Labels and struggling with people knowing

osiris

MyPTSD Pro
It has been a couple of long years of therapy now and I have accepted the whole PTSD diagnosis.
But I can only mention it with T and my other half.

The thought of sharing it with other people - especially my family - makes me want to be sick. So I think I am stuck at this point right now about how to move on and if it is even possible to create a support system.

The PTSD label is far less problematic than the other one I’m really struggling with. CSA. Which I can’t even type out because it makes me panic.

We have skirted around it in therapy and now I’ve talked about it more we are starting to deal with it. T has recommended a book which I have ordered but I am scared of it arriving in the post because of what the cover says. Which feels ridiculous.

I’m not sure what I’m asking, maybe to find out that I’m not alone in feeling this way, or how people have stopped avoiding the shame and overcome it somehow?
 

Sideways

Moderator
how people have stopped avoiding the shame and overcome it somehow?
For me, they're 2 very different things.

I don't tell people about my csa. I don't want to talk about it, they're not qualified to say anything helpful (and may, with the best intentions, say something seriously unhelpful!), and I have a hard time seeing how people knowing would be helpful to me. Because that's always my question to myself when I share personal information: what do I want them to do with this information ?

People knowing about my csa, means when I'm dysregulated, just bumping into them, and having to cope with "this person knows" is ugh! I think that's true about a lot of ptsd-causing trauma though. Anything more than vague references is too much for most interpersonal relationships, and there's nothing especially vague (from my perspective) about "I experienced csa". "I had some trauma in childhood" is vague, but not "and it was csa".

I can definitely negotiate the world disclosing to people that I have a disability; that I have a mental illness; and I have ptsd. Any one or all of those, depending (again) on the context and what I want the person to do with the information.

For example, when I went back to studying post-breakdown, my lecturers knew I had ptsd, and some of the issues that would cause for me completing coursework. So we could work around it.

My classmates knew I had a disability, because their knowing details wasn't necessary, but their understanding why I was being treated differently by the lecturer very definitely helped everyone involved.

For me personally, being comfortable telling people close to me that I have experienced csa doesn't even make the list when it comes to therapy goals. Maybe it will one day, if someone can persuade me how sharing that would be helpful. Intimate relationships are probably the only possible exception that I can think of.

My therapy goals are based on: what causes me distress, or dysfunction? People not knowing stuff that they can't handle, and that I'll never be comfortable talking about, isn't causing me any distress, and isn't (as far as I can tell) interfering with my function.

So, when it comes to disclosure, the big picture is very daunting. If you reduce that big picture to just thinking about who you'd potentially want to tell and why, that might give you a clearer picture about how to move forward...?
 

osiris

MyPTSD Pro
Lots of freaky helpful points there @Sideways thank you.

I think you’re right that it’s two different things. The whole CSA thing is something I seem to be struggling to accept full stop, but it seems to underpin a lot of the craziness I am dealing with.

Just having the book in the house and the thought that my other half might see it is a concern right now.

I think I’m just so tired of hiding the PTSD because I’m so scared of people judging me. So maybe all this is about how do I stop worrying about what other people think of me?
 

Sideways

Moderator
I think I’m just so tired of hiding the PTSD because I’m so scared of people judging me
This isn't going to change quickly. It just isn't. But, unpacking it (because I think there's a lot going on just in this one statement)... Thoughts and feelings, deal with them separately.

Can you reframe this thought: I'm not hiding something personal, I'm keeping a healthy boundary.
Thoughts are something are brain throws at us almost habitually. With practice, we can catch the thoughts when they occur, and set up a different, more helpful neurological pathway (new thoughts that we want our brain to get used to).

The feeling is different. I haven't really come across any therapeutic approach to date that effectively changes uncomfortable or distressing feelings. Feelings are something I've had to learn to live alongside.

So, for the shame associated with the thoughts...geez, search me. Shame is something I've done battle with for years. And I'm not sure if I've really made a lot of headway, or whether I'm just avoiding it.

I guess my approach with the shame monster has been to behave my way out of it. Making choices consistent with "I have value/worth", rather than "I deserve to feel ashamed". I really like ACT's approach here, because it gave me a dummies guide to how to live like I have value (without requiring me to believe I have value!!). That's probably been the best offence I've personally made against Shame.

And interestingly, not telling everyone about my csa? Is consistent with "I have value". Especially when I've reframed my choice (not telling) from "I need to keep this secret" (I actually don't) to "most people aren't entitled to this information about me, or can't handle it in a helpful way".

