I Have Complex Childhood Trauma, Now What? || By Annabelle Denmark, MA, LPCC

Your journey to the realization that you have complex childhood trauma

You have been to multiple therapists, working through your anxiety and depression. You still struggle with functioning at work, in your relationships, and in accepting and loving yourself. You feel somehow broken, flawed, or unlovable.

And then one day, some memories start emerging, from times in your childhood when you felt less than, emotionally bullied, or threatened within inches of your life. Or maybe you remember a family member, educator, or friend of the family who did things to you that you have blocked out for many years. Those events happened over time, and because they did, you don’t have a sense of what is normal or not, what feels safe, what feels nurturing or threatening.

Traumatic events versus post traumatic stress

Traumatic events are experiences that happened to you as a child that were unsafe, violent, abusive or neglectful. You had little to no control over those situations, you could not change them or get out of them.

Complex post traumatic stress is the consequence of those experiences and it influences your thoughts, feelings, emotions and behavior on a daily basis. It is complex because it can be difficult to know what was traumatic or not and how to live with it

In relational trauma with others, we turn to others of healing

When you connect the events of your past with the ways that you relate to yourself and to the world, it feels overwhelming, and you think that maybe “this is just the way I am”.

Some may tell you that you have a personality disorder, you may notice parts of yourself feeling numb, or you may feel that you don’t really have a personality. You may experience that your sense of self is divided, or even nonexistent.

You do not quite know how to “be” in this world, so you turn to others to seek validation. In the best case scenario those “others” are supportive and healing, in other cases, you fall back into a traumatic relationship where violence and gaslighting are common currency, but feel familiar. The cycle continues.

In order to start healing from your traumatic experience, I offer you a change of perspective. I invite you to put on your explorer hat and start digging into who you are, how you function and how you can be in charge of your own journey to living life to your full potential. I am offering you 7 tools to get you started.

7 tools to help you on your journey to healing from Complex Trauma.

  1. Start learning YOU. The landscape of your post traumatic experience is wide, nuanced and uniquely yours. Start paying attention to changes in your behavior. Do you feel like hiding or running away? Are you frozen in place? Why?
    Take note of how you feel around others. Notice how you feel : check your heart rate, areas of your body that may feel numb or other areas that may feel tight or raw. Notice when you feel relaxed in comparison to when you don’t. This work of noticing is done moment by moment, daily. You may start seeing a pattern. Write it down in a daily journal
  2. Feel the grief. In trauma, there is loss: Loss of the life you could have had, the person you could have been, the family that could have been there for you. Your grief is as endless and complex as your trauma. Let yourself explore it.
  3. Move slow in your exploration. What took 20+ years to build cannot take a few weeks to heal. Take your time and rest. Take breaks from it, watch funny movies, laugh with friends. Moving between deep exploration of your nervous system and surface-level activities will help you integrate what you learn about yourself.
  4. Find kindness toward yourself. When you start judging yourself for some of the ways you react, look at your child self from your adult eyes and say, “you are scared aren’t you? That’s ok, I understand. We went through a lot”. While taking responsibility for your actions towards others, make sure you notice the scared child in you and acknowledge them.
  5. Surround yourself with people who can listen to you and support you. People who are kind to you. People you can have fun with. People who inspire you. Whether real or imaginary, those people will help you build your strength.
  6. Seek a trauma therapist to work with you through your darkest moments, past and present, and who can help you develop resources to help you throughout the day.
  7. Most importantly, sleep, eat well, drink water, move, and get sunlight. You can’t do any work if you are exhausted, depleted, hangry or dehydrated.

About the author: Annabelle Denmark, MA LPCC is a trauma focused, gender affirming somatic practitioner located in Lakewood, CO. Annabelle sees teens, adults and families. You will find her at www.renegadecounseling.comPlease email her at annabelle@renegadecounseling.com