NAVIGATING LIFE WITH
Shame can't remain when it's proclaimed.
CPTSD nightmares aren't always flashbacks of your trauma. Sometimes they're flashbacks of the emotions you felt while surviving your trauma. -@emilee_with3es
I rarely have flashback nightmares. But I do have emotional nightmares.
Ones where I’m screaming and punching my abuser with both fists over and over and over again. And just yelling at the top of my lungs in his face.
There is so much •a•n•g•e•r• and resentment in those nightmares. And I usually wake up feeling scared and unsafe and unprotected.
Sometimes, there is even another adult present, standing off to the side and turning her head the other direction, refusing to see what's happening right in front of her.
(NOTE: While writing this, I began experiencing an elevated heart rate [ 138 BPM--thanks Apple Watch ]; I had to stop for a moment of mindful breathing and a grounding exercise before continuing).
Check out the story highlights on my Instagram page to see the 5-5-5 grounding exercise I used here.
I don’t know what it’s going to take to get past that anger—or if it will always remain. I guess time will tell.
But waking up in the morning after having an emotional nightmare like that makes taking on the day that much more difficult.
It’s like it just stays with me and replays in my mind throughout the day whenever I find myself in a moment of quiet and/or rest.
So what did I normally do to avoid that happening?
I wouldn't let myself have a moment of quiet or rest.
This is what I wish my family and friends knew:
1. My on-the-go nature and constant movement and productivity is just me in survival mode.
Because if I stop—if my brain has a minute to slow down—do you know what it does? It floods my consciousness with memories of betrayal and hurt and shame and guilt.
And in the past, before I made the decision to prioritize myself, it’s been a lot easier to avoid those feelings and push forward than to feel them, accept them, and move on.
So, that's what some of we trauma survivors do: we carry on. Because we think any other option is too devastating.
2. If I communicate to you that I’m feeling a certain way, or that I had a bad nightmare and it’s affecting the way I’m going about my day, I’m not sharing that information because I want your sympathy or want you to fix my problems.
I’m sharing because I finally can. I’m sharing because it’s healthier than sweeping it under the rug.
I'm sharing because I've finally learned that I don't have to constantly try to make hard things look easy. I'm sharing so that I don't have to feel like I have to carry the burden alone.
Im sharing so that I can give myself a moment to feel those feelings, accept them, and make the conscious decision to not let them steer my ship anymore.
I’m sharing because shame can’t remain when it’s proclaimed.
So, if you have a loved one who’s sharing their story:
1. Just listen.
Literally just listen. Don't say anything. Give them your undivided attention for as long as it takes them to say what they need to say.
If you're close enough to this person (figuratively, not literally), maybe touch their hand, as a way of silently saying, "I'm here and I'm listening."
2. Tell them you hear them.
When they're finished, say, "I hear you." This is not an invitation to express your opinions and thoughts on their situation.
They just need to feel heard. This isn't about you.
3. Ask them what they need.
They may not know what they need. Or maybe they do, but they don't know how to express it in that moment.
Giving multiple choice is okay, but don't go overboard. Try offering a hug or to take on a particularly overwhelming task that you know they may be facing.
But giving them too many options in that moment may just exacerbate the situation. Just asking what they need is sometimes enough for them to feel a wave of calm come over them like a blanket of protection in that moment.
And their safety is paramount, so any amount of protection you can provide is essential.
4. Tell them you love them and that their feelings are valid.
Validation is so important, especially for those who suffer from C-PTSD. We constantly feel like a burden and question the validity of our thoughts and feelings.
The truth is, we really need to be able to feel the feelings we have. And we can't do that if we're constantly questioning them.
So, if you really want to help your loved ones with PTSD...
1. Listen to them
2. Tell them you hear them
3. Ask them what they need
4. Tell them you love them & their feelings are valid
Just listen and acknowledge their struggle.
DON’T minimize their feelings just because you don’t understand them.
Listen. And hear them.
Because for so long, they didn’t have a voice. -e
“Essential reading for anyone interested in understanding and treating traumatic stress and the scope of its impact on society.” —Alexander McFarlane, Director of the Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies
What do you wish your family knew about the affects of your trauma?
IF you have other Ideas for safe ways that loved ones can be supportive
add them in the comments below. Please.
You can even submit them anonymously if you haven't found your voice yet. I can be your voice until you're ready.
But please don't keep it in. Knowledge is power. And power is capability. Speak your truth. You never know who is listening.
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Emilee with 3E's
I'm a 30-something single-ish lady who is enjoying city-life & a philanthropic career... most of the time.
A Note from Emilee:
Hey all! I hope if you've read this far that you've also read my About Mee page.
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