Anxiety and CPTSD… I deal with both. At age 11, I experienced a trauma that forever changed who I would be. It was when anxiety first reared it’s ugly head. As life continued, toxic relationships entered my life and my anxiety grew becoming more severe. By the time I removed myself from the toxic relationship, I was left with CPTSD to partner with my anxiety.
It is crazy the way in which trauma affects our brains. It took studying psychology and understanding the way in which trauma re-wires the brain that helped me begin to process through the events of my past. It has taken a lot of counseling. It has taken a lot of revisiting the past and working through lies that I began to tell myself at age 11. It has taken someone helping me to understand that something that I experienced when I was 15 years old was not my fault. That because of the trauma at 11, my brain was not in a place where it could fully grasp the weight of what was happening to me. It has brought me to the place of understanding the significance of the way in which big events or trauma can set us back and keep us from being who God created us to be when we don’t get the proper help.
Now before going further I want to address the counseling. Did going to counseling make the anxiety and CPTSD go away? No. It doesn’t work that way. I will probably deal with both of those things for the rest of my life. But what it did change was how I deal with my anxiety and CPTSD. And it taught me the importance of boundaries and being reminded of who I am in Jesus. Do I always do these things perfectly? No! It is a daily struggle. But each day is a step in the right direction.
Back to anxiety. Many websites are available for family and friends to read on anxiety and how to help someone that you love who deals with anxiety. And for the most part if you can follow simple suggestions that are often shared on these sites, you can help your anxiety plagued loved one in ways that can totally change the way they deal with their day. But the issue is that most people don’t take the time to understand mental illness. Instead we often times let ourselves get in the way by thinking that the problem is all us. That there is something wrong with us and that’s why the person with anxiety is avoiding us or not responding to us. But that’s not the case.
Anxiety sucks. Though I know when I am feeling highly anxious, I don’t often know why I am feeling anxious. There are certain situations that I find myself in that serve as triggers for both my anxiety and my CPTSD, but often times I cannot avoid those situations. They are just part of every day life. So I have had to learn how to maneuver through those situations. It is incredibly difficult when the people around you don’t understand that you have to put into place certain boundaries as a way to prepare yourself in certain ways so as to not become triggered by a situation. It’s as if those of us who deal with anxiety constantly have to live one step ahead of ourselves in order to keep ourselves from having a panic attack, a breakdown (melt down), or a manic episode.
Because of trauma early in her life my amazing 17 year old daughter deals with anxiety and panic attacks. And she does a great job of acknowledging when she’s feeling anxious and puts things into place that help her. This was a day last week when she sent me a text…
She didn’t know what was making her anxious, but she knew to find a distraction and to focus on something different. Often that’s how anxiety works. We just don’t always know the cause.
For those who suffer from anxiety (as a result of trauma) and CPTSD it is helpful for people to realize that we probably understand boundaries more than the normal person. That is because we understand the importance of those boundaries and the way in which they are needed to keep us mentally healthy. It means that there are people in this world who we will not associate with because they are toxic to our health. It does not mean we do not love the people. It does not mean that we do not care about the people. But what it does mean is that we care enough about ourselves to do what needs to be done to protect ourselves from further harm.
The idea of boundaries can be incredibly difficult for those of us who live in the church world. Because in this world we have been taught that we are to love everyone, which means we have the mindset that setting a boundary goes against that command. We have somehow confused this idea and made ourselves believe that loving everyone means that we have to allow everyone into our personal space. And this is just not true. We can love people from afar. We can pray for people from afar. But we do not have to allow people within our small circle if they have proven to be detrimental to our health.
Also for those of us who live within the church world, we are often quoted the verse Philippians 4:6 that says we are not to be anxious about anything. That is one of the most frustrating things to be thrown at us. When you speak that verse to us it acknowledges that you are unaware or do not understand the type of anxiety that we are dealing with. We don’t deal with the normal worry of how we’re going to pay the next bill or if it’s going to rain today. Our anxiety comes from places of trauma. The reality that bad things happen, that they have happened to us and the possibility of them happening again (to us) are quite high. That the trauma that we have been through is not necessarily a one time event. And that there are things around us that can trigger the memories of those past traumas. Yes we can do what Philippians 4:8 says and place our thoughts on things that are true and noble and right but again It takes time for a person who deals with anxiety to take those thoughts captive and to bring oneself back down to a place that feels safe and calm.
At the end of the day, I truly believe that it is important that when we discover that someone in our life deals with anxiety, that we take the time to understand that person. That instead of jumping to conclusions or assuming the absolute worst, that we take the time to put ourselves in their shoes. To see the world from their perspective. And though that is incredibly difficult to do when one may not struggle with anxiety, there are so many great resources available that do a really good job of diving into the life of a person who struggles with anxiety and even CPTSD.
What people should know about anxiety
10 things about anxiety and depression