Friday, February 25, 2011

C-PTSD - when pain is like a boomerang

Many people have contacted me recently to ask me about recovery and what is the time scale for this.
There is no answer to that question. Recovery cannot be measured in time, it is a variable entity, which can one minute appear to have been achieved, and the next minute, appear to elude us completely.

Many people who have suffered in a long term toxic relationship experience what is known in psychology circles as ‘Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or C-PTSD.

Whereas Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is usually the result of a one off major event or occurrence, C-PTSD is known to be caused after a person has suffered a long-term situation where he/she has felt a ‘loss of control’ due to emotional, or physical abuse, kidnapping, imprisonment, or long term exposure to unpleasant or crisis situations.
C-PTSD is, therefore, caused when a person has experienced sustained periods of extreme stress. Anybody who has been in a toxic relationship knows how prolonged and extreme that stress can be.
Don’t underestimate C-PTSD and the effects it can have on your life for many years after escape from the oppressive situation or toxic relationship.
C-PTSD is a psychological injury, and in the same way as a physical injury, it needs to be treated and healed over time. In many cases, it will recur, and you must always be aware of it, and how it can affect you and your relationships.
If you suspect you might be suffering from this illness, here are some of the classic symptoms:

• Feelings of dread or horror
• Feelings of inadequacy, worthlessness, shame and guilt
• Prone to bouts of depression
• Using alcohol, or drugs, to ‘block out’ the pain
• Insomnia
• Fits of rage
• Low self-esteem, which may even lead to self-harming
• Development of eating disorders
• Feeling ‘out of control’
• Blaming yourself for everything/ feeling you’re letting everybody down
• Loss of memory
• Feeling small, insignificant, or invisible
• Chronic fatigue

Of course, these symptoms may vary from person to person in both intensity and degree, but if you have been in a toxic relationship, and are now experiencing any of the above symptoms, then the chances are, that you are suffering from C-PTSD.

What can you do?

Be kind to yourself! It’s important to understand that you have been psychologically wounded, and that these wounds will take time and patience to heal. Recognizing the problem is a good first step, but you are going to need to get professional help in order to really deal with it fully.
Get the help of a professional counsellor or psychiatrist. In many cases, both medication and long term therapy will be required. Don’t be afraid to go and seek this out. There’s no shame in admitting we need some support from time to time.

Therapy should include help with the following:

Learning about ‘triggers’ which are likely to send you emotionally off course.
C-PTSD is associated with feelings of powerlessness. In a toxic relationship, a person has often found themselves trapped in impossible situations for prolonged periods of time, and this leaves scars on the mind. Emotional ‘triggers’ can be anything which remind us of the feelings of helplessness we once had. Anything can trigger an adverse reaction, but over time you will learn to recognize which situations tend to trigger you, and then you can learn to avoid them, or at least be prepared for the reaction you are likely to have.

Relapse Prevention: Learning how to address the urges to self-harm, use alcohol, have anger outbursts etc. Relapses can continue to take place many years after removal from the situation has occurred. The mind is a very powerful machine, it is intricate and complex. We are wired like computers and keeping the mind balanced can be tough when we’re presented with stresses and strains. We may bury or suppress emotions for many years, only to have them rear their heads again without warning. This can happen to all of us. It doesn’t mean we are weak, and it can be managed, so don’t give up hope.

Learning to deal with our emotions: The emotions experienced by a C-PTSD sufferer are intense and sometimes terrifying. This is due to the hyper vigilance caused by the psychological injury we have sustained. Dealing with the emotions can be hard, but it must be learned. It’s so important not to bury them or try to hide from them. A good therapist will use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT to help you to come to terms with these feelings.

Most importantly, you need to learn and understand that what happened was beyond your control. You didn’t cause it to happen, and you most certainly didn’t deserve for it to happen.

You also need to accept that it happened, and that the toxic situation can never be recovered or ‘repaired’. All you can do is learn, and move on. Accept also that it will not happen overnight, and that there is no miracle cure. It will take you a lot of hard work and determination to recover, and there will be pitfalls along the way. It can seem like such a mammoth task when you’re being overwhelmed with all the negative emotions C-PTSD brings. But rest assured it IS recoverable.

