Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder

What's next?

What’s next?

We have all heard of PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder). I am so thankful our awareness of this, although not perfect, continues to grow with better research, more willingness to accept how real this condition is, and so on.

I think something that is overlooked though is PTSD’s cousin, i.e. Pre-, as in Pre-TSD. (In some ways, I realize PTSD is the forefather of all Pre-TSD, but I think it is important to be aware of this specific aspect.)

Pre-TSD happens, as the name would imply, BEFORE the next event. It is the anticipatory rise in stress hormones and stress responses as you wait for the other shoe to drop.

This anticipatory rise is similar to the anticipatory rise in ventilation during initial movement of exercise. Breath rate and depth increase out of proportion to workload early on, as the body anticipates the exercise. (This rise can even happen while you are just sitting and thinking about exercise.)

Pre-TSD happens when you have can not completely disengage (because of circumstances) from a narcissist or sociopath. Of course, no contact is the best contact, however many can not be in a no contact situation.

Thus, the narcissist or sociopath remains in one’s life- wreaking havoc – or not.

See, that this the thing. For a bit, things may be calm, quiet, but you can’t relax. Why?

You are in Pre-TSD. You know the calm will not last for long, and you want to anticipate and “be ready”.

You are already vulnerable, so your defense, you reason, is to at least be prepared.

I live that in my life right now. You may remember my blog about my stepson’s bio Mom engaging with him in a traumatic way, only to call us up and say “Henry” was uncontrollable. She said she could not possibly take him to the vacation cabin and Henry did not want to go. So, she and her boyfriend went.

My stepdaughter told me recently that her grandmother will be visiting her Mom’s house and they are planning on going to the cabin.

Great, because it worked so well the last time.

Honestly, the specific situation is neither here nor there. The anticipatory energy, the Pre-TSD is always present, simply because we KNOW what may happen.

Is it is good to live in such an anticipatory, stress state? Probably not.

Changing such things, though, begins with awareness, acknowledging what is going on, and being able to articulate the experience.

If we can come to understand we live with Pre-TSD, perhaps we can then acknowledge how draining and exhausting this may be and perhaps create authentic ways to support and honor ourselves during these times.

Change does not happen overnight, but it never happens, if we are unwilling to acknowledge what is happening.


16 thoughts on “Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder

  1. You really got me with this one, Kim! I think I lived in that state for most of my early formative years. I also think it is what contributed to me being ultra sensitive to people and my surroundings, and ultimately, trying to control everything in my environment. I was always on high alert because it was not a question of “if”…only a question of “when.” My heart goes out to you and your family. ♡

    • You really helped me here, Lorrie. I had not thought about being ultra-sensitive because of this dynamic, but it is true. You learn to be hyper-aware of EVERYTHING in order to anticipate and control. great response!

  2. This is so true. I caught y ex stalking my place Saturday after weeks of no contact, although she probably didn’t care. I realize you can never be prepared for a narc’s next crazy making. Very insightful post. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Kimberly, another good insight and way of framing the experience of living with a narcipath (my hybrid of narcissist-sociopath, since so many of the traits and tactics overlap) in your life, and that ‘calm before the inevitable storm’ period in the narci-abuse cycle.

  4. Very well described Kimberly. When we let, or need to let, others get control over us, we become in a stress situation as only will accellerate by time. Next might be, that we need to have something in control, when we can’t control our own life, as we wish to.
    This is really an unhealthy way to live and I really wish for you to find more peace in your life, also for those poor kids, as need to live with this mother.
    Send you love Kimberly ❤

  5. Well, it’s tough to be always stressed out because you know that there cannot be any good outcomes. I’d say that means, the situation is not right. If it causes one to be alerted all the time and it manifests as physical stress syndrome, that’s not good. I believe such stress is caused by our knowledge which originates in a bad experience. Life situations are very distinctive, but the basic truth is one has to eliminate the basic stressors. Nobody can live in a state of never ending alertness, anxiety and fear from the potential threats. When the situation does not allow to remove or get rid of the stressor (as in a family), we have to find some coping ways. Coping ways depend on every person involved. Most often when we look from a distance (as in a movie) at somebody’s life or we look back after some 10-20 years, it’s clear what one could or should have done. Distancing oneself is often a good solution, but not always possible. However, you are a realist who can take and analyse the real situation, I suppose, you should be able to find some kind of relief from the continuous pre-traumatic stress disorder. It’s not that we all have Pre-TSD while it is very normal to have some kind of fear and stress when we expect something bad to come upon us (because that’s is the most likely situation) and we cannot prevent it, or we have to be part of a situation which is potentially dangerous (like undergoing a surgery). I am not familiar with your family, but since you are mentioning stepchildren, I understand that this can lead to a very complicated situation regarding your relationships. However, you should find some solution and eliminate the pre-TSD in your life because it will cause exhaustion or already has.

    • Thank you for this direct response. I had already been telling myself the same thing. But, I have to tell you- your words were the concrete expression I needed to read this morning.
      Your words are present in black and white, and they give me courage to take care of myself within this context. Thank you!

  6. I always just lumped it in with POST traumatic stress disorder and hypervigilance but this gives me something to ponder, thank you!

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