Trauma and isolation

So the result is that very early on I learned to just shut up about my traumas and deal with them as best I could.

So not only did I feel isolated because of the variety of my coping strategies but also isolated because I couldn't really share.

And yes I know I can share with my therapist, which I'm now doing after suffering for a long time while PTSD was slowly getting discovered by science, but it's not the same as sharing with friends, relatives or other people close to me. And that for me is an isolation from which I definitively suffer.

So again, wondering if that's also true for others.

@airdog In regards to what 'might be' related to my yet unknown PTSD trauma source, eight of my family members had briefly mentioned having a somewhat similar experience to my own. So then perhaps, this must be a fairly common human experience. My family seems to have coped with it reasonably well. Me, I'm not so sure.

No one apparently doubted the others experience. Everyone's tone was dead serious and extremely wide-eyed as, they hesitantly spoke only a few words. These weren't exactly conversations either, as everyone just wanted to quickly change the subject. Nor did anyone ever provide nor receive a supportive hug, not to my awareness. For whatever reason -- call these imaginary if you like -- they are extremely isolating experiences.

As for my causal friends, most might view their lunch menu as being more important. They aren't being insensitive just unaware. In the past, writing my thoughts down has seemed to help.
 

airdog

Learning
@spinningmytires that's a lot of people in the same family...

And you're right, trauma is a common experience, so common in fact that everybody who lived more than a few years (and even then coming out of the womb is a trauma, so our life begins with trauma) has experienced trauma in one form or another.

But for a variety of reasons (intensity of trauma, the impression it makes on the person being traumatized, the emotional stability of that person,etc.) some traumatic experiences "breaks" something in the affected person whereas another person being submitted at the same time to the same "trauma" would not be "broken".

But when you say "everyone just wanted to quickly to change the subject" it is apparently a common response both on the individual and the social levels to try to sweep it under the carpet as fast as possible. This has been documented by many authors on the subject. And this sweeping under the carpet leads to further isolation and alienation of victims.

@Rani G I wanted to thank you for mentioning the work of Ellert Nijenhuis as I didn't know it before.

I must admit (having read a few chapters) that his writings are not for the faint of heart and although I'm familiar with Spinoza's work I'm not yet very convinced that developing a therapeutic approach on the basis of philosophical work (although he seems to deny that it nevertheless seems to me to be the case) is the best way to go.

But it's early days and I'll go on reading his book.

Thanks again
 
But when you say "everyone just wanted to quickly to change the subject" it is apparently a common response both on the individual and the social levels to try to sweep it under the carpet as fast as possible. This has been documented by many authors on the subject. And this sweeping under the carpet leads to further isolation and alienation of victims.

@airdog I don't think that anyone was trying to sweep anything under the carpet when they wanted to change the subject quickly. If this action have been the basis of a denial, I think, it could have been a denial of victimization though, no one within my family had ever suggested that they'd been victimized. I don't think we were trying to hide anything from each other but rather, more likely from ourselves.

Confused as to what was actually being experienced as, there had been no logical explanation. Frightened and concerned for our own safety, yes, at least once. Having to realize our sense of helplessness, yes, at least in my experience. Both my sister and brother had once expressed a concern for their safety. And then our aloneness and feelings of isolation as, we were usually alone during these experiences.

Simply put these experiences have pushed us outside our comfort zone. Once outside our comfort zone can this be easily recovered. For the 'unbroken' perhaps. And as you've mentioned, this might depend on a number of factors and vulnerabilities within the individual.
 

Vince1978

New Here
Hello, I’ve only just joined because I feel painfully lonely living with the after effects of a traumatic childhood. Nobody gets it besides my therapist because I cannot even put into words how I suffered and how it affects me now to anyone. I tell a few things here and there to try to help people understand but the neglect I suffered was a long story and it’s very hard to describe how much neglect hurts. I feel lonely nearly all the time. So lonely it takes on physical pain. It makes it very hard for me to date because I have to put a mask on to hide the pain of my loneliness. People are afraid of lonely people aren’t they? Then because of my lonely heart I have too much attention to give which in turn pushes the person away from me. It’s just a horrible painful cycle and I don’t quite know what to do about it. I can’t seem to rid of the pain. Still there is so much to say and thank you for letting me share.
 
