I remember the first time I heard about complex post-traumatic stress disorder or C-PTSD. It was actually on Instagram on a page called @whywomendontleave and I immediately resonated with some of the symptoms listed. And oddly enough, just a few months later, my therapist helps me get diagnosed with it. At first, I was disturbed. It was hard for me to believe not only that I had C-PTSD but also the fact that I had been through something disturbing enough to cause it. But my amazing therapist immediately helped me walk through the symptoms and helped me to understand that this was something that has affected me for a long time, it’s just that now I am able to put a name to my issues.
I’d like to backtrack and tell a little bit more about myself. I am a 25 year old gay male. I am the first born of 5 children. I am from an intensely conservative Catholic family; the kind where you’re expected to just follow church teaching without question. My parents wholeheartedly believe that the Catholic church provides the truth and all the answers to life’s questions and engaging in anything that the Catholic church does not agree with is a one way ticket to hell. I actually didn’t truly accept the fact that I was gay and come out of the closet until I was 24. But on some level, I always knew without admitting it to myself.
When I was young, my parents were extremely homophobic. My dad would say things to me and my brothers like “If any of you guys turn out to be gay, you won’t be allowed to live under my roof” or “If any of you ever decide to get married to another guy, I will not be there.” I also remember seeing a feminine, flamboyant guy on tv once and my dad said, “The day you guys act like that is the day I disown you.” These kind of comments sent the message to me that they would not love or support me unconditionally so I thought to myself ‘I better not rely on them too heavily so the day they’re not there for me, I won’t be too disappointed.’ But this completely severed any emotional bond I had with them, especially with my dad. Because of this, growing up I was always missing something and it caused me to be a bit insubordinate.
I recently read a book called ‘Running On Empty’ by Dr. Jonice Webb and this extremely insightful book helped me realized that my dad was a narcissist and an authoritarian. So my insubordination only increased his anger and instead of making an effort to understand why I felt the way I did (however, not even I did at the time), he only made efforts to tighten his control and grasp over me. This was a cycle that lasted for at least a decade.
The lack of an emotional bond with my parents is initially what caused me to develop PTSD, making it terrifying and extremely difficult to be emotionally intimate with others. The fact this went on for so long unresolved is what caused me to develop C-PTSD. I’m very thankful to have come across the therapist that I am currently seeing. Without him, I’d be a lot more lost and scared than I am. I’ve benefitted so much from EMDR just over the past couple months alone. I have hope that I’ll get to a place where I can manage this with support from loved ones and be capable of healthy intimacy.
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