Learning Rest: Dealing with C-PTSD

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Caleigh Royer’s blog, Profligate TruthIt was originally published on July 9, 2013.

My therapist looked at me and told me that I have PTSD.

C-PTSD to be specific.

I had just finished describing her how I rarely got a gift or anything from my parents, specifically my dad, that wasn’t conditional. I told her about a mountain bike I had gotten one year for Christmas. It was a really nice bike, probably cost about $1200. I was thrilled when we all came rushing down the stairs and I saw the bike with my name on it. I eagerly looked it over, and then I got the second part of the “gift.” I had to pay the stupid thing off. I. Had. To. Pay. The. Bike. Off.

I was maybe 11, had no job, I did most of the house work around the house, did a lot of the meals, cleaned the kitchen after every meal, and now I was expected to pay off a bike that was a “gift”?! Paying off the bike meant giving up my birthday money, Christmas money, doing extra yard work (on top of everything else), as well as extra, extra work around the house.

That bike became a thorn in my side the older I got.

I loved the bike, and the fact that I had to pay it off back then barely fazed me. I was so excited to have a really nice bike (it was one step below my dad’s expensive mountain bike; a fact I was very proud of). That bike was one of the nicest things I ever had. But that bike is also one of the reasons that I absolutely refuse to ride a bike today.

My dad does not simply give one of his children something without expecting something in return.

He gave me a ring for my 13th birthday, and I found out the price of that ring when I tried to get married. He believed that he owned my heart. He believed that he must give his consent before I “fell in love” with a man. My parents gave us the use of a timeshare for our honeymoon. Sorry, gave is not the right word. They let us a rent their timeshare for our honeymoon. My dad/parents seek profit from their children, including threatening to make minors pay rent, babysit without pay, making unwilling children pay for their bikes that they didn’t want but dad bought anyway.

Being told I have PTSD makes me uneasy.

It’s almost compared to how I felt when I was told 7 years ago that I was depressed. It’s a feeling of “no, that’s not me. I’m not broken.” It’s like someone saying they’re not crying as tears race down their face, sobs on every breath.

The truth of the matter is I am a classic case of C-PTSD.

I have an underlying depression that has been there for many years, breaking the silence every once in a while to put me in a viscious cycle of multiple days of bad depression. I may seem bold on here, but believe me when I say that the bold things are written after I’ve had a major breakdown, my world seems to fall apart, and/or I feel like shutting down and forgetting who I am. And yes, this post is being written after two weeks of some of the lowest spots I’ve reached in a very long time. It resulted in an emergency therapy session last week because I knew I needed help fast.

I don’t let people see me when I hit those days of emotional breakdowns, but truly, I need someone to be there. I need someone to come sit with me, hold me, and tell me that crying is a release of the poison that has built up inside of me. I just don’t know how to ask, or who to ask. I fear making people uncomfortable and making them uneasy by my open, bleeding heart. To deal with that fear, I push people away because once I know I’ve made someone uncomfortable, I am then extra sensitive to what I say around them, tell them, or ask them to do. It’s pretty screwed up, isn’t it?

I am slowly learning to take care of myself simply because I have to, or else into the deep end I go.

I had a light-bulb moment today when I realized why it is so difficult for me to take care of myself. Growing up I was never allowed to really rest. I used to love going to bed at night because it meant that I finally had time to myself, I could rest, and I wouldn’t be told to go clean or do something. That was until I couldn’t sleep, and then there was no place where I actually felt I could rest. My dad would come bursting into my room with this look of almost blind fury, yelling at me, shaming me, about how mom was doing such and such, and how dare I not do my job.

Even if I was sick, had a massive headache, or simply just needed to rest, I wasn’t allowed to.

My dad would constantly tell me and my other siblings about how mom shouldn’t have to do anything. My dad wouldn’t do shit when it came to cleaning or doing anything around the house. He only did the outside work, putting my siblings to work when something needed to be cleaned up, but otherwise wouldn’t let them help him with the lawn, trimming bushes, or washing the vehicles. (I can honestly say I have never washed a car before.) I only really remember maybe 2 or 3 times of him actually doing some cleaning.

He would sure rant about how privileged mom was and how she shouldn’t have to do any cleaning.

This is making me rage as I write this because the shame and guilt my dad was so good at pouring on me has made it difficult for me to relax in my own home, listen to my body especially when my hands aren’t working well enough to clean. Can you imagine my rage? Can you hear the frustration I feel as I try to function in a healthy way only to be thrown back when this garbage sneaks up on me?

