I turned 30 this year. But I don’t feel like an adult. I still feel stuck in my teenages. So when adult things happen to me, I don’t seem to realise or even take responsibility.
I moved back with my parents yesterday after years of turbulence and trying to figure out life on my own. I would say I messed up pretty bad. I am not financially independent as always, I am unemployed with little skills to offer and low self-esteem, I still have the victim mentality and my long-term relationship ended as well.
Thinking back I never planned my life. I wanted to die once I turned 30. That was my one solid plan. Here I am, at 30, wanting to start over and looking forward to build a life that I had no plans for or expectations even.
I do want to overcome all my fears and insecurities and change for the better. I want to start small and stick with a job. I want to take responsibilities and feel okay in my own skin. I want to stop blaming and work on my mental health and feel close to some wholeness.
I want to stop comparing my life with others and feel small. I want to overcome the feeling that I did not achieve my full potential due to the choices I made as well as due to my childhood trauma. I want to feel enough. I want to be bold enough to imagine a future for me. I want to change all the negative lifescripts and be okay. I just want to be okay. That is what I want at 30. Being okay.
I became aware of Complex PTSD only recently. Earlier I dealt with each symptom separately. I tried to get out of depression, I tried to work on my anxiety, I tried to fix my binge eating/junk eating, I tried to calm my racing thoughts with meditation, I used all sorts of productivity hacks to just sit and read etc. I used to become alright and functional for a while but some trigger sets me back to the starting stage. Then I start the binge eating, distracting myself and spacing out and my routine collapses once again and I find myself depressed and anxious all over again.
Since my trauma is relational, I did not seek help or reach out to people or even admit to myself that I was suffering. The more I suffered, the more I focussed on other people’s issues and never spoke about mine. Thanks to the codependency I developed! The more I suffered without knowing why, the more I wanted to hide and never come out. I was like this most of my life but I was functional in societal standards. But the last five years were different. I isolated myself in the name of preparing for an exam and I did not realise what I was doing even. I literally did not connect with humans in real time.
When I ask my family and friends as to why they were not able to reach out to me, I was told that I am difficult to approach and that they did try to reach out. There is truth to that statement and it hurts exactly because of that. All through this, I was always supported financially by my family, especially my elder brother. He had no obligation to do that. But I felt entitled to that help as well. I am seeing my unhealthy ways of thinking as new realisations set in each day. Seeing my loved ones, feel exhausted and hurt after all the enabling they did and still feel blamed by me, is something that I am not proud of.
So I have been trying to seek professional help for the past six months or so. It was a lot of back and forth, lot of retraumatizing and overcoming my own inhibition to admit that I need help or that I was suffering even. I did not have the luck to meet trauma informed counsellors in my area. And affordability is always a factor to consider. But after speaking to five different counsellors, I was finally able to find someone who did not go by the books and was open to listen without judgment. It feels hopeful a bit. It could be because I am finally willing to change as well and not get stuck in my ways maybe. Not wanting to self-sabotage is new to me.
I have reached out to someone who does EMDR as well. Will post the updates on that.
As I go back and forth a lot of times, trying to understand what my true self is,I worry about being everything that I was traumatised by. In the process, I feel I am a lot similar to those people who scarred me. I worry about the hurt I might have caused others. That is not good when you already carry a lot of shame and guilt. I am yet to reach those levels of self-compassion and self-love that is accepting of everything I was and I am.
I analyse myself in the worst possible way as well. So I give myself tags like covert narcissist, codependent,avoidant personality etc. Labels don’t help anyone who is trying to heal or fix themselves, I feel. I used to be a firm believer of that. But I still catch myself trying to box myself and also making sure I am not any of that. It becomes a lot for me to take in. I understand rationally that I can carry many of those traits and still not be that. But rationality takes time to work. Sometimes I wonder if I even use the label of CPTSD because it makes it easier for me to accept myself.
