I Feel Like a Fraud or That My Trauma isn't Severe So I Am a Failure

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So I got diagnosed with PTSD with complex trauma by several therapists due to abandonment, medical treatments, emotional neglect, and inconsistent caretaking. I never knew if my caretakers were going to be nice or mean, if I was going wake up in pain, when/if my physical and emotional needs were going to be met, if people would leave forever from my life and I didn't have any trusted adult to turn to for the first few years of my life. I got adopted into a nice family with a history of trauma. They are quite loving but I never received resources to transition into a whole new environment so all my early trauma got brushed under the rug until 20 years later. I feel like a fraud because it happened so long ago. But it keeps popping up like after my adoptive family broke apart and getting out of a psychologically abusive relationship.

Also, half of my therapists and some people were skeptical of my diagnosis because I didn't have constant recurrent nightmares and I couldn't identify a singular terrifying experience. The thing is that I have had probably close to 25 triggers to varying degrees since I was a little kid and had full-blown 3 hour+ temper tantrums well into my mid-twenties. To protect my psyche, I numbed myself out to oblivion and tried to control my emotional expression.
 

Nuance

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I don't have nightmares. I'm highly functional at work. I have a family. But I also have C-PTSD and deep seated terrors. There were some obvious traumas later in life, but I am certain that the key trauma was emotional neglect. Early neglect can be just as hard a trauma as many more overt traumas.
Thank you! Have you experienced people dismissing your diagnosis just because it didn't seem clear-cut? I have also had other traumatic experiences but nothing to warrant PTSD... it was primarily the early childhood stuff.
 

ladee

MyPTSD Pro
Welcome. You have found a place that most likely, every person here to some degree has mimimized our trauma and felt we were frauds. Or being dramatic. Or attention seeking. Possibly the things you are feeling.

No, your trauma is real. And you deserve to heal and find a better way to be in this world. For you. Not for anyone but you.

I'm sorry for what brought you here, but am very glad you are here. If you are able to read around the forum some without it causing you more distress, you will find you are not alone. We think and feel just like you do.

Glad you are here.
 

Wendell_R

MyPTSD Pro
The person who dismissed the trauma the most was me! I have had therapists earlier in my life who did not recognize that I had PTSD, and there were some lost years there.

I also have a dissociative disorder. Because of my high level of functioning, it took me a long time to accept that. I have had a psychiatrist and his students be dismissive of that diagnosis.
 

Nuance

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The person who dismissed the trauma the most was me! I have had therapists earlier in my life who did not recognize that I had PTSD, and there were some lost years there.

I also have a dissociative disorder. Because of my high level of functioning, it took me a long time to accept that. I have had a psychiatrist and his students be dismissive of that diagnosis.

I feel you on that. I am glad you got help. I mostly diagnosed with depression and adjustment disorder for many years.
 

Nuance

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You know that emotional neglect from caretakers, if severe enough, even if all physical needs met, threaten the development and life of a child, right? It's called failure to thrive.
Well, I will definitely admit that I have struggled with emotional regulation and building healthy attachment and trust all my life because of the emotional neglect.

I also have a disability that significantly limited my physical autonomy during that timeframe (I got a lot more mobile with the right medical care and physical therapy over a few years after that). That probably influenced things too.
 

Nuance

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How is the self talk about your being a fraud serving you?

Such dismissive self talk isn’t something we do for no reason. It brings a maladaptive benefit of sorts, and sometimes we can find a way out of it by finding another way to meet that need.
Thank you. Great question! A few times I tried to open up to people, they dismissed the severity or glossed it over and I felt rejected. The rejection stings, I start to doubt myself, I don't want to deal with my emotions, and then I feel angry.


So a defense mechanism and self-pity if I am trying to be brutally honest?

Ex. 1: my older brother who has combat-related PTSD basically dismissed me by saying little kids don't have deep connections and seemed to always doubt my diagnosis.

Ex. 2: I have had doctors and therapists lump my symptoms as depression and downplay the trauma and disregard the gravity of how the past affected me. Luckily, my current therapist actually runs a network of trauma therapists and specializes in attachment/developmental trauma.

Ex. 3: My friend was going on and on about how his other friend broke her leg and it was hard for her to move and it was cool that both of them have metal in their body and it didn't dawn on him that he was talking to his disabled friend. I also have metal in my body. I made a joke out of it, but it stung a bit deep down.

Ex. 4: With my ex, he frequently talked about his existential issues and how his life was so much worse than mine because I actually had people who cared about me. I really just wanted him to acknowledge my pain. It just got overshadowed by his.

Ex. 5: Most other people say, "Well, you have a good family now and got medical care." My family didn't abuse me but 4/6 got diagnosed with PTSD, the other two have histories of trauma and struggled with depression and both my grandparents were old-school army vets who most likely had undiagnosed PTSD and took their rage out on their families (my adoptive dad regularly had anger outbursts and caused an anxious atmosphere).
 

Justmehere

Moderator
Thank you. Great question! A few times I tried to open up to people, they dismissed the severity or glossed it over and I felt rejected. The rejection stings, I start to doubt myself, I don't want to deal with my emotions, and then I feel angry.
I hear you that rejection hurts. It does. I just had a doctor dismiss a medical symptom that's very real, and another doc confirmed. Ugh. Ouch.

Is there another way to cope with these painful experiences other than minimization?

