Life with the triggers of Childhood PTSD (CPTSD)

Life with the triggers of childhood PTSD

You are living your life and all seems well. You know how to live your life and function well … most of the time.
Today is one of those “most of the time” days.
It all started well, but things have been going distinctly downhill. You have felt uneasy, on edge. You are trying to discuss the things that are unsettling you. No one will listen. You feel on edge but do not necessarily realise how on edge. After all, this is how your childhood felt. You have no measure of how bad it was in your childhood. How scary. How out of control.
Then the event happens. To others it seems innocuous. You are hard placed later to identify what it was. But it has happened. You are spinning out of control. You can’t reason. You can’t even talk to the people who are trying to get you to do what they want. To get you out of the physical location you are in. All you can do is stay. You are frozen. You couldn’t move if you wanted to. You can’t even will your legs to move. It feels like moving is dying. It is a dreadful, terrifying situation.
Later someone takes you aside and has a ‘talk’ with you. You can’t explain what just happened and they do not have the insight to recognise a PTSD flashback. To understand you are in a crisis situation. That you are beyond even fight or flight. You are thrown into a freeze. In all likelihood you have dissociated, so it is really hard coming back to the present.
So you are judged harshly. Maybe it is a work situation and you are threatened with losing your job. Maybe you car pool and the person you car pool with berates you all the way home while you cry uncontrollably and can barely drive. The person is so lacking in even a basic level of empathy or compassion they don’t even have the decency to shut up when they realise how distraught you are. Maybe you struggle to go back to that place. You sit outside and feel that to walk in there is to die. You have to muster so much courage to go in there. And you have so much courage to face what feels like death. But no one understands or recognises that because of their ignorance of trauma.
And maybe your work is in a place where the people claim to work with traumatised children. Yet they are so trauma uninformed they cannot recognise trauma in a staff member. They do not even adopt a trauma informed practice in the work place.
And you are shamed, and feel ashamed. You are told you are an awful person, it is all your fault. There is no understanding. You are left with the shame and the feeling of being defective.
And maybe you wonder if anyone will ever be able to help you. And you wonder when your life will stop being derailed by these triggers.
There is help out there. There are counsellors who are trauma trained. Counsellors who understand. Counsellors who have compassion for you and your situation. Counsellors who can help you heal and be able to live a life that is more manageable. Counsellors who can validate your experience and understand why you act the way you do.
And a lot of those counsellors will have experienced similar things in their own lives. They have been able to heal and now share what they have learned with those yet to heal.
I am one of those counsellors. I understand trauma, both from a personal and academic perspective. I understand how to work with individuals affected by trauma, especially the trauma that occurred during childhood. I know how to work safely, to teach the skills that you need to learn. The skills you never learned in childhood, through no fault of your own. I know how to help you heal from the triggers that send you spinning into a fight/flight or freeze response. I care that your experience is validated. I care that you heal and can lead a life that is not dominated by triggering moments.
If you would like my help you can contact me on 4049396608 or

Feeling it is disloyal to move on

Feeling it is disloyal to move on

I often see men and women grieving the loss of their long term partner. By long term I am talking several decades. Several decades in which the two of them have raised a family and are now at the stage in their lives where they are looking forward to a future with the two of them growing old together. Except it doesn’t happen. That much cherished partner, the other half of you, dies.

Losing half of yourself is hard. Unbelievably hard. Not only are you having to relearn who you are, you are having to live each day without the person you love.

For all, that is a challenge. For some, it feels disloyal. Years after the loss they are resisting moving on. It feels disloyal to live when the other half of you has died. Maybe they were still relatively young. Maybe it seems so unfair they died when there was so much living to do. Maybe you carry guilt feeling you should have tried harder to keep them alive, you should have said goodbye with more passion that day they left the house for work, never to come home again. Maybe you feel they deserved to live longer. Whatever the reason, you are left with the feeling that it is disloyal to keep living. Disloyal to enjoy life despite their absence. Every grandchild feels like a betrayal because that other half of you would have loved grandchildren.

It is hard. There are plenty of pat responses. The classic one is “how would they have wanted you to live?”. That isn’t a bad question, but it is not overly helpful when you feel this way.

The important thing to know is that a lot of surviving partners feel this way. One thing that people find helpful is to be able to find a place for their grief. By finding a place I mean find some meaning for what has been lost. That meaning is different for different people. Some find it through connecting with others who knew and loved their partner. Others find it by accepting a belief about what happens to those who die. Others reach out to help other people. Some just learn to accept what is and decide punishing themselves for living, while their partner is dead, is not going to bring them back. They give themselves permission to enjoy life and realise there are moments they can enjoy.  

Whatever you decide. It is okay to have those bad days and it is okay to have days where you feel happy. And neither of those days is disloyal to the person you have loved.

Mindfulness and self reflection only work when accompanied by self compassion. So where does that leave the traumatised person who has trouble with self compassion?

You may have noticed a lot of buzz around mindfulness over the past few years. With many studies that show how effective mindfulness is, it is heavily promoted. But it is not the quick or perfect fix many have suggested. Nor is self reflection, which is often paired with mindfulness. More recent neuroscientific studies have shown the mindfulness and self reflection are only helpful to a person if the person is able to use self compassion when practising mindfulness and self reflection.
Self compassion may seem easy but it is actually very hard. For a long time our society has encouraged judgementalism and shaming as acceptable ways of interacting with children. This is even worse when a child is traumatised by those who cared for it. Similarly, many people traumatised in adulthood are lacking in self compassion. Adults who have been through experiences where they have felt shame also experience a loss of self compassion. A good example is that of a soldier who may have being involved in fighting that involved civilian casualties. That soldier will often feel they have committed a terrible atrocity. Another example is that of a firefighter who feels she has let her comrades down when the fire rapidly worsened and other fire fighters were killed.
Even sadder are the many people traumatised in childhood who have successfully negotiated adult life, have been loving and productive, but are stuck in early childhood where they were made to feel unwanted and unloved. When a child grows up in that situation, she will feel it is her fault she is unloved.
For this reason, I teach my trauma clients to have compassion for themselves. When they are judging themselves harshly for things that go wrong, or they feel they have done wrong, I encourage them to look at themselves with the same compassion they may show for a close friend.
It is only when a person has mastered the art of self compassion that they can safely and beneficially practice mindfulness and self reflection.