Updated: Nov 4, 2020
Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD; also known as complex trauma disorder) is a psychological disorder that can develop in response to prolonged, repeated experience of interpersonal trauma in a context in which the individual has little or no chance of escape.
C-PTSD relates to the trauma model of mental disorders and is associated with chronic sexual, psychological, narcissistic abuse and physical abuse or neglect, chronic intimate partner violence, victims of prolonged workplace or school bullying, victims of kidnapping and hostage situations, indentured servants, victims of slavery and human trafficking, sweatshop workers, prisoners of war, concentration camp survivors, residential school survivors, and defectors of cults or cult-like organisations.
Situations involving captivity/entrapment (a situation lacking a viable escape route for the victim or a perception of such) can lead to C-PTSD-like symptoms, which can include prolonged feelings of terror, worthlessness, helplessness, and deformation of one's identity and sense of self.
PTSD is a disorder characterised by failure to recover after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event.
The condition may last months or years, with triggers that can bring back memories of the trauma accompanied by intense emotional and physical reactions. Symptoms may include nightmares or flashbacks, avoidance of situations that bring back the trauma, heightened reactivity to stimuli, anxiety or depressed mood.
It took me six months to find out that I had all the symptoms of PTSD. It took another 2 years to find out that it was actually CPTSD.
I had every type of symptom, I had every emotion, physical reactions, nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance, terror, worthlessness, every single thing explained about PTSD and CPTSD. I had it ALL. The only thing that was keeping me going at the time, was my job. Daily meditation morning and night and exercise 6 days a week. I couldn't do anything else.
Whats the difference between the two? Well CPTSD is a stronger version of PTSD, its the heightened version. Everything that I was experiencing felt like I had no way out at all. That every action I did, would have a consequence. Which would end up harming me and my life.
It didn't matter that it had a safe outcome. None of that mattered.
What mattered, was my safety. The only way I could feel safe, was by not putting myself in those situations. However, there were things that I needed to action further. So I could finally move forward and heal.
I had many moments of being triggered and reliving the moment over and over. All were painful and hurtful in their own way. Which I will share more of in my book.
However the one I will talk about, was the one trigger that made me say within me... ENOUGH! Im done with all this.
It was nearly two years since I had separated from my ex husband. Life as I knew it was becoming good. I didn't have to live with someone that was so up and down with emotions. I didn't have to deal with walking on eggshells every day. I didn't have to hold my breathe around him, not knowing what was going to happen. I didn't have to wake up to having sex that I didn't consent to. I didn't have to endure all the verbal abuse again and again. I didn't have any more of that.
I was free from it all.
Yet the triggers and the endless tears, being scared and not feeling safe wherever I went was becoming part of the norm for me. I would hardly leave the house on the weekends. I would only say yes to certain events, and I wouldn't put myself in situations where I felt unsafe. Especially if men I didn't know were involved.
It made me question what kind of life I was living. Yet I had no idea how to get out of it.
I had started to get some coaching on finding my new soul purpose and it was leading me down the road to something greater than I had ever imagined for myself. I was feeling grand, I was loving everything about my life and what I was doing. Things were finally starting to fall into place.
Then... I got a message from him, on my business page on facebook that I had somehow missed. Every other way he could contact me had been sorted and he was blocked. Except this one.
I could say it was an accident that this happened like this, however I believe it all needed to happen to finally make me put a firm stop to it all and finally get my sense of strength back within me. To find my true and honest NO again and to stop running in fear.
I stupidly read the message and it spun me out of control. I went from totally fine to a full blown panic attack within seconds.
The pain, the tears, the FEAR all came rising up to the surface. It flooded over me like a 10 foot waterfall. I couldn't breathe. My body crumbled underneath me on the floor, in the most excruciating pain. Shaking with pure fear, uncontrollably. I was gasping for air, while tears streamed down my face. I screamed and screamed and just lay on the floor in a curled up ball. Waiting... waiting for it all to subside and stop.
This was the last trigger that sent me over the edge. I didn't want to live my life like this any more. So I went to the police and filed a report.
It wasn't as simple as I thought it would be. It took me two weeks to get the courage to walk into the station to file the report. By the time I went in, I was absolutely shitting myself. All I could think was. What is the consequence to this? How can I escape if I need to?
Constantly looking over my shoulder just in case . Feeling agitated more and more.
There was also a sense of shame that came with all this. Because a woman like me, never allowed anyone to treat me like this. Let alone her own husband at the time.
I got to the counter and the worst happened. I ended up with a trainee. She was talking over me to the previous customers she had dealt with. I was shaking and crying trying to get my words out to her. Feeling like what I had to say wasn't validated at all. The whole time she was asking me questions, asking me what his address was, even reading it out to me. To which I kept saying, I don't know! Why would I want to know?
She shoved the box of tissues at me giving me the most disrespectful disgusted look in her eyes. Asking me why I didn't report the previous abuse while I was married. To which I could only whimper out... I don't know.
Judging me and huffing and puffing while I tried to get my words out.
The only reason why I stayed, was because this was my only way I could stop this. Forever.
and like fuck I was letting him get away with this any more.
I got out what I needed to say, she gave me the phone number of a constable and again It took me nearly a week to call him. I finally got the courage up to call him and I was shaking with so much fear. I explained to him what had happened. He informed me that he was the wrong person to talk to , as I should have been directed to someone else.
I don't know what happened, but all of a sudden he said thats ok, tell me what's going on. I explained how I was treated at the police station, laid a complaint against the person at the front desk and said that all I wanted was this all to stop.
Then out of nowhere it was like an angel had wrapped its wings around me and said, its ok. You're safe.
He stopped everything he was doing and listened. He listened so intently, it was the first time I felt like I was being heard. All I kept saying to him was that I wanted to feel safe.
He asked me what I wanted, as I didn't have enough information to take the ex to court. I asked him if he could call him and tell him to stay away from me.
He then said to me, I know the exact type of person you are dealing with. He's a narcissist and I know exactly how to deal with this. He gave me all the information I needed to learn. Especially about the grey rock method.
Meanwhile as I was talking to him I started to calm down. I had stopped shaking and it literally felt like he was my saviour. The one and only person who could stop this for good.
He rung the ex, and explained to him everything he knew about him messaging me and told him to stay away from me, otherwise the next time he will be arrested.
Of course the ex lied about me contacting his friends, saying I was asking about him.
I said to the constable I have no reason, nor do I want to know how he is or what he's doing. Especially after all the years of the way he treated me. The constable gave me the answer that I was waiting for and that was. He's a narcissist and he pulled all the tricks. I could tell he was lying.
I told him to leave you alone and if he contacts you again. Call me straight away.
I let out the biggest breathe and whispered... thank you so much. I feel safe now. You've given me back my safety.
While tears wrapped in joy, pain and celebration were falling from my eyes.
I knew then that this was the last time I would ever hear from him again.
From then on, I could breathe. I could go out anywhere feeling safe again. I could finally be free of the shackles of CPTSD.
I delved deeper into my healing and knowing full well that my biggest trigger of them all, was finally gone.
From that day forward my life changed in marvellous ways and continues to do so.
However it only started to change once I stopped running and looked my fears in the face.
If you know of a narcissist or anyone that may have these traits. Please watch the grey rock method.
I am here to support, send me a message if you need a safe space to chat.