Supporters for trauma recovery are going to come in different shapes and sizes. Some are going to be able to jump into the trauma with you. These will be less common but they are out there. They generally are going to have pretty good coping skills or self awareness themselves. Not everyone can handle trauma, neglect, clinical diagnostic labels pain for reasons that have nothing to do with you or me or other sufferers, but it is about their own inability to cope with pain. Their struggle doesn't make you lesser. Some supporters are going to be able to touch lightly on it, and be great friends to joke around with and have fun together. Some are going to be good distractions to get out and do things to get away from it all. Different people have varying abilities to be various kinds of supports. It doesn't make them or you lesser of a person. It just is.

Over time, you'll be able to figure out who can be what type of supporter.

It's also important to remember most non-clinical professionals are not going to be able to help sort out a diagnosis. Even here at a peer based forum, it's not our role to issue a confirmation of a clinical diagnosis. We can't diagnose you, and neither can your friends and family. Ultimately, it's going to have to come from your treatment team. PTSD does come with weird stigma at times, and it's going to be a good skill to learn over time who to test the water with and share a little, and who to hold back information from.
Ex. 1: my older brother who has combat-related PTSD basically dismissed me by saying little kids don't have deep connections and seemed to always doubt my diagnosis.
Possible re-frame: This is not likely about you. If your brother accepts YOUR childhood was hard, he may have to wrestle with his as well. Even if this is an older brother from your adoptive family, it sounds like that family fell apart in it's own way, and he's likely got unresolved pain from that himself. In the throws of combat PTSD, that could be really hard/impossible to face right now. He's coping by not diving deep into validating his little sister's pain that he couldn't prevent. He may not be your go-to for addressing trauma. Some PTSD suffers are in a place to do that, some can't. It has nothing to do with your worth. Find the peers ones who can and seek other types of connection with your brother.

Ex. 2: I have had doctors and therapists lump my symptoms as depression and downplay the trauma and disregard the gravity of how the past affected me. Luckily, my current therapist actually runs a network of trauma therapists and specializes in attachment/developmental trauma.
Instead of focusing on those that were not helpful, focus on the one that is helpful. This experience also likely has little to do with you but the general training of the providers you saw. About them, not you. Many people with PTSD went through a few rounds of misdiagnosis. It's painful. Time to start holding on to the truth that varying levels of trauma awareness has more to do with the treatment provider's training and skillset than you. When I seek out counseling, easily 19 out of 20 therapists are not going to be a good fit. It's painful, yes, but I have to work hard to hang on to this truth: it's not a definition of my worth. Same applies for you too, and all the other sufferers who go through hell to find good treatment.

Ex. 3: My friend was going on and on about how his other friend broke her leg and it was hard for her to move and it was cool that both of them have metal in their body and it didn't dawn on him that he was talking to his disabled friend. I also have metal in my body. I made a joke out of it, but it stung a bit deep down.
I have a friend who is blind and one time some others and I complained about the trouble with eye exams. We saw her as a person so much that we forgot about the disability. She gently said, "hey, ya know, let's change the subject. Because yeah, blind girl hear not wanting to hear about eye problems." We all got it and apologized. She made her needs known. I'm disabled too, but with all the crap that people with disabilities get in life, it's not a terrible statement of self worth when people forget I'm disabled.

With your friend, he may have even remembered, and that's why he was talking to you about it.

Even more important is your own response. You dismissed it. Next time, this could be an opportunity to reframe it that it's pretty cool a friend feel safe enough to share pain his with you, and it may be a friend you can share you pain and hurt with as well. i.e. opposite of "I'm a failure" is "I'm a rockin' awesome friend."

Ex. 4: With my ex, he frequently talked about his existential issues and how his life was so much worse than mine because I actually had people who cared about me. I really just wanted him to acknowledge my pain. It just got overshadowed by his.
Possible reframe: Good thing he's an ex so you can find someone who can empathize and be more compassionate. Is this the person who was psychologically abusive? Time to take your power back and no longer pin your self worth on an ex. Dating is about finding the right fit. You have good cause to celebrate you are not with this jerk. You ruled him out as not. the. right. fit. Go you. No reason to get down on yourself.

Looking for personal self worth from an ex-boyfriend is dangerous. Looking for self worth by reflecting on your courage to reach out and get help via a great trauma therapist: far more accurate, truthful and helpful.
Ex. 5: Most other people say, "Well, you have a good family now and got medical care."
It also almost seems like you are trying to fill up a hole of doubt via the opinions of others. It's good to seek the input of others as feedback, but nothing more. It's important to remember your own input on yourself has the most worth.

It also almost seems like you are trying to fill up a hole of doubt via the opinions of others. It's can be healthy to seek wise feedback now and then, but it's important to remember your own input about yourself that has the most worth.
 
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@Justmehere I appreciate your empathetic and tough love response. It really puts a lot of things into perspective. Thanks for pointing out the doubting and self-worth element.

A core part of my trauma was about people doing things "in my best interest" (a lot of it was well-meaning but with little to no emotional support) while dismissing my discomfort and pain (emotional and physical) because elders are to be respected and know best in Korean culture.

Alternatively, when I did assert my needs such as needing to go to the bathroom or help with getting dressed, I was often met with anger, annoyance, or outright dismissed.

I essentially need to work on owning my own value and agency. My therapist pointed out that I wasn't heard when I needed to be most (like many people here) and I accepted my fate at the hands of my caretakers. After awhile, I became scared to ask for help and asserting my needs. I have learned to ask for help more often and need to keep working on acknowledging the value of my own thoughts and feelings.
 
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