Living with CPTSD or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not always easy. A survivor has that constant internal fight. Am I happy today? Am I sad? Why am I shaking from that nightmare? What happened? Why can’t I remember? Each day is a fight to stay in the daily “normal”. The normality of being a human. You wake up each day, have a cup of coffee, do your morning exercise routine, eat breakfast, get the kids ready for school (If you have kids), and go to work. As a survivor, you fight for it. To stay in the daily routine and not tune out and give in to the pain.  

“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become”, (Carl. Gustav. Jung) 

The saying above is a famous statement made by a Swiss Psychologist. It is a profound truth that I believe is true for CPTSD survivors. Yes, we have been through terrible trauma in our most vulnerable childhood years. It is something that changed us profoundly as we grew up into adults. Most of us are struggling from time to time but we do have a choice. We can let the trauma and hurt consume us into living a half-life. The kind of life where we numb our hurt with poisons and float through each day. We are existing without purpose, and I am sure most of you know what I’m talking about because, at one point or another, we have all been in this state. Some of us have for longer than we should. Our second choice is to try and live our lives and flow through the rise and fall of life’s challenges and adventures. Living is not always easy for anyone but as a survivor, you must try so much harder just to be in the moment. Being busy is something I enjoy and it does keep the pain away when I am immersed in my work or my family. 

Some survivors live life for years without knowing why they are feeling chronically sad and why it feels like their bodies are “heavy” like a weight pressing constantly down on them. I knew that my so-called father was evil. I hate him with a passion, but I never really understood why I had this hatred for him and all the grown-ups around me. All I knew as an 18-year-old was that I had to get away. I had to get away to be me because to stay was unthinkable. I was sure that the acute suffocating pain I felt was going to kill me. 

Self Care 

Once I left everything and everyone behind, I was forced to start to think about my own immediate needs. What did I need the most? Well, to start with shelter and food. Then a job to pay the rent. I was busy thinking about myself in those early days and it did wonders for my own self-confidence! I made decisions for the first time about myself for only myself and my own well-being. I was happy and free.  

Thinking about your needs is a fundamental step toward healing. For me, until this point in my life, all the adults around me had made decisions for me about what I needed. Most of these decisions were made by my abusers as they were my parents and grown-ups around me. I’m not saying you should all cut ties with your family and move away, but I am saying that you should start speaking up for yourself and think about what you need.  

How do you feel right now? What do you need in the next hour? Are you thirsty? Hungry? Are you busy working on a deadline at work? Do you need a comfort break? All of these questions are relevant and vitally important to your well-being. Taking care of your life is something that does not come naturally for someone suffering from CPTSD because we have this ingrained feeling that we do not “deserve to feel”. I tell you now, YOU DO! You absolutely do deserve everything life can give. Especially you, because you have overcome so much to get here, to this moment.  

Getting back to basics: Breathing 

Your breath is extremely important and we forget that this is something we all do naturally without thinking. Our brains make sure we breathe in and out constantly but how often do you “feel” your own breathing? Close your eyes for a moment and just breathe, in and out. Just feel your breath go in and out of your body. Your breath is what makes you alive. How do you feel after taking a deep breath? It feels good right? Breathing is something so simple we forget how important it is for us, especially for those who are suffering from trauma.  


I have been told many times about the benefits of yoga, pilates, reiki, and various other relaxation and breathing exercises. These are extremely beneficial to get in tune with our bodies. It will also as a survivor, help you find where in the body you are hurting the most. Listen to your body and let it guide you in healing that ache. Yeah, you know what I mean! Taking a yoga class on a regular basis can help you feel more in tune with your own body. Your body has after all endured terrible things and now it is your chance to look after it. Marvel at it and how it got you from being hurt to the present. These activities are also really useful to do to relax. Relaxation is something we do not do enough as survivors. I do not relax unless I take a yoga class or fall asleep. Relaxing is important to recharge our bodies and release the tensions that build up in a flashback. When we feel terrified or unsafe, we naturally tense our bodies and get ready for “flight”. This is a survivor mechanism that we all used to survive our abusers’ but it is not healthy to carry constant tension in our bodies. It eventually will lead to chronic pain. Take a beat and time out from your daily routine and try a yoga or pilates class. Notice how your body feels after relaxing. It feels great, right? Harness that feeling because you deserve it. You deserve to feel good in your body. 

Exercising and nature 

We are not all athletes but there are so many sports you can enjoy without the pressure of performing your best. I run because I enjoy it. I like the feeling of my feet pounding the trail and the wind blowing against me with music blasting into my ears. I also love going outdoors and hiking a trail and camping for a few nights or just going along the beach for miles. I love swimming and kayaking and being in the open water. I find going back to nature, soothing and grounding me in the present. Taking the time to relax outdoors is another way for me to recharge and heal. Like a kid, I notice things when I go outdoors, and I like finding out about them when I get home. What was that plant called? Is that edible? 

Friends and Socializing 

Friends are my new family and without them and their support I don’t know if I would have made it. I made lots of friends on my journey to where I am now. I also learned that friends come and go in your life. You meet people all the time if you go out and take classes, do sports and run. I met most of my friends that I have today outside work. I also have friends that I met through work. Some friends are closer than others. What I have learned is to try and go out even when I don’t want to. It is so much worse if you give in to the pain. There are times when I do. We have all been there! I can guarantee that you will feel so much better after an evening out with friends than sitting at home on the sofa.  

The one thing I find hard is knowing when to trust someone. It used to drive me crazy worrying about it. Then I realized that just being with a friend or in a group of friends is enough. Let the time just pass and do not overthink too much about what others say and think about you. Most of the time people are not thinking the worst of you. If they didn’t like you, they wouldn’t choose to hang out with you. Give yourself a break and relax with your friends. Go out and have a good time. You deserve it! 

Hobbies and Interests 

We all have our strengths and weaknesses and what you enjoy doing in your free time is different from others. This is one of the reasons why you are unique, and you should be proud of who you are. Every human being has got a talent or an aptitude for certain activities. Some people like the tiny details in life and collect stamps or seashells that they come across. Other people like sports or crafts.  A lot of people like to take care of animals and this is something that is very good for our well-being. If you are not outgoing and don’t want to take sports or art classes, you might prefer to have a pet. Looking after another creature is rewarding and fun. 

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