Last week, my counsellor asked me to do a talk in front of 20 young doctors, which I agreed to do. The aim is to better educated doctors so they can better help their patients.
Then I heard the news that mother had died, and I wasn’t up to attending. My counsellor said my speech was read out, and apologies made for my absence.
I am glad that it could help, even though I was not able to personally attend.
I am a survivor of decades of severe complex trauma, which started at birth. My mother was highly abusive, as was my step father. I endured daily severe emotional, psychological and mental abuse. I was intentionally exploited to be sexually abused by my parents circle of paedophile and sex offender friends.
This has greatly impacted my life, in ways that are severe, yet normal for someone who has endured such abnormal life experiences. It did lead to suicide attempts in my teens, where health professionals were involved – but did not seek to find out what might be causing this. It was assumed that I was an attention seeking, dramatic teenager. And I still have ongoing suicide ideation, whenever struggling.
Complex trauma, is interpersonal trauma, within a captivity situation, where the victim has no perceived way to escape. I endured complex trauma throughout my entire childhood, and then into adulthood, as I endured further relationships, with unhealthy and toxic people. This is common after considerable child abuse.
Complex trauma is still a fairly new area of psychology, and whilst there is increasing knowledge about, it is still fairly unknown, even within the mental health field.
There is a lot of stigma related to being both an abuse survivor, and having a severe mental health diagnosis. Victim shaming and victim blaming, are huge issues throughout society and within the health profession industry. This does impact a survivor reaching out, as this stigma, victim shaming and ignorance re-traumatises survivors.
I know I only discussed the physical health issues, up until the age of 40 with doctors. I was highly functioning, working, independent, until I could no longer suppress it all, and then had what I felt was a breakdown, at the age of 40.
Now, I know this ‘breakdown’ was in fact my ‘breakthrough’, because I was forced to have to deal with my past. I could no longer work and was unable to function well on a daily basis. ‘Breakdowns’ at around the age of 40, are common with childhood complex trauma survivors.
I was very blessed to have been able to start counselling, and I have been in therapy for 5 years. It’s been a time of pain, processing, grieving, growth, deep insight, self reflection and healing, which will continue on for as long as is needed. Complex trauma is not healed quickly, as there are so many profoundly impacting symptoms and issues that result. Deep trust issues, severe anxiety, continual mood issues, which many health professionals can assume is depression, when in fact it is often shame, masquerading as depression.
Complex trauma is difficult to treat and is the most severe form of post traumatic stress disorder. There are added symptoms, not covered in the PTSD diagnostic criterion, such as trust issues, emotional flashbacks, toxic shame, isolation, a deep sense of hopelessness, terminal aloneness, and failure to thrive. This requires insightful, experienced, empathic therapy and it often takes time to build up a ‘safe enough’ therapy relationship.
The current 8 sessions of therapy per year offered through the Medicare system, are grossly inadequate and won’t even scratch the surface. I have only recently begun truly trusting my therapist, after weekly counselling, for 5 years.
Something I have come to realise, is complex trauma survivors often have no idea this is what they are enduring. As I didn’t.
Physical health issues can be clues as to a persons past, such as chronic fatigue, adrenaline fatigue, Fibromyalgia, severe sleep issues etc, all common with complex trauma survivors. As well as mental health issues, which may be seen as depression and anxiety, that don’t improve with medication alone.
Complex trauma survivors often have huge issues with hyper-vigilance and a deep need to work people out and fear of people. This may appear to others as paranoia. This may hinder health professionals in figuring out what this patient needs and diagnosing correctly.
Trauma informed therapy is needed. Throughout my online work, where I have a highly popular blog at 1.5 million views, which is supported by many mental health professionals and clinicians, I have come to see I myself, as a complex trauma survivor – have intelligence, self insight, discernment into others, and a considerable amount of courage and strength, to survive the un-survivable. To survive what does kill many, as suicide stats for complex trauma survivors are high.
I have developed a great capacity for empathy. I am not suggesting all complex trauma survivors have these skills, they don’t – but I do and this does challenge all the stigma and wrong attitudes out there, as to how to view someone with a severe mental health diagnosis.
It is my understanding, that many different mental health issues, are triggered within childhood. And as another childhood trauma survivor – Eleanor Longden said who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in her teens – in her TED talk, the focus should not be about what is ‘wrong’ with the patient. But, what ‘happened’ to the patient.
I think as more research and evidence becomes known as to the many varied and life impacting consequences of childhood trauma , to both physical and mental health – the better health professionals can adequately and appropriately help their patients.
Another great TED talk, is by Dr Nadine Burke Harris, who insightfully expressed her understanding of childhood trauma causing significant levels of health related issues, throughout their adulthood and how doctors and health professionals, need to always be addressing this, to better help their patients and society as a result.
And I believe that unless health professionals deal with the underlying cause of many health issues – created by childhood complex trauma – people will not heal, will not become healthy and not function well.
This will continue to have a great impact throughout society and will continue to put a great strain on the already underfunded health and mental health fields, where trauma and mental health are not prioritised for funding, in the way that is needed.
~ Lilly Hope Lucario
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