Previously published on SHFT.
Edited by Melissa Drake
This is part two in a two-part series about how I've navigated complex trauma. Click here to read part one: My journey Into And Out of Darkness.
I was nearly 30 years old before finally waking up to the realization that things were no longer working in my life and desperately needed to change. My therapy had come to a standstill, and I had tried everything available short of a lobotomy (yes, I asked); psychotherapies, medications and even shock treatments. I was desperate, but nothing offered lasting results.
For most of my life, I looked to medical professionals for advice, hoping an accurate diagnosis would lead to an absolute cure. I was convinced they were the experts who held the magical key to the box of answers I was so desperately seeking.
I had been willingly (and unconsciously) handing over my power and my body to science. No one could get a handle on my symptoms or even settle on a diagnosis, so they just kept adding more medication to try to get me to baseline functioning. At one point, my doctor had me on so many meds I had double vision and slurred speech.
One Saturday morning, I received a surprise call from my therapist (who was not affiliated with my psychiatrist). She was deeply concerned I was being over medicated and mishandled, and encouraged me to advocate for myself. The tone in her voice frightened me, so I took her words to heart. She cared enough to risk everything for me (including the position she held at the counseling center).
She told me several times during our work together that I inherently knew how and what I needed to heal. She even encouraged occasional breaks from our regular sessions, explaining that scheduled play time was just as vital to my well-being as the deep work we were doing.
Most importantly, she believed in me when I had no other support, and she wasn’t afraid to sit with me or my pain.
That Saturday changed my mindset about who and what I would continue to allow within my healing space. I took the advice of my therapist and expressed my concerns with my doctor. I insisted it wasn’t acceptable (or normal) to have compromised vision or impaired speech, and I needed to feel and be more in control of my own body.
He sat stunned and almost panicked as I told him of my action plan. That was the last time I ever saw him.
I was determined to find a professional who would understand, appropriately treat, challenge and support me. I would run from those who doubted, limited, or tried to stuff me into a diagnostic box.
I’d heard of a man who took on “hard core” abuse cases. (You overhear lots of things in hospitals.) I felt he might be a good choice, so I followed my gut and scheduled a session with him. He didn’t let me down.
I applied for disability for my Major Depressive Disorder, and thankfully within one year, I started receiving benefits. I was adamant about taking as little medication as possible so I could function at the highest possible level. My new doctor dutifully and respectfully complied with my wishes.
I began listening to my body and following its lead. It was a slow and steady process, and there was sabotage along the way. I lost several good therapists at critical times during my recovery, due to strange and not-so-coincidental “circumstances.” One disappeared mysteriously overnight, and one was let go from her unpaid internship. (My chart, incidentally, went missing and never resurfaced.)
When you start to heal from the inside out, people around you notice, and their response is not always favorable. They may become confused (even infuriated) when you challenge them or don’t behave and respond to them in familiar ways. My experience was no exception. There were serious consequences for both seeking and speaking the truth.
In the end, I had to cut some ties, and walking away was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. However, I don’t doubt for a minute that it saved my life.
I had to break all addictive patterns, and that included relational addictions too, especially to those with a vested interest in keeping their secrets safe. Those individuals will not tolerate healing and will undermine your best interests.
I’ve started over in therapy many times. While this has frustrated me, I never allowed it to stop my relentless pursuit of recovery and happiness. Somehow, I knew happiness was my basic right as a living, breathing human being.
I don’t have much respect for people who quit therapy after a setback because it’s “just too hard to start over again.” Life is nothing if not about starting all over again. It’s really a matter of priorities.
I wanted my life back, and I fought relentlessly for it. I’m worth it.
I’ve had many counselors, and each one brought something new to the table. I was held accountable for my thoughts and behaviors, and I eventually stopped blaming everyone else for everything wrong in my life. I finally started accepting responsibility for my own choices, actions and reactions.
After three years on disability, I returned to the workforce where I’ve since stayed.
This process is not for the faint of heart, and I continue to work on and surround myself with people who call me out on my BS. (My kids take this job very seriously.) It’s necessary, because I sometimes slip. If I want to be a healthy person and attract healthy people, I need to keep my thoughts and behaviors in check.
It has taken years of practice, brutal honesty (with myself and others) and sheer determination to unwire old, distorted and self-destructive thought patterns and ways of being.
I employed many different cognitive and trauma- based therapies, and highly recommend adding Reiki, Polarity Therapy, Somatic Release, and/or Myofascial Release for anyone who has suffered physical or sexual abuse. It removes constrictions in the body and creates new energy flow to expedite the healing process.
I've experienced major wins and I've had some huge setbacks throughout my journey.
I have loved and lost but, through it all, I am finally loving myself. I might get tired and I might take breaks, but I don't give up.
I won’t. My kids are counting on my promise to stay, right here with them, where I belong.
I still contend with the unpredictable nature of C-PTSD, but I’m becoming much more aware of my patterns. I continue to feel the emotions associated with fragmented memories, but I realize today, I can choose not to ride the Thoughts/Feelings Train into the land of oblivion.
I can choose to acknowledge feelings with the eyes of curiosity and compassion, and let them to move through me instead of letting them consume and ravage me.
I can focus forward, until the vision I hold for my life comes to fruition. I can remind myself of who I really am through meditation, by silently and deliberately connecting to everything and everyone I know and love.
PTSD and depression have been part of my journey, but they don't have to define me. They have taught me great lessons about myself, my brain, my experiences and human nature.
I now believe people are doing the best they can, at any given moment, with the skills they have. I also now know that what happened to me wasn't personal. It was a direct result of old, established patterns and mindsets passed on by abused and broken generations.
The difference today is having the awareness and ability to stop that cycle, for my children and the generations to come.
That, my friends, is badass!
R Jade McAuliffe-
Author, coach, mom and poet; believer in things unseen.
"Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o'er wrought heart and bids it break."