With CPTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder), I have more intense emotional reactions to things and at the same time it’s more difficult for me to process any emotional reactions. This is due to the changes in the brain which occur to people who experience trauma. I don’t know the whole of it, but things like the limbic system are physically altered by trauma. Because of this, I need to keep myself in situations and circumstances which are as calm and peaceful as possible. In life, this isn’t always possible of course. But at the same time, I don’t have to contribute to my difficulties by choosing to get into situations (or circumstances) which are, for me, provocative and stressful.
Last night, I watched a bit of news. Ordinarily, I avoid this because I find it all so upsetting. When watching the news I sometimes wonder if anything positive ever happens! Why is the negative stuff so over reported? Anyway, the reason I do watch sometimes is to have a general idea about what’s going on in the wider world. I’m not a political person, but I do vote in every election, major or minor. I’ve also had long discussions with my son about the importance of thinking about what’s going on in the world and how important voting is. It’s because of these things that I sometimes grit my teeth and turn on the news.
This caused problems for me this morning. I already have anxiety as a common companion. But the things I saw last night really made my anxieties spike about the present direction and the future which seems to be fast approaching. The most difficult thing, though, were the negative thoughts which started arising, even before I was fully awake. Most times, I bring negative thinking into conscious awareness and challenge them while maintaining a sense of mindfulness. However, it’s really rather annoying when I’m not even fully awake and the negativity starts flowing. At that time of the morning, I don’t want to be conscious or mindful of anything. After my morning coffee, fine, bring it on. But I don’t want to wrestle with that stuff when I’m “in between worlds.” Just a pain.
I avoid certain things like watching the news because I know the effect it will have on me. The circumstance with my wife where I had to set boundaries and limits with her was much more difficult. It caused innumerable problems in our relationship for many, many years and has left scars which still haven’t healed. This was something that was very stressful, but I wasn’t able to fully influence. It was very difficult and ended up invoking emotions and issues which re-traumatized me to the point where even now, 2 years later, I’m still trying to dig myself out of that hole.
But there is another type of stress as well. We live in a townhouse complex in the Philadelphia suburbs. One of the challenges of living here is that parking can be a bit difficult. Every unit is assigned 2 spaces, but some of the folks living in the neighborhood – who are all very nice people – will sometimes have 3 or 4, even 5 cars which take up the spaces. There are also times when some of these folks will park in one of our spots. Any time this happens, I fall into a rage which I can barely contain.
Now of course this is ridiculous. With all the things going on in the world and all the other difficulties (like health issues) I struggle with, who the hell cares where anyone parks!? It’s such a small, insignificant thing, especially knowing that all of our neighbors are very nice, reasonable people? But this is the challenge. When these things happen, it feels very invalidating and disrespectful. It triggers a lot of past experiences when others went out of their way to deliberately do things like this, just to get me angry. When the larger, more important things in life are constantly, deliberately violated, one becomes more inclined to overreact to any perceived slight – so, some very small things can invoke intense, vitriolic reactions.
So I have more intense reactions, am less able to process them or “self sooth” and am overly sensitive to being invalidated or slighted, even when such things are not intended. This makes daily living very difficult at times. Because of watching the news last night, it’s going to take me a day or two to calm myself down and find some semblance of peace. The problem is that the anxieties, negative thoughts and painful emotions aren’t things which can be turned off like a switch. The ebb and flow from lessor to greater intensities. Once these things have momentum and power, it takes a lot of time and a great deal of effort for me to ease them back down to as manageable level as I’m capable of.
There is a positive side to all this, though. Part of it is that I’m more able to empathize with the pain of others and I understand the value of compassion. It also means that my intense reactions can also be of joy or happiness. The negative things are always in the background. However, because of the structural deformities of my brain, I’m able to, perhaps, more deeply understand and appreciate the joys and happiness of others, with others, for others. That, is a good thing.
Be Well, My Friends
(P.S. Just for fun…Know that when this stuff happens, it hurts my brain)