Battling a Battle I was never prepared for

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

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

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

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!

 

I remember the first time

***Trigger Warning-Explicit***

I remember the first time. My world stopped when it happened and when it started to turn again  I wasn’t the same person.  My skin felt different, my hair didn’t feel like it was my own. My insides were on fire. My finger nails felt detached.  Nothing was my own anymore. All of it was his.  He owned me and I was screaming inside. I remember the first time he raped me.

Life had been so crazy leading up to it. At first he had been arrested.   I could no longer take the abuse.  I was so tired of crying day after day, year after year. I was so tired of begging him to stop and he never did.  I was so tired of my children being afraid. I just….I just wanted him to be nice. I wanted it all to stop. So I told the RCMP. I thought then maybe he would see. Maybe then he would stop hurting us.  I thought then maybe then I would be safe.

I just wanted to be free.

He left for a while. The RCMP removed him from our home and for a moment I was free.  I could breath again.  The knots in my stomach went away and I felt peace. Soon the phone calls started.  He wasn’t supposed to call me.  We weren’t supposed to talk,  but he called and I answered.  I thought it was his mom calling, but instead I heard his deep voice. He talked and I talked. He needed a Lawyer and I was supposed to find him one.

‘But you hurt me! Why am I supposed to find you a Lawyer?’, were my thoughts. I just want to be free!

I felt caught.

Ok. I will find you money for a Lawyer, but no one can know.

‘I want to be free. I want to be free.’ 

That’s all I heard in my head.  Somehow though I was finding him money for a Lawyer. It was crazy.

Then before I realized it he was back in my home.  I wanted to be free, but he was back.  The father of my children, the man I married, he was there even though the Courts said no.  So I carried on like nothing had happened.  I wanted to scream “He is back in my home! Take him AWAY!”, but I couldn’t open my mouth.  So I played along.  I let him back into my bed.  I pretended he had never hurt me.  I pretended we were a happy family.  I pretended I wasn’t dying inside.

My hair started to fall out.

Suddenly he WAS nice. He was what I always wanted him to be.  Maybe it would be ok? Maybe he did learn? Maybe just maybe we will make it?  Maybe. Maybe I won’t cry. So we carried on.  He went to Court appearances and I went to work. Kids went to school and daycare.  They will be ok, I thought, they have to be.  We just have to keep on carrying on.

So we carried on and soon the Court orders were lifted. We were allowed to be together.  No more hiding. No more lying to the outside world that he wasn’t at home.  We could be a real family again.  We were going to be ok.  There had been no hitting and no yelling.  He had been carrying and loving.  It was all going to be ok now.  I could breathe.

Breathe.

WHAM!!!

“YOU WILL PUT ON YOUR MITS!! YOU STUPID PIECE OF SHIT YOU WILL PUT ON YOUR MITS!!!”

Why is he screaming? Why is he holding my little boy up in the air? Why is this happening? Why isn’t he being nice? Make it STOP!!!

MAKE IT STOP!!

Hold onto your sons legs he can’t throw him that way.  Beg him to stop. Do it.  Take it for your son.  BEG HIM!! Ok he has stopped screaming, he tossed your son.  Your son is  in the closet now bawling.  It will all be ok now.  He has put him down.  Breath. Comfort your son.

“Shhhh baby. It’s ok,” you whisper.  You hold him and he cries.  Then you see your little girl.  She is in the corner crying and hiding her face.  How did this all start again? Why? What did we do? “Shhhh my boy, it’s ok.  Mommy is here.” Suddenly he grabs your daughter and tells you that he’s leaving and you are not coming.  You are shaking, trying so hard to hold it together, so you just nod your head ok.

They leave.

You breath and look at your little boy who is quietly sobbing now.  Then you hear his footsteps.  Dear God he is coming back! The door opens, he steps in and quietly crouches down next you and says steely, “Don’t even dream of going to the cops this time.  If you do you will never see me or anyone again!” “Ok”, I quietly answer,” I won’t say anything.”

Then he leaves.

You don’t really know what to do after that.  Your head is spinning and all you can hear is your heart pounding in your ears. You pick up your  son and you cry.  How could he do this again? He promised that he had changed!!! Why? How?

