Theresa grew up believing she was “unwanted, unloveable, defective and worthless.”
Suffering her first nervous breakdown at the age of 23, turned out to be the start of a “recurring cycle of gradual unravelling” due to having lived in her threat system for so many years during childhood.
Find out through Theresa’s inspirational transformation story what helped her to
rebirth and comfort her inner child, teach her the skills she now knows and become her greatest advocate and ambassador…
My Story by Theresa CasaccioMy early years were very unstable and frightening. My mother carried me whilst in a psychiatric facility and my father was a violent alcoholic. I remember little of my early years, though there are feelings of fear, confusion, sadness and pain connected to them and a few memories, especially that of the night that changed our lives forever. After a drunken, violent fight between our parents, our Mum, my brother, sister and I left home the next morning with only the clothes on our back, never to return.
We were taken to a women’s refuge, where we stayed, hidden for 6 months. Our mother didn’t cope well and in desperation we were handed over to social services and placed into an emergency foster placement, with a single mother who had 2 children of her own. It was to be the worst 2 years of my life.These early experiences were spent in constant fear, where everything and anything I did received punishment and abuse. We were often treated like animals, I was neglected, emotionally, physically and sexually abused. There was no respite from it, no one to talk to and her sons took pleasure in making our lives a misery. When living there we never knew what awaited us and it was here I learnt to hide my personality, become invisible, subservient and to try to mold myself to what those around me needed and wanted. After 2 years, my brother broke down and told the truth about our abuse. We were removed from that home in the middle of the night and placed in a second foster home which was little better. This placement broke down after 6 months, our female care giver was unstable and unable to cope with us. We were then placed into a children’s home, then 18 months later into a new family where we were eventually adopted.
The adoption wasn’t easy or a particularly happy one. Love and affection wasn’t encouraged and so much went unsaid, feelings buried, not expressed. Because we had suffered much trauma and abuse, we had attachment and psychological problems which were not addressed. I felt lost and like I didn’t fit or belong. There was no help or support offered to us or our parents; thus our needs were not met. I suffered in silence and though there wasn’t abuse, I felt deeply and subtly that I wasn’t really what our parents wanted and struggled to feel accepted or a part the family. A distance between us grew, with so much not said, I grew up believing I was unwanted, unloveable, defective and worthless.
Looking back now I can say I was always frightened; awaiting something bad to happen, I was depressed and suffered severe anxiety in childhood with constant headaches, stomach aches and panic attacks started at around age 14. I kept quiet, I had learnt to mask and hide my anxiety most adeptly. Growing up was uncomfortable and I never felt I fit in anywhere.I suffered a severe and frightening nervous breakdown at the age of 23, which was the start in a recurring cycle of gradual unravelling. Throughout my adult life I would slowly come through breakdown after breakdown having therapy, which never seemed to get to the root of what was happening to me. I was never able to hold down a full-time job, or maintain healthy relationships and when things got tough I would retreat into myself and no longer feel able to cope or function in the world for fear of anything and everything. Many times I wanted the pain to go away, I wanted to die and couldn’t see a way out. Life was just too painful for me and I was just too sensitive.Through time, much soul searching, various types of therapy, research and learning, I am now able to see that those experiences I had suffered through my childhood, the trauma, abuse, strain and constant fear I was functioning under, at breaking point had resulted in my suffering Complex PTSD.Thank goodness for more recent brain imaging and neuroscience we now know what living in constant fear and trauma do to brain development and function. Discovering Complex Trauma as a condition has helped me make sense of how I am and why I have functioned through life in the way I have.
The last 3-4 years have been really defining for me. I accessed my care and adoption records as I needed to fully understand and make sense of my life. I have had to review my entire life through the eyes of an innocent child, because before now I viewed my life through the eyes of a child who believed she was to blame for everything that happened to her. This journey has enabled me to accept myself as I am both the good and bad. I have learned how vital having self compassion and learning to love myself are.
It has been a life long and painful recovery process, with many twists and turns and yet more trauma experienced in my adulthood. Stripping back layer upon layer of trauma and it’s effects and coming to terms with it all.
