My Cup Runneth Over

  There are many symptoms that come with having PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder); lack of focus, hypervigilance, heightened startle response, avoidance of anything connected to the event and night terrors to name a few. My biggest battle has been the night terrors. I battled night terrors for seven years straight following the end of my abusive marriage. They were not every night, but they were usually a few times a week. I would wake in a cold sweat and feel completely disoriented and scared.   In my night terror I would have been fighting something or experiencing something horrible. I would suddenly wake and it was like I woke in the “fight or flight mode.”  For those who do not know what the “fight or flight” mode is, it is a part of our automatic defense system. When we sense danger our body will initially freeze and our brain will send adrenaline throughout our body, along with extra blood flow, to prepare us to either fight the danger or flee it. This morning was one of those mornings.   I woke from a night terror and I felt like I was in that moment where I am frozen and I am trying to decide if I will fight the danger, stay frozen or flee. I was completely disoriented as my brain was also trying to grasp that I am no longer in the danger of my dream, but I am awake in my home with my husband calmly sleeping beside me. To say that I woke confused is an understatement.  I then got up, went downstairs, still feeling fear from my night terror, walked towards my kitchen and saw that the dog that is staying with us had had an “accident” in our kitchen…..and then suddenly my son came running up behind me to tell me that he was having a bloody nose! My brain could not compute all of this and I felt my cup running over. Thankfully I was able to focus enough to tell my son to go up to the bathroom where we dealt with his bloody nose.  I also woke my husband to tell him what was waiting on our kitchen floor as I could not cope with everything this morning. He got up as I pulled off my sons bloody sheets and threw them in the laundry, then my tears started to flow. My cup had officially runneth over.

  There is a theory amongst those who deal with PTSD. It is called the PTSD Cup Theory and it explains how we cope or don’t cope with extra stress. Please refer to below diagram. 

ptsd cup theory pic 2

Believe it or not we do have good stress in our lives. Good stress is getting out of bed, going to work, making supper or any other day to day task. You can see in all of the cups there is a level of good stress. The second cup shows what happens to a person who does not have PTSD when bad stress comes into their life. Bad stress can consist of getting fired from your job, a break up of a relationship or paying bills for example.   The third cup is someone with PTSD.  Their cup is already nearly filled to the top with their day to day good stress and the trauma that they have gone through. When an additional stress is added, say a night terror and you add in a child with a bloody nose or a dogs accident in the kitchen well their cup will overflow. Their reaction of a complete breakdown may seem irrational to the average person, but if you understand PTSD you are aware that they have nowhere to hold that extra stress so their cup overflows and often there will be tears or even outbursts of anger as they are completely overwhelmed.

That is where I was this morning; my PTSD cup had overflown. It does not help that I also had had a child in and out of the Hospital this past week and a former neighbour died this past Friday. Clearly it was all too much. I get that, I see that now, but this morning as the tears streamed down my face I just felt lost.

How can you cope when your cup overflows? Self care, I believe, is especially important during those times. Try to find some quiet time where you can write, perhaps draw, paint or colour, listen to relaxing music, meditation or yoga to name a few things.  Whatever works for you to ground you is what I suggest you do. Then I would suggest reaching out to your support systems; friends, family and/or Professionals. They can perhaps ease any extra burdens you are carrying. It is important to remember that you are not alone. There are people available to support you.

Now, as my rough morning comes to an end I am reminded that I am loved and I am safe. I am not stuck in that night terror that is not my day to day. I am in my home with my family. My husband has cleaned up the dog’s accident and has even given that lucky dog a bath! The world will keep turning and I will keep battling this battle called PTSD. I will also remember that I am one heck of a Survivor!

Peace,

Janet

Are you an abusive relationship? Do you need extra support? I supervise a Mentoring Program at DASH Domestic Abuse Survivor Help.  Here you can receive free support via email from one of our Mentors. You can sign up at https://relationshipabuse-recovery.com/abusive-relationship-support/

I love writing for free, but with three kids it can get tight.  So if you like what I write feel free to make a donation towards my work.  Please click on this Paypal link; PayPal.Me/JanetBrownlee to make your donation. Thanks!

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Can I take a moment of your time and tell you what it is like to be a rape survivor nine years later?

  It is January 2019 and nine years ago this month my ex husband started to rape me. I have written about these assaults before , but as I am reaching the nine year anniversary of a most terrible time in my life, I found myself to be reflective and asking myself, how am I doing now?

