The following contains my experiences as the wife of a war veteran with PTSD and my ongoing healing from Developmental, or Complex, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by extreme trauma and abuse. I am not a mental health professional and nothing on Heal My Complex PTSD should be taken as an expert opinion. Do not rely on information on this site as a substitute for the advice of a qualified professional.
Remember: YOU are unique. What works for me or someone else may not work for you.
>>> Please see A WORD OF WARNING (near the bottom of this page) about the dangers I’ve encountered when looking for psychological help online.
WE WERE CREATED TO HEAL. When you cut yourself, your body immediately goes into action to heal the wound. Eventually, unless your health has been severely compromised, your injury will be gone, leaving little or no trace that the cut ever happened. Isn’t that amazing?
I believe our minds were also made to heal. Not only did I recover from a two-year bout with schizophrenia more than forty years ago, my Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is much better than it used to be. Although I am not completely healed of PTSD, I am getting there.
What has helped me the most in my healing journey? Talking with caring therapists has been helpful, although uncaring, abusive therapists actually caused me a great deal of harm in the past.
Prescribed medications such as antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antianxiety drugs, on the other hand, did me more harm than good. I do not take any prescription drugs today, with the exception of a thyroid replacement. (Please read my IMPORTANT CAUTION below — and see a qualified medical professional — before discontinuing any prescription medication.)
I do take some non-prescription vitamins and minerals (D3, K2, and calcium), the antioxidant grape seed extract (which may be why people say I look twenty years younger than my age), and fish oil, which works great for stabilizing my moods. My favorite supplement supplier is Swanson Vitamins.
In addition to my health supplements, I drink plenty of filtered water, I try to eat a balanced diet, and I exercise by taking a half-hour walk, riding a recumbent bike, or jumping on a mini trampoline several times a week. When I go more than a couple of days without exercise, I can definitely feel my mood start to go down.
***I have recently eliminated caffeine from my diet, and I am utterly amazed at the difference! I love coffee, tea, colas, and dark, yummy chocolate. But since I’ve gone off caffeine, I’ve had almost no anxiety.***
So much of my life was crippled with gut-twisting anxiety and nightmarish panic attacks. Nothing I tried — deep breathing, positive thinking, counting my blessings, listening to music, mindfulness meditation, prayer, or “going to my happy place” — seemed to make much difference. But after I got through the caffeine withdrawal headaches, I felt like a brand new woman!
IMPORTANT CAUTION: Going off my prescribed psychotropic medication was a horrible experience when I did it too fast. I finally succeeded in getting off the Rx drugs by doing an ultra-slow taper, taking almost a year to gradually cut my doses by a minute amount and then holding at that level for at least a couple of weeks, before tapering down any further. I do not recommend anyone going off their medication without close supervision and the knowledgeable care of a good, medically licensed physician.
Some people may do better taking a prescribed psychotropic. My husband, who has PTSD from combat in Vietnam, seems to do better on an antidepressant — although he struggles with the unfortunate side effects of obesity, diabetes, lethargy, and a deadening of his emotions. Still, he believes the trade-off is worth it.
DRUGS DID NOT CURE ME and talking with therapists, when I finally found a good one, was only helpful up to a point. In my estimation, probably 80% of my healing has happened as a result of reading self-help books.
I used to think that reading therapeutic books was a poor substitute for professional psychotherapy, but I no longer believe this. The following excerpt from FEELING GOOD: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, MD, explains why:
“One important discovery is that self-help seems to be a key to recovery whether or not you receive treatment. In a series of five remarkable studies published in the prestigious Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology and in The Gerontologist, Dr. Forrest Scogin and his colleagues at the University of Alabama studied the effects of simply reading a good self-help book like FEELING GOOD – without any other therapy. The name of this new type of treatment is “bibliotherapy” (reading therapy). They discovered that…. bibliotherapy may be as effective as a full course of psychotherapy or treatment with the best antidepressant drugs.” (Emphasis added.)
The following books have helped me the most in my healing journey: (NOTE: Inclusion of a book on this list does not mean I agree with every word in the book. Like they say in 12-step recovery groups: “Take what you like and leave the rest.” I have read many other excellent books, so this list is by no means exclusive.)
1). COMPLEX PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, a guide and map for recovering from childhood trauma by Pete Walker, MA. ~This is my favorite self-help book. The author is a licensed therapist with over 30 years of experience, plus he also has C-PTSD.
According to Pete Walker, Complex PTSD – which stems from early and repeated childhood trauma and/or neglect – can, in its severest form, cause schizophrenia.
