As I head into the New Year I am realizing there is a shift in my healing from my abusive marriage. What is the shift? I am laughing at my ex. Yes you read that correctly, I am laughing at my ex.
I used to live in a world that was full of fear. My ex enjoyed terrorizing me, raping me, physically abusing me and our son and abusing my daughters in ways that I cannot put into words. I feared him. A lot. He liked that I was afraid and that I was hurting. Even my Lawyer, from talking to him, noted that my ex really enjoyed knowing I was in pain over what he had done. As our family doctor put it in Court, my ex is mentally unwell and is an undiagnosed Sociopath. So yes I have had every right to fear him.
So why am I laughing? Well I am laughing because my ex can no longer hurt me. His only contact is his pathetic bashing of me online. I will admit when I first found out he was attacking me on-line my PTSD kicked in and I was……well unsettled. Knowing he reads my facebook page or this blog used to bug me. I did not want him to be able to touch any part of my life. Now though……well now I really do not care. I see what he says online and I see it as pathetic and extremely predictable. Abusers will do this when you leave. They will trash your name (see my blog The Smear Campaign) to deflect from what they have done and they will watch you online because they still think of you as their property and something they own. This is what they do. Now that you know that and I know that it almost makes what they are doing pathetic don’t you think? There is nothing special in their actions, they are simply like every other hum drum abuser (is that too crass??!!) It kind of takes away their power doesn’t it? Well it certainly has for me.
So to my ex, and all of his minions who also follow me online, read away. I hope you have fun going over what I write, how I share what he did and in turn empower other Survivors to break free. Please enjoy my work. I’ll just be over here in the corner laughing at your predictability.
It’s Boxing Day and I don’t know about you, but I am Exhausted. Another Christmas Day has come and gone. For me the day was a busy and overall a good day. It was the first year that my 7am alarm was what woke my family up! I was surprised, but then again my youngest is now 10 years old so perhaps the 4 am – creeping – into – my -room -to -see -if -I -am -awake -and -can -we -open -presents moments have come to an end. Sigh. Anyways my day started with our little family opening our gifts, followed by prepping for Christmas supper, a nap, feeding my horse and then supper with my fiancé’s sister and family. It sounds pretty nice doesn’t it? It was, but then why did I end the day quietly crying in the dark in the quiet of my living room?
Recovery from abuse sucks and it’s suckiness can creep up on you at the most inopportune times. For me it was late on Christmas Day night. I find when holidays come memories of the past creep into my mind. This year they were not as powerful as they had been in the past. I did not have any full blown flashbacks or panic attacks. They were more like an annoying tap on my shoulder saying, “hey do you remember me?” My response was, “yes I remember, but you will not have a hold on me today” and I just kept swatting them away. I was pretty proud of myself, yet still I ended up in tears.
PTSD is not an easy road. You are constantly on high alert. Adrenaline is pumping through your body as your whole being prepares to fight or flee. Your heart is always racing, as are your thoughts and it is bloody exhausting. You are constantly on the lookout for danger. I need to remember that all of that was happening to me underneath the Christmas supper prepping and present opening. I often forget that in my recovery. I carry forward like I do not have PTSD and think that I should be able to function like I don’t have any disabilities, but I do have them. They are often unseen to the outside world but they are there. So really, is it any surprise that before my guests had left I had collapsed on my couch and was later crying in the dark? I think not. My nervous system had a lot to process yesterday; extra people in my house which would result in my whole being subconsciously assessing whether I was safe. I also had those annoying memories tapping me on the shoulder. I will be honest I was also trying really hard not to let anyone know I was going through all of this. So yes I do understand why in the end I ended up in tears.
I love my family, both extended and non extended. They are a huge part of my life and I would not change having these gatherings. I am glad I was able to see everyone yesterday. Upon reflection I just have to be mindful of my disabilities and perhaps be more open with my family as to what I am going through. Save myself from collapsing at the end of the night. Communication with loved ones is key as you recover from abuse and battle PTSD. You need a good support system to make it through the good and bad times. At the end of the night, as I cried, I was grateful for two people in my support system; my fiancé and my oldest daughter. My daughter heard me crying and came into the living room to see if I was ok. At that point I could not put it into words so we just sat together and then my fiancé joined us. They both held my hands and we chatted about everything and nothing all in one. It was a blessed moment. My fiancé reminded me that in this family we always have each others backs and that I am loved. I will get through this battle and my friends so will you.