  Perhaps I should start by saying that my ex husband was very abusive. We were together for 15 years and over that time he subjected me to verbal, emotional, financial, physical and sexual abuse. Not only to me, but also to our three children. The abuse was slow and insidious at first, which is what most abusive relationships are like. The abuse happens so gradually that you, the victim, barely understand what is going on until you are in the thick of it.  I know for myself, in the beginning, I would sometimes notice things that made me uncomfortable, like a comment or a look he made, but I made excuses for him. I told myself that it was just because he had a bad day and then I swept the incident away. The thing is, is that over time he had many “bad days” and they started to leave me with knots in my stomach and “walking on eggshells” trying not to make him angry. What I didn’t understand is that I wasn’t “making” him anything. He chose to be the way he was and he was being that way because he wanted to have power and control over me  and he did that through fear and intimidation. As time went on he didn’t even have to physically touch me to cause me upset he only had to give me that “look” from across the room and I was shaking on the inside knowing what was coming later. For 15 years this is how we lived, day in and day out. My decisions were based around his moods and his actions. My needs became nonexistent to me and his were all important and this is exactly what an abuser wants; to be all powerful in the relationship.  Why do they do it? Well Lundy Bancroft’s book; “Why Does He Do That?” will give you many reasons why, but basically they do it because they are broken inside. Somewhere at sometime someone hurt them too and they never want to be in that weak position again. They want to be the one in power so they achieve that through hurting others and creating fear in them so that they do not stand up to them. Over time they continue to push the limits with their victim, seeing that they can get away with, they keep increasing the level of abuse to intimidate their victim and feel that powerful feeling. It is extremely sick. 

  At some point the victim does come up for air and they do see through the fog of the abusive relationship.  It was an eye-opening time for me, a period that I often call “my waking up period”.I was learning to make my own boundaries, telling my ex that I would not let him treat me this way, or our children. He did not like that. At first, he would just yell back at me, in fact screaming at me that he would “Never, never stop abusing me!” Then he started to escalate the abuse.  I was at this point when my ex first raped me. I had secretly been talking to friends who validated that yes what he was doing to me was abuse and I had also secretly been seeing a counsellor learning about the dynamics of an abusive relationship.  You see abusive people do not like it when their victim starts learning that what has been going on is in fact abuse. This could be their own realization or perhaps a friend or family member said something or maybe they saw some info on the web. However it happens the victim is validated to take their own power back. They feel extremely threatened so they are known to increase the level of abuse to intimidate the victim again and hopefully get them back under their control. This can be a very dangerous time for the victim so it is important that they reach out to supports; friends, family, hotlines or shelters. It is important for them to know that they are not alone in this battle. For myself as the abuse escalated I pushed back by kicking my ex out of our bedroom. I told him that he was no longer welcome there, that I did not want him touching me ever again. In fact I wanted him to move out, but he refused and instead moved downstairs to our family room. For mine and my children’s safety I did not push it further. That basement is where  he was, 9 years ago this month, when he ran up the stairs one early morning, and he raped me in our marriage bed.

  To say that I was changed by that assault is an understatement. At first I was dazed and stunned that this had happened. Yes he was abusive, but this was my husband and the father of my children so how could he possibly hurt me this way? I did not understand and walked around for days in complete shock. Himself, well he acted like nothing had happened and then it happened again. In fact he raped me on a continual basis over a nine month period. It was the last nine months of our marriage. On Sept 27th 2010 I ended our marriage and he moved out. The following year I filed for divorce, which was finally granted in 2017 after a lengthy battle.

It is now nine years later and to the average person they might expect me to be healed from all of this, but can I tell you something? I am not. I recently remarried; in fact we have just passed our one year wedding anniversary. I adore my new husband. We were high school sweethearts and were actually supposed it marry in our early twenties, but instead we ended up parting ways. It was during my “waking up period” that we reconnected on line. His first marriage had fallen apart and as we started talking I started confiding in him about what was happening in my marriage. At first he tried encouraging me to work on my marriage, but as I revealed more and more the level of abuse that was happening he became one of my support people.

  You might wonder what our sex life is like. Or maybe you don’t. I will tell you that sex in general is an issue for any rape survivor so yes we have had our trials. To be frank and I think honesty is best for you to fully get what happens to a rape survivor, is that we had the best sex life when we first started dating. Like “break the bed” good sex. Yes I am being blunt and I apologize if that is too much for some of my readers, but I want you to be able to see the contrast.  We had fabulous sex. Plain and simple. Then something changed. It was nothing he did or anything specific that I did, it was simply that the effects of all the trauma I had gone through had finally sunk into my whole being.  Say what? Ok, I will explain. When anything traumatic happens to a person it shakes your whole being right down to your cellular level. That is pretty intense when you think about it. That is why often you will hear, long after a traumatic event has happened, the victim saying that they have trouble sleeping, or they are extra jumpy at the smallest noise or they have no appetite. This is because when trauma happens the person becomes disconnected from themselves, they often go into autopilot and your whole being is on alert, waiting for the next traumatic event. Sometimes these symptoms show up right away other times it can be weeks, months or even years later. The effects of trauma do not follow a straight linear line. That is where I ended up; dealing with the traumatic aftermath well over a year later. I struggled to sleep, I fought terrible night terrors and when I went to bed I piled on clothes and blankets, as if that extra covering would somehow keep me safe from ever being raped again. I was not well and was eventually diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

How am I now?  Well bloody H….I still struggle!! I no longer have night terrors and I rarely have a flashback, but I still pile on the blankets and somewhere along the way, without consciously making this decision I started sleeping on my side, always facing the outside of the bed, in case I have to escape and I often find my arms crossed across my chest in defense. There are also times when my husband and I go to make love and  I have a panic attack. He is always respectful and will just hold me through those moments. He respects my boundaries and if I say no he never pushes it.  He loves me deeply and I love him so we have learned that sometimes before anything can happen between us I just need him to hold me while I positively talk to myself in my head, reassuring my whole being that I am safe. Then there are times where sex can be totally spontaneous and I am completely fine. Again, like I said, trauma is not linear. Sometimes life will go smoothly and other times your trauma will resurface and knock you completely out of the park. We do our best to take it all moment by moment and with tons of patience. I absolutely adore him for standing with me on this crazy journey of recovery.

