C-PTSD and Working Through the Blues
Mama Told Me There’d Be Days Like This
September 17, 2021
Yes, I am still working through the blues. What can I say? It is what it is, and this is my river, and this is how it is flowing at the moment. I don’t want to be a Donny Downer, but you decide for yourself. I am sharing a little bit about my process and what makes is work for me. Life seems to be a reminder that we need to keep on our toes and keep moving forward, wherever that may be for you. For me it is just a matter of loving myself and keeping my commitments to myself. Each day I strive to do better than the day before. Sometimes that happens and sometimes it doesn’t. You pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back on that pony.
Here are a few websites I found that punctuate today’s theme, More of the fucking same thing as last time. But different. Give it a listen and you be the judge.
Scary Mommy is a great resource for people in all kinds of recovery. She recently posted this article and it gets right to the heart of the matter.
Vicki Peterson published this intriguing article on The Mighty.com and offers a clear explanation as to the differences between Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress.
Out of the Fog does a great job of getting down to brass tacks. This article gives a great overview of CPTSD, treatment and the process of healing.
CPTSDfoundation.org is doing a lot of great work with helping people resolve their own particular version of CPTSD.
C-PTSD and Working Through the Blues
Mama Told Me There’d Be Days Like This
September 17, 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 don’t want to sound like a broken record or repeat myself ad nauseum, but I have not been able to shake these blues I’ve had for the past 5-6 months, and I am getting darned sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. Can you relate to this? I can’t be the only one with C-PTSD who feels like this. In fact, I believe that chronic, underlying, low level depression is a symptom that separates Complex-PTSD from single event PTSD. Not that the later is less of a problem, it’s just a different sort of problem.
Before I get into the program, I want to thank my sponsor, Out of My Mind Art at www.outofmymindart.com. The Etsy shop where magic is at your fingertips and fun is just a Flinger away. Please drop by and see what the folks over there have to offer. If you enter the discount code: OOMMCR you get an extra 20% off your purchase price. You can’t beat that with a stick. This is my special offer to all of my listeners for being there for me. Thank you. I am grateful for your support.
This has been a difficult episode to work on. The main reason being is I don’t want to just feed you a steady diet of doom, gloom, struggle, grief, and pain. I don’t believe ruminating about my troubles is productive, but like many of you dealing with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress, it may feel like you have no other choice. All of the other options appear to be too far away, too difficult and way too painful a journey to take on. But take it on you must.
Just because I have a lot of education and experience in mental health doesn’t mean I do not suffer to the same degree that some of you are currently suffering. In my case, I am choosing to share my miserable state of mind with the hopes that my difficulties, my trials, and tribulations will, in one way or another motivate you to keep chugging along. I’ve been chugging along for over 60 years now and even though I could complain, moan and groan and bitch about my miserable life, it is not all that miserable. I make it out to be much worse than it is.
In my mind, my life is one fucking disaster after another fucking disaster after another fucking disaster. I am chronically on the lookout for the rug to be pulled out from under me and I am vigilant and protective of my heart. It has been broken far too many times. Present circumstances included. All of this is happening on the inside. If you were to simply observe me in public, you may think I had things going for me. That I had my shit together, but that is so far from the truth and much of that is an act to keep from being hurt again. Damn, this pisses me off.
I didn’t sign up for the slow train of horrors ride and I certainly did not ask to have C-PTSD, but I do have this monster of a condition and I have bought multiple tickets over time to ride on that dark, bleak iron horse. In fact, it takes but one thought, one tiny subconscious twitch and I hop right back onto that train. I don’t want to do it, but I’ve been hoping that train for decades now and it has been the only train I have known. That’s the way I have rolled with life.
I’m a tad slow to respond to what life brings me. There is a numbing barrier that life needs to pass through before it reaches me, and only until it has been filtered to some degree am I able to take it on. This is one of the reasons I am currently living alone. I am on my own, 95% of the time. Of course, my cat, Don Gato is by my side. He is always by my side. I can count on that regardless of how annoying I become. He is my constant companion and I love him for his simple needs and his selflessness.