I am finding it relieving to be able to name my mental state.

It is relieving to have something to explain why cleaning freaks me out. I see the dust at the back of the bathroom sink and I have flashbacks to my dad viciously pointing out all of the things I had done wrong with cleaning the bathroom. I tried my best to please him, really, I did, but it was never enough. The only time I can remember where my dad actually didn’t require perfection from me was one fall afternoon as I was raking leaves. I was doing my best to get every leaf I could with the rake when my dad leaned out the door and told me I didn’t have to be that particular. I have never felt so confused.

Dealing with a named condition is easier than fighting in the dark with no idea why you are reacting that way or what triggered it.

Dealing with something that is real, something that is legitimately affecting behavior, mind, memory is easier than being told I am crazy, bitter, or simply vindictive. Dealing with C-PTSD is something I can manage. There are a lot of difficult days still ahead, but I can work with this because I want to get better. I want to feel healthy, whole even though I will always carry scars. I want my healthy, happy marriage to become more consuming than my past.

I want to put my past to rest, resolve what I can, so I can focus wholly on loving my husband, being with him, and being at rest.

12 comments

  • This right here is why I love this community. I learned about C-PTSD through this site and it has helped me understand and come to terms with my weird freakouts. Thanks for writing, thanks for existing, hearts and snuggles.

  • I can’t help but have my heart tighten up as I read this.
    I see myself in these memories, because I’ve lived through the same thing, maybe only slight differences.
    My father too was obsessed with cleaning, in a way control freaks are. Me and my none siblings even worked for his cleaning business (one he couldn’t participate in because of health problems) and we started at about 8 years old, too young to understand that it was off.
    My dad died a little over a year ago, and I’ve been trying to sort through my feelings. Nobody understands outside of my family because he was the most charismatic, loving, well behaved person to everyone else besides his wife and children.
    I just don’t even know what else to say, just that I saw a little bit of myself in this story, and understand the need for supportive people in your life, yet being scared to open up about this.

  • Thanks for sharing. This is me.

  • Hi Caleigh:

    I can’t believe I found this article. Just one day before you posted this, I was also diagnosed by my therapist with PTSD (although I also think it’s more along the lines of C-PTSD).

    Despite some difficulties in my childhood, I am in my young twenties and other than the anxiety and fears I have that arise from my PTSD, I am actually quite well-adjusted. In fact, the therapist I had during college said that she still could not figure out how I became so well-adjusted considering a lot of circumstances.

    My father was diagnosed last spring with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and because I lived in a very controlled environment that had a lot of anger and rage in it, I basically faced a lot of fear for 19 years of my life before I left, and that was what caused my C-PTSD.

    Thank you so much for sharing your own feelings. I actually took the news quite differently, although we both share the same sense of relief. I actually turned to do a lot of research on my own, and right now I am trying to read books and such on the topic. The only person I have told this diagnosis to is my long-time boyfriend, whom has been very understanding and supportive. I hope that you have at least one person in your life that is also very supportive. Right now I am trying to go about my daily activities and get on with my life and move forward as much as possible.

  • This all sounds so familiar. Although my mother was the one who was rarely satisfied with cleaning jobs and neither of my parents were loud, angry, or abusive. But other things happened and I’m high functioning autistic, and after being dumped by my fiancee back in January, I’ve realized I have some sort of PTSD. I thought that was silly, though, because I haven’t been abused.

    But now I see why–from the years when my mother was so sick she was in bed all the time and almost died, and I had to take care of the house and several younger siblings while my father worked (and I never was good enough), to the years when I graduated high school early and tried to get a job in the worst of the recession, and tried and tried while being constantly pressured to go to college or get a job and threatened with having to pay rent if I didn’t (big question is where would I have gotten the money if I didn’t have a job? I suppose that was why selling my car was also brought up, but then, how would I have commuted if I got a job and had no car?), to when I finally got a job and went to college and fell in love only to have the future I was planning ripped out of my hands with no warning at all.

    And then there were all the “friends” who shut me out or abandoned me or simply disappeared, because I’m different and uncomfortable to be with.

    Yes, C-PTSD makes a lot of sense.

  • Oh my God, this sounds like me. Thank you so much for writing this.

  • thank you for sharing this.