Suddenly there is a knock at the door and his mom, sister and brother-in-law are there, “Hi, how are you?”  You can’t tell them the truth. Swallow it.  They can’t know it happened again.  Smile.  Hug them and for bloody sake stop shaking!! So you smile, tell them you are fine and you stop shaking.  Soon he is home and he gives you  a kiss and hugs his sister.  Is everything ok now? Am I ok now? What just happened? My head is spinning.

No. NO! He lied.  He hasn’t changed.  He DID do it again.  I can’t do this.  I can’t breathe anymore.  Oh dear Lord please make this stop.

I just want to be free. I just want to be free.

“Yes, let’s go out for supper,” you hear. What, we are going out for supper? Ok,  pull it together, you’re all going out for supper.  So we go out and I pretend to be happy and we keep carrying on.

As the month passes we get closer and closer to Christmas.  Instead of calling our son his name he is calling him asshole.  I don’t want my husband near me. I feel disgusted when I looked at him. I  just wanted him to go away, but I can’t ask that now.  I can’t go to the RCMP again.  He warned me. He threatened me. I just need all of his family to go away.  I need the Holidays to be over.  I just need  it all to be over.

I just want to be free. I just want to be free.

“I can’t do this.”

“What?”, he asks.

I take a deep breath.  He is sitting on our bedroom floor, his back leaning up against the wall.  I feel the warmth of the blankets around me, but I am cold inside.  I can do this.  I can tell him.

“I can’t live with you anymore,” I say.

“What?” he asks again.

“I can’t live with you anymore,” I repeat. Don’t look at him. Just don’t look him in the eye.  You can do this.

“Why?” he asks.

“Why? You know why.  You PROMISED and you hurt us again!  ASSHOLE? Really? You are calling our toddler son asshole instead of his name!” I say strongly.

Just keep talking.  Don’t look at him.

Silence.

I shift my eyes and look at him.  His eyes are downcast and he looks so sad. Was I wrong?

“I know. Where am I supposed to go?” he asks quietly.

I look at him for a moment.  This is my husband, the father of my children, but he is hurting us and I need to protect us.

“To your moms,” I say.  “You stayed there last time.”

“No I can’t stay there.  She doesn’t want me there.  I guess….I guess I could live in the van…. but it’s winter”, he says softly and sadly looks down.

Don’t relent.  Don’t give in. The van? In the winter? Can I agree to that? He IS my kids father….

“Ok. You can stay BUT you are NOT allowed in our room.  This is MY room now.  I don’t want you touching me or kissing me.  You can move your things downstairs and sleep in the family room.”

He agrees.

Whew!!! I did it!!

So he moves his things downstairs and sets up the blow up bed.  Could it really be this easy?

I sit  in my room, in MY bed and for once in a long time I feel safe.

————-

“Ok girls, it’s time to get up.  I have to get to work soon!” I say as I make my way through the basement to the girls room. I open my younger daughters bedroom door and there he is, in her bed. “What are you doing here?” I ask.

“I just fell asleep here last night reading her a story,” he answers as he jumps up out of the bed.  He is only wearing his jockey underwear.

Hmmm ok, I think. Something inside of me says no this isn’t right, but I don’t have time to think about this right now.  I have to get ready for work. So I go to work and the kids go to daycare and school and we keep carrying on day in and day out.  He and I barely speak now, but he stays downstairs and I stay upstairs and we exist.  My oldest daughter starts to get upset at bedtime.  She starts to insist that she be allowed to sleep with her younger sister. “I have to keep her safe mum!” she tells me.  “What do you mean?” I ask.  She answers me with tears.  I tell her that enough is enough and to get to bed.  I tell her that her sister is fine.

She is, isn’t she? Yes. Yes she is, I tell myself.

I keep finding him there though. Morning after morning. He tells me now that he is there because his air mattress got a hole in it so we buy him a new one, but he is still in her bed and my oldest is still crying.

“This has to stop!” I insist one morning. “You can’t sleep in her bed anymore, it’s not right,” I tell him.

