Welcome to the narcissistic abuse recovery Podcast. I’m Caroline Strawson. And I’ll be sharing with you awareness, understanding and education about the devastating effects of narcissistic abuse to help you thrive. I want you to know that I’ve been exactly where you are now, and I believe you. And this show is all about taking you from trauma to transformation. So you know that I talk a lot about trauma, narcissistic abuse and how they both go hand in hand. And today, I want to talk to you about complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Now, I’m sure most of you have heard of PTSD, so post traumatic stress disorder. And many, many times we associate that with maybe a soldier who’s gone out to fight in the war, maybe somebody who has been in a car accident, and we associate Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, potentially with those people. Now there’s something else called Complex PTSD. Now, complex PTSD is different to PTSD. So PTSD, as diagnosed in the DSM really is about a single event. So like a car crash, like maybe going off to Afghanistan, and being in a war zone, maybe suffering, maybe you found out you’re suffering with cancer, for instance. So it’s really these single events in your life that we can, then if the information isn’t processed properly, then we can get stuck. And we start to suffer with what’s called PTSD. Now, with PTSD, this really is an information processing disorder, it’s where our brain hasn’t finished processing the events that we have been involved in so that we can function on words from a daily basis, that we still get triggered in the present moment, causing us to have a trauma response in our body, because it’s taking us back to being in that single event. Now, complex PTSD is what we associate more with trauma that has happened over a longer period of time. So this can be abusive relationships. So narcissistic relationships, it can be maybe kidnapping, or being held hostage, something like that. So where it’s been over a longer period of time. So I know, pretty much every single client that I see has all the signs and symptoms of complex post traumatic stress disorder. And I’m going to talk to you a little bit more about those signs and symptoms. Because again, narcissistic abuse is trauma. It’s not just you’ve got these mean bad people in your life that won’t go away, and they’re being horrible to you. This is abuse, it is trauma. And even though you might be an adult now, abuse is abuse is abuse. It doesn’t matter what age you are. And again, you know, one of my biggest missions and passions is to help people to understand what narcissistic traits versus narcissistic personality disorder is, because they’re two very, very different things. And you being involved in a relationship with someone with narcissistic personality disorder, more than likely will leave you suffering with complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Now I almost think as well, I don’t really like the term disorder. Because when we think of the word disorder, we kind of think of this is it. This is me now this is how it’s going to be forever. And let me tell you, it isn’t that I have complex PTSD, I don’t have complex PTSD. Now, I almost wish we would call it complex post traumatic stress injury, because when we think of an injury, which it is, really, it’s an injury to our brain, which causes you know, as keep stuck, stuck in these trauma responses. When we think of an injury, you know, if you broke your arm as an injury, you think, wow, you know, it’s injured now, but it will get better. Sometimes when we’re stuck in complex PTSD, we feel like we’re not going to get better. We feel like this is the dark tunnel that we’re living in, there’s no light at the end of it. And this is how it’s going to be forevermore. And again, let me tell you, it doesn’t have to be how you are forevermore. But it does mean that we need to do certain types of therapies to really help you process that trauma. Because again, when you get involved with counselling or talking therapy, whilst it does have a place absolutely, because having someone listen to you and validate your feelings and thoughts, is really, really powerful. But actually trauma isn’t processed in the front part of your brain and your prefrontal cortex. Trauma is processed in your limbic system and towards your brainstem, and in those different areas of the brain. So if we’re only doing a therapy that is involved in talking, we’re only really accessing 10% parts of our brain. We’ve actually got to use different types of therapies. So Brain Body based therapies such as EMDR, brain spotting of which I both use with my clients, because that actually accesses parts of the brain where that trauma is stuck. So no matter how much you might be saying to yourself on a cognitive level, I am safe now I am in now for now I am worthy. That moment you get a trigger in the present moment, your emotions will override that. And you might just start feel that rapid heartbeat, the tension in your hands, the