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Old 01-09-2019, 12:02 PM   #1
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Default Good article that provides answers C-PTSD

When You're Triggered and Regress Emotionally

This article really helped me in that I struggled to understand that when I experienced a trauma where I lost so much that was important to me I struggled and over time began experiencing both visual and emotional flashbacks from my past. I got so confused and frightened because I could not understand how I would suddenly experience these often debilitating flashbacks in my fifties. Here I was in my fifties and began experiencing episodes where I genuinely "felt" like a child. Being told "you are a survivor" did not help either because I felt that if I really was a survivor then I would not be haunted by my history of things that traumatized me.

What triggered me to experience this challenge had a lot to do with the significance of what I lost meant to me personally. And what I lost was something I had developed to help children develop at a young age what I myself was often robbed of. I was the youngest of three and most of my childhood, well actually ALL of my childhood consisted of witnessing my older brother being hurt and abused constantly and how no one was helping him or protecting him. Well, I was born in 56 so my childhood took place in the late 50's and 60's and back in that time there was no true understanding of what it meant to have a learning disability or how to help a child with ADHD or dyslexia where the child simply did not learn the way that was considered "normal" or a program that children had to adhere to and excel in otherwise the child was stupid or useless or lazy or bad.

My entire childhood I was not really called by my name by my piers either. My identity was always "X's sister". I had a ring side seat to witnessing how my older brother was shunned and shamed and bullied by the other children on the bus and he sat alone and tried so hard not to show how much all that shunning and shaming was hurting him. I will forever have that picture in my mind of him staring out the window of the school bus with watery eyes trying to be strong and not cry while the other children chanted about his big lips. You see, he was so stressed that he sucked his thumb all night long as a way to self sooth and self calm so he could sleep. Nothing my parents did could stop that either and as a result his lips were always swollen and blistered and sometimes even bleeding too.

My older sister ALWAYS hated him, hated him from the moment my mother brought him home as a baby. My sister wanted me to hate him too. My sister would threaten that if she ever saw me being nice to him and playing with him that she would not play with me. Well, my sister was four years older than me and playing with her was fun because she could do so much more than me and my sister was amazingly creative. However, I had to learn that when I play with my older sister SHE had to have the control and SHE was the boss. The truth is my older sister was "mean, bossy, and controlling". So, I had to learn how to work around that problem. My sister was angry a lot, she did not like having to live around my older brother and how HIS problems disrupted and pulled attention off of her.

I hated it that my older brother did not have any friends. Climbing those steps onto that Bus of HELL everyday was having to ride that hell ride everyday and not being able to do anything about it. I tried SO HARD to understand how anyone could feel positive by hurting someone that way. I remember thinking at one point of total frustration "I am going to figure this out if it's the last thing I do". Also, the bus driver saw it but NEVER did he EVER stop it. Well, I did not want my older brother to have NO friends, no one helped him. I did watch my mother really stress about that, yet a psychiatrist told my parents "do not coddle him AT ALL, instead discipline, constant discipline".

Today, what I watched happen to my older brother, all the suffering I witnessed him experience would be considered "abuse and neglect". The fact that he kept peeing his bed and constantly sucked his thumb and even kept trying to run away would be seen as all clear red flags of a child suffering from child abuse. Truth is that even as an adult man if my brother is stressed enough, he will suck his thumb in his sleep. So this article is PROOF that we can most definitely be triggered to re-experience childhood stresses and even enact things we did way back then in our effort to "self sooth".

I used to be amazed how long my older brother could endure until he would need to vent his pent up anger. As his only friend, playing with him when my sister would not see and punish me, I had to learn how to tell "when" and that's when I had to run from him. Strangely enough even though I was afraid and had to run and hide, I always knew that this anger he had was NOT HIS FAULT. I also knew that I could not tell, I knew that if I told that the answer would end up being "more punishment" and I did know that was the last thing he needed. And to be honest, I knew if that happened I might end up hurt from a brother who had too much rage that he would take out on me. Well, I never told him about this fear I experienced. I never wanted him to feel guilt, I strongly feel he surely doesn't need to feel that, as I know he had much to heal from the rest of his life.

With all of the dysfunction I experienced as a child, the one thing that helped me that I can see better now, is how I learned to figure out how to focus on not what I could not do, but instead what I could do. Dealing with that everyday trauma of what I saw happen on that school bus, often left me exhausted by the time I got into that classroom where I was supposed to settle into learning whatever that teacher was teaching. I did stay back a year, could not handle first grade, and the one thing they did was have me go to kindergarten instead and I loved that because they did "finger painting".