Based on my experience of having been (mis?) diagnosed with schizophrenia for two years as a teenager, I believe Mr. Walker is exactly right. In the ongoing “nurture vs. nature” debate, there is supporting evidence for both sides. Scientific studies have reportedly found, for example, that 48% of identical twins eventually become schizophrenic if their twin does, whereas the incidence of non-identical siblings both becoming schizophrenic is far lower.
While this indicates that genes play a role, genetics cannot be the whole story, otherwise the rate of identical twins both having schizophrenia would be 100%. I believe the answer will ultimately be found in epigenetics, which has more to do with our environment than our blueprint.
2). WHY DO CHRISTIANS SHOOT THEIR WOUNDED? Helping (Not Hurting) Those with Emotional Difficulties by Dwight L. Carlson, MD. ~This is a wonderful, enlightening, HEALING book. I love it so much, I just bought a copy for one of my friends.
3). HOPE AND HELP FOR YOUR NERVES by Dr. Claire Weekes. ~Although this wonderful classic is written in an old-fashioned style, its pages contain a timeless treasure of help, healing, and enlightenment. I needed to read this forty years ago!
4). TRAUMA AND RECOVERY: The Aftermath of Violence – from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror by Judith Lewis Herman, MD. ~This landmark book, written by a Harvard psychiatrist, was recommended to me by my doctor. While not an easy read, it makes sense of the “insanity” in my life. Dr. Herman, who coined the term “Complex PTSD,” states in this book that persons with C-PTSD are often misdiagnosed with other mental illness labels, including schizophrenia.
5). IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT: How Healing Relationships Change Your Brain and Can Help You Overcome a Painful Past by Patricia Romano McGraw. ~Thanks to modern brain imaging technologies, we now know that early childhood neglect, as well as severe trauma occurring at any age, can damage the brain – actually change its structure and function.
This is why we can’t “just get over” certain types of trauma. Like a person paralyzed in a car crash, the traumatic event may be in the past, but the injury it caused is still present.
HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS: As Ms. McGraw explains in this excellent book, brain imaging technologies have also proven that the injured brain CAN HEAL – literally rewire itself – in the context of loving and affirming relationships.
***Shaming, shunning, or browbeating someone who is psychologically injured will only make matters worse. Would you whip a quadriplegic to get him to walk again? Of course not! Compassionate and respectful loving kindness is the only humane and truly helpful treatment for mental illness.***
6). HEALING DEVELOPMENTAL TRAUMA: How Early Trauma Affects Self-Regulation, Self-Image, and the Capacity for Relationship by Laurence Heller, PhD, and Aline Lapierre, PsyD. ~This book explains why a crazy childhood will put you on the path to a crazy adulthood – and what to do about it.
7). THE NARCISSISTIC FAMILY: Diagnosis and Treatment by Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman and Robert M. Pressman. ~According to this brilliant book, a family can be narcissistic even if none of its members are personality disordered.
For example, a mother dying of cancer cannot adequately nurture her young child. While a parent may not be guilty of deliberately neglecting or injuring a child, the effect on the child’s developing psyche is no less damaging.
Being run over by a truck will injure your body, regardless of whether it is done accidentally or maliciously. Psychological injuries work the same way. This is why it is not very helpful for a parent to tell an injured child: “I did the best I could!” The Pressmans’ book contains practical advice that does help.
8). TOXIC PARENTS: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Susan Forward, PhD. ~The focus of Dr. Forward’s book is not on blaming parents for being less than perfect, but simply to address the reality that many parents, for various reasons, do not have the ability to raise their children in a healthy environment.
9). WILL I EVER BE GOOD ENOUGH? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Karyl McBride, PhD. ~Dr. McBride writes from the perspective of having a narcissistic mother, as well as from her years of experience as a therapist treating the adult children of narcissistic parents.
10). FEELING GOOD: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, MD. ~In my opinion, FEELING GOOD is not nearly as effective for people with PTSD as it is for those who suffer from depression alone. However, I got a lot out of this book, as long as I resisted the unhealthy impulse to feel shame for not being 100% cured by his Cognitive Behavioral Therapy methods.
~When you grow up in an unhealthy family, you tend to have unhealthy relationships as an adult. This is what happened in my case. My unhealthy way of handling relationships was turned upside-down by the following books:
11). WOMEN WHO LOVE TOO MUCH: When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He’ll Change by Robin Norwood. ~I saw myself and my failed relationships on almost every page!
