My Cup Runneth Over

  There are many symptoms that come with having PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder); lack of focus, hypervigilance, heightened startle response, avoidance of anything connected to the event and night terrors to name a few. My biggest battle has been the night terrors. I battled night terrors for seven years straight following the end of my abusive marriage. They were not every night, but they were usually a few times a week. I would wake in a cold sweat and feel completely disoriented and scared.   In my night terror I would have been fighting something or experiencing something horrible. I would suddenly wake and it was like I woke in the “fight or flight mode.”  For those who do not know what the “fight or flight” mode is, it is a part of our automatic defense system. When we sense danger our body will initially freeze and our brain will send adrenaline throughout our body, along with extra blood flow, to prepare us to either fight the danger or flee it. This morning was one of those mornings.   I woke from a night terror and I felt like I was in that moment where I am frozen and I am trying to decide if I will fight the danger, stay frozen or flee. I was completely disoriented as my brain was also trying to grasp that I am no longer in the danger of my dream, but I am awake in my home with my husband calmly sleeping beside me. To say that I woke confused is an understatement.  I then got up, went downstairs, still feeling fear from my night terror, walked towards my kitchen and saw that the dog that is staying with us had had an “accident” in our kitchen…..and then suddenly my son came running up behind me to tell me that he was having a bloody nose! My brain could not compute all of this and I felt my cup running over. Thankfully I was able to focus enough to tell my son to go up to the bathroom where we dealt with his bloody nose.  I also woke my husband to tell him what was waiting on our kitchen floor as I could not cope with everything this morning. He got up as I pulled off my sons bloody sheets and threw them in the laundry, then my tears started to flow. My cup had officially runneth over.

  There is a theory amongst those who deal with PTSD. It is called the PTSD Cup Theory and it explains how we cope or don’t cope with extra stress. Please refer to below diagram. 

ptsd cup theory pic 2

Believe it or not we do have good stress in our lives. Good stress is getting out of bed, going to work, making supper or any other day to day task. You can see in all of the cups there is a level of good stress. The second cup shows what happens to a person who does not have PTSD when bad stress comes into their life. Bad stress can consist of getting fired from your job, a break up of a relationship or paying bills for example.   The third cup is someone with PTSD.  Their cup is already nearly filled to the top with their day to day good stress and the trauma that they have gone through. When an additional stress is added, say a night terror and you add in a child with a bloody nose or a dogs accident in the kitchen well their cup will overflow. Their reaction of a complete breakdown may seem irrational to the average person, but if you understand PTSD you are aware that they have nowhere to hold that extra stress so their cup overflows and often there will be tears or even outbursts of anger as they are completely overwhelmed.

That is where I was this morning; my PTSD cup had overflown. It does not help that I also had had a child in and out of the Hospital this past week and a former neighbour died this past Friday. Clearly it was all too much. I get that, I see that now, but this morning as the tears streamed down my face I just felt lost.

How can you cope when your cup overflows? Self care, I believe, is especially important during those times. Try to find some quiet time where you can write, perhaps draw, paint or colour, listen to relaxing music, meditation or yoga to name a few things.  Whatever works for you to ground you is what I suggest you do. Then I would suggest reaching out to your support systems; friends, family and/or Professionals. They can perhaps ease any extra burdens you are carrying. It is important to remember that you are not alone. There are people available to support you.

Now, as my rough morning comes to an end I am reminded that I am loved and I am safe. I am not stuck in that night terror that is not my day to day. I am in my home with my family. My husband has cleaned up the dog’s accident and has even given that lucky dog a bath! The world will keep turning and I will keep battling this battle called PTSD. I will also remember that I am one heck of a Survivor!

Peace,

Janet

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

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

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My “A HA” moment

Many of us when we look back in life we have a moment where our life significantly changed. A “A Ha” moment where a light bulb goes off and we realize something significant to our life. I had such a moment in 2010. 

Many of us when we look back in life we have a moment where our life significantly changed. An “A Ha” moment where a light bulb goes off and we realize something significant to our life. I had such a moment in 2010.

