Two Questions That Changed My Life: “Do I have C-PTSD?” and “How do I heal it?”

A few years ago, I was listening to a podcast, and someone mentioned they had C-PTSD. I’d never heard of this before (PTSD, yes. But C-PTSD? Nope.) 

I looked it up, and when I saw the definition and symptoms, I immediately realized, “Oh FFS — that’s me. I have this.” 

C-PTSD stands for Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and although it shares similar characteristics with PTSD, there are some marked differences. While PTSD happens as a result of a one-time or shorter duration traumatic event, like serving on active duty in a war zone or  surviving a physical attack, C-PTSD occurs when people experience trauma from on-going experiences such as childhood neglect or abuse, domestic abuse, human trafficking, or living in a war-torn or extremely impoverished region for more than a year.

Some of the symptoms experienced by people with C-PTSD include: 

  • Avoiding situations that remind them of the trauma
  • Dizziness or nausea when remembering the trauma
  • A negative self-view: Complex PTSD can cause a person to view themselves negatively and feel helpless, guilty, or ashamed. They often consider themselves to be different from other people and don’t know where they fit in.
  • Changes in beliefs and worldview: People with C-PTSD may hold a negative view of the world and the people in it, feel a loss of trust in themselves or others, or feel that the world is a dangerous place. 
  • Emotional regulation difficulties: These conditions can cause people to have extreme emotional reactions to some situations. They may experience intense anger, fear or sadness that seems highly disproportionate for the given situation. 
  • Hyperarousal or hypervigilance: they are in a continuous state of high alert or feel like they are constantly “walking on eggshells” or “waiting for the other shoe to drop” much of the time.
  •  Relationship issues. Relationships may suffer due to difficulties with trusting and interacting, and because of a negative self-view. A person may develop unhealthy relationships because they don’t know or never had models for a healthy relationship.
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating. Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or being able to nap. Difficulty concentrating or increased procrastination. In some cases, ADHD can in fact be caused by C-PTSD. 
  • Detachment from the trauma: A person may dissociate, which means feeling detached from emotions or physical sensations. Some people completely forget the trauma.
  • Preoccupation with an abuser: It is not uncommon to fixate on the abuser, the relationship with the abuser, or getting revenge for the abuse. 
  • Reliving the trauma through flashbacks and nightmares.

 

As I looked over this list of symptoms, I realized that I have (or had) all of these. I grew up in a home with some pretty gnarly emotional, medical, and physical abuse– and it had left its mark. 

When we spend a long time in traumatic situations, especially as we’re growing and developing, our very smart body-minds adapt for survival. Entire systems change and adapt in order to be able to survive and keep us safe: our nervous system, vagal system, immune system, digestive system and the microbiome, emotional regulation and response, cognitive processing–as well as all of our energetic systems like meridians, the heart torus field, chakras and more–shift and adapt to what “normal” is in this traumatic world. When we are finally free of the traumatic situation, we now have a whole body-mind that needs to be retuned to be able to thrive in a non-traumatic world. 

So, how do we heal this? 

While there’s no “one-size-fits-all” fix for embodied trauma and C-PTSD, I can tell you what’s worked best for me. 

  • Therapy. Find yourself a good trauma-informed therapist and talk this shit out. I’ve been in therapy off and on for most of my adult life because the sneaky nature of trauma is that it can rear its ugly head in new situations all the time. 
  • Meditation. I first learned to meditate through a study at UCSF on “Cultivating Emotional Balance.” It took YEARS AND YEARS of practice before mediation became something that was easy for me but, damn, it was worth it. I can switch my mood from anxious to joyous in 20 minutes and can stay present and grounded in even the most triggering of situations now. One of the benefits that isn’t talked about enough is the changes that happen when we’re *not* meditating. Somehow that daily practice of 20 minutes of meditation has ripple effects outside of that time, too. I can now get into that meditative headspace immediately at almost any time of the day and feel the same effects of calm, peaceful joy that come from being in the present moment (aka mindfulness.)
  • Books. I read self-help books all the time. I’ve found that there are two types that help me the most. There are books that give advice and teach you tools for a certain issue, like hypervigilance or perfectionism. These are helpful for when my symptoms arise and I need a tool or strategy to deal with them in the moment.  And then there are autobiographical books that are written by people who went through something similar to me.  These are sooooo validating and helpful and make me realize that what I went through was wrong and horrible (I tend to normalize things and underreact to trauma). They remind me that I am not as much of a freak or weirdo as I may imagine, and that other people have gone through the same thing and have had similar feelings and responses. (I mean, I am a freak and a weirdo, but in a totally awesome way, not in a social pariah kind of way.) 
  • Energy healing. Oh boy. This was so profound for me that I totally switched my life path and career so I could dive head first into learning all about this. Energy healing is so magical because unlike therapy or medication, it helps the body heal on the physical, mental, emotional, energetic, and spiritual levels all at once and in parallel. I originally started going to an energy healer to mitigate and heal side effects from chemo. One day about 3 months in, my practitioner said “Oh, you’re ready to transcend anxiety.” I looked at her and laughed right in her face. I’d been anxious since I was 3-years-old, and that’s probably just because I couldn’t remember back any earlier than that. But she did her thing and you know what? I left that office PROFOUNDLY less anxious. It felt like I’d had a 50-ton boulder lifted off me. My hypervigilance decreased markedly, my mood was more joyous and I had far fewer anxious, looping thoughts on a day-to-day basis. It was like 10 years of therapy in 3 months. So, I decided to figure out how that all worked. I’ve have spent the last 15 years studying different modalities and learning all that I can about the beautiful intersection of body, mind and spirit so that I can help others with their healing process, as well. 