  • Jeez, your parents are just monsters, narcisstic religious monsters ! I hope you don’t see those two anymore, or at least rarely. The dad especially, he should go to jail for a while and as for the mom, she is a co-abuser.

  • I am so sorry that you had to experience all of that. I too could not rest as a child. Mine was more about fearing hell, the devil, and the rapture. I carried that all into adulthood. I wonder if I will ever be free of it completely.

  • hi. (sorry, this is gonna be long)
    thank you so so so much for sharing your story. i hope that just writing it and putting it all out there on the internet made you feel a huge weight lifted off your shoulders. i hope it brought you some peace and even closure. may the healing begin.
    I also have ptsd.
    My own story has a lot of parallels with yours. i grew up the third of 12 kids, (i’m the oldest girl… aka mom #2), though i now realize i was actually more like Mom #1, and very much missed out on ever being a child. My mom didn’t have a motherly bone in her body; she was knocked up at 19, got married and just kept having kids. She still to this day acts like and ill-mannered, impatient, vein, entitled teenager. She was negligent at best and snapped sometimes in verbal rage sometimes getting violent at worst. she spent most of her time telling us we were lazy. she was overwhelmed and abused, (and i hope i can forgive her some day). The man who birthed all of us was/is pure evil. All of us kids (my mom included) lived in constant fear of him becoming violent at the slightest thing. you never knew what was going to set him off. we feared for our lives when he drove us to church, his road rage was criminal, and just one of his many forms of child abuse. my dad (though i don’t call him dad anymore) was a bi-polar, pathological lying narcissist who was addicted to porn and molested at least 3 of my brothers (though i only found out about the sex-abuse shortly before my mom kicked him out when the youngest was 3 and I was 18.)
    on the day to day, i remember especially on saturdays (chore day) being yelled at to wake up and help out with laundry and cleaning. i was somehow convinced that i was lazy even though i did so much to help – i gave all the baths, did the bedtime routine with the younger kids, gave all the hair cuts, did all the mending, made sure all the younger ones helped out with tyding up the kitchen, bathrooms, and vacuuming etc. if shit needed to get done, i did it. speaking of which, i probably did most of the diaper changes, i remember doing morning changes, and again after school and before bed changes, sometimes even during the night. i did poty-training. i even read a parenting book in grade 9. i’ve rocked ill siblings to sleep. calmed them when they had nightmares. read labels and administered medicine, I’ve been responsible for bottle feeling babies, burping babies, changing babies. i was the one for years that did EVERYTHING! and the whole time my parents called me names, made me think i didn’t do enough. if i skipped doing laundry one day i would feel so much guilt for “being lazy”. and i literally went to confessions because i thought i had commited a sin.
    I don’t talk to my dad anymore, and I’ve recently decided to stop talking to my mom.
    i just want to heal. to rest, to find peace, to heal… and maybe some day forgive. i don’t want to spend all my days in anger.
    i know i am the strong strong woman i am today because of what i suffered, but it’s so hard to let it all go, all of the emotional and psychological damage should have been happy carefree childhood memories. my happy memories are few and far between, but there were some good times. going to the beach, catching frogs or picking raspberries in the feilds near our house. i think growing up in the country saved us. we were free to run around and get dirty. and that’s life – really accepting the dirt with the light. it’s given me strong hands and a very clear idea of what NOT to look for in a man and how NOT to behave as a mother. in some crazy way i am grateful, because I’m finally proud and happy with who i am. and i wouldn’t be Me withoout the suffereings that forged me…
    Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing.
    much love,
    Monique

  • Thank you for this! “It is relieving to have something to explain why cleaning freaks me out.” Me too.

  • Thanks for sharing this. I’m 35 years old and have been diagnosed with countless different mental illness. I started reading about childhood neglect and CPTSD a few months ago and it suddenly made sense. It’s devastated my life. Currently trying EMDR therapy. So glad to have found this site and to hear that other people were affected the same way I was. Everyone I grew up with conformed entirely, which has always make me feel like I’m nuts. Please feel free to reach out, as I’ve literally spent my whole life feeling like an alien because I’ve not met another ex homeschooler who openly admits it messed them up or even acknowledges that it is in any way unhealthy. Even the people who I thought would break out seem to be clinging to their faith and have many children who they are proudly homeschooling. I’m a bit of a pariah. And when I found some of them on Facebook about a year ago, I felt retraimatized seeing that the cycle just keeps on.

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