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Author Topic: Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving - Pete Walker, MFT  (Read 869 times)
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the key to my destiny is me

« on: March 23, 2015, 11:45:11 PM »

Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving
Author: Pete Walker, MFT
Publisher: Self published, December 2013 (no publisher)
Paperback: 374 pages
ISBN-10: 1492871842
ISBN-13: 978-1492871842

I'm about a third of the way through a book I recently purchased called "Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving" by Pete Walker (who also has a LOT of pretty cool stuff on his website--just google his name)

While I do not meet the criteria for CPTSD (or PTSD, or anything else, even though I have tried hard to convince my T that I must be a BPD and in denial   that didn't work--he knows way more about BPD and diagnosing than I do  Laugh out loud (click to insert in post)) I am still finding the book really helpful. It grabbed my attention right away in the dedication page, when he said "I also dedicate this book to those who on a regular basis were verbally and emotionally abused at the dinner table, and I pray that this book will help you heal any damage that was done to you and your relationship with food."

OMG! Well *that* certainly got my attention!

I *don't* have nightmares, flashbacks, dissociation, behavioral control problems, cognition problems, or most of the other criteria--but I *do* have some issues with difficulty identifying and expressing emotions and internal states, and difficulties communicating needs, wants, and wishes; problems with relationship boundaries; and fragmented and disconnected autobiographical narrative, disturbed body image, low self-esteem, excessive shame, and negative internal working models of self (the latter mostly in the form of "imposter syndrome"

It is these things that frequently convince me I must be a BPD in denial, even though my T keeps pointing out that the whole point of BPD is the rejection of these issues that are so apparent to others--the elaborate defense mechanisms designed to "overlook" these issues (notably, projection, among other defenses). No, he's right--I don't do that. In fact, I go almost 180 degrees opposite, and attack myself relentlessly for having these issues. Some of you have heard me refer to this as "mom's voice"--Pete Walker has a better term: "the inner critic".

When I was 11 years old, I had already been experiencing some OCD behaviors for at least a year, but suddenly it became absolute and utter anguish. I counted footsteps, and then the "rules" of counting became more and more elaborate--I knew nothing bad was going to happen if I didn't do this, yet I was compelled (it wouldn't be a compulsion if you didn't HAVE to do it... .) I began to feel complete despair, just this total crushing agony over this. I began to argue with myself relentlessly about it, yet still it continued.

Years later, when I first read anything about "OCD", I thought "aha! finally a name for what tormented me so horribly as a kid!" I became convinced that was what my problem was--OCD. A couple years ago I was talking to my T, all matter of fact like, about my OCD, when he said "you don't have OCD". Wha... .? Of course I do! he got his DSM out and we went through the criteria lists for both Obsessions and Compulsions... .hmmm... .that's weird... .I don't meet anywhere near close to the criteria. Then why was it so intense? I was convinced for a long time (even after reading the criteria and most of it didn't come close to fitting) that it *WAS* "the issue" simply because of the intensity of my feelings surrounding performing the behaviors.

It is only recently that it has all been coming together in my mind--hmmm... .what was it that was so intensely horrible in my childhood? Was it counting footsteps (which actually doesn't cause anguish--it's just annoying), or was it... .hmmm... .let me see... .could it possibly have been growing up in HELL? Yeah, could that just maybe perhaps have been the source of the complete and utter despair? Could it possibly have been about growing up with nonstop verbal, mental, psychological, physical, emotional and sexual abuse? The endless contempt and rage projected on me even before I could speak, when the emotional level was all I could grasp? Gee--a little  Idea might be going off here!

In fact--hmmmm... .maybe the OCD behaviors were a child's coping method way to try to create order out of chaos, to create "rules" where what only existed was the emotional projection whim du jour. And maybe the intense self beratement was the crystalizing of my "pre-verbal era learnings" (and continuing beyond): that I was worthless, unlovable, and despicable. No surprise, really, that the coping method I chose would also be the "safe" place where I could try to release the anguish I had stored up in me for years and years and years. And also no surprise that what would also come tumbling out amidst that anguish was the fear/belief that I was a useless POS slug (just like I'd always been told I was). But I was still too young to recognize it for what it was. I ingrained it further within myself. It's not very easy to undo--and "mom's voice"/the inner critic likes to point out that if it isn't all gone immediately simply because of a realization, then that proves FAILURE  

If I am to be honest (and I don't believe any longer in the idea of trying to polarize emotions, to reject negative emotions and try to "permanentize" positive ones--the full spectrum of emotions, compassionately expressed, is required in order to be whole), well, I see that this coping method was not healthy. BUT it was a more respectful (to others at least) and head on choice than vicious self defense mechanisms designed to build yourself up by tearing others down (especially INFANTS, for crying out loud!). I am still hurt and angry about what happened to me as a child. That my infant and toddler plaintive calls for connection and attachment were met with rage and contempt. Just because I understand why doesn't mean I excuse or forgive it. THAT'S the behavior that was actually despicable.

