Finding my Happily Ever After

Recently I married my first love. It was a beautiful day. One I will cherish forever. Yet after such a lovely event I find the ghosts of the past are still whispering in my house.

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Recently I married my first love, my high school sweetheart, my soul mate. It was beautiful day. More than I could have dreamed! We were surrounded by those we love while we exchanged those precious vows before God. It was a blessed day and one I will never forget.  After such a wonderful event though I find there are still whispers in our house. Whispers from my previous life. Whispers from my abusive marriage. Whispers that say, “You aren’t good enough”, “You will fail” and “I am hurting.” Some are things I hear, some are struggles my youngest daughter is having.

My youngest daughter was diagnosed with PTSD almost seven years ago, she was six years old at the time. At that time I was just leaving her father who had abused her and the rest of our family. She struggled as a little mite with nightmares, anxiety, detaching and going catatonic, wetting her bed and terrified that her father was going to come and kill her. It was a horrible time in our life, but we got through it. We did counselling with some amazing Child Counsellors and Child Psychiatrists. My daughter was put on medication to calm her at night and some to help her focus during the day. We talked and talked about her feelings and turned many positive corners. After awhile her PTSD went into remission and life for her was peaceful. Now though, PTSD has reared it’s ugly head again and her pain is reoccurring. Night terrors grip her and sadness has overtaken her. It breaks my heart as her mum.

I have learned, with PTSD and abuse, that the effects are long lasting. Just when you think you have PTSD licked it will reappear. A sight, a sound or a smell may trigger you and the past comes back. It overpowers you and cripples you and you have to fight all over again to get your feet back under you. Over time I have learned coping mechanisms to help with these set backs; self care, gentleness, self love, meditation, quiet time of self reflection, writing and just being around those I love are all things that have helped me. At this time, I am trying to share those coping skills with my daughter. Letting her know that she is loved, she is safe and that we will get through this together. It’s definitely not easy to watch her go through this. Watching any of my children struggle with what my ex did has been difficult. I keep fighting though, for them and for me because……well because we are all worth it.

As I find my happily ever after I am reminded that the “ghosts” of the past will pop up.  The blessing is, is that I have my new husband is beside me fighting them. Fighting for me and for my, our daughter now. All we can do is keep fighting. We will get through this difficult time like we always have with love, patience and understanding. Until next time….

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;  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!

 

Breaking free from the denial of abuse. You can do it!

A victim of abuse will live in a level of denial. You fall in love, you think he or she is all you ever wanted and then you start to see a dark side. A side that snaps at you or yells at you. Maybe he or she breaks something when they are angry. All red flags if you look at any “Are you being abused?” documentation, but as a victim you just don’t want to see it. You want to live your fairy tale. You want to believe that he or she loves you and is just a troubled person who needs more understanding than most. You don’t want to go through a break up so you hold on through the bad times and cheer during the good times. Over time the bad times happen more and more and before you know it there is barely a good second in your life.

It was slow and insidious at first.  I didn’t realize what he was setting me up for.  I thought he loved me, but he didn’t.  Instead, to him, I was something he owned.  I became an extension of him, like his arm or his leg.  He did not know how to deal with his own emotions so he set up a cycle where he released his feelings through abusing me.  This was my life.  This was my marriage.

At first his friends warned me that he had a temper.  I told them that I could handle it.  I figured that if I loved him enough his anger would go away.  He had had so many people leave him, his dad had died, his mom ignored him and the rest of his family was distant too.  I felt sorry for him.  I resolved that I would love him like no one else.  What I didn’t know was that they saw his temper.  They saw his violence and they didn’t know what to do about it, so they kept him at an arms length.  What I also didn’t know was his temper had put a kid in the hospital when he was 16.  A fellow teen ended up in intensive care and he had a restraining order against him.  He spent a lot of his time in and out of the police station.  It was an issue.  An issue I didn’t want to see.  I only wanted to see the quiet, tall, dark and handsome man that I had fallen in love with.

