PTSD: Understanding My Social Isolation
My 33rd year of recovery from alcohol addiction began Nov. 24, 2009. Needless to say to anyone living a spiritual quest, many emotions are stirred up during an anniversary.
In taking another 5th step, I realized that I had recreated the home of my childhood. I had the good mommy role and my husband was the bad daddy. As I have stated here, he acted out his misery by having an affair and leaving me.
This experience has led me on the path of healing my childhood wounds. I was the oldest child–or rather–I was the youngest parent in that home. I took my duties so seriously that I taught myself to deny myself anything that would challenge my mother. In return, the power connected to this role of being the boss was my first addiction. One that I am only now giving up. That is why I call codependency the addiction of power. And I believe all addicts must go through this 2nd recovery–the recovery of codependency. I will always be codependent. It is about loving too much. But I know my pattern now and know when I need to redefine my boundaries.
What is PTSD? HelpGuide. org defines it:
“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop following a event that threatens — or appears to threaten — your safety. Most people associate PTSD with rape and battle-scarred soldiers — and military combat is the most common cause in men — but any event (or series of events) that overwhelms you with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness can trigger PTSD, especially if the event feels unpredictable and uncontrollable.”
“PTSD can affect people who personally experience a threatening event, those who witness the event, or those who pick up the pieces afterwards, such as emergency workers. PTSD can also result from surgery performed on children so young they don’t understand what’s happening to them, or any event that leaves you emotionally shattered.”
In reading about Iraq veterans and PTSD, I identified immediately with the social isolation. I have done this all my life. Although I am a loner and am suspicious of anyone not content being alone, extreme isolation leads me to paranoia and discontent. I am learning a balance finally because I have now freed myself to talk about these feelings. I have also identified the brain chemistry associated with my codependency.
Dennis Thombs believes that we used our addictions to combat feelings of anxiety (fear) that we never learned to process.
PTSD, codependency and addiction began when as a child. I didn’t know how to deal with anxiety and fear. Instead I used feelings of power over people to feel better myself.
While I was exploring the connection between codependency and post traumatic stress disorder–PTSD. I was shocked while reading ‘The Last Tour”, an article in The New Yorker, to discover a paragraph that I completely identified with emotionally. “The Last Tour” is an article about Staff Sergeant Travis Twiggs who may have committed suicide by cop.
“Travis and Willard Twiggs were not in trouble with the law. Willard, thirty-eight, was a former maritime-logistics specialist in New Orleans. He had been working construction, intermittently, since Hurricane Katrina. Travis, thirty-six, was a Marine Corps staff sergeant stationed in Quantico, Virginia. He was a decorated combat veteran with one tour of duty in Afghanistan and four tours in Iraq. In January, 2008, he had created a minor stir by writing, in the Marine Corps Gazette, an article about his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder.”
The paragraph that rocked me was:
“What is broken, what is lost, above all, with complex P.T.S.D. is social trust, according to Jonathan Shay, one of its most astute analysts. Wounded warriors come home and feel that they can trust nobody — not even their spouses. Under the pressure of constant, violent, involuntary psychic contraction (terror, self-loathing) and expansion (rage, grandiosity, mania), character itself shrivels. With loyal, troubled, self-destructive Will, Travis may have felt that he had found the one person he could trust, who would stay beside him to the end.”
I finally understood my life of emotional isolation. Although I have always worked and interacted with others, I had kept my emotional life very barren and devoid of a lot of close companions. I grew up in a family of two parents at continual war. My sisters and I had to choose sides. So sometimes I was on my mother’s “side” and sometimes I was on my father’s “side”. The experience that taught me that I could trust no one other than myself was when they joined sides to reject me. They had designated me the arbitrator and sometimes I had to be put in my place. I was the youngest parent. I lived on an emotional island.
