If you didn’t already know, that the “C” in C-PTSD stands for complex, it’s probably nothing you missed. It’s not even considered common knowledge. The C-PTSD category didn’t hit the diagnostic books until around mid-2013. It wasn’t even until Jimmy Carter was president of the United States (not his idea) in 1980 that mental health professionals had any standard of measure, or even a name for PTSD.
Finally having a name for it was the beginning of the healing we could offer our most obviously hurt, frightened, and threatened people. The most recognizable and heart-torn among them were war veterans.
The U.S. Veteran’s Administration agrees.
“The PTSD diagnosis has filled an important gap in psychiatry in that its cause was the result of an event the individual suffered, rather than a personal weakness.” – United States Veterans Administration
You know what it really is? Trauma conditioned behavior.
It was a few years after returning from an extended tour of duty in Vietnam that my father started figuring out that he wasn’t just riding an angry roulette wheel. He started to untangle a few pieces of his struggle when he put it together that his getting drunk at the neighborhood tavern would almost always turn out to be a bad night for him. He stopped drinking there when he realized the ferns hanging from ceiling hooks were a problem (trigger) for him when he had too much to drink. What he didn’t put together for a long time was even though drinking seemed to help him anesthetize his pain, it only made things worse over time.
Given what was available at the time, no one could convince him to stop and VA didn’t seem able to offer him anything better. As we know, flashbacks are not a veterans’ friend, in fact, they can be decidedly dangerous if a civilianized soldier becomes terrified — with or without alcohol added in. People around my father sometimes got hurt. While he never hurt me, he did hurt my mother in unspeakable ways; and even though I didn’t live with him after I was four years old, I can still vividly remember watching him lose touch with his awareness and self-control. PTSD isn’t an excuse for any violence, but it does offer a viable explanation. The good news is, now that we know what we know, this can get better.
Whether from war or ongoing, inescapable abuse, PTSD happens because of our ‘Factory-Installed,’ naturally occurring crisis response system was left in the “on” position without the decompression and care that is needed to reset it. The good news is, we know more about how to help people who experience trauma more than we ever have and there are people in our world, right now, who are investing their energy to help us all understand, heal, and recover.
Our conversation is far from over, but I’ll end for today with this …
God bless those who were once the children of abusive adults whether they endured emotional, physical, sexual, or psychological abuse, I want you to know, your recovery from it is your right. You didn’t choose it. You didn’t cause it. You didn’t invite it. You didn’t deserve it.
No matter what.
God bless the survivors of domestic abuse. You never deserved it either.
And, to the veterans and victims of war, both military and civilian, I know that I cannot understand where you’ve been and what you have and continue to endure.
Just know that I feel the same way about you all, and I believe you.