Skip to main content

When Fireworks Set You Off



I am one of many who struggle with the loud pops and bangs of the Fourth of July. I am not a veteran, but I have been through a domestic war.

The other day my kid was excited to have a new friend over. They were happily playing a hide-and-seek-type game when the child suddenly, out of nowhere, let out a piercing scream. My kids, knowing what loud noises do to me, immediately looked at me to see if I was OK. I wasn't, but I did manage to very calmly let the child know that we can't have screaming in this house before I excused myself to my room. I was hyperventilating and my blood pressure was through the roof. I texted the kid's mom with a half-legitimate excuse for picking her kid up early. What I didn't tell her was that I have complex PTSD.

I wish my body didn't freak out like this. I wish my kids didn't have to look at me with concern whenever I'm surprised by loud noises. I wish I didn't need to think ahead about having a strategy to survive basic events around holidays. But I do. This is one more thing that I've come to accept about the reality of abuse. It shows up in all sorts of inconvenient ways.

As we approach the Fourth of July, memes about being respectful of veterans are surfacing in my social media feeds. I think it's wonderful that more people are becoming more aware of the long-terms effects of those who have lived through combat. Friends are posting about keeping pets inside, and taking care of their stressed out dogs. What I don't think many realize is that there are lots of people like me who also struggle.  But what would a meme for me look like? Watch out for your middle-aged mom friend white-knuckling her corn-on-the cob because she experienced complex trauma as a child and wishes she didn't say yes to your invitation to the BBQ, but is tired of letting her family down because she can't hold up in loud social situations? Awkward.

Too often, it feels like there's too much to unpack for me to explain complex trauma to people. It's not a light conversation, and I often don't feel I know people well enough to unload what's really going on with me. Even with people I am comfortable around, I don't often explain myself. I think it's just assumed I am quirky and don't like crowds. But I do like real, authentic, human connection. I just wish it were easier.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

No, There Are Not Two Sides

I was in a meeting where a mediator was trying her best to stay impartial to a situation where a large volume of well-documented verbal and emotional abuse had occurred. She was a trained professional, but professionally speaking, she didn't want to be in a position to take sides on the issue. She offered the worn-out platitude, "Well, there are two sides to every story..." I let it slide the first time she said it, but when she said it again, I stopped her.

"Actually, when it comes to abuse, there are not two sides. There is abuse, and there is the recipient of abuse. The recipient of abuse is not at fault for the actions of the abuser."

Her jaw dropped a moment, then she nodded slowly. She knew I was right, and in this moment, a light went on. The situation she was mediating was not about two people having a disagreement. It was about a serial abuser attacking someone else who had done nothing to provoke the attack. She couldn't stay impartial. It was h…

Codependent or Empath?

There are a number of resources and articles for survivors of narcissistic abuse, and taken in all together, are extremely helpful in better understanding the abuser and our own role in the abuse. There is a certain type of person narcissists, psychopaths, and Cluster B abusers tend to seek out. Terms like "codependent" and "empath" are tossed around, sometimes interchangeably, but they are not the same.

A codependent's core issue (like the narcissist) is low self-esteem. They attach themselves to an alpha personality for their identity, and are constantly looking outside of themselves for validation and definition. They are helpers and fixers. Many people in the caring professions, such as teachers and nurses, tend to be codependent. They crave external praise and will go to great lengths to enable others in order to be liked. A codependent's sense of happiness and self-worth can be entirely dependent on the moods, actions, and feelings of the alpha. Code…

The Difference Between Trauma and Anxiety

I've been living with the effects of complex trauma for a long time, but for many years I didn't know what it was. Off and on throughout my life, I've struggled with what I thought was anxiety and depression. Or rather, In addition to being traumatized, I was anxious and depressed. 

All mental health is a serious matter, and should never be minimized. If you are feeling anxious or depressed, it's important and urgent to find the right support for you. No one gets a prize for "worst" depression, anxiety, trauma or any other combination of terrible things to deal with, and no one should suffer alone. With that in mind, there is a difference between what someone who has CPTSD feels and what someone with generalized anxiety or mild to moderate depression feels.

For someone dealing with complex trauma, the anxiety they feel does not come from some mysterious unknown source or obsessing about what could happen. For many, the anxiety they feel is not rational. Gene…