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Tammy's Truth for PTSD Awareness Day

Thriving Through a Pandemic with C-PTSD

I am a victim/survivor of pervasive childhood trauma living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). I wanted to share my story during these uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic to help others that are suffering with C-PTSD. By sharing these aspects of my life, I hope to encourage others to never give up on themselves.

When the pandemic first hit back in 2019, I was a full-time student trying to continue with my studies. I was doing really well for the first couple months of the pandemic. But then my worst fears happened, I was mandated to wear a mask over my mouth and nose. WOW! I was overwhelmed. As a victim/survivor of childhood trauma this is the worst thing that could happened to me—covering my mouth and nose with a cloth.  

Many people understand and know about PTSD and how it affects war veterans, car accident victims, natural disaster victims and victims of violence. But many individuals, including medical professionals, are still trying to understand and learn how to help individuals that are living with C-PTSD. This disorder is associated with repeated, often intentional, trauma.

C-PTSD is a psychological disorder that can develop in response to prolonged, repeated experience of interpersonal trauma in which the person has little or no chance of escape. I had repeated trauma over my childhood and adulthood. My C-PTSD symptoms were heightened from wearing a mask over my face.

Have you ever had a moment in your life that you never wanted to repeat again? My abusers use to cover my face with a hand or some type of clothing to keep me quiet. The mask felt like his hand again. Wouldn’t you do anything to stop that from happening again?

The unforgettable flashback is coming true again for me!

 I CAN’T STOP IT!

The flashback is going to happen AGAIN and AGAIN!

I had experienced several different triggers and flashbacks on a daily basis before this pandemic happened. But this time, I thought to myself, “will this mask that I have to wear, take my voice away again? Will I fall to being a victim again?”

Each time I had to wear that mandated mask, I lost all my ability to concentrate or even complete a simple daily task in my life. I had to fight with myself to use my voice. There are times I often felt so disconnected from my body and life that I wondered, “Who am I?” Who was I before this flashback became real again?

I had to tell myself to breathe on a daily basis. On most days, after a full day of wearing a mask, I would crawl into bed wishing to disappear because the flashbacks and triggers were so strong for me that I wanted to hide from everyone. There were days I would run away to hide in a restroom stall or hide in an office because I was having a full-blown panic attack because of the mandated mask. It made me feel invisible to the world and silenced again. When I was able to find the strength within myself to speak, I would stutter.

It was so frustrating because I was trying to be normal like everyone else. I was a college intern trying to fit in.

On top of the stress of wearing a mask, my dissociation was heightened because of the flashbacks and triggers. I avoid people, gatherings and changes in consciousness and uncontrollable emotions at times.

I persevered in my life by walking in faith. I never gave up on myself or my abilities to finish my college education. I started to take better care of myself by eating correctly, journaling, exercising, using my grounding skills and doing mindfulness exercise daily. I came up with a self-care plan and implemented that into my daily life.

It has been a continuous challenge, but I graduated from college in May with high honors with a human services degree.

As the world unmasks, I have to continue wearing one. I can’t be vaccinated due to an underlying medical condition. I need to continue to protect myself even more now. I feel like I have completely lost my mind at times because people are not following the right guidelines. At times, my C-PTSD can get the best of me if I allow this disorder to control my life.  

But I have learned how to embraced my inner strength and thrive through this pandemic as a victim/survivor of childhood trauma and now as an advocate making a difference in people’s lives.   

Embrace your inner strength and live the life you deserve!

Read Tammy’s Truth for the Clothesline Project.