Today, it has been recognized how ART THERAPY can help reduce stress and anxiety and can work well for trauma patients. I learned that when I was only in first grade. I did not care if they got upset with me for not being able to settle down and focus in first grade, ALL I cared about was finding my way to that easel and that big fresh blank paper and those wonder paints that I could get my hands dirty with and fill that paper full of color with my hands. Oh I remember how that felt all these years later at age 62 as though I was just at that easel just yesterday. Often in therapy they recommend sitting down and getting crayons and a coloring book and to sit and just color. I like that too, yet when it came to that big empty page and getting to use my hands and fill it with color anyway I wanted was even better, did not have to worry about coloring in any lines.

I was cleaning out my desk a few weeks ago and came across some old report cards I had from way back in grammar school. I did not do too bad actually and I noticed a comment written down by a teacher that said how I struggled to communicate, needed help with that somehow. Well, what that teacher did not know is that in my home whenever I did try to talk my father constantly corrected me instead of allowing me to find my way on my own. I never got to finish a sentence around him and because he did that so much with me, I developed a problem when I had a thought and wanted to take that thought and create words and express it. Well, if you add that onto the daily trauma I was dealing with that was so bad I remember constantly just being GLAD I actually survived the day.

We tend to measure "intelligence" by how a child remembers so many details the teacher is teaching them in class. We tend to think that if a person mis-spells a word, even a simple word they LACK intelligence. Well, that is NOT really how to measure intelligence or worthiness. Instead it's how a child survives and figures out how to thrive IN SPITE OF. The one thing my parents did that I am so grateful for is they did not punish me for not getting all A's. Truth is, looking back at my childhood, there was no way I could have done that considering all the trauma I was learning how to live around each and every day in my childhood. I never really had my own identity in school either as I mentioned, I was always X's sister. No one would be friends with him, and it was hard for me too as X's sister and it was hard to climb on that bus just hoping to find a place to sit down without being rejected and having to see my older brother sit alone. I often wonder why I never sat with him, perhaps I will never really know because I was way too young to know what to do about how to handle that horrible bus ride every day twice a day. All I could do was find a way to survive it. And I did manage to do ok and IMHO, that is "intelligence".

So, why did this all suddenly intrude on me when I suffered all that loss? It was because I took all that I had learned, all of the "what not to do" when helping children learn and more importantly help each child learn how they learn and always find a way to leave each child I taught where they walked away from me feeling "good" about themselves. I worked very hard to create an environment where that could happen. When that was so badly invaded and destroyed, I experienced a post traumatic stress breakdown. Unfortunately, when I desperately reached out for help, all I faced was that I was a bad person for struggling so badly, that what I valued should have never been considered valuable. I actually have the records to prove it too.
Even with a so called professional, something is only valuable if THEY decide it's valuable, judgments are made EVEN IF a psychiatrist or therapist had no first hand experience with what you did that actually did have value.

I kept trying to reach out for help to no avail and that is what ended up bringing back all these flashbacks from my long ago past that completely confused me. It got very intrusive and crippling and I got so confused, I am sure others can relate. I eventually got lucky and found a therapist that understood trauma and trauma therapy. He was amazing in that he would even talk me through flashbacks. He was the first person to GIVE ME PERMISSION to grieve and FEEL without being "shamed" for needing to do so.

One day I had a customer come to my farm. All I knew is she was some kind of doctor that was bringing her grand child to my farm to enjoy my pony. This woman had such an air about her that I knew she was self important and like to have control. She had an expensive car, expensive clothes and an air of authority. So I let her have the power, just as I had learned to do so many years ago with my older sister. As I walked around I watched her bark orders to her three year old grand daughter. I already knew for years of experience that three year old's do not have a very long attention span. And I slowly watched this woman grow impatient with this fact. Finally she got frustrated and asked me if I would take over, "always gotta wait for that". So I did and I did my usual thing and stopped the pony and asked this child what she liked most and discovered she liked being a princess. It really was not all that far from what I could see of this grandmother actually. So I gave the child the power and we talked about how to ride a pony like a princess. Then I proceeded to walk along, her grandmother walking along with me. I did not bark ONE order, but instead knowing this child had such a short attention span and would get distracted, I just would turn and ask the child "how is the princess" to which she immediately sat up nice and remembered just what she was supposed to do. YET, it was what SHE WANTED.

So, this woman, who was a doctor finally told me what kind of doctor she was. She watched me and how her grandaughter reacted and had to say to me how what she saw me do was PROFOUND. She kept telling me how gifted I was and that she was a doctor of child psychology and a college professor. She kept telling me I should seriously consider getting a degree and going into her field that I was so gifted with children. What she did not see, could not really understand was the much bigger picture of how I had already been doing that for over 25 years with children. She was in my world but could not see my world. I was already struggling with PTSD but did not share that with her. I just kept being gracious as she and her friend kept telling me how gifted I was and kept emphatically telling me I should get a degree and work with children.

