PTSD: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – and Ways of healing

Many people think PTSD is reserved for veterans, those coming back from military service, but all kind of traumatic events can cause PTSD.

Abusive relationships, mind-controlling cults, the sudden loss of loved ones, accidents, medical operations, childhood neglect, rape and sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, assault, war, natural disasters, kidnapping, terrorist attacks, the list goes on.

I hope this article and my story can inspire you or someone you know to get the help you, he or she deserves.


FIRST SOME FACTS ABOUT PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe condition that may develop after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events, such as sexual assault, serious injury or the threat of death. The diagnosis may be given when a group of symptoms such as disturbing recurring flashbacks, avoidance or numbing of memories of the event, and hyperarousal (high levels of anxiety) continue for more than a month after the traumatic event.

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) also known as “multiple interrelated post traumatic stress disorder” or Developmental Trauma Disorder is a psychological injury that results from protracted exposure to prolonged social and/or interpersonal trauma in the context of either captivity or entrapment (a situation lacking a viable escape route for the victim), which results in the lack or loss of control, helplessness, and deformations of identity and sense of self. C-PTSD is distinct from, but similar to, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The difference between PTSD and a normal response to trauma
The traumatic events that lead to post-traumatic stress disorder are usually so overwhelming and frightening that they would upset anyone. Following a traumatic event, almost everyone experiences at least some of the symptoms of PTSD. When your sense of safety and trust are shattered, it’s normal to feel crazy, disconnected, or numb. It’s very common to have bad dreams, feel fearful, and find it difficult to stop thinking about what happened. These are normal reactions to abnormal events.

For most people, however, these symptoms are short-lived. They may last for several days or even weeks, but they gradually lift. But if you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the symptoms don’t decrease. You don’t feel a little better each day. In fact, you may start to feel worse.

PTSD

Click the tables for further PTSD symptoms, causes and self-help tips.

PTSD_Healing

 

HEALING THROUGH UNDERSTANDING
After I left both the cult (Church of Scientology) and the sociopathic relationship, I isolated myself trying to avoid social situations. Not that I feared people but I knew I would break down crying if they asked me: Hi, how are you doing? I often went out among people but I didn’t want to socialize with them. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. For example I suddenly burst out crying if someone passing me nearby raised his voice. It reminded me of getting yelled at. Instinctively I covered myself with an invisible shield to protect myself from external influences. Though my biggest “enemy” was my own thoughts. I was gradually becoming closed and emotionally numb. I was just floating around as days went by.


I tried not getting exposed to my own mind.

Memories, pain, confusion. I needed to straighten things out for myself. I read many articles and books covering the topics of my worries. That helped a lot. And I reached a time where I had to open up my own box of traumatic memories.

During that healing process I started to feel worse. Both emotionally and physically. I had burning pain in my muscles and joints. I spent most of the time in bed – for months. Apathy, anger, grief. The entire range of emotions. A good sign – at least I had opened up.

I’ve been coping with PTSD or C-PTSD since some 8 years now without seeking professional help. Because I couldn’t! I could not seek professional help outside Scientology when I was part of that cult. Even though I desperately wanted. Then I would have risked getting expelled, frowned upon, being humiliated, losing my job and my friends. And it was situations in the church that prompted my PTSD condition in the first place, a condition that over the years grew worse and worse. Especially after I was introduced to a Scientologist sociopath I ended up spending over 5 years together with before I managed to escape it all. I suffered alone for too many years.

Seek help! You don’t have to suffer alone
You deserve to be understood. You deserve to be helped.
I’ve gotten lots of helpful advice at Dixi, a resource center for rape and sexual assault victims here in Oslo, Norway. There are lots of different resources out there handling different traumas. Contact your nearest resource center and get help with your trauma.

Ask your doctor if he or she can refer you to a professional therapist who is experienced with treating PTSD. I just did (finally!) and I’m waiting for the approval.

I still sense fear in my stomach whenever my phone rings or an SMS beeps in. And I still find myself hiding when someone unexpectedly knocks on our door. It used to be much worse. Things have improved a lot. I can now walk out getting the mail without feeling terror most of the times. In the past I was even terrified watching others opening their mail. It was that bad. In periods I didn’t answer my phone at all even when I recognized the numbers of friends and family. My email inbox counted some 600 unopened emails (not spam). I was too afraid someone would give me bad news. I was overwhelmed by life to that degree that one more piece of bad news and I would die straight of shock.

Clear your mind
My love, Geir Isene, has helped me tremendously to sort out my worries and unfinished tasks and we have put the items down on paper(s). Ready to be tackled one by one. Simple and powerful. Read his successful approach A method of helping another and help yourself or others.

