Lori grew up with nice clothes, in a beautiful home and had all of her physical needs met. When Lori was a small child, she was told repeatedly by her parents that she was stupid and that she would never amount to much. She was neglected, shouted at and devalued to the point where she felt worthless. She tried to tell herself that she was worthwhile, but she couldn’t feel it. It was as if her body didn’t believe the logic.
Lori was currently living off of a trust fund that her parents had set up for her. Her friends didn’t understand why Lori would have severe anxiety and panic every time her parents called. They would tell her, “To just get over it,” or “The abuse happened in the past, and now you never have to work again.” Lori felt like she couldn’t speak to her friends about her anxiety or about the abuse she had gone through because she didn’t struggle financially as her friends did. A part of her felt like she didn’t deserve to feel happy. Another part of her was in complete terror whenever her mom called or was around.
Sometimes when abuse happens repeatedly, a false belief of worthlessness and unlovability is created. Even as adults, they can look back on their childhood and understand that the abuse was in the past, even if it still feels real in the present. As much as the mind might tell the abused that they are safe now, their nervous system is wired to be hypervigilant to keep them safe. People might go into fight, flight, freeze or fawn mode when they are neglected or abused. When abuse happens repeatedly, the body becomes wired to act to survive, even in times of safety.
Complex trauma can feel like being stuck in a dark cave, without a light to see you through to the exit. Sometimes the abuser becomes a part of how you think and view yourself. It is essential to speak to yourself the way that you would someone you love and care about. This requires thinking about thinking and being aware of the way you put yourself down in your mind. Inner resources, such as being able to nurture and protect yourself, can help you to feel centred and calm. It is a good idea to reach out to a professional if you are struggling with anxiety, depression, maintaining relationships, having flashbacks, nightmares or feel avoidant.
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