- Most people think of PTSD as happening only to people who have been in extreme circumstances, such as war veterans. However, in her book Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence–from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror (1997) Judith Herman describes a subtype of PTSD she calls complex post traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD).
- Clinical psychologist Dr Joseph M Carver, PhD, who has a number of great articles on his website says in an online discussion that, “Every victim of abuse experiences some, if not multiple, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Carver writes:
[T]hese symptoms linger many years; some for a lifetime. Everyone knows this but it’s rarely bought up…During our period of abuse, the brain collects thousands of memories that contain details of our abusive experiences and the feelings (horror, terror, pain, etc.) made at that time. In what we call “traumatic recollection,” any similar experience in the future will recall the emotional memory of the abuse, forcing us to relive the event in detail and feeling.
- From PTSD Alliance: Myths about Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD is a complex disorder that often is misunderstood. Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD, but many people do.
MYTH: PTSD only affects war veterans.
FACT: Although PTSD does affect war veterans, PTSD can affect anyone. Almost 70 percent of Americans will be exposed to a traumatic event in their lifetime. Of those people, up to 20 percent will go on to develop PTSD. An estimated one out of 10 women will develop PTSD at sometime in their lives.
Victims of trauma related to physical and sexual assault face the greatest risk of developing PTSD. Women are about twice as likely to develop PTSD as men, perhaps because women are more likely to experience trauma that involves these types of interpersonal violence, including rape and severe beatings. Victims of domestic violence and childhood abuse also are at tremendous risk for PTSD.
MYTH: People should be able to move on with their lives after a traumatic event. Those who can’t cope are weak.
FACT: Many people who experience an extremely traumatic event go through an adjustment period following the experience. Most of these people are able to return to leading a normal life. However, the stress caused by trauma can affect all aspects of a person’s life, including mental, emotional and physical well-being. Research suggests that prolonged trauma may disrupt and alter brain chemistry. For some people, a traumatic event changes their views about themselves and the world around them. This may lead to the development of PTSD.
MYTH: People suffer from PTSD right after they experience a traumatic event.
FACT: PTSD symptoms usually develop within the first three months after trauma but may not appear until months or years have passed. These symptoms may continue for years following the trauma or, in some cases, symptoms may subside and reoccur later in life, which often is the case with victims of childhood abuse.
“When you come out of the grips of a depression there is an incredible relief, but not one you feel allowed to celebrate. Instead, the feeling of victory is replaced with anxiety that it will happen again, and with shame and vulnerability when you see how your illness affected your family, your work, everything left untouched while you struggled to survive. We come back to life thinner, paler, weaker … but as survivors. Survivors who don’t get pats on the back from coworkers who congratulate them on making it. Survivors who wake to more work than before because their friends and family are exhausted from helping them fight a battle they may not even understand. I hope to someday see a sea of people all wearing silver ribbons as a sign that they understand the secret battle, and as a celebration of the victories made each day as we individually pull ourselves up out of our foxholes to see our scars heal, and to remember what the sun looks like.” Jenny Law
A year later after this discovery and my study of the problem and the solution, I finally found ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics). Check out the Laundry List from ACA.
I ordered the Red Book from ACA.And the rest, as they say, is history. I was finally home. The Red Book told me why.
“The Laundry List represents the fear and distorted thinking which result from being raised in a dysfunctional family. We are not at fault for developing these survival traits, but we are responsible for our recovery. Recognizing the link between our adult lives and our childhood years is clouded by our loyalty to the dysfunctional family system. Even if we seemingly have rejected our dysfunctional family’s lifestyle. We can still carry it with us wherever we go.”
“ACA believes there is a direct link between our childhood and our decisions and thoughts as an adult. A clue that we are affected by family dysfunction can be found in our problematic relationships, perfectionism, addictiveness, dependence, or compulsive and controlling behavior.”
I found the Red Book of ACA — the answer to my prayers for release from my addictive self — in my 34th year of recovery — at the age of 70. Praise God. I was finally free.