Hello, I’ve only just joined because I feel painfully lonely living with the after effects of a traumatic childhood. Nobody gets it besides my therapist because I cannot even put into words how I suffered and how it affects me now to anyone. I tell a few things here and there to try to help people understand but the neglect I suffered was a long story and it’s very hard to describe how much neglect hurts. I feel lonely nearly all the time. So lonely it takes on physical pain. It makes it very hard for me to date because I have to put a mask on to hide the pain of my loneliness. People are afraid of lonely people aren’t they? Then because of my lonely heart I have too much attention to give which in turn pushes the person away from me. It’s just a horrible painful cycle and I don’t quite know what to do about it. I can’t seem to rid of the pain. Still there is so much to say and thank you for letting me share.

@Vince1978 Welcome to the forum. I am sure that you will find many others here, who also feel your pain of childhood abuse and your current loneliness. You are certainly not alone with these painful feelings ...not here.
 

Friday

Moderator
Sometimes -rarely ;) It’s a freaking diagnostic manual, after all- I really miss the DSM-IV. Because it had such lightning up the spine moments of phrasing.

Take CriterionC for example: (copied only in part, as it directly relates to this discussion; there’s more to it)
  • Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities.
  • Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others.
  • Restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings).
  • Sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span).
Versus?

Negative alterations in cognitions.

Blink. Blink. Seeeeeeeriously??? :bored: Okay. Sure. All of the first set (as well as many other points in the same list I didn’t cut/paste) are neatly wrapped up and tied with a bow in those 4 little words. Which is the justification for changing the wording in the DSM. And it’s a diagnostic manual, not a treatment manual. So it’s not written for US, in the first place; nor meant to be complete, anyhow. Those 4 points? Still exist within the disorder, they’re just in the Handbook of PTSD, Second Edition: Science and Practice the all-about PTSD & treatment manual (702 pages), instead of the diagnostic manual (super short blurb of a few paragraphs, that fits neatly on a single page with room to spare).

So it’s one of those things that’s helpful to me, to remember, that feeling isolated? Is actually a freaking symptom OF this durn disorder, as well as the end result of several different symptoms holding hands and singing koombymotherf*ckingyah. :facepalm:

Because symptoms? Can be messed around with. Poked with a stick, beaten back with a stick, drop kicked completely outta my life. As opposed to simply being a foregone conclusion & unalterable state of affairs.
 

CoryS

New Here
I was wondering how many of you found that, on top of suffering from the various physical and psychological consequences of trauma, there's another layer added to this: the isolation caused by not really being able to share the trauma with others.

Because let's face it, trauma by it's very nature is exceptional, not because from a global perspective it doesn't happen often but because normally it doesn't happen in most people's life.

The consequence is that if you try to share it with others they don't really understand what you're talking about and, if you're like me, their reaction is looking at you as if you're dropping down from the moon and later with that glaze in their eyes as if you're trying to make them understand the intricate details of nuclear physics.
And, again for me at least, I'm pretty sure some of them considered me as an outright liar (and I can understand as my experiences were so much outside what was normal for them).

So the result is that very early on I learned to just shut up about my traumas and deal with them as best I could.

So not only did I feel isolated because of the variety of my coping strategies but also isolated because I couldn't really share.

And yes I know I can share with my therapist, which I'm now doing after suffering for a long time while PTSD was slowly getting discovered by science, but it's not the same as sharing with friends, relatives or other people close to me. And that for me is an isolation from which I definitively suffer.

So again, wondering if that's also true for others.


This is true for me as well. Close members of my family know that I have PTSD but they have not asked, and I have not offered to explain why. Close friends know some of the events and my husband and therapist know the most. But the truth is that I've not shared the full extent of my experiences with anyone. One important thing to know is that PTSD is very under-diagnosed and so some people might react negatively to someone sharing their experience because it challenges them personally. Other people get overwhelmed by simply not knowing how to respond or to help. Reaching out to people when I'm vulnerable usually doesn't go very well because I'm more sensitive and take small signs of rejection very hard. That's why boards like this are so great because we actually all do get it! So when I'm not very well, I reach out to the very few I feel comfortable with. When I'm better I've been practicing just sharing my diagnosis if it somehow comes up in conversation. I do it matter of factly and without shame. I like to think this small act just normalizes that there are people in the world who function and get by and have still have real struggles. It also often prompts others to share their own experience, creating that little bud of possibility of future connection to that person as well. It is horribly lonely at times but you are truly not alone.
 
I but it's not the same as sharing with friends, relatives or other people close to me. And that for me is an isolation from which I definitively suffer.

So again, wondering if that's also true for others.

In regards to my CSA, family secrets, their silence and isolation. I only began to realize my CSA after 4 years of therapy. I was living in denial until age 24. When I then first mentioned my CSA to my mother, she tried to explain that, my father has only been sleep-walking in the nude that afternoon. No, she knew when I was age 4. She remembered the exact same incident, yet, never helped me. This greatly angered my T.

