Living with Complex PTSD – Claire’s story

I wish I could tell you when exactly it started, but I can’t. My memory is patchy at best and I have many what I call “Kodak moments” of my life, snapshots but no real context. I didn’t even know during my 20’s why I couldn’t remember most of my childhood. Those times where your friends are talking about their young birthdays and childhood tv programs and comparing stories, I couldn’t. My brain had hidden and blocked them to help me survive.

I need to give you some context; I was raised in a country of segregation, in a country where racial segregation was still allowed and in a religious cult that perpetuated keeping gender disparity prevalent. My first formative memories I have are learning to lie to my narcissistic and very abusive father at my mothers knee. My mother would teach me to “not tell” and to “say this, don’t tell him what we did”. She was more controlled than I was as a child. I learned to lie to save getting a beating, to save her from a beating, for example, my father would lose his shit over small things. If he had a bad day at work or if a knife was left on the counter, so we chased our sunshine where we could but to do that he could never know that my mother would take me out for the day to visit a friend or had food he didn’t sanction, but as a child you never realise this is not okay.

To add to the toxic home environment, I was being raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. This religious ethos is not healthy, it’s insular and incredibly damaging in its practice. I had few friends outside of this cult, I wasn’t allowed them. Every day was for Jesus not for you, so no birthdays, no mothers day, no xmas, no fathers day, no anniversary celebrations, nothing. No joy allowed here thank you very much. As a child watching others receive gifts and have parties I was not allowed to go to, isolation was normal and I was a bad child for wanting what others had, I was shamed for wanting something outside of the cult. School was hard, bullied for my religion and segregated from activities and certain classes to keep me from knowing there is a world beyond.

Eventually my mother got mentally broken by my father and ended up in hospital, the toxic religious cult and abuse finally snapped her and she had a nervous breakdown. My father did not care and used this to isolate us more. I knew that she had tried to kill herself and I couldn’t save her, I was a child. The family broke up, she took me and escaped the country, the hemisphere even for her home country and a whole new culture I knew nothing about.

I was bullied in my new school because of the country I came from, my accent and how I was raised. The isolation I had already experienced was now perpetuated again but for different reasons: I didn’t make friends well, I would skip school, I would get in fights but all of this was hidden from my mother as I knew how to lie well. Social services evaluated me and I was labelled as angry not traumatised, my mother did not react well, she was fragile herself, my guilt and shame for being a bad child got compounded.

I finally left school. I drank, smoked and started doing hard drugs to cover trauma I was not dealing with, I did stuff I am not proud of, got into damaging relationships that added to the trauma I was already bottling up. I was arrested for drugs possession and my reality came crashing in. I lost my then toxic relationship who also happened to be my drug dealer. I lost friends (who were not really friends, just there for the highs.) I tried to take my own life as the isolation was crushing and when I woke up in hospital, something had to change. I went to rehab, I had therapy, I started to try and understand myself and it is super painful.On and off of medications and therapies, anger management courses, only to realise that my anger is grief and fear and I would have to sit with it and carry it.

I am now divorced and still trying to understand myself and I don’t think I ever fully will as the work on myself will never stop. I still slip and sometimes my suicidal ideation still catches me out. Life is hard but now I can choose my hard.

I have been given so many different diagnoses over the years like, generalised anxiety and Borderline Personality Disorder, then re-diagnosed finally with Complex Post Traumatic Disorder. I know I am not alone and our stories may differ but these are our stories and maybe by sharing some of mine, you may feel less alone with yours.

Be sure to follow Claire on Instagram:

@living_with_complex_ptsd

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