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My Complex Trauma Story

I know the exhausted, confused & alone feelings…

Right in the middle of the busyness of life, surrounded by good friends, family and work colleagues, the feelings of exhaustion, confusion and loneliness persisted. It just didn’t make sense to me. I had everything anyone could ever want, yet life wasn’t working for me, and it should have been.

I know the feelings of shame and guilt when trying to change how I mother when I’ve had no experience, no example, of a loving, kind, generous, I’m on your side, supportive mother. I know the feelings of pure frustration of wanting and needing change and not knowing which way to turn.

I know the sensations of “there’s something wrong with me” the feelings of certainty that something is not right, I’m not putting pieces together and I know the deep sense of being upset and not being able to put words around what is happening for me.

And I fully know the experience of sitting in the office of a Psychologist, pouring out my heart and soul about how things in my life seem all together, of the normal story of life, having achieved the socially acceptable story of  the husband, the house, the kids, the job helping other people and yet I KNOW there is something not right for me.

Of said Psychologist saying to me “well, you’re doing better than any of my other clients, so you’ll be fine.” I know those tears you shed because I shed them in abundance too when the door shut and it seemed as though there was no help for me.

Oh, and I can never forget the unshed tears as I battled post natal depression for over 5 months, alone, in a house filled with 4 adults and 3 kids, and no one could see I wasn’t able to fully function, because, well, how do you admit you’re not really functioning when in our family we don’t ever talk about these things. Not ever.

Then there was the train wreck visit to the doctor once I found the courage to say “I’ve got post natal depression.” His instant shock and immediate response of “you? No, not you.” 

Why? Why not me? Oh yes, that’s right, I’m really good at appearing together, confident, functional and making things happen. So, naturally, why would mental health hit me out of nowhere?  Sigh. Those days before the internet we have today were a struggle in finding help, in finding someone, anyone, who understood, that things in my life internally were just not producing a vibrant, healthy, happy life. 

And I should have been able to have that vibrant, healthy, happy life as an adult able to make my own choices in regards to how I conducted my life.

Looking at the smiling innocence of my younger self I had to pause writing overnight. The depth of impact of what was handed down to me, of what I lived through, of what I’m still recovering from, rocked me to my core. 

It helped me to get off pause by looking at a bigger picture. My daughter has had her own daughter, and the photo’s remind me how much everything I do is worth every step taken. My granddaughter is filled with joy and will have a beautiful life. She spreads her joy all around. Even though we haven’t met in person yet, Covid, when she sees me on video her smile lights up my world. I’m reminded how much my adult children thank me for making hard decisions to make sure their lives would be different, and not repeating all that went before them.

Education and Hindsight have given me a picture of all that was passed onto me, that I had zero clue would impact my health. For those that know me already you are aware I spent two and half years bedridden, couldn’t walk, talk, eat or bathe myself. I literally had a full time carer. This was the ultimate result of my brain and body holding onto to undischarged distress and memories I had no idea where not filed away. It was the result of not having a procedural memory to show me how to change my life, of also having an unknown psychological wound, and unknown spiritual wound impacting my physical life. It was years of inner child, meditation, self reflection work that didn’t cross the physical barriers to heal my brain and body. It was being the first generation to say the dysfunction and maladaptive behaviours stop with me before these words were even part of my vocabulary.

The question then becomes how does all of this get passed down and impact my health? 

Let’s take a look at a few excellent diagrams to explain how and why our health goes down hill through unresolved trauma.

Whilst the first image explains how trauma can impact a childs development from the mothers perspective I heard recently scientists are having breakthroughs in how it is passed down through fathers via the sperm. This article is from 2014 when it was still being debated. At the moment I can’t access the latest research from this year where advances in this area have been made.

All of this information is relatively new to us in the public and currently is not taught in Universities around the world. Any professional who is a trauma trained professional has sought extra qualifications outside of university. 

Let’s take a look at a few excellent diagrams to explain how and why our health goes down hill through unresolved trauma.

For me, initially hearing Dr Nadine Burke Harris speak on the long term effects of childhood trauma was like finally, my life is beginning to make some sense. I thought once I left home I’d be able to make a healthy life for myself. Instead the older I got, the worse my health became. Now, I know from research, this is absolutely normal for Complex Ptsd. It doesn’t necessarily show up in our health until later in life. The ACEs study has helped all of us understand our higher risks of increasingly bad health and shorter life span.

My Missing Links to Good Health

For me, the missing links to my good health came when I discovered the neuroscience of trauma. The impact on various parts of the brain from trauma impacts our health. The stored trauma wasn’t being discharged, and the distress over my lifetime alone was not being discharged either. When I came across the following infographic which lists the symptoms of undischarged traumatic stress I came to understand how my health had reached a critical point. 

For the most part my brain was stuck on “on” and flowed to “off” when I wasn’t under immediate threat.  The question then became how do I fix my brain. Most therapists use this concept to work within a clients window of tolerance. I, however, wanted my brain fixed so it would regulate my entire system without having me shut down and unable to work effectively.

Where is my health today?

Over the last two and a half years I have been healing my brain by teaching it how to stay on line instead of going into dysregulation.  I teach my clients how to do this and I teach them how to go within and work at a soul level too. My health isn’t 100% because I keep stretching myself further out into the world. 

If I was to live a life where I was a trauma coach working from home on my own and living an every day life with my family I would be living a life of good quality. However, I keep learning and I’ve set up a Complex Ptsd Membership because we need to address so many different areas when we have Complex Ptsd. I’m also in the midst of writing a complex trauma certification plus writing a course on the neuroscience for the membership.

When we stretch ourselves further than our brain has ever been wired to imagine I’ve discovered I have to keep working at teaching various parts of my brain it is okay to stay online and stay in the now. Not easy, but worthi it. I’m hoping one day my brain stops shutting down and I fall asleep, so I can get more work done. For now, I couldn’t be happier that once again I can walk, talk, eat, bathe and no longer need a full time carer. I’m grateful for my adult children whose love leads the way, and for my new granddaughter who is nothing but a constant joy even though we’ve yet to meet in person.

Tell me, how are you? How can I help you navigate your way back to good health? What dreams do you have for your life? What changes do you want to make as a parent for your children? For your children’s children? They are possible and it’s best we begin now. It takes 2 generations to discharge the intergenerational trauma. #togetherwecan #onenextstep

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