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  • Writer's pictureElfreda Manahan-Vaughan

A Life in Four Parts. Part one, of perhaps many

I can see the irony in calling this post a life in four parts and then adding that the posts may be many but when I think of my life, it has had four distinct phases. The fist was my childhood up to when the last of my siblings left home when I was 15. The second was from then until my mother died when I was 26 and the third was from then until 11 years ago when this phase started, and I re-met my now husband and we got married. This is my posttraumatic growth phase but that’s a story for another day.

The overarching theme across my life up until more recently has always been overshadowed by my concern for what other people thought. Although I was often concerned, they would dislike me or judge me, my real concern was how they would feel. I have spent my life being afraid I would hurt people. I know now where this began, it started with my relationship with my mother, who would often express her sense of hurt when I did something wrong and her disappointment for me was palpable.

The second reason is because of my hypervigilance, an aspect of Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. CPTSD is common in people who have experience several or ongoing traumas over a period of time, which for me occurred primarily in my teenage years. There is a measure called the Adverse Childhood Experience scale that measures the traumatic experiences you have had in your childhood across 3 criteria, Abuse, Neglect and Childhood Disfunction ( you can do your own test here ). Each section is divided up further to give a total of 10 adverse childhood experiences

Credit source – NPR and Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Credit: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

My score is 8 out of 10 and although this makes me high risk for several health problems as well as addictions, the main outcome for me has been CPTSD. I have had to work over the years to first understand what I was experiencing but more importantly to realise that many people do not experience the world as I do. One of the first times I realised this was many years ago when I described my experience of shame to a friend and she looked at me when I said ‘you know when…’ and she said ‘no, I have never done that’. It was a bit of shock to find out not everyone felt like I did and it often still is.

I guess the reason I am telling this part of my story is because it is the reason, I do what I do. My fear of hurting people has made me extremely empathetic and perceptive of other people’s emotions. It is the reason that people choose me as their coach when they have been through a highly stressful life event and want to speak with someone who won’t judge them and in my case will probably say, ‘I’ve been there and you are not crazy and yes, you can be ok’. It is also the reason I am so determined that people learn to let go of their shame and can also learn to forgive and live a happy and fulfilling life regardless of what has happened to them in their past. I am proof that trauma is not the end, in fact it can be the beginning and I want to help people who want to understand themselves better and live a life of their choosing not one plagued by the shame of the past.

Thanks for reading. I hope our paths cross again in future.


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