  In another nine years I pray that those assaults will just be a distant memory.  Perhaps they will be, perhaps they won’t. I have learned that you cannot control how trauma will affect you. You can work on dealing with the effects; talking with your loved ones and seeking therapy are always good options, but honestly I think that trauma just takes the time it needs to take to heal and then one day it doesn’t feel like a heavy weight on your shoulder. One day you feel lighter and freer and you know that you will never forget what happened to you, but it no longer controls your life. I know that one day I will get there.

Peace,

Janet

If you are thinking of leaving your abusive relationship I encourage you to create a Safety Plan.  A Safety Plan helps you safely leave an abusive relationship.  Please check out this link; https://relationshipabuse-recovery.com/resources/safety-plan-workbook-ver3.pdf

Are you an abusive relationship? Do you need extra support? I supervise a Mentoring Program at verbalabusejournals.com. Here you can receive free support via email from one of our Mentors. You can sign up at https://relationshipabuse-recovery.com/abusive-relationship-support/

I love writing for free, but with three kids it can get tight.  So if you like what I write feel free to make a donation towards my work.  Please click on this Paypal link; PayPal.Me/JanetBrownlee to make your donation. Thanks!

Verbal Abuse; what is it and how to deal with it.

Words. We use them every day. It is how we talk about our day, say what we want, or write that letter to Aunt Mary. Words are everywhere. From the time we are a baby we are learning how to communicate to those around us by making words. Some words we love to hear like, “I love you” or “You got a promotion!”. Many words when we put together make us feel happy and loved, but what about those words that hurt us? Words like  “asshole, bitch, loser or idiot.” What about those words?

In my first marriage my husbands “pet name” for me was idiot. I was called this name on a daily basis. As the abuse escalated and he started to rape me calling me an idiot, along with other nasty names,  after the assault. Near the end of my marriage the verbal abuse was so bad that I was begging, yes begging, my ex to hit me rather than call me another name. I could no longer handle it and these horrible names were starting to define me.

Words are powerful. There have been some of the most memorable moments in history due to words. Just look at Martin Luther King, a speech that has gone down in history. Words can build you up but they can also cut you down in a moment.

Verbal abuse is common in an abusive relationship. Names and threats cut the victim down to a point where they feel they are nothing. Words are used to keep the victim weak. Words are used like a weapon. They are soul crushing. The emotional effects of verbal abuse on the victim are feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, feelings of inferiority, anxiety, stress, loss of self worth, self esteem and self confidence. Verbal abuse can also lead to depression and constant feelings of irritability.

How can you deal with verbal abuse?

  1. Don’t engage with the abuser. Don’t defend yourself against accusations. That would mean you are taking the insults seriously.
  2. If you are engaging with someone who says you are too sensitive do your best not to show your vulnerability. Remember that abuse is about one person wanting power and control over another and they will achieve that through fear, intimidation and breaking you down.
  3. Remind yourself that no one deserves verbal abuse. You have done nothing to deserve this treatment.
  4. If you can disengage from the situation by walking away.
  5. If you do have to respond try to respond in a calm and even voice. I know that that is hard in a situation like this, but this will help keep your own power in the situation.
  6. If someone continues to verbally abuse you set boundaries. Tell them that you will and will not accept. Let them know the consequence that will happen if they do cross your boundary. If you said you will leave the house then leave the house.  Please know that setting boundaries with an abuser can escalate the abuse so please be careful and do not return to the house if the abuse is escalating. If there are children take them with you.
  7. Let someone know that you are being verbally abused. Verbal abuse often leads to physical abuse. Confide in a trusted friend or family member. You do not need to be alone when dealing with abuse.
  8. Visit a counselor or therapist if you are being affected by the verbal abuse, ie trouble sleeping, trouble eating, low self worth or walking on egg shells can be signs that you are being affected.

It is important to know that there is a difference between a conflict and verbal abuse. A conflict is where two people are wanting two different things and they argue over it. Verbal abuse is where one person is defining a person through hurtful words and destroying boundaries. Verbal abuse is not an argument but an attack on who someone is. Often you will hear “You statements” like , “You are stupid” “You think you are so special”. These are all statements of verbal abuse. Ordering, demanding or bossing you around are all forms of verbal abuse. Name calling is verbal abuse.  Verbal abuse can easily define you and destroy your self esteem. For your own worth practice the steps listed above, remember that you do not deserve the abuse and that you have every right to leave the relationship.

