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Understanding CPTSD & Chronic Illness

And the Four Main Areas of Life Affected by Both

When we experience trauma(s) that either happen early on in life, or are very intense, or are prolonged in nature (lasting months or years), we lose our sense of safety within our own bodies. If we have suffered from chronic illness/pain over the years, feeling safe within our own bodies is often even more compromised due to the reality of frequent internal discomfort/pain. This loss of internal safety then causes us to become further and further disconnected from ourselves, others, and the world around us.

This also causes us to struggle to feel our emotions altogether or consistently feeling emotions that feel very stressful, scary, and overwhelming. We may find ourselves feeling either always anxious and triggered in relationships, or pulling away from relationships, or oscillating between the two - thus creating an increased sense of loneliness. We may notice that our thoughts are mostly focused on the past or the future, with not much ability to get out of our minds and into the present moment. We may feel very overwhelmed or stuck/frozen throughout the day, despite everything we've tried to help ourselves feel better.

Image by Hans Isaacson

Four Areas of Life Affected by CPTSD & Chronic Illness

These are all signs of our internal sense of safety being compromised due to the complex trauma we have experienced. If you are experiencing this currently, please know you are not alone and it makes so much sense, as trauma causes our minds/bodies to live mostly in the past or future, without much or any ability to stay present and regulate our systems from this place. This is why somatic (body-based) nervous system work is so essential in complex trauma recovery, because it helps our bodies and minds come back to the present moment, so that we can gently process through the overwhelm of what happened back then (or may still be happening to some degree).

 

And when we start to process the overwhelm of the past in this way, we begin to feel less overwhelm in the present - which then opens up our systems to feel into things like safety, goodness, joy, connection, purpose, passion, excitement, playfulness... and many other emotions that can be so difficult to feel into when there's still a lot of suppressed trauma in our systems. But building our internal sense of safety through regulating our nervous systems is what allows us to start to feel fully connected to ourselves, others, the world, and our lives once again - even with difficult and triggering symptoms present!

And I want you to know that if you can relate to any of the above experiences, this can absolutely shift and change for you, my friend.

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