“WHAT?! NO!!,” he yells, “I NEED my children to be happy!!”

“You can still be with your kids, but you can no longer sleep in her bed!” I yell back, “This has to stop! No More!! It’s WRONG!!” and I turn and walk away. My heart is pounding.  My counsellor has been teaching me to trust my gut, to listen to my inner voice, to stand up. It is so scary to do, but I do it! I stood up!

I just want to be free. I just want to be free.

The next morning I woke early.  I hear him running up the stairs.  I think that he is going on a medical call with the Fire Department, but he comes into my room instead.

———————

I see him standing in my door way.  He is only wearing his underwear.  They are green, a semi light green.  He has had them forever. Why is he in my room? Why is he only wearing his underwear? What is going on? He  closes the door, locks it and walks over to my bed. What is going on? He says nothing. I don’t understand.  He is suddenly over me pulling back the blankets. I am in a t-shirt and panties. What is he doing? I told him not to touch me, why is he here? He reaches down and strokes my leg.  I freeze. He won’t look at me. He won’t talk to me. I try to speak, but nothing comes out.  I want him to go away!! He lies on top of me. NO!!!, my head screams.He is so heavy, I can’t move.  I try to pull free. I try to wriggle out from under him. He is like a dead weight.  He holds me down and pulls my panties down.  I feel him hard against my leg. NO!!! I scream inside my head. I try to roll away, I whisper no, he pulls me back, he is in me now and I am dying inside.  I don’t know where I went, but I wasn’t there.

I just want to be free. I just want to be free.

I hear him moan as he cums in me and rolls away. I lay there not moving, too terrified to speak. He pulls up his underwear and sits on the edge of the bed. I look at him in silence. Too scared to breathe.

What is that I hear?

My head is spinning, but I hear something. It’s my son, he is awake across the hall, I whisper my boy’s name. He looks at me then and tells me that I am a whore, a slut and a bitch. Then he stares straight ahead and walks out the door. I bite my lip.  I cannot cry. I will not cry.  The door is open. I could run. I could be free, but I can’t move.  I hear my boy coming into my room so I manage to pull up some blankets. He’s asking mommy to get up, he is hungry. Yes. Yes my boy I will get up. He hears daddy  in the kitchen and leaves my room. I pull up my panties and find some pants. I head out to make breakfast.

I remember. I remember the first time he raped me.

 

Epilogue

In the months following this assault my now ex raped me at least once a week.  I stopped eating, drastically lost weight, my hair fell out in clumps and I developed a rash all over my body.  I was so stressed. My right eye twitched constantly and I could not focus at work. My weight dropped to 108 lbs (I am 5’10”) and Icould no longer regulate my own body heat.  I was freezing in the middle of a hot summer.  I was slowly dying and he was the one slowly killing me.  One evening, as we were getting ready for his aunt and uncle to come over, I felt the strength to confront him.  I didn’t want to die, but if I was going to die I needed to understand why.  He was standing at our kitchen sink doing the dishes.  I walked up to him and asked him why was he forcing me to have sex? Part of me hoped that  he would tell me he had never raped me and that this had all been a terrible nightmare.  I looked at him and I waited. He stared straight ahead and looked out the kitchen window. He never said why he was raping me, but he did say, “I know. I know what I was doing. I know that I was hurting you.” He was so calm and detached. I stared at him and then something broke deep inside of me. I started to scream a blood curdeling scream, “It’s over!! It’s over!!” and I started walking around the house taking down all of our wedding photos, I was sobbing.  He was following me saying, “No!” as if he was shocked that I was ending it, but I just kept gathering everything up, saying that it was over.  Soon my arms were full of what I had thought were precious memories.  I took all those memories, all those pictures and I threw them into my bedroom closet. I was done. My heart was shattered. It was over.

Then. Then there was a knock at the door. It was his aunt and uncle and once again I had to push it all down, pretend it was all ok and I joined them to play cards.

The next day, while at work, I texted my husband.  I knew I was safe this way.  I told him that we were over.  I told him that I would stay out after work with the kids and that he had till 8:00pm to get his things out of the house and be gone.  I told him that if he wasn’t gone when I got home I WOULD call the RCMP.