A victim of abuse will live in a level of denial.  You fall in love, you think he or she is all you ever wanted and then you start to see a dark side.  A side that snaps at you or yells at you.  Maybe he or she breaks something when they are angry.  All red flags if you look at any “Are you being abused?” documentation, but as a victim you just don’t want to see it.  You want to live your fairy tale.  You want to believe that he or she loves you and is just a troubled person who needs more understanding than most.  You don’t want to go through a break up so you hold on through the bad times and cheer during the good times. Over time the bad times happen more and more and before you know it there is barely a good second in your life.  I lived in that denial.  I lived in that denial for almost 15 years.  Then I woke up.

A moment will happen in a victims life that will jolt them “awake”. They will no longer be able to live in denial and they will see what is happening in their life is abuse.  They will see that the man or woman they love has abused them in many different ways.  It will shatter them and they will not know, at first, how to pick up the pieces. Everything they thought they knew will be questioned.  Many fall into depression or they may become suicidal.  It can become a very scary time for a victim or as I like to call them, a Survivor.  I know that when I “woke” up my world was rocked to the core.  I no longer trusted the world around me.  My waking moment was when I saw him physically abuse our toddler son.  He thought I had turned my back but out of my peripheral vision I saw him push our toddler son on the stairs so that he fell forward and smacked his head on the laminate flooring.  I screamed, “What are you doing?” and ran forward to grab my screaming son. My now exes response was, “I didn’t push him that hard.” No apology, no concern. It was in that moment that I saw who my husband was; a cold uncaring man who was out to hurt his family.  I knew in that moment that I had to start protecting myself and my young children.

Every Survivor’s moment is different.  You, as a bystander, may already know that their partner is abusing them.  There realization may come as no surprise to you, but please understand that to them their world is falling apart. They need love, understanding, patience and just someone to “be” with.  Someone who will listen as they sort our this mess.  It won’t be easy as a bystander to watch any of this.  You will worry about them, you will watch them cry and you may even watch them go back.  It plan out sucks to watch.  All I can say is please try to hang on.  They need you.  They are full of self doubt, little or no self worth and they need someone who is just there, loving them through it all.

If you are the Survivor having your “waking” moment let me say that I know it hurts.  I know that this is horrible and is totally not what you wanted.  I know you wanted what you see other people having, love and caring from a special person, but let me tell you abuse is NOT love. Never, ever is it love.  You deserve so much more than they are giving you and you are not any of the worthless things they may have told you , you are.  I know that breaking this denial, making these changes is hard, but I do believe that you can do them.  I didn’t think I could.  I figured I would be stuck in my abusive marriage forever.  I would never be able to afford to leave and wouldn’t I be a horrible mother splitting up my family? Then I realized that he had already split up our family when he started abusing us.  We were already broken. By leaving I was just doing what needed to be done to protect myself and my children from further pain.  I was doing the right thing. Yes there have been hurdles, but I faced each one head on and was determined to survive.  You too can survive.  You too can do it! I truly believe in you.  So break the denial, see the ugly for what it is, hold on, pray, reach out for support and reach for a better life where you are valued and loved.

Peace,

Janet

PS. If you are thinking about leaving your abusive relationship please know that your priority needs to be your safety.  Do not tell your abuser that you are planning to leave as the abuse will often escalate.  The most dangerous time for a Survivor of abuse is when they plan to leave or have just left.  To help you plan a safe escape I encourage you to create a Safety Plan.  Please follow the link below and scroll to the bottom of the page that comes up to download a Safety Plan for free.

http://verbalabusejournals.com/how-to-stop-abuse/safety-planning/

 

 

What having an Invisible Illness means to me.

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

Peace,

Janet

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The effects of Domestic Violence on the family

 Recently I was asked to talk to a group of women about the effects of Domestic Violencethe family.  After much thought and reflection on how Domestic Violence affected my family along with so many others I wrote the below speech which is now a new blog. 🙂

  Advocating to end Domestic Violence has become a very important issue for me. You may ask, “why”? Why would you speak so loudly about ending something that so many still want to sweep under the carpet and look the other way?  Well it could be because it affects 1 in 4 women in our Country. Or it could be that 1 billion women world wide will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime or perhaps it is because every 6 days a woman is killed in our Country by her partner or former partner. Or simply it could be because it happened to me.

