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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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

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

Christmas Anxiety

To say that this Christmas season has been easy for me would be a lie, it hasn’t been. It is not because I don’t like Christmas either, because I love the Christmas season. I love celebrating the birth of Christ, all the lights, the carols and time with family and friends. It is a lovely time of year. So why has it not been easy for me? Anxiety.

Anxiety is a disorder that cripples many. I am one of them. I was diagnosed with PTSD back in 2011 and with PTSD comes anxiety. A lot of the time I am able to cope with it. I know all the breathing exercises to calm myself. I know how to do positive self talk. In fact I am a person who often helps others with their anxiety so you would think I have this all cased wouldn’t you? Well I don’t. I have shed tears in my vehicle after shopping in a mall. I have suffered a full out anxiety attack while decorating our Christmas tree and I have had moments where I just crawl under the blankets and seek silence. To be blunt it sucks.

I know why I am suffering. Christmas was always a time when my ex husband was more abusive. He would yell more and would make sure I knew what a chore it was to shop for me. Everyone else’s gifts would be planned out weeks in advance whereas mine would be last minute. He would make sure I knew that he was only buying me something because it would look bad in front of everyone else if he did not. He crushed my self worth every Christmas. I understand that those memories go deep so of course when December rolls around I am not surprised if I am triggered and on edge.

What am I doing to cope? Well I am happy to say I was remarried this last fall to a wonderful man who loves me deeply. He has been my rock during this anxiety ridden time. He holds me when I cry or when my whole being is shaking with anxiety. We talk about what I am feeling or sometimes we just sit in silence. I also pray. I am a strong Christian believer so I have had many “chats” with God praying for peace and strength and I am also looking for the positives in every day, even if it is a small thing like going out for a walk on our farm in the snow and sunshine.

If you are also struggling this Christmas my thoughts are with you. Please know that you are not alone. I too am taking it all one moment at a time. Breathe and take care of you. Merry Christmas.

 

Janet

 

Anxiety, it’s a Nasty Thing

Anxiety, it’s a nasty thing. Today I woke with an anxiety attack. My heart was pounding, I felt shaky and on edge. To make matters worse it was also really windy out and I could hear something tapping against the house.

Tap

Tap

Tap

With each tap I felt myself jumping out of my skin. What was that? Was it a person? Was someone going to hurt me? I could no longer sleep. I pulled myself out of bed and went to find the noise.

Tap

Tap

Tap

My heart kept pounding and my arms felt weak. I zeroed in on the noise. It was outside my kitchen window. I made my way with shaky legs to the window and looked out. There I saw a wind ornament that hung off the edge of the garage, spinning in the wind. It had spun it’s way over next to the house and was hitting the side of it.

Tap

Tap

Tap

I did what I know I was supposed to do. I took a slow, deep breath, in through my nose and out through mouth and did my best to try and calm myself. I told myself that I was safe and that no one was coming to get me; it was just an out of control wind ornament.

Anxiety can be a paralyzing disorder. Anxiety is a worry about future events. In extreme cases some people are terrified to leave their homes or even their bedrooms because the anxiety has them believing something catastrophic will happen. Those with anxiety have usually, if not always, gone through some form of trauma, something that took them completely way out of their comfort zone and caused them pain whether physical or emotional. Myself, I was in an abusive marriage for 15 years. The constant trauma from abuse left me with a diagnosis of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and anxiety is a part of that disorder. There was a time when I was very sick with my PTSD symptoms and leaving my house or answering the phone was a terrifying and overwhelming thought. I saw even the most loved people in my life as a threat, as someone who could hurt me. To me it made sense, the man I had loved and married had tortured me through various forms of abuse for over a decade. If I could not trust him how could I possibly trust the clerk at the grocery store?

To someone who is not battling the anxiety giant my behaviour today would seem completely irrational. I get that and yes I do feel a bit crazy when I am battling anxiety. On a logical level, I know the grocery store clerk is not going to hit me and I know that if I call a trusted family member they are not going to scream at me and call me names, but my nervous system does not get that. It is on high alert and passes that alertness on to me through anxiety so that I stay on edge and over aware. It is a terrible cycle to be caught in. Many lose relationships, jobs or suffer in their school attendance all due to the fear anxiety causes.

The fear. Fear is a reaction to current events and it is big when it hits with anxiety, but is it rational? No, not really.  My first thought when I heard the tapping was that someone was outside about to hurt me not that it was windy and something must be hitting the house as a result. That was pretty irrational of me. I believe to combat those irrational thoughts one needs to understand where anxiety with PTSD comes from. We all have the limbic system in our brain. It is our animal brain and it functions the “fight or flight” mode we all go into when danger strikes. We hear strange noises in the garage at night, we freeze for a moment and listen, the hairs go up on the back of our neck and our body starts to pump extra blood to our limps preparing us to either flee the danger quickly or to fight it. This is a great system built in us that protects us. With PTSD anxiety, we are having that adrenaline pump through us when it is not needed. Our mind perceives a threat and thinks it needs to go into the fight or flight mode based on past experiences.

So how do you combat this anxiety?

It might sound silly, but breathing exercises help. So do grounding exercises. These are two things that focus our brain on the present, what is right in front of us. It breaks the anxious thought cycle. Talking to a friend or a trained third party helps. Doing something creative can be a good release or for some they get out for a walk and burn off some of that anxious energy. It takes time and being very aware of whom you are to combat anxiety, but I do believe it can be done.

Anxiety no longer rules my life. I can go to the grocery store now with no anxiety. Making and receiving phone calls has become easier, but I still do have tough moments like I did today. It is in those moments that I do some positive self-talk and tell myself that I am safe and to just breathe. I might make a cup of tea or like today it was a mug of hot chocolate, hug my new husband and just be safe and calm. Over time my anxiety drifts away and I feel like myself again. It has taken a lot of work; time with a counsellor, some medication and self-exploration to get where I am today. I am not cured, but I am getting there. You can too. Until we meet again…..

Peace,

Janet

Deep Breathing Exercise

Sit comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.

Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.

Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.

Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly as you exhale.

Grounding Exercise

The “54321 game” is a common sensory awareness grounding exercise that many find a helpful tool to relax or get through difficult moments.

PROCEDURE:

  1. Describe five things you see in the room.
  2. Name four things you can feel (“my feet on the floor” or “the air in my nose”)
  3. Name three things you hear right now (“traffic outside)
  4. Name two things you can smell right now (or two smells you like)
  5. Name one good things about yourself

You should feel calmer and more at ease by the end of the exercise. Repeat the five steps more than once if needed.

-Dr. Stephanie Cordes, ND

Battling a Battle I was never prepared for

When my PTSD flares it is scary for me. It is a raw, gut wrenching all empowering fear. Fear that drives me to attack because I fear I will be attacked.

When my PTSD flares it is scary for me. It is a raw, gut wrenching all empowering fear. Fear that drives me to attack because I fear I will be attacked.
I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in 2011 after  a violent marriage. Since then I have faced a battle that I was never prepared for. I was never given any armor or taught any skills, I was just dropped into the middle of the war.

(Originally this blog was posted on Vocal. To read more please follow this link; https://psyche.media/battling-a-battle-i-was-never-prepared-for?_ga=2.152373625.1368995283.1512085571-1334676866.1512085571