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I am a Complex Trauma Survivor

Updated: May 4, 2023




I was born into a trauma lifestyle with a dysfunctional family of alcoholism, domestic violence, and mental illness. I don't remember a time before my trauma. In fact, I don't really remember the first 7 years of my life, but that's just my brain's defense mechanisms working at their finest. And that childhood picture you see here, that's me, unaware of the tumultuous path that lay ahead.

The first few years of my life, I broke both my collarbones and cracked my head open, so it seems redundant to point out that neglect was present in our house. Mental and emotional abuse was the language of my family. Alcohol was the water their bodies needed to survive a minute of existence. I experienced molestation as a child and was raped by a family member when I was 14 years old. That is how I lost my virginity.

Outside looking in, you didn’t see any of that. I was just like everyone else.


When those causing your trauma are the people who share your blood, the abuse doesn't just stop. When you turn 18, it still doesn't just stop because you are now 'an adult.' It doesn't just disappear. This was the family I was born into. Chaos was the foundation of my life, and even into adulthood, I didn’t understand that I was functioning in constant survival mode because a trauma lifestyle was all I'd ever known.

I didn't even realize that what was happening was abuse or trauma. This was the hand of cards I was dealt; this was just normal life, and I knew others had it worse than me. I spent most of my teens and early twenties trying to numb the pain with drugs and alcohol, pretending to be as 'normal' as possible, and searching for love and some sort of acceptance in all the wrong places. I was on a hamster wheel of trauma after trauma, thinking “this is just how life is.”


Finding my father drinking himself to the point that he didn't even recognize me, led me to my first therapy session when I was 21. I went for a couple weeks, only to later talk myself into thinking it was pointless.

Cue the "it's not your fault it happened, but it's your responsibility to deal with it now"

bullshit that no one who is still being abused wants to hear. I didn't want more responsibility. I survived it. I lived it. Now I have to “deal with it too?”. I wanted to have some time NOT dealing with this. Didn't I deserve a break? Didn't I deserve to have my own life? Didn't I deserve to stop the pain and chaos?

She told me that's not how it works. So I decided I would deal with it in my own way.

I quit therapy; it was too expensive anyway. I began writing about my trauma and would continue for years. That's processing, right? That’s facing my trauma, right? That’s still healing right? I would rather express it myself, cope in my own time and not have to pay some old white person to listen to my abuse. The reality is, I only wrote about the stuff I could actually face, which included everything but my sexual abuse. That remained sealed away, in a dark room in the basement of my subconscious, locked in a box marked DO NOT FUCKING OPEN.

With each word I wrote, I was unknowingly re-traumatizing myself. I was re-activating the pain from inside the same environment that had caused it, and was still causing it. And doing so without any skills to cope except my hearty (and continually growing) level of tolerance to alcohol. The reality was, I was still only surviving.

I’d lie to myself and say I wrote about all my trauma. I would pretend I was proud of myself and act like I was this strong person who wouldn’t be held back by the cards I was dealt.

I think I knew I was lying, but I really wanted to believe it. I just wanted to be healed. But I wasn't, which just confirmed my belief that something was fundamentally wrong with me.

So I put my healing on the back burner and went back to surviving the only life “style” I had ever known.


To the outside world, I appeared successful, confident, and like I had my shit together. I developed a successful career in the bar industry because I could thrive in the chaotic environment, an environment that I literally grew up in. As a glorified babysitter for drunk adults, I became a workaholic inside a toxic comfort zone. I mastered the art of putting on a mask and being what everyone else needed me to be, because that’s what I had been trained for all my life.

Yet inside, I was completely mentally unstable and felt sure, I was losing my mind.

By age 25, I was a functioning alcoholic, addicted to Adderall, and ruining relationships with anyone who actually gave a damn. I was the mirror image of my parents, and that made me sick. I was walking down the same twisted dark path, something I swore I would never do.

I began isolating myself in a way that scared me. I didn't realize I was still trauma-

blocking, mainly because the abuse was still so active.