He was gone when I went home.

I crashed after that.  My whole world fell apart. I was taken off of work and put on sick leave.  I could barely get out of bed. A friend had to come in to care for my kids.  I was really sick for two years and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  It took medication and had tons of counselling to get me functioning again. In all of that, somewhere in me, I found the strength and clarity to come forward and report what he had done to the RCMP. He was arrested again and charged with Continual Sexual Assault. We were stuck in the Legal system for four years after that.  There was a Criminal Trial and a Divorce/Custody Trial. Both grueling in their own ways.  Things that I will write about at a separate time. They have their own trauma that I am not ready to share.

Finally, though, after all of that, I was free.

Peace,

Janet

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holidays, PTSD & …….tears?

It’s Boxing Day and I don’t know about you, but I am Exhausted. Another Christmas Day has come and gone.  For me the day was a busy  and overall a good day.  It was the first year that my 7am alarm was what woke my family up! I was surprised, but then again my youngest is now 10 years old so perhaps the 4 am – creeping –  into – my -room -to -see -if -I -am -awake -and -can -we -open -presents moments have  come to an end. Sigh.  Anyways my day started with our little family opening our gifts, followed by prepping for Christmas supper, a nap, feeding my horse and then supper with my fiancé’s sister and family.  It sounds pretty nice doesn’t it?  It was, but then why did I end the day quietly crying in the dark in the quiet of my living room?

 Recovery from abuse sucks and it’s suckiness can creep up on you at the most inopportune times.  For me it was late on Christmas Day night.  I find when holidays come memories of the past creep into my mind.   This year they were not as powerful as they had been in the past.  I did not have any full blown flashbacks or panic attacks.  They were more like an annoying tap on my shoulder saying, “hey do you remember me?” My response was, “yes I remember, but you will not have a hold on me today” and I just kept swatting them away.  I was pretty proud of myself, yet still I ended up in tears.

  PTSD is not an easy road.  You are constantly on high alert.  Adrenaline is pumping through your body as your whole being prepares to fight or flee.  Your heart is always racing, as are your thoughts and it is bloody exhausting. You are constantly on the lookout for danger.  I need to remember that all of that was happening to me underneath the Christmas supper prepping and present opening.  I often forget that in my recovery.  I carry forward like I do not have PTSD and think that I should be able to function like I don’t have any disabilities, but I do have them.  They are often unseen to the outside world but they are there.  So really, is it any surprise that before my guests had left I had collapsed on my couch and was later crying in the dark?  I think not.  My nervous system had a lot to process yesterday; extra people in my house which would result in my whole being subconsciously assessing whether I was safe.  I also had those annoying memories tapping me on the shoulder.  I will be honest I was also trying really hard not to let anyone know I was going through all of this.  So yes I do understand why in the end I ended up in tears.

  I love my family, both extended and non extended.  They are a huge part of my life and I would not change having these gatherings.  I am glad I was able to see everyone yesterday.  Upon reflection I just have to be mindful of my disabilities and perhaps be more open with my family as to what I am going through. Save myself from collapsing at the end of the night.      Communication with loved ones is key as you recover from abuse and battle PTSD.  You need a good support system to make it through the good and bad times.  At the end of the night, as I cried,  I was grateful for two people in my support system; my fiancé and my oldest daughter.  My daughter heard me crying and came into the living room to see if I was ok. At that point I could not put it into words so we just sat together and then my fiancé joined us.  They both held my hands and we chatted about everything and nothing all in one.  It was a blessed moment.  My fiancé reminded me that in this family we always have each others backs and that I am loved.  I will get through this battle and my friends so will you.

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  Peace and Blessings to all of you during this Holiday Season.

 

Janet

 

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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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My battle with PTSD

June is PTSD Awareness Month.  In November 2011 I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  I am not a soldier of war.   I am a Survivor of Domestic Violence.  My battle was 15 years of abuse at the hands of a man I loved. PTSD changed how my brain functions.  My amygdala (controls emotional response and our survival instinct) has increased in size and my hippocampus (controls memory moving from short term to long term) has shrunk. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not a Mental Illness (which it is often referred to as), but a Psychiatric Injury that happens after threatening experience.  It could be from being in combat, watching a family member die, a car or plane crash, a natural disaster or sexual assault and abuse. One in ten survivors of Domestic Violence will be diagnosed with PTSD.