I never thought  I would end up in an abusive marriage. I was raised in a Christian home where nothing was solved with violence.  We talked out our issues and I remember only being spanked once as a child. Family violence was an unknown to me.

I met my ex in the mid 90’s. He was quiet, sweet, attentive, good looking and he swept me off of my feet the first time I met him.  I knew then and there that I was going to marry him one day. I was in love. We talked on the phone for hours, spent all of our free time together and for me my whole world started to revolve around him.  I never knew that underneath all of the niceness was a man who was quietly listening to me, observing me and figuring out my weaknesses so that he could one day use them against me. I had no idea the trap he was setting for me.

In 2002 we were married. We had three beautiful children, two girls and a son, owned a home, lived in a small town and both of us were involved in the Community. He was a volunteer firefighter, I was a Sunday school teacher. We faithfully attended Church and planned to raise our children in a Christian upbringing. We both worked, had pensions and savings. To the outside world we looked like we had it all, but we didn’t. Behind closed doors it was a whole different story.  Behind closed doors there was screaming that was gradually increasing to a point where it was happening daily.  I was being called horrible degrading names and the physical abuse was increasing. For example my fingers were crushed in a door one day because in  his eyes I wasn’t listening and I needed to be punished.  There were chairs, tools, steel toed boots and cutlery thrown at me if I “stepped out of line.” I was slammed into walls if I defied him in anyway and near the end, my life was threatened more than once. My life became, what I call, a giant “Cat and Mouse” game of survival. I was always trying to stay 10 steps ahead of him to survive. My head was constantly spinning and I struggled to focus. As each year passed I felt myself drowning just a little bit more. We separated in 2010.

Let us not forget that in amongst all of this chaos there were three little people who were trying to understand what was going on.  They witnessed the name calling, they heard their father tell them that their mum was stupid and that they should never listen to her. They had images (2)their security shaken daily.  They saw dad hit mom. They saw mom hiding in the pantry crying hoping no one would hear her. They saw mom not eating and losing weight at a dangerous level. They saw moms hair falling out in clumps. They saw the woman that always saved them slipping away. As a child they did not understand what was happening, but they knew how it made them feel. They couldn’t put it all into words, but they could wet their beds and have nightmares. They could struggle at school due to a lack of focus. Who can focus on learning their ABC’s when they are worried about what dad will do next? Would he be scary daddy today and hit their little brother. Or would he be fun daddy who took them swimming and out for supper? Every day was a throw of the dice, never quite knowing what you would get.

For optimal development, children and young people need to grow up in a secure and loving environment. Where domestic or family violence exists, the home is not safe or secure and children are scared about what might happen to them and the people they love.

Studies show that children who have witnessed domestic violence are more likely to:

  • show aggressive behaviour
  • develop phobias and insomnia                                                   images (1)
  • experience anxiety
  • show symptoms of depression
  • have diminished self esteem
  • demonstrate poor academic performance and problem solving skills
  • have reduced social competence skills, including low levels of empathy
  • show emotional distress
  • have physical complaints.

For my oldest, who is now 14 yrs old, she built walls around her feelings and has struggled to express them and have empathy for others.  You see she was my exes favourite. He took her everywhere with him, bought her extra gifts and as some said to me later, he treated her more like his wife than he did me. She was put on a pedestal and I was at the bottom.  He took her to events and left me at home. Always having an excuse as to why I had to stay home with the younger two and we could not get a babysitter.  Later I learned all about grooming a victim and that this is what he was doing with her. Child grooming is befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child, to lower the child’s inhibitions for further abuse.  She admitted to me later that she played her part well just to keep herself safe. She went along with him and did all he asked to save herself from his wrath. In doing that she learned how to hide her true feelings and now she struggles to express them.

My daughter remained his favourite until one day she stood up for me. After witnessing me receiving a verbal lashing she asked her dad why he treated me so bad? Up to that point no one had ever stood up to him in his life. He had been a bully through school, caused many fights and his family enabled his behaviour, as had I.  He did not know what to make of her question. His face turned white and he has barely acknowledged her since. You see abuse is all about one person wanting power and control over another person.  In this moment his control over her and over me was being challenged. To avoid having to take responsibility or deal with his need for control it was easier for him to just toss her to the way side.

