar depression. I don’t really know what it is, but it feels like that lead apron the dental x-ray tech puts on you right before they run out of the area and into a lead lined bunker? Only it isn’t an apron, it’s my skin. It is a heaviness that covers every inch of my body.

I get into permanent slow-mo mode. Nothing happens fast, well, some things happen fast, but for the most part, I am on energy standby. Life has just been really heavy for the past few weeks. I know I joke about a lifetime of carrying this weight, but the truth is…it’s no joke. It is very real and there are times when I simply run out of gas. A few weeks ago, I ran out of gas and needed to take time for myself. To be kind to myself and to recognize in a more concrete way when I begin to slide off the rails. 

I started taking Fluoxetine (Prozac) again, because it made sense for me to jump start my serotonin system. It seemed as though my brain was not going to do it on its own. So, here I am, back on an anti-depressant and I feel alright about that. You should do what you feel is right for you as well. If going on a medication that could open the door to recovery, then that is a risk worth taking. You can always discontinue any time you wish. If you have just begun taking psychotropic medication be patient and monitor your body for any changes in mood. It generally takes 4-6 weeks for an SSRI to show signs it is effective. 

In the meanwhile, do what you can. Don’t push yourself and practice mindfulness. This is what I have been doing. I have been down, really down for a long time. Much longer than the recent two weeks. I seriously do not recall any moment in my life where I have felt completely at ease in my body and in my environment. These are sensations I have craved for as long as I can recall. It is like an aching in my heart, and it fills my chest with pain and shame. Shame for feeling the pain in the first place. Now what the hell am I going to do with that arrangement. Pain based shame, imagine that. A lot of people with C-PTSD have this condition and it is a real bitch. 

Pain-based shame is toxic and unproductive, and it locks your brain into a no-win merry-go-round. When your shame is attached to pain, it really fucks with your head. Pain is legitimate and pain is worthy of acknowledgement and your pain deserves to heal, but…when shame is attached to pain, the pain becomes a dirty little secret. Your pain, my pain cannot, under any circumstances be expressed because of the toxic shame. The shame would be unbearable. That is a real head-fucker. Let me tell you that.

Over time this shame-bound pain becomes part of your normal and it slides out of your consciousness where it becomes invisible to our sensors, then, without any warning, the pain is provoked and the demons who occupy your shame are beside themselves in rage. The pain and the shame are too much for my mind to manage and a trigger occurs. I have been there many times. What about you? And the cycle completes itself. Once again, another layer of shame is placed onto the pain and the conditions become worse.

You have to admit, this is some overwhelming shit, and you may also know, all too well, the amount of perseverance that is required to drag yourself out of this pool of muck and mire. Know then that you are not alone, and I too have swum around in that cesspool of life. This is why it is important to take responsibility for our pain. That’s right, it’s back to that Jack. Responsibility means Response Ability or the Ability to Respond. Most of us with C-PTSD, do not respond to life because we live in a hypervigilant world that can swallow you whole at any moment. No, we react to life, usually with a big shot of adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol and we are off to the races. Before any rational thought can be conjured up. Which, I’m working on by the way.

Perseverance reminds me of Sisyphus, The Greek king who deceived the Gods and was banished to an eternity pushing a boulder up a hill. Not a lot of fun, but his backstory is really interesting. Not sure I am much like Sisyphus other than that boulder thing, but his myth speaks to the pain of perseverance, but unlike our poor Sisyphus, perseverance generally pays off and it gets a lot of people to the finish line. Perseverance has played a dual role in my life. It has been good thing when times were good and a bad thing when times are bad. Maybe that is true for you as well.

Humans, as a species have survived and thrived on this rock because we are so good at persevering. If the first spearhead didn’t work, the new and improved spearhead will certainly do the job and that is how it has been throughout human history. One innovation after another. Humans are incredibly adaptive, which means are you too. Your ability to persevere gets its drive from your natural creativity and curiosity with the world about you. Perseverance may at first seem like a punishment, like Sisyphus, but its power can be harnessed for good. I persevered until I got my Master of Social Work degree and I persevered until I received my clinical licensure. In fact, much of my perseverance has been directed towards positive outcomes. How about you? Are you persevering, just to keep your head above water? Or are you persevering towards greater health and a better life? You are going to persevere anyway; you might as well persevere in the pursuit of something Nobile. 

