I walk around with a hole that I cannot fill.
A void so deep within me that it might as well be a black hole, capable of swallowing me entirely, at any time, and its presence troubles me so. I work with a highly trained trauma therapist whom has diagnosed CPTSD from early childhood, stemming from – get this – birth. Since coming to this truth and accepting the realization that my brain is literally wired differently than others, I’ve learned so much about why I am the way I am, but I know that I am only at the beginning. It is a hard topic for me to openly share because I don’t want to give the false impression that my parents failed me, because I know they did their best, but certain events in my childhood only widened and solidified this brokenness inside me, and it has been a difficult journey to accept that. I bear scars from it, literally and figuratively, and the effect on my life now is visible in my relationships (or the lack of them, actually), in how I isolate, in how I react – the impact is obvious, if only you know what to look for.
All my life I’ve been called too sensitive. Be it an unexpected loud noise that makes me startle, the dark cloud that looms over my head that people can literally feel coming off me (“you’re bringing me down” is something I’ve heard most of my life), or the way I tend to have dramatic overreactions, or having a strangely difficult time with things others can easily endure… all of this and so much more can be attributed entirely to this diagnosis, and while I am grateful to have a starting place, finally, and professionals able and wanting to help, it is quite painful to accept that after struggling so long, I still have so much work to do to heal. It is… exhausting.
I share this now I guess because I want to feel less alone. I desire also to share what I have learned, and what I am learning, because I know that I am not alone. So many others, just like me, have walked around all their lives feeling it. If you have this, you KNOW what I mean. When you walk into a room, you swear everyone can sense that you’re different, you never feel like you fit in. You try to speak up in a group but feel like nobody listens, you’re insignificant, people don’t understand you. You catch yourself reacting strongly to unexpected stimuli, and easily frustrated and overwhelmed by normal everyday things (a mess on the carpet, kids arguing, spousal disagreements, etc.). You make engagements with friends but then the day comes so you feel severe anxiety and find a reason to cancel. You struggle to maintain boundaries, or put up way too many and shut everyone out. You can’t seem to maintain good relationships, push people away who try to show you love because you don’t think it’s real or trustworthy. You struggle with physical symptoms: Fatigue, digestive issues, autoimmune conditions, scattered thoughts, depression, anxiety, migraines, and even addictive tendencies seem to be harder for you than others. You feel dysregulated, like your emotions boil over inside your chest so much you feel like you can explode with rage, or cry uncontrollably, or want to run away to get away from the pain, but you can’t really figure out why this happens, and you can’t seem to stop it when it does (dysregulation is a BIG key word here, and one of the greatest symptoms of C-PTSD, and something I’ve felt all my life). There is so much more to it, but those are the ones I’ve noticed the most in myself, and that is why it was and is lifechanging to have this diagnosis (btw I hate that word but it’s the way to identify the problem so I use it)…
The thing of all of this, now, in my present life, is doing the work to rewire my brain and get to a state of regulation. What happens when we dysregulate is that our brain shuts down, the problem solving and clarifying of what is reality goes dim, and the part of your brain that stimulates emotions is highly activated – so, you aren’t thinking clearly and your emotions are heightened to an intense level = dysregulation, does this feel like you at all? It can be severe, as is in my case, so much so that I can feel it coming as a tightness in my chest when I am activated (triggered is another word but the idiots ruined that one for me ), like a heavy fog of confusion mixed with intense emotions – rage, sadness, anger – and it feels like I have zero control when it gets really bad. I’ve punched holes in the walls, broken things, it isn’t a pretty sight at all, but now I am learning why, and I see that there is hope for me to stop this and be able to live a healthier, happier life… But fuck, it is really, really hard work, and NOT doing it has the potential to destroy my family, my marriage, my life, so I have to keep going even when I don’t want to.
