I’ve spent my professional & personal life seeking the missing piece, the “IT” that would make the other puzzle pieces of my past & present finally make sense & fit together.  My search took decades, not years or months.  Learning about trauma, PTSD, addiction, & ACE’s was validating but not sufficient.  Finally learning about CPTSD helped me find the missing puzzle piece of my own life story & work.  The term CPTSD fully encompasses the impact of the past on the present & allows survivors to eliminate shame & find integrated healing. 

I’ve learned that other healers (therapists, doctors, etc.) have been blazing the Trauma Trail to describe, define, address, & advocate for needed change at all levels of care FOR DECADES.  Yet, these trail blazers have met resistance from larger political forces.  The story of the resistance is beyond the scope of this article.  Yet, it is meaningful, because it has contributed to a delay in understanding & help for people who have experienced & carried heartache for years & decades.    

In my own way, I want to support survivors while also contributing to the global conversation about trauma informed care.  Systemic changes are needed to grow health/wellbeing & address human challenges & suffering, regardless of the acceptance of a label.

CPTSD stands for Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

“IT” stands for a growing health crisis in our modern world wherein trauma gets transmitted in relationships, families, communities, systems & across generations.

Trauma is a heavy word & one that people don’t rush to identify with.  Trauma is often thought of as a single incident EVENT (car accident, crime incident, military injury) that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope & leaves unwelcome symptoms.  This is referred to as PTSD

When traumatized people disconnect from their pain, they also disconnect from their core Self & are not available to fully connect with others.  This lack of internal & external connection requires soothing & distracting, which often leads to other problems.  These added “problems” show up in the offices of therapists, principals, & physicians as well as courtrooms & jail.  But before this happens, the family will experience the impact first.  Adults coping with under addressed trauma leave their developing children at risk for one or more ACEs:

“The term “ACEs” is an acronym for Adverse Childhood Experiences. It originated in a groundbreaking study conducted in 1995 by the Centers for Disease Control and the Kaiser Permanente health care organization in California. In that study, “ACEs” referred to three specific kinds of adversity children faced in the home environment—various forms of physical and emotional abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction. The key findings of dozens of studies using the original ACEs data are: (1) ACEs are quite common, even among a middle-class population: more than two-thirds of the population report experiencing one ACE, and nearly a quarter have experienced three or more. (2) There is a powerful, persistent correlation between the more ACEs experienced and the greater the chance of poor outcomes later in life, including dramatically increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, substance abuse, smoking, poor academic achievement, time out of work, and early death.”

IT gets repeated until treated.  Adults who cannot meet their own needs & tend to their own wounds often unconsciously create unmet needs & wounds in their children. 

Children are wired to stay connected to get their needs met. They will develop adaptive coping mechanisms that work best for them in their family environment & carry these strategies forward into their adult life (relationships, work) until the strategies:

  • no longer work
  • no longer work as well
  • or create other problems

This is what CPTSD is about.  And IT is prevalent.

The World Health Organization recognizes CPTSD, yet the DSM V does NOT & many providers in the American healthcare system are not aware of “IT”.  Debates & dilemmas abound on this.  My hope is that as CPTSD gains more recognition there will be more trauma informed care for clients & implemented across systems.

As Dr. Gabor Mate states, “Trauma is not what happens to you, it’s what happens inside you as a result of what happened to you.”  We are not at fault for what happened or didn’t happen, but it is our responsibility & opportunity to address the needs & wounds to the best of our ability.  I agree with his new vision: 

“…a trauma-informed society in which parents, teachers, physicians, policy-makers and legal personnel are not concerned with fixing behaviours, making diagnoses, suppressing symptoms and judging, but seek instead to understand the sources from which troubling behaviours and diseases spring in the wounded human soul… points us to the path of individual and collective healing.”

As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” 

CPTSD survivors are warriors.  They are strong.  They have wisdom.  And they deserve to be met without pathologizing their adaptive functioning.  They need time, space, understanding, support, & skills to allow them to recover, repair, & reclaim their true self and life.   Knowing IT exists & finding help for IT helps stop IT from moving across generations.  Finding help shouldn’t take a lifetime, decades, or years.  We can do better.  I’m here to help.

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