At the time I was working for a Telecommunications company. I had been there over a decade working in their Customer Service and Sales Department. I worked in an inbound area so that means I received calls from customers who called our 1 800 number looking for new products, questions on bills or needing a new service set up.

It was spring 2010. I was in a loveless marriage. Not just loveless it was violent. There were all forms of abuse happening to myself and my children. The previous year my husband and I had separated, but like many abused women before I ended up taking him back because I thought it was the right thing to do. I am a Christian and I took my marriage vows very seriously. I felt that I was breaking them by separating from my husband. I also had many in his family, who were from a strict Mennonite background, urging me to take him back because divorce is just not something we do. So I took him back. It was OK for awhile, but then the violence started again. The name calling, endless screaming, physically abusing myself and my toddler son and various forms of abuse done to my daughters. By Christmas of 2009 my husbands name for our son was not actually his name but he called him asshole instead. It was a horrible situation that I no longer knew how to get of safely. I was sure though that if I just stuck it out things would get better.

Then one day I was at work. When you work in a Call Centre your breaks are scheduled so that there is always the right amount of people on the phones to handle the calls coming in. Breaks were staggered throughout the office and it was very important that you as an employee followed that schedule. On this particular day I really wanted a Pepsi. It was no where near my next break but it was not busy so I thought if I quickly ran up to the break room I could grab a Pepsi, run back down and no one would miss me. So I quickly made a dash upstairs, bought my Pepsi from the vending machine and heading back downstairs. That day I was wearing black dress pants with a cuff and high heels. As I stood at the top of the stairs I stepped forward but in error my right heel got caught in my left pant leg. Suddenly it felt like my ankles were tied together. I knew I was going to fall and this was going to suck. As I feel forward I felt a push on back. Not a hard one, but one that was just strong enough to push me off balance and I started to fall forward. I threw my Pepsi so that I could grab the railing beside me in hopes to stop my fall. No such luck. It was then that I fell head first down 16 cement stairs.

As I landed at the bottom of the stairs, with my arms twisted around the railing, a manager ran forward to tell me that I was OK. He untwisted my arms and gentling moved me to the floor. I was dazed and confused but stayed conscious as another manager called 911. Soon an ambulance arrived and I was taken to a near by hospital. Upon examination I am happy to say I only broke my left hand. There were bumps and bruises but no other broken bones. It was a miracle.

It turned out that I needed surgery to fix my hand and that could not happen for a week. So my hand was carefully wrapped in a tensor bandage, I was given pain meds and was sent home. Over that week I spent a lot of time in bed, trying to handle the pain. I was at the mercy of the man who abused me to bring me my medication and I was pretty debilitated so he was left looking after the kids and cooking meals. I was stuck in bed. As I was stuck in bed I had no choice but to listen to my family. I had no choice but to hear my husband verbally abuse our children and hear the fear in their voices. I had no choice but to face what my marriage really was and face the fact that for all of our sakes I had to figure a way out of it.

So how was this my “A Ha” moment? Well I was not listening to what God was trying to tell me. God does not sanction abuse.   I thought I could handle my abusive marriage, I thought that I had it all under control. I was wrong.  God was trying to show me in so many ways that things were not OK. I didn’t. So in that moment at the top of the stairs I truly believe God used that moment to “wake me up”. The push I felt was Him. He knew I was not listening so He was going to make me. It was also His miracle that the only thing I did break was my hand. Even the paramedics were dumbfounded that I was not hurt further.

I did end up leaving my marriage, about five months later. Due to the violence in my marriage I had to safely plan our escape, but I am happy to report that we are now free.

So what was your “A Ha” moment?

 

Peace,

Janet

  Are you an abusive relationship? Do you need extra support? I supervise a Mentoring Program at verbalabusejournals.com. Here you can receive free support via email from one of our Mentors. You can sign up at http://verbalabusejournals.com/mentoring-program-for-domestic-violence-survivors/mentor-request/

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.

Is that child just “acting up” or is it trauma?

I believe that every child is a gift. I especially agree with my own three children. They have been an amazing blessing in my life and I am so proud to be their mum.