If you need help to leave your abusive relationship contact your local shelter or Domestic Violence Agency. You can also call the National Domestic Hotline at (1−800−799−7233), or visit their website: http://www.thehotline.org/. Shelters can be found at https://www.domesticshelters.org

Peace,

Janet

 

 

 

 

I can do this; battling the monster called Anxiety.

It’s terrible when it grips you. Anxiety, is a monster all in it’s own. Your head spins, your body shakes and you are overcome by fear of the unknown. It sucks. According to Statistics Canada  approximately 2.8 million people, or 10.1% of Canadians aged 15 and older, reported symptoms consistent with at least one of six mental or substance use disorders in the past 12 months. The six disorders measured by the survey were major depressive episode, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and abuse of or dependence on alcohol, cannabis or other drugs.  It is predicted that in our fast paced “always on” society the number of people battling anxiety will only go up.

I started to battle anxiety near the end of my first marriage. I was in an extremely abusive marriage where I “walked on egg shells” waiting for the next blow whether it be physically, verbally or emotionally. I was constantly fearing what was going to happen. I feared the future which is what anxiety is; fear of the unknown. A year following the end of that marriage I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), a psychiatric injury that replays your trauma through night terrors, flashbacks and intrusive thoughts. PTSD is also known as an anxiety disorder because as your mind replays your past, anxiety is twisted right in there causing you to fear the unknown. It’s a double suck.

There are many different types of anxiety. There is Social Anxiety; which is the fear of social situations and interacting with people. It is equally common between men and women, average onset is at age 13 years old and 36% of suffers will battle this anxiety for at least 10 years before seeking help. There are panic disorders, phobia’s and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), average age of onset is 19 years old with 25% of cases happening by age 14 years old. One third of adults first experienced OCD in childhood.

So what happens when anxiety hits? Myself, I shake on the inside, I rub my hands or my feet together, my heart races, I struggle to look anyone in the eye, my breath is short, fear pumps through me and I just want to hide in my bed with a cocoon of pillows and blankets. I want to feel safe. Feeling safe, feeling secure, seeking it and finding it is what my goal is when my anxiety hits. I feel like a deer caught in the headlights. One time my anxiety turned into a horrible panic attack where I thought I was having a heart attack and was rushed to the ER. Thankfully my heart was fine and I learned how gripping anxiety can be.

Resolving my anxiety, anyone’s anxiety, can involve medication, counselling and definitely takes finding good coping skills. Hiding in my cocoon is not a good one. It may be what I want to do but it really does not help me. All it does is let my anxiety sit in me and ruminate. Over the years I have learned that doing something physical helps; getting out for a walk, a horseback ride, a walk with my dogs really helps. Anxiety causes extra adrenaline to pump through your body. If that is not released you will often feel sick to your stomach and exhausted. It is best to find some healthy ways to burn it off. Other coping skills I have used is journaling, listening to peaceful music, meditating, and of course talking it out with my new husband. We have been learning together how best to cope with my mental health. It is a journey that thankfully we are taking together.  Today as I poured out my fears, my unknowns he held my hand and I rubbed his with my thumb, anxiously. I laid my head on his arm and I realized that I will be OK, I am safe. I cannot control the future and I no longer need to worry about what may come. It’s a battle anxiety. One that likes to lie to you and tell you that your fears are correct, one that I and many millions have to keep kicking back. Here’s to kicking back!

Peace,

Janet

 

 

Just Jokes

Have you ever had someone say something hurtful or offensive and then the next moment laugh and say, “just kidding” or “I meant to be funny” or “just jokes”? Has that moment left you feeling confused as to whether it is OK to be upset about what they said? If you have been there then let me tell you that you have experienced a form of emotional abuse.

How do you know when that “harmless” joke was not funny at all and is in fact emotional abuse? You know by how it makes you feel. If the “joke” hurts you or insults you in some way then you have experienced emotional abuse. Often the person telling the “joke” will quickly add “just joking” as if somehow that will take the sting out of their words. This often leaves the victim feeling confused about what was just said.  By adding “just joking” or “I was just kidding” the joker or shall we say abuser is separating themselves from being held accountable for any discomfort or hurt they have caused because how can you get upset about a joke?

Let me tell you that you can get upset. In fact you have every right to get upset if that  “joke” made you feel bad about yourself or hurt you in anyway. Let’s face it, it wasn’t a joke it was hurtful words said by someone who is often insecure wanting to hurt your self esteem. You do not deserve that. So how can you handle these hurtful “jokes”?

  1. Call them on their behaviour right away. Tell them that it is not funny and that they have hurt you.
  2. Don’t get drawn into the persons attempt to pull you down.
  3. Tell the person to stop talking like that.
  4. Walk away.

The person who speaks this way may or may not change their behaviour but you can change how you react. Remember if it hurts you it is wrong and you do not have to accept it. Till we meet again.

Peace,

Janet

My “A HA” moment

Many of us when we look back in life we have a moment where our life significantly changed. A “A Ha” moment where a light bulb goes off and we realize something significant to our life. I had such a moment in 2010. 

