PTSD is Complicated

By Laura Crisp Davis - September 23, 2021
PTSD is Complicated

If you’ve heard my standup, you know I have Complex PTSD. I’m mentioning it here in case anyone reading this also has PTSD, because it feels the worst when you think you’re alone.

PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It affects many, many people for many reasons. It can be caused by one traumatic moment or several. In my case, several. (Thank you shitshow childhood! Woohoo!) It can be a tendency to fight, flee, or freeze under stress or uncertainty. It can be one of those or a combination. 

I like to say PTSD stands for Please Take it Slow and Deliberate…because sudden moves or loud noises can be triggering for many of us who’ve experienced nervous system jolting trauma.  

One of my early standup bits was:

I have narcolepsy and PTSD. My kids introduce me to their friends like I have a warning label. ‘She’s chill, but if she nods off, don’t make any sudden moves or she’ll wake up and kill you with her bare hands.’ 

I’ve learned what my “list” of triggers are, as well as the “special recipe” that can make me more vulnerable to getting triggered. No, I’m not a baby. No, I’m not overplaying my life drama for attention. I experienced ongoing physical and emotional abuse from more than one adult in childhood. I’m not afraid to talk about them. I don’t talk about them by name because they know who they are and they don’t get any credit for how my life turned out. Not even an “if only they didn’t suck, I wouldn’t have PTSD” because, NO they don’t get that from me. My support circle gets credit. I get credit.

I’ve worked really hard in therapy on this so that I can talk about it and use it in my comedy. I’ve utilized EMDR, neurofeedback, cognitive behavioral therapy, and talk therapy. I highly recommend EMDR and neurofeedback for anyone who feels uneasy about rehashing their trauma and potentially reliving it. I used to feel like I was standing in the memories or like I was on a movie set when I would tell someone about the past. But thanks to EMDR and neurofeedback, I feel detached from 90% of my trauma. Now I picture the memories on a movie screen with a neutral emotional state, instead of being in it. 

Through doing therapeutic work I realized I sometimes startle easily because I was attacked by a neighbor’s dog when I was four years old. It jumped onto my back from behind, knocked me down, and bit me. The neighbor was super apologetic and felt terrible, but another dysfunctional adult treated it as my fault. I’ve been able to minimize the crappy adult’s part in this, but the dog part? Well...I love dogs…I just don’t like when someone or something sneaks up behind me. 

In the context of everything else that happened to me in childhood, this seems like a minor memory, but for whatever reason, my brain has chosen to hold onto that feeling. 

Don’t feel sorry for me or pity me, or worse, email me cures your aunt found on the internet. I have internet too—and more importantly, I have a good therapist, loving support system, and comedy. I’m good. Honest.

But, in case you’re dealing with your own traumatic stuff and it’s interfering with your life, please know that you can get better. You don’t have to tell yourself, “Well, I didn’t go to war,” or  “Other people have it worse,” or "If I stay busy I won't have to think about it," or any of the other self-neglecting ways we minimize our feelings. 

It is perfectly okay to seek help. It is pretty much mandatory if you want any level of peace. It doesn’t mean you are nuts. It doesn’t mean you are abandoning your religion. It doesn’t mean you are weak. In fact, it is exactly the opposite of all of that. Vulnerability is fucking courageous. 

Yeah, I just called myself fucking courageous. I’m okay with that.

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Sometimes I'm serious, sometimes I'm silly. Any scripts referenced are for educational purposes only. (My lawyer made me say that part.)