Also, be aware that C-PTSD is NOT a personality disorder. It has sometimes been (wrongly) linked to BPD, but this is mis-information! As I said before, it is an INJURY and has nothing to do with a personality disorder.

For more information/advice on C-PTSD, go here

But don't rely on the internet, get some support!


Sunday, February 20, 2011

for my little man.....

who is now FOUR!!

Oh little man
You've changed my life
I ache each time you smile
You bring such joy
My baby boy
Make everything worthwhile

And even though
You're still so small
You radiate such light
Those eyes of blue
Love shining through
For me
A wondrous sight

Each day you change
In some small way
I dare not miss a thing
Ten tiny toes
Cute button nose
A laugh to make me sing

I touch your skin
So soft and pure
You lie inside my arms
To keep you here
Away from fear
I can't resist your charms

Your cheeky grin
Can make me smile
It has the power to heal
Your laugh, so pure
I do adore
Your mischief I can feel

I stand in awe
My gorgeous boy
My little man, my son
Sent from above
With so much love
My sunshine, you're the one

Love you, my sunshine xxxx

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The second Writers's Platform - Building Crusade.

Well done to Rach Writes for having this amazing idea.

I've been busy adding all the wonderful new writers out there! Good luck to you all!

Guest Post by Sarah Strudwick, Author of 'Dark Souls'

Why I wrote Dark Souls - Healing and Recovering from Toxic Relationships

I was asked recently by a colleague and friend after getting so much flack for writing Dark Souls to remain focussed on the reasons why I wrote it and not to get sidetracked by their own hidden agendas. Don't get me wrong I have had many people share positive experiences about how much the book has helped them but no one would have wanted Dark Souls to get published moreso than those people who are disordered themselves. Unfortunately its those very people whom I have have spent my life trying to get away from that I had to defend myself against, although now I have the ability to stand in my power and say No to those who criticise and judge me for having the guts to speak out.

Victims have been emailing me over the year and sharing their own stories and a few have asked me if I would be doing speaking events. Occasionally I will share their stories on the website with their permission.

I had originally planned on doing talks and lectures to educate people about the psychopathic type personality but I often sidetrack myself with other work as I have a fear of speaking in front of large groups of people. This was apparent a couple of years ago when I decided to enter a competition called Britain's Next Top Coach and the mere thought of speaking to more than a handful of people would start to make me feel quite nervous.

In all honesty I wrote Dark Souls after spending years around psychopathic and narcissistic type personalities and I guess after meeting Oliver without ever before knowing what a disordered personality was, Oliver was the straw that broke the Donkeys back. I made a decision there and then, after I asked him to go, that I never wanted another person to have go through what I had with these insidious individuals and end up being victimized. Its bad enough being victimised by a narcissist who is a little easier to spot that a psychopath whereas with a psychopathic type you don't realise you are being victimized until its too late. As Sarah Tate a fellow author wrote in the Devil is in the Detail, there appears to be two types. One is “in your face” whereas the other is a “slow burner". Either type are just as dangerous and neither have the ability to feel any kind of empathy for their victims.

My other reasons for writing Dark Souls was to educate people and give them the tools that I wish I had had many years ago as a child. I am hoping that one day I can write a book that teenagers can read at school and learn how not to be victimised by sociopaths before it happens. You cannot change the nature of the beast but you can change your reactions towards them by being prepared and armed with information that will help you spot predators in the first place.

And finally, I wrote Dark Souls because most women and men who have been burned by these people are left emotionally, and spiritually broken. That coupled with the fact that they are usually financially ruined. They often don't have the money they need to spend on getting themselves healed because they are too busy dealing with the financial aftermath of the relationship. I wanted to give the readers some tools they could use immediately to get them out of victim mode and start their journey into recovery. Depending on the victims mindset at the time that the relationship ends and whether or not they have children to support (most psychopathic types leave their partners and offer no financial support to their spouses). The last thing on the persons mind is to pay for counselling/support when their priority is feeding their children.

