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Hostage To My Captor

Guest Author: Rob

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

Stockholm Syndrome — that condition that causes hostages to develop a psychological alliance with their captors during captivity.

I believe I have developed the mental health equivalent with my captor, PTSD/Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).

I can’t figure out why I get somewhat overprotective of my PTSD/MDD as if it’s something I cherish like a close and long lasting childhood friendship.

I can’t figure out why there are times I don’t want to recover from it, and there are times that the thought of recovery actually scares me. I have to wonder if there have been times I have unconsciously sabotaged my own efforts at recovery or held back, even the slightest, at giving it my all towards recovery.

It is a part of me.

I have had PTSD/MDD for so long that it has become part of who I am, it is part of me, it has defined and been the reason why I have done some of the things I have done, and why I have some of the behaviours I have. It has been my captor and held me hostage taking away from me my sense of safety, of calmness and freedom of thought replacing those with fear of the past, anxiety about the future and the ever present cognitive distortions and self-doubt.

My PTSD/MDD has become as much part of who I am as my genetics have made me a male, given me blue eyes and brown hair and made me grow to 6 feet (two meters) in height. My PTSD/MDD is no different then the many scars I have accumulated over a life well lived and wraps and encapsulates my very essence no different then my very own skin. My PTSD/MDD is me!

My PTSD/MDD is me!

I can’t figure out why it is that I feel this way about something that has been so problematic for me and something that has lead me to dark places and has added so many unbelievable challenges, pain and self-doubt to my life.

It can only be because I have developed some strange, hard to understand and comprehend allegiance with the captor holding me hostage, my PTSD/MDD.

I truly look forward to the day when my captor, my PTSD/MDD, no longer has domain over me!

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Wakikat
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Our greatest strength taken to an extreme can become our greatest weakness. Depending on how your PTSD evolved it can influence how intertwined with your identity and source of strength it becomes in your brain. In my case it developed from the time I was 6 to 18 while my brain was forming and I had to be on high alert in an abusive household while being moved around a lot. I credit it with giving me great survival skills and the hyper vigilance to be always aware of my surroundings and people’s intent. I can spring into action at the sight of an accident, and jump to a person’s rescue when I see they are in what I perceive to be a dangerous situation. HOWEVER, the PTSD prevents me from modulating and knowing the difference between a threatening situation and a calm one. I don’t want to lose my hyper vigilance or deep empathy which I’ve come to see as my superpowers, but when taken to extremes they actually backfire – like the Hulk who’s powers can be used to protect and defend, but also accidentally destroy like a bull in a china shop. The later of which then leads to feeling like an outsider with little control over their own mind, which for me further feeds the depression that I just don’t fit in anywhere.
Overtime – I’m 20 years into this journey – I have repeated this mantra to myself:
What worked in the past to survive is not what works now to succeed.
I need to replace survival behaviors with success behaviors, and tackle them one at a time as I unearth my different micro-triggers and sabotaging dysfunctional safety-driven behaviors. At the time you might have employed behaviors that were anything but sabotaging, like laying low, staying in hiding, not staying in anyone place to long and having multiple escape routes. These were essential survival techniques that kept you alive, so its perfectly understandable to want to retreat to those learned safety techniques. They become sabotaging when the right thing in a succeeding scenario requires the opposite – to speak up at work, to see something through to the finish even if you are making mistakes along the way.
Some other analogies that might help depending on what resonates are:
“With great powers comes great responsibilities” – Spiderman I think? In the case of PTSD, your amygdala’s powers have been increased to give you super-sensing survival powers but it can also amplify and distort the information it detects and interprets. So it takes cognitive practice (CBT, EMDR, etc.) and sometimes assistive medication (I tend to view it as an anti-inflammatory like one might use as part of a physical therapy recovery regimen) to put yourself back in the driver seat – like Bruce Banner over the Hulk.
Another way to think of it is like a feral cat that has been adopted and taken in to a domestic setting. It may always be more alert than its fat-cat domesticated counterparts because it had to in the wild, but working with it overtime it can learn to appreciate not having to be on guard all the time by being desensitized to everyday household noises and giving it a greater sense of safety – but it doesn’t happen overnight.

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