It was from my best friend (who is a psychologist) that I first heard the term, Complex Trauma. What do you know? I identified.

I was reading about Complex-PTSD yesterday. Someone had posted a link on a Facebook group (The Trauma Thrivers), and I clicked through. What do you know? I identified with that too.

It felt good to have labels and explanations for the mush and mess that can be my brain and my scars.

I clicked through and saw them call out “…survivors of concentration camps or cults.” That puts things into perspective. And then the list of possible symptoms…which included “feeling afraid for no obvious reason.”

Yeah. That.

I am wholer and healthier and more thriving than I have ever been and than I ever thought I’d be. And yet I can be overcome with fear. I’m not talking the “I’m a city kid who grew up in the East Village of New York City, and I’m nervous walking home in my quaint little town at night because it’s dark, there’s no one around, the streets are empty, and there are boogey-people in the bushes” fear that my friends and neighbors understandably make fun of me for. I’m talking a “floating sense of impending doom and anxiety, a surety that I’m guilty and shameful and will be found out, or a terror that I’ll let someone close to me – or God – down or they’ll judge and disapprove of me” fear.

Decades ago I was taught not just to deny my feelings and wants, but to not have any. Not just to not think for myself, but to run away from my own perspective and interpretations. Not just to put myself last, but to know that putting myself anywhere but last was wrong. And sinful.

Oh, and the man I knew to be the Messiah said I was bad and banished me from my then best friend (his child).

So, this floating sense of impending doom, this surety that I’m shameful, and this terror of disapproval make total sense, especially as I grow stronger and more whole and I own my feelings, wants, and thoughts. As I stand in my own power and my own self. Which is amazing.

But the fear stuff still doesn’t feel good.

Then I remembered another life-saving slogan that I learned in Al-Anon decades ago – FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real.

I have no impending doom. I am not guilty or shameful. I don’t need to fear disapproval anymore. I can’t be banished. I can’t let God down. I can’t fail and fall and cause God pain and suffering. Those are all lies I learned and clung to for safety. But they are certainly False Evidence Appearing Real, and they are certainly false. I don’t have to live by them or believe them anymore.

I can, therefore, let all that go. I can make myself a cup of tea, put my hand on my heart and remember “It’s okay, sweetheart” (thank you again and again Tara Brach), take a deep breath, meditate, notice the trees against the sky, list all of the many, many things for which I am, every day, thankful.

There are many, many ways I can soothe and ease myself. And many, many ways I can remember, again, that it’s all false evidence appearing real and it’s all false lies.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

Photo by Bram on Unsplash

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