Trust, Loneliness and PTSD

One of the most difficult aspects of my battle with Complex PTSD has been loneliness.

Throughout my childhood, loneliness was something that I always felt, even when surrounded by people who were supposed to love and care for me. I just didn’t feel connected. It was as if I were standing on the other side of a great chasm, able to see the other side but simply unable to cross over to safety and comfort. There were moments of fleeting attachment… like a hand reaching, touching… but unable to grasp.

The loneliness is still with me, my ironic companion. I know it is built upon a lack of ability to trust and an unconscious need to protect myself. When I read stories from others who have a similar background to mine, I feel that same sense of isolation in their lives.

During the course of my self therapy, I have considered whether it is simple self-preservation or my feeling of ‘differentness’ that keeps me from forming critical bonds in the here-and-now. These are certainly factors, but I now believe they are more a result of the conditions of my childhood.

What lies at the heart of my loneliness is an attachment disorder, a dysfunction formed through unreliable parental relationships, a dysfunction that became a core part of my personality. In the famous poem, Children Learn What They Live by Dorothy Law Nolte, one of the lines reads:

If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.

This line clarifies the source of my loneliness. I was taught to fear people, to fear those with whom I had the closest of relationships. I built walls around my psyche because it was my last bastion of defense. Trust was broken time and time again until the pattern was firmly set.

I continue to work on this aspect of my psychology. As I do, I have actually become more isolated, but I have hope that I will overcome. I feel that I simply need the space to address this within myself first. That perspective helps combat the pain of my loneliness a bit.

Perhaps I will never have an abundance of deep, trusting relationships in my life, but I do hope to learn how to let my walls down for those who have proven they are trustworthy. I see a point on my horizon when I can truly feel connected and whole. Then the loneliness would end.


18 thoughts on “Trust, Loneliness and PTSD

  1. The loneliness is there with. I feel so alone and especially now that no one can understand why in quickly am unable to get over it. I have admitted to myself that I am using loneliness and my mistrust of others as a shield, a shield that would protect me from others like those in the medical field to never hurt me again. The loneliness is still there but I am slowly learning how to trust again.

  2. I believe childhood trauma limits our life and leads to a rigid very judgmental existence. Also I discovered that dissociation powered my symptoms and fueled trauma. That is leaving this moment to engage in thought, for us intrusive emotional scary thoughts.

    Avoidance and isolation follow. I ended up agoraphobic for six long miserable months. Also I found loneliness is a creation of the ego, (thought). I am the same person however I am never lonely now.

    I surrendered my delusional control and learned to live in this present moment. I gave up judging, expectations while letting others and things exist on their own.

    I compare sports teams but avoid any comparison for me or others. it freed my to let worry and doubt go. We are perfect, flawed but perfect if we live in this moment.

  3. There hasn’t been one blog entries I so far managed to read her that wouldn’t strongly resonate with me to the extent, where silently yelling “exactly!” is my first response almost every time. In addition to finding validation of my struggles via your story and journey, I find a lot of unorganized recurring ideas of explaining the outcomes now covered in the articles you present. In other words: More validation. To put it bluntly: I have given up hope that my perpetrators will ever be ready to shift their point of view to where they become empathetic of my place and to the point where they realize what their actions have inflicted on me. It’s mind-boggling: It could be so simply to sit down and acknowledge things without fear of retaliation or judgement and meet each other from a place of all being just human with all their individual imperfections, needs, and whatnot. But it never happened and I’m wasting my energy hoping or waiting for it. This creates a massive void inside of me, which I’m not sure as to how to address it. I guess, forgiving myself for not being given the opportunity to forgive – and thus reclaim a minimum of control…- and to move has to be a first idea and step. *sigh* – it all boils down to acceptance, i.e. becoming accepting of this being my destiny.
    Other than that: I second all of what you’re saying above. All of it and to a T so.

  4. I’m totally with you on this. Its like every time I realize how lonely I am feels like the first time, and then I feel the loneliness of a lifetime, how I akways have been. always feeling different and it possible to undo those screwed up well-worn pathways of self defense and protection? Can it be reversed? Sadly I think not

  5. Maybe it’s not possible to undo all of the self defense, but it is possible to direct it where it helps you most. The ability to discern what is risky in a relationship with another person is something I consider a gift (now). I am selective with my friendships and have decided to wait until I’m ready to pursue a romantic relationship. I have discovered how to find happiness on my own and with trusted people. It took me some time to get to this point, lots of work, but it is possible to find your way to a happiness that suits you.

  6. This is a very challenging aspect of my life. I too have Cptsd. I have blamed and shamed myself for feeling lonely for most of my whole life. I always interpreted it as something wrong with me and something that would drive people away from me. I have finally begun to admit my feelings of loneliness after over 50 years of trying to hide it. It is extremely painful at times…and at other times I just feel at odds with almost everyone I spend time with. I now have a very small circle of people (not family) who accept me and value me as I am. I never thought this would happen. I still often feel alone…but when I am around the people who accept me, I feel connected and happy like I never had experienced for most of my life before.
    I have had to let go/eliminate a LOT of relationships over many years…family who were abusive, totally disrespecful, in total denial of reality; friends who used me, friends who were disrespectful and hurtful repeatedly and would not listen to me when I talked to them about their behaviour and how it affected me. It has taken me decades to really believe that I need to be with people who fully respect me. It took me decades to even know what that meant.
    Thank you to all who have posted about their experiences…it has helped me to feel less alone and to feel that i can share my experience here.