I left my abusive marriage almost six years ago.   Wow….what a six years it has been! There have been pitfalls followed by many joys.  It has not been an easy journey but it has made me who I am today and for that I am grateful. Let me tell you how I have changed and grown. How I have healed.

When I walked away from my marriage I was so empty. So broken.  The night that ended my marriage  was Sept 26th 2010.  During the previous nine months my ex had been continually raping me.  We had not been sharing a room during that time, but he would come into my room during the early hours and sexually assault me.  In order to survive I convinced myself that he did not know what he was doing.  Like all of the forms of abuse he did to me; the verbal assaults, the emotional and mental games he played, I had believed he did not know what he was doing. That he was out of control when it happened.  It was easier to deal with the abuse if I believed he did not mean it.  To realize that he knew exactly what he was doing, that it was purposeful on his part was too much for me to acknowledge.  Then Sept 26th 2010 happened.

My now ex was standing at our kitchen sink doing the dishes. Understandably I was not coping well with these continual rapes.  Being assaulted in my own bed in the wee hours of the morning and then having to swallow it all down and get up and make breakfast for my children was becoming too much to bear. Something broke in me that night and I reached deep down inside of myself and confronted my ex.  I walked up to him, stood beside him and asked him point blank why was he raping me.  I expected him to deny it and to say that he had no idea he was doing that. That response would fit into the level of denial I was living in. I then somehow thought we could calmly sit down and talk this out as I explained his out of control behaviour and would then ask him one more time to get help, but it did not work out that way.  Instead……instead he admitted that he knew exactly what he was doing to me when he raped me. That he knew he was hurting me.  I remember watching his face as he stared out of the kitchen window.  There was no remorse in his voice, no sadness, no regret, there was just a sense of calm around him.

It was then that my world shattered.  It was then that I realized everything he had ever done to hurt me or our children had been intentional.  He was never out of control. Every lie that I had told myself to survive no longer had any standing power and I started to let out a blood curtailing scream.  I started to scream, “It’s Over! It’s Over!” (our marriage) and I started to walk around the house taking down every wedding photo or memento and I threw them into my bedroom closet sobbing uncontrollably. My “fairytale” was over.  Oddly enough my ex followed me around saying “No’.  Saying that it wasn’t over and begging me to stop taking our wedding things down.  Perhaps this was his own level of denial where he seemed to believe that no matter how bad he treated me I would stay.

The next day I texted him from work and told him to pack his things and be gone by 8pm or I would call the RCMP and have them remove him from the home.  He was gone when I came home.

So what happened after that? Did I skip off into the sunny horizon and live happily ever after? Nope.

At first things were ok.  I was happy and I was free.  I was no longer suffering daily abuse.  I no longer had a knot in my stomach wondering when the next explosion would be.  My children and I no longer walked on eggshells.  They ran around and played and made NOISE!!  It was wonderful.  No one had to worry that they were going to wake the monster and suffer as a result.  Life was good.  Then I fell into a darkness.

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I was not sleeping well at night.  I was starting to suffer horrible nightmares and I would wake at 4am unable to sleep anymore.  I struggled to focus on the simplest of tasks. I felt like I was losing my mind.  I was lost.  It was then that I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I was put on meds that made me very groggy and I spent a lot of time in bed.  I struggled to function, but I kept trying everyday to be a mom and to go to my job.  I tried to be human, but the flashbacks and night terrors were all too powerful.  Soon I was put on long term disability.  I still struggled.  I still spent a lot of time in bed as my whole system detoxed from 15 years of abuse.  I had uncontrollable outbursts and was living in a world of fear.  I was afraid to leave my home. A trip to the grocery store often sent me into a panic attack.

