Good morning Katie, and thank you for taking the time to reach out for help and support with regards to the issues you mentioned in your questions. You have certainly experienced a significant amount of traumatic events in your life, and if any of them are continuing (i.e. your children continue to "blame you" for their dad being in prison), with only continues to the negative impact of the trauma on your life while adding in additional trauma and devaluation, a distressing experience to say the least.
The answer to your question is not so simple, but i will certainly do my best to provide you with some clarification and resources that will help you to hopefully better understand your experience and how to work through and potentially resolve the distressing symptoms and experiences you are having. As is usually the case in circumstances pertaining to childhood and adult emotional neglect and abuse, as well as the additional traumas, psychotherapy in combination with medication are often the best and most efficient treatments. However, depending on the severity of one's experience and symptoms, there are absolutely other means of recovering from distress and one can certainly try any of them and should they not prove to be effective, utilizing additional and/or different resources would be the healthiest way of proceeding along your journey of recovery towards a happy, healthy, and joyous life experience. With that being said, as for the symptoms you identified, most, if not all of them, can be attributed to Anxiety. Anxiety is also a common outcome as a result of traumatic experiences and "threats" to one's self, either physically or psychologically. Anxiety can have a paralyzing effect on a person, resulting in the additional experiences you identified such as having difficulty asking for help and making decisions as a result of "fear" of being perceived as "weak" or "vulnerable," as well as a lack of confidence in one's ability to make decisions and have positive outcomes occur from said decisions. This "fear" can often present as isolation and withdrawal from relationships, making it even more lonely and distressing for you in your life and thus exacerbating the negative symptoms you may be experiencing. As for wanting to more effectively cope with your life, the following are some very good resources to start with. However, I must say that I would highly encourage you to have a supportive person identified whom you can turn to for support should the workbook begin to have you address things or if you start to experience things as a result of the workbook's guidance that becomes overwhelming and distressing for you. -The PTSD Workbook: Simple, Effective Techniques for Overcoming Traumatic Stress Symptoms Workbook Third Edition by Mary Beth Williams (Author), Soili Poijula (Author) *In the third edition of The PTSD Workbook, psychologists and trauma experts Mary Beth Williams and Soili Poijula offer readers the most effective tools available for overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). -Complex PTSD Workbook: A Mind-Body Approach To Regaining Emotional Control And Becoming Whole by Arielle Schwartz -The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for PTSD (A New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook)by Kirby Reutter -The Cognitive Behavioral Coping Skills Workbook for PTSD: Overcome Fear and Anxiety and Reclaim Your Life (A New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook) by Matthew T Tull PhD (Author), Kim L. Gratz PhD (Author), Alexander L. Chapman PhD RPsych (Author) Above all else, for any general state of "well-being" and certainly to aide in your journey,
I will also share with you some very important information on self-care: Self-care means taking time to do things you enjoy for the sake of improving one's life experience and overall mental health and resilience. Usually, self-care involves everyday activities that you find relaxing, fun, or energizing. These activities could be as simple as reading a book, or as big as taking a vacation. Self-care also means taking care of yourself. This means eating regular meals, getting enough sleep, caring for personal hygiene, and anything else that maintains good health. Make self-care a priority. There will always be other things to do, but don't let these interrupt the time you set aside for self-care. Self-care should be given the same importance as other responsibilities. Set specific self-care goals. It's difficult to follow through with vague goals, such as "I will take more time for self-care". Instead, try something specific, such as "I will walk for 30 minutes every evening after dinner". Make self-care a habit. Just like eating one apple doesn't eliminate health problems, using self-care just once won't have much effect on reducing stress. Choose activities that you can do often, and that you will stick with. Set boundaries to protect your self-care. You don't need a major obligation to say "no" to others— your self-care is reason enough. Remind yourself that your needs are as important as anyone else's. A few minutes of self-care is better than no self-care. Set an alarm reminding you to take regular breaks, even if it's just a walk around the block, or an uninterrupted snack. Oftentimes, stepping away will energize you to work more efficiently when you return. Unhealthy activities don't count as self-care. Substance use, over-eating, and other unhealthy behaviors might hide uncomfortable emotions temporarily, but they cause more problems in the long run. Abstinence from any addictive substance (i.e. illicit drugs, alcohol, even nicotine and caffeine) is highly recommended during the recovery process and for a healthier life overall. Keep up with self-care, even when you're feeling good. Doing so will keep you in a healthy routine. Plus, self-care might be part of the reason why you're feeling good! I wish you all the best in your journey of recovery and please don't hesitate to reach out to me should you desire any further information, resources, or support.
And finally, the most important part in healing from any form of traumatic experience is to maintain, for as often as possible, a sense of safety. For trauma survivors, feeling safe is very important. Most of us have experienced moments when we were not safe emotionally or physically. We may be constantly thinking there is a danger that could occur just around the corner. We may be fearful of trusting others. To live healthy lives, we must be able to work through trauma, ideally in therapy, to establish safety in a healing way. We must take back the power from the situations that have harmed us.