Since writing Dark Souls last year its been a real eye opener for me. I have realised that there is a whole can of worms that I hadn't even realised my ex was up too along with all the other things I wrote about in the book. The more I uncover the more it amazes and baffles me. However rather than spending time wondering why he did this or that I return my focus back to myself and my own family and how I can move on and rebuild my own life.

For those that have already read Dark Souls and other books on disordered personalities and healing that I have recommended on the book page such as those by Sarah Tate and George Simon. The whole process of discovering their lies and healing is like a jigsaw puzzle. Before you discover books on narcissism, sociopathy and Cluster B's,its a bit like a person doing a jigsaw puzzle in the dark. You know there's something wrong, you know where the next piece is but you just cant quite put your finger on it. Suddenly the light goes on and you have a lightbulb moment. Once you have discovered all the pieces and put them back together piece by piece, you look back and have a much clearer picture of what has happened and then you finally realise throughout all the craziness that you weren't the one that was crazy, they were.

Most authors of books on psychopathy ,sociopathy, narcissism and the psychopathic type unless of course they are narcissists themselves will normally always have the same agenda. To ensure that others don't have to endure what they went through. For example when George Simon and other professionals like Dr Robert Hare who have developed the psychopathy checklist wrote their books they may not have been victims but they would have written because the old models that worked before are no longer working. Victims like Sarah Tate and myself wrote our books because we just wanted our message out there in the hope that others would eventually see through the mask of their abusers and not get victimised like we were.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Looking on the bright side.............

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through all the experiences I’ve had during the last few years of my life, it’s that there are positives to be drawn from even what seem to be the darkest of situations.

When we’re going through hell, we are consumed by our own troubles, and our minds can focus on little else except surviving the current danger and getting ourselves back into a better place. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s a primitive inbuilt reaction and it is designed to motivate us to drive ourselves into a better place, to overcome the hurdles and regain life’s equilibrium. This is the cycle of life, and it happens again and again.

However, it doesn’t do any of us any harm, if once in a while, we take some time to get things into perspective, and look for the positives in life.
I have recently been humbled to learn about the experiences of friends of mine, who, whilst I was going through my (utterly trivial by comparison) woes, were suffering their own, much deeper distress.

Those of us who are lucky enough to be in good health just tend to take it for granted. I know I do. Of course I worry about falling ill, more so since I’ve been a parent. I often fret about what would happen to my children if anything ‘happened’ to me. Thankfully though, I have never been confronted with a situation where I’ve had to deal with this very frightening prospect.

Friends of mine have, and they have shown immeasurable courage when faced with seemingly impossible and terrifying situations. I sat in tears listening to these friends recount their stories. I had to ask them: ‘But how did you cope?’
Their answer: ‘You just do’.

This is so true, we find ourselves thrown into a situation, and we really don’t have time to get scared, or pensive, especially when there are little people who require our love and attention. We go into ‘auto-pilot’ mode. Our amazing ‘fight or flight’ instinct kicks in, and we do whatever we need to do, just to get through.
It doesn’t mean we’re not all heroes though, because it does require inordinate amounts of strength and courage to deal with certain situations, not least (as in the case of my two friends) with the very real prospect of death, and its tragic aftermath.

To my friends who have been through this recently, I salute you. I cannot imagine how you coped, but you did, and you’ve come out of it stronger and better people. Your families remain intact, and no doubt closer as a result of the drama you faced.
Life changing events have a habit of bringing us closer together and strengthening bonds with loved ones. We appreciate the small details of life much more, just because we know we’re lucky to even have a life at all.

As with my friends, the ‘drama’ is now over for me, and I’ve reached a place where I’m able to look back and see the positives which came out of the situation. I appreciate how lucky I am, how lucky I am to have three happy and healthy children, and how lucky we all are just to have each other. I certainly don’t take things for granted the way I used to.

My experience has also taught me to grow a thicker skin, I’m much more reticent now than I was in the past.

Petty squabbles no longer interest me. I avoid confrontation wherever I can. I don’t have the energy for it.