Peace and Blessings to all of you during this Holiday Season.
Tomorrow, September 26th to October 2nd, is the start of Invisible Awareness Week. This week is to bring to light the many invisible illnesses out there, the mental illnesses that we do not see. As a person who battles Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Deep Depressive Disorder I felt it might be right to for me to talk about what having an invisible illness is like for me.
I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression when I was 19 years old. This was following the tragic death of my mother at age 11. I was later diagnosed with Chronic PTSD and Deep Depressive Disorder after being in an abusive marriage for 15 years.
So what has living with an invisible illness been like? Let me explain.
Living with an invisible illness has meant, to me;
I can never assume someone will make an accommodation for me. I have to be my own advocate for what I need. If you can’t see the ailment often you may not know or will forget what someone is fighting. As a result I have to be really aware of what I need and tell others.
There are times when I have to back out of engagements. I have to put my health first and sometimes that means turning down helping at the Christmas Tea or Bake Sale. It also means there may be people who do not understand why I am not there, but I have to look after me.
I make less money. Before my diagnosis of PTSD and Deep Depressive Disorder I worked in the Corporate World and made a good living for my family. Since my diagnosis my doctors have taken me off of work permanently and I live on Disability. This has meant a considerably lower income and ironically a loss in benefits (just when I needed them most).
It means my fiance is asked why don’t I work? I am 43 years old and I don’t look like I am sick so why am I a useless bum (well maybe that is not exactly what they say, but it is how I feel when they inquire)?
It means having more heart to hearts with my kids in my bedroom, while I rest, than anywhere else in the house.
It means taking every single day one day or one moment at a time.
It means finding a strength within me, that I didn’t know I had, to face the many symptoms of PTSD and Deep Depressive Disorder.
It means sometimes I feel like a failure because sometimes that strength is just not there and I struggle to do the simplest of tasks.
It means praying harder on the tough days and trustin that God has got me.
It means wondering if my illness is shorting my kids of their mother or my fiance of his partner?
It also means I have met some of the most amazing people who also fight invisible illnesses and they give me hope.
At the end of the day these are the cards I have been dealt and so I deal with them. It’s not completely the end of the world. I have learned how to cope during the bad days and to speak up for what I need. This battle is not how I envisioned my life to be at 43 years old, but I still have air in my lungs and a beat to my heart so there is a silver lining.
During this week I encourage you to join a worldwide event in support of Invisible Illness Awareness Week. Look up your illness online. Each one has an awareness ribbon in a certain colour. Take your colour and paint or marker a happy face on your hand,wrist or arm. Bring awareness to your invisible fight! #IIWK16 #InvisibleFight #InvisibleAwarenessWeek
June is PTSD Awareness Month. In November 2011 I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I am not a soldier of war. I am a Survivor of Domestic Violence. My battle was 15 years of abuse at the hands of a man I loved. PTSD changed how my brain functions. My amygdala (controls emotional response and our survival instinct) has increased in size and my hippocampus (controls memory moving from short term to long term) has shrunk. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not a Mental Illness (which it is often referred to as), but a Psychiatric Injury that happens after threatening experience. It could be from being in combat, watching a family member die, a car or plane crash, a natural disaster or sexual assault and abuse. One in ten survivors of Domestic Violence will be diagnosed with PTSD.
I left my abusive marriage almost six years ago. Wow….what a six years it has been! There have been pitfalls followed by many joys. It has not been an easy journey but it has made me who I am today and for that I am grateful. Let me tell you how I have changed and grown. How I have healed.
When I walked away from my marriage I was so empty. So broken. The night that ended my marriage was Sept 26th 2010. During the previous nine months my ex had been continually raping me. We had not been sharing a room during that time, but he would come into my room during the early hours and sexually assault me. In order to survive I convinced myself that he did not know what he was doing. Like all of the forms of abuse he did to me; the verbal assaults, the emotional and mental games he played, I had believed he did not know what he was doing. That he was out of control when it happened. It was easier to deal with the abuse if I believed he did not mean it. To realize that he knew exactly what he was doing, that it was purposeful on his part was too much for me to acknowledge. Then Sept 26th 2010 happened.
