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The Loneliness of CPTSD

I have heard it too many times. People who have others around them & feel utterly alone & lonely. I hear it even more from those who have PTSD or CPTSD. It is a feeling of not being safe, heard, or understood by anyone in your world & it can be downright debilitating. You don't have to suffer in silence. There is help to deal with what happened to you & start to feel like yourself again. You may even have to define that self for the first time if you have experienced childhood trauma. It's ok, in this post I'm going to talk about it & hopefully give you some tools to mitigate the crushing loneliness that seems to stalk us wherever we go. Don't give up.

What is CPTSD & PTSD?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health condition that develops after a traumatic event(s) that a person is not able to process & have safety restored into their experience. You will most commonly hear this term in reference to Combat Veterans & it used to be called Shell Shock. It is characterized by a set of symptoms such as flashbacks, night terrors, avoidance of anything that reminds a person of the event, anxiety, unhealthy changes in mood & emotions, & intrusive thoughts.

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has the same symptoms as PTSD but has an additional set of symptoms that characterize it. It is caused by interpersonal trauma (trauma in relationship with others) & is often formed in childhood due to repeated traumas occurring throughout childhood. Prisoners of war, victims of sex trafficking & slavery, & those who have been kidnapped can also suffer from CPTSD. It comes from prolonged & unpredictable exposure to traumas. While PTSD usually forms in adulthood, CPTSD usually forms in childhood. According to the CPTSD Foundation, "The symptoms of CPTSD can be life-altering and cause severe disabilities such as many different forms of mental health disorders, including borderline personality disorder, dissociative disorders, and somatization disorder. The emotional damage that precludes complex post-traumatic stress disorder can lead to prolonged feelings of terror, worthlessness, helplessness, and the warping of the identity and sense of self in children."

I do not compare mental illnesses & traumas so please understand that whatever happened to you is not to be compared to others. It you are affected you are affected & that's enough to seek the help you need.

Why Am I So Lonely?

There are many reasons. Let's outline some here:

  1. Trauma, by it's very nature disconnects us from ourselves, we do it to survive

  2. Trauma, disconnects us from others

  3. Trauma breaks our trust in the goodness of the universe

  4. If we experience interpersonal trauma, our trust in others is broken as well

  5. The bonds that would allow us to reach out to & be seen by others are all but obliterated in our attempts to survive

  6. People don't always understand (this doesn't mean they don't want to).

  7. The vast majority of people don't know how to support someone who has experienced trauma. They do their best but a lot of times that's not enough for us.

  8. Sometimes we think that we are just making a big deal out of nothing & so we isolate & tell ourselves no one will help us.

Of course these are not all of the reasons but as you can see, it makes for a very lonely experience. I have had each one these crop up & others, often at the same time.

How Can I Get Out of This?

There is no easy answer to this question. You get out of it by going through it & being vulnerable to others as well as yourself. The fear will be there. Everyone won't always get it but you will begin to realize that people can hold space for you & your struggles. They may not be able to carry the burden for you (which wouldn't be ideal anyway) but they can sit with you while you unpack your trauma so that they can understand you better. It takes time & no quick fix will get you there all in one try. The key to it all is to know that you are worth the discomfort that will pop up & to keep going.

You may say but what if they don't understand & hurt me? That is a valid fear & I can tell you this, you are capable of finding people who will hold your pain skillfully. Look at a person's behavior. How do they hold your pain? Are they all light & love while telling you to let it go without providing a safe space to do so? Or do they allow you to be where you are until you can move forward. I'm not talking about allowing you to wallow in self pity & victimhood. I mean when you come to them crying do they sit with you or tell you to move on & stop crying? Look at their behavior before their words & you will see who is good for you & who is not.

While this may be heavy, there are those friends who make us laugh when we are suffering & I believe that is powerful medicine. We need friends like that so don't leave them out. Get out of the house with the friend who likes to do fun stuff. Enjoy life in the moment. You won't regret it. Above all else be gentle, kind, & compassionate toward yourself. You have to learn new ways of being & that takes time. Venture out & try, you will be glad you did.

See you on the journey

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