The loss I feel towards my wasted potential is another major thing. When I see people from my peer group carry on with their normal stages of life, living a more fuller life, I cannot help but feel left out. Also my breakdown happened when I was working towards something that takes a lot of effort and I have given it up totally now. So doing anything other than that is a reality I find it difficult to accept. I take it as a sign that my recovery has just begun and I am still in denial sometimes.
Also it gets very lonely most times and that makes it even more natural for me to take this road of worry. I have slowly started to reach out to people/groups. Even the hope of healing myself is something very new because of my self-defeating attitudes and behaviours.
So when my worry spirals into these kind of thoughts, I ground myself by accepting that I am still new to recovery and realising that I have many more insights to learn from and work on. Taking it slow is very important as well.
Running away from my true self has been the story of my life so far. I still do, from things, where I have a lot of recovery work left to be done. This year has been one of a kind. The best I would say. I invested my time to try and get closer to my true self as best as I can. And also to love it and accept it with no constraints whatsoever.
CPTSD makes it so much harder for me to be kind to myself. The mix of the harsh inner critic, perfectionistic tendency, the grandiose narcissistic fleas I carry, the cycle of shame, guilt and depression, the emotional flashbacks and countless other things, makes it mission impossible to accept myself for who I am.
A major part of my recovery in accepting myself has been about allowing myself to feel all the emotions, without any judgment and silencing the inner critic. Verbalisation and reading on related topics has helped me a lot in that sense.
Also to accept oneself, there should be a sense of self. I have always lacked that. I always felt anxious worrying about people seeing through the facade I put out. Now I am able to put these thoughts in words. Earlier they added to the toxic shame I lived with. So the journey of acceptance for me has also been about finding my real self first.
There are valid reasons as to why one should seek professional help when struggling with mental illness. A professional will definitely guide you in the right direction in terms of thinking, behaviour etc. You will know where to start and what is wrong with your way of reasoning. You have someone on your side no matter what. You will make progress in a much more organised way.
Having said all these, I must admit that I never took any professional help except for a very one off emergency counselling session. It did not go well.I left feeling more invalidated and the opinions of the counsellor made it much more hard for me to overcome my trauma. So a right counsellor/therapist matters the most too. I never took professional help because I was not aware for a long time that I needed help and when I realised I do need help, I found therapy to be unaffordable.
Also the intensity of how much my life was getting affected because of my mental health made an influence too I guess. I was getting by fine at least in the worldly sense. Little did I know, how disconnected I was from what I was feeling inside. I was ignorant and avoidant for a very long time.
And most of all, the shame or taboo associated with mental health played a role too. My family was not aware of mental illness at all. My mother never understood or cared to understand as to why my brother suffered from depression. In fact, she made me feel so much shame for feeling depressed and asked if I was okay because an “astrologer” told her that I was going to become “mental”! The audacity of that woman!
Anyway the conclusion of it all is that I would like to seek professional help sooner or later. I have been avoiding it intentionally and practically.
My teeth were a mess. I could convince anyone that I had vampire blood in me. Even then I refused to get braces. I gave myself a story that I wanted to be accepted for who I am despite my teeth. I went around with an elimination test – that anyone who commented on my teeth, were not worth spending my time with. Maybe I was right. And for a long time, I did not let that affect my self-esteem either. Or so I thought.
I did live with those teeth for 29 years. I strongly believed that I did not care as to how the world viewed me physically. But deep down I did care a little at least I guess. I must have because I got annoyed every time when dentists questioned me on why I didn’t get it fixed or the fact that I never did smile whole heartedly for pictures.
All through this, getting my teeth fixed became a necessity rather than for aesthetic. My upper teeth were grinding my lower ones and it reached a point where I had to do something. It took me another year of letting go of the image I held on to for myself and others and also facing the reality that I actually lacked self-care even. So I did decide to get the braces right before my 30th birthday and the progress has been painfully good so far.
The decision was not easy because self-care was not something I was good at. My mother always hated anyone who spent even a little bit time or money on grooming themselves. Naturally I grew up with zero self-care routine as she never taught me anything. Self-care became major part of my trauma recovery.