Many of us when we look back in life we have a moment where our life significantly changed. An “A Ha” moment where a light bulb goes off and we realize something significant to our life. I had such a moment in 2010.

At the time I was working for a Telecommunications company. I had been there over a decade working in their Customer Service and Sales Department. I worked in an inbound area so that means I received calls from customers who called our 1 800 number looking for new products, questions on bills or needing a new service set up.

It was spring 2010. I was in a loveless marriage. Not just loveless it was violent. There were all forms of abuse happening to myself and my children. The previous year my husband and I had separated, but like many abused women before I ended up taking him back because I thought it was the right thing to do. I am a Christian and I took my marriage vows very seriously. I felt that I was breaking them by separating from my husband. I also had many in his family, who were from a strict Mennonite background, urging me to take him back because divorce is just not something we do. So I took him back. It was OK for awhile, but then the violence started again. The name calling, endless screaming, physically abusing myself and my toddler son and various forms of abuse done to my daughters. By Christmas of 2009 my husbands name for our son was not actually his name but he called him asshole instead. It was a horrible situation that I no longer knew how to get of safely. I was sure though that if I just stuck it out things would get better.

Then one day I was at work. When you work in a Call Centre your breaks are scheduled so that there is always the right amount of people on the phones to handle the calls coming in. Breaks were staggered throughout the office and it was very important that you as an employee followed that schedule. On this particular day I really wanted a Pepsi. It was no where near my next break but it was not busy so I thought if I quickly ran up to the break room I could grab a Pepsi, run back down and no one would miss me. So I quickly made a dash upstairs, bought my Pepsi from the vending machine and heading back downstairs. That day I was wearing black dress pants with a cuff and high heels. As I stood at the top of the stairs I stepped forward but in error my right heel got caught in my left pant leg. Suddenly it felt like my ankles were tied together. I knew I was going to fall and this was going to suck. As I feel forward I felt a push on back. Not a hard one, but one that was just strong enough to push me off balance and I started to fall forward. I threw my Pepsi so that I could grab the railing beside me in hopes to stop my fall. No such luck. It was then that I fell head first down 16 cement stairs.

As I landed at the bottom of the stairs, with my arms twisted around the railing, a manager ran forward to tell me that I was OK. He untwisted my arms and gentling moved me to the floor. I was dazed and confused but stayed conscious as another manager called 911. Soon an ambulance arrived and I was taken to a near by hospital. Upon examination I am happy to say I only broke my left hand. There were bumps and bruises but no other broken bones. It was a miracle.

It turned out that I needed surgery to fix my hand and that could not happen for a week. So my hand was carefully wrapped in a tensor bandage, I was given pain meds and was sent home. Over that week I spent a lot of time in bed, trying to handle the pain. I was at the mercy of the man who abused me to bring me my medication and I was pretty debilitated so he was left looking after the kids and cooking meals. I was stuck in bed. As I was stuck in bed I had no choice but to listen to my family. I had no choice but to hear my husband verbally abuse our children and hear the fear in their voices. I had no choice but to face what my marriage really was and face the fact that for all of our sakes I had to figure a way out of it.

So how was this my “A Ha” moment? Well I was not listening to what God was trying to tell me. God does not sanction abuse.   I thought I could handle my abusive marriage, I thought that I had it all under control. I was wrong.  God was trying to show me in so many ways that things were not OK. I didn’t. So in that moment at the top of the stairs I truly believe God used that moment to “wake me up”. The push I felt was Him. He knew I was not listening so He was going to make me. It was also His miracle that the only thing I did break was my hand. Even the paramedics were dumbfounded that I was not hurt further.

I did end up leaving my marriage, about five months later. Due to the violence in my marriage I had to safely plan our escape, but I am happy to report that we are now free.

So what was your “A Ha” moment?

 

Peace,

Janet

  Are you an abusive relationship? Do you need extra support? I supervise a Mentoring Program at verbalabusejournals.com. Here you can receive free support via email from one of our Mentors. You can sign up at http://verbalabusejournals.com/mentoring-program-for-domestic-violence-survivors/mentor-request/

If you are thinking of leaving your abusive relationship I encourage you to create a Safety Plan.  A Safety Plan helps you safely leave an abusive relationship.  Please check out this link;  http://verbalabusejournals.com/how-stop-abuse/safety-planning/  Scroll down the page it opens to download it for free.

Is that child just “acting up” or is it trauma?

I believe that every child is a gift. I especially agree with my own three children. They have been an amazing blessing in my life and I am so proud to be their mum.

Nothing in life really prepares you to be a parent. Sure when you are pregnant you can read all of the parenting help books or talk to health nurses, but really you are never quite prepared when that little baby is placed in your arms. Suddenly you realize that no one, but you is responsible for this living and breathing little person. It’s life depends on you. Wow what a profound moment that was for me.

As a parent I have always wanted the best for my children. It is hard when life and what you want doesn’t always match up. My oldest was born in 2001 and for the first 9 years of her life we lived with her father. Unfortunately for her, her younger siblings and myself their father was an abuser. Abuse of many forms was prevalent throughout our house and this affected each of my children in different ways. We have dealt with PTSD diagnoses, OCD tendencies, nightmares, wetting of beds, soiling of pants, disassociation, violent outbursts and yes some substance abuse. None of this is what I wanted for them. It has been heartbreaking as a mum to watch my children struggle and it has been debilitating to them at various times of their life. This is definitely not the life I wanted for my children.