  7. My C-PTSD greatly effects my ability to trust, my ability to function some days, my ability to connect with others, and my ability to stay hopeful…I have worked hard to transition out of a very abusive past wherein dysfunction and maladaptive behavior was the norm…I thank God every day for my four amazing boys and for His ongoing provisions and healing in my life. I am getting better at setting boundaries to protect myself and my children, and I am more able to distance from the toxic, unhealthy people who have caused me and my boys great pain. It’s a slow journey, and I have my tough days, but in general, life is looking up…I thank God alone for that…

  8. It’s an awful feeling. I sit here again after breaking up with my gf for the third time this month because she never understands. I’ve tried countless times explaining myself but ultimately I know this relationship is good as over. I’m hanging on because I am very lonely, no one, not even my family understands my cptsd. I honestly don’t know what to do, I’m very sad everyday but in the outside world I act differently. I zero friends for the past 10 years, that’s zero . No online friends either. I isolated my self trying to escape the ptsd but lost everything. The only way I even found my gf was from meeting some women to fuck. I lost my virginity to her as well and she doesn’t know it. She know about my ptsd but doesn’t understand it. We argue constantly because of my trust issues.

    1. I’ve had similar experiences with others’ understanding of my condition. Looking deeply, I was still struggling to understand it myself and to give it a place in my life that didn’t completely dominate it. I was projecting a need and looking for help. As I became more comfortable with my condition, especially with the absolute simplification of my situation (meaning: I don’t work outside my family group very much, I don’t seek relationships with new people and I limit stress as much as possible), I was able to find the time and head space to work out my new reality with CPTSD. It was hard, but I found an anchor with my family and their general care. They assure I have the security of a home and a role in contributing to it. They let me talk when I need it, let me sleep when I need it and give me encouragement when I ask for it. It took years for them to see I wasn’t going to be who I was before, but the ones who truly cared have helped. Sometimes our illness becomes a bit heavy for others. I’ve seen my problems spill over to others and seen them try to keep their own lives going in the midst of that. I’ve tried to give them space to have their own lives, which becomes easier as I adjust and maintain. 🙂 There are some relationships that I have recognized are not good for me, given the triggering that goes on. I’ve had to limit or end those relationships because I recognize that constant triggers make my condition worse… It can feel lonely… until you get to your core family (framily) and find the peace to recover, find acceptance and get the upperhand on your illness. If you are in a relationship where arguments are continual, you are still in a state of triggering and exacerbating your symptoms. Try working it through with her in a quiet discussion, maybe find a counselor that will sit with you for a few discussions, helping guide you both to healthy boundaries and caring support while you work on your CPTSD.

      I always say that we have to be managers of our own recovery, managers of our condition. After assurance of our own safety, the first goal is to reduce stress, the second is to improve health, the next is to work toward a personal acceptance (even enlightenment) about our condition, once we have this… the needs become more manageable through self-care, loneliness can resolve more through self-love and giving to others, and life can actually become enjoyable again.

  9. I just received a notification on this new comment. When I did, I was watching a TED talk on the psychological and PHYSIOLOGICAL effects of water – the sea, lakes, rivers – on the human mind and body. I recalled my many times of sitting near that big lake in my former area of residence, preferably at times, when I could be almost sure that I’d have the entire experience to myself. What’s that seemingly random ramble got to do with loneliness? I guess, I’m trying to reverberate that TED talk speaker’s findings that bodies of water have a very soothing and calming, a hair shy of saying: consoling effect on a human being and in doing so, I think I’m trying to make a point as to how utilizing (freely) available resources, like e.g. that lake nearby, that park with a little stream in it, that public pool whose water surface is calm for about half an hour after the earliest possible opening time can be tools for us to let us experience aloneness without needing to feel lonely.

    I’m not trying to marginalize any of the above as all of that has been my experience as well. I come from the same place. But I think I can say that I have discovered a huge healing potential in the seemingly simple things, like being outdoors in full awareness with every sense sharpened to maximum and attuned to the subtle sensations going on all around us at all times. I’d hate to sound like a goofy esoteric. But I really think that nature, beloved and loveable pets and such things can help us repair that which got broken for many of us so early in life: How a touch need not be offensive or intrusive, how the sensations that our bodies send to our brain need not be painful, how the mere fact of STILL BEING HERE … is an accomplishment we should give ourselves permission to be proud of.

    … if that made sense.

    1. Yes! Yes to all of this. Quiet peace comes over me in the forest, that’s my place. Goes back to my childhood on Tregaron. I loved being alone as a kid, wandering through the woods in the security of 27 fenced acres. I find that inner calm when I’m surrounded by trees.

      Well said, Werner!

      1. Thank you, Kimberly! And you! (above on that new comment; you see me gasping with being impressed for your incredible talent of choosing your words so wisely and accurately that every aspiring writer should pine over being able to do so as well 😉 )

      2. Oh, and on “surrounded by trees”: I found this absolutely wonderful spot in that former area of residence that was at the far end of a forestry workers’ trail. At the very end of it, you’d find yourself looking out on a little opening that was also a hill moor. In other words: A really magical place! (On a sidenote: I swear, every time riding up to that place on my bike I secretely and silently prepared myself to seeing elves and nature spirits there… :D. But I’m digressing….) There was this biiiiig old beech, with arms as wide as a building and a tree stump and roots spreading out from it as large an entire room.

        I’d go there often, especially in the summer, when I knew that the grass would be dry and warm and the sunlight would peek through the branches and twigs and caress my cheeks and nose and lips…. If I had to put it in a nutshell, placing myself in the “hug” of that tree with its thick rootwork, I’d say this place felt like a crib and invoked all the feelings that the loving care of well-intentioned and well doing guardians should have emblazoned on our feeling cells. I miss that place (and a number of other places I’d regularly visit there)

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