C-PTSD and My Expat Life
No Matter Where You Go, There You Are.
October 4, 2021
Shit! Has it been a month? I am so sorry, and I apologize for my lack of production lately. I am still working my way through the blues, but the sun is shining, the sky is blue, and another wonderful day is on the horizon. This week I am compelled to share a few things about how the hell I ended up in Costa Rica in the first place. I hope you are at least entertained by my musings, but what I really hope is that Out of My Mind in Costa Rica – Living with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress is a beacon of light for you and a factor influencing you to take care of yourself first, knowing that if you are well, then you can tend to the needs of others.
As usual, I have compiled a few websites that shed a bit more light on today’s subject. I hope that these small, seemingly trivial acts will stimulate you to do what you need to do to heal from Complex Post-Traumatic Stress.
If you are not struggling with C-PTSD then you may have more questions than answers. Julie Maida writes about the key things we all wish others would know about this condition.
What Someone Living with Complex PTSD Wishes You Knew - Julie Maida (julie-maida.com)
Here is a very concise article written by Shirley Davis which was published at CPTSD Foundation. Straight forward and to the point.
The Difficult Road to Intimacy: Living with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder | CPTSDfoundation.org
Friendships are relationships and at times they are the most intimate relationships in our lives. Here’s a clear article written by Ashleigh Golden, PsyD that helps you to understand the conflictual nature of relationship with people who have C-PTSD.
CPTSD and Relationships: Why Conflict Happens and What To Do (psychcentral.com)
I have just completed a vast amount of research seeking some information on what living with C-PTSD as an expatriate is like and what kind of special challenges beset people in this situation. Nothing, nada, zero is what I found. It looks like I need to do an episode of Out of My Mind in Costa Rica-Living with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress focusing on life as an Expat, regardless of where you are in the world, and you have C-PTSD. Wouldn’t you know it, another thing I need to do myself. Expect that sooner, rather than later. Hell, who knows, maybe next week. Meanwhile give a listen to my current version of Expat life when you have C-PTSD.
C-PTSD and My Expat Life
No Matter Where You Go, There You Are.
October 3, 2021
Hello and welcome to Out of My Mind in Costa Rica – Living with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress. I’m your host, Ray Erickson. I keep promising you that I will get this podcast back on track and want to make good on that promise. I take these kinds of things very seriously. What I mean is, when I make a commitment to someone, especially to you guys, I do everything within my power to keep my promise. That is one thing I learned about the Erickson clan. When my family makes a commitment, it is written in stone. For example, when my father proclaimed in a voice message that he would have nothing to do with me if I said anything further about this “molest crap” he was a man of his word. He kept this promise with no apparent regrets until the day he died. The same was true for my mother and my older brother John. There is only one brother left and I expect him to stick with family tradition and silently slip off into the nether world without saying goodbye.
Does this bother me? Yes and no. The family’s commitment to killing me off was one of the few things they ever agreed on. I guess you might say, I was a unifying force in my family. I don’t think any of them were surprised to receive self-help books for Christmas that year. Books I specifically chose for each of them because each of them played a specific role in maintaining the secrecy and their responsibility the abuse. I got to hand it to them. Their decision was unanimous and yes, it was their final decision. From that moment on I was dead. I no longer existed in the eyes of my family. Dead, but not departed.
It is the sadness that is most troublesome to me. It is exceedingly sad and humbling to be wrestled down from my privileged position as family hero, thrown into a gunny sack, beaten, and pummeled by each of their fragile, and now ruptured egos, then tossed into a shallow grave. I was dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. There would be no resurrection for Ray. Nope. In that fateful moment, I ceased to exist in their mutual mind’s eye. That was the first day of the rest of my life.
I did what all good social workers do. I wrote them a goodbye letter expressing my sadness, my grief, and my hopes for them as individuals and as my closest living relatives. I sent this letter and then I took 2 giant steps into my new life. This came at a very good time. I had been a practicing social worker for about a year plus, I was entering a new and challenging positions treating adolescent sex offenders and their families. I had a strong and secure social support network, and I was newly in love. It could not have happened at a better point in my life. No longer was I carrying the weight of the family secrets. My personal, intellectual, emotional growth was incredible following this event.
That was only the beginning and there was much, much more I would learn about the lasting detrimental effects of growing up in an incest family. To this day I am still unraveling the spiderweb of lies and betrayals of my family. Since I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer this has taken me a long, long time. It was only a few short years ago I realized I had Complex Post-Traumatic Stress. This awareness explained a lot of the confusion I felt for decades. It explained the emotional flashbacks with their characteristic emotional dysregulation. It explained why I have had a life-long struggle in relationships. It explained the strong desire and drive to build a committed long-term partnership with the women I have loved, only for that world to come crashing down with repeated exposures to the massive distress I was carrying.