Still the impact of prolonged periods of trauma and abuse are rarely taken into account or understood by the mental health field when it comes to treatment or recovery and as such, I have found my own way out of despair, through numerous helpful resources, which have over time enabled and led me through a journey of coming home to myself.Faith and spirituality have played a big part in my life, in my times of greatest need, when feeling completely alone and unable to go on with life, faith and spirit surrounded me, saving my life. Somewhere deep inside there must always been a small spark of hope for the future and a sense that all I have been through couldn’t have been for nothing.
The help and support offered by our NHS, though I am grateful for the times I have been treated, it just missed the mark and did little to help me feel safe enough to properly break through and face the raw guttural emotions or feel able to release the trauma stored in my body.Counselling taught me to try and build self esteem and find ways to get over my experiences, but these strategies never really lasted. I now know why it never really resolved the inner turmoil. What was really needed, was to truly allow and feel that pain, let it flow through me, sit with it and nurture it as I would a child. How could I heal myself if I kept avoiding and running away from the feelings and pain? The treatment I received never took into account the devastation these experiences had to my heart and soul, nor was there ever a safe enough space to let go of all of the repressed emotions.
Through recent journeying, reading, keeping up to date with and watching ground- breaking research about the hidden effects of trauma and persistent abuse, I have gained great insight and knowledge. I know more now of my own therapeutic needs, of how to journey through healing in a very gentle way and with great self compassion.
I was never taught how to regulate my emotions, how to self-sooth, or given the skills to be resilient in the face of adversity. On some level I have had to rebirth, comfort my inner child, teach her the skills I now know and be her greatest advocate and ambassador.
I have functioned in a way that my mind was totally separate from my body, I have learnt the importance of being more present in my body, more aware of my body, to a point where I am on a path to integrating my mind and body together.
The therapeutic and nourishing activities and experiences that are really helping me heal are at a soul level. I now feel able to truly connect to others, I understand the importance of our shared common humanity, to the world we live in and to the life force. I practice yoga, Qigong, meditation, mindfulness, I affirm my gratitude every day for all I have. I chose to connect with nature, to the beauty of the world we live in and I live strongly by the principles of compassion and loving kindness.The journey is still difficult, life experiences have shaped me, my reactions and responses to difficult situations will probably stay as they always were. I will likely always want to retreat, fight, flight or freeze when triggers are set off. I now have the self awareness to recognise when it is happening, I realise my thoughts are trying to protect me, but they are just thoughts. I have the skills and understanding to sit with and allow the emotions to come, then to then let them go with compassion and understanding. Some days it is much easier than others. My scars are still there and always will be, but they have made me who I am.
I function now the best I ever have, I have a simple life, keep a small circle of people around me and have a wonderful and supportive husband and a dog I adore. Because of my sensitivity I put my time and energy into positive people and experiences, I refrain as much as possible from materialism, peer pressure or conformity.I am on a journey of discovering what it is to be human, of finding as much joy and gratitude in the simple things in life and I find myself drawn to the ways of our ancestors, to human connection, a simple existence and the gratitude to world they held. I look towards a more simple and connected way of life, I sing, I dance, I chant, I share my feelings, I show vulnerability and I no longer allow shame to hold me back. What’s more I am proud of who I am, I am very happy to be alive and await each new day with hope.
The things that have helped Theresa along her healing journey, and continue to do so;
YouTube: watching anything with or by Peter Levine, Paul Gilbert, Mate Gabor, Bessel Van Der Kolk
Complex PTSD: From surviving to thriving by Pete Walker
A Compassionate Mind Approach to Recovering from Trauma using Compassion Focused Therapy by Deborah Lee
Mindfulness a practical guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman
Helpful therapeutic practices:
Mindful Self Compassion course through MIND
Compassion Focused Therapy
We are all more than KindaProud of you too Theresa; what an inspiration you are ❤
We are still collecting stories for our 4th Pocket Book in the KindaProud series;
#Emerging Proud through Trauma and Abuse
If you have an inspiring story to share as a message of hope for others, please CONTACT US HERE