I have realized that my energies are better spent focusing on the good things in life, on the things which bring me joy, and on the things from which I can learn.
Sure, life is never going to be 100% perfect for any of us. There are always going to be certain situations which work out, and others which don’t go quite according to plan. But there are always things to be learned from every situation. Of that I’m sure.

My new motto: Don’t waste time peering into the gloom. Turn to the light, and smile.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Devil is in the Detail.......

I’m currently reading Dark Souls by Sarah Strudwick, and I’m struck by the blatant and brazen behaviour of her psychopathic ex, as described in the book. There were definite and tangible ‘red flag’ moments for her which she chose, at that time, to ignore for a range of personal reasons (mainly due to her past history of abuse and low self-esteem at the time she was in the relationship).

It struck me how very different our two exes were, yet at the same time so very similar in their thought processes and behaviour patterns. One is ‘in your face’ the other a ‘slow burner’ but both are equally as dangerous.

In my own relationship, there were also a great many red flags, but they were subtle enough for me to overlook at first. It wasn’t until time had passed and they built up that they became more obvious. There were lies and inconsistencies in the stories told to me, particularly relating to his past, but nothing that was so sensational, that it became instantly unbelievable. It was gradual.

There was nothing brash, brazen, or remotely violent about my experience. There was no anger, rarely a raised voice (from him) and at no point did I feel threatened by, or scared of, him.

At the time I knew nothing about passive aggressive behaviour and I’d never heard of gaslighting, so I inevitably believed that many of the problems were my own, and for the most part blamed myself for the persistent misery in which we lived.

When I look back now, I see my marriage to a psychopath like being in a psychological slow cooker. The ingredients for disaster were all there right from the very beginning, but it took time for the heat to really build up and the ensuing chaos to erupt. Even when it did, he remained calm, distant, cold and unassuming. A psychopath doesn’t need to be wielding his fists or a weapon to be dangerous. I feel that is a common misconception.

I knew I was on the ‘burner’ from very early on though. I could feel the heat building in the form of my own disquiet, and his growing distance and ultimate disdain. But the ‘light bulb moment’ only occurred at the very end when the whole world was crumbling around my ears.

The first ‘moment’ (as I describe in Web of Lies) came when he took money set aside to feed the children and booked a five star hotel to entertain his new girlfriend in. When I confronted him about this, he told me he felt entitled to a ‘break’ in a lap of five star luxury, despite the fact he knew we had no money to feed our kids. Upon realizing what he’d done, it occurred to me for the first time that the man had serious psychological issues. I knew no normal parent could do that to their own children, so it had to be that he wasn’t ‘normal’. This was the first time I considered he might be mentally unstable.

The second ‘moment’ came after the split when he seriously suggested we divide the children between us as though they were ornaments or assets of some sort. In that moment, when he made the suggestion, I looked into his eyes and saw there was nothing behind them. There was no ‘light’ there. And that’s when I knew I was dealing with a person without feeling or conscience. A person who could not love, or be loved.

After that, things started to finally fall into place, as I began to arm myself with knowledge and get therapy for the damage created by years on the ‘slow burner’.

As Dr David Holmes recently said to me about my books ;

“It’s so important to realise that these people do not visit the doctors and be diagnosed. They have to be identified and exposed by those close to them, which is hard, and anything that makes it easier will limit the damage done”

This is exactly why sites such as Waking You Up are needed to help men and women in relationships with these people to spot the red flags, and enable them to have their ‘light bulb moments’ before it’s too late. These men and women do not walk around with ‘I am a psychopath’ written across their foreheads. Only by learning how to spot the signs, and sharing our experiences, can we raise awareness of this problem in our society.

In some cases, these ‘light bulb moment’s come when we recognize our own frailties and weak points, and realize that we have become a magnet for a certain type of personality. Only by recognizing this in ourselves can we make the changes required to ensure we never allow another one of these people into our lives.

In other cases (like mine) the devil is literally hidden in the detail, and it can take time on the slow burner before we finally acknowledge and accept what we’re dealing with. As I said, the psychopath does not need to necessarily be a physical threat to pose a formidable danger to our well-being . The slow burners are equally as dangerous.

Wake up.