My now ex was standing at our kitchen sink doing the dishes. Understandably I was not coping well with these continual rapes. Being assaulted in my own bed in the wee hours of the morning and then having to swallow it all down and get up and make breakfast for my children was becoming too much to bear. Something broke in me that night and I reached deep down inside of myself and confronted my ex. I walked up to him, stood beside him and asked him point blank why was he raping me. I expected him to deny it and to say that he had no idea he was doing that. That response would fit into the level of denial I was living in. I then somehow thought we could calmly sit down and talk this out as I explained his out of control behaviour and would then ask him one more time to get help, but it did not work out that way. Instead……instead he admitted that he knew exactly what he was doing to me when he raped me. That he knew he was hurting me. I remember watching his face as he stared out of the kitchen window. There was no remorse in his voice, no sadness, no regret, there was just a sense of calm around him.
It was then that my world shattered. It was then that I realized everything he had ever done to hurt me or our children had been intentional. He was never out of control. Every lie that I had told myself to survive no longer had any standing power and I started to let out a blood curtailing scream. I started to scream, “It’s Over! It’s Over!” (our marriage) and I started to walk around the house taking down every wedding photo or memento and I threw them into my bedroom closet sobbing uncontrollably. My “fairytale” was over. Oddly enough my ex followed me around saying “No’. Saying that it wasn’t over and begging me to stop taking our wedding things down. Perhaps this was his own level of denial where he seemed to believe that no matter how bad he treated me I would stay.
The next day I texted him from work and told him to pack his things and be gone by 8pm or I would call the RCMP and have them remove him from the home. He was gone when I came home.
So what happened after that? Did I skip off into the sunny horizon and live happily ever after? Nope.
At first things were ok. I was happy and I was free. I was no longer suffering daily abuse. I no longer had a knot in my stomach wondering when the next explosion would be. My children and I no longer walked on eggshells. They ran around and played and made NOISE!! It was wonderful. No one had to worry that they were going to wake the monster and suffer as a result. Life was good. Then I fell into a darkness.
I was not sleeping well at night. I was starting to suffer horrible nightmares and I would wake at 4am unable to sleep anymore. I struggled to focus on the simplest of tasks. I felt like I was losing my mind. I was lost. It was then that I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was put on meds that made me very groggy and I spent a lot of time in bed. I struggled to function, but I kept trying everyday to be a mom and to go to my job. I tried to be human, but the flashbacks and night terrors were all too powerful. Soon I was put on long term disability. I still struggled. I still spent a lot of time in bed as my whole system detoxed from 15 years of abuse. I had uncontrollable outbursts and was living in a world of fear. I was afraid to leave my home. A trip to the grocery store often sent me into a panic attack.
I was lucky that through darkness I had a great support system. My sister, my amazing fiancé and many professionals. I reached out for support wherever I could find it. Slowly with that support I picked myself up off of the floor. Slowly I broke my isolation and made friends. Slowly I was able to function as a mum. I could make meals and interact with my family. God also became a driving force in my life. I started to live again.
The battle with PTSD is a tough one. I admire anyone who battles it, no matter how they got it. Whether it be from a war or a car crash they are all hero’s to me. We all face terror on a daily basis and that takes an amazing amount of strength to survive. We are warriors. Warriors who have good days and bad. I am better than I was but I am still not healed. I believe this battle will be a life long one for me so I take it all one moment at a time. I trust that God has got me and I will survive. I am also starting the journey of receiving a PTSD Service Dog. I believe she will bring more peace to my life.
As June comes to an end I ask that your awareness of PTSD continues past June 30th 2016. If you have a loved one with PTSD learn the symptoms. Listen to what they need and support them. It’s not an easy role to be in, but they do need you even if they say they can do it all on their own. PTSD is scary and often you feel that isolating yourself is best, but let me tell you that it isn’t. We need to know that we are loved. That we are safe and that the bad moments will led to good moments. We need to know that to survive this battle.