Nothing in life really prepares you to be a parent. Sure when you are pregnant you can read all of the parenting help books or talk to health nurses, but really you are never quite prepared when that little baby is placed in your arms. Suddenly you realize that no one, but you is responsible for this living and breathing little person. It’s life depends on you. Wow what a profound moment that was for me.

As a parent I have always wanted the best for my children. It is hard when life and what you want doesn’t always match up. My oldest was born in 2001 and for the first 9 years of her life we lived with her father. Unfortunately for her, her younger siblings and myself their father was an abuser. Abuse of many forms was prevalent throughout our house and this affected each of my children in different ways. We have dealt with PTSD diagnoses, OCD tendencies, nightmares, wetting of beds, soiling of pants, disassociation, violent outbursts and yes some substance abuse. None of this is what I wanted for them. It has been heartbreaking as a mum to watch my children struggle and it has been debilitating to them at various times of their life. This is definitely not the life I wanted for my children.

Despite all of the trials my children and I have always been a team. I have let them know from the moment that they were born that I will always be there for them. With every cry in the night  to cheering them on at their band concert at school I have been there.  I have worked hard to be their safety and their constant despite the turbulent beginning years of their life. When my ex and I finally separated, my kids and I shared my Queen size bed for months. We all had our spot on the bed and perhaps it was not the most comfortable of sleeps as we all crammed in, but we were together, we were safe and that was the most important thing.

Kids experience trauma in different ways than an adult. For one their brains are still developing so trauma affects their brain development. Children also have different ways then adults on how they express their trauma. If you have an infant, toddler or a preschooler you may observe;

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Disturbances in feeding
  • Feelings of helplessness and passivity
  • Generalized fearfulness
  • Specific new fears
  • Loss of or regression in recently acquired skills like walking, talking or potty training.
  • Clinginess and separation anxiety.
  • Inhibited play
  • Thinking or talking about the event
  • Upset at reminders or avoiding reminders of the event.
  • Irritability
  • Agressiveness
  • Scanning for danger
  • Easily startled

If you have school age children you might observe;

  • Posttraumatic play. This kind of play is a repetitive reenactment of the event
  • Thinking and talking about trauma outside of play
  • Being upset about reminders of the event.
  • Specific fears triggered by the event
  • Fantasies of revenge
  • Feeling guilty about the trauma and feeling responsible for it
  • Impaired concentration and difficulty learning
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Headaches, stomach aches and other physical symptoms
  • Concerns about theirs and others safety
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Anxiety
  • Withdrawn behaviour

If you have an adolescent you might observe;

  • Detachment, shame guilt
  • Self conscious about their fears and intense feelings
  • Abrupt shifts in relationships
  • Desire for and plans to take revenge
  • Premature entrance into adulthood or reluctant to leave home
  • Being upset at reminders of the trauma and doing their best to avoid reminders
  • Coping behaviours that may include self-endangering behaviours such as substance abuse and/or cutting

I am sure you have observed these behaviours in children or teens. They may not be your own children and often when this behaviour is observed most being ask “what is wrong with that kid?” and the school system usually wants to label the child with a learning disability, but that is not helping the child. This is not a case of “what is wrong with that child?” it is a case of “what happened to that child?” We need to start changing the conversation around “troubled” children and start looking at what has happened in the past. What are they trying to tell us?

There are ways to help a traumatized child. For our infants, toddlers and preschoolers it is important for parents to stay close to their child. Kids of all ages need security, especially after trauma, but for our younger ones they will struggle to verbalize their trauma (if they can at all) and what they need. So staying close to your child gives them a sense of security. Help the child anticipate what will happen, give them choices. When trauma happens our sense of control in our life is rocked to the core. It is important to give that feeling of control back to the child. I will give you an example. Let’s say you ask your youngster to put away their toys and they refuse too. Instead of getting angry at them it is important to offer them a choice like, “Sarah you can put your toys away or you can go to your room for a time out.” This gives the child a choice without anger or a threat and they are then in control of what happens next. It is also important to name the child’s feelings and letting them know that feelings are good to feel. It is also important to give them reassurance as they need it and expect to do this over and over again. It is normal for children to need repeated reassurance.

