Turning Trauma Into Strength: Living With Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Guest Blog by Sofia A Poetry

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I have the utmost sympathy for those living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). Whilst it can come through during and after varying experiences, mine was derived from childhood trauma and several instances of severe sexual assault. Something I would not wish on any human being. What became of this was a realisation in therapy that something was very wrong - my lack of self worth and purpose, my need to escape through substance and alcohol abuse, and the conviction of the narrative ‘things won’t ever get better’ had led me in to an incredibly unhappy place in my existence and life - affecting my ability to love myself and those around me. 


The diagnosis itself came with a mix of emotions. A sense of relief that I had something I could seek to understand and connect with my symptoms, yet a sense of frustration that I had been given a label to which I’d learn to live with - perhaps an anger towards what had happened to me. Shortly after the diagnosis, I was recommended medication for the insomnia which had been an effect of the complex trauma I'd experienced, and sertraline to manage my day to day serotonin (our happiness hormone). 


Steps to Recovery 

I wasn’t sure how to approach it - I don’t think anyone ever truly is. The symptoms are difficult to live with, and the way in which it appears in my life can make simple tasks a struggle. So, I started with my health. What was I doing at that moment in time that was stopping me from getting to a better place? From sleeping to eating, I wanted to understand the basics of human happiness to start my path to a better place. I wasn’t sure what was on the other side, but I knew change was necessary. 

My recovery and healing process is made up of tiny moments. And I think that’s important to accept is that healing is made up of life changing learnings, actions, conversations and reflections. With this, you find out what makes you whole again. Whether that’s hobbies, music, art, friends, journaling - express the authentic you - don’t second guess it. Some elements will work, some will change the way you think and some will help you get through the difficult days in ways you might not expect. Let it happen, go with it, and again - don’t second guess yourself. You are in an opportunistic moment of exploring the wonderful you - how exciting! 


Current Day  

There is no such thing as perfection - for anyone - regardless of you, your life’s path, your history and experiences. We are simply beings on this earth trying to live for the now with all that life throws at us. With that said, the steps that I’ve taken to both understand and live with CPTSD have changed the trajectory, leading me to one of my newfound inspirational phrases - Post Traumatic Growth. The idea that your difficulties can in fact lead to a better life, to a growth and deep work you might not have had beforehand.  

One substantial part of my journey has been helping others. A way in which I have expressed my emotions since my diagnosis has been through writing. The lessons learnt and the trials I’ve faced were written in poetry during my darkest hours, which eventually led to me realising they could be something to help others - which they have - all over the world. My first book - The Little Book of Recovery - has given me a purpose which I never realised I needed, the ability to share my story with others, in an ode,  to show them that they are stronger and more capable than they could ever realise. And, I want you who are reading this blog to know that too! Everything you need is already in place. Reach out, talk, share - and know that we are all in this together. 

For now - I have recently finished Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, and some talking therapy/counselling - which has been monumental in helping me to continue my work for inner peace.  


Final Words of Encouragement 

If I could give one piece of advice to anyone struggling at this current moment, it would be that the foundation of all that we do is situated in our belief of it. From the love you have for yourself, the hobbies you want to try, the fact that tomorrow will be better, that it’s okay to be upset, to have bad days, to take some time to rest, each and every thought that passes by is separate from our belief systems - and you have everything within you that you need to be able to change the way you think. To rewire your self love, to reconnect with your inner child, to find yourself again - it’s all within you.  

Life is full of ups and downs, and you’ll experience difficult days and struggles - but the resilience you have with what you’ve been given, will make you unstoppable. I promise.  


About the Author 

Sophie is the face behind Sofia A Poetry. Sophie began writing poetry during a recovery period of addiction and severe trauma. Sophie's first book was written over the course of a year, during her darkest times in an ode to help write self help advice on how to move forward and keep going through adversity. Where initially the poetry was written during all times of the night where Sophie was suffering and the words were there to give her strength - she soon realised what she could do for others. Collating notes and poems written, 'The Little Book of Recovery' was born. 

You can find out more about Sofia A Poetry and purchase her books and art from her website https://www.sofiaapoetry.com 

Written June 2024 for Iron Mill College

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