I wake up every weekday morning at my usual 5am, brush my teeth, get changed and head out to my morning fitness class. After class, I shower, have a light breakfast and coffee, wish D a good morning and my workday begins. When I finish my day, I’m either out for a walk, making dinner, dining out with friends or running some sort of errand. Again, rather typical for most people. What’s hidden underneath my every day facade, is a hurt inner child. An inner child who wishes to be seen, heard and valued. It’s a painful realization to admit to, but if I can be so vulnerable, it’s extremely true.
Most who’ve suffered from Childhood PTSD know exactly what I’m talking about. Every day can feel like a struggle to challenge negative thought patterns, self-sabotaging behaviours and complaining. I meditate, practice mindfulness, and use a variety of different techniques to soothe the running mind, yet sometimes the wave of negative thought patterns becomes too overwhelming to even slam on the brakes. It’s like trying slow down a runaway streetcar all by yourself – it’s so powerful, you have no choice but to step away and let it take over. Even with the awareness of the onset, sometimes isn’t enough to step away from it.
And that’s when I get myself into trouble with blaming, lashing out, pulling away, critiscizing or complaining. Once in it, it becomes nearly impossible to slow down. Then my mind runs in circles, like a hamster wheel, or Netflix trying to buffer and all you can do is watch the round circle spin forever on the TV screen.
How do I get off this crazy ride?
CPTSD is an injury. It doesn’t define me, but it’s an injury I have to manage and heal. Some recover a lot quicker depending on their level of resilience. For others, it takes a lot more work. I’ve realized that fear and resentment are two of the most powerful feelings that take over me when I fall into this pattern.
I resent myself. I resent others. I resent my environment. Then comes the fear. Fear of abandonment, fear or intimacy, fear of trust, fear of others, fear of letting go of the feelings of resentment (because I’m so used to feeling it, it’s ironically comforting), fear of letting go of this fear.
It’s a strange place to be in and as Anna Runkle calls it, this is when my brain goes into dysregulation. I have tried her Daily Practice of systematically writing out my fears and resentments, and I must say that it has been quite helpful. When having CPTSD, it’s normal to have a lot of fear and security challenges. Given what we’ve experienced, forming safe bonds with others can be understandably challenging. The goal now for me is to learn how to accept the feeling of regularity and safety.
I’ve read that we can still form new neuropathways in our brains. For example, if someone says to you, “Nice haircut”, most will think of that as a compliment. However, if our brains are hardwired towards the negativity bias, some might take that as a sarcastic remark to hurt us. We react in defense and lash out, even though the intent was to say something nice to you.
Forming new neuropathways can be looked at like a dried up canyon, where for years, the river flowed through it, forming a natural pathway for the water. If we look at our negative thoughts as the river, it will always flow in that same direction, over and over again. If we learn to create a new river for the water to flow, we can provide an option for our positive thoughts to come through instead. It takes a long time for the new canyon to be formed, but it is possible with commitment and hard work.
There’s much hope with finding ways to create new neuropathways. Though some days it feels daunting or as if I’ve taken steps backwards, I like to celebrate the little victories and take note of when I did override the negative thought patterns successfully. The old saying goes, a day at a time. In my case, it’s a moment at a time.