Boundaries. We make them. We sometimes break them or perhaps someone we know breaks ours. What is a boundary? According to Google it is “a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.”That could be a fence or wall if we were talking about property lines or it could be a border line for a country. In a relationship a boundary tells the other person what you will and will not accept in the relationship. When I think of boundaries in relationships I think of the saying, “I am drawing a line in the sand.” We say that when we reach our limit on something and will not accept it anymore. Having boundaries is healthy in a relationship and they should be respected.
In abusive relationships boundaries are not respected. A basic human right to live a life free of abuse is a boundary and it is broken continually in abusive relationships. An abuser can break a boundary by calling you a terrible name, scream at you or physically or sexually hurt you. Abusers do not respect boundaries because they want to have all of the control in the relationship and if they respect their victims boundaries then they cannot continue to abuse them. Also the continual trampling of your boundaries weakens you as a person and that in turn makes it easier for the abuser to control you.
I have run into a lack of respect for my boundaries many times in my life. I continually had my boundaries trampled in my abusive marriage. I have also had them trampled in other relationships. As a young adult I had to set boundaries with a family member who had abusive tendencies. Their behaviour was causing me anxiety. We did not live together, but because the relationship was difficult for me I asked that this person call me before they came over to my house, just so I was not caught off guard. I felt safer that way. Unfortunately this person did not respect my request. In the end I had to cut contact with them. We did not renew our relationship until they realised what they were doing to me and made a conscious effort to change their behaviour.
Sometimes a lack of respect for your boundaries is huge as in physical abuse or sometimes it may be small as in a Birthday card. I have another relative that is very toxic for me. I have recognised the dysfunction, named it to this person and told them what I need in order to have a relationship with them. I told them my boundaries. I also told them that until I can see that they actively respect what I need for a healthy relationship that we are to have no contact. I blocked them on all social media and they do not know my phone number. I drew a firm line in the sand. Since that line was made this person has started to mail me and my family Christmas and Birthday cards. You may say, “Well is that really so bad?” Yes it is. You see this person in the 40 odd years I have known them has never sent me or my family Birthday or Christmas cards. Yet when I said no contact until you work on yourself and look at why you are abusive to me, the cards started. It is one small way that they are still not respecting my boundaries and are trying to trample them. This is what abusive people do though. The trampling of boundaries is often not a big event like a slap across the face. It is often done in small acts and you barely even notice that your boundaries are being trampled until they are “slapping you in the face”. It is a way to slowly break you down so that they can abuse you some more. It’s important to recognise even the little trampling’s on your boundaries and respect yourself by speaking up. I have started doing a “Return to Sender” on the cards.
As I end this blog I encourage you to set your boundaries and stick to them. They tell the world what you will and will not accept in your life and that is important. I know it can be hard to set boundaries after an abusive relationship. It may even feel foreign to set a boundary since you have lived in a world where boundaries are non existent, but in a healthy relationship they are so important. Not only for you, but for the people in your life. If someone does something that you cannot accept, I encourage you to tell them. It can be as straight forward as saying, “I don’t like it when you speak that way to me, please stop.” Go for it. You can do it. I believe in you!
Recently I was reminded about the lasting effects of verbal abuse. My fiancé and I were visiting friends in another city. We have not been to their place too much and got a bit lost on our way home. It was late, we were all tired and somehow ended up in some industrial area. Wrong turns were made and tensions rose. No name calling happened between us but suddenly I was being verbally abused. I could hear my ex in my head telling me how stupid I was, that I was an idiot. I had flashbacks to times he would give me a map and tell me to navigate (usually in a strange city while we sped down some freeway) and I would fail at it. This is of course what he wanted to happen so then he could justify yelling at me for a 1/2 hour or more. It was horrible and damaging to my self worth. Last night, as I quietly cried, I was a reminded of the damage done.
Many verbal abuse Survivors will tell you that they would take getting hit over one more minute of being verbally abused. I remember saying to my ex more than once, “just hit me already!” My thinking was that if I was hit then the abuse was over and I could heal from a bruise whereas verbal abuse cuts you to your soul. Verbal abuse changes how you think of yourself. Verbal abuse is crazy making. Often the victim feels like it is all just in their head, maybe they aren’t being abused, maybe they are just going crazy. If this is how you feel after suffering verbal abuse let me tell you that you are NOT crazy. You have been abused.
