Peer To Peer Potentail- Survival From the Sharp End

Young Harry walks into his local fish and chipper; sits amid the steam and the smell of frying satchels of goodness and with hands clasped betwixt knees begins a slow and barely noticeable rocking. It has been a hard day for Harry, with tic and twitches and verbal not quite silent explosions, leg and chest pain and the distinct impression he can actually feel his brain. Too many memories, a blistering cavalcade of lucid immersion into the past. The present though snaps constantly at the heels of his consciousness, chores to be done, shopping to be completed, dog to walked and offspring to be gathered up from school with a wink and smile and a “How was your day?” Dinner is next on the list that never ends and whilst the beef in browning, socks and shorts and skirt and tops become folded by insensate hands and placed ever so neat into such untidy drawers. The meal is made and consumed by all at the table with smiles and cheer and the occasional growl as a chop bone is dropped to the floor and old rover pounces, tailing beating a tattoo against the wall. Lead wife and sprogs to the sunken lounge, the carpet daily vacuumed and fresh from the baking soda sprinkled and brushed into the pile. Wash up, wipe benches make tomorrow’s lunches all the time a chameleon coping.

Harry doesn’t eat fish and chips but he likes it in the shop. The aromas and a business, not his and they are so very understanding. They nod a greeting but know that silence is the medicine here. Young Harry goes home, tears and a sobbing no one will ever hear. His companions, the memories never actually stop so have no need to return.

Just a boy when it started, and though few suspect, still in myriad fashion it continues. To this day and hour and minute on the clock face……………………………………


Harry not just gets through the day, he accomplishes many complex tasks. He put others ahead of himself, as befits a nurturing parent. He creates wonderful meals and an atmosphere of safety and security for his loved ones. He functions at an extraordinarily high level. Yet hi is severely and persistently mentally ill.

The MH sector has as yet merely scratched the surface when utilising the many talents and the enormous breadth of knowledge that MI survivors have.

I say survivors for a reason. In many cases, especially those of a complex disorder; treatments and therapies are only partially effective or in so many cases non effective. So there is a population walking around that self manages crippling symptomology. Most refuse to give up! Imagine; cancer, no treatment, no pain management no hope of cure and yet every day lived and survived with another day of the same to look forward to. Short remissions, a time to be appreciated for some actual life quality, then Boom! Episodic again!

This is survival at the sharp end. Also this is a life which develops a unique skill set.

Whilst there have been some interesting breakthroughs in understanding complex mental illness and with the recent discovery of the applications of cyclotides and the accurate targeting of psycho-pharmaceuticals, we still today, right now, are reliant on various and often  strangely affective behaviour management skills to get us through the day.

This truly translates into a knowledge base that if channelled and focused correctly could have vast applications in peer to peer support.

If these inherent skills can be identified then an homogenous training can be made available to peer workers and a new care model brought into being.

Older Survivors of Developmental Trauma- Child Abuse and those Old Lost.

Abuse of children is an age-old practice. Only in recent decades has it become recognised as the venal, self-serving power trip that it is. In days gone by this was thought of acceptable and in so many cases was considered necessary in the raising of children.

In the last twenty years, (yes I know it’s not long ago) society has changed in many ways, some for the better some not. The condemnation of all forms of child abuse is, at least in the West, is universal. Was this evolution of moral swing dictated by altruism? No. Quite simply, researchers in many areas of pediatrics discovered personality changes that were definitely hazardous to a child’s wellbeing. This research has become more specific in recent years.

The hippocampus, a brain region involved in memory and emotion and rich in receptors for stress hormones, has been shown to be smaller in traumatized adults, this includes adults traumatized as children, than in those without such history. Lasting effects of trauma on the brain, showing long-term dysregulation of norepinephrine and Cortisol systems, and vulnerable areas of hippocampus, amygdala, and medial prefrontal cortex that are affected by trauma.

And this is merely a layman’s parroting of a small part of the research. The effects are far-reaching and truly physical. I think this was the trigger to understanding for me. Complex PTSD and PTSD are not merely emotional regulation disorders. They are not diseases of the ethereal mind. Actual brain malformation and structural changes occur in children who are abused. As yet I’ve not discovered any studies regarding specifically extended periods of abuse or types of abuse. The data I have collected makes very clear that physical and non-physical abuse have the same neurological outcomes for the adult that the child will become.

Emotional Regulation. May include persistent sadness, suicidal thoughts, explosive anger, or inhibited anger.

Consciousness. Includes forgetting traumatic events, reliving traumatic events, or having episodes in which one feels detached from one’s mental processes or body (dissociation).

Self-Perception. May include helplessness, shame, guilt, stigma, and a sense of being completely different from other human beings.

Distorted Perceptions of the Perpetrator. Examples include attributing total power to the perpetrator, becoming preoccupied with the relationship to the perpetrator, or preoccupied with revenge.

Relations with Others. Examples include isolation, distrust, or a repeated search for a rescuer.

One’s System of Meanings. May include a loss of sustaining faith or a sense of hopelessness and despair.

For so many people who have survived child abuse there has been little or no support. We take for granted this enlightened period in very recent history, but thirty years ago, I can tell you personally that I was shunned by psychiatrists and mental health professionals across the board. Nor is my experience unique. Talk to survivors forty years old and over, many will say the self-same thing. Many of us were called attention seekers, people with a personality disorder (which back then put you in the too hard basket) and more often than not liars. It has happened so consistently for so many for so very, very long that most have chosen to disengage from the mental health sector completely. Too often CPTSD sufferers go it alone and live episode to episode, holding down jobs, raising children, establishing homes all in an internal atmosphere of isolation, anxiety, anger, suicidality, dissociation and just plain mortal difficulty.

It is certainly heartening that as a society we have moved on and we recognise these damaging dynamics. We engage as much as possible in early intervention. I applaud this and I have hope for the future of humans and human interaction.

Please though, don’t forget us. Those who were ignored abandoned and yes, betrayed. We are so very tired of being isolated but we are wary of further betrayal.Will anyone engage the children become adult and wounded in a battle none of us chose?

Finally, for those who doubt, I have interviewed and spoken with well over a hundred survivors of severe long-term child abuse. All have been diagnosed with CPTSD, some with co-morbidity attachments. All were aged forty or over, and NONE had experienced any meaningful intervention, except for myself (an excellent psychiatrists recognised the symptoms and decided to try to treat me when I was thirty-two years old).

I hope this essay provokes thought and some remedial action.