This week, we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.
As the 2017 slowly comes to an end, it is a time for reflection, love and gratefulness. I thank God for my family, my friends, my church family, my community, my gifts, my talents, my successes and my failures.
This year has been a time of great professional growth and success for me. I was able to accomplish goals that I had dreams of completing for many years. I wrote my first two books, started my business, created this blog and became a licensed clinical social worker. It has been amazing to see my greatest prayers manifest.
However, it has been a challenging year for me emotionally.
After years of dismissing my consistent, overwhelming feelings of anxiety and impending doom as “bad nerves”, I chose to seek help as my symptoms were beginning to worsen and severely impact my quality of life. I had been experiencing a severe bout of depression in February that was worsening by the week. For a period of 30 or more days, I was waking up to a black cloud, even on the sunny-est of days. It was painful to just be alive on those days and I just couldn’t understand what was going on. But I had work to do and children to raise.. so I pressed forward. I was also experiencing severe body aches as well as headaches that would not go away even with medication. Whatever was going on in my mind.. was attacking my body..
At the beginning of my initial treatment session, my therapist asked me about my childhood. She asked me specific questions about my family and my household. During that session, she opened up a box that I had locked tight and placed in a steel grave inside of my soul. It was a box that I kept hidden. However, that day it was time for me to open it.
I have spent most of my year in mental health treatment for symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
The National Institute of Health defines PTSD as: PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with PTSD. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they are not in danger.
To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all of the following for at least 1 month:
At least one re-experiencing symptom
At least one avoidance symptom
At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
At least two cognition and mood symptoms
Many people associate PTSD with the soldiers returning from war. However, there are many people in society who have experienced traumatic events unrelated to war such as shootings, accidents, rape, robberies, etc that are living with PTSD. There is subset of folks like me who are living with phenomenon known as chronic complex trauma. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network defines chronic complex trauma as:
“The term complex trauma describes both children’s exposure to multiple traumatic events, often of an invasive, interpersonal nature, and the wide-ranging, long-term impact of this exposure. These events are severe and pervasive, such as abuse or profound neglect. They usually begin early in life and can disrupt many aspects of the child’s development and the very formation of a self. Many children with complex trauma histories suffer a variety of traumatic events, such as physical and sexual abuse, witnessing domestic and community violence, separation from family members, and revictimization by others. Complex trauma can have devastating effects on a child’s physiology, emotions, ability to think, learn, and concentrate, impulse control, self-image, and relationships with others. Across the life span, complex trauma is linked to a wide range of problems, including addiction, chronic physical conditions, depression and anxiety, self-harming behaviors, and other psychiatric disorders. ”
Initially, it was very difficult to talk about my childhood and adolescence and all of the memories I had suppressed for many years. However, once I began to talk about it with my therapist and I began to understand that I had been severely traumatized from the age of 8 years old and how my trauma had impacted me, my quality of life began to improve. I realized that many of my actions in my past had been trauma responses. It was very alarming for me. However, once I learned what it was and began weekly therapy sessions, my depression and my body pain subsided.
Being able to speak to someone HONESTLY about the realities of my feelings, my fears, my disappointments, my anger, my resentment, my loneliness, my regrets, my wishes, my truth – helped me to heal places in me that I didn’t even realize were broken. Being able to cry, scream, yell, be angry, and ask questions in a safe place was helping me to grow. I mean, it hurt to have to face the pain, but it was the best thing I have ever done for myself and those who love me. I have spent most of the year writing..writing about my experiences, reading healing materials.. and spending time alone to process my past hurts and what I needed to do to heal myself. The wound was open..the bandage was off and I had to let it heal in my own space and in my own way. And it healed and in that process, my second book, The Guide to Living ROYAL https://www.amazon.com/Guide-Living-R-O-Y-L/dp/1544061013/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1504293529&sr=8-1 was birthed.
Speaking my truth made me a more confident woman. I had finally acknowledged pain that had always been a huge source of shame for me. It wasn’t my fault. I could finally forgive myself and take that weight off of my own shoulders. Once I acknowledged my trauma, I finally understood why I made some of the terrible choices I made in my past. My therapist is amazed that a person with my complex childhood trauma history has been able to accomplish all of the goals that I have in life. I guess, this is the reason that I am so thankful on this Thanksgiving. I know that it is NOTHING but Gods grace and mercy that has allowed me to come out of this experience with minor cuts and bruises when statistics show that I SHOULD be a substance abuser with severe mental health issues and poor interpersonal relationships. For the first time in my life, I feel completely free. I thank God for His healing powers.