Despite all of the trials my children and I have always been a team. I have let them know from the moment that they were born that I will always be there for them. With every cry in the night  to cheering them on at their band concert at school I have been there.  I have worked hard to be their safety and their constant despite the turbulent beginning years of their life. When my ex and I finally separated, my kids and I shared my Queen size bed for months. We all had our spot on the bed and perhaps it was not the most comfortable of sleeps as we all crammed in, but we were together, we were safe and that was the most important thing.

Kids experience trauma in different ways than an adult. For one their brains are still developing so trauma affects their brain development. Children also have different ways then adults on how they express their trauma. If you have an infant, toddler or a preschooler you may observe;

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Disturbances in feeding
  • Feelings of helplessness and passivity
  • Generalized fearfulness
  • Specific new fears
  • Loss of or regression in recently acquired skills like walking, talking or potty training.
  • Clinginess and separation anxiety.
  • Inhibited play
  • Thinking or talking about the event
  • Upset at reminders or avoiding reminders of the event.
  • Irritability
  • Agressiveness
  • Scanning for danger
  • Easily startled

If you have school age children you might observe;

  • Posttraumatic play. This kind of play is a repetitive reenactment of the event
  • Thinking and talking about trauma outside of play
  • Being upset about reminders of the event.
  • Specific fears triggered by the event
  • Fantasies of revenge
  • Feeling guilty about the trauma and feeling responsible for it
  • Impaired concentration and difficulty learning
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Headaches, stomach aches and other physical symptoms
  • Concerns about theirs and others safety
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Anxiety
  • Withdrawn behaviour

If you have an adolescent you might observe;

  • Detachment, shame guilt
  • Self conscious about their fears and intense feelings
  • Abrupt shifts in relationships
  • Desire for and plans to take revenge
  • Premature entrance into adulthood or reluctant to leave home
  • Being upset at reminders of the trauma and doing their best to avoid reminders
  • Coping behaviours that may include self-endangering behaviours such as substance abuse and/or cutting

I am sure you have observed these behaviours in children or teens. They may not be your own children and often when this behaviour is observed most being ask “what is wrong with that kid?” and the school system usually wants to label the child with a learning disability, but that is not helping the child. This is not a case of “what is wrong with that child?” it is a case of “what happened to that child?” We need to start changing the conversation around “troubled” children and start looking at what has happened in the past. What are they trying to tell us?

There are ways to help a traumatized child. For our infants, toddlers and preschoolers it is important for parents to stay close to their child. Kids of all ages need security, especially after trauma, but for our younger ones they will struggle to verbalize their trauma (if they can at all) and what they need. So staying close to your child gives them a sense of security. Help the child anticipate what will happen, give them choices. When trauma happens our sense of control in our life is rocked to the core. It is important to give that feeling of control back to the child. I will give you an example. Let’s say you ask your youngster to put away their toys and they refuse too. Instead of getting angry at them it is important to offer them a choice like, “Sarah you can put your toys away or you can go to your room for a time out.” This gives the child a choice without anger or a threat and they are then in control of what happens next. It is also important to name the child’s feelings and letting them know that feelings are good to feel. It is also important to give them reassurance as they need it and expect to do this over and over again. It is normal for children to need repeated reassurance.

For a school aged child it is important to listen to a child’s concerns and to answer questions truthfully and simply. Also let your child be close to you if they need you. They too will look to you for security. Reassure the child that they are safe. Also name their feelings and encourage them to express them through play or art. It is also important to help the child anticipate what will happen next in their life to help them feel in control and to give them choices. Like our younger children expect to do these things over and over.

For teens it is very similar to the younger children. With teen you will also want to give them choices, be close to you if they need to, encourage them to express their feelings through journaling, art, dance or writing poems and songs. Help them anticipate what happens next and provide an environment where your teen can talk about their concerns. Also expect to do these things over and over. Healing from trauma takes time, patience and hard work. There is no straight time line for healing trauma so basically it will take as long as it takes. Over time, as your child heals you will notice that the effects of trauma will lessen and the trauma will become a part of them. If  there are symptoms that you feel incapable of handling on your own it is always best to seek professional help. It is also important as a parent that you are supported. It is not easy to watch your child struggle and all of this can be a heavy load to carry so reach out to family and friends. If needed seek professional help for yourself to help you cope in healthy ways.

I have to say that my children have come a long way in the last eight years.  We no longer need to share a bed together. Outbursts and clingyness has been replaced with children who are getting to know who they are, are enjoying being with friends and can sleep without nightlights. I am extremely proud of each of them for all they have achieved in their recovery.  The good days happen more often than the bad now, but yes we still have struggling moments. Which is why last night when I held one of my children, as they sat on the bathroom floor and cried, I was not surprised that this was happening. I held them knowing that their pain still needs to come out and that is OK. I know that I do not have to solve this for them I just need to be there, to listen, hold them and let them know that they are safe and loved. I know that over time the impact of their trauma is lessening, one day at a time.