My abusive father had just passed away, a family member was sexually abusing me again, I made the difficult decision to have an abortion, and to say the least, I hit complete rock bottom.

I knew if I continued to live this way, I would absolutely end up killing myself.


I had no clue what I was doing or what was happening inside my head or body. But what I did know was that I couldn't handle being in my own skin anymore and I didn't want this life anymore. Continuing to “survive” like this was actually killing me. I knew I needed to tame the chaos within.

I decided I needed help from others and, more importantly, myself. There was no roadmap for growing up through trauma, which meant no roadmap for the healing journey either. I wasn't even sure I was ready to deal with the road ahead, and I truly had no idea what to expect.

I went to therapy for a few years but never felt comfortable enough, to be truly honest (with a therapist, nor with myself). I could talk about the basics, but I couldn't even face the reality of the sexual abuse myself, let alone speak about it to a stranger.

For the first time in my life, I established some boundaries and started to face the pain that I couldn't seem to get rid of.

Difficult’ is an understatement.

The people who benefited from my open boundaries used guilt, shame, manipulation and anything possible to keep the boundaries down. Not to mention that you hear a whole lot of “but its your family” when you start removing them from your life.

I already spent years writing about my trauma. But now, I spent years re-wording, re-reading, re-living the experiences as I tried to edit the book I was writing. I became obsessed with my book being the proof I needed to explain why I was the way I was.

Let's face it, Healing doesn't happen overnight.

Even with the work I was putting in, even though some things were better, it really was better. But I didn't feel I was any closer to being fixed or healed. And because I couldn't fix myself completely, I still felt damaged, like I was stuck in the quicksand of my past.

Healing is messy, ugly, really fucking painful and seems to never end. But I knew that I would rather go through the healing no matter how painful it was than die chained to the torture in the trenches of shame.


It took someone close to me, disclosing their own sexual abuse, that instantly shed a little bit of shame within.

It was like the permission slip I was waiting for. I needed to be shown that it wasn't just me. When that individual shared their voice, I felt the courage to use mine.

The truth is, I couldn't physically say those words still. It had been over 15 years since the first rape, and I still couldn't verbalize it out loud. I didn't know how. But I didn't want the secret anymore. So I wrote about the sexual abuse and added those chapters to my book. The first time I spoke of the abuse was me reading those chapters out loud. I still couldn't say those words alone.

Looking back now, I think it was like I needed to explain how it all went down or else no one could possibly ever believe me. I didn't think saying "I was raped" was enough. I knew, in every inch of my body, that statement wasn't enough for others to believe me. It wasn't even enough for me to believe it myself.

Because that's our culture, and that is just heartbreaking.

The act of disclosing your trauma to someone for the first time, can either help you heal or re-traumatize you. It can help you take ten steps forward or send you spiraling backward into a black hole of minimization, blame, and shame.

When you do decide you want to tell someone, please choose wisely and only when you are ready. I was blessed that this individual's response was loving and supportive, which allowed me to take the next step in the direction of healing.

I found a trauma-informed therapist who was best for me. And that therapist to this day, still helps me make sense of what I’ve been through while I continue to evolve into the person I want to be. I can’t say this enough: the relationship you build with your therapist is crucial. You are allowed to ask your therapist questions to ensure they are qualified to help you and see if you feel comfortable with them. If your interactions with them make you feel like you can’t be yourself and be honest, find a new one. Yes, it can take a while before you feel you can trust your therapist. It may even take you a few therapists before you find the right one.

I slowly began to speak openly about ALL of my trauma with my therapist; and confiding in a few people I felt close to. As I continued healing, I realized it wasn’t about the end-game of being healed but, instead it was about cultivating a life in which I didn’t need to survive anymore.

This meant removing from my life; the people, family, situations, habits and things that continued to cause me harm or keep me in the cycle of abuse. Of course this wasn’t an over night expedition, but a voyage. I first had to quit my career and leave my old “normal” behind, then replace it with one that allowed for healthy habits, supportive people and safe environments.