If you see some of yourself in what I wrote here, please know that you are not alone, that there are people and groups and tools to help you heal. And please know that I see you, I know it’s been so hard, and I think you are an amazing triumph of nature to have survived and thrived the way you have. It’s no small feat, my friend, and I am so very unabashedly proud of you, wherever you are in your healing process. 

Xo

Megan

 

Energetic body systems: how your hidden body affects your health

Did you know that you have a second, hidden body?

We’re all aware of our physical bodies and can name the various body systems: cardiovascular, nervous, digestive, etc. But you have a whole other set of body systems that affect your health just as much, your energetic body.

Your energetic body consists of systems that have energetic components but don’t have a physical form, such as your chakras, meridians, Wei Qi, and the layers of your aura. These systems work in tandem with your physical body to help regulate everything from hormones to your immune system to blood flow.

How can a body system be invisible and still affect your health? To understand this, you need a little bit of quantum physics (Just a little bit! I promise it will be painless.) What we think of as physical matter is just very small, sub-microscopic particles vibrating at certain frequencies that we perceive as a solid, physical matter. However, there is another type of energy, vibrating at a different frequency, which does not appear to us as physical matter. These make up your energetic body systems. They are made up of the same sub atomic “stuff” as your physical body, just vibrating at a different frequency.

Think of it this way, we can only see light that is emitted at certain frequencies, known as the “visible spectrum,” but there are many frequencies of light that humans can’t see. However, other creatures can. Did you know bees can see light in the UV spectrum (which we can’t) and are able see patterns on flowers that human eyes can’t see? In the same way, the energies of these physical body parts are vibrating at a frequency that most people can’t see or perceive. That doesn’t mean they’re not there, though, and they have been measured and validated, and can and do affect our physical bodies and overall health.

Since the basis for both the physical and energetic body systems is vibrating energy, they interact at a subatomic level as one holistic system. That’s how energy medicine works – if you change the energy of a system, you change the physical aspects as well. If you work with the energetic systems to get them back in balance, they interact with the physical systems and bring them into balance as well.

Traditional western medicine has yet to acknowledge these energetic body systems and only looks at the physical systems as the cause of disease. In doing so, they are missing half the picture, if not more. This is why traditional medical treatments only work for some people and some illnesses. Imagine if doctors only looked at patients from the waist up. They’d be able to treat many illnesses, but if you had a problem with your bladder or colon, they’d miss it entirely. That’s what happens when a traditional doctor tries to cure an illness that’s based in one of the body’s energy systems, they only look at the physical systems and miss the energetic aspects entirely.

As a medical intuitive with background in both western medical science and energy healing, I work with both physical and energetic systems to see what is causing a client’s disease or imbalance. Like most Americans going into medicine, I first trained in the traditional western modality: Anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, neurology, etc. However, once I found out about energy systems like chakras, meridians and body psychology, the “mystery diseases” I saw in my patients were no longer such a mystery. In looking at both the physical and energetic systems, many of my patients who were unable to get a consistent diagnosis or treatment from traditional medicine are now able to understand their disease and find reliable treatment that integrates both their physical and energetic body systems.

If you’re struggling to find the cause of your disease and you’ve been unable to get a consistent diagnosis from your doctor, it may be time to consult someone familiar with ALL of your body systems. Traditional western doctors mean well, but they’re often missing crucial elements that can cause disease. Your energetic body may be the key to finding your health again.