As a trauma survivor, I live with C-PTSD. It is a little different than PTSD but the impact on my daily life is similar. The C stands for complex or chronic and it gets put there when the traumatic event wasn’t singular, when it was long term, like growing up in a war zone. One of the biggest differences is that when singular traumatic events happen, we usually recognize them as aberrations from “normal.” When trauma is chronic, we think it is “normal.”
Techniques I developed to survive my situation were both conscious and subconscious. As is true for most children, I didn’t have a lot of control over what happened in my life. Conscious coping, Organizational System Building: I controlled everything I could, from how to fold the clothes I had, to my school work. Until I received appropriate care in my late thirties, I’d never slept through the night in my life. Subconscious coping, Insomnia: It’s not safe to sleep.
Our coping mechanisms get us through things we might not otherwise be able to on our own. It’s what allows mothers to sleep four hours a night through their child’s infancy. They are mental, physical, and emotional. I’m sure we can all think of coping mechanisms that are recognized as unhealthy. It will be a little more difficult to shift your perspective to look for skills in your coping mechanisms.
One of the things I do really well because it was a survival strategy, is organize. In fact, I do it so well, that people actually pay me to fill out and turn in paperwork for them. Can you look at the strategies you’ve developed to make it and determine which of them are skills? Are you using those to your advantage? Having trouble? Ask someone who knows you really well and ask them what you do best, what skill is uniquely you.
I’ve learned through the years to acknowledge and honor my coping strategies. The unhealthy ones have been difficult to move past, but the truth is, my relationship with a number of them doesn’t serve me now. It’s alright for relationships to change and grow. What relationships do you have with yourself that isn’t working for you anymore? That question can throw people, so here’s another way to ask it. Where in your life are you standing in your own way? And then, how can you use the strategies that are working to help you get out of your own way?
Our disorders, our diagnosis, our trauma, our careers don’t define us. We define ourselves. We are the way forward, for ourselves and for each other.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.