Complex PTSD has a deep and often lasting impact on our nervous systems and our lives.
Hi Love! I'm Morgan and I'm a childhood trauma survivor, certified trauma-informed coach, and the creator of Rising Warrior Collective, a safe community for survivors of childhood trauma to begin healing. If you're ready to take your healing to the next level, let's connect and talk about what it looks like to work 1:1.
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If you have unhealed childhood trauma due to abuse, neglect, and dysfunction during your most influential developmental years, it’s likely that you have had difficulties navigating adulthood. As trauma survivors, we can struggle with interpersonal relationships, family, work, money, time management, self-care, procrastination, and social anxiety. I could keep going, but I think you get the picture. We so often spend our adult lives in survival mode, simply trying to “figure it out” while those around us seem to function with more ease.
I know from personal experience how much pain, shame, and confusion unhealed trauma causes. I also know, when not addressed, it can take us down a long, dark path, often leading to depression, anxiety, panic attacks, avoidance, and addiction. Trauma is progressive, which means that if it’s not tended to, it can get worse as we get older. I had my first panic attack ever while standing in line at Chipotle when I was 36, with no identifiable trigger.
While I realize this can feel heavy, my goal for this blog is not to weigh you down but to give you insight, knowledge, and hope by connecting the dots so that you feel empowered to take necessary steps to heal.
Childhood trauma deeply affects our growth, brain development, and nervous system. Unlike big “T” trauma which is typically a one-time occurrence that happens at a random time in our lives, little “t” trauma (developmental trauma) occurs over and over for a long period, typically during developmental years (hence its impact on our development). If you want to dive deeper into understanding trauma, go check out my blog, “My childhood wasn’t that bad, was it? A guide to understanding childhood trauma.”
Big “T” trauma is associated with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) – car accidents, war, death of a parent or child, etc. Because PTSD has been accepted into the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders), this type of trauma is widely accepted. This means a doctor or practitioner can diagnose and prescribe medication, and offer additional support for those diagnosed.
Little “t” trauma, on the other hand, is associated with cPTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) – a series of traumatic events that take place over a long period, like months, years, or even decades. This type of trauma typically occurs in childhood, and often during the most important developmental years. As the name suggests, cPTSD is complex and not as widely understood or accepted as PTSD. You won’t see cPTSD listed in the DSM, which leaves us to navigate the repercussions on our own with much less support and a lot more confusion.
Research and science clearly show that most childhood trauma survivors experience symptoms of cPTSD, which can significantly affect quality of life, so I would be lying If I said I didn’t feel frustrated and frankly pissed at how little support is available for survivors.
Unchecked, cPTSD can turn into a lifelong struggle to feel “normal.” The long-term lack of safety, connection, and healthy attachment during childhood causes the nervous systems to get stuck in the “on” position and over time we adapt to this hyper-vigilant state, connecting it to our sense of safety. While early in life this natural response protected us from real danger, now it’s stuck trying to “protect” us from any slight sense of danger, real, or perceived.
This is why, as trauma survivors, we EXPECT the other shoe to drop, exhaustingly plan for the “what if’s” and worst-case scenarios, future trip, care-take, run away, stay too long, and under or over expect from others. These actions have become our false sense of safety and security and now, in order to reset our system, we have to learn how to bring awareness to them so that we can let them go and replace them with healthy post trauma tools.
Unaware of our motivation to do so, we become caretakers in order to gain control and we seek control because control gives us a false sense of safety and security.
The patterns that come along with childhood trauma and cPTSD are utterly exhausting.
If you are stuck in these patterns, I see you, and I know how tired you must be. I want you to know that there is a way off of this train. Recovery from childhood trauma and cPTSD is not easy, but it is possible and for most, finding support is absolutely necessary. Because the research and understanding around cPTSD is still evolving, it’s important to seek out doctors, therapists, coaches, and practitioners who are trauma informed, have knowledge and awareness around cPTSD, and are truly invested in YOU and your healing.
If you don’t have the means to work with a therapist, coach, or practitioner right now, here are the top 3 resources that I recommend for self-guided exploration.
“What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resiliency, and Healing” by Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Bruce Perry.
“Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving.” by Pete Walker
I also highly recommend finding like-minded community support. For most trauma survivors, we don’t have a strong family system to go to when we are ready to look at our trauma and heal. It’s important that we create this for ourselves. Seeking mentors, friends, and support groups filled with people who are healing and working to move forward instead of remaining stuck helps us to do the same. Here are some resources that I use or have used during my recovery journey.
ACOA (private group) Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunction (Facebook Group)
If you think you are struggling with the effects of Complex PTSD, please know that it’s ok to reach out for support. In fact, depending on how deeply your trauma is affecting your life, it could be critical. While your story is unique, you are not alone in your experiences and you don’t have to face your healing alone. Most importantly, it’s not your fault.
Are you ready to start connecting the dots between what happened to you and how it’s impacting your adult life? Do you want to gain new tools to harness the power you already have inside of you? Feeling stuck and alone on the journey? I would love to support you. My 1:1 coaching container creates a compassionate, non-judgmental, and safe space that meets you right where you are today. From there we move at a pace that supports your life, goals, and visions for your unique and beautiful future, a future that can look anyway you CHOOSE.
Click here to book your free 1-hour discovery call.
You never know how one conversation could shift the direction of your life.
Lots of love ~ Morgan
July 18, 2022