And I realized that most of the things I worried about did not happen. Some did in fact happen, but most of them didn’t. So lots of waste of worries there. Geir helped me sending out emails concerning the most urgent items on my list. In that way I had thrown away the ball and bought myself time to handle the items. When you are overwhelmed you cannot handle anything, you don’t see any solutions and you’re trapped in a negative pattern.

To buy myself time to handle one thing at a time was the biggest relief! 


Re-connect and re-engage

I’m still working on going more out and socialize. I still prefer to stay at home. I have always enjoyed spending time alone. I’m a great company to myself ha ha. But it is different spending time alone enjoying reading books, playing music, dancing, or just relax, another is staying at home worrying without no other output than worry.

Dr. Megan McElheran talks about the importance of re-connection and re-engaging with others in the process of PTSD recovery at this 2011 TEDxTalk. I find her speech much helpful and profound. Those 16 minutes of watching her speech is well spent:


Are you helping a loved one with PTSD?
Don’t take the symptoms of PTSD personally. Common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder include emotional numbness, anger, and withdrawal. If your loved one seems distant, irritable, or closed off, remember that this may not have anything to do with you or your relationship.

I took back my life
I have taken back control of my life by writing. And by confronting the oppressors. I have examined the truth of what has happened to me – details that were buried deep.

After I watched the story of the Norwegian runner and rape survivor, Monika Korra, I got inspired and I searched the Internet for help. I found the Dixi resource center and got lot of helpful advice there. I’m grateful I found Monika’s story. She sparked a desire in me to move forward and regain control. And I begun speaking out.

Going public with my thoughts and sharing my experiences – with the sole intention of helping myself and others overcome their trauma and feeling less ashamed – has played the most vital part in my recovery process. 

Monika Korra wanted to be a role model for other victims of sexual assault. She wanted other women to speak out. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 74 percent of all rapes go unreported, and 15 of every 16 rapists go free. Monika wants to help change that. Please read and watch her story:

monika_korra

I was always strong. Now I’m stronger.

22 thoughts on “PTSD: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – and Ways of healing

  1. Fantastic article Annette! So many former Church of Scientology members talk about the struggle they endure with readjusting after leaving the fold that are most definitely symptoms of PTSD. Cult recovery experts also typically start therapy for those who suffer the most and go for professional help with a two-step approach: cult education and dealing with the PTSD symptoms.

    Unfortunately, I think many former members who are recently out are uncomfortable with seeking professional help and are much more open to a DIY recovery plan. Thus, I always recommend the follow FREE resource for former members dealing with PTSD that is highly acclaimed by professional therapists, recommended far and wide by those who have weathered the storm of PTSD and available from the Internet Archive website:

    The PTSD workbook (2002) by Mary Beth Williams
    http://archive.org/details/ptsdworkbooksimp00will

    The above link is an early edition of this self-help guide. There is also a newer edition available on Amazon and other book seller venues.

      • Darn – so sorry. When I first found that link earlier this year it was a wide open free download. But it seems they have re-categorized as a “print-disabled” text since then. I’m not sure how that works but I’ll look into it tonight after work and/or see if I can find an alternate website to download it from. You might also want to try the “join us” link in the upper right corner to setup a login account on that site, and see if maybe that makes the text available for download.

          • Yes – my apologies, it seems a purchase is necessary nowadays. I just found info explaining that the “print-disabled” books are only free for sight/hearing impaired handicap readers. When they first added this e-book to the online library and it was available for free, they must have listed it incorrectly. But it really is an excellent resource to have, and well worth the price.

    • Hate is never a good solution.
      Monika took a step forward when she said she didn’t hate them, but she hated what they did to her.

      We like to think the best of people. Maybe that’s why she believes there’s a chance those criminals will change. I won’t call her naive. Her thinking that might help her move forward. But if these guys are classified sociopaths I don’t think they will change. But behavior therapy and law enforcement will restrain them from committing another crime in the future. But their urge to suppress others will still be there, but in hopefully lesser degree, I believe. Usually a sociopath has no desire to change. Why? Because they don’t see their own flaws.

      The problem with sociopaths are that they behave nice and “normal” as well. There’s no room for being evil 24 hours a day. They are good actors and they mimic our emotions when needed.

      • It’s off topic, but since the beginning I wanted to ask you…how will you defend yourself if SeaOrg wll tell you one day: “Anette, there is no link between your ex-sociopathic boyfriend and our Church. You simply were in loved with a madman. It doesn’t mean Scientology made him like this or he reflects our Church values. It was simply bad luck for you, that’s all”.
        What if such a question will appear in the future?