I was lucky that through darkness I had a great support system. My sister, my amazing fiancé and many professionals.  I reached out for support wherever I could find it. Slowly with that support I picked myself up off of the floor. Slowly I broke my isolation and made friends. Slowly I was able to function as a mum.  I could make meals and interact with my family.  God also became a driving force in my life.    I started to live again.

The battle with PTSD is a tough one. I admire anyone who battles it, no matter how they got it. Whether it be from  a war or a car crash they are all hero’s to me. We all face terror on a daily basis and that takes an amazing amount of strength to survive. We are warriors. Warriors who have good days and bad.  I am better than I was but I am still not healed.  I believe this battle will be a life long one for me so I take it all one moment at a time.  I trust that God has got me and I will survive.  I am also starting the journey of receiving a PTSD Service Dog.  I believe she will bring more peace to my life.

As June comes to an end I ask that your awareness of PTSD continues past June 30th 2016. If you have a loved one with PTSD learn the symptoms. Listen to what they need and support them.  It’s not an easy role to be in, but they do need you even if they say they can do it all on their own.  PTSD is scary and often you feel that isolating yourself is best, but let me tell you that it isn’t.  We need to know that we are loved. That we are safe and that the bad moments will led to good moments. We need to know that to survive this battle.

Peace,

Janet

 

 

 

To the Man I love; I am sorry I have PTSD

Today has been rough. Who am I kidding; the last six years have been rough. I am sure none of it is what you expected. Sure you thought there would be rough spots, but I don’t think you banked on days, weeks and months.

We reconnected six years ago, you and I. We were high school sweethearts who drifted apart only to reconnect 20 years later. I had called you for help. I was in a horrible marriage and he was abusing me. I asked you to help me get out and you did just that. You stood by me and supported me while I safely got away. You listened and held me while I cried. You were amazing.11863435_462333397281293_2724322980692880015_n.jpg

Then one day we realized we were in love again and our love flourished!! We were so happy. Life was wonderful!

Then…..

Strange things started to happen. You know what I mean. I couldn’t sleep through the night. I had horrible night terrors and woke screaming with tears running down my face. I was scared to leave my house. I couldn’t work. I had flashbacks that made me yell. I couldn’t seem to get away from the memories of what my ex had done. I could no longer function. We went to the doctor and found out I had PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) with Deep Depressive Disorder.

As PTSD and Depression took over I lived in a fog of terrible memories, a lack of focus and fear. Deep shadows formed under my eyes, I was edgy. Every sound made me jump. We vowed to stay by each other’s side. We would get through this. We knew what it was like to live without each other, we did not want to let go now.

So I saw more doctors and was put on medication to help me cope. They were the wrong ones at first so we suffered through the side effects and kept marching on. We were a team.

I know you were scared; scared to leave me alone so you started to miss work. You said that I came first. My health needed to be number one. I told you that I would be fine, go to work, I will make it through. So you did, only to come to see me still in my pajamas, the dishes weren’t done and the laundry was piling up. I told you I was sorry and you told me not to worry.

I am sorry though.

I am sorry that you have to deal with my anxiety and how irrational it can be.

I am sorry you hear me yell in fear.

I am sorry you have had to pull double duty; run the house plus your job. Please know that I see how burnt out you are. Please know how much I love you.

I never know what each day will bring. If I will get triggered by a smell or sound and end up hiding in our room or perhaps that day it will be like old days. I will get out for a walk and we will smile and laugh. I do not know and neither do you, for that I am sorry.

Thank you for riding this journey with me. Thank you for holding me when I cry or wake at night in fear. Thank you for pushing me to try new therapies and to never give up. PTSD and Depression may be debilitating, but with you by my side I can fight this battle. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

 

Intimacy after rape. How do you go on?

***Trigger Warning***

Intimacy after rape, let me tell you it is not easy. I was raped at least once a week in the last nine months of my marriage.  For my ex it was his one last attempt to regain control over me.  We had been caught in an abusive marriage for over a decade.  At the time the rapes started I was “waking up.” I was seeing him for who he was, an abusive man who enjoyed hurting me. I was going to counselling and learning that I did not deserve this abuse, that I deserved a life free of abuse and I was starting to stand up to him. When he started to verbally abuse me I asked him firmly to stop talking to me that way.  I was calling him on his abuse and was standing up to him.  I was getting stronger and he did not like that.  An abusive relationship is all about one person (my ex) wanting power and control over another person (me) and for a very long time he had that control.  My world revolved around him and his moods.  I tailored my behaviour in hopes that I would not rock the boat and wake the monster in him.  I walked on eggshells and our kids did too. He had gained his power through fear and intimidation.

