Journey Through the Shadows: Facing CPTSD and Embracing Change (Guest article by Lisa)

by | Jan 13, 2024 | Human Releationships, Mental Health

Editorial by Valerie: This article was written by my girlfriend Lisa. I decided to publish it here because it may very well have been written by myself. The struggle of dealing with heavy complex ptsd is hard enough on its own. But when two people with this diagnosis meet each other, things can get very ugly very fast, no matter how big the love and affection is. In the two months we know each other, we both managed to be heavily triggered by the other and hurt each other immensely, partially inadvertedly, partially to push the other away out of self hate and the feeling of not deserving the other. Luckily we both recently had major epiphanies and are on the right path to healing. When Lisa wrote this article, she was at a point where I was two weeks before.

As I sit in the quiet of my room, the world outside seems both distant and too close for comfort. My heart is heavy with a burden I’ve carried for too long—Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). It’s a constant companion, whispering doubts and fears, replaying moments I wish I could forget. But today, I want to share not just the struggles but also a glimmer of hope that has recently entered my life.

CPTSD is a complex condition, arising from prolonged exposure to traumatic events. It’s more than just the nightmares or flashbacks; it’s the way it infiltrates every aspect of life. My relationships, especially the one with my girlfriend, have felt its impact deeply. She’s been a beacon of light in my life, yet due to circumstances beyond our control, we’re currently separated, unable to see each other for weeks. This separation has been excruciating, not just because I miss her deeply, but also because it stirs a profound fear within me—the fear of losing her.

In moments of reflection, I realize that my CPTSD symptoms have sometimes led me to treat her in ways I regret. My fear and anxiety have sometimes manifested as anger or withdrawal, creating distance where there should be closeness. The realization that my actions, influenced by my inner turmoil, could hurt someone I love so dearly is a bitter pill to swallow. It’s a stark reminder of the pervasive nature of CPTSD.

This period of separation has been a crucible of sorts, a time of intense self-reflection. I’ve been forced to confront the reality of my condition and its impact on my most cherished relationship. The fear of losing my girlfriend not to distance, but to my own unaddressed issues, has been a wake-up call. It’s not just about the fear of loss but also about the realization that I haven’t been the partner she deserves.

In this introspection, I’ve made a significant decision—one that marks a turning point in my journey. I’ve decided to seek professional help for my CPTSD. This decision wasn’t easy. It required me to face my vulnerabilities and admit that I can’t do this alone. Seeking help is a step towards healing, not just for my sake, but for the health of my relationship. It’s about learning to manage my symptoms, to understand my triggers, and to develop healthier coping mechanisms.

The road ahead is undoubtedly challenging. Therapy and healing are not linear processes; they require time, patience, and a willingness to confront painful memories and behaviors. Yet, I am hopeful. This decision to seek help is a commitment not just to my mental health but also to my relationship. It’s a promise to my girlfriend that I am working towards becoming not just a better partner, but a healthier, more whole individual.

As I embark on this journey, I carry with me the love and memories of my girlfriend. They are a reminder of what I’m striving for—a future where my CPTSD is not a barrier but a challenge I’ve learned to manage. A future where I can offer her the love and support she so generously gives me.

In the labyrinth of CPTSD, triggers often lay hidden, waiting to emerge at the slightest provocation, leading to moments where our relationship teetered on the brink of collapse. These triggers would often ignite volatile emotions, causing us to lash out, not out of lack of love, but from a place of deep-seated pain and self-loathing. It’s a harrowing cycle where the hurt we felt within ourselves manifested in our interactions, leading to a tumultuous dynamic. We found ourselves caught in a storm of misunderstandings and hurtful actions, a reflection of the turmoil that raged within each of us. We didn’t just struggle with the symptoms of CPTSD; we struggled with the way it made us view ourselves. The self-hatred, a byproduct of our past traumas, often spilled over into our relationship, causing us to treat each other in ways we never intended. It was a battle not just against our past and our fears, but also against the negative perceptions we held about ourselves, perceptions that were often unjust and unfounded, yet deeply ingrained. This phase of our relationship was a stark reminder of how mental health issues can not only affect the individual but also those they hold dear. It underscored the importance of understanding, patience, and above all, the need to address our inner demons not only for our well-being but for the health of our relationship.

