Ever since I moved in with my dad at age four, I’ve been happy to keep it that way. I have known two types of home: the type I had before I lived with my Dad, and the type after.
As I’ve started to understand how my brain has been working since then, I know that my understanding of life at four years old – and for a while after that – went something like this: Dad’s home is safe, other’s probably aren’t. The area I’m in is safe, other’s probably aren’t. Almost four years ago, this version of me came back as an overpowering part of my brain and I was diagnosed with CPTSD: I lived life on high-alert, feeling unsafe in almost every situation that meant I wasn’t at home or could present any source of danger.
Knowing this makes moving out very daunting.
With EMDR therapy, I have been able to understand how the four-year-old part of my brain works and that actually I’m just trying to protect myself – even when I don’t need protecting. Due to the nature of CPTSD a small part of me will always be that little girl, and sometimes she just needs reassurance. When I’m anxious, I know it’s her. So I carry her with me everyday, teaching her that it’s OK, and teaching my brain that not everything is dangerous or a reason for protection.
If it was up to that part of my brain, I would live at home forever. I’d also spend very little time out of the house and be unable to complete many day-to-day activities like going to work or socialising. I’d be shy, mistrusting and, most of all, really bloody anxious. Four-year-old me is prone to panic, but I can’t let her live anxiously within me forever – so I push her. I reassure her and I push her. Together, we do leave the house, we do go to work and we do socialise. And now, we’re moving out.
In all honesty, I don’t know how this part of me will feel about it when it happens. I am very aware of how this young version of me stuck somewhere inside may be likely to perceive the situation – and how overbearing she can be. But adult me – me now – can’t wait to finally live with my boyfriend after six years together. I know that four year old will be with me as the small, post traumatic stress disordered part of me, ever-cautious and mistrusting, anxious, hyper-alert, but we make a pretty good team now. I’m getting used to her, to how she works, to helping her, and together we’ll be OK.