This changed my daughter.  For many years she kept many people at arms length. It was only last year that her walls started to crack. I believe the love of my family and having God so strongly in her life has helped her heal. For that I am grateful.

For my middle child, my second daughter, the journey has been difficult in a different way.  When she was six years old she was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is common in children aged 5-12 yrs old who have experienced violence in their home.  Prior to her diagnosis I vaguely knew what PTSD was. I knew it was something soldiers could get after being at war, but beyond that I really had no clue. I learned that PTSD  is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a life-threatening event such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, domestic violence or physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood. 50% of abused children will be diagnosed with PTSD, 45% of abused women will also share this diagnosis,  compared to 30% of soldiers after being in combat. I believe the higher rate in children and battered women is due to the fact that they are often defenseless and the one hurting them is someone they love and are supposed to trust.  They  do not have weapons to fight with and they do not get down time away from combat like a soldier does. They have to be on alert for danger 24/7.

  My youngest daughter was diagnosed with PTSD  after experiencing nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, a severe lack of focus, memory loss, noise sensitivity and she was acting out. Her acting out included bed-wetting, peeing in garbage cans and laundry hampers. She was images (1)screaming out for help. Help was given to her. My second daughter now has a child Psychiatrist, sees the school counselor and has a Mental Health worker for more intense counselling, She is also on medication that eases her anxiety and helps her sleep while fighting the nightmares.  I have to say it has been a heartbreaking road as a mother to watch. To see my little girl struggle to remember a sentence at school, needing to sit right next to her teacher  just to feel safe because she fears her dad coming to school to kill her. To watch her go catatonic when her father was mentioned in passing and to know that there is probably abuse that I still  do not know about is hard to bear. I pray though.  A lot. I and her professionals know that she caries secrets that only time, strength and maturity will reveal. We patiently wait as this tangled ball of yarn unravels and all of us will be there to help her sort it out as it comes.  There have been some break through’s where she has come out of her cocoon. I have watched her take Karate, make friends at Girl Guides and find her love for God at Bible Camp. It has been amazing to watch her blossom.

  My  daughter is now 10 years old, Her PTSD still flares from time to time. Something will trigger a memory and the nightmares will come back full blast, She will start coming into my room at night crying because she is so afraid, or I will get a call from school that she is scared and they need me to come and calm her.  With her I live a life of reassuring her every day that she is safe.  I have become safety to her which is very common in young children who are abused. They will attach themselves to the non abusive parent. They will be extra clingy which is something I deal with daily with both her and her younger brother.  Patience and love is how I deal with that. Reassuring both that they are safe, that I love them and that nothing bad is going to happen to them or to me. My second daughter still needs a nightlight to feel safe as pure darkness will send her into a panic attack and her sister and her both struggle when they have rooms apart from each other. Security and safety is their concern in every situation of their life. They are healing though. Every day is a step forward. It may be a life time of healing but they have learned that abuse from a man is unacceptable and they will not accept it in their future relationships. I have worked hard to empower my daughters and build their self esteem so that they will not accept anything but the best from a future spouse.  I am determined to break the cycle.

My son was three when my ex and I separated. He is now 8 years old. He was physically abused by my ex from the age of 16 mths to 4 years old.  Being that his abuse was during most of the “preverbal years” it has been hard for him to express his thoughts and feelings about it all.  Often he would physically attack me if he was scared or if something happened that triggered a memory. At the age of 7 he would physically attack all of us almost daily. His mind was releasing the memories since he had matured, but because they happened before he could really speak he acted his feelings out physically like a toddler would,. He too saw the school counselor and a Mental Health Worker. There we learned that you can never go back to preverbal times and put words to those memories, but he has learned how to manage his emotions, how to put words to the feelings he has now and we learned how to deal with his OCD tendencies, also common in someone who is experiencing abuse. Due to the stress of the old memories surfacing he was trying to find control in his day to day by having OCD tendencies. He needed to kiss me goodbye with a certain amount of kisses and in a specific pattern. If he did not do this he would become hysterical.  Through therapy he learned that no matter how many kisses he gives me I will still come home at the end of the day and neither he nor I will get hurt.  It was a difficult year, but with the proper support we did get through it as a family and he is an amazing little boy who is truly loving life now.

