It’s a great question and one I’ve asked myself. Simply, I’d built a dam of unhealthy coping mechanisms that held back over 40 years of narcissistic abuse. It got too heavy, the dam broke, and now I’m swimming in trauma.
Maybe it’s the hormonal changes of aging. Maybe it’s because my mother finally listened and left my abusive father, leaving room for me to protect myself. Maybe it’s because I spent an entire year sucked back into my father’s narcissistic abuse as his physical and mental health steadily declined. Maybe it was the stress of an international pandemic, or maybe it was all of the above. In any case, there’s no rebuilding the dam, I just have to keep swimming.
Why did this come about so suddenly?
I see why people think this. I appear calm, relaxed, and in control, but I’ve been internally melting down ever since I was small. My therapist once told me “You tell me the most horrific things as calmly as if you’re reporting the weather.” As the scapegoat of a narcissistic parent, I had to mask my emotions in order to survive. My father created a mini cult, recruiting all surrounding adults (including my Mom) to reinforce that he was a great father and I was an attention-seeking liar. I knew the opposite was true, but everyone around me believed and reinforced the lie, so I learned to doubt myself.
I developed Complex PTSD from verbal, emotional, physical, financial, and sexual abuse, with no way to express or heal it. I’ve had both large and small breakdowns my entire life that I just coped around. These meltdowns created more shame and the trauma pile just kept growing.
Are you sorry you chose to go to therapy since it stirred up all of these issues?
It’s sort of like saying to a pregnant woman, “Are you sorry you went to the hospital since it caused you to go into labor.”
The misconception that it’s the therapy or the “thinking about it” that causes the pain, adds to the shame surrounding trauma. It keeps it from healing.
Instead of “what’s wrong?” or “Are you ok?” my parents would say “don’t get yourself all worked up,” “don’t be so dramatic,” or “think about something more pleasant” as if it was my actions that made my nervous system react. I learned my feelings were wrong and that abandoning them was “right.”
Like a baby, trauma won’t stay in forever. I’d suppressed it for so long, by the time my nervous system’s water broke it was an emergency. Luckily, I got to the hospital in time. I almost delivered that trauma in the parking lot!
Because I acted on my intuition to get help, when the really scary stuff finally surfaced, I was surrounded by mental health professionals who could safely guide me through it. They provided the cure, not the cause.
When will you return to normal?
Tricky. My “normal” was a mask that sat atop buried trauma. I could never be my authentic self because I was always surviving from moment to moment with fragmented traumatized parts of me jumping forward at inopportune times. I was able to experience joy, and have fun, but there was always an oppositional pull, a panic that any second I would be punished. The highs came with deep lows.
My “normal” days were spent vacillating between morning panic, grogginess, and unexplained injuries, worrying if people -even strangers- were mad at me, to worrying that I was “in trouble” at work.
I’m working on loosening my muscles and un-adrenalizing myself as I work through over 40 years of trauma. My “normal” is going to continue to change as I heal. My old “normal” was a thick mask, and that’s been shattered.
When will you be healed?
I don’t know. The more I learn, the more practiced I become at listening to my body. Knowledge is slowly replacing shame. Now I recognize emotional flashbacks and traumatized parts that I previously tried to suppress. I’ve made incredible progress over the past year and a half, and four decades of trauma are going to take a bit longer to heal. In the meantime, I’ll just keep recording the journey.
Creative storyteller and recovering scapegoat of a narcissistic parent, working through Complex PTSD one post at a time