For a school aged child it is important to listen to a child’s concerns and to answer questions truthfully and simply. Also let your child be close to you if they need you. They too will look to you for security. Reassure the child that they are safe. Also name their feelings and encourage them to express them through play or art. It is also important to help the child anticipate what will happen next in their life to help them feel in control and to give them choices. Like our younger children expect to do these things over and over.

For teens it is very similar to the younger children. With teen you will also want to give them choices, be close to you if they need to, encourage them to express their feelings through journaling, art, dance or writing poems and songs. Help them anticipate what happens next and provide an environment where your teen can talk about their concerns. Also expect to do these things over and over. Healing from trauma takes time, patience and hard work. There is no straight time line for healing trauma so basically it will take as long as it takes. Over time, as your child heals you will notice that the effects of trauma will lessen and the trauma will become a part of them. If  there are symptoms that you feel incapable of handling on your own it is always best to seek professional help. It is also important as a parent that you are supported. It is not easy to watch your child struggle and all of this can be a heavy load to carry so reach out to family and friends. If needed seek professional help for yourself to help you cope in healthy ways.

I have to say that my children have come a long way in the last eight years.  We no longer need to share a bed together. Outbursts and clingyness has been replaced with children who are getting to know who they are, are enjoying being with friends and can sleep without nightlights. I am extremely proud of each of them for all they have achieved in their recovery.  The good days happen more often than the bad now, but yes we still have struggling moments. Which is why last night when I held one of my children, as they sat on the bathroom floor and cried, I was not surprised that this was happening. I held them knowing that their pain still needs to come out and that is OK. I know that I do not have to solve this for them I just need to be there, to listen, hold them and let them know that they are safe and loved. I know that over time the impact of their trauma is lessening, one day at a time.

If you or your child needs extra help dealing with trauma I encourage you to speak to your doctor or seek out a therapist trained in trauma to help you through it. Until we meet again….

Peace,

Janet

PS. Kids Help Phone is available for any child in need. They can be reached at  1-800-668-6868

 

 

Depression. It’s a tough battle

Depression. It sucks. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 350 million people worldwide battle depression. I am one of them.

I was first diagnosed with Clinical Depression back in the mid 90’s due to grief. My mother had been killed in a  car accident almost 10 years earlier and I had fallen into a deep depression. This had led to me feeling suicidal, but thankfully I found good support systems; a psychotherapist and a psychiatrist to get me through it all. I stayed on antidepressants for about five years and then, once I was feeling stable I weaned myself off the medication.

Life continued for me. I did not feel, what I call the “depression cloud”, looming over me. I got married, had three children, worked full time, bought a house, had a new vehicle so from the outside life looked pretty stable, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t the depression that was haunting me though it was that my marriage was abusive. For 15 years my ex husband abused me in various ways and in 2011 I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with Deep Depressive Disorder.

A PTSD diagnosis can be given after you experience anything traumatic; a car crash, an assault, combat, abuse, or watching a sudden death to name a few things. With PTSD you can experience symptoms like flashbacks of the event, intrusive memories, heightened startle response, hypervigilance, avoidance, sleep disturbances such as night terrors and yes many also battle Deep Depressive Disorder as well.

Yuck.

Yes it is just plain yucky to battle both. Myself I take medication to manage all of my symptoms, I practice self care, I have a good support system and I have done counselling to keep me on track. For the most part my symptoms are pretty stable, except as of late. Lately I have felt a heaviness in my chest and a “weight” on my shoulders. I cry more. Privately. Quietly. And I do my best to put on that smile and appear ok to the outside world. I find myself depreciating myself too….looking at those around me with their busy lives thinking that I should not bother them with how I feel. I guess I have been isolating myself.

How wrong I am to do that.

In my training as a Trauma Therapist I know that depression is a part of trauma and I know from a professional level what I am supposed to do to fight the darkness. I am not supposed to isolate myself, I am supposed to reach out to supports and I am supposed to push myself out of bed every day, write if I need too, express my feelings in a healthy way, be in the sunshine and do some physical exercise, but let me just say……

I don’t want to.