Even looking at myself in the mirror was such a difficult task initially but I decided that I have to change my thoughts and opinions on caring for myself. So I am getting into having a routine for myself lately. I don’t always keep up but I am trying. So the braces were definitely a long leap on my part into caring for myself.
My mental health issues and recovery are mostly based on understanding my trauma from childhood. So all these books have a central theme of childhood trauma and recovery. I will update them whenever I read more on these.
This is the list as of August 2020
I am envious of people who get things done. Especially if they do things for others. It is the most adult thing according to me because I get exhausted by just taking care of my needs. Also it gives me that aura that they know something about life that I missed out on. Somehow they feel more whole and seem to live life fuller.
There are handful of people around me who give me that vibe.My brother is one such person. Despite coming from the same family that gave so much grief, for us to carry around, he still became that solid person for so many people around him – especially for his kid. Sometimes I get that feel from random strangers too.
There are some common characteristics in all these people whom I consider as doers too that I notice. They worry a lot less about others opinion, they all carve out a more authentic life in their own ways rather than following a laid out path, they carry on living life despite all the doubts and uncertainties they face, they never seem to lose their temper and above all they seem to accept others around them as they are and never try to infringe on their way of life.
So if there is something I am willing to work on despite the hopelessness I feel everyday, it will be on how to become that person who is reliable enough for others and through which I will be able to go on live a fuller life.
I am someone who falls under the “fight/fawn hybrid type” maybe but I used to be majorly a fight type with a narcissistic defence I believe. I still am, when triggered. Under the Complex PTSD trauma response, I am someone who is driven by the belief that “power and control can create safety, assuage abandonment and secure love”. You can read more on it here, http://pete-walker.com/fourFs_TraumaTypologyComplexPTSD.htm.
The insufficient limits set by my parents is the reason I believe. Also I imitated my parents behaviour though I hated them for that. It took me a long time to realise and accept that about myself. I am that typical person in the fight type, who used contempt to intimidate people around me. I used to pride around my moral high ground. I hated people and treated them bad because they were not genuine. But at the same time I craved love and affection and used my people pleasing, codependent and listening traits to achieve that. I swung between the two types hard, depending on the person I am with, I would say.
I created that cycle mentioned by Pete Walker, where the way I treated people created a fearful emotional withdrawal or resentment towards me, which made me feel even more abandoned and, in turn, more outraged and contemptuous, which then further distanced the “intimate”, which in turn increased my rage and disgust and so on.
I was also the entitled fight type in one relationship. I used one of my friend for projecting all my rage and contempt as she was the “captured” freeze or fawn type. We did each other more harm than good in the name of friendship. I wanted out many times but she kept coming back because of her trauma and I took that for granted and treated her like a doormat sometimes. I justified my behaviour saying that she did not give me genuine affection as well. It was an unnecessary trauma we both should have avoided. It created more pain for her than me.
I am now more mindful of my behaviours and triggers. I don’t listen to people just for increasing my value in their life but because I want to and know them better for who they are. I have started practicing the genuine connection that I so wanted from others. I have given up my condescending and contemptuous ways of treating my close ones. But I still carry the shame for all the ways I behaved. There is still a work in progress. I just am grateful that I could at least realise all these!
It happened every time I felt productive and did something for myself. The voice crept in slowly and then grew stronger, as the number of productive days increased. It told me to give up and fail like I always have. It made me recollect all the ways I have messed up before. It happened so often that I started anticipating the failure even before I started. I was conditioned to not start even.
The recovery process that I am going through (maybe from CPTSD) has made me overcome this fear a lot. I do confess that I have days where I try and fail but I atleast try unlike the old days. For now I am highly dependent on a timetable that tracks every hour of the day.
I follow the schedule for everything as to when I should take a shower or the days I have to take head bath. I have a separate tracker for physical activities. I have then included every little thing in my to-do list and tick them off before sleeping. This helps me convince myself objectively that I have been productive. The inner critic shuts up a lot this way and works with me even, like today, I was supposed to write this blog post and it helped me push through, though I totally wanted to give up.