Complex PTSD

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I have been reading a few different books about trauma: Neurobiology and the Treatment of Traumatic Dissociation and The Body Keeps the Score. Both books discuss the components of trauma and post traumatic stress disorder, the process occurring in the brain of someone with trauma and dissociative tendencies, and treatment of this difficult diagnosis.

Picture the person ahead of you in a car stopping suddenly and you reacting by hitting the brakes without thinking. This is the immediate processing of your senses through the Thalamus sending signals to the Amygdala to react. It is fight or flight. Your heart beats fast and breathing may accelerate. Adrenaline is sent quickly throughout your body. Very shortly after the initial fight or flight response the Prefrontal Cortex gets the information and we can have a more logical response. It is at this point that we can normally begin to calm. Additional hormones are sent to our body to help us calm down. This is normal.

For many people with trauma, reactions do not work that way. Some people remain in the heightened state. The Prefrontal Cortex remains offline keeping the person in a constant state of panic. This panic can be elevated such as the continued fight and flight, or it can become a freeze state. In other cases it can become a complete shut down of sensory and related functions.

When I walk into Walmart I become quiet, overstimulated. I begin to shut down. This does not compare to the shut down that occurs when I experience a flashback or have to discuss trauma that has happened in my life. During shut down the senses no longer work properly. My vision becomes blurred; I don’t hear music or background noise; my body goes numb, limp, or stiff; and other areas shut down. The hardest part for me is that my mind experiences the flashbacks, but my ability to speak shuts down. Broca’s area (the speech center of the brain) actually shuts down when experiencing or re-experiencing trauma. When I stop talking and/or appear disconnected it is probably because what is being discussed is too difficult for me to focus on. Be patient with me. I am trying, but I am not ready to experience what some people think I am ready to experience.

Many people have mentioned that they would like to sit down and talk with me. I am not ready for this. I am not physically or emotionally capable of conquering how I feel internally to express myself. I am working through this, but this is the reality of what my life is right now. I am a face of someone with complex PTSD, but I am trusting the process and moving toward healing. I hope this helps some of you to understand me as well as others going through this.

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