Sunday, March 10, 2013

Where Does the Journey Start?

When I looked at my blog statistics today, I noticed that two people had found my site by using the search term "domestic violence and complex ptsd."  Another person had used the term "child abuse and complex ptsd."  If you have read some of my earlier articles on my old Word Press site and also on my website (, you know that in my case--and in the cases of many of you!--complex ptsd is "complex" because trauma damage has built up through childhood and into marriage years.  Being abused as a child often paves the way for being abused as an adult if the childhood damages have not been healed.  It's taken much of a lifetime to build up the trauma damage, and healing will take a while. 

The healing process for complex ptsd is not usually short-term!  This is not good news for those of us who have been victimized as children and then, later, as spouses.  Thinking about this makes me angry!  I have spent the first 42 years of my life in the shackles of complex ptsd due to abuse inflicted upon me by other people.  What would my life have been like if I had not been subjected to the abuse?  I don't even like to think about the possible answers to that question because I get too sad and too angry, sadder and angrier than I want to be, for sure. 

I'm 74 now, and when I look back at my life, I prefer to focus on what I have done rather than on what I could or might have done had I not been victimized.  The fact is that being violently sexually abused when I was four changed me from a little girl who   loved to dance and sing into a little girl who was silent and who hid in closets.  I told nobody because there was nobody to tell, nobody who would have listened to me and who would have understood.  If I had told somebody and had been helped, I might have resumed dancing and singing.  I might not have become a battered wife.

But the early 1940s was a very different time from the present.  And my home was a silent home with a lot of secrets.  Thus, I told nobody what happened, and I carried the secret of my sexual abuse and other childhood abuses I endured into my marriage.  The abuses of my childhood years then morphed into abuses of my married years--forty two years total spent as a victim of abuse.  That's more than half my lifetime!

So what motivated me to start on my healing journey?   In 1980 I felt myself fragmenting into so many pieces that I could not gather the pieces and put myself back together.  During the last few years of my twenty-year marriage, I'd had to do that, to put myself back together time after time.  Putting the pieces back together was just something I did, something I thought everyone did. I remember feeling as if I were standing in the midst of a hurricane and the winds were carrying off bits of me.  Somehow, I had to locate those bits when the winds stopped, and then I had to gather those bits up and fasten them back onto me.  I thought of Humpty Dumpty and how he had a great fall and could not put himself back together again, and I struggled to not be Humpty Dumpty.  I absolutely had to get myself back together so I could take care of my family. 

And then one day I couldn't get myself back together.  I tried and tried, but I simply could not gather up the pieces.  I knew then that I needed help putting myself back together.  So one day in 1980 I got help.  "So one day in 1980 I got help" looks so simple on paper, but underlying those words is the highly complex condition known as complex ptsd.  Did I know I had complex ptsd?  Certainly not!  I thought everyone struggled as I struggled just to function each day.  I had no idea even that I had been victimized, was being victimized, and that the fallout from the abuses I endured as a child and was enduring as a wife had altered my brain and were altering my brain.  Back in the 1970s and 1980s, who would have known?  All I knew was that I did not want to be like Humpty Dumpty, a fragmented, broken shell that was unable to function as a human being.

The therapist who helped me in 1980 knew nothing about complex ptsd because the condition had not even been clearly identified at that time.  If it had been identified, it was not publicly identified as it is now.  However, she intuitively knew what I needed from her, and she saved  my life.  Six months after I began seeing her, the fog in my mind had lifted enough so that I could identify my husband's behavior with my daughter as sexual abuse and report him to the police.  After I had reported him, had filed for divorce, and had witnessed his conviction and sentencing, I felt free to make a new life for my daughter and me. 

Since 1981, then, I have been engaged in shaping my own life, a process I might have begun many decades earlier had I not been trapped and immobilized by complex ptsd.  I'm not entirely free from the shackles yet, and I may never be entirely free, but the bonds are growing looser with each passing year.  That's the good news! 

Think of the good news, the "now."  Work at loosening the shackles.  When you feel yourself fragmenting, ask for help gathering the pieces and putting yourself back together.  That's the beginning of the journey toward healing complex ptsd. 

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