Do you need letters to prove you are intelligent? Do you need all A's according to what is considered "good" or "well learned" to have "value"? I think not. Truth is ALL that woman with all her letters watched me do is not bark orders at her three year old grand child, but start by allowing that child to have her OWN identity. Ironically, when I needed help to grieve how much I really lost, I sat across from people much like this woman with her degree, and yet none of them could sit and listen to me talk about how I valued what I lost, how it was a huge part of my own identity and help me GRIEVE the genuine loss I had experienced. I am not angry at this woman tbh, I am just angry at what she failed to see despite all her letters and title.

For anyone reading this very long post who is struggling and trying to understand why and how to manage and heal. I am sorry and the truth is that you need to heal and you deserve to heal. You deserve to have your own identity and your suffering doesn't mean you failed or deserve to feel shame. Our childhoods are always in us and along with that will be the hurts that we suffered too. Yes, there are going to be times when something in the now can bring up some challenges of long ago. However, along with that are some good things too. For me it was remembering how nice it was to stand in front of that easel and get my fingers full of paint and fill that empty page in front of me with color. There will be things you did too that helped you too, and those are things that are very intelligent and helped you survive and even thrive. Don't forget all of those too.
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Old 01-09-2019, 12:40 PM   #2
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Default Re: Good article that provides answers C-PTSD

A truly wonderful and deeply touching post!
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Old 01-09-2019, 12:44 PM   #3
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Default Re: Good article that provides answers C-PTSD

Thanks for sharing. I am so glad your brother had a sister like you!
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Old 01-09-2019, 01:18 PM   #4
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Thanks for sharing this. I was an only child. And I had the experience your brother had. It went on for 4 years. Everybody knew what was going on, including my parents. But nobody cared. At one point one of the bullies beat me up breaking my nose. I got blamed for it. I wish I could claim victim status as a result of this experience. But sadly I can't because, over the years, I went on to do even more damage than was done to me. As Leonard Cohen wrote in "Bird on a Wire": I have gored everyone who reached out for me.

I've never told anyone even 1% of all that went on with me. (The bullying was just one part, although probably a significant part.) Even my parents never really knew perhaps in part because they didn't care but also because, over the years, I became expert at secrecy. And now, at this late stage in my life, it's all just too late to bother with & I'm too tired. (Besides nobody else in my life cares still.) I'll take it all with me to the crematorium. I know you wrote that , even as an adult, if your brother is stressed he will suck his thumb in his sleep. I hope that, despite what he endured, life turned out reasonably well for him. My best wishes to you...
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Old 01-09-2019, 04:28 PM   #5
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Default Re: Good article that provides answers C-PTSD

Actually, when my older brother got older, about eighth grade he grew bigger than all the other boys. He ended up taking each of the bullies outside where he could talk back to them with his fists.

He had also stayed back two years too, which had made our journey last even longer on that horrible bus and as I had mentioned I stayed back once as it took me a year to get used to how bad that bus ride was so I could at least get better at settling down and learning better. My brother continued to struggle with learning, had to have tutors and he also played football in high school. When he finally graduated he got a standing ovation. He worked in a factory for a while and got so he hated it and decided to go to college. He fought his way through college, paid for it himself and often did not have enough money to eat, struggled to find a place to live too often slept in the library. He ended up graduating college with honors. He got a business degree and got into sales for a big company and ended up doing very well for himself. He moved away from my parents and did his own life. He did struggle with anger issues, could not understand why he was so angry. He met a very nice woman from a big family and married her and had three children and his wife was very supportive and understanding. He also embraced religion and found a lot of comfort in prayer too. I have told him I am proud of him for all he achieved despite what I saw him go through. He did have children that also had learning challenges, but he made it a point that they got help instead of experiencing what he had himself.
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Old 01-09-2019, 09:35 PM   #6
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Wow, this sounds really good. I will bookmark it. Thanks OE.
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Old 01-10-2019, 06:23 AM   #7
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Default Re: Good article that provides answers C-PTSD

I'm so happy for your brother! He's a true inspiration for many people!
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Old 01-10-2019, 11:27 AM   #8
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Default Re: Good article that provides answers C-PTSD

Quote:
Thanks for sharing this. I was an only child. And I had the experience your brother had. It went on for 4 years. Everybody knew what was going on, including my parents. But nobody cared. At one point one of the bullies beat me up breaking my nose. I got blamed for it. I wish I could claim victim status as a result of this experience. But sadly I can't because, over the years, I went on to do even more damage than was done to me. As Leonard Cohen wrote in "Bird on a Wire": I have gored everyone who reached out for me.
Sadly, when you were growing up it wasn't unusual for adults to see a child being bullied and they did not choose to stop it. I saw that happen to my older brother constantly, the bus driver NEVER stopped it and I know for a fact that he saw it happening. Also, none of the other children on the bus tried go stop it either, they pretty much did not want to be picked on themselves. That is part of why I was also shunned simply because he was my brother too.