While therapy is helpful, it can only get you so far, and it isn’t the be all for healing. Healing isn’t one size fits all and its not just ONE thing that works, I think its about finding a lot of things that work for you. What may work for one person, might not for another, and vice versa. For example, EMDR, which is helpful for many with trauma, was extremely harmful for me.

Energy work played a massive role in shedding blocks in my healing journey and is currently part of my daily practice. It has helped me work with my trauma on a deeper body and nervous system level. Plant Medicine also continues to play a massive role in my healing.

I found a way to help others learn these same healing techniques to navigate their own healing journey. And in doing so, I feel immense joy knowing that fellow survivors are moving forward on their journey.

Over time, things do get better. And then you might feel worse again. And then it gets better. It's a rollercoaster because healing isn't linear. Healing isn’t an end destination, but a direction.

Even with the ups and downs of healing, I am happy I decided to go on this personal journey. I may not feel ‘fixed’ or completely ‘healed’ but, things are so much better than they used to be and I am learning to enjoy the ride along the way.

I believe in the power of sharing stories, so I decided to be authentically honest about my experiences. I hope that this gives someone going through similar trauma a chance to feel validated, and draw comfort from the knowledge that they are not alone. If you can relate to this story, feel free to open a dialogue in the comments section below, collectively, we can learn and grow from each other's experiences.

All blogs written by Complex Dani and subject to © Copyright. All Rights Reserved.

No part of any entry on this blog, may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form, by any means, including photocopying, screenshots, copying/pasting, recording or other electronic or mechanical methods, including adaptations in all forms of media.


13 comentários

02 de abr.

First off- I am SO damn proud of you for being so vulnerable and sharing your story. Second- I am so sorry you experienced so much trauma throughout your life. You deserved so much better. I'm sure writing about these experiences has been incredibly difficult but I know they are going to change someone's life. Your story will be someone's survival guide. Thank you for sharing. Sending so much compassion & care.


04 de jan.

Wow - incredible. Powerful journey. I know that grieving these parts that are filled with shame is not easy - so that alone is very courageous - to be witnessed is also the way out of toxic shame. I am learning so much - thanks for share this.😀


19 de mai. de 2023

I decided to start my healing journey a few years ago. My voice was taken from SA at a young age and I finally spoke up after 23 years. Finally knowing I have been living with PTSD this whole time has been eye opening because I was told it was just anxiety. My goal is to one day be able to help others just like you.


30 de abr. de 2023

I have spent a good deal of my adult life healing from trauma. Now 67, life has gotten better, but I can still be triggered from time to time. I have written about some of my trauma in a publication on Substack. A lifelong Visual Artist, I created a deck of Oracle Cards (Sacred Journey Medicine Cards) to provide illumination for survivors as well as others. I am also a professional energy healer who benefits from receiving this modality as well. Blessings

complex dani
complex dani
04 de mai. de 2023
Respondendo a

thank you so much for your message mel. I applaud you for the healing you have done for yourself and now help others with. the world needs more people like you. sending healing energy your way <3


Abha Thapliyal
Abha Thapliyal
29 de abr. de 2023


Just wanted you to know that you are loved, supported and even cherished. Reading your blog was like reading my own memoir. I’m currently in recovery from C-PTSD and being a Zen Buddhist, I have always followed energy healing. You’re such an amazing writer! Can we be friends? I feel like I’d be down to hang out with you any time. Thank you for sharing your story; you are in a safe space and will only be treated with the utmost respect. Consensual Hug 🤗



complex dani
complex dani
04 de mai. de 2023
Respondendo a

hi abby, oh my goodness, this means so much to me. thank you so much for such a kind and supportive message. i am so sorry that my blog was so relatable, but am glad that it helps you know you are not alone. I would love to be friends :) So honored you are part of this space and sending nothing but healing energy your way <3 dani

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