We must come to know we are more than anyone's opinion--including our own
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« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2015, 01:35:04 PM »

Hi doublearies. I was a counter too. My early years did not come close to the trauma you have described,  but still I was a child left to search for human connection and love. I remember counting ceiling tiles and sidewalk blocks and stairs. At times I would have to go up and down in a set pattern. Most annoying I think, was the teeth movement. I'd move my lower jaw back, then forward and then left to right repetitively, one two, three, four, over and over. I  believe now it  was more a way to control anxiety than OCD. During the many years I was married to my xBPDh I didn't feel anxious. I remember going for a job interview years ago and one of the questions was how do you manage stress? I replied I didn't feel stress and I meant that. (It was the reason I didn't get the job.) In the four years since we divorced I have dealt with not crippling but constant anxiety. I understand now that I was controlling my anxiety by ignoring my own wants and needs and focusing on his. I also ran, many many miles a week. A friend asked me at one point what I was running away from. I laughed, I didn't see it then. I see it now. Today I run no more than three miles at a time and I have to manage myself because there is no longer the distraction of trying to manage someone else. And I feel anxious. I am beginning to wonder if that is not a huge part of our human life, managing anxiety. How do you do it? I mean the ways I managed by  looking after others, running, and working crazy hours are socially acceptable but are they any more effective than the less acceptable methods that many of our BPD partners used.

Forgive me for getting a little off topic here but your post brought these thoughts to mind. Take care, I appreciate your posts.

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the key to my destiny is me

« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2015, 09:05:48 PM »

hyper-vigilance, which certainly translates into anxiety, is also something I learned in childhood. It was important to keep track of every facial movement, change of voice tone, raised eyebrow, whatever, so I (and my brothers--we actually discussed it a lot!) could tell when the wrath was coming (as a kid, I sort of believed if I saw it coming I could maybe somehow avert it, by acting "better" or something). I don't have anxiety attacks or panic attacks or anything, but I don't even notice that most of the time, my muscles are coiled, ready for emergency.

I go to a massage therapist once a week. While there, I very purposefully pay attention only to the massage (50 minutes). When I catch myself starting to think about the chores I need to do, or fretting about this or that, or anything else at all, I try to gently bring myself back to the massage (this has taken a lot of practice, because my initial reaction is to get angry at myself for (FAILURE!) getting off track). I have brought that skill home with me.

To be honest with you, one of the most soothing things has been letting go of the idea that negative feelings are BAD and WRONG. I give them the light of day (reminding myself that I don't have to ":)O" anything about feelings--they're just feelings and I'm not going to die, so therefore I don't need to do whatever it takes to avoid them) and this has eased a LOT of tension for me.

And I also have used distracting activities (like relationships) and mental processes as an avoidance coping method. I still associate the OCD behaviors with the intense emotions I experienced, so therefore dislike the OCD behaviors (which when separated from the intense anxiety, weren't that bad really). The less the OCD behaviors worked to control the anxiety, the more elaborate the behaviors became--walking on sidewalk squares in sets of 4 starting with my left foot while keeping track of the total count as well, if I touched my leg, I'd have to touch the other leg with the other hand in a perfectly corresponding manner, everything had to be even numbers, etc, etc, etc. I'm glad it didn't occur to me to do what you describe with your jaw! Once one of those thoughts occurred, that was it--it became part of the "program"! I read once about a guy with OCD who decided he had to ride his bicycle to different towns--in alphabetical order. 

In some part, I have not been able to "overcome" the relentlessness, so instead I have tried to transform it into something useful. I become relentless about uncovering the source of my inner turmoil that makes me feel anxious, for example (as an alternative to berating myself for feeling anxious).

you might check out Pete Walker's website--there's a lot of good stuff on there. Like I said, I don't quite fit the criteria and maybe many of us don't, but that doesn't mean we can't benefit from researching the parts that DO fit!

We must come to know we are more than anyone's opinion--including our own
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