I don’t share any of this for sympathy or to get attention, nor am I “woe is me”, I’m just trying to be fucking honest because not enough people are, and we struggle alone when we don’t have to. I am tired of feeling so alone, of isolating myself because I’m too afraid of connection, because I don’t trust that others will be gentle with the things I would say if only someone listened. I am tired of thinking that I am broken, and others have it better somehow – no matter how much I try I just can’t seem to get it. That is incorrect thinking, and it only serves to do more harm when I try and convince myself nobody cares about me, that others have it better, when they don’t – it’s just that nobody talks about it.
Well, we should.
I’ve got a few friends, mostly on social media, that have what appear to be great lives. Shit, my own husband is one of them (sometimes I wonder why he chose me when he could have had the most put together, non-divorced, not-a-single-mom woman ever but instead he chose this lady like a dumb dumb). Some of them, coincidentally, share my Maiden name. It’s those people you see that grew up with an intact, functional family, whose parents are still married and they’re close, they help each other and always know they’ve got support. These people marry and stay married, have wide social circles, and don’t seem to struggle with themselves the way someone like me has struggled. Because these supposedly “happier” more fortunate people exist, the sharp contrast that I feel when I explain my own heart is a painful one, and it has often made me reluctant to share because I just feel like I’m being a baby about it – worried most of all that “those people” would just tell me to be happy, get over it, and just not even try to understand me because I’m just “too sensitive”. I’ve envied those people – not that they’re without strife or struggle, no, everyone has darkness, hard seasons, painful experiences and I’m NOT diminishing that whatsoever – but I’ve often just felt frustrated, like how did my story turn out so different? Was it always me that was out of place, given the wrong narrative, the wrong branch of the family tree, the wrong temperament – you name it, I’ve thought it, but I am learning now instead of feeling bad that mine isn’t that, if I work hard enough, I can reach someplace close to a better, more fulfilling and enriching life…
Seeing it that way, changing my frame of mind around comparisons, has really helped because it isn’t about someone else has it better, easier, that I should focus on, but that I can make one hell of a story out of rising above this, and THAT is something to be proud of. That is the kind of thing that even those well-to-do people would notice, and so I challenge myself any time I feel myself comparing that I have an opportunity for growth, right then, to change how this goes. Strange way to grow, strange way to make myself learn these lessons, but it’s better than feeling sorry for myself because that’s just shitty and it doesn’t help a thing. A friend told me recently that she wakes up happy, and my gut reaction was “you bitch, how does anyone wake up happy?” but then I laughed and saw it as a chance NOT to judge, and be happy for her, thinking maybe if she can wake up happy, I can too. I didn’t believe my own thought at the time, but change is slow – I just need to keep trying. One shift of focus at a time.
There’s a part of this I want to get out but it is the most personal, painful, difficult part, and that is how this has affected my relationship with John. He grew up in a normal family with successful parents, he went to college on scholarship then spent two years – after making a buttload of money at Microsoft – traveling the country, meditating at silent retreats, rock climbing, generally getting to know himself and what he wanted. Then, one day out of serendipity and an insanely coincidental series of events, he met me. We have been together 9 years, brought two more children into the family, and have made our home together. All the while, he has tried to love me. He has been my shoulder to lean on, but I rejected it. He has been my support, but I couldn’t trust he wouldn’t wise up and eventually leave me. He has been my rock, but I take any opportunity I have to crush it with a hammer and then tell him, “See, it’s broken”. He has been patient, but I test him constantly. He has been loving, but I try and convince him he deserves someone way better than me. I cannot count how many times he has begged me to let myself trust in his love and devotion, that it is real, that he won’t abandon me because he wants me to be happy and have a great life, but I fight against it, something inside me just doesn’t know how to trust, and it rips him apart.