Now no need for family and friends to worry. I am not in danger. I am not suicidal. I think I have just been overwhelmed by life. Recently our family had to move off of our farm and are staying with a friend while our new home is sorted. I have also had kids with health problems and in all honesty due to the move my horse, dog and cat, which all bring me peace, are not with me right now (I love animal therapy!). All of that has made things a bit harder and has caused me to struggle with my mental health. I get that. I see that, but still the crappy feelings are there.

I know that I will soldier on. As my dad said at my recent wedding; “Boy is she ever strong!” I know that I will make it through all of this. Just for now……well for now I will be gentle with me, do what I can to care for me and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Mental Illness. What a battle. Keep soldiering on everyone.

Till we meet again,

Peace

Janet R

PS. If you are battling depression or feeling suicidal please know that you are not alone.  There is support available at the 24/7 Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255.

If you are thinking of leaving your abusive relationship I encourage you to create a Safety Plan.  A Safety Plan helps you safely leave an abusive relationship.  Please check out this link;  http://verbalabusejournals.com/how-stop-abuse/safety-planning/  Scroll down the page it opens to download it for free.

Are you a Survivor needing  support? You can sign up for a Mentor, someone who has been there, and receive free support and guidance all via email, at :http://verbalabusejournals.com/mentoring-program-for-domestic-violence-survivors/mentor-request/

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

 

Crazy Making; An insidious form of abuse

Today I was thinking about the times my ex made me feel crazy. Often termed “Crazy Making”  it is a form of emotional abuse. Most often the abuser plays with their victims mind and self confidence by denying events that the victim knows happened, like an abusive incident where they were hit, or an abuser can go the other way and convince their victim that something did happen that didn’t. This constant attack on their victims confidence in what they know to be the truth will break them down and make them easier to control.
 
Another form of crazy making is setting up their victim to fail. I remember when I was pregnant with my third child my ex set me up constantly. I was overdue and having nightly contractions, but nothing ever progressed. My ex made the choice on many nights to stay home from his night shift job in case I did go into labour. As the days passed though, and nothing progressed, he started to yell at me prior to each shift demanding to know from me if I was going to deliver that night. It was an impossible situation to be in. Being my third baby and being overdue I could go into labour at any moment, but there was no way, without being in labour, that I could possibly know when true labour would start. Yet he demanded that I know, demanded to the point where I was in tears nightly. I felt like I was going crazy. It is amazing that these verbal assaults did not send me into labour. I am happy to say that in the end I was  induced and had a healthy baby boy. There was further crazy making behaviour while I was in labour.  My ex sat in the room and completely dismissed me doing crossword puzzles while I delivered our son. It was only when my doctor looked at him and said, “You know you can touch her” that he did so.
 
“Crazy Making” abuse messes with your sanity. It is a form of abuse that comes in many forms and it leaves you feeling “off” and you are not quite being able to put your finger on what is wrong.  This form of abuse is hard to recover from as it plays with your self confidence. I find that crazy making changes who you are and how you perceive others It creates a lot of distrust in others which I think is understandable, but that can also hold you back from healthy relationships. So how does one heal? Myself I had to undo the crazy making and see it for what it was; him trying to hurt me and control me. I had to see that before I delivered my son there was no way, without being in labour, that I could know if I was going to deliver that night.  There was nothing “right” I could do to make that situation better. I also had to look at his behaviour in the delivery room and see that this was another form of control. His dismissive behaviour was giving him control.  Everyone in the delivery room was distracted by his behaviour and focused on him, splitting away from focusing on the delivery of our baby. He made himself, or at least tried, to make himself the center of the situation and in control of everyone in the room.
 
Other forms of crazy making are;
 
Creating double standards. When creating a double standard the abuser tells their victim that they cannot do one thing, but then they do it themselves.
 
Being passive aggressive. Having your partner make you consistently late and then he or she denying that when you call them on it is a form of passive aggressive behaviour. Having them say, “Well you used to be really good at that, but now…..I don’t know.” is another form of being passive aggressive.
 