So what is verbal abuse? It is just name calling? No it is not.
Verbal abuse includes the following:
- abusive anger
- accusing and blaming
- blocking and diverting
- chronic forgetting
- denial of anger or abuse
- judging and criticizing
- minimisation, discounting, trivializing
- name calling
- also age descrimination can be considered a form of verbal abuse.
How do you heal from verbal abuse?
Well I am still working that, its a journey of ups and downs. If you have to remain in contact with your verbal abuser it is important to set boundaries with them. Telling them to “Stop it!” or saying, “You aren’t allowed to talk to me that way!” are two statements you can use to bring your abuser up short. If possible cut all ties with your abuser. I know this is not always easy to do. Some verbal abusers are family members, a boss or your spouse, but you are worth more than what they are giving you. You cannot properly heal until there is closure. Another important point is that most verbal abuse will escalate over time and it WILL lead to physical abuse. No one deserves that.
It’s important to seek support as you recover from the abuse. A counsellor can be a great confident who can give you insight as a third party. Unlike a family member or close friend they are able to give you professional advice without the overshadowing of family dynamics or friendships. This does not mean support from family and friends is not valid, it defiantly is. You might even find yourself reconnecting with family and friends once you leave the relationship. Abusers often isolate their victim from family and friends as it is then easier to control them. So reach out to them. They can help you remember who you are rather than what the abuser tells you, you are. Social support is also another support system. There are many groups on facebook, twitter or domestic violence hotlines that can help you. It is easier to move forward when you have a positive support system around you.
As for me, well we did find our way home. Today my fiancé and I sorted through what the effects of my verbally abusive past had on me last night. It is a two steps forward, one step back sort of journey. I am just glad that I keep moving forward.
Today has been rough. Who am I kidding; the last six years have been rough. I am sure none of it is what you expected. Sure you thought there would be rough spots, but I don’t think you banked on days, weeks and months.
We reconnected six years ago, you and I. We were high school sweethearts who drifted apart only to reconnect 20 years later. I had called you for help. I was in a horrible marriage and he was abusing me. I asked you to help me get out and you did just that. You stood by me and supported me while I safely got away. You listened and held me while I cried. You were amazing.
Then one day we realized we were in love again and our love flourished!! We were so happy. Life was wonderful!
Strange things started to happen. You know what I mean. I couldn’t sleep through the night. I had horrible night terrors and woke screaming with tears running down my face. I was scared to leave my house. I couldn’t work. I had flashbacks that made me yell. I couldn’t seem to get away from the memories of what my ex had done. I could no longer function. We went to the doctor and found out I had PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) with Deep Depressive Disorder.
As PTSD and Depression took over I lived in a fog of terrible memories, a lack of focus and fear. Deep shadows formed under my eyes, I was edgy. Every sound made me jump. We vowed to stay by each other’s side. We would get through this. We knew what it was like to live without each other, we did not want to let go now.
So I saw more doctors and was put on medication to help me cope. They were the wrong ones at first so we suffered through the side effects and kept marching on. We were a team.
I know you were scared; scared to leave me alone so you started to miss work. You said that I came first. My health needed to be number one. I told you that I would be fine, go to work, I will make it through. So you did, only to come to see me still in my pajamas, the dishes weren’t done and the laundry was piling up. I told you I was sorry and you told me not to worry.
I am sorry though.
I am sorry that you have to deal with my anxiety and how irrational it can be.
I am sorry you hear me yell in fear.
I am sorry you have had to pull double duty; run the house plus your job. Please know that I see how burnt out you are. Please know how much I love you.
I never know what each day will bring. If I will get triggered by a smell or sound and end up hiding in our room or perhaps that day it will be like old days. I will get out for a walk and we will smile and laugh. I do not know and neither do you, for that I am sorry.