As I journey through the tangled web of my own thoughts and experiences, I’m beginning to recognize a disturbing pattern. It’s a revelation that is both painful and necessary. I’ve come to realize that, in my struggle with PTSD, stemming from the scars of a troubled childhood and a toxic long-term relationship, I’ve been inadvertently orchestrating my own downfall. This self-sabotage, a byproduct of deep-seated self-hatred, isn’t just harming me; it’s also causing pain to those I hold dear.

The core of this issue lies in how I view myself, tainted by the traumas of my past. This self-loathing, so deeply embedded, often takes the driver’s seat, leading me down a path of destructive behaviors. It’s as if I’m trying to validate these negative self-perceptions through my actions, reinforcing a cycle of self-destruction. What’s more distressing is how this internal turmoil spills over, affecting my loved ones. When triggers related to my PTSD surface, they often bring out the worst in me. In these moments, my reactions aren’t just responses to the present; they’re deeply rooted in the painful echoes of my past.

The current chapter in my journey of healing from Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) is both enlightening and challenging. It involves a deep dive into self-awareness, a process that is as painful as it is necessary. My focus has been on recognizing and understanding the myriad ways in which my CPTSD has influenced my life and, more significantly, impacted those around me.

The regret for the hurt I’ve caused weighs heavily on me. It’s a burden made all the more profound by the understanding that my loved ones, caught in the crossfire of my internal battles, are suffering because of my unresolved issues. The realization that my self-hatred and past traumas have led me to mistreat those I care about is a bitter truth to face. It’s a stark reminder of how the shadows of our past can loom over our present, influencing our actions and relationships in ways we never intended.

This revelation has prompted a period of intense self-reflection. I am trying to comprehend the full extent of my actions and their impact. It’s a journey towards self-awareness, recognizing how my past has shaped me, and how I’ve allowed it to control my present. More importantly, it’s about learning to forgive myself. Forgiving myself for being, as I saw it, a ‘horrible person’ to those I love. Understanding that while I am responsible for my actions, I am also a victim of circumstances that were beyond my control.

This step is akin to looking into a mirror, but instead of just seeing my reflection, I’m forced to confront the ripples of pain that have emanated from my actions and behaviors, influenced by my CPTSD. The realization of how much I have, unknowingly and unintentionally, hurt those I love has been a sobering experience. It’s a heavy burden to bear, acknowledging the pain caused, not out of malice, but as a manifestation of my own internal battles.

Forgiveness, especially self-forgiveness, is a challenging path. It’s about accepting my flaws and mistakes, understanding that they don’t define my entire being. It’s about acknowledging that while I can’t change the past, I have the power to shape my future. This journey of self-forgiveness is also a commitment to do better – not just for myself, but for those I love. It’s about actively working to break the cycle of self-sabotage and to heal from my traumas, so that I no longer project my pain onto others.

This path to healing and self-forgiveness is essential. It’s a critical step in not only repairing the relationships that mean so much to me but also in building a healthier, more compassionate relationship with myself. As I embark on this journey, I hold onto hope – hope for a future where my past no longer holds the reins, where I can love and be loved without the shadow of trauma looming over me.

I am learning to channel these emotions into a catalyst for change. Accepting responsibility for my actions and understanding their root causes is a crucial step in my healing process. It’s about transforming regret into resolve, resolve to do better, to be better.

In seeking professional help, I’ve taken a vital step towards managing my CPTSD. Therapy is not just a space for healing; it’s also a platform for learning. Through it, I am acquiring tools and strategies to cope with my symptoms, to recognize triggers, and to respond to them in healthier ways. This professional guidance is invaluable, providing me with the support and direction needed to navigate the complexities of CPTSD.

Amidst this tumultuous journey, my girlfriend stands as a beacon of hope and resilience. Her decision to stay, to not give up on us, has been nothing short of heroic. She has chosen to fight—not just for herself, but for our relationship, for the love we share. Her strength and commitment have been a source of inspiration and motivation. She reminds me that even in the darkest of times, there are reasons to keep fighting, to keep pushing through.

