PTSD Survivors of Child Abuse and Healing

Adults can recover from PTSD resulting from child abuse.  Some survivors don’t know they have a highly recognizable and treatable anxiety disorder called PTSD ( Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), which has been associated with Vietnam Vets, the Holocaust, mass murders, natural disasters, rape, kidnapping, accidents, torture and other extraordinary happenings.We are naturally dependent upon parents as infants and children. Children depend upon parents or guardians for safety. But when that sense of safety is betrayed, coping mechanisms develop such as dissociation. This allows for survival, but later as adults, symptoms such as hyper-vigilance, anxiety and the numbness of feelings permeate, hindering normal relationships. But healing can happen when one is put into a safe environment to explore feelings. Immense feelings of anger and betrayal of the injustice may erupt, profound sadness for a time, but in the end, one can breakthrough and for once live in reality and be happy.

“It is the emotional and psychological setting in which sexual maltreatment occurs, and with whom it has occurred, that makes the difference and causes lasting damage” states an article by the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse. Children’s natural helplessness is turned into terror when abused by a parent. In a normal household when a trauma occurs like a car accident, the parent is there for support, comfort and love. When the source of trauma is within the family, there is an absence of healing. Children learn to pretend they are somewhere else to endure the trauma which is called dissociation. They blame themselves for their parents’ not loving them. They believe that they are not good enough to be loved. Their self-esteem plummets. They freeze feelings.

“When a victim or survivor is disbelieved, shamed, threatened into silence, or when the disclosure is minimized or becomes cause for punishment, the trauma inflicted by willful ignorance compounds the original trauma.” Protective numbing, denial on the child’s part becomes a survival skill. However, as the child grows into an adult, if not dealt with, “it is destined to be re-enacted” in other relationships.

Survivors minimize abuse for years on end until one day a trigger may happen and the psyche is ready to unearth the wounds of yesteryear. Now in a safe place to feel the feelings which may come on as a tidal wave of grief. But when the losses are fully mourned, the trauma losses its power.

Boxing Can Help PTSD, stories about ptsd


Boxing, aggression, violence and PTSD relate in interesting ways. 

I was asked recently to review a book by Ian Probert called “Dangerous” about the lives of boxers. Pithy, engaging profound, Probert makes observations about the boxers he knows and once knew.

Dangerous,,  reveals the cryptic world of boxing. I am not a huge boxing fan except for Muhammed Ali, and I was pulled into this intimate portrait. Probert quit writing as a boxing journalist when the boxer he was following becomes critically injured from a brutal fight. He returns 20 years later, examining the lives of past boxing champions he once knew, and where they are now. We learn of the wins, defeats, the struggles and unfairness…the camaraderie...

Boxers exclaim boxing saved their lives when they were at dead ends in their lives. They used boxing to get out the emotions of being brutally beaten by parents or bullies. Boxers also fight because they love the sport.

Physical abuse, sexual abuse CAN cause PTSD. When one struggles with PTSD, you have to find and search for the triggers for flashbacks and depression, find the right meds, get into therapy and then find something where the experiences can be expressed and verified. I know because I have travelled this road for a lifetime and it make take a lifetime for an individual to find those answers. There is no cure for PTSD, but you can manage it and lead a good life.

In an article in the LA times by Lance Pugmire, titled “Boxing has helped Army veteran Sammy Vasquez work through PTSD” Vasquez, 29, had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“You can’t prepare yourself for what you think war is,” Vasquez said. “You see someone you’re there with every day, talk about getting home … and then one of them ends up dead. That jacks your brain up … you get a lot of anger, aggression.”

Boxer Vasquez, a welterweight on the road to a title, states that boxing helps him to relieve, helps to separate out the anxiety, paranoia and aggression that he deals with every day.

The rawness of boxing and life in and of itself, is inherently fraught with danger. Search for your answers in unsuspecting places.


PTSD & Resilience

What makes one soldier suffer from PTSD and another one not have symptoms? Why do some people never recover from catastrophic grief while others do?

In the movie “What Dreams May Come” with the late Robin Williams, a physician dies in a car crash and ascends into heaven, his distraught wife commits suicide and descends into hell or Hades. The physician embarks on an epic journey to save his wife.  He descends into hell.  This is based on the presumption that we create our own hells and heaven with our own thoughts and memories (a theme in the Tibetan Book of the Dead as well). The couple had lost both of their children in a tragic car accident-the father was able to carry on through focusing on work, but the mother had much difficulty moving forward.  When she looses the love of her life, she commits suicide.

Why is it that some can carry on through immeasurable grief and others break down and can no longer function? How can one be resilient?

An article called Trauma, PTSD and Reliance by Christine E Agaibi, , states that “Theoretical models of  PTSD have established that there is a wide range of outcomes in how persons cope with traumatic experiences.”

Children cope more effectively with adversity if they receive nurturing and love, even those children exposed to chronic stress such as war trauma, refugee status, civil violence and extreme poverty. Self-esteem and self-confidence help protect against traumatic experiences.

A study of former prisoners of war and veterans, examined PTSD symptoms and they found that the greater the torture and weight loss experienced while imprisoned, the greater the PTSD symptoms. They noted that pre-military trauma, personality, age, and post-military social support determined the severity of the PTSD symptoms.

“To understand the plasticity of behavior in response to traumatic life events, it is necessary to recognize the multidimensional nature of traumatic experiences. Traumas are not equal in their impact to the psyche and vary greatly in their stressor dimensions. “

Support of others, childhood, pre-existing conditions, self-esteem, assertiveness, personality, intelligence, use of left brain and right brain and other cognitive styles, all play parts in how one survives and reacts to grief and trauma and whether they are vulnerable to PTSD or pathological disorders such as dissociative disorder.

Robin Williams retrieves his wife from hell through his love. She in the end decides to no longer blame herself for the death of her children, the hell she created, and to let go. She loves herself enough now and she loves her husband. She chooses to join her husband in heaven.

What is truly ironic about this film, is the late Robin Williams, who tragically committed suicide in real life. Perhaps his risk factors where far too high even for his magnificent creative mind to transcend, for he was battling both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.