If you or your child needs extra help dealing with trauma I encourage you to speak to your doctor or seek out a therapist trained in trauma to help you through it. Until we meet again….

Peace,

Janet

PS. Kids Help Phone is available for any child in need. They can be reached at  1-800-668-6868

 

 

Depression. It’s a tough battle

Depression. It sucks. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 350 million people worldwide battle depression. I am one of them.

I was first diagnosed with Clinical Depression back in the mid 90’s due to grief. My mother had been killed in a  car accident almost 10 years earlier and I had fallen into a deep depression. This had led to me feeling suicidal, but thankfully I found good support systems; a psychotherapist and a psychiatrist to get me through it all. I stayed on antidepressants for about five years and then, once I was feeling stable I weaned myself off the medication.

Life continued for me. I did not feel, what I call the “depression cloud”, looming over me. I got married, had three children, worked full time, bought a house, had a new vehicle so from the outside life looked pretty stable, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t the depression that was haunting me though it was that my marriage was abusive. For 15 years my ex husband abused me in various ways and in 2011 I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with Deep Depressive Disorder.

A PTSD diagnosis can be given after you experience anything traumatic; a car crash, an assault, combat, abuse, or watching a sudden death to name a few things. With PTSD you can experience symptoms like flashbacks of the event, intrusive memories, heightened startle response, hypervigilance, avoidance, sleep disturbances such as night terrors and yes many also battle Deep Depressive Disorder as well.

Yuck.

Yes it is just plain yucky to battle both. Myself I take medication to manage all of my symptoms, I practice self care, I have a good support system and I have done counselling to keep me on track. For the most part my symptoms are pretty stable, except as of late. Lately I have felt a heaviness in my chest and a “weight” on my shoulders. I cry more. Privately. Quietly. And I do my best to put on that smile and appear ok to the outside world. I find myself depreciating myself too….looking at those around me with their busy lives thinking that I should not bother them with how I feel. I guess I have been isolating myself.

How wrong I am to do that.

In my training as a Trauma Therapist I know that depression is a part of trauma and I know from a professional level what I am supposed to do to fight the darkness. I am not supposed to isolate myself, I am supposed to reach out to supports and I am supposed to push myself out of bed every day, write if I need too, express my feelings in a healthy way, be in the sunshine and do some physical exercise, but let me just say……

I don’t want to.

Now no need for family and friends to worry. I am not in danger. I am not suicidal. I think I have just been overwhelmed by life. Recently our family had to move off of our farm and are staying with a friend while our new home is sorted. I have also had kids with health problems and in all honesty due to the move my horse, dog and cat, which all bring me peace, are not with me right now (I love animal therapy!). All of that has made things a bit harder and has caused me to struggle with my mental health. I get that. I see that, but still the crappy feelings are there.

I know that I will soldier on. As my dad said at my recent wedding; “Boy is she ever strong!” I know that I will make it through all of this. Just for now……well for now I will be gentle with me, do what I can to care for me and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Mental Illness. What a battle. Keep soldiering on everyone.

Till we meet again,

Peace

Janet R

PS. If you are battling depression or feeling suicidal please know that you are not alone.  There is support available at the 24/7 Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255.

If you are thinking of leaving your abusive relationship I encourage you to create a Safety Plan.  A Safety Plan helps you safely leave an abusive relationship.  Please check out this link;  http://verbalabusejournals.com/how-stop-abuse/safety-planning/  Scroll down the page it opens to download it for free.

Are you a Survivor needing  support? You can sign up for a Mentor, someone who has been there, and receive free support and guidance all via email, at :http://verbalabusejournals.com/mentoring-program-for-domestic-violence-survivors/mentor-request/

I love writing for free, but with three kids it can get tight.  So if you like what I write feel free to make a donation towards my work.  Please click on this Paypal link; PayPal.Me/JanetBrownlee to make your donation. Thanks!

 

Crazy Making; An insidious form of abuse

Today I was thinking about the times my ex made me feel crazy. Often termed “Crazy Making”  it is a form of emotional abuse. Most often the abuser plays with their victims mind and self confidence by denying events that the victim knows happened, like an abusive incident where they were hit, or an abuser can go the other way and convince their victim that something did happen that didn’t. This constant attack on their victims confidence in what they know to be the truth will break them down and make them easier to control.
 
Another form of crazy making is setting up their victim to fail. I remember when I was pregnant with my third child my ex set me up constantly. I was overdue and having nightly contractions, but nothing ever progressed. My ex made the choice on many nights to stay home from his night shift job in case I did go into labour. As the days passed though, and nothing progressed, he started to yell at me prior to each shift demanding to know from me if I was going to deliver that night. It was an impossible situation to be in. Being my third baby and being overdue I could go into labour at any moment, but there was no way, without being in labour, that I could possibly know when true labour would start. Yet he demanded that I know, demanded to the point where I was in tears nightly. I felt like I was going crazy. It is amazing that these verbal assaults did not send me into labour. I am happy to say that in the end I was  induced and had a healthy baby boy. There was further crazy making behaviour while I was in labour.  My ex sat in the room and completely dismissed me doing crossword puzzles while I delivered our son. It was only when my doctor looked at him and said, “You know you can touch her” that he did so.
 