I am so proud of all of my children. They had a hard start to their life, but I had promised them that I would get them away from the abuse and I did just that. There have been many counselling sessions, support from family, friends and our Priest that have helped us on our journey. Somehow we have made it through the last five years and I am starting to see three amazing children laugh and just be kids having normal kids problems.   It is so wonderful to see. I still praise God when I hear them laugh. It is a true blessing after so much darkness.

Now without breaking the cycle of abuse, my daughters would have had a high chance of picking an abusive partner.  My son would have had a high chance of becoming an abuser himself.  That risk is still there being they saw abusive behaviour in their formative years, but with each new coping skill that is taught, with each counselling session they attend, with each day passing of not seeing their father their chances of being abused or being an abuser decreases.

For me, as a woman and as their mother, being a victim of Domestic Violence has changed everything about me. As I said before I did not grow up with violence.  I did have a low self esteem when I met my ex and he knew that. I was an easy victim.  He listened and learned about my weaknesses and he learned what I wanted out of life.  He became the man I always wanted. At first.  He was a great manipulator and had me snowed for many years.  Abusers will do that. They will wear a “nice” mask for all to see. To the outside world he was a boyfriend who was completely taken with me, but as the years passed  “the mask” started to slip.  Imagine for a moment how exhausting it is to pretend being someone that  you are not. It is not so hard when you are dating someone because there are times when you are apart and you can be who you truly are. When you live together though you have to pretend 24/7.  In time that gets tiring and annoying. So the mask slips.  The odd outburst of anger is quickly put down to him having a bad day, but slowly those bad days turn into bad weeks and then one day you realize it has been a bad year or decade. By then you are married, have three children, a mortgage and are so focused on trying to make him happy that you have lost yourself.  Your world revolves around his moods, watching his body language, you become an expert on predicting his next move because you just want to survive another day. You no longer live. You simply exist. Slowly he isolates you from your family and friends. Slowly he is the only person you have and you start to think you must deserve this abuse. You believe him when he says, “well if you weren’t so stupid I wouldn’t have to treat you this way.”  You believe that if you just listen better tomorrow and love him just a little bit more it will all get better one day.wpid-images-25.jpeg

Then are good days when you are so glad you made it through the bad days. There are moments where he makes you laugh and you remember that nice guy you first met years ago. Little do you realize though that those good days are just there to pull you back in. To manipulate back into staying committed to your relationship.  You remember how seriously you took your marriage vows. You promised till death do you part, but then one day you realize death may come at the hands of the one you promised to love. You also realize that he has broken every marriage vow he ever made so in the eyes of God are you really married anymore?  You spin and try to figure out how to break free safely because you learn that the threat to a woman’s life goes up 75% when she is leaving or has left the relationship. You have been under his control for so long that you no longer know how to make a decision on your own. You believe him when he calls you an idiot  so how could you possibly escape and raise three children on your own? How would you afford it? What would your family think? Or his family? Will they stand by you? Life becomes one great big unknown.  And then one day when you finally collapse, and as your knees hit the floor, you call out to God asking him to save you. It’s then that you realize He has been there all along.  He has seen you cry. He has seen you shake in fear. He has seen you paste a smile on your face so that no one suspects the abuse. He has seen you step in and take a beating over your son. He reminds you of your strength, He wraps you in His Holy Spirit and somehow you find the strength to end it. With God by your side you end your marriage and take steps towards freedom.

You start rebuilding yourself.wpid-images-233.jpeg

On average a woman will leave 7 times before she finally ends the abusive relationship. Some never get the chance to end it, their partner or former partner ends it for them. Permanently. Their children are often left with their abuser or are put into foster care. Often their futures are not bright and they are faced with a high chance of fighting a drug or alcohol addiction, being a runaway and possibly falling into prostitution.