Thank you for riding this journey with me. Thank you for holding me when I cry or wake at night in fear. Thank you for pushing me to try new therapies and to never give up. PTSD and Depression may be debilitating, but with you by my side I can fight this battle. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Intimacy after rape, let me tell you it is not easy. I was raped at least once a week in the last nine months of my marriage. For my ex it was his one last attempt to regain control over me. We had been caught in an abusive marriage for over a decade. At the time the rapes started I was “waking up.” I was seeing him for who he was, an abusive man who enjoyed hurting me. I was going to counselling and learning that I did not deserve this abuse, that I deserved a life free of abuse and I was starting to stand up to him. When he started to verbally abuse me I asked him firmly to stop talking to me that way. I was calling him on his abuse and was standing up to him. I was getting stronger and he did not like that. An abusive relationship is all about one person (my ex) wanting power and control over another person (me) and for a very long time he had that control. My world revolved around him and his moods. I tailored my behaviour in hopes that I would not rock the boat and wake the monster in him. I walked on eggshells and our kids did too. He had gained his power through fear and intimidation.
Then one day, as I said before, I “woke up.” I could no longer swallow the abuse. I could no longer deny what was happening to myself or my children. As I said earlier I started to see a counsellor and I learned about the abuse cycle. I started to unisolate myself (he, like most abusers had isolated me from family and friends to be able to control me better), I went out with friends and started to have outside interests, interests that did not involve him. I no longer let my life revolve around him. Now let me just say I was careful. I was still living with this man and I knew what he was capable of if pushed too far. He could see though that he was losing control of me and it drove him mad. He yelled more often, screamed at me that he would Never Stop Abusing Me, criticized my friends and outside interests all in an attempt to deter me from having a life away from him and his control. It didn’t work. I kept rebuilding myself.
Then the unthinkable happened. From January 2010 to September 2010 my husband came into my room (we were sleeping in separate rooms) and he exerted all of his power over me, stripping me of my power, and he raped me over and over.
At the time I felt nothing. I couldn’t let myself feel anything. I still lived with this man, a man I had tried kicking out, but he kept coming back and now he had suddenly upped the danger level in our house. I simply existed. I was numb.
We did end up separating and I started to live a life free of abuse. Eventually I dated again. Yes I did date after being raped. I started to date a man that I had dated in high school. He was my first love and I was very happy that we were back together. I felt safe with him. Intimacy was easy. I, despite what I had gone through, felt no fear. I was honestly surprised by that, but did not question it.
Unfortunately as time passed intimacy became harder. I started to have panic attacks when we were close, fear would run through my body and I would freeze. Let me state that my boyfriend never hurt me when we were intimate. My reactions were not due to something he had done. My reactions were trauma reactions. I was getting stronger in my day to day life so my unconscious self decided it was time to deal with the trauma memories. You see my cells, my nervous system, my muscles and layers of my brain all held memories of the trauma. Per Wikipedia;
Traumatic experiences include natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis; violent events such as kidnapping, terrorist attacks, war, domestic abuse and rape. Traumatic memories are naturally stressful in nature and emotionally overwhelm people’s existing coping mechanisms. When simple objects such as a photograph, or events such as a birthday party, bring traumatic memories to mind people often try to bar the unwanted experience from their minds so as to proceed with life, with varying degrees of success. The frequency of these reminders diminish over time for most people. There are strong individual differences in the rate at which the adjustment occurs. For some the number of intrusive memories diminish rapidly as the person adjusts to the situation, whereas for others intrusive memories may continue for decades with significant interference to their mental, physical and social well being.
Ok so I was trying to proceed with life, but the trauma memories were getting in the way. As a result I had to do more counselling and I have learned new coping skills. My boyfriend and I will often just cuddle with no pressure of anything more. It’s not always easy for him or I, but we do our best to be patient and understanding of each others feelings. There are days where I skirt affection all together. When the fear takes over, I feel like I am screaming from the inside and any kind of touching stresses me out. We try to talk through those days and reassure my whole being that I am safe. It’s not an easy journey actually some days it really sucks, but I am glad we love each other enough to get through it together. One step at a time.
If you have been raped practise these acts of self care;
-Be gentle with yourself. You may be recovering from physical injuries plus mentally and emotionally you have been hurt. It takes time to heal.
-Reach out to loved ones, friends or family for support.
