Memories, what happens when the not so good ones come up?

You may have noticed that I have been on a bit of a hiatus with my writing and for that, I apologize. Not just to any of my followers but also to myself. Writing has always been my outlet. I feel so much healthier after I write.  Life has not been idle though. I have been busy. I am now a Certified Life Coach under the name Rhodes to Wellness Coaching (check out my FB page here  )  and soon I will be furthering my coaching skills and learning the Equine Gestalt Coaching Method. I will be able to offer more healing to my clients with the horse as my partner.  It has been wonderful to learn healing techniques to help others but what about me? Where am I at in my own healing? As a healer, it is so important to ask yourself these questions and to keep working on you.  Today a moment came up for me to let me know where I am at.

Last month I suffered a bit of an accident with my horse, Queenie. She is five-year-old Thoroughbred whom I have owned since she was a young filly. When I was lost in my PTSD, from the abuse of my first marriage, she became my lifeline. Queenie got me out of bed every morning and as we built a relationship of deep trust I started to reconnect with myself. When trauma happens it is so common to become disconnected from yourself. You almost become afraid of your own shadow. Sleep became a distant memory and everything around me became something I feared. After 15 years of abuse at the hands of the one man who should have protected me, I no longer knew who to trust. Who to believe. In time, as I came up for air, there became a handful of people I trusted; my sister, my now-husband, my childhood best friend, my children and Queenie. My trust circle has grown since then, but that was my core, especially that red-haired filly.  Well, that filly is now a mare and she has been getting used to the saddle. She has been doing quite well. As long as I show her it is safe she is ok with it. Perhaps on the day of our accident, I did not take enough time with her, but things suddenly went bad really fast and I found myself getting trampled by my Queenie. Thankfully my husband and my son were there and I was into the ER before I knew it. I ended up with a broken collar bone and multiple scrapes across my chest where her hoof dragged across. I know that Queenie did not mean to hurt me. She is a prey animal and flight is her go-to. She did not feel secure and that was my fault.

Since that accident, I have been pretty dependent on my family. Thankfully I have a wonderful husband who has cared for me and children who have helped in any way they can as I have been pretty bedridden. Being dependent on others can leave you feeling pretty vulnerable, but I have been handling that feeling ok because I am with people I trust. What if you are vulnerable and with someone you don’t trust? With someone you fear. That is what today reminded me of.

Today I had to have a shower. My husband was hanging out in the bathroom with me in case I needed any help.  As my shower ended he opened the shower door and at that moment a memory came and I started to sputter out tears. My husband is very good at knowing when bad memories come to just hold me as I cry. So there I was, naked, wet, vulnerable and remembering another time like this, but with a different man, my first husband. It was near the end of our marriage. It was during the last nine hellish months of our marriage. I had kicked my ex out of our bedroom. After a million promises from him that he would never abuse me or our kids again he had broken those promises by turning on our 18-month-old son and was physically abusing him. The weakest of us all. I could no longer look at my ex, let alone let him touch me. I had tried to kick him out many times before but he always came back. The abuse got worse and worse. I did not know how to get out and I felt the Professionals were leaving me to do it all on my own. So I did what I could and I kicked him out of our bed. I thought I was safe. Safe at least from his sexual touch, but I was not and for the next nine months he would storm into our room and rape me. If I had to get changed I was not allowed close the bedroom door, I had to change in front of him. When I showered he would come in and watch me. I could not lock doors. I could not hide without paying the price of further abuse. The message was clear; I was his and his alone. I had no say as to when or how I was touched. Every personal boundary I was entitled to was ripped away from me. Today all that pain and all that fear came sputtering out of me and as my husband held me, reminding me that I am safe, I started to feel peace. I finally felt that that young mum who was so terrified back in that other shower, finally knew that she is safe too. He is no longer going to hurt either of us. We are free. This is healing.

Thank you, all of you. For following, for reading what I have to say. Recovery from abuse is a life long journey and I share when my moments arise to help others know that they are not alone. There are many ups and downs in recovery but as long as you hang on and lean on those you trust you WILL get through this. I promise. I am living proof. It is not an easy journey and feeling those old feelings is not easy, but they do not go away if you ignore them. They will creep up in other ways such as stress, health concerns, lack of sleep, anger, so many different ways. I believe in you. You got this!

Peace,

Janet

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Queenie and I.

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace,

Janet

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

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

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

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

 

 

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!

 

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

My Monster

PTSD is a monster. It is my monster.
A couple of days ago I had a rough day. My PTSD flared.

PTSD is a monster. It is my monster.

A couple of days ago I had a rough day. My PTSD flared.

We are in the middle of renovating our farmhouse so there are tools and other renovating mess laying around. A workable mess, but still a mess. My husband became overwhelmed by it all. He is a person who functions best when there is order. Everything should have its place and a mess, to him, equals chaos. He started to complain, not in a mean way, more in a frustrated way.

This complaining triggered me.

Normally I can read my husbands anxiety and counter it with calmness, but at this particular moment that was not the case. I became triggered and started to yell.

In my first marriage, my abusive ex would nit pic about how clean the house was. In his eyes it was never clean enough. Often he would mumble how we lived in a dumb. This hurt me. I worked hard with three young kids and working full time outside of the home, to keep our home clean. It was lived in, but not a dump. The insanity around it all climaxed in the last year of our marriage where I was thinking I should clean 24/7 just to keep him happy. When he was not happy abuse happened. Names were called, hits happened and I did everything in my power to prevent that. I would avoid joining my family for an evening in front of the TV because I felt I should be taking that time to make sure everything was clean. I became obsessive about it.

I didn’t understand it at the time, but my ex’s constant complaining kept me under his control. My days revolved around keeping the house in order to keep him happy in fear of being abused. I did not go out with friends, I did not allow myself time with my children or any time for me. I lost myself and it was all about keeping him happy. The thing is I could have stayed up cleaning 24/7 and it still would not have been enough. It was never about the cleaning. It was all about controlling me. Control is what every abusive relationship is about. One person is wanting control over another.

Back to the present day. Hearing my new husband complain about the renovation chaos in our house triggered me. I fell back into my old way of thinking and took total responsibility for the mess, I felt that somehow I had to solve this to keep him happy. My head began to swim and I started to yell. I freaked out and said I would never be anyone’s slave again! Flashbacks of past abuse hit me and I cried uncontrollably.

It took many tears and a long talk with my husband to come back to the present. It was hard on us both. He did not understand why I was yelling and I felt like I was trapped in the past. Thankfully we worked through this bump. We always do. I am so grateful for that. It’s hard though and so exhausting.

PTSD is my monster. It often sleeps for me now. Sometimes it wakes and when it does it roars. I dread it. What helps? Self care, tons and tons of self care, reminding myself that I am loved and that I am safe now. Talk with someone you love, talk through those flashbacks, meditate and if needed seek professional help to learn more coping skills. Healing is possible, but it takes time. Time, love and patience not only from yourself, but from those around you. Till next time

Peace,

Janet

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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!

 

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.

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!