My expertise with childhood trauma and CPTBS

About childhood trauma, CPTSD and finding a way to heal

from Terry Heick

Last January I couldn’t get up.

I don’t mean that physically I can’t. And by that I don’t mean that I couldn’t motivate myself or that I was having a bad day or that I was sleepy or particularly emotional or “down”.

I mean I couldn’t get out of bed.

By way of comparison, I was a teacher for six years and left the classroom a decade ago under more than minor pressure from the school and county government, with whom I have been constantly at odds. I really enjoyed my first year as an English teacher. I had to split my time between teaching ELA and math (even though I didn’t have a certificate in math), but I loved every minute.

In my sophomore year, I saw problems: so many students couldn’t read, or worse, didn’t want to. Many had self-confidence issues. Teachers didn’t have enough time to plan and were under pressure to join committees, come early, stay late, and do one district initiative after another.

Each year there was a new push with undertraining that was wrong from the start – contrary to everything else the school and the various departments were designed for, were already overburdened and difficult to integrate. It wasn’t good for the teachers, and worse, it wasn’t what the students deserved.

It wasn’t at all what I had imagined as a professional.

And so, over the next ten years, I developed TeachThought in response to what I was experiencing as an educator. The name says it all: shifting from teaching content to teaching ideas. Help students learn critical thinking, and then encourage their inclination to do so.

I have also started homeschooling four children (now ranging in age from 6 to 23 years old). Every year I realized my dream of helping teachers and students manage local needs to teach well while spending every day with my children and helping them learn, play and grow.

What depression feels like

But year by year I was getting more and more tired. Really, really tried. I was also emotionally numb. Very little joy or spontaneity. Trouble sleeping – and when I slept it wasn’t restful.

Years later I found out it was depression. I figured being depressed meant being sad or feeling worthless, unmotivated, etc. I realized that a better definition was being suppressed: that your natural human form and expression is being suppressed by something (or many things).

that you are not you

So back to the idea of ​​”not being able to get out of bed”. If you had told me before I experienced it myself that someone “can’t get up,” I would assume they are giving in a little too much – sadness? Too little motivation? But I know firsthand what it was like. I felt like my soul was exhausted. I had nothing – no lack of energy. I couldn’t imagine that I would even begin to face that day. Raising my kids seemed overwhelming (something I never would have imagined in a million years I’ve ever lived).

Run TeachThought? Write? Even getting out of the house seemed like an insurmountable task.

My experience of using ketamine to cure depression

After doing a lot of research and trying SSRIs, therapies, and countless other methods to “feel better,” I decided to try psychologically assisted ketamine infusions. Ketamine is a “dissociative anesthetic used medically to induce and maintain anesthesia.” It is also used to treat depression…” (source). It has psychedelic-like effects and, like other psychedelics, is gaining popularity as an effective way to treat a range of mental illnesses. The research was promising (e.g. here and here), and desperate for relief, she received seven intravenous infusions over the course of two weeks, with each infusion monitored by a psychologist during and after the integration treatment.

Ketamine helped me understand that I have/suffer from complex PTSD – or CPTSD.

What is CPTSD?

The American Psychiatric Association defines PTSD as a “psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, series of events, or set of circumstances.” A person may find this emotionally or physically damaging, or life-threatening and impair mental, physical, social and/or spiritual well-being. Examples include natural disasters, major accidents, terrorist attacks, war/fight, rape/sexual assault, historical trauma, intimate partner violence and bullying.”

In contrast, CPTSD is more complex and is usually caused by events over a longer period of time – from months to an entire childhood. These events are typically far less intense than those that cause PTSD, but have a similar or more intense (or at least more complicated) effect. The best description I’ve ever heard is “death by a thousand cuts”. As a child I never felt safe because my parents were always fighting, my mother left my father and we were with her looking for a place to sleep at two. The next night my father was drunk and after years of learning to keep calm and avoid him, I went to my room, listened to the fighting and tried to sleep. Years later, my mother left my father (and me) and married an emotionally abusive man. (One night, after hours of escalating fighting, I had to intervene to stop her from stabbing him—I was 12 at the time.)

So, ketamine then.

The first infusion was very relaxing, as was the second. I was having trouble speaking and the walls were breathing and the light looked like a bridge and eventually my ‘I’ disappeared and I came out the other side an hour later when the IV drip was finished. They continued to gradually increase the dose (although I playfully/politely protested, assuming they knew what they were doing). After each infusion I went home and fell – just exhausted/”done” for 4-6 hours.

See also how fear feels

After the fourth infusion, when the infusion wore off, I cried like a baby about my parents’ divorce, my childhood, their constant fights, etc. I hadn’t thought about divorce in years, but there it was. Among other things, ketamine is an emotional digger—or, to me, a trauma digger. I recalled a childhood trauma I’d probably never thought of — being hit with a belt, an image so vivid I could remember how the buckle felt when it made contact.

The actual shape of the buckle.

Not only was it difficult, it was exhausting.

Only in the last few months have I felt better than before the ketamine therapy. Every day was so tough – so many of my symptoms were physical – some anxiety but more, severe brain fog to the point of disorientation, some leaden paralysis, difficulty speaking (hard to explain), a huge lump of fluff in the PFC just behind my forehead , night sweats and much more. Mood played a part, but it was just so visceral and physical that I could hardly believe it was “trauma”. I thought I was dying – some days all I could do was eat, do a few minutes of yoga, then “collapse” and lie on the floor (not literally collapsing, but re-enacting the reaction to the trauma I experienced as a child and freeze/collapse). ).

I was convinced that the ketamine was making me worse, but what it did, as my somatic therapist put it, was put me into a “trauma vortex.” I experienced essentially all of the implicit trauma at once when I was at my rawest. It’s hard to put into words.

And TeachThought, in turn, was negatively impacted. After making a post every day (sometimes two or three) for nearly a decade, I’ve produced very little for the last 18 months. This has made things even more difficult in many ways, but I believe in myself and will not let that hold me back on my journey of healing that will allow me to return to the work I love and so much of me for creating gave myself.


So what I’ve learned is that the “drowsiness” years were depression from a repressed childhood trauma I didn’t know I had experienced. I’m recovering now, and while I still have a long way to go, I feel like I now understand why my brain “hates me” (that’s how I’ve always described my “bad days”) and a clear path forward see.

I had no idea that mental health could have such an extraordinary physical impact, let alone its impact on mood, productivity, happiness, and overall well-being. Mental health is far more complex and nuanced than I understood (and I think most people understand that too).

I care about and advocate for the human condition (including the source of suffering). TeachThought isn’t just built for teachers and students, it has a larger purpose: help make the world a better place by emphasizing inquiry, affection, empathy, rationality, and critical thinking.

I will write more about the individual parts of the whole. I’m completely transparent about everything I’ve experienced and learned and hope it can help someone else who has experienced or is experiencing a mental health “challenge” themselves.

There is hope.

There is healing.

there is love

There are answers.

They are not “broken” – there are causes and effects to well-being (and lack thereof) and, if properly examined, analyzed and understood, can lead to recovery.

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