-You may notice that your appetite has diminished due to stress. Eat small, frequent nutritional meals. Try to avoid large amounts of sugar or caffeine.
-Get outside. Feel the sunshine, breath in the fresh air, get out for a walk.
-Keep a journal about your thoughts and feelings.
-You may have trouble sleeping and feel extra jumpy. These are normal reactions to trauma. If these symptoms last longer than a month please see your doctor for extra support.
-There are many forms of counselling to help with trauma. Your local Sexual Assault Centre can offer extra support or your family doctor can refer you to a therapist.
-Check out RAINN’s website rainn.org for helpful information.
-Please know you are not alone, you did NOTHING wrong and you did NOT deserve this happening.
PTSD came into my life in 2011. My youngest daughter was referred to a child Psychiatrist. She was wetting her bed, peeing in hampers and garbage cans, having panic attacks, sucking on her hair and more and more disappearing into a world I did not understand. She was 5 years old.
As a concerned parent I sat in that Psychiatrists office hoping this Doctor would shed some light on what was happening to my little girl. That she would tell me how I could help her. I nervously told her about what had been happening at home. You see my husband, and my girls father, had been abusing us. Just six months prior we had left him. I thought that maybe her actions were just a reaction to what we had been through and she just needed a child therapist. The doctor told me that I was right, this was a reaction to what my daughter had gone through, that she had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from all of the trauma she had endured.
“What do you mean?” I asked, “Isn’t this something only soldiers get?” “How could my 5 year old daughter have this?”
The Psychiatrist proceeded to explain to me that PTSD is a common diagnosis in abused children. She explained that we naturally have a fight or flight instinct in us when we sense danger. Naturally we will freeze, extra blood and adrenaline will pump to our extremities preparing for us to either fight or flee the situation. This is normal. Sometimes though a person goes through something so traumatic, usually life threatening that causes your brain to be stuck in this mode. This causes symptoms like;
Bedwetting (in children)
High Startle Response
Avoidance (of the place where the trauma happened or similar situations)
I left that doctors office clinging to my little girl. Wanting to protect her from the hell going on in her mind.
Six months later I was diagnosed with the same.
So what is it like to live with PTSD?
Well it is never dull. Our whole being lives on high alert. I am often woken in the night by my mind, wide awake, not able to sleep. I learned that this is because my brain is worried that danger will strike at any moment so I need to be awake and alert. When I do sleep it is a restless sleep due to night terrors. 24/7 my brain is trying to understand what happened to me, it is trying to process the trauma. My dreams are where a lot of that happens. I also have days where I cannot fall asleep. The adrenaline is running through my body preparing me to fight or flee keeping me wide awake. PTSD can be very debilitating.
I am tired.
I have dark circles under my eyes.
I often struggle to focus, as does my daughter, because my brain wants to be prepared for danger. It is not worried about the daily tasks I am trying to achieve or the homework my daughter is trying to finish.
We do have good days. We laugh and life feels safe again, but then someone may say something, or we may smell his cologne on a passer by or be making a meal where we were abused right after and we spiral back. Back to the past where we are getting hurt again. More than once I have suddenly broken into overpowering sobs. Fearing for my life when really there is no one there wanting to hurt me. It’s a sick cycle.
I quickly learned that management of your symptoms is key with PTSD. We both learned relaxation exercises to calm our racing hearts. We learned grounding exercises to stay in the present. We take medication to help us sleep, to ease anxiety, to fight nightmares and help with focusing. We do therapy. Lots of it. We have learned, mostly, what our triggers are and we avoid them. Triggers are things in our day to day that remind us of the trauma. We tell our loved ones what they are so that they can possibly avoid doing them, but it’s not fool proof. There are still outside events, like a movie at school or a van that drives by looking like his, that causes a panic attack. So we balance.
We balance the good days with the bad. We love ourselves extra more. We ask for understanding from others. We seek out support, receive it and in turn support others. PTSD can make you feel so alone, so different from those around you, you think hiding away is the best way to go. Let me tell you that it isn’t. So we go out for that walk, meet that friend for coffee, tell ourselves 50 times a day that we are safe and make our way through another day.
We survived the trauma.
It’s been the hardest fight of my life, but I promise with God’s help we WILL survive the recovery.