It’s New Year’s Day as I write this. And today I’ve got an exercise for your imagination, designed to help you do great things and feel happier in the next 12 months, and maybe help you get unstuck if that’s where you are right now. (There’s link below this article where you can download and print a worksheet to complete after you watch if you like). And the exercise is called “If I had just one year to heal my Childhood PTSD, What Would I do?”
I know one year is a tight deadline to heal something so serious, and healing never follows the timelines we set out for it anyway. But this is a thought exercise that I use in lots of areas of my life when I feel like I’m not making progress fast enough, or I’ve lost my focus. It’s a great question to ask yourself sometimes, just to brainstorm, things like “If I had to earn X amount of money in one year, what would I do?” Or “If I had to run an eight minute mile three months from now, what would I do?”
So today I’m going to tell you my list, which is and should be different from your list. And I’ve got the benefit of knowing all the things I did do to heal from Childhood PTSD. But I did them over a period of 25 years with lots of downtime and being off track a lot of the time; you can go a lot faster because I’m sharing with you some of what worked and what didn’t work. So your list may be different, but if I could do it all over again, here’s how I’d do it.
I’d learn the science of Complex PTSD and Childhood PTSD which is a category of that. Now The books and science weren’t out when I was first learning to heal but if I started right now I’d take the ACE survey and get my score, and I’d read The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk and I’d read Complex PTSD by Pete Walker. There are lots and lots of other books out there but that’s where I’d start.
I’d learn to notice and calm the brain dysregulation that is such a foundational symptom of Childhood PTSD. I’d do this with my Daily Practice of writing fears and resentments, followed by meditation twice a day. As it happens I did learn this 25 years ago, even though I had no idea at the time what was wrong with me or why using these techniques made me feel better. But if I had it to do over again I’d be religious about this and really do it thoroughly, twice a day, and not quit because somebody in my life found it inconvenient, or because things didn’t always go my way. What I know now is sometimes things not going my way is what progress looks like. And it’s safe to keep healing even then.
I’d quickly get out of all the unhealthy dead-end, one-sided relationships with significant others and would-be significant others where one of us had feelings (sometimes me and sometimes them) but the other person did not have feelings and was basically using the interested party because.. it’s kinda fun to have someone adore you. Unfortunately it costs both people their emotional availability and neither will tend to find true love when they’re entangled in this kind of “friendship.” So I’d end all that right off the bat.
I’d become a Jedi at being alone. I used to have so much anxiety about it and so I’d fill up all my free time doing social things I didn’t really want to do, and I’d hang on to friends I didn’t really like, just so I didn’t have to be alone. I know a lot of people with Childhood PTSD have the opposite problem, and I’ve been in that camp too, isolating and avoiding social interactions. So if I had one year to recover I’d cut down my relationships to just the ones that didn’t involve pining on either person’s part, nor one person using the other to fill up the seat next to them at a movie. I’d only maintain friendships with people where we both truly cared to know and support each other. For me it would have meant more alone time. And these days, I totally enjoy that and take trips and go to movies and hike all by myself, even though I have a family and love hanging out with them too.
I’d do is stop spending any money at all on two things — therapy and cigarettes. I was using both of them to try to feel better but in the long run, there were too many side effects and I still didn’t feel better. I know therapy does help a lot of people, but I was feeling worse and worse in every visit. So if I had to do it all over again I’d take all that money and invest it because, if I’d done that starting 25 years ago, I’d be a jillionaire.
I’d exercise every day. No one ever told me this back in the day, but strong exercise is SO good for re-regulating, for calming emotions and (who’d have guessed) for your heart, your lungs, your muscles and pretty much everything in life! Now that I exercise I have so much more confidence in the world. I feel prettier and healthier, even though I’m much older now.
I’d stop all the negative stuff in my life, starting with my own trash talking of other people and their religion, their politics, their taste in food and music and boyfriends and pretty much everything. I would instantly challenge myself on ALL my negative beliefs that require black and white thinking — this group good, this group bad. This person perfect, this person evil. I’d completely embrace the understanding I have now that everything is complicated, and we’re all working out a way to do the best we can. I’d quit being so judgmental. I’d quit telling people how they should change. I’d stop putting myself down and I’d delete all the music I used to listen to that was about death, heartache, betrayal, crazy love, revenge and self-pity. Or I’d delete most of it. I think it affected me in a bad way.
I’d be a better friend. I’d go to my friends’ weddings when they invited me. I’d call them back when they called. I’d accept them and not abandon them just because I was triggered.
I’d be a good worker. It took me so long to learn this: When we take a job, our job is to make the boss and the organization successful, period. I used to make everything so much about my feelings and how I was treated (which sometimes was awful, and when that was the case, I should have left sooner). I wish I had made a rule for myself NOT to be in a job (if I could possibly have a choice) where I wasn’t willing to make my boss’ and my organizaiton’s success the priority. Usually I was not in fact willing, which meant yes, it was a crap job but also, that I was a crap worker. I complained a lot and stayed stuck a long time without moving up to jobs that made me happy.
If I were single, I’d learn to DATE. I never knew this. I thought dating was finding yourself all bonded through sex with someone where there was a mutual attraction and then retroactively trying to make them into the person I was hoping to meet in the first place. It turns out dating is supposed to be a getting-to-know-you process (!) to learn if someone might be someone you wanted to actually get close to (and maybe marry). In my case I definitely wanted to end up married. But you wouldn’t know it by the people I “dated.” I know my confusion around this was from my childhood hurts but the trauma that bad relationships brought into my life was maybe even worse than the trauma from childhood. Even worse, I caused other people to suffer. So I’d completely change that if I had to heal in a year.
So those are my ten things. If you want to write your ten things down I made a worksheet and I put a link below where you can download it. I’m not checking your homework; this is just so you can try this exercise and see if it inspires you and helps you dream big about your next steps!
If you’re in my courses, you’ve probably heard me talk about this stuff because that’s what I teach in my courses — the really practical steps it takes to not just handle your PTSD, but to HEAL it. It’s not a crazy goal to change your life in a year and chances are, you already know what to do.
If sticking with change is hard for you, one thing you could do is become a member of Crappy Childhood Fairy! Because every thing I mentioned in this video is in my courses — Healing Childhood PTSD, the Dating course, the Dysregulation Bootcamp. And with a membership you receive invitations to group coaching calls with me and special content available only to members. It’s all designed to help keep you on your path and feeling positive about it. I’d love to have you on the member side.
So be bold and let yourself become your REAL self. Don’t let anybody tell you this has to take forever or that it can’t be done. You were born to heal! And you’ve already come this far. Be proud of yourself.
I’m so proud of all you have done to recover and bring your love and your light to the world. We love you and we need you! We’re on this path together.
Happy New Year everybody! See you in the new decade!
For links to the books I mention in this video, go here: https://crappychildhoodfairy.com/resources