My father on the other hand, hadn't the emotional maturity to setup proper boundaries. He couldn't help himself. He was secretive much of time, emotionally aloof and he hadn't been touching me. He did know that his wife knew (later I realized this) and when she would sometimes stare at him, intensely, I could observe him blushing and rubbing his forehand -- perhaps, in his effort to block his painful feelings of guilt and shame from entering his consciousness. He was very much alone and suffering.

My younger sister also knew during her early teens, as she later told me. I don't know about my brother as we rarely spoke. Yet none of them never mentioned this childhood abuse to me. Perhaps they thought I also knew and was only being tolerate of my father's behavior -- why certainly, beginning at age 4.

So my family members also had their own reasons for maintaining this isolation.
 

ready2moveon

Not Active
I was wondering how many of you found that, on top of suffering from the various physical and psychological consequences of trauma, there's another layer added to this: the isolation caused by not really being able to share the trauma with others.

Because let's face it, trauma by it's very nature is exceptional, not because from a global perspective it doesn't happen often but because normally it doesn't happen in most people's life.

The consequence is that if you try to share it with others they don't really understand what you're talking about and, if you're like me, their reaction is looking at you as if you're dropping down from the moon and later with that glaze in their eyes as if you're trying to make them understand the intricate details of nuclear physics.
And, again for me at least, I'm pretty sure some of them considered me as an outright liar (and I can understand as my experiences were so much outside what was normal for them).

So the result is that very early on I learned to just shut up about my traumas and deal with them as best I could.

So not only did I feel isolated because of the variety of my coping strategies but also isolated because I couldn't really share.

And yes I know I can share with my therapist, which I'm now doing after suffering for a long time while PTSD was slowly getting discovered by science, but it's not the same as sharing with friends, relatives or other people close to me. And that for me is an isolation from which I definitively suffer.

So again, wondering if that's also true for others.

This is EXACTLY what I have been experiencing! The isolation is intense. And I know exactly what you mean by the blank stares and suspecting some think you are lying. Much (but not all) of my trauma stems from living on the streets as a teenager. I wish so badly that there were people I could reach out to that have experienced this. However I Iive in Montana now in an increasingly upscale town. I would be have more luck finding people that were on the row team in high school..

Finally I have decided I am going to try writing a memoir. I figure those closest to me can choose to read it if they like. Nobody will ever truely understand but a least they will know where I am coming from.

I just started and it is difficult but I already see that through this process I think I am going to be able to fit my fragmented memories into a better chronology than my current memory of the events of my life.
 
I was wondering how many of you found that, on top of suffering from the various physical and psychological consequences of trauma, there's another layer added to this: the isolation caused by not really being able to share the trauma with others.

Because let's face it, trauma by it's very nature is exceptional, not because from a global perspective it doesn't happen often but because normally it doesn't happen in most people's life.

The consequence is that if you try to share it with others they don't really understand what you're talking about and, if you're like me, their reaction is looking at you as if you're dropping down from the moon and later with that glaze in their eyes as if you're trying to make them understand the intricate details of nuclear physics.
And, again for me at least, I'm pretty sure some of them considered me as an outright liar (and I can understand as my experiences were so much outside what was normal for them).

So the result is that very early on I learned to just shut up about my traumas and deal with them as best I could.

So not only did I feel isolated because of the variety of my coping strategies but also isolated because I couldn't really share.

And yes I know I can share with my therapist, which I'm now doing after suffering for a long time while PTSD was slowly getting discovered by science, but it's not the same as sharing with friends, relatives or other people close to me. And that for me is an isolation from which I definitively suffer.

So again, wondering if that's also true for others.
@airdog

Possibly adding another aspect to the sufferer's trauma and isolation could be that their friends and family might be withholding other personal information from them, as these friends and family members might fear their wrongdoings could be shared with the therapist.

This withholding of family information has likely happened to me numerous times where only years later, I would be informed about someone's drunk-driving near fatality, financial fraud, drug-addiction, infidelity, divorce, private marriage, miscarriage, domestic violence and even a cancer diagnosis that was withheld from me until they knew they could no longer conceal their cancer treatment. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Cousins had been hospitalized while I suspected that all was well. Then several weeks or days later I'd receive a phone call telling me that they died a few hours ago. What is a relationship when family doesn't share. Perhaps such secrecy becomes the norm when abusive behaviors are involved.

