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The Recovery Toolkit Blog Tour*

TW: this post may touch upon some distressing themes including therapy, mental illness, emotional abuse and PTSD.

Admittedly, tackling my own issues with mental health and a complex PTSD diagnosis has been something I have been putting off for some time. This book arrived on my doorstep about a year into trauma-focused therapy, and I am glad to be sharing my thoughts with you. Please note that I will not divulge the specific circumstances around this diagnosis and will keep terms neutral to protect the identity of others. I will, however, mention the ways in which complex PTSD impacts on my life and how resources like Sue’s can help you to take control of what can be an overwhelming situation.

Sue Penna, smiling at the camera. She has blonde and brown short hair, and is wearing bright red lipstick.

Sue has worked with people who have trauma as a result of adverse childhood experiences, also known as ACEs , for over 30 years. She has worked for the NHS mental health services for 20 years and is an expert in trauma following abuse. Sue is an advocate for trauma-informed practice, and as someone in the thick of her own trauma-informed therapy, I know that this process is vital for me to go through in order to heal from my own ACEs. For more info on ACEs and to find your own score, click here.

Find out more about Sue Penna & her work on twitter @SuePenna, and you can access her website here.

A book cover, with The Recovery Toolkit on the front, and chain links. The book is mostly purple, and has white graphics

Dealing with trauma is a messy, difficult journey. Although I am fortunate enough to have specific therapy with a trauma specialist, there’s a lot of homework to do outside of my sessions. Complex PTSD is exhausting. For me, it manifests in every waking second of my life. It is the inability to ‘switch off’, the need to feel busy to stop a plethora of auditory, visual and emotional flashbacks, the OCD that makes me do things repetitively, or means I am always scanning my environment for danger. It is a crippling lack of self-esteem, zero confidence, and not believing positive feedback. It’s going to the shop and struggling to decide which item to pick up off the shelf for fear of making the ‘wrong’ decision. It’s the need to excel, exceed expectation, constantly prove my worth. It is the exhausting, repetitive cycle of being unable to sleep, sleeping for too long, waking up with my heart beating out of my chest. It is the constant need to feel safe.

Sue’s book, based on her experience of supporting those who have been through traumatic events, is a 12-week programme that explores the different ways you are feeling, the need for self-care, the dynamics of abuse (focused around domestic abuse but also relevant to other types of trauma where a person or child felt trapped and unable to leave) as well as relaxation techniques and the need to track thoughts and emotions.

I am keen to address what contributed to my cPTSD, and to feel more content in my life, regardless of having experienced complex trauma(s). I know this process will take time, but books like Sue’s provide me with the hope that I have a chance to relinquish control, and can explore the steps I need to take to heal and carve a happier life for myself.

A picture with the Recovery Toolkit book, and advertising the book on sale for 99p / 99 cents.

Many thanks to Sue and Jeni for allowing me to feature a glimpse into this book: if you feel the need to explore the Recovery Toolkit, I am sending you solidarity and love.

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cPTSD Mental Health Problems Mental Illness

Unearthing silver-linings

Who’d have thought we’d be in this position? We’ve been locked-down since the middle of March and life as we knew it has been turned upside-down.

The covid-19 pandemic has been a real roller-coaster of emotions for many. There have been unimaginable losses, a myriad of changes and acknowledgement that life may never be quite the same ever again.

Like many, I have been working from home for the past two months, and staying at home where possible. Although it has obviously been a real change to my daily life, there have been some unexpected positives that have come from all of this. I’m fortunate enough to be able to access therapy over video-calls, and being locked-down is reducing any outside stresses, allowing me to really focus on getting the most out of my sessions. It’s been one of the little silver linings I’ve seen peeking through, and I am going to grab this opportunity to reflect, heal, and learn with both hands.

My mental health story is something I have shared on no superhero before, but last year was a really pivotal time for me. I was diagnosed with complex PTSD (cPTSD, CPTSD, C-PTSD). Obtaining this diagnosis was key for me, as it helped me to start the long process of unravelling the mechanisms behind my mental health, my beliefs and my behaviours. 12 months on, I am acutely aware that this process will not be an easy one, nor a quick fix. It’s going to take a lot of time and effort. One day I’ll share a little bit more about cPTSD and my experiences, symptoms and story. But for now, as I sit in my flat surrounded by the things that spark happiness, warmth and love, I am feeling like I’m at a Good Point in my journey. It is possible to find some light amongst the dark. It is possible to unearth those silver linings. And I am going to make the most of them showing through.