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Trauma Healing: Reclaiming Your Life after Childhood Trauma and Complex PTSD

Caitlin Weese LCSW-C, 200 RYT



 a hand with a gold ring is reaching up towards the sun


The Impact:

Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) leaves deep emotional scars, affecting every aspect of a person's life. For many, the journey from surviving to thriving can seem daunting and even impossible. However, it is important to remember that reclaiming your life after C-PTSD is possible. In this blog post, I’ll give you some of my favorite practical strategies and mindset shifts to help empower you to move beyond “crisis mode” and embrace a life of fulfillment and growth.



Trauma Healing:


Acknowledge and Validate Your Experience:

The first step in reclaiming your life after complex PTSD is acknowledging the impact it has had on you. It seems simple right? But it can be so challenging to recognize that your feelings and experiences are valid. This is especially true if we grew up in environments where our feelings were discounted. Furthermore, complex trauma can lead to deep feelings of shame and self-hatred which make it hard for us to offer ourselves compassion. Therapists, support groups such as Adult Children of Alcoholics, or online communities can help you to understand and validate your journey and to feel understood and validated.


"But it can be so challenging to recognize that your feelings and experiences are valid. This is especially true if we grew up in environments where our feelings were discounted."

Embrace the Healing Process:

Healing from complex PTSD is a gradual process that requires patience and self-compassion. The effects of such trauma actually change the physical structure of our brain; therefore, it takes time to heal and develop these new pathways. The healing process is NOT linear. Understand that it's okay to have ups and downs along the way. Embrace therapy, including trauma-focused therapies such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) or Somatic Experiencing (SE). These therapeutic approaches can help to work with the body to process traumatic memories, and shift deep-seated beliefs about ourselves such as “it was my fault.”



a girl with complex ptsd skips as she finds self-care


Cultivate Self-Care Rituals:

Self-care is crucial on the path to reclaiming your life. As childhood trauma survivors we learn our needs and feelings don’t matter, or even that feeling “calm” is unsafe. This can translate into struggles taking care of ourselves in adulthood and a fear of calm. Because of this, it is SO important to begin cultivating self-care practice and growing our ability to tolerate calm. Discover activities that nurture your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Practice mindfulness, engage in regular movement, nourish your body with food and water, and prioritize restful sleep. Additionally, explore creative outlets such as journaling, art, or music, as they can provide a cathartic release for pent-up emotions. As we heal from trauma and create new neural connections, we need to do all we can to support the physical and emotional healing process.


"As childhood trauma survivors we learn our needs and feelings don’t matter, or even that feeling “calm” is unsafe. This can translate into struggles taking care of ourselves in adulthood and a fear of calm."

Foster Healthy Relationships:

Building a support network of trusted individuals is vital for thriving after C-PTSD. Given that childhood trauma often happens at the hands of those we should be able to trust the most, it robs us of our ability to trust others. Because of this, as adults we may find ourselves unable to rely on others for support. We can begin to heal by starting small, sharing small pieces of information, seeing how the person responds and adjusting our behavior accordingly. By utilizing support and therapy groups, we can surround ourselves with people who uplift and validate our experiences, and distance ourselves from toxic relationships. This also allows us to seek out like-minded individuals who understand the challenges of healing and can offer empathy and encouragement.


Challenge Perfectionism and Set Realistic Expectations:

Perfectionism is often a coping mechanism for individuals with C-PTSD. Oftentimes, when we’ve experienced childhood trauma, we learn that love and affection is conditional. We only get approval or love when we behave a certain way. Therefore, perfectionism can become a coping skill we use to ensure love and affection from others as well as retain a sense of control. However, it can also hinder our progress toward a fulfilling life. We can begin to reclaim a fulfilling life by challenging the need to be perfect and setting realistic expectations for ourselves. Embrace the idea that making mistakes is part of growth and progress. While making mistakes was likely unsafe growing up, it isn’t now. Practice self-compassion and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they may seem.


"We learn that love and affection is conditional. We only get approval or love when we behave a certain way. Therefore, perfectionism can become a coping skill we use to ensure love and affection from others."


Embrace Your Resilience and Practice Mindset Shifts:


girl looking down at a map


Anyone living with C-PTSD is resilient. To survive continual trauma, we have to be resilient, however we often don’t feel that way. Because of this, we need to shift our view of ourselves. By viewing setbacks as opportunities for growth and learning we can begin to shift the way we see our lives. Practicing positive affirmations and challenging negative self-talk can also help to shift our mindset. Remember that your past does not define your future, and you have the power to create a life filled with purpose and joy.



Pursue Your Passions and Goals:

Trauma often robs us of our ability to look towards the future. We live in constant “survival mode,” leaving us little space to dream. Furthermore, it can feel unsafe to dream or set goals for us. Therefore, identifying our passions and setting achievable goals that align with our values can help us to continue to heal. Take small steps every day towards pursuing those passions and see how it feels.


Conclusion:


Reclaiming your life after complex PTSD is a hell of a journey. It involves self-discovery, healing, and growth and requires courage, self-compassion, and a commitment to personal well-being. Thankfully, you are not alone in this process, and there are resources and communities available to support you. By using these strategies, you can begin to move beyond mere survival and embark on a life filled with purpose, joy, and fulfillment.


Looking for more support? Schedule a free consultation to get started with individual or group trauma therapy today!



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