Don’t “should” a CPTSD survivor

It kills us

A strong lesson I’ve learned is to not should a CPTSD survivor on how to be healthy. For example:

“Get eight hours a sleep at night.”

“Eat three, healthy meals a day.”

“Exercise three times a week.”

“Meditate often.”

“Journal. Journal helps everything.”

“Spend time outdoors every day.”

And so on and so on.

Cause you know what happens?

That’s me, in a CPTSD flare up. I look lost, torn, shamed, pained, and spiralling in mental gymnastics.

We fixate on this, hoping with utter desperation, we will finally be fixed of our suffering.

And when something fails? Or doesn’t work as expected?

We spiral further into the abyss of CPTSD. It’s like being thrown out the spaceship door with a spacesuit on, knowing that in time, air will run out, and we will die alone in horrific suffocation.

But we were given a suit, right? We were given ways to be healthy, right?

People with CPTSD have this diagnosis because our sense of self and regulation are fucked up. I mean, really fucked up. During a great deal of our lives, we were shredded apart from our own bodily instincts to be molded into a “should” way of living. This could be anything from “how to be a proper and quiet child” to “this is the way to enlightenment and success.”

We have no identity. We have no clue who we are, what we need, what we desire, and how to just be with our bodies thoughts, emotions, and sensations.

It is very common for us to ruminate extensively on whether this is the right thought to have. Or to bounce between fear and grief of being simply irritated at a cramping stomach. Or to dissociate because we are petrified that our tingling arms means we are getting really sick, like MS sick. These are a few examples of my personal problems. Every CPTSD survivor will have a trunk filled of their own.

So telling us more rules and expectations of what we have to do to be healthy is adding pressure cookers on top of pressure cookers.

We already feel like we are going to explode. We don’t need more suggestions.

Our ways of functioning are different

Especially cause, and this is important, we aren’t likely to fit those demands in the way “normal” people would. We are already far outside the box of “normal health.” We have different needs, wants, and goals.

Our sleep schedule is not about how much and when. It’s about actually feeling restful enough to drift in any way our bodies need at that moment in time.

Our diet is not about what foods to eat but how to recognize real hunger from triggers or enjoying the taste of food and how it fuels us.

Our exercise is not about being active because we are ducking exhausted. It’s about tuning into how our body wants to move (small or big) at any given moment and how to give it that nourishment of feeling alive rather than trapped.

Don’t tell us how to be healthy or how to heal like it’s a 10 step program. As soon as we hear “should”, we will constrict like a rope around our neck except everywhere in our body and our mind will seek the nearest exit from you.

The antidote to should

For all CPTSD survivors, I’ve found the antidote to “should” is “just feel,” “what is,” “what else is true, “externalize,” “what feels good,” and “what do I want?”

  • Just feel the moment as best you can.
  • Sit in the truth of what is instead of what if.
  • What else is true about this experience along with the uncomfortable part?
  • Externalize. Get into your senses of the environment. Turn your self critic/anger/worry/etc elsewhere. Somewhere outside of yourself. You don’t have to act on it. Just throw that energy outside of yourself for awhile.
  • What feels good? Even just a little bit. Lean into that.
  • What do you really want in this very moment? Then do it.

And then for any moment, however brief, you feel more while, peaceful, present, and free to be, embrace and celebrate the ever loving shit out of it. For real. Make the experience as big as the suffering. You deserve it.

You know what else? I think every person should (ha! I said should!) stop listening to the “should” of health. It takes away from our instincts of what we need as individuals. It traumatizes everyone to not be in tune with our own bodies needs and wants, instead following some orders from someone else.

So, we CPTSD survivors have a leg up here.

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