Yeah, I may be a little slow on the draw, but I know this about me. When I get something. I get it. My vision is clear, and I see the problem for what it is. This is huge! This is why I am perpetually curious about life. This is why, I continue to trudge on, even when it is nearly impossible to trudge anywhere. This is why I am doing this podcast with the simple goal of helping myself and those of you who are suffering from Complex Post-Traumatic Stress. We never asked for this, but it is ours to deal with, nonetheless. Let’s help each other where we can. This, modest podcast is how I am choosing to take what my life has become and share my insights and understanding of the inner workings of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress.
We are all in this mess together, so grab hold of a hand and put one foot forward. Together we stand. Together we heal. Together, we prevail. It’s that simple. We are not designed to go it alone. No matter where we are, we need connection and interaction with others. Without this we fail to thrive and without human connection hope, slowly, slips away. This is where you come in and ease my strain, relieve my pain, and warm my soul. Everyone knows about the monkey experiments where baby monkeys were nurtured in every way except for touch. They were completely removed from the soothing touch of their family and under these conditions, they failed to survive. You don’t need to be the sharpest blade in the drawer to know what this means.
We humans need and crave human connection but feel ashamed to admit our vulnerabilities out of fear of rejection. And if you have experienced rejection in your life and I am confident that you have, then you know the depth of that pain. You know the power of that pain and yet, you quietly hold that pain in, hoping your true self never gets exposed. How did we get to this point? How did we develop such powerful armor? How has it protected us and how is it keeping us from reaching our potential, our maximum humanness. I have no idea, to be honest with you. I am, to the best of my knowledge walking this path for the first time and just like you, I stumble, I teeter, I fall down the hill and just like you, I pick myself up and keep on going. Life does this. It is the nature of life to continually grow, expand, and explore.
That pretty much explains how I ended up living in Costa Rica. I stumbled and bumbled my way down the hill then scratched and clawed my way back up the hill over and over and over until I landed here, in a little casita on a hillside over-looking the central valley of San José, Costa Rica. Not to be confused with Puerto Rico, an island in the Caribbean. An island nation whom we, the USA, have exploited and dominated for decades, yet they still want to be a state. I say, Puerto Rica will make a very nice new state. They deserve it. They have earned it. I hope to visit this little island paradise one day.
No, I’m not in Puerto Rico, I’m in Costa Rica, a small central American country sandwiched between Nicaragua and Panama. It is known for its bananas, pineapples and their kicked back, Pura Vida lifestyle. This little paradise has been a stable democracy for 200 years. No other Central American country can make this claim. There are approximately 5 million residents, three quarters of whom, live in San José and the Central Valley. The climate is mild and there are unlimited dining, arts and cultural activities that attract a large number of tourists, but Costa Rica’s real claim to fame is their beaches. There are hundreds of them on both coastlines and anyone determined enough to drive cross county, can achieve that feat with an 8 hour drive, absent any geological and meteorological disasters.
Life is diverse in Costa Rica with the Pacific Coast boasting the best in tropical tourism and high-end accommodations and although I have yet to wander over to the Caribbean side of the country, I hear it is strongly Caribbean influenced in its culture and foods. It may be like driving to Bermuda. It’s a totally different vibe and has deep Jamaican roots. I look forward to making that trip soon. After all, times-a-wasting, and I ain’t getting any younger. Life exists in the now. In this very moment. Pay attention. There are many things to learn from this single moment of your life. At least there is a lot of fodder in my life for exploration. Don’t waste the paradise that is right in front of your eyes. Yes, you will need to slow down and any way you can do that will have long-term benefits, not just for your health and safety, but for your peace of mind. Humans are dialed into being human doings and we are very good at this “doing things”, thing. We are not so good at “doing the no thing” thing. Fuck that, what a waste of time. What do you get when you do nothing? Usually, nothing. Nothing plus Nothing is Nothing. Wasn’t there a song with that line in it? Well, I digress.
Many people get nothing from nothing and to a large degree they are perfectly happy with this. Nothing frequently results in more nothing. But you and I are not nothing. We are not no-thing. We are some-thing. We are any-thing, and we are every-thing. We are more than the sum of our parts and for anyone to become aware of the shear significance of our individual existences, you must come back to the moment. The moment that is filled with nothing. The moment that clears the senses and coaxes us forward. We are human and we are a remarkable, albeit highly self-sabotaging animal. We want to do good for others, yet we have the ability to destroy all life on this very fragile blue sphere randomly circling an average star in a vast Universe. Life is too big to be nothing. And yet, it may very well be a figment of our collective imaginations. Whoa, that’s too deep for this week. I’m going to table that idea for a later episode.