The number one group of homeless people is women and children fleeing Domestic Violence. Many have no where to go because their abuser has isolated them from family and friends and often finances are tight. Many return to their abuser or live on the streets. Shelters are often too violent or there are no available beds.  On April 15th 2010 Statistics Canada asked all shelters in Canada to note how many women they had to turn away. In total 426 women across our Country were turned away. The number one reason was due to overcapacity. Other reasons noted were mental health concerns, drugs and alcohol abuse.  The number one reason women gave for being in the shelter was that they wanted to protect their children. Finding housing, after being a shelter, is hard to do in our Province. Some shelters offer transitional housing, but for many women that option is not available, CMHC reports that, in October 2013, the rental vacancy rate in Regina was just 1.8 per cent, and the average rent on a two-bedroom apartment in the Queen City is now $1,018. The rental vacancy rate in Saskatoon was slightly better, at 2.7 per cent — but unfortunately, rents were higher as well, at $1,041. And women looking for accommodation in Estevan was doubly messed with average rents of $1,175 and an effective 0 per cent vacancy rate on two-bedroom apartments, the minimum apartment size for women with children (Prairie Dog).

  Lack of finances is the number one reason many women stay. For many the finances have been completely controlled by their abuser. Many are not allowed to work and their names are not put on the land titles or bank accounts.  Myself, I did work. I worked for SaskTel for 15 years and I made a comfortable living. My ex did abuse me financially despite my job.  Over time he came up with excuses as to why he couldn’t work and many times out of fear I said nothing. I went along with his excuses. This left things very tight financially. During one 1619773607_5518755_man_stealing_money_from_piggybank_xlargematernity leave he refused to work so we only lived on my maternity leave payments. This left me sneaking food from our Churches food-bank just so I could feed my girls. He also created a lot of credit card debt in my name which has completely ruined my credit. This has changed my plans for retirement and how I am paying for my kids continuing education. I am no longer able to work at SaskTel. In 2011 I too was diagnosed with PTSD. Suddenly I fit into another statistic, one where 1 in 5 women who are abused by a partner will be diagnosed with PTSD. I was suffering terrifying night terrors, I had zero task for the simplest job, I was falling asleep at my desk at work and when a customer called me from the time they said their name and why they were calling I had no memory of what they said.  I was terrified.  The diagnosis was hard to accept, but I do my best now to manage it with medication and my own counselling.  Due to my PTSD my doctors had to remove me from work permanently. At 41yrs of age I was accepted to receive Long Term Disability. By no means was this where I planned to be in my 40’s, but it is what it is.

  Fear, intimidation, and manipulation kept me in this cycle far longer than I should have, but being I am a good person I wanted to believe that he too would one day be a good person. That he would get help. I also believed my kids would be worse off being from a broken family due to divorce. Not realizing at the time that our home was already broken.

You can’t make a person change when they do not want to.  My ex has been arrested twice for assaulting me and once for my son.  We have been on an exhausting journey within our Court system.   Since 2009 I have been seeking justice and safety.  It has been a hard and very long journey but I do not regret one step of it.  Yes I have been re victimized by the Court and yes my kids were ordered on visits with my ex that never should have happened.  All simply because the Courts wanted to see if this time my ex would behave.  I soon learned this is very  common when dealing with Domestic Violence in our Courts.  The abusers are often given far too many chances and the victims are blamed. I have never stopped fighting though and I still have some fighting ahead of me. I am happy to report that there have been some victories.  My kids live with me full time and at this time they have no contact with their father.  I also have a restraining order against him.  For all of these things I am relieved.