I AM working through the blues, and I am sure many of you are as well. Why I am doing this podcast? I am doing it because,
1) I can’t afford the therapy I need and
2) I get to express myself openly and honestly to people who listen, you know, really listen and
3) I feel better about myself because, maybe, just maybe, this podcast is helping you.
Really, this is what my life has boiled down to, more solitude than I want, less human contact than I need, yet, despite all of the loneliness and isolation I feel, my spirit keeps pushing me to move forward.
I have no idea what moving forward looks like for me, but my guess it will be different from the status quo. Moving through depression is the most challenging aspect of my life. And, move through the depression, I must. There is no other option, but to work it out with myself and come to terms with my current state of mind, my current state of existence and change what I have the power to change and let go of the rest. I am sure many of you feel the same way. It’s overwhelming, isn’t it? Fucking overwhelming as hell.
What now? What now, that I know what’s been going on in my life? What decisions do I need to make to regain a sense of efficacy in my world? How the fuck do I turn this ship around and direct myself to a calmer sea and a tropical paradise? This is what’s making this week’s episode so challenging for me. I could spend the entire time whining and moaning and relating my difficulties to you or I can shift my perspective and take note of all the blessings I have been bestowed.
Gratitude is the way. I know this, but God Damn It! Part of me doesn’t want to feel gratitude for my current situation. Part of me wants to be spiteful and mean to those whom I believe have wronged me. I want to play the victim and I want to lash out at those who abandoned me. This whole idea is invigorating for me. This blind rage I carry towards those, who with no intent to harm, did harm. That is only one level of my rage. Another other level of my rage is directed at my estranged wife, who never took C-PTSD seriously, denied its power and refused to learn about this condition. This was a terrible, terrible experience for me.
I can understand her actions based on what I now know about attachment theory, but I cannot forgive her for failing to develop any level of understanding of C-PTSD and from the little I know about her history, she is probably suffering from this debilitating condition as well and does not know it. Denial is not just a river in Egypt. It’s a real state of conscious, just like the denial I had which saved me from the painful memories of neglect and abuse as a child. Denial takes over your brain and you are spared this anguish. But once denial has been broken down, there is no other choice but to look at this carnage.
And it is painful. Bitterly painful. To the bone painful. The events over the past few years have been exceedingly painful. I can easily say, without a doubt that since I have learned I have Complex Post-Traumatic Stress, I have never felt such grief, such pain, and such sorrow. It is like all of my protective layers of denial were suddenly ripped away, like that band aid your mother so thoughtlessly pulled from your hand. Damn that hurts, but you suck it up and go forward. That wound is well on it way towards healing and so are you. If you are a regular listener of Out of My Mind in Costa Rica-Living with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress, then you know what I am talking about.
This is not easy shit to work through. Hell, I have a master’s degree in Social Work, countless hours of continuing education and thousands of hours of clinical practice and here I am, sitting in my little casita on a hill in Costa Rica, talking with you about how miserable my life is. Yes, it sucks being me right now, but like every other time like this I have always found a path through the muck and the mire to arrive at what could be considered “greener pastures”. Maybe I’m lucky. Maybe being a white male has given me more opportunities than had I been less privileged. I don’t know. This is my life and I dare not speak of your lives. That is your path, your challenge, and your duty to fulfill to the best of your ability.
Working through the blues when you have Complex Post-Traumatic Stress is just the way it is and the sooner you recognize this, the sooner you can take steps to become informed. You can actively begin to look within to find the answers to your questions. It takes, openness and a willingness to face these fears. Fears that have held you back for years. In my case, decades. I have no choice but to work through the blues and let the blues teach me what I need to learn to about my life. Life seems to be one lesson after another lesson and some of these lessons are more challenging than others.
We start by getting honest with ourselves. We start by acknowledging the innocence that was stolen from us, didn’t actually get stolen. It just went underground. The innocence remains, at least for me, it remains there within me. This innocence is the original pureness of your being, and it remains within us throughout our lives. Because of the vulnerable aspects of my innocence, I have barricaded it deep within myself and even though it is buried deep within me, it is still present at this very moment.