tingling sensation, you can feel your nervous system going into that trauma, responsive fight, flight or freeze or indeed form when we’re talking about narcissistic abuse, any types of abuse, we can have that form and forth trauma response, because we’re going to try and behave in a certain way to try and appease our abuser in the hope maybe that they will not be so mean and horrible and abusive or aggressive to us. So one of the first traits of complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is really trying to avoid those thoughts. So how many of you listening right now try and keep Uber busy all of the time. So you’re really, really, really, really busy so that you don’t have to think about the trauma, that in itself is you really trying to divert your attention away from sitting in all of that trauma, because that will send your body into even more of an overload than it already is. I know certainly, for me as well. When I was going through my divorce, I would sit and watch telly in the evening. And although I was exhausted, I couldn’t turn the telly off, to lie down to go to sleep until I was literally in front of the TV nodding off and going to sleep. Because I didn’t dare think, oh, it’s bedtime, now totally off to go to bed. Because then my thoughts of the trauma of what I was feeling and going through made it so much worse. And already my sleep wasn’t great anyway. But if I did that, it would be even worse. So I needed to literally deviate my thoughts away, keep busy doing all of these things. So I didn’t have to sit in my thoughts because they felt too painful to me. And remember, the brain’s number one job is to keep you alive and safe, and to move you away from the biggest perceived pain. So that doesn’t mean you don’t sit in pain. Your brain thinks the pain you are in right now is less painful than something else. And I do a lot of deep work with my clients around all of this, you know, yes, we know you’re in pain right now. But your brain is keeping you stuck there because it believes if you go to this place, that is going to be even more painful. But the place that your brain doesn’t want you to go is coming from perceptions and interpretations that have happened to you in your childhood. So we’ve got to challenge ourselves and get curious about all of that as well. So the other signs and symptoms of complex PTSD are that you avoid certain activities. So maybe things that you will have gone through before, maybe people that you might have been around, you really avoid that I certainly know had it not been for my children when I was going through my divorce and the trauma of all of that with losing my home and having a huge amount of debt. It was only my children that made me go out of the house because I had to take them to school had that not been the case, I would have quite happily become an agoraphobic, I wouldn’t have gone out the house. To me, people represented danger at that stage. That’s all part of that complex PTSD. I was stuck. I was literally stuck living and feeling keyword feelings in my nervous system. As if I was still back in that relationship. I was stuck. Everything that happened was triggering to me, taking me back to my responses as if I was in that relationship as well. The other thing, and I hear this all the time, Pete I get messages all the time about this, I keep forgetting everything. I feel like I’ve got brain fog. This is very common with complex PTSD. Now our brain and our body are the most incredible machines. Honestly, I’m a bit of a geek, I’m a bit obsessed with how our brain and our body work around trauma. And it’s a real fascination for me. Because a lot of the time what I was feeling when I was going through all of this was I was feeling really angry at myself for not coping and being weak. And actually when I started to learn more, and realised that actually my body was doing the best it could to protect me and keep me safe. I started to befriend why I was feeling the way I was because I was starting to understand that although I didn’t want to feel like that my brain’s perception was this is what I needed to feel like and be like to stay safe. So of course I needed to get curious and question all of that for me to start to heal. But one of the big factors of going through trauma and suffering with complex PTSD is brain fog is that lack of memory. So remember when I said normally on a day to day basis, we’re operating at racing in the front part of our brain in that prefrontal cortex. And in our limbic system in that emotional brain we have our hippocampus and the amygdala. So the amygdala is our fear centre. It’s like this radar out there seeking any Danger is to send that message to our nervous system to go into that trauma response. And the hippocampus is our memory, Senator. So as events are happening in our life, they pass through that hippocampus and the hippocampus almost timestamps them into the past. So the next day when we wake up, it’s processed overnight, often when we have that REM, so the rapid eye movement, that’s our