“Crazy Making” abuse messes with your sanity. It is a form of abuse that comes in many forms and it leaves you feeling “off” and you are not quite being able to put your finger on what is wrong.  This form of abuse is hard to recover from as it plays with your self confidence. I find that crazy making changes who you are and how you perceive others It creates a lot of distrust in others which I think is understandable, but that can also hold you back from healthy relationships. So how does one heal? Myself I had to undo the crazy making and see it for what it was; him trying to hurt me and control me. I had to see that before I delivered my son there was no way, without being in labour, that I could know if I was going to deliver that night.  There was nothing “right” I could do to make that situation better. I also had to look at his behaviour in the delivery room and see that this was another form of control. His dismissive behaviour was giving him control.  Everyone in the delivery room was distracted by his behaviour and focused on him, splitting away from focusing on the delivery of our baby. He made himself, or at least tried, to make himself the center of the situation and in control of everyone in the room.
 
Other forms of crazy making are;
 
Creating double standards. When creating a double standard the abuser tells their victim that they cannot do one thing, but then they do it themselves.
 
Being passive aggressive. Having your partner make you consistently late and then he or she denying that when you call them on it is a form of passive aggressive behaviour. Having them say, “Well you used to be really good at that, but now…..I don’t know.” is another form of being passive aggressive.
 
Everything is always your fault. A crazy maker will twist events so that they are never their fault and are always their victims.
 
Like any other form of abuse, crazy making is about one person wanting power and control over another. It takes time to recover from such a form of abuse. To undo the damage a person needs to relearn to trust their own judgement. To listen to their own inner voice, their gut instinct and trust what they are saying to themselves about a situation.  Having a skilled counsellor will help undo the damage.
 
Peace,
 
Janet
PS. My new husband and I are in the process of creating a Non Profit for Domestic Violence Survivors. Please read up on our campaign at https://www.uhelp.com/rhodes-to-wellness-for-dv-survivors
Are you an abusive relationship? Do you need extra support? I supervise a Mentoring Program at verbalabusejournals.com. Here you can receive free support via email from one of our Mentors. You can sign up at http://verbalabusejournals.com/mentoring-program-for-domestic-violence-survivors/mentor-request/

Making our way through the muck

Tonight my middle child, my youngest daughter, made me cry. We were sitting around the supper table remembering when my youngest daughter and her brother first met my husband. We talked about their first reactions and we laughed about them. As we cleared the table my daughter said, “You know mum I remember that I wasn’t very nice to you (at that time). I feel bad about that and I am sorry how I treated you back then.” I gave her a hug and told her how she was but a young child then and she was going through a lot; her father and I had split up and he had been abusive to all of us. I told her that I bared a lot from all three of my children at that time, but I had big shoulders and took it because I knew they were hurting. We hugged and she said she was sorry and that she loved me. I am grateful for her apology.

The time period my daughter is referring to is back in 2011. She was six years old, my son was four, and my oldest daughter was six years old. It had been a turbulent time with my ex and I separating the previous year. My children saw their father on weekends. Weekends where they were still being abused (unbeknownst to me, but I had my suspicions) and I was struggling with symptoms of undiagnosed PTSD. It was a difficult time so it was natural that as young children that they would act out. There was wetting of beds, soiling of pants, and nightmares as reactions to the trauma they endured. There was also verbal back lashing, not listening to me, some name calling, along with hitting and kicking of me. All actions they had observed their father do and in their frustration, pain, and confusion they exhibited the same actions. Yes, it was a difficult time.

I think it is important to remember that with a survivor of domestic abuse they are often not only facing pain caused by their partner, but at times by their own children. It’s a double edged sword. Often the abuser will undermine the survivor’s relationship with their children. They will blame the abuse on the survivor and tell the children what a poor parent the survivor is. Often, my ex would tell my children how stupid I was in my hearing. I can only imagine what was said out of my hearing. This is one more form of abuse directed on the survivor and on the children. Abusers know that by using the children against the survivor they are able to truly break the survivor down. Often, the children are brainwashed against the survivor by the abusive parent. As a result, some children turn away from that survivor parent. It is a heartbreaking fact in domestic abuse.

I love my children. I always have and I always will. I fought hard in our legal system to gain full custody of them to protect them from further abuse. There have been many times where I have had to have “big shoulders” and bared their backlash. Backlash that often should be directed to my ex, but he is not here and I am. I take it because I know it all needs to get out in the open and that helps my children heal. It is not an easy road. I will admit that. I have cried many tears as a result. It is all worth it though when I see a smile on their face or receive a hug or cuddle telling me they love me. I know that they too are working their way through the “muck” of having lived in an abusive family. I am glad to say that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I saw it tonight in a simple “I am sorry.”

Peace,

Janet