Then one day, as I said before, I “woke up.” I could no longer swallow the abuse. I could no longer deny what was happening to myself or my children.  As I said earlier I started to see a counsellor and I learned about the abuse cycle.  I started to unisolate myself (he, like most abusers had isolated me from family and friends to be able to control me better), I went out with friends and started to have outside interests, interests that did not involve him. I no longer let my life revolve around him.  Now let me just say I was careful.  I was still living with this man and I knew what he was capable of if pushed too far.  He could see though that he was losing control of me and it drove him mad.  He yelled more often, screamed at me that he would Never Stop Abusing Me, criticized my friends and outside interests all in an attempt to deter me from having  a life away from him and his control.  It didn’t work. I kept rebuilding myself.

Then the unthinkable happened. From January 2010 to September 2010 my husband came into my room (we were sleeping in separate rooms) and he exerted all of his power over me, stripping me of my power, and he raped me over and over.

At the time I felt nothing.  I couldn’t let myself feel anything. I still lived with this man, a man I had tried kicking out, but he kept coming back and now he had  suddenly upped  the danger level in our house.  I simply existed. I was numb.

We did end up separating and I started to live a life free of abuse. Eventually I dated again. Yes I did date after being raped.  I started to date a man that I had dated in high school. He was my first love and I was very happy that we were back together.  I felt safe with him. Intimacy was easy.  I, despite what I had gone through, felt no fear.  I was honestly surprised by that, but did not question it.

Unfortunately as time passed intimacy became harder.  I started to have panic attacks when we were close, fear would run through my body and I would freeze.  Let me state that my boyfriend never hurt me when we were intimate.  My reactions were not due to something he had done. My reactions were trauma reactions. I was getting stronger in my day to day life so my unconscious self decided it was time to deal with the trauma memories.  You see my cells, my nervous system, my muscles and layers of my brain all held memories of the trauma. Per Wikipedia;

Traumatic experiences include natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis; violent events such as kidnapping, terrorist attacks, war, domestic abuse and rape.[1] Traumatic memories are naturally stressful in nature and emotionally overwhelm people’s existing coping mechanisms.[2] When simple objects such as a photograph, or events such as a birthday party, bring traumatic memories to mind people often try to bar the unwanted experience from their minds so as to proceed with life, with varying degrees of success. The frequency of these reminders diminish over time for most people. There are strong individual differences in the rate at which the adjustment occurs.[3] For some the number of intrusive memories diminish rapidly as the person adjusts to the situation, whereas for others intrusive memories may continue for decades with significant interference to their mental, physical and social well being.

Ok so I was trying to proceed with life, but the trauma memories were getting in the way.  As a result I had to do more counselling and I have learned new coping skills.  My boyfriend and I will often just cuddle with no pressure of anything more.  It’s not always easy for him or I, but we do our best to be patient and understanding of each others feelings. There are days where I skirt affection all together.  When the fear takes over, I feel like I am screaming from the inside and any kind of touching stresses me out.  We try to talk through those days and reassure my whole being that I am safe. It’s not an easy journey actually some days it really sucks, but I am glad we love each other enough to get through it together. One step at a time.

If you have been raped practise these acts of self care;

-Be gentle with yourself. You may be recovering from physical injuries plus mentally and emotionally you have been hurt. It takes time to heal.

-Reach out to loved ones, friends or family for support.

-You may notice that your appetite has diminished due to stress.  Eat small, frequent nutritional meals. Try to avoid large amounts of sugar or caffeine.

-Get outside. Feel the sunshine, breath in the fresh air, get out for a walk.

-Keep a journal about your thoughts and feelings.

-You may have trouble sleeping and feel extra jumpy.  These are normal reactions to trauma.  If these symptoms last longer than a month please see your doctor for extra support.