"I need to keep this secret" = this is something to be ashamed of
v's
"I'm choosing not to tell this person, because that's better for me" = I have value

Hehe, I'm not confident that makes any sense at all!!

ETA
Bleh, not happy with that answer.

Disclosure is an important part of healing. I definitely believe that.

Disclosure with someone trained how to respond can be incredibly powerful, and definitely help alleviate the shame. Because they'll validate both how your feeling, and all the suffering that's gone before.

Disclosure to people without that training, because "this is so yuck and I'm sick of keeping it secret" is an emotional decision. It's like passing a hot potato, because it's making you feel yuck, to someone that isn't going to necessarily know what to do with that. And actually, passing it doesn't make the yuck go away (certainly hasn't for me). So, you end up still feeling yuck, but now it's all "out there".

Which makes it murkier. I'll have to sleep on it, Osi. By tomorrow I may have changes my mind about it all!
 
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Warrior Chicken

MyPTSD Pro
The situation with the book, been there! On both counts. Wanted to control how it would show up - will the title be visible for the world to see, what if they deliver to the wrong address and a neighbour sees, what if I’m not there to receive it and my other half opens it, blah blah….you know.

It arrived in an opaque bag and no title was anywhere to be seen.

Even though my other half knows about the ptsd, doesn’t have an issue that I work on myself and encourages it - I still feel I need to hide, stay invisible, don’t show weakness/vulnerability, yeah?

For months I hid the book, would read it like I was eating chocolate cake after midnight with fear of turning into a gremlin. Then, I took a leap. I left it out. Nothing bad happened.

Now I still have moments where I hide it at home, or won’t read it in front of H. But the practice of leaving it out is actually progress in the direction of acceptance.

You’ll find your way as well.

There are some books I would like to read but won’t buy to have in print form. I’ve purchased them as E-books or pdfs and do my best to keep all my accounts encrypted and secure.

@Sideways thanks for your comments on this topic. I found them very helpful and will be thinking on what you wrote.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
"I need to keep this secret" = this is something to be ashamed of
v's
"I'm choosing not to tell this person, because that's better for me" = I have value
I like this reframe.

I'm in this "should I tell family members or not" thing too. Understanding the motivation behind wanting to and not wanting to is helpful. I want to tell my parents because I'm still hoping they will magically turn in to the parents I want them to be (not realistic reason to tell) Or' behave so appallingly that I finally have what I definitely can make a 'no contact' decision with them from. (Bad reason to tell)
But, I recently told my parents I had a new job, and their reaction (no congrats or anything positive or relatively 'normal') reminded me: I should never tell them. (Sensible and healthy reason not to tell).

So I think there is also:
The motivation and need to tell
Versus the
Is it helpful to tell
Like @Sideways said.

Family is tricky. I'm currently working through the fact that I might never tell my parents because their reaction is likely to be poor and I can't/don't want to handle that.

There is also the level of detail to go into.
I have told friends. It's hard for me to remember what I have said at times as it's painful and my mind makes me forget conversations. But they don't know details, just an outline. And different friends have different levels of outlines.
No one but T knows details. My partner knows some details but it upsets her so I keep an outline for her now too.

I have found telling friends healing. As they are wonderful friends and their responses are full of compassion and care. So that has been helpful. Validating. And they believe me.

Whatever you decide, it's ok.
And it's ok to go slow with it.
I find practising with T is helpful. Telling her first before anyone. Then working out with her how these conversations can go.
 

Friday

Moderator
My family doesn’t know.
Most of my friends/acquaintances don’t know.

It’s not about shame. It’s about practicality.

No good would come from my family knowing I have PTSD, and a great deal of harm -to them- would be likely to follow sharing my trauma history with them, as would damage to our relationship(s).

With friends/acquaintances it’s just mostly a non-issue. Shrug. Either they’re fundamentally okay with the way my symptoms impact our relationship, or they’re not.