People with Complex PTSD know what it is like to persevere. It is second nature, and this is why we make such wonderful co-dependents. No matter how bad my marriage is, if I persevere long enough things will shift in my direction. Even though there is no evidence these painful dynamics will ever change. No, in fact, inducing change at any level there is a risk of becoming more entrenched. Like being stuck in the sand, the more you spin your wheels, the more stuck you become. Eventually it’s going to take some help to get your car out of there. It’s the same with codependency.

This is where Out of My Mind in Costa Rica comes into play. This little podcast is not just a business endeavor, it is a mental health exercise for me and if there is any payoff to living a life of perseverance, then let it be with my words, telling the stories of my life. Stories that, somehow touch you in a way that moves you to act on your own behalf. Carpe diem, seize the day. You see, we C-PTSDers have difficulty when it comes to acting on our own behalf. We are more than ready and willing to act on behalf of almost anyone else but ourselves. For me this has been my primary survival strategy, this has been my code. Give everything you got, eventually things will change. Hahahaha. They don’t.

Perseverance. We can persevere in our illness as well. Keeping it alive within us. One of the ways we persevere in a unhealthy way is by referring to it as “my…heart condition, my diabetes, my weight issue, blah, blah, blah. For me this is risky. Taking ownership of the problem does not mean making the problem personal, like an arm or a leg. Complex-PTSD is a condition that exists, and it is not yours. You had nothing to do with getting C-PTSD. Don’t make it part of your identity. Keep it separate from yourself, then you have a real enemy you can do battle with. It is exceedingly difficult to defeat an enemy that lives within us. “Damnit, I’m angry with my blood pressure. I’m going to hold my breath until it lowers itself. That will teach it.” This is silly.

My point is, once you have identified with C-PTSD, you will have dickens of a time changing that identity. Once you absorb the condition into your identity, it becomes part of your neuromotor system and once it has entrenched itself into you psyche, it becomes entrenched. It is best not to bring C-PTSE into that arena. Keep it separate from yourself. It is not “MY C-PTSD”, it is THE C-PTSD. This may seem like a subtle difference, but I urge you to make this subtle change and commit it to your neuromotor system. Inject this objectivity into your limbic nervous system. That is when the real dividends begin to pay off.

Obviously, I continue to work on this issue myself. Identity is a wiggly worm, and it doesn’t want to stay in one place. It is a dynamic, ever changing facet of your life on earth. I haven’t reached the point where I am feeling comfortable in my own skin, not yet, but I am seeing glimpses of it every now and then. It takes time, commitment, and patience. Many times, it feels like I am sliding backwards and to some degree, maybe it true. In my experience, I tend to cycle through emotional highs and emotional lows with every possible variant in between. The cycles are not regular and are highly reactive to my relationship status.

C-PTSD is a relational wound which is why the most devastating impact of this terrible condition gets played out in relationships. I love being in relationship and when I am in a relationship I am committed to it. I will persevere long past the time when any securely attached person would permit. The truth is, I have no clue how to navigate through the gauntlet of relationship. Ironic isn’t it. What works so well in the therapy room, has not translated to my own relationships. 

I have persevered all my life and at times, I get tired. I need to step back from the world and retreat into a private and personal world of solitude. A world where I slow things down, get back my sense of control and hopefully, heal a little bit before I go back into the matrix. Living my life outside of relationship is tremendously difficult for me. It is painful, tiresome, and stressful. I know that may not make sense, but keep in mind that I am highly co-dependent which means, I have been supplementing my identity through my relationship with my lovers. I have been using another to make me feel complete and as we all know, this just does not work.

Living on my own is and has been a tormenting experience for me. I don’t do well, emotionally on my own. At least that has been my experience. Even though I have spent many years between the loves of my life it has been a painful and lonely experience. These feelings compel me to seek out relationship and this has worked, but it is not working for me now. I know, inevitably, with every new love experience, I end up dancing the same dance and repeating the same patterns again and again. I’m getting too old for this shit. The good news is I am now conscious of what is happening. I give credit to my wife and my marriage for helping me see this truth as well as many more truths I was blind to. 