I wasn't even told that my mother's younger sister was actually my half-sister, not until I was 18. She knew, everyone seemed to know except for my younger sister and I. And not until age 35 was I told that I'd been critically ill with whooping cough at 6 weeks of age and not expected to survive nor that I wasn't crying as an infant …nor that my 5th grade teacher has told my mother that she suspected I was LD. And then nothing was ever, ever mentioned about my father's childhood sexual abuse towards me. Yet some of this personal information might have helped me to better understand my own issues.

Of course some of these issues weren't my business either though other family members did know. Yet there's a downside to all of this withholding of information in that, I was then unable to provide any support to those who were suffering at that time which might have helped to deepen my relationship with them. Then too this withholding of information has causes me to wonder what else might be hidden from me which doesn't help me to build trust. This too only isolates those who suffer alone, like myself.

I've always been extremely careful not to mention my therapist's criticisms or opinions about my family to my family. This can be very tempting to do during an argument while my family probably thought I was only repeating my therapist's opinions rather than my own. It's also quite possible that the sufferer's family doesn't really want to see them change for the better. Any change within the family structure can be stressful for everyone involved. Then too, as I'd become better skills at countering their gas-lighting attempts they'd only grow more angry when realizing they were losing control over me.

Case in point -- once I had merely mentioned my therapy to my half-sister and a dinner plate then nearly went flying across the kitchen. She had been placing dishes into her dishwasher at that time when our conversation abruptly went something like this -- She interrupted me to say, 'You know. You start every sentence with the word 'I' …You are so self-centered.' So I replied, ' I'd learned in therapy to begin my sentences with 'I think or I feel' as to begin a sentence with the word 'you' can often be viewed as insinuating. Therapy has been very helpful for me.' Then she said as I distinctly recall, " Don't you think you've had enough therapy?" as she then lifted a dinner plate up over her shoulder as if to throw it but only to suddenly restrain herself. Yep I hit a nerve!
 

lil_fighter

Confident
@airdog I can relate to this absolutely and I have learnt to filter myself when speaking to certain people - this is a double edged sword in a way because speaking up and expressing how I feel is so important after feeling silenced for years about the trauma, finding my voice was a big part of my journey to recovery (which is ongoing). Initially I didn't tell anyone outside of my mother, my partner and my therapist (about the trauma itself) and over time I was able to tell my father and two close friends. Telling people that I experienced something traumatic is one thing but trying to tell them about the PTSD is another. Telling people about PTSD when they are not trauma informed and have little to no understanding of it, is like speaking a foreign language. I don't expect them to understand but I have definitely learnt not to make myself vulnerable by trying to explain, just in case I am on the receiving end of tactless, insensitive comments. My closest friend is trauma informed and has PTSD herself, she gets it and is probably the only person I know (apart from my therapist) who really does. When you find those people who do get it, it is such a great thing - to be understood.

I ended a brief situation with a guy I was dating a few years ago as around that time I came face to face with the person who had attacked me. As a result of all those emotions, flashbacks etc resurfacing, I felt unable to be in a relationship with anyone so I ended it with the guy. We had only met a handful of times anyway but he was looking to be in a serious long term relationship and we had spoken on the phone a lot. Anyway so when I ended it, he didn't react well and I didn't explain myself too well either. I had really liked him and 4 years later, we spoke on the phone again and tried to reconnect. I decided to tell him about the PTSD. He kept blaming me for "ending things" and just didn't seem to get that it wasn't personal, we hadn't dated for long, it was really hard for me etc. I was so apologetic and he put me in a position where I found myself baring my soul to him. I shouldn't have given him the time of day again and the red flags I had originally noticed (probably the true reason I ended it back then) were spot on. He asked me to run through "exactly what happened" to me and I did, I went into panic on the phone and he told me to sit down and have a glass of water. He seemed to be compassionate but went on to speak in a punishing way and claimed that so many women he had dated had said exactly the same thing as the reason why they stopped talking to him (that they had also been raped and were suffering with PTSD). To me this was to minimise what I was saying and almost felt like he was implying I was making it up. I feel quite sure that he made this up about these women. He told me that a woman he dated after me had accused him of rape and he seemed to want sympathy from me. Looking back on the phone conversation this seemed tactless of him given that I had told him that same thing had happened to me. It was kinda creepy actually. I really hope he wasn't also a rapist but all it says to me is that I had a lucky escape. It was a lesson as well that I am right to be cautious and not bare my soul when it comes to PTSD because it can actually re-traumatise you when you confide in the wrong people.
 
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