As a family we are healing.  The stats may sound grim, but we are a family who is determined to prove those stats wrong,  My kids are not going to be run aways living on the streets or the school yard bully. We are all learning ways to manage our anxiety, to calm our fears and to talk about our feelings rather than act them out violently.  We have also been becoming a new family.  I have a wonderful new partner in my life.  We were high school sweethearts who reconnected and in many ways saved each other.  He has taught my children and retaught me that not all men are violent.  He has built us up rather than tearing us down and he has loved us all unconditionally.  It is not easy to come into a family that has been abused. There are memories and triggers that you do not know or understand. There are fears that make no sense, but with ongoing communication, prayer and guidance from others we are becoming a loving family. I am so glad to have this second chance and to give my kids a healthy family to grow up in.wpid-17fe8b6fed4556aa2eaef2062ab46cf1.jpeg

I strongly feel Domestic Violence can end, but we all have to play a part in ending it. If we see it we need to report it. If we suspect it we need to reach out to the victims. During the last year of my marriage I had a coworker suspecting something was not right. She asked me one day if I was ok. I do not know why but for some reason that was the moment where I broke my silence. I started to tell her what was happening at home. She remained my daily confident for over a year. Without her and  other friends who just listened I do believe I may not have been able to leave when I did. Knowing that others see the abuse, hearing from them that it is wrong, having your pain validated by another gives a victim strength and helps them become a Survivor.  We need to help the victim who desperately wants out. Help them regain some of their power and control and please do not turn a blind eye. Domestic Violence is not a private marriage problem. Domestic Violence is an epidemic in our society and trust me the victims do want out. Many just do not know how to do it. I challenge you  to reach out and be that hand offering hand.

God Bless

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Walking a tightrope; my balancing act with Mental Illness

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  Mental illness indirectly affects all people either through co workers, friends or family. In Canada 20% of all adults will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime. 1% will experience bipolar disorder and 8% of adults in Canada will experience major depression (per Canadian Mental Health).  Sadly almost half of those who experience depression and or anxiety will never see a doctor for treatment. This is due to the stigma and discrimination associated to Mental Illness in our society. Many people, as a result, go throughout life untreated. The thing is Mental Illness can often be treated effectively.

My battle with mental illness began in my teens. I started a serious battle with depression at the age of 16 yrs old.  Depression and anxiety are due to genetics, biology, personality and environmental factors. Myself my depression set in as I grieved the death of my mother and there was a separate traumatic event where I was raped as a teen. With no counselling and very little home support my depression was  overpowering me and by the time I reached 19yrs of age I was heading for a breakdown.  It was at that time I was diagnosed with clinical depression, prescribed antidepressants and started a four year journey of psychotherapy.

In time I was able to come off of the antidepressants. I tell you though being on meds helped me immensely. They balanced out my brain chemicals and I was able to function. I am a firm believer that is ok to seek treatment for your mental health. Like any other organ in your body, your brain can also get sick. So why not seek treatment to make it better is my thought.  Yes I have experienced the awkward silence when I say I am going to see my Psychiatrist, but hey I figure I am pretty cool to be looking after my overall health. I do not let ignorant attitudes stop me.  Also I know how horrible life would be if I did not treat my depression. I would struggle to get out of bed, there would be a lot of tears and I would have no motivation. It would feel like the end of the world and who wants that? Not me.

Almost 20 years after my depression diagnosis I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) Disorder with Deep Depressive Disorder. I have to say this diagnosis has been harder to deal with.  If you are not familiar with PTSD it is a normal reaction to an abnormal event. It is a traumatic injury that happens after a traumatic event such as war, combat, car accident, plane crash, rape, domestic violence or childhood sexual abuse. 1 in 5 women who experience Domestic Violence will also be diagnosed with PTSD. I am one of those women.  I was diagnosed after 15 years of Domestic Violence and let me tell you it has been a life altering diagnosis.  I first noticed something was not right in the first year my ex and I separated.  I was not sleeping well, had a lot of nightmares, flashbacks and I struggled greatly to focus on anything.  At work I struggled to stay on task and I noticed I had very  little for short term memory.  A customer would tell me their name and what they needed and at the end of that sentence I would not remember a thing of what they had said. I was terrified. I thought I was losing my mind and my quality of life was seriously going downhill. By the time I was able to see a Psychiatrist, to be diagnosed and receive medication, I no longer knew which end was up.

With medication my quality of life has greatly improved.  I am able to sleep with a sedative and an antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication has helped level my moods, but it has not solved everything. That is why I feel like I am walking a tight rope everyday.