This is not unique to me, but the memory of our innocence beats strongly in each of our heart of hearts. It lays within our deepest being because that is the starting point for all life. We are all innocents. We have all experienced this profound and powerful loss in our lives. This loss connects each and everyone of us into a single moment where that innocence is stripped from our lives. We are changed forever, but we need to survive. So, survive we do. We build walls, we build booby traps, we scan the horizon for any sign of danger. We are hypervigilant to the degree that we often get blindsided by life. Talk about a narrow focus.
I used to teach clients about the power of their peripheral vision. Peripheral vision opens our field of vision so that we can take in more data. Hypervigilance forces us to peer into the darkness like random laser beams which limits our perception of reality. By opening up our peripheral vision we naturally take in more information which frequently sheds light onto the problems we face. We are able to see the big picture more clearly, as opposed to squinting our eyes to see the landmines that are most definitely there and unless we are hypervigilant, we may trip one of those land mines and get hurt.
Hypervigilance simply means we don’t want to be hurt again. You and I have been hurt enough already. We don’t need to introduce more pain and more sorrow through the narrow lens of hypervigilance. We are locked and loaded when it comes to the triggers in our lives, but this, ultimately blurs our vision and instead of seeing life as it really is, we see life as it was in the past. Dangerous, overwhelming, and self-defeating. The simple act of engaging your peripheral vision is an act of stopping, stepping back and putting life into perspective. Peripheral vision is like a convex mirror, it reflects back a wider perspective on the world.
It is this wider, more open perspective that allow us to see life for what it is. By activating your peripheral vision, you automatically open your mind to more possibilities, different perspectives, and new ideas about living. Think of yourself like a social scientist. You job is not to direct social action, but simply to observe it. I recommend you do this simple exercise several times a day for at least 5 minutes at a time. Open your peripheral vision and just see what it sees. Don’t judge it, don’t label it, and don’t respond to it. Just observe it. Then while you are watching your world, gently open yourself up to what emotions are currently flowing through your body. Are the emotions congruent with what you are seeing or are your emotions incongruent with what you are seeing?
For example, I like to sit on the veranda and gaze out at the wonderful splendor that is Costa Rica and for most people, this scene would calm and sooth them. They would feel like they are at the top of the world looking down. I love this perspective which was a primary reason I backpacked every summer when I was younger. The lofty view expanded my vision and brought peace and calm to what otherwise was a raging sea of turbulence. It is very peaceful looking down across a mountain valley like an eagle surveying its territory. I felt serene and incredibly present. I could smell the sap of the white pine. I could hear the far-off cries of an eagle, or a falcon and my vision would expand to full panorama view. I was one with the world. I was a part of this great adventure called life. I was not separate; I became one with the Universe. What a great feeling that is.
Nature has a way of caressing us in its bosom if we are open to exploring. Not all of us are. Fortunately, I am one who derives great benefit from being in the wilderness and to be honest with you, I have it made in the shade when it comes to living in Costa Rica. I love the mild climate. I love the geographically different habitats that exist in this tiny country, and I love the people of Costa Rica. I would be out of my mind to leave this place.
I know all too well, that no matter where I go, there I am. I have tried to shake my baggage many times by moving to a new town, taking on a new job and beginning what I thought would be a fresh start, only to find my baggage piled up at the front door knocking to get in. Damn! Here I go again! The same self-doubts, the same scathing self-evaluations, and the same shame-based dialogue in my head. I could never outrun myself and regardless for how long it took for my baggage to show up, it always did, and it always had a devastating impact on my life, my work, and my relationships.
How many times do I need to get on that merry-go-round? How many times am I going to blindly buy that ticket and take that ride. I know what to expect and I get what I expect. More of the same. More loss, more conflict, and more grief. At 70 years-of-age, I honestly don’t know how much more of this I can take. Something has to change and that something, as much as I hate to admit it, will be up to me to change. I know this is a familiar theme that keeps running through this podcast, but it is true. When all is said and done, I, me, you, we, them are all responsible and accountable for the lives we have chosen. For many of us this is a bitter pill to swallow. But swallow it you must.