-There are many forms of counselling to help with trauma. Your local Sexual Assault Centre can offer extra support or your family doctor can refer you to a therapist.

-Check out RAINN’s website rainn.org for helpful information.

-Please know you are not alone, you did NOTHING wrong and you did NOT deserve this happening.

 

 

 

 

Let me tell you what it is like to live with PTSD.

PTSD came into my life in 2011.  My youngest daughter was referred to a child Psychiatrist.  She was wetting her bed, peeing in hampers and garbage cans, having panic attacks, sucking on her hair and more and more disappearing into a world I did not understand.  She was 5 years old.

As a concerned parent I sat in that Psychiatrists office hoping this Doctor  would shed some light on what was happening to my little girl. That she would tell me how I could help her.  I nervously told her about what had been happening at home.  You see my husband, and my girls father, had been abusing us. Just six months prior we had left him.  I thought that maybe her actions were just a reaction to what we had been through and she just needed a child therapist.  The doctor told me that I was right, this was a reaction to what my daughter had gone through, that she had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from all of the trauma she had endured.

“What?”

“What do you mean?” I asked, “Isn’t this something only soldiers get?” “How could my 5 year old daughter have this?”

The Psychiatrist proceeded to explain to me that PTSD is a common diagnosis in abused children.  She explained that we naturally have a fight or flight instinct in us when we sense danger.  Naturally we will freeze, extra blood and adrenaline will pump to our extremities preparing for us to either fight or flee the situation.  This is normal.  Sometimes though a person goes through something so traumatic, usually life threatening that causes your brain to be stuck in this mode. This causes symptoms like;

Hypervigilance

Nightmares/terrors

Bedwetting (in children)

Panic attacks

Flashbacks

High Startle Response

Triggers

Avoidance (of the place where the trauma happened or similar situations)

Anxiety

I left that doctors office clinging to my little girl. Wanting to protect her from the hell going on in her mind.

Six months later I was diagnosed with the same.

So what is it like to live with PTSD?

Well it is never dull.  Our whole being lives on high alert.  I am often woken in the night by my mind, wide awake, not able to sleep.  I learned that this is because my brain is worried that danger will strike at any moment so I need to be awake and alert.  When I do sleep it is a restless sleep due to night terrors. 24/7 my brain is trying to understand what happened to me, it is trying to process the trauma.  My dreams are where a lot of that happens. I also have  days where I cannot fall asleep.  The adrenaline is running through my body preparing me to fight or flee keeping me wide awake. PTSD can be very debilitating.

I am tired.

I have dark circles under my eyes.

I often struggle to focus, as does my daughter, because my brain wants to be prepared for danger. It is not worried about the daily tasks I am trying to achieve or the homework my daughter is trying to finish.

We do have good days.  We laugh and life feels safe again, but then someone may say something, or we may smell his cologne on a passer by or be making a meal where we were abused right after and we spiral back. Back to the past where we are getting hurt again. More than once I have suddenly broken into overpowering sobs. Fearing for my life when really there is no one there wanting to hurt me. It’s a sick cycle.

I quickly learned that management of your symptoms is key with PTSD.  We both learned relaxation exercises to calm our racing hearts. We learned grounding exercises to stay in the present. We take medication to help us sleep, to ease anxiety, to fight nightmares and help with focusing. We do therapy. Lots of it. We have learned, mostly, what our triggers are and we avoid them. Triggers are things in our day to day that remind us of the trauma. We tell our loved ones what they are so that they can possibly avoid doing them, but it’s not fool proof. There are still outside events, like a movie at school or a van that drives by looking like his, that causes a panic attack. So we balance.

We balance the good days with the bad. We love ourselves extra more. We ask for understanding from others. We seek out support, receive it and in turn support others. PTSD can make you feel so alone, so different from those around you, you think hiding away is the best way to go. Let me tell you that it isn’t. So we go out for that walk, meet that friend for coffee, tell ourselves 50 times a day that we are safe and make our way through another day.

We survived the trauma.

It’s  been the hardest fight of my life, but I promise with God’s help we WILL survive the recovery.

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