But knowing what is going on and changing it are two different things. Even if I know what I need to do I have a ton of resistance to push through. I don’t like being on my own, but I know I need to persevere until I crash through my self-imposed barrier and into a life where everything is real. At least this is what I fantasize.

So, I persevere. I know what I am dealing with, but I also get tired. Tired of living life filled with anxiety and depression. Fearful of being triggered and scaring people away from me. The more I seek an outlet for my pain, you know, a kind soul who simply listens and accepts me as I am, the more elusive that person becomes. I have a hunch that I need to start with myself. What I mean is I need to practice self-love and self-appreciation more. Be consistent with myself and not collapse at the small and immaterial matters that get in the way of everyone’s life. I hold my breath as I write about this and I feel myself quivering. I am not sure if it’s excitement for the grand life ahead, or dread of yet another chapter of my living hell. I guess there is only one way to find out…Persevere.

This is what has been overwhelming me. The confusion and self-doubt and the shame all rolled up into one big bitter pill to swallow but swallow it I must. In my head, I know this is my life and it is mine to live. So here I am at the ripe old age of 69 fucking years starting over…again. Damn, this thing gets old after a while. I’m sure you can relate. I have no idea what my true life looks like and I am definitely past my prime. Hell, I wasted that decades ago, but like fine wine, I hope I am improving with age. I am resilient and I know when I put my mind to something and commit to the process, I succeed. There are many reasons for me to be optimistic. But mere optimism is not sufficient to fuel this campaign.

I am in my golden years and this is the time for me to strike gold. I have never been closer and if I persevere, I will complete the journey. There is no doubt in my mind. I have done it many times before but this time I must take the journey on my own. As much as I would like to be in a mutually supportive and affirming relationship, the fact is I am not and right now there is no point in getting all tangled up in the life of another. I need to tackle this first, then, and only then, will I be ready to commit to another lover in a secure, support and affirming way.

First things first they say. I have a hunch that the first thing I need to do is to feel comfortable with myself. And if I do that, then I have a strong footing to step forward in my life. I am concerned that all of this may sound trite to you but I hope that is not the case. There is nothing trite about stepping out into the world on your own terms. This is an act of courage and an act of self-compassion because it If I do not take these steps, then my life will have been for naught.

I have always dreamed big, and I continue to dream big to this day. I don’t mean big in the ways of fame and fortune, although a little of that wouldn’t hurt. My big dream today is to help myself and help you as well. I want to bring you along on my journey towards self-actualization and the freedom from want. I tell my stories, not to make myself visible, but to draw you out of the shadows of your own huddled world. I want to hold your hand as we skip and dance our life’s dance. Holding each other when the storms thrash and dash our hopes and dream against the sea walls of fate.

I realize that I am never really alone, and neither are you. You have yourself. You have persevered to this point and you will continue to persevere because life is simply worth it. Dream big and take small steps. One day you will arrive at the mountaintop. Don’t be surprised if you are alone when you get there. This is your path, this is your life, you get to decide what to do with it. You can punk it away or you can live the life you dream of.

Will my dreams come true? Many of them already have, so I have no reason to believe my dreams of tomorrow will not also be realized. All I need is a clear vision and a little help from my friends. My vision for Out of My Mind in Costa Rica is to take it on tour. Put it into a book and take it around the world. Nothing big. Not rock star big, but maybe big enough to feel that I matter to people. Big enough to feel like my work is appreciated and big enough to not worry about my car breaking down. So, I persevere inching my way towards a point in time and space where all of this energy gathers together and thrusts me into the heart of my true life. It could be fun and helping others with C-PTSD would be the icing on the cake. Imagine that, my life being the most important thing about my life. Whoda thunk?

Thank you for coming and hanging out with me for the past 30 minutes or so. You have no idea how much I value your time. Please do what you can to help me reach the people who may benefit to listening to me drone on about my fucked-up life. Sharing is caring. I aim to help and if my words help you to take the next step in your journey, wonderful. You are one step closer to your dreams. Please comment, rate, or review Out of My Mind in Costa Rica if you listen on a platform that allows you to do so. If you like, send me an email at [email protected]. I will get back to you right away. We are all in this soup together and together is better.

Until the next time, Be Courageous. Be Strong and Be Kind. I’ll catch you later. Bye.