12). WHY DOES HE DO THAT? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft. ~This book is both disturbing and a potential lifesaver. Highly recommended, especially if you are currently in a verbally or physically abusive relationship, or in a situation where your rights, desires, and needs are routinely discounted or ignored.
13). LOVE IS A CHOICE: The Definitive Book on Letting Go of Unhealthy Relationships by Dr. Robert Hemfelt, Dr. Frank Minirth, and Paul Meier, MD. ~Paul Meier, MD is a psychiatrist and founder of the national chain of Meier Clinics as well as best-selling author or co-author of more than ninety books. He holds five degrees in the fields of medicine, psychiatry, and theology. Paul Meier personally diagnosed my PTSD in 2003. I owe my life to Dr. Meier and his great staff at the clinic in Richardson, Texas.
~Trauma and loss can cause you to question the meaning and purpose of life. I found healing answers here:
14). MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING by Viktor E. Frankl, MD, PhD. ~What Dr. Frankl discovered while imprisoned in a World War II Nazi concentration camp – despite losing his beloved wife and most of his family and friends in that evil holocaust – is inspirational and life-affirming.
15). 90 MINUTES IN HEAVEN: A True Story of Death and Life by Capt. Don Piper, PhD. ~I love this book because I, too, briefly “died” years ago and stood on the threshold of heaven, where an indescribable LOVE, peace, and joy flooded my soul.
I was agnostic for years, primarily because of the cruel abuses and self-seeking hypocrisy I’ve encountered in some “Christians.” However, I am far from perfect myself. I continue to struggle with my faith at times, because some of the tenets of Christianity do not make sense to my Mensa-tested IQ of 156. But despite my intellectual doubts, the fact remains that when I encountered a God of Love and Light all those years ago, His wonderful presence was as real to me as anything I have ever experienced. This, along with the scientific evidence of Intelligent Design, are just two of the many reasons why I am now a Christian believer.
16). MY GLIMPSE OF ETERNITY by Betty Malz. ~This beautiful book had me crying tears of joy by the end.
***I respect everyone’s right to believe, or not, as each person sees fit. Some of my favorite people are agnostic or practitioners of non-Christian religions. As for me, based on the preponderance of the evidence in my life, I have decided to follow Christ Jesus as my Savior and Lord. I hope my beliefs are correct. Lord I believe; help my unbelief!***
17). Although I am leaving the best for last, The Holy Bible is first on my list, especially: Psalm 23:1-6; Psalm 30:1-12; Psalm 103:1-22; Isaiah 49:15-16; John 3:1-21; Romans 8:1-39; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Revelation 3:19-20; and many other verses, most notably the spoken words of Christ. ~Important Caution: It seems to me that much of the Bible has suffered from gross misinterpretations and bad translations over the years. In my opinion — which I realize may be wrong — I believe that God is the only One Who is infallible. I worship God, not a collection of ancient books. Calling the Bible “infallible” is, I believe, tantamount to making it into an idol. However, like I said, I may be wrong! In any case, I still believe that the Judeo-Christian Bible is the most important book, when read carefully and prayerfully, under the guidance and discernment of the Holy Spirit.
>>> A WORD OF WARNING <<<
Between 2009 and early 2013 I tried a number of online support groups, such as PTSD forums, blogs for the adult children of a narcissistic parent, and sites proclaiming healing of wounded emotions and guidance on how to emerge from being broken.
Most of these sites seemed wonderful – at first. But sooner or later, I was dismayed to see a few “outcast” people being verbally attacked by other members of the forums, in some cases coming under attack by an administrator of the site. There were also times when commenters who came across as very mentally ill or “needy” were coldly ignored until they gave up and stopped posting.
This is why I will never allow “snarky” or abusive comments here. Respectful disagreement is always welcome; abuse is not. My goal is for my blog to be a healing place, never a hurting place. Life can be hard enough without people who have never walked in your shoes sitting in judgment of you!
We are all at different places in our journey.
I firmly believe that most people, most of the time, are doing the best they can with what they have. No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. People who are in a lot of pain are sometimes prone to hurt others, often without being consciously aware of it.
Whenever possible, I try to live in grace and give people the benefit of the doubt.
However, I will not allow anyone to disrespect or abuse me ever again, nor will I stand silently by and witness anyone else being abused, either overtly or covertly.
Treat PTSD with C.A.R.E.:
Compassion, Acceptance, Respect, and Encouragement.
STOP the STIGMA!
In Truth, Peace, and Love ~Lynda
ABOUT COMMENTS: I have disabled comments to focus on writing my memoir. In the meantime, you may contact me on Twitter via @LadyQuixote.