body’s way, and our brain’s way of processing all of that data that has happened that day. So the next day, we can function, we recognize that event that happened yesterday, that wasn’t very nice, is yesterday, it’s in the past. But what can happen with complex PTSD is it gets stuck. It hasn’t been processed. And what can happen then is our hippocampus shrinks in size. And the amygdala increases in size. So you imagine what normally says you lose your keys, for somebody who’s at a normal baseline and hasn’t been through trauma, they’re just going about their, their business, they drop their keys, it’s like, pick them up. And it’s no big deal. Somebody who potentially has complex PTSD, you drop the keys, it’s like, oh, it’s the end of the world. It’s like, it’s just another thing. You know, we overreact because we’re literally seeking this danger zone all the time. And even little things such as that can feel like these massive events in our life. So the amygdala increases insight. And it becomes then really hyper vigilant. It’s on the lookout for danger. It’s there, it’s ready, it’s waiting. Now the hippocampus, the memory centre shrinks. And again, it shrinks. So we become this forgetful brain fog type of person. Because again, it’s our brain’s way of protecting us. Because of this trauma, we start to become forgetful. Remember, it’s because our brain is protecting us. It’s not doing it, oh, I’m just gonna make you forgetful and give you some brain fog for no reason, when we started to understand that how we are feeling and acting is all down to our brain’s perception of what we need to be, and structures changing to protect us, you know, the brain’s job isn’t for us to be happy and in love and wealthy, sadly, wouldn’t that be great? The brain’s job is just to keep us safe, and to move us away from this pain, this perceived biggest pain. So it doesn’t mean you can’t sit in pain. It just believes it’s less painful than something else. So brain fog, poor memory. Again, how many of you can relate to this? Because again, you know, if you were just having a bad breakup from somebody, do you think you’d be going through all of this? Absolutely not, you know, yes, of course, you’d be going through a grieving cycle, but you’d be able to function far quicker. So the other thing that people with complex, PTSD is kind of feeling detached, and we call this dissociation. So dissociation is very much a protector part of us, when we are in that freeze trauma response, really numbing us out. So you know, I work a lot with my clients on dissociation, they literally don’t feel anything, they have switched off those feelings. So I will often use EMDR, and brainspotting. With that, really, to get them used, again, to feeling because their brain thinks, yeah, we’re not going there. Thanks. We don’t want to feel the pain of this, though, I’m just gonna block it off, numb you out, you know, like, it’s an out of body experience. So I’ve had to work really hard with my clients to get the brain to think, Okay, we will let you feel again. And it’s like turning a tap on very slowly. So we start to allow the body to start to feel the pain. Because ultimately, you know, again, the brain is switching all of that off, because it believes it’s too painful for you to feel. But for us to have processes and heal, we need to feel it, we need to go through all of that as well. But it needs to be in a safe space with the right person. So again, I work on this on a very deep level with my clients, because we dissociate, we numb out. Also we can often have what are called flashbacks. Now these can be with an image that you have, and equally, it can just be a feeling. So you might walk into a room sometimes and all of a sudden your body feels tense, it feels heart rate, it feels tingling. And that’s a sign of us having an emotional flashback. It’s our body’s response to the perception of danger. And often again, when it’s stuck, because it’s taking us back to an event that has happened to us in the past. Because it’s stuck, it’s not finished processing this. Perhaps the hippocampus hasn’t timestamped that event into the past. So it’s still reacting like it was happening in the present moment for you as well. So again, this is all about processing it time stamping it into the past and this is again where I use these brain and body based therapies such as EMDR and brainspotting. So how many of you are having trouble with your sleep like I mentioned at the start, you know, your mind is going to tend to Don’t your nervous system is in a huge overload. You’ve got so much cortisol careering around your body, you feel edgy, you’re in that sympathetic trauma response, trying to go to sleep, and you can’t, because your body is almost ready if you needed to fight or flight so you know it’s bedtime, but your body is in this sympathetic trauma response, and it won’t let go. So again, it’s all about calm. I’m in that nervous system. So using meditations, I use a lot of rapid transformational therapy with my client. So these hypnotic meditations