The last stage of grief is acceptance. This is the point where the loss and its impact have run the gauntlet. Perhaps acceptance is the most difficult stage of grief to succumb. There is and will always be a tiny part of me, wishing and hoping and longing for things to return to the way it was. But that is not going to happen. Life is not going to go on as it once did. No sirree Bob! Acceptance, for me, means I have ceased to struggle with life. Acceptance, to me, means I am open to the new experiences that lie ahead. And acceptance for me, releases me from the hold that the loss has had on me. Let go and live or hang on and die. Unresolved grief eats away at our fortitude, our motivation, and our lust for life and those of us with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress have had more than our fair share of loss and grief to endure. It has taken a long time to see how much C-PTSD has infected and impacted my life.
I was flying blind for decades posing as a healer when in all actuality, I was just another one of the walking wounded. I am not forlorn and dismayed by this realization. No, not at all. I am thrilled with my new and clearer vision of life. I wish I could have done many things differently, but I didn’t and the lessons I learned through the varying degrees of adversity have taught me many things about myself and my purpose for being here. I think I am on the right path right now. Sure, the path is rocky and full of pitfalls where I stumble and fall down, but eventually I am able to see the big picture. Finally, I have a perspective that puts all of the bullshit into perspective and shows me that I have been on the right path the entire time.
Of course, everyone can look back and be confronted with a myriad of disappointments, poor decisions, and past mistakes, but that is not where you are living. No, you are here, and the time is now. And the choice is yours. You can live it in the present or you can wallow your life away in the regretful past or the terrifying future. The only way out of this dilemma is to be in the moment. Be here. Be Now. What can I say? It’s true. All of the great mystics spoke of the present moment as the only moment there is. Modern day gurus continue to espouse these same truths to yet another generation of starving students.
We are all starving students when it comes to living. We are all amateurs in this game called life. We are all clueless and if you don’t believe you are clueless then you are not being honest with yourself. Life is too complex to breakdown into 30 second soundbites or a cynical meme on social media. The fact that life fascinates me is the main reason I am here, talking with you today. I am fascinated with life and no matter how down-in-the-dumps I get, I maintain my curiosity and desire to keep moving. Even though it feels like I am trudging through a river of molasses. As a child in Michigan, I was frequently compared to molasses in January.
So, how can this starving student, get back on track? How can I move beyond the shackles that bind and hobble me? How does a caterpillar become a butterfly? I don’t know about you, but I’ve yet to emerge from my cocoon as a butterfly. It seems that change, real change doesn’t occur magically under the wraps of a tightly spun cocoon. It occurs slowly, over time and with great determination. It’s the Hero’s Journey and each of us, you, me, we each have our own unique paths to walk. We enter this life alone and we leave this life alone. We all know that, so what’s to be afraid of? We come from aloneness, and we return to aloneness. You could also say we are given an opportunity to grow into that beautiful butterfly, but many of us, unfortunately, remain as caterpillars, unaware of the potential we possess.
Complex Post-Traumatic Stress does this to our minds. It creates a false narrative about how life is supposed to be, and we are like little robots follow that programming perfectly. And, as a result, we never reach the pinnacle of success we have always dreamed of. At least that has been true for me. Don’t get me wrong, I have lived a relatively good life and I have helped thousands of people over the years. This brings me piece of mind. But what frustrated me has been a life-long struggle with intimate relationships and self-esteem.
Now that I know I have C-PTSD and I am much more conscious how this condition interacts with my day-to-day thoughts, feelings, and actions, I am on a mission to change the self-defeating patterns that have derailed me for much of my life. Yeah, I know some people may see my life as being a success, but in my eyes, I am still that young, confused child who, without his consent, was changed forever by complex trauma.
Wow, I think I have rambled enough for one episode. I hope I have not put you to sleep. It is my sincerest desire for you to take with you something of value from my fucked-up life and Out of My Mind in Costa Rica appears to be the vehicle for that effort. Thank you for listening today. I hope you have gotten some benefit from today episode, C-PTSD and Working Through the Blues. I know I certainly have struggled with the blues, and I bet many of you, at this very moment, are working through the blues as well.
I want to thank my sponsor, Out of My Mind Art at www.outofmymindart.com. The Etsy shop where the fun never stops. Check out their selection of Magic Wands, Flingers, Wine Charms and Mobiles. They are simply wanderful. If you use the coupon code: OOMMCR you will get an additional 20% off your purchase price. How’s that for a deal?
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Meanwhile, until the next time, Be Courageous. Be Strong and Be Kind. I’ll catch you later. Bye.