You’ve been diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder or C-PTSD. Things have been going well in therapy and you’re beginning to understand what it is and how C-PTSD affects you. Now, you’re wondering how to explain complex PTSD to others, especially your friends and family.
This isn’t just to satisfy their curiosity.
Having people who care about your wellbeing is important as you work towards recovering from C-PTSD. Yet, it’s not easy explaining this issue and how it has impacted your life. Understanding complex PTSD can challenge both survivors and their loved ones.
Here are seven everyday ways to explain complex PTSD that people may understand.
1. It Wasn’t Just One Bad Day
PTSD occurs whenever you undergo a frightening, negative life experience. This could be a single event, such as getting into a car accident. Or, you were witness to an accident. However, these are stand-alone events that happened on a single day. Maybe even less than an hour. But what happens when you experience trauma practically every day over an extended period of time? That’s the scope of what you’re facing when it comes to complex PTSD. That’s why it wasn’t just one bad day.
2. What Kind of Childhood Would You Want?
If you are wondering how to explain complex PTSD and trauma to others, ask them “What kind of childhood would you want?” Many would say:
However, oftentimes complex trauma occurs through abuse experienced during childhood. Children who live through complex trauma experience the exact opposite from what we see above. They feel unsafe, scared, have a negative self-image. They are not always loved.
3. How to Explain Complex PTSD: Messaging
Negative messaging is another issue with complex PTSD. For example, how would you feel if you were told throughout your childhood that you were a good person? Or, that you were worthy of being loved? Those are messages that will reinforce a positive outlook on life and self-image. But what if you got the opposite message? People with complex PTSD believe that they are less than worthy because people in their lives, particularly adults (parents) told them so.
4. The Burdens You Carry
You have a lot of memories from childhood that influence how you perceive yourself as an adult. For example, the following is impacted:
- your self-confidence.
- the ability to excel at work or school.
- perceptions of whether people actually care about you.
- a sense of whether you are worthy of existing.
Those terrible childhood experiences play a significant role in the decisions you make now. They weigh you down like a heavy weight. They make it very hard, if not impossible, for you to fully enjoy life and all it has to offer. You carry around this constant burden for reasons that are not your fault at all.
5. Peace at Any Cost
With all of these negative experiences, burdens, and reinforced beliefs, you may want to find peace at any cost. You are tormented by what happened. Even if those events were many years ago, they still seem fresh in your mind. To find peace, you push away those thoughts and memories. Or, you turn to drugs or alcohol.
This isn’t lasting peace, but numbing trauma-related thoughts and feelings can seem the next best thing. That can be hard for others to hear and difficult for you to share when thinking of how to explain complex PTSD. However, the idea of escape and relief is often relatable.
6. Push-Pins Linked by String
Have you ever seen a police drama where pictures or pieces of information are attached to a board with push-pins? Then, when you look closer, the string is tied to all the push-pin in a zig-zag pattern. The idea is that all of the individual pieces of information are connected. The same is true for complex PTSD. Those experiences all add up. When connected they explain why you struggle so much today.
7. Multiple Supports for a Complex Problem
The answer for complex PTSD involves taking advantage of multiple supports for success. Just as a chair needs more than one leg, so does your recovery. For example, you need:
- family and friends.
- to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- community with others who are affirming, not negative or judgmental.
When you are asked how to explain complex PTSD, you can use the above suggestions for answers. You can also encouraged your loved ones to learn how to help someone with complex PTSD Also, remember that an important part of your recovery will be professional support as well. Find out how trauma or PTSD therapy can help. Please contact my office for a consultation when you are ready.