Everything is always your fault. A crazy maker will twist events so that they are never their fault and are always their victims.
 
Like any other form of abuse, crazy making is about one person wanting power and control over another. It takes time to recover from such a form of abuse. To undo the damage a person needs to relearn to trust their own judgement. To listen to their own inner voice, their gut instinct and trust what they are saying to themselves about a situation.  Having a skilled counsellor will help undo the damage.
 
Peace,
 
Janet
PS. My new husband and I are in the process of creating a Non Profit for Domestic Violence Survivors. Please read up on our campaign at https://www.uhelp.com/rhodes-to-wellness-for-dv-survivors
Are you an abusive relationship? Do you need extra support? I supervise a Mentoring Program at verbalabusejournals.com. Here you can receive free support via email from one of our Mentors. You can sign up at http://verbalabusejournals.com/mentoring-program-for-domestic-violence-survivors/mentor-request/

Anxiety, it’s a Nasty Thing

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

Tap

Tap

Tap

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

Tap

Tap

Tap

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

Tap

Tap

Tap

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

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

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

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

So how do you combat this anxiety?

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

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

Peace,

Janet

Deep Breathing Exercise

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

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

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

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

Grounding Exercise

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

PROCEDURE:

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

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

-Dr. Stephanie Cordes, ND

Battling a Battle I was never prepared for

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

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

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

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!

 

It’s been two years….

It’s been two years.  It’s been two years since I faced all of my fears and faced my ex in Criminal Court. He had been charged with continual sexual assault against me  in the last nine months of our marriage. I am going to admit to you that this is hard to write about and so very hard to think about, but I will do my best to share my thoughts.

It’s been two years.  It’s been two years since I faced all of my fears and faced my ex in Criminal Court. He had been charged with continual sexual assault against me  in the last nine months of our marriage. I am going to admit to you that this is hard to write about and so very hard to think about, but I will do my best to share my thoughts.

In Canada only 6 out of every 100 sexual assault is reported to Police.  Many victims either don’t want Police involvement, have dealt with the assault in another way or feel it is a private matter and they do not want it in the Courts.  For myself it was two years after the assaults when I went to the RCMP.  Why did I wait two years? Well the Defence in my trial wanted the Jury to believe that the rapes never happened and that I only came forward two years later with a fabricated story and that I was seeking revenge. This of course was not the case.  The report was filed when it was because that was the  point where I was ready.  I was ready to talk about the worst nine months of my marriage. Sexual Assaults are extremely personal, hugely traumatic and full of shame.  After my ex assaulted me he would call me horrible names; whore, bitch, idiot, slut and so on. He would sit at the end of our marriage bed spewing this horribleness at me while I could hear our toddler son in the next room. I started to think that perhaps I was those things. Was I asking for this? Was I doing something during the day that let him think I did want these rapes to happen? No. No I was telling him not to touch me, not to sleep in our bed and to leave me alone, I knew that.  I was not asking for this yet he still somehow made it my fault, and so did the Defence.

I have never been involved in any other Criminal Court Cases, but I do know that the most used tactic, by Defence Lawyers, in Sexual Assault Trials is to put the victim on trial.  Every move you have made before and after the assault is scrutinized. You are blamed for not fighting hard enough, for not locking that bedroom door, for not doing enough to stop the assaults.  Victim blaming at it’s best and wow can that ever play with your head.  Defense Lawyers are just like abusers.  They implant ideas and motives as to why you did not fight the way they thought you should and make it all your fault.  You can  easily end up doubting yourself. Could I have done more? Was I wrong when I did this or that? and so on. It is abusive and it is horrible that the Judges let it happen.  It was explained to me post trial that the Crown is held to a level of decorum because, well it is representing the Crown, but Defence Lawyers are not held to this standard.  They can make cheap shots, they can laugh behind the Crowns back (yes that happened), they can throw temper tantrums (yes that happened too) and they can yell at victims (yup, it happened) and the Judge will not bat an eye.  It is sickly accepted and guess what? The Crown is not allowed to warn you ahead of time of this behaviour, so please let my testimony be enough to tell you that games are definitely played in Sexual Assault Trials.