I have ADHD, which tends to impact my relationships faaaaar more than my PTSD, and have learnt that explaining my behaviors to people? Is wasted effort. If they’re not okay with those behaviors to begin with? They’re not going to magically become okay with them, now that they know their source. The opposite. Either they’ll feel guilty and keep “forgiving” things they hate, until it all blows up; or they feel entitled explain everything through an ADHD lens (regardless of how little ADHD is involved) & equally entitled to demand/insist upon my taking a course of action to become a person they don’t despise. It’s keeeee-razy making, because most of my friends/acquaintances are a) either not bothered, or even delight, in those exact same things, b) take me at my word that XYZ is in play so I can’t ABC, instead of deciding what’s “really” happening is this whole other thing. <<< You see all of this over in the supporters section with PTSD (the guilt that drives people to stay &/or put up with behaviors they never would until it blows up, the making excuses “it’s not him, not the real him”, blaming everything on PTSD, and the terrible insistence that the parts they don’t like “will” change >>> It’s just a very human thing / series of things to do once they have a “reason”. They turn off their ability to actually reason & make decisions on what’s happening, in favor for what they imagine could happen. It’s not an unfounded mindset when someone is pregnant, or has cancer, or is grieving/injured/ill/etc.; most relatively temporary things get a lot of mental/emotional slack cut, on the premise that this is temporary and WILL be changjng, soon.

To be fair, for many people with PTSD, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. For a few months following trauma their life goes sideways, and then rights itself. That doesn’t happen to be the type of PTSD I live with, so that kind of temporary allowance isn’t what I need in my relationships.
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
how people have stopped avoiding the shame and overcome it somehow?

For me, they're 2 very different things.

i'll second the notion that the shame and overcoming the trauma are 2 very different things. shame is only one of the many tools my abusers used to train me to the secret keeping which allowed them to continue feeding their perversions. the secrecy codes which allow child abuse to thrive are brutally hammered into the very foundation of our lives. unlearning those secrecy codes is no small feat.

as for whom i discuss the gory details of my ptsd, i neither guard the secrets of my abusers, nor wear it on my forehead.
 

DharmaGirl

MyPTSD Pro
People not knowing stuff that they can't handle, and that I'll never be comfortable talking about, isn't causing me any distress, and isn't (as far as I can tell) interfering with my function
This has been my rule since diagnosis. I tell people I have PTSD when needed but I don't disclose my trauma in the real world. There is no reason to outside therapy in my opinion. It would overwhelm people and not produce any good results. As far as the shame goes, it slowly dissipated during my first 4 years of therapy.
 
Echoing others, most people don't know.

In order of distance: A few close friends know that things were complicated until a certain age, and I'm not a fan of my biofamily. Two friends know I have PTSD. My partner know some of my triggers and could probably guess some basic facts about my trauma on that basis, but also knows not to ask me.

I got my diagnosis in college because it was heavily impacting my ability to function. I needed a diagnosis and a letter to disability services in order to get modifications, flexible deadlines, etc. So, again, in order of distance: Disability services knew I had PTSD. The professors generally only knew I had a "chronic, episodic condition" (something that would flare up unexpectedly and that wasn't going to go away in the foreseeable future). Two professors - one with an extensive trauma history of their own, one who was just bloody perceptive - knew I had PTSD from something that lasted a long time. My current job knows nothing.
 
Echoing everyone else's thoughts that no one HAS to know. This is a really tough situation because almost all of us end up telling people who really shouldn't know - they throw it back in our faces, make horrible remarks, tell others, etc.

Figuring out who is safe to tell is, very unfortunately, a learning experience.

It's possible that you should listen to your sense of dread around telling your family.
 

Starfire

Confident
It has been a couple of long years of therapy now and I have accepted the whole PTSD diagnosis.
But I can only mention it with T and my other half.

The thought of sharing it with other people - especially my family - makes me want to be sick. So I think I am stuck at this point right now about how to move on and if it is even possible to create a support system.

The PTSD label is far less problematic than the other one I’m really struggling with. CSA. Which I can’t even type out because it makes me panic.

We have skirted around it in therapy and now I’ve talked about it more we are starting to deal with it. T has recommended a book which I have ordered but I am scared of it arriving in the post because of what the cover says. Which feels ridiculous.

I’m not sure what I’m asking, maybe to find out that I’m not alone in feeling this way, or how people have stopped avoiding the shame and overcome it somehow?
Know I'm probably in the minority but I go on a need to know prerequisite. Perhaps cuz I have seen it used against people. For me it has nothing to do with shame. It's my private business. The world does not need to know. Unless it affects my job, neither does my boss. Same with acquaintances. My support system, whose help I depend on, need to understand.

I support a csa organization. Every time a donation request arrives in the mail, my stomach churns. Have to remind myself the postman didn't care what it was. Neither did the Post office or the entire US government! But it takes a few moments.

The hardest, at times I thought impossible, task was me overcoming the shame my abusers taught me about myself.
I don't *avoid* the shame. I put the shame back where it belongs...on the abusers. Where it rightfully belongs. But that took a long time to understand and longer to activate. Hang in there. You are not alone.
 
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