I had not really seen my older brother for a lot of years because he moved to a different state and we both just got so busy with our lives and making a living and raising our children and dealing with all kinds of life challenges. Since both my parents have been mentally and physically declining I ended up seeing him again so we could talk about my parents. My older sister was getting more and more controlling and toxic and even my parents began to be afraid of her. One thing I saw so many years later is how my sister NEVER stopped hating my older brother.

What my older brother told me is that what started on the school bus was encouraged by my older sister, she wanted the other children to hate my older brother like she did. When he told me that I actually believed him because that is EXACTLY what my sister wanted me to do, she did not want me to be nice to him or play with him. I do remember that the first year my sister was on that bus and all she talked about is how she hated being on the same bus as my brother and how she could not wait to get in a different grade where she no longer had to share a bus with him. My sister never had to stay back in school, my brother stayed back twice and I stayed back once so my sister got far head where she did not have to ever share a bus with him but that one year.

One of my own challenges is that I do not like it when someone insists I just hate and be mean to someone. I also get triggered when I see people treating someone badly and hurting their feelings. I am also the adult that makes it a point to speak out when I see abuse and neglect too. I know that comes from all the years I had wanted to see an adult do that for my older brother.

It's not surprising that you eventually rejected help either. In the generation you grew up in the idea was "just toughen up and learn to deal with it". That was the wrong thing to do with children in that they end up turning away the very thing they need, guidance and help. Also, it's not unusual for a child to start self blaming and thinking they were picked on because they really were not worthy or good enough in some way. It doesn't surprise me that you self punished and even turned on yourself in ways either.
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Old 01-10-2019, 07:33 PM   #9
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Thank you Open Eyes for the poignant post! I have found that sharing our painful experiences can be empowering when shared with others "who knows it, feels it". Trouble is, most people continue to own a STYGMA about MI. I get triggered every single time someone tells me I can't live in the past or I just need to stop thinking depressive thoughts.

Like you, my PTSD presented later in life AFTER I found success as a professional. Somehow I managed to compartmentalize all the traumas I experienced from early childhood through adulthood. The tipping point for me was having a stalker from whom I could not escape. I had to quit my job and leave the state where I had lived for 22 yrs.

I've been fighting for my disability for 10 years now and I have been homeless for 23 months and 10 days. I did win a lawsuit I filed against the SSA for denying my disability because the judges ignored my medical evidence. US District Court ruled in my favor on April 10, 2017. Unfortunately, my case was remanded back to SSA and we're still waiting on a decision from the SSA Appeals Council. Because I filed a bias against mental illness complaint against the judge who was blatantly sarcastic and condescending to me in both federal hearings for the 2nd and last application I filed, my lawyer expects them to take longer to make a decision. The current backlog at the AC is almost 100,000 cases.

I am single and estranged from my birth family....who, like many in the small community where I was born, do not believe in mental illness. I hate being emotionally fragile and would not CHOOSE this illness. I have "had" an extraordinary life, but I haven't been living for years.

Thank you again for sharing. You just made a difference to one who thinks she'll never be able to ditch the shadow of overwhelming despair in this lifetime. Peace be with you this evening.
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Old 01-11-2019, 06:21 PM   #10
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((KYWoman)), it's very possible that when you were stalked and could not get away from that until you moved away from your state that it caused you to feel as unsafe as you felt as a child. That is what most likely triggered your very challenged childhood to come forward and incapacitate you the way it did. When someone experiences this the key word is that it's INTRUSIVE. It's not a challenge that someone chooses to experience either. Telling someone who is struggling this way to "just forget it, it's in the past, don't allow", CAN be triggering in that a person is genuinely NOT choosing to experience these intrusive flashbacks be it visual or emotional or even that feeling of childlike helplessness that can genuinely take over and I know you know exactly what I mean. I am VERY sorry that despite your efforts to reach out for help that you have been treated so badly KYWoman. I believe you that for a while you were very functional and successful too and that you experienced what you have shared and it triggered you to experience a challenge that you never imagined experiencing. No one chooses to struggle with this challenge. It's very hard when one's own family doesn't understand and isn't supportive too.

Actually, often what can trigger it is hyper-vigilance. Children that grow up in a dysfunctional environment can become very hyper-vigilant. Children don't understand this either and try to self sooth and disassociate just to survive. I think that if someone is put in a situation where they once again experience this hyper vigilant state of mind, that can be the trigger that brings up all the things that person experienced as a child.
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