This sections contains stories of the lived experience of Complex PTSD. For some the journey to recovery is only beginning while for others the journey is well underway. They have each been included here because they highlight the human side and individual nature of this disorder. Taken together they highlight the various causes of Complex PTSD, and the need for more and improved trauma informed treatment and services across the globe. Additional stories will be added from time to time.
Warning: Some of these stories are graphic and may be triggering.
Click on the contributor's name to read/hear their full story.
- Kizzie, OOTS Member: Kizzie developed Complex PTSD as a result of ongoing emotional abuse in childhood and adulthood. Until her early fifties she thought her family was dysfunctional due to her father's alcoholism, and discounted the symptoms she was experiencing as being overly sensitive. She came across an information and support site for those dealing with someone with a personality disorder called Out of the FOG (OOTF). It was there she learned her family suffered from covert Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), that she had been emotionally abused and as a result, had developed Complex PTSD. She wanted to connect with others with the disorder, but at the time there were only online groups for PTSD so in August 2014 she created Out of the Storm (OOTS).
- Sanmagic, OOTS Member: Sanmagic developed Complex PTSD in adulthood as a result of ongoing emotional abuse/trauma by three family members with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (undiagnosed) and an unethical therapist. Although Sanmagic herself is a therapist, like many in the mental health field she had no knowledge about Complex PTSD. She only recently found out about it on the Internet, and is on the road to recovery now that she understands what she has been dealing with.
- Elphanigh, OOTS Member: Elphanigh developed Complex PTSD in childhood as the result of ongoing parental abuse and neglect, and ongoing sexual and emotional abuse by two people in her life. Like many people with a history of abuse, Elphanigh learned to stay silent to survive, but now realizes that reclaiming one's voice and shining a light on trauma/abuse are crucial to recovery.
- Sweet Sixty, OOTS Member: Sweet Sixty was subjected to ongoing emotional abuse by her mother who had covert Narcissistic Personalty Disorder and her enabling father. The abuse carried on into her teens and adulthood when she met a man, became pregnant, and although the child was stillborn her parents forced her to marry the father. He turned out to be a sadistic psychopath whom she eventually ran from with their two young daughters. He later killed his second wife and himself. While Sweet Sixty's life seemed to take a turn for the better with a positive marriage, two more children and a rewarding but stressful career in academia, she developed MS and arthritis. Her chronic ill health caused her Complex PTSD to rise to the surface and her persona of someone who could handle anything began to dissolve. She fell apart and took early retirement. With her family's support and a knowledgeable therapist she is well on the road to recovery, and her story speaks of hope for those just beginning their journey.
- Cathy Kezelman suffered abuse and trauma during her childhood. She is a physician and founder of the Blue Knot Foundation for survivors of childhood abuse and trauma. Her story “The Upside of Down: Living with Courage and an Open Heart” recounts her experience of falling apart in her forties when a tragedy in her life triggered overwhelming symptoms of anxiety, depression and suicide ideation. She recounts her journey out of the storm with the help of a trusted psychologist from that point to the present and the much richer and fuller life she leads now. See also her book "Innocence Revisited: A Tale in Parts" See here for other personal stories by members of the Blue Knot Foundation.
- Jacqueline King developed Complex PTSD as a result of sexual assault in childhood, and bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault in adulthood. She is a glass artist and sculptor who in the article Complex PTSD - Breaking the Silence of the Fringe Dweller relates how she developed Complex PTSD, and discusses Complex PTSD as a brain injury, art as therapy, and what are the challenges facing Australians who have the disorder and live in rural areas.
- A.K. Taylor was the victim of ongoing bullying beginning by people outside of her family and developed CPTSD as a result. She talks about her symptoms and her difficult path to recovery through the love and support of her family and good friends.
- PokingHoles is an online blogger who only recently discovered she is the daughter of a Narcissistic Personality Disordered (NPD) mother and also has an NPD sister. In this YouTube video she explains how she came to realize her mother and sister have NPD, how she felt when they reacted negatively when she tried talking about this with them, and what has been the effect of having to distance herself from them.
- Martin Miller is the adult son of Alice Miller who was a well known author and advocate for the rights of children. In this interview he relates his own emotional abuse and neglect at the hands of his famous mother, and emotional and physical abuse by his father. Like many of us, the image his parents, especially his mother presented to the world was much different than what he encountered at home. (Please note that he does not say directly he developed CPTSD as a result of his abuse.)
I wrote the book … to create justice through giving myself permission to say what has been done to me. That means that, although to the outside world it looks as if we had been a great family, I wished to stop the lie, to dismantle the false image.
- Annie Reneau is the grown child of a parent with Complex PTSD. Her blog article A Love Letter to the Cycle Breakers is a compelling story about witnessing her father’s superhuman struggle to break the cycle of abuse he ensured while dealing with Complex PTSD:
So if you are a parent from a wounded background striving to raise your kids differently, if you are silently waging your own battles the rest of the world can’t see, I want you to know that you are awesome. Parenting is damn hard, even with good psycho-emotional tools, so naturally it may feel impossible sometimes. But you’ve got this. Keep choosing that phone booth. Don’t give up.
- The Bristlecone Project includes the personal stories of over thirty men who are survivors of sexual abuse and assault.