Back to paradise.
I have lived in Costa Rica since December 15, 2015. It will be six years this coming December. It seems like a lifetime, and I am still learning the language, Spanish. Keep in mind that a 70-year-old brain has significant difficulty adapting to a new language, so I give myself a break. Besides, Ticos are always gracious and patient with my pidgin Spanish. Yes, I may butcher the language, but, for the most part, I can navigate around Costa Rica relatively easily, for an old futs. Besides, I don’t really go anywhere. But, I am planning to get out more often and see places I have never seen and revisiting places I am craving to return to, like Uvita and Dominical in the Southern Zone.
I moved to Uvita after spending nine glorious days with my now current wife at her home where she invited me to stay with her, her mother and her then adolescent son who was attending University. After nine glorious days, I packed my bags and took a bus to Quepos, where I was met by another friend I met online while planning my 4-month trip to Costa Rica. The original plan was to house-sit with this person in a platonic friendship for the majority of the time I would be in Costa Rica. This worked out great for me. Until I actually moved in where I soon discovered that this friend was a very difficult person to be around and besides, I was becoming quite attached to my new friend from San José.
It didn’t take long for this woman and I to agree that it would be best if I were to leave. So, I did what any Gringo stranded in a strange country would do, I called the first woman who graciously offered me a place to stay along with a plethora of fringe benefits. We hit it off as good as we could given each of us understood less than half of what the other person was saying. Somehow, we managed to communicate. It just took a lot longer than if either one of us spoke the other’s native language. Language be damned. We fell in love. Her with me and me with her. It was both of us. It was hot and it was steamy, and it was very satisfying for her and me. It was jungle love. It was an incredible rush and a bicultural crush. So that is where I spent the next 4 months, living with her, her son, and her aging mother who needed significant care. It was an immersion into Tico life.
Well, that was then, and this is now. Not all things in paradise are meant to last. But all thing experienced are meant promote growth and development and this was a spectacular learning curve. Living in the “City” was completely the opposite of living in a sleepy beach town. I quickly realized that San José, Costa Rica was, without any doubt, the noisiest place I have ever lived, and I am reminded of this each time I drive into San José. These are completely different experiences, living in the city or living on a hillside in the country, one of the quietest places I have ever lived.
Any way you look at it, I have a pretty good situation here. Other than being on my own, basically single again and dealing with the repercussion of the Complex Post-Traumatic Stress and the mind-numbing pain of breaking up with the woman I thought I would be with until I died. I have been vibrating due to this loss for nearly a year and the good news is, it is finally clear that there is no path towards reconciliation, and this is alright. It’s OK. It has to be alright because it is, what it is. What is really sad for me is the lack of healthy communication between her and I. There is not going to be a nice and neat and tidy wrapping up of our experiences with each other. It is just ending. With little discussion and virtually no accountability on her part.
I understand where she is coming from given her attachment style, history and deeply held beliefs which remained just below the surface for the vast majority of our relationship. The vast majority of the past 12 years are simply snipped out, as if they did not exist. This may work for her, which I am sure it does, but for me, I need to at least try to clean up the mess and salvage as much relationship that is possible. And in order to do that, we need to be friends.
Friendship is important to me. In fact, it is THE most important quality in any relationship in my personal life. Friendship means there is an unconditional acceptance for whom each of us are. Friendship means there is safety in the relationship, that there are no topics that cannot be discussed. Total acceptance and total compassion are the foundation of any friendship I am engaged in, which makes me a real picky guy. My standards are high. They are also high for me as that would be friend. I do not wish to disappoint or let anyone down. My word is my bond and I make every effort to be the friend that I want them to be for me.
And I pay attention to these qualities. If a “friend” were to unselfishly offer me the last cookie, I would feel honored and validated through their generosity. I do everything in my power to back what I say and back what I do. Integrity for me is a highly valued trait and yes, I have not always lived up to my own standards of integrity. Usually, the most disappointed person under these circumstances is me. I let myself down when I let a friend down. Then there are times when I am so out of it, that I have no room available for anyone’s else and I shrink away into that dark place where I sit, solitary and alone in my inadequacy.
But, like always, time heals, and life goes on, hopefully in a more suitable fashion. With a few more laughs and a few more good times to cherish. This is the real gold in life. The gold that is mined when two people decide to be friends. The gold we courageously extract from those deeper levels within ourselves. Those parts of us that may not have seen the light of day for many years or even decades. Friends are what help people like you, and me get through the day. Friends are what motivates me to get up in the morning and take care of business. Friends are at the heart of all true peace.