I don’t blame him for being tired. I don’t blame him for being frustrated, hurt, confused, when all the while he’s tried to be the one person I CAN trust, but I just don’t let myself believe it. As I’m writing this, I think about my mother, and how big of a part she played in convincing me I am unlovable, unwanted, discarded like I just didn’t matter. And I see the correlation between that insane betrayal and trauma (I’m not getting into the details of that again, but let’s just say she broke my love before she died) and the way I’ve related to my husband, beings he was the first man that really cared for me since I left my home 16 years ago. When we first met, I shared everything (that’s a challenging thing people with CPTSD do, we unload our trauma stories to anyone that will listen – thank God I stopped doing that at least!) and he listened so well, wanted to help and be there for me; he cared about ME, and it was the first time I started to feel the call to really love someone again after losing my first great love the way I did. But as he drew closer, I closed up. I began to find the flaws instead of the freedom in loving him, I began to feel unsafe, frustrated, broken, in the contrast of being with a man as put-together, smart, and well-adjusted as John – it served to illustrate and highlight my brokenness, and just how deeply my wounds penetrated my soul and my psyche that I couldn’t let a great man love me.
As I think about my journey, I consider that all of this was meant to be. God didn’t make a mistake with my life, not even when I was born feet first and tiny, quite literally with a broken heart. He didn’t make a mistake to leave me in hospital scared and alone for months. He didn’t make a mistake choosing my parents, he didn’t make a mistake with my siblings and the life we got. Everything about who and how I am is designed, maybe without my consent (I certainly wouldn’t have chosen to have an alcoholic mother that died at age 39, for instance), but sometimes I am so frustrated that I am made to feel this way because it is painful to walk around carrying all this inside me. I’ve cried so many times out of sheer exhaustion living in my skin, feeling how I feel so often that sometimes a forever sleep feels like a good alternative (no I am not suicidal – it’s a metaphor for being exhausted that is all). I’ve fought the urge to run more times than I can count, but then I think about my children and I know I don’t have it in me to leave them, and I do thank God for this love I have for them, because it is the only thing that’s kept me going sometimes. A strength I adapted from losing my mom, no doubt never wanting my daughters and my son (whom has his own story to contend with being adopted from foster care) to feel anything close to how I felt losing her. I am tired of breaking their hearts though, my husband and my babies, because I just can’t seem to shake this dark cloud inside my chest. God knew what He was doing when He made me, when He wrote this story, but fuck man, sometimes I wish He put a clause in there, like, pull this lever if it ever gets too hard and I’ll take some of the weight off… Nope, I never got the instructions.
I don’t know. I wanted to write something so I’m bearing it all. The ugly truths, the hard parts, the difficulty of one insignificant life out of millions. I hope one person reads this and if they can relate, asks me more questions about how they too can find a way to heal through CPTSD. I hope someone reads this and feels less alone in your struggle, that even the darkest days, the hardest seasons can be endured, and we can get better.
I just want to feel loved, and trust it. I want to have meaningful, deep relationships built on mutual respect and kindness. I want my children to be proud of their mother, and always know how much I love them that I am willing to do this work so they don’t have to feel how I feel as adults. I want my husband to have the closeness and intimacy he deserves, to feel safe loving me, that I won’t turn against him, and blame my lack of receiving his love on anyone but myself. I want to soften my edges and show compassion, to myself and to others, to feel less rigid and angry, to feel more joy and purpose.
It is exhausting… Some days, I feel resentful that I have to work so hard to have what others so readily enjoy – that ease and comfort with their lives, their story – those fuckers that wake up “happy”, you know, but then I think how much richer my life is overcoming all of this that I kind of chuckle at those that have it easier because how much do they really understand about life anyway? Tongue in cheek – nobody has it easy, but still, don’t you just want to sometimes shove that smile up their ass and tell them to fuck off? Maybe that’s why I don’t have friends? Ha.
I kind of hope nobody reads this, but I’m going to share it anyway. It’s part of being me, to share this kind of thing, because I am so tired of feeling alone – so I am going to help YOU feel less alone by being honest about all of this. I wish more people would be honest, but alas, we live in a shallow world now don’t we?
Life is too short to be anything but honest, fuck it. So here goes… Everything.