Her support has been instrumental in my healing process. She’s not just a partner; she’s a mirror reflecting the best parts of me, parts I sometimes fail to see. Her belief in us, in our ability to overcome the challenges posed by my CPTSD, fuels my determination to continue this journey of healing and self-improvement.

As I progress through this phase of my healing, I hold onto the hope and love she embodies. It’s a reminder that even in the face of adversity, growth and healing are possible. She is not just a lighthouse guiding me through the storm; she is a reminder of the beauty and strength that can emerge when we choose to fight for love, to fight for each other.

Not long ago, there was a day marked by despair, a moment when the fragile tendrils of hope I had been clinging to seemed to wither away. In a whirlwind of emotions, exacerbated by my CPTSD, I found myself grappling with feelings of exclusion and betrayal in my relationship. My girlfriend, in an effort to shield me from potential pain, had withheld certain things from me. Ironically, this act of protection was perceived by my CPTSD-riddled mind as a breach of trust, a sign that she didn’t confide in me as she once did.

The situation was further complicated by the knowledge that she had shared these concerns with her ex, rather than with me. This revelation stirred a cauldron of jealousy and insecurity within me. It felt as though I was being replaced, or worse, that I was never the one she truly confided in. These thoughts, irrational yet overpowering, led me down a path of self-destruction.

In my mind, it seemed like clear evidence that I wasn’t enough for her, that her love for me couldn’t possibly match the intensity of my feelings for her. This perceived imbalance in our affections pushed me to a dark place. I reacted not with understanding or communication, but with a desperate attempt to push her away. I wanted to hurt her, to drive her away so decisively that she would never even consider coming back. It was as if, in my pain, I wanted to become unlovable, to embody the hatred and self-loathing that were consuming me.

In my efforts to alienate her, I lost sight of the love and care she has always shown me. I allowed my fears and insecurities to dictate my actions, forgetting that her decision to protect me from certain things was not a sign of distrust, but rather an act of love, albeit misunderstood. My CPTSD, with its complex layers of fear, abandonment, and trauma, skewed my perception, leading me to view her actions through a distorted lens.

Standing at the precipice of what feels like an unfathomable abyss, I’ve come to a harrowing realization. It’s as if I’ve awoken from a deep slumber, only to find myself teetering on the edge of a vast, dark chasm. This moment of awakening has brought with it the stark awareness of how far I’ve strayed from my path, how long ago I surpassed my breaking point without even realizing it. Lost in a seemingly endless night, I now see how perilously close I am to losing everything that matters to me.

This acknowledgment is not just a mere observation; it’s a jolt to my very core. The understanding that it’s almost too late, that I need to act now to salvage the fragments of my life, is both terrifying and painful. I’ve been coping in ways that are harmful, not healing. Smoking excessively, a form of self-harm, has been my misguided attempt at managing my pain. Neglecting my physical and emotional well-being, I’ve allowed myself to spiral further into the darkness.

This realization is daunting, yet, paradoxically, it marks the first crucial step towards healing. It’s an essential acknowledgment that things need to change, and they need to change now. For so long, I’ve been ensnared in a cycle of self-destruction, partly out of stubbornness, partly out of a misguided belief that I could handle this alone. My refusal to seek help, to admit that I couldn’t fix everything by myself, only served to exacerbate my struggles.

In the midst of a profound and severe depressive episode, I found myself reflecting on the bittersweet irony of my relationship. It’s like discovering a long-sought-after twin flame, only to realize that the intensity of our connection, while beautiful, is also perilous. We are two souls, deeply connected, yet carrying the scars of our respective traumas, scars that date back to our childhoods. When we come together, it’s as if we ignite a fire that burns with an unmatched brilliance. However, this uncontrolled blaze, fueled by our unhealed wounds, often leads us to inadvertently burn each other, despite our deep love and best intentions.