        • Thanks for asking such a relevant question, Dragos!

          The Church of Scientology deals only in such a way to blame and discredit others and never takes responsibility for own actions.

          I am well prepared for that. In fact I have several documents proving their involvement in this matter. So it would be utterly stupid of them if they try to mess with facts here. And my lawyer has copies in case the originals get lost.

          I love the power of having such strong cards on my hand.

          • I have to thank you for understading me, Anette. Usually I put “hidden” questions, without any bad intention. It’s just me, I always like to see the truth straight as it is :)

          • I’m a straight shooter too. Radical honesty is great!

            You know, by being direct and honest I don’t have to “remember” to whom did I say that or to whom did I say this – no need keeping notes. Being straight frees my mind. ;)

          • hahahahaha!!! Nevery thougt about this, but you’re right. Being honest will never trap you in a netfish of lies. PS. I was forced to lie in Norway about rakfisk. Never liked it but was totally impolite to say this truth in Valdres :) And exactly like you say, this kind of innocent lie always made me to be careful what I say about that disguisting (and expensive! fish.

  2. I once had similar problems and symptoms, so I understand what you are talking about. How good that you could confront, describe, even public. I feel that this outflow, with the intention to help others, is a powerful medicine. I feel it is high time that a center is founded to help people to decompress after leaving the (a) cult. Interesting paralels between different cults (Steve Hassan points out). There is so much expertise about the subject, quite a few experienced bright people. A specific FB group could be a beginning …

    • Victor, your idea make sense, but I think this can be fulfilled in a sort of NGO or something…I don’t know…Let’s say a clinic, a center of decompression as you say, but how many people are in need after leaving a cult? Not so many. If it’s about veterans, usually the Army have such specific clinics. If it’s about domestic violence, rapes or other abuses, I think it can be done as a center of ALL kind of PTSD situations (cults victims included). A center only related with cults victims can be easily avoided for people in need, by many reasons (shame, fear of retaliation, indecision, etc).

      • Good points, Dragos. People do feel ashamed and embarrassed.

        I would love to contribute in such a center. After leaving hell, I also want to be active in Amnesty to prevent cult abuse, and raise cult awareness in general by blogging, giving lectures, etc. Let’s see what will happen.

      • Sorry, I had not been clear: I was not referring to help for people suffering from PTSD symptoms.

        I was aiming at Ex-Scientologists with their specific problems.

        -> I don not imagine a center in a building but a de-centralized service center (on a cloud) with online and offline services

        -> The center would specialize on Scientologists (later possibly also other cults).
        (Almost) all advisors / coaches / supporters are ex-Church members / staff who know from their own experiences how it feels leaving, building up a new life in the WOG world, while confronting bit by bit that they had been on the wrong track for years, brainwashed and betrayed by the Church system controlled by dear leader DM.
        Such ‘experts’ could offer help as they like. e.g.
        - 2-way-com via email or telephone/skype or personal at certain days and hours or
        -contributing to information on the website or
        - providing practical / legal advice or
        - finding more coaches or
        - finding donators or
        - doing PR work, etc.

        This would help people effected who need to look out for different kind of help themselves. Like Anette described.

        Anette and many many others with a similar story do know much better than I do how such center should work so that it serves those in trouble best.

        I believe that actively working to help others distracts from starring at one’s own problems. At the same time one confronts one’s own story and situation and has cognitions.
        Therefore I believe that it is medicine.

        (My personal activity to start a world-wide project to dissolve the CoS feels like medicine. The Church has taken me for a ride for 10 years in a Chaplain’s Court cycle. If I turned away now, not doing anything against injustice, I’d probably get cancer soon.)

        A second, separate (but connected) center, also providing specific information and offering 2-way-comm, could aim at assisting staff and members to get out.

    • The best resources of help and recovery are ex-members, ex-victims, survivors, etc. Those who have traveled the same road. They know what you are going through. The real battle often starts after leaving.

    • Sorry Anette, when I wrote this I had not read your previous posts yet, talking about the suppressive person you had a relationship with. Therefore the problems you had after leaving did not only derive from leaving the Church. I had neglected the other part.

  3. am wondering about info specific to heal the damages – if severe physical damage resulted from psychic abuses & need to re-plenish restore a lot of centimeters of body tissue -is there an open healing way ? or -must one continue with the PTSD & hope for result ? i just wish there was an open place specific for faster physical healing -we spend so much time on the emotional side & many therapists – but when need more help – if several centimeters have been cut off you by a psychic blade punk ???

Leave a Reply to suzanne o'meara Cancel reply