guide them through feeling karma. And again, check out my website for, you know, lots of suggestions of what you can do around all of this, too. So the other thing is this hyper vigilance, like I was saying, the amygdala is on this hyper alert, it is like this scan going around and going, right, where’s the danger, where’s the danger, because it’s there ready to react. But when we are hyper vigilant, again, we have so much cortisol in our body, because we are literally stuck in that fight or flight at that stage. And when we are hyper vigilant, and we’ve got too much cortisol in our body, which let me tell you, we do need if you are being attacked, you will need to go into a fight or flight response. Absolutely. But when there is no actual danger, still, we need to go back to a baseline, we need to go back to feeling that our body is back to what we call homeostasis, it’s back to that balance again. But when it isn’t, we’ve got all that cortisol that can lead to things like inflammation, IBS, thyroid issues, liver problems, digestive issues. So again, having complex PTSD for a long period of time will have a huge impact on your health. It might not be right now as you’re listening to this, but let me tell you that long term damage we are doing, it will come about at some stage with an illness, stress related illness. Remember, 80% of disease at least, is caused by stress, trauma, too much cortisol in our body, we are hypervigilant, waiting and waiting when there isn’t actually any danger. But it’s because we’re stuck, we are stuck in this trauma response. Hence why we’ve got this complex post traumatic stress disorder. So post trauma of that stressful event, we are stuck. And we need to finish processing it so that we can’t erase what’s happened. But we can make sure that from moving forward, you can think about the event as if it’s in the past, not in the present. So we don’t have the feelings associated with still being in that event. And it’s so powerful when that happens, as well. So the other aspects of obviously, having complex PTSD are things like those intrusive thoughts. So again, sitting and doing something, and we’re just got all these thoughts coming in, as well. And, and that can be really, really distressing to us. And again, it just keeps us in that loop again, of the hyper vigilance a bit those exaggerated startle responses. I know for me loud noises, but you know, and lots of people, you know, hearing the loud bang, for instance, it would be like, you know, I was like permanently on edge like this, I was like waiting. Again, in my neck and my shoulders in particular, I felt like I was carrying this weight of the world on my shoulders. And even now, today, 10 years later, I still have to keep checking it with my neck and shoulders. They are kind of my spots of my body where if I’m holding any stress, they’re the areas that will hold. So I have regular check-ins with myself throughout the day, lowering your shoulders. In fact, right now, those of you watching and listening, are clenching your jaw or your shoulders up, so relax your shoulders and unclench your jaw. You know how many of you are doing that right now. So that was something I did all the time. And I didn’t even know I was doing it. So it’s again, just checking in and getting curious about all of that. But also, I want you to know, having complex PTSD doesn’t mean you’re going to have this forever. It just means that trauma is stuck. And what we have to do is unstick it, we have to process it, we have to get it time stamped for you into the past, I cannot sadly take the pain away of what has happened to you. But what I can do is help you from today move forward, recognizing it wasn’t your fault, I believe you. But it is your responsibility to do something about it. It’s not anybody else’s. Okay. Often we want somebody to come and rescue us and fix us. Nobody can do that. Sadly, you have to take responsibility for all of that. So we’ve got a process at a really, really deep level. So I would love to know if you can relate to any of this. Can you relate to some of the symptoms of complex PTSD? For me, all of them that I’ve mentioned today I had so of course, I knew that I’d got Complex PTSD. Now very often, you might not have even had a diagnosis of this and really, you know, do you need a diagnosis? Not necessarily. You know, ultimately, if you can relate to any of these symptoms, and you’ve had them more than 28 days the likelihood is there is a level of complex PTSD here when we know that you’ve been in a narcissistic relationship. It doesn’t need to define you and we can move forward with it because again, you can heal this trauma. It might feel stuck right now in that dark tunnel, you absolutely can heal the trauma of narcissistic abuse. Thank you for listening to the narcissistic abuse recovery podcast. Come and find my warm, welcoming, free and private Facebook group called narcissistic abuse coverage for women only to help you heal the trauma and thrive

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