The sadness of potentially losing the love of my life, not to external forces but to the internal damages we’ve both sustained, is a thought that haunts me. We are two individuals who have been shaped and, in many ways, broken by our past experiences. Yet, within this seemingly tragic narrative lies a glimmer of hope. We have before us an opportunity, a chance to heal together, to synchronize our flames in a way that allows us to burn bright without causing harm.

The path to achieving this harmonious blaze is not an easy one. It requires a tremendous amount of work, patience, and dedication on both sides. It’s about facing our traumas head-on, individually and as a couple. It involves therapy, open communication, and a commitment to understanding each other’s triggers and pain points. This process is about building a space where our flames can coexist, complementing and supporting each other, rather than leading to mutual destruction.

I am fully aware of the magnitude of this task and yet, I find within me a resolve that is unwavering. I am willing to do everything in my power to fix this, to heal alongside my partner. This kind of love, a connection that feels like it transcends the ordinary, is worth every effort. It’s a love that has the potential to be transformative, not just for us as individuals, but for our relationship.

Confronting the stark reality of how close I came to losing the love of my life due to my maladaptive coping strategies has been a terrifying and eye-opening experience. For the longest time, I believed that my ways of dealing with stress and trauma were justified, perhaps even necessary. Yet, in a moment of painful clarity, I’ve come to understand that these strategies were far from healthy or benign. They were, in fact, forms of lashing out, causing harm not just to myself, but also to the people around me, especially to the person I love most.

The gravity of this realization hit me with overwhelming force. My actions, once believed to be coping mechanisms, were actually self-destructive behaviors masquerading as self-defense. This wasn’t just a case of occasional outbursts or moments of weakness; it was a consistent pattern of behavior that damaged my relationships and eroded the trust and love that others had for me.

The most harrowing aspect of this realization is acknowledging the hurt I inflicted on my partner. The person who stood by me, who offered love and support, was the same person I pushed away with my words and actions. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, recognizing that the pain I was trying to escape from within myself was being transferred onto someone else—someone who didn’t deserve it.

This journey has also illuminated a fundamental truth about relationships: I cannot hope to sustain a healthy relationship with someone else without first nurturing a healthy relationship with myself. My interactions, clouded by the turmoil within, have been reflections of my internal chaos. The damage this has caused to my relationships, especially with my girlfriend, is a testament to the necessity of self-care and self-love.

The path to healing is not just about addressing the symptoms of my CPTSD or rectifying my relationships with others; it’s also about rebuilding my relationship with myself. It’s about learning to treat myself with the same compassion and understanding that I seek from others. It’s about recognizing my worth and working towards becoming a person who not only loves but is also capable of accepting love in return.

As daunting as this realization is, it’s imbued with a sense of hope. Acknowledging the depth of my fall is the first step in climbing back up. It’s a commitment to cease the descent into darkness and start the ascent towards light and healing. This journey will undoubtedly be challenging, marked by setbacks and difficulties, but it’s a journey worth undertaking. For in healing myself, I open the door to healthier, more fulfilling relationships, and a future where the abyss is a distant memory, not a looming threat.

This incident is also  a stark reminder of the powerful and often destructive influence of CPTSD on relationships. It highlights the importance of open communication, understanding, and the need to constantly check the narratives that our traumas can write for us. It’s a painful lesson in the ways our inner turmoil can spill over and impact those we love the most.

As I reflect on those events, I recognize the need for a renewed commitment to my healing journey. It’s a reminder that the path to recovery is not linear, that there will be setbacks, but each setback is also an opportunity to learn and grow. It’s about relearning how to trust, not just in my relationship but also in my perception of myself and the world around me. This episode has highlighted the urgent need for continuous work on my mental health, to ensure that the narratives of my past do not dictate the reality of my present and future.

To those struggling with CPTSD or any mental health issues, know that you’re not alone. Our struggles are real, but so is the possibility of change. Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. It’s the first step towards a brighter future, one where we can be our best selves, for us and for those we love.

As I look forward to reuniting with my girlfriend, I hold onto hope. Hope for healing, for understanding, and for a love that endures the trials of life. This journey through the shadows is tough, but it’s a path towards a light that grows brighter with each step forward.

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