The Defence  banks on an old text book idea of how a sexual assault victim will behave.  They will outline to the Jury that a female victim should be able to physically stop a sexual assault (lets just say that is nearly impossible, most males are physically bigger and stronger than their victim) and that when it is all over she should be in the mind frame to get herself to a hospital, be checked by a doctor and file a Police report right away.  After the assault they should behave in a certain way, not have future relationships, would never have contact with their rapist again and should not act out of character. The thing is, that’s not how trauma works. Majority of reported sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows and in most cases it is someone in their home.  So lets play this out.  Someone you love assaults you and probably threatens you to keep quiet.  They may threaten to hurt your children or take them away from you.  They may threaten to hurt  or kill you or a family pet. They will say whatever horrible thing it is that they have to say to keep quiet because they do not want to be exposed. That is traumatizing and most victims will believe what their rapist says will happen if they speak up. This person has just used great physical force and hurt them in unbelievable ways so what proof is there that they will not follow through with the other threats they make? There is none.  So most victims will stay quiet.  Many may talk about it later. It could be years later when they are strong enough or something else in their life triggers them and pushes them to talk about it. Hence why we have no statute of limitations on Sexual Assaults in Canada.  In fact the majority of reported Sexual Assaults are reported long after the fact.  So the fact that the Defence still leads the jury to believe the “text book” way a victim should react is completely false. It is also important to know that the victim will probably feel tons of shame around the assault.  They will worry that others will see them as tarnished, dirty or broken and they don’t want to be seen that way so they keep quiet.  There are also many who black out or are not completely present during the assault so details are fuzzy.  I know that as the assaults in my marriage continued the details became fuzzy.  In order to cope with the ongoing assaults I often separated myself from them and was not present.  It is an extremely common survival instinct in Survivors of sexual assault.  Our brain is amazing and it will do whatever it has to, to help you survive.

The Majority of Sexual Assaults do not result in a conviction.  That was the situation in my case.  Most sexual assaults happen in private and become a “He said, She said” case. Even though my ex verbally admitted to me that he knew what he was doing to me I did not have any physical proof of that.  Just my account of the incident. I had told his cousin about it shortly after the confession, but when questioned by the RCMP she lied and said she had no memory of me telling her that or about any of the many assaults. Without physical proof it is so hard to prove a sexual assault. As a result so many rapists, like my ex, get to walk away and probably hurt someone else in the future.

I have often asked myself if I regret coming forward. Despite the trauma from the trial I am still glad I came forward.  Irregardless of the outcome I did hold my ex accountable for the horrible things he did.  I shined a light on the darkness and exposed him for who he is.  Something he used to scream at me to never do because we were married.  I spoke up for simply that reason, because he told me to keep quiet and I refuse to do that.  I refuse to enable his abusive behaviours. Should you come forward if you are assaulted? I cannot answer that.  I know society tells us to speak up when we are sexually assaulted so that the rapist can be punished. I agree with that.  We should not protect abusers. In saying that though our Legal System needs to change.  It needs to stop putting victims on trial.  It needs to start putting the perpetrator on trial.  Examine their actions before and after the incident.  Examine what they do and say. Put them under the micro scope.  Maybe then we would get somewhere with this unspeakable crime. If you have suffered this unspeakable crime my heart cries out to you.  My word of advice is to do what you feel is right.  Do what you need to do to  heal in a healthy way.    It is not an easy road, I know that, but I do believe you can get through this.  Reach out for support. Go to a Sexual Assault Centre or call a Hotline, tell a friend. You did nothing wrong and you most certainly did not deserve this.  You are loved and you are beautiful, please remember that.

 

Peace,

Janet

– On a side note I am proud to say that my blog has been featured in the Top 30 Domestic Violence Blogs on Feedspot! Please go to http://blog.feedspot.com/domestic_violence_blogs/ to check it out! My blog was also featured on Open Forest as one of five must read blogs about Domestic Abuse.  Check it out at https://openforest.net/domestic-abuse-5-must-read-blogs/