I am striving to be as good a friend to myself as I am with other people. To do this I must recognize my vulnerabilities. I must recognize my limitations and I must also recognize my strength, endurance, and perseverance because without each of these traits, I would not be here at this moment, speaking these words to you with the simple goal of touching your heart and waking you up to the wonder that is you. The wonder of life and this incredible opportunity to go out there and live it. You got that? You, me, everyone, needs to go out there and live our lives. Live our life to best of our abilities. Live our life to the maximum experience possible.
This varies for everyone, but it is our duty and our obligation to ourselves and the next generation to become the best you, me, we, that we can be. Whatever it is for you, that is what it is. Now, life is difficult. It’s fucking hard. This is no secret. Life can be a real Debbie Downer, yet somehow, the vast majority of people pick themselves up and get back to trucking on. What else are you going to do? Stew in your blue, blue soup? That’s fine for a while. In fact, it may be just what the doctor ordered. The examined life includes all of those times when you and your life lacked any luster whatsoever. Those times when you crawled under the rock as opposed to pushing yourself forward.
Sometimes we get caught up in the current of our life’s river and our needs are met easily and effortlessly, then there are other times when the river is raging and the only way to survive it is to surrender to it. Accept it on the grounds that it is happening and move towards safety, security, and integrity. Somehow, we manage. Somehow, we survive and go on and sometimes it feels like we must die in order to be born again, so we die and are born again. Humans are constantly growing, changing, and impacting the world around us. There is no mistake about our impact. We are the best and we are the worst of all creatures ever to inhabit this planet and with any luck, we will outgrow our narcissistic and delusional ideas of what gives us power and control and wake up the beauty that that we are and the beauty that surrounds us regardless of where we live or where we go.
It is me who has to be the difference. And it is you who needs to be the difference in your life. When you are there for yourself, then you can go out and benefit others, keeping in mind that you can only help those who are willing to help themselves. Many people are afraid of this transition to a higher consciousness and a more pristine view of humanity and the world. I’ve always been a “glass half-full” kind of guy so I am naturally drawn to the positive traits in others, and I would hope that I am projecting my positive traits as well. That doesn’t mean we don’t deal with the shadow, the shadow absolutely needs to be addressed, faced up to and have light shed upon it.
Where there is light, there is shadow. You and I are comprised of both of these elements. That which shines and that which conceals. We are the light, and we are the darkness, just like the real world. There is day and there is night. It is up to us to balance these two forces and to do that we need to return to the moment we call NOW and live there for a while. Simply be and see what happens. Too many of us are human doings and it is killing us. Just watch any news and you may begin to have doubts about yourself, but don’t let those talking heads convince you that you are powerless and have no control. Control is very much in your hands, but that control applies only to yourself and nobody else.
The only person you have any power over is yourself. I know most of you realize this and are on the path of healing otherwise you would not be listening to me at this very moment. I want you to know that it is critical to embrace all of you, every stinking little bit of you and practice self-acceptance and practice self-forgiveness, humbly and with sincerity. Do it now, before it is too late, before your cynicism exceeds your ability to love. Please don’t let that happen to you. You are beautiful, just as you are. And you are strong, resilient, and powerful. No, you may not be faster than a speeding bullet and you may not be able leap tall buildings in a single bound, but you, are remarkable in your own, unique way and you light up my world when you open your heart to love. Love that comes from the heart of your soul. Love that casts out the shadows of grief and calms the waters. Love that does not direct, but accepts each path as sacred, honoring the struggles and the joys of life. It is much better to be optimistic and see the glass as half-full. At least that’s what I’ve done throughout my life. I have always been able to come up for air when I need it the most.
The light within you is your life jacket and I know it may not seem like it can hold the entirety that is you, but it does what it does, and you move forward. Forward, towards a new day, a new way, and a new you.
There, you’ve done it again. You have wasted another 30 minutes of your time listening to Out of My Mind in Costa Rica – Living with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress. Thank you for tuning in and listening to today’s Episode, entitled C-PTSD and My Expat Life. Before I go, I want to thank my sponsor, Out of My Mind Art, the Etsy shop where you can get Magic for every occasion. Check it out at Out of My Mind Art.
I hope everything is going well and that each and everyone of you have a blessed day. If you are listening to this podcast on a platform that allows you to rate, comment or review Out of My Mind in Costa Rica, then let your voices be heard. If you would like to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org that would be great. I will get back to you as soon as I can. If you know anyone who might benefit from listening to the stories of my fucked-up life, then please share this podcast. Sharing is caring.
So, until the next time, Be Courageous. Be Strong and Be Kind. I’ll catch you later. Bye.