Monday, October 13, 2014

On Complex PTSD, Part I

Monday, October 13, 2014

A few months ago I consulted with a psychologist based here in Minneapolis.  I did so because I wanted to seek out a second opinion regarding the status of my mental health.  Though I work with a capable and kind therapist I thought it would be wise to obtain the perspective of another person.

In the short time I met with Dr. Valtinson I was introduced to the term ‘Complex PTSD’.  To learn more about this proposed diagnostic term you can search for other daily pieces I have written in my blog by using that term in the search bar.  To read a brief survey of the history of PTSD please visit this link.  You can find the following potential indicators associated with Complex PTSD (which are noted below) at this link.

  • Emotional Regulation. May include persistent sadness, suicidal thoughts, explosive anger, or inhibited anger.
  • Consciousness.  Includes forgetting traumatic events, reliving traumatic events, or having episodes in which one feels detached from one's mental processes or body (dissociation).
  • Self-Perception. May include helplessness, shame, guilt, stigma, and a sense of being completely different from other human beings.
  • Distorted Perceptions of the Perpetrator.  Examples include attributing total power to the perpetrator, becoming preoccupied with the relationship to the perpetrator, or preoccupied with revenge.
  • Relations with Others.  Examples include isolation, distrust, or a repeated search for a rescuer.
  • One's System of Meanings.  May include a loss of sustaining faith or a sense of hopelessness and despair.

Last week I indicated I would write a series of six sequential posts focused on each of the six issues noted above.  Today I will begin with the first of the list: Emotional Regulation.

Deep and enduring sadness or anger can indeed be an indication that something is profoundly troubling a person.  Earlier this year I experienced a long stretch of time in which I was especially aware of feeling consistently sad.  My sadness was so persistent that I made note of it in a separate document in which I keep regular notes about my health.  There were days when my sadness felt so deeply entrenched that I nearly felt myself despairing that the sadness would eventually lift.

Has my sadness improved since the summer? Yes.  Is it completely gone?  No it is not.  But healing takes time as I have come to accept more and more.  I honestly do not think I could be healing much more quickly than I have been these last fifteen months.  I have waged a virtual ‘campaign’ to address what had too long gone unaddressed.

I also still feel angry on occasion.  But there is a major difference between how I feel now and how I felt over twelve months ago.  The anger I experienced last year was a result of the white hot disappointment and outrage I felt when relatives within my paternal family of origin again did what they do so well, namely avoid my questions and claim ignorance as to what could or should be done.  When I feel angry now it is almost always a passing experience.  I am likely to feel angry only if I find myself ruminating on the old wounding experiences of my childhood.  And thankfully I am beginning to truly move beyond this very unhealthy habit.

As unpleasant as being angry can be and as destructive as it can prove to be in social and other settings it is nonetheless imperative that we find a way to befriend whatever anger we have inside us.  Though expressing anger can lead to destructive and even irreversible consequences anger itself is not something I believe should be unduly or overly pathologized.  For example, anger is a natural and healthy response to injustice in the world.  Without anger at injustice some of the greatest social and political change movements throughout the centuries might never have taken place.

I will continue my survey of criteria proposed to be potential indicators of Complex PTSD when I return to write my blog tomorrow.  Tomorrow I plan to focus on the issue of consciousness.


I am actually feeling a bit under the weather today.  I wrote the content which appears above over the weekend.  Assuming I feel better I plan to post each day this week.  I had a vivid dream last night which I documented elsewhere.  The dream served as a strong reminder to me of the value of keeping a dream journal.

Have a great Monday everyone!

Post Script

Fifty Day Challenge, Day #18

Healthy activities for my Monday:

  • Moving more slowly in acknowledgement of the fact I feel a bit under the weather
  • Preparing a plan to ensure I have sufficient warm clothing for the upcoming winter
  • Making contact with friends based here in the Twin Cities and elsewhere as a way of maintaining my connection to the world

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