Every day when I wake I never know how my day will be.  Will I be completely exhausted, before my feet even hit the floor, because the night before was full of terrifying night terrors?  Will the PTSD monster rear its ugly head and I will be triggered by everything around me?  Or could my day go smoothly with no set backs? I  never know.  I also have to carefully assess the choices I make. Will accepting one more volunteer job completely overwhelm me? To a point where I will be in bed for days on end?

As I enter each new day I step very carefully, trying my best to not take on too much or do something that may trigger the PTSD beast. It is a great big balancing act.

Some days I slip though. Some days I completely fall. Some days I crawl into my cocoon and cover myself with the heaviest blankets. I lay in silence, whispering  to myself that I am safe.

AYPKEDMental Illness is like any other illness. You need to do what is best for your health and you need to make choices that reflect that. My balancing act I am sure is no different than the diabetic who must watch their sugar intake or the heart patient who must watch their diet and physical activity. It is all about caring for you and walking your own  balancing act. Taking one careful step forward each day because none of us want to fall off of our tightrope.

Peace

Janet B

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Robin Wlliams, in life and death you keep teaching the world.

Since Robin Williams death I have been quietly watching the world react. There has been an outpouring of grief over a great man who kept us all laughing. There has also been some negativity. Comments made directly to Robin’s daughter Zelda Williams, to a point where she has closed her twitter and Instagram accounts saying she does not know if she will ever return. Negative comments said by Gene Simmons (to the point where two Winnipeg Radio Stations have banned Kiss from their airwaves), the Toronto Star was slammed by its comments and quite a few others. All have since retracted and apologized. What were the comments about?

Mental Illness

It has long been known Robin suffered from Depression and had to go into rehab for drinking. He was fairly open about his journey, including it in some comedy routines.

So what were the digs, the comments?

They revolved around the fact that Mr Williams had Depression AND commited suicide.

It is not a secret that I battle my own mental illnesses; Deep Depressive Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Depression I have battled since a teen, the PTSD for the last five years. Like many who battle Mental Illness I have had hurtful things said to me like;

“You are faking PTSD. It is easy to do”

“Because you have PTSD you should never be in a relationship with anyone.You are dangerous.”

“You should not be allowed to remarry because you have PTSD.”

“You wrap yourself in darkness.”

“You should get out more and experience life.”

“Just let it go.”

“Get over it and smile more.”

Each comment has hurt my heart, but I try not to carry it with me. These comments are often said in ignorance, if anything they make me angry. I nor anyone who has a mental illness wanted their illness. We didn’t ask for it, just like a cancer patient never asked for cancer, it is simply what life gave us. We don’t like it. We don’t enjoy it and no we can’t just get over it and smile more. That is like asking someone with a broken leg to get up and run a marathon. What we can do is learn to cope and manage the symptoms like patients with other chronic illnesses. We do our best and we shouldn’t  be persecuted or shunned due to our illness, but often we are. Yes sometimes the darkness does take over and things end like they did with Mr Williams. This shouldn’t be rediculed. Moments like this should make the world stop and say “This man had it all and still the illness got him. What can we do to help people who fight mental illness. How can we help?”

Slowly I am seeing those talks starting and THAT actually does make me smile.

Rest in peace Robin Williams. Even in your death I see you continue to teach our world something valuable. Genie. You are free. (Twitter)

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About Janet B

I am a Domestic Violence Survivor, who battles PTSD. I share what I know to help others on their journey and to help educate society. I also Supervise a Mentoring Program at Verbal Abuse Journals (http://verbalabusejournals.com/). This program matches Survivors who have been out of the abusive relationship for a few years, and are now Mentors,  with Survivors who are either still in an abusive relationship or have just left. A mentoring relationship is set up via email where the Mentor offers guidance and support to the Survivor for as long as they need. Please feel free to sign up for this free service at  http://ow.ly/LSii8

Verbal Abuse Journals facebook https://www.facebook.com/VerbalAbuseJournals

I have been working/volunteering at Verbal Abuse Journals as a Mentor to other Survivors of Abuse.

My facebook page: Freedom Within: My Journey through Domestic Violence and PTSD https://facebook.com/fw.dvptsd

twitter: https://www.twitter.com/within_freedom

Pinterest: Freedom Within