A liberating diagnosis: C-PTSD

A C-PTSD diagnosis is a relief, as it explains so much – just like when adults get diagnosed with autism – but it is also not like an illness that can be cured. I’ve been receiving therapy for just four weeks now via a weekly video counselling call and it’s going well but it is very tough at times.

C-PTSD stands for Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The C refers to multiple and sometimes repeated traumas over a very long period of time. In my case, half a century. Abuses can be sexual, emotional, environmental, bullying, gaslighting and more. One of the major red flags for a C-PTSD diagnosis is the development of fibromyalgia, which I was diagnosed with in 2013. But, NHS doctors generally know nothing about fibro and even less about identifying C-PTSD symptoms.

I should add, though, you don’t need to suffer fibromyalgia to have C-PTSD. But your chances of developing fibromyalgia are much increased if you have C-PTSD. And I’ve likely had C-PTSD for most of my adult life and quite a bit of my childhood as well.

There are medications but I’m extremely hesitant to consider them, as I prefer to fight rather than suppress negative thoughts and emotions, chronic fatigue, anxiety and panic attacks (just a few of the possible symptoms). I am working hard to change my approach to life. I will succeed because I am, at heart, strong, stubborn and determined. Self-knowledge and care are the best tools, along with talking therapies and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) .

Mental health has such a shaming stigma around it, yet so many people are breaking under lockdown and, when it ends, that sector of the NHS remains chronically underfunded and of no interest to this government. They will not find the help they need when they emerge from the prisons we all willingly entered for the sake of community health. The cost to the nation’s mental health of the virus and response to it has been largely ignored; there’s no profit in the rich giving a damn about suffering and distress. People – possibly tens of thousands – are going to need help or the cost to society will be measured in misery, not money.

Perhaps because of my diagnosis and the fact that I’ve got help – it took a long time to get noticed, years, despite talking truthfully to many GPs who just wanted to diagnose antidepressants and send me away from their surgeries after five minutes – I am feeling strong and capable. This is not just down to me and the professional help I’m getting at last but very much thanks to my chosen family, not least of all my LGBTQ community and other friends I can trust. Thank you to them all. I have brothers and sisters worth my love and time now.

I refuse to be stigmatised and marginalised, so am going to be out about living with C-PTSD as I am with my fibromyalgia. This will allow me to see who is worth my time and emotional investment. Jerks, bigots, fools and toxic personalities are most definitely NOT acceptable in my life end will be shunned when identified without guilt or upset on my part.

It is never too late to find out who you are, to embrace everything about yourself, and to celebrate being a broken but beautiful person on the path to healing.

I own me. Nobody else ever will.

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