“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.” ― Rose Kennedy
I spent 31 years suffering with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) and didn’t even know it. 31 years ago, there was no such thing as C-PTSD and mine came on from a youth of being bullied relentlessly from age 7-13. OK, you can do the math now and figure out how old I am, I’ll wait.
So, where was I. Oh yeah, unbeknownst to me at the time, I began to build scars, some external and some internal from this youth of bullying. Somewhere along the way, I changed, because of this abuse. At first it manifested in my fight or flight instinct, feeling threatened most of the time and having panic attacks. Then, it built up in anxiety, stress, displaced aggression, and finally depression.
The scar tissue built a wall around the authentic me and I did many things that were not in agreement with who I was in order to be liked. How many of us do this when injured in our youth and feeling like no one likes us? I am an empath personality, meaning I am highly sensitive to everything going on around me. This was both my strength and weakness. It is a strength, because I can have great empathy and sympathy for others. It is a weakness, because I am easily affected by others, some who enjoy using my personality to abuse me.
In my teens, I tried to bury the memories of this abuse and was somewhat successful for many years. But I was easily angered, stressed, and anxious most of the time. I would tell people I was like this because of what happened to me. Being bullied was my excuse to behave against my nature. It was painful, as any scar or cut would be. I was stuck and had no realization of how allowing these scars of the past to haunt me would ruin my life for so long.
Finally, 31 years after the abuse, stress, anxiety, and anger turned into full-blown depression. I knew it was time to try to not get past what happened, but accept it. There is a big difference between trying to forget the past and move on and just accepting it and moving on. The truth, as in the quote at the beginning of this article, is that you can’t just try to forget the past, it is part of you. Accepting it and moving forward is the real key.
So, I started by seeking professional help and doing a lot of self-studying on what is now known as C-PTSD and working to accept my past. After all, that journey was over and the journey in my adult life deserved to be one that I could enjoy. Over the next two years, I learned from both professionals and a lot of self-study to accept my past and move forward to happiness. Here was my path and maybe one you can try.
Mindfulness – Many think this is something mystical. It is really just living in the moment, not focusing on the past or too far in the future. The ways I have found to be mindful have been researched by experts and are known to work. The idea is to clear your mind of rumination and learn to free it to focus on the most important person in your life…YOU. So I started learning to Belly Breathe to start. Then I moved on to Meditation and Yoga. There are many ways to be mindful daily. You can try many techniques and find ways to be mindful as well.
Nutrition – Another studied area to improve mood and thought is through food. What are you eating? Does it feed your brain? I gave up much of the processed food of my past. I start the morning with a green smoothie, eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, and try to eat as much natural food as possible. It works.
Exercise – Yes, the dreaded exercise that some hate so much. Many times, your brain will tell you it is easier to sit on the couch and watch TV or play with your electronic device than to go exercise. But even the simplest exercise, like taking a walk outside, to what I do, the full gym experience works. There are chemicals that are released to the brain when you exercise that improve mood. It is a habit that you have to build to and convince yourself to enjoy. But it works. I walk into the gym in a blah mood and walk out much happier.
Gratitude Reading and Journaling – Science shows that when you read positive affirmations or write them, your brain does change and absorb these. Sites like this one, “Tiny Buddha”, help us to remember that we are not alone in our feelings and that helps to accept them. I also read a lot of biographies of others that have gone through tough time. An example is a book like “Glass Castle”. It helps you realize you aren’t the only one going through these tough times and that helps.
Gratitude Journaling is also something anyone can do. Write at the top of the page “I am Thankful for” and then write three things daily that you are thankful for. There is good in every day and this helps us remember this and focus on the good. Do this before bed and you just might sleep better.
Watch What You Watch – Maybe you never heard this one, but I have heard it from mental health professionals all the time. Maybe you remember watching the towers come down on September 11, 2001, because you watched it non-stop on the news over and over. Don’t you think that affected you? Notice, does the news show you watch share good news? I doubt it. Do you watch a lot of depressing and violent movies or TV? All of these things add to our worry, anxiety, and stress. But you can cut it all out. I get all my news online and I set it up to give me only news I am interested in. Of course, I still hear the negative news, but I don’t watch it over and over. Think about what you are seeing daily. A death in another state or country does not mean you are next. Try watching positive programming if you are watching or just cut down on TV time. It helps your brain’s perspective.
The list can be longer, but that’s what I have found works best. Have my scars of youth bullying gone away now? No, but they no longer haunt me. I accept them and the scars that they have left with me. They are only a small part of my story and only one journey on the many journeys I have gone through in my life. Two years ago, I was lost in my story. Now I have rewritten my story and live my authentic life. It’s not that I don’t want to please others through my empath personality, but now I know who to please first in order to live a happier and healthier life. Who is that magic person you ask? Well, I’ve known him my whole life. It is ME.