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!

 

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/

 

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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13 things I wish I knew before my rape trial.

It has now been 18 months since my rape trial against my ex.  There have been 18 months of sadness, frustration, confusion, shock, anger, fear and horror at the whole process.  Being raped is soul shattering.  To have someone reach into your soul, touch it and rip it to pieces, leaving you feeling empty and lost, is devastating.  To have that person be your husband and the father of your children is…..beyond heartbreaking.  Everything you have ever believed is tested and  shattered.  Who you are is questioned by you, late at night when all is quiet.  You wonder if you could ever let anyone touch you again?  Would they want to? Are you damaged now? Can you trust anyone ever again? These are the questions that mill around your head at night.  You can’t sleep, you can’t eat, you can’t focus, everything that was normal before seems like a lie.  Your whole life seems like one big lie.

You try to find peace.  You think that if you report what happened you will receive  justice and peace will come with that.  You go to your local RCMP Detachment and you tell a Constable what he did to you.  You sit in a room talking about your privates and his privates with a complete stranger, but you do it because there WILL be justice, right?

Wrong.

Sorry to say that, but sadly it is true. I was naively led to believe that there would be Justice.  I am here to tell you that that was a lie and for most Survivors of a sexual assault it is a lie for them  too.  Our Legal System (It is not a Justice System.  It is a system that  foll0ws the laws, not about vindicating someone) in Sexual Assault trials is not about focusing on what the perpetrator did.  Instead it is a system that looks at the victim, at their actions and in reality the victim is the one on trial.  Again I was completely naïve to this going into my trial.  Here are things that I wish I had been told.

  1. In Canada you are not the one charging your perpetrator (rapist) with rape.  You report your assault and an officer will relay your report to a Crown Prosecutor (usually while you are still in the detachment) and if the Prosecutor thinks they have a chance at winning a case against the perpetrator then they will be charged.  If they feel they cannot win then no charges will be laid.
  2. Your life will completely turn upside down once those charges are laid.  For me the RCMP needed to figure out where and how they would arrest my ex.  He lived in another city but came to a city near me, monthly, to see our children at a Supervised visit.  The RCMP decided that they would set my ex up for a visit.  Instead of my children going into the visitation room they were pulled into a side room and hidden from view.  The RCMP then walked into the visitation room instead and arrested my ex.  Once he was gone I was called to come and get my kids which I did.  I also moved towns right after that.  Given the level of violence in my marriage I was advised to move and temporarily go into hiding until they could get all of the proper restraining orders put into place by a Judge. Now for you it may not go that way.  I cannot predict that, but let me tell you I was not prepared for this  when I first went into the detachment.
  3. In Canada it will take a long time to get this through the legal system.  It will take at least two years on average. First there will be a hearing.
  4. At the hearing you and any other witnesses will be questioned by both the Prosecutor and the Defence Lawyer.  Your rapist will also be there.  Per Canadian Law everyone is given a fair trial and they are to be present to hear everything said about them.  Being in front of him  will probably through you off.  Prepare for that.  Know that you do not have to look at him.  Keep your eyes on whomever is asking the questions.  Trust me when I say that your rapist and his Lawyer are hoping that his presence will rattle you and cause you to stumble in your testimony,  Please don’t let them get to you.   Hold your head high!
  5. After the hearing the Judge will decide if there is enough evidence for a trial.  There does not have to be a lot of evidence for a trial to happen.  Most go to trial.
  6. Due to the overload in our Legal System it will probably be another year for your trial. Waiting will becoming draining.  You will want it all to be over.  Know that your day in Court will come. In the meantime try your best to look after you so you can  heal.
  7. Just when you think you are in a better place you will be called to trial and you will have to share your story again to a room full of strangers. This will rip open old wounds.  Make sure you have a good support system and that you look after yourself during this time.
  8.   Some trials are Judge only. Some are Jury trials.  Which way it will be is decided by the Defence Lawyer. The Prosecutor has no say in this.
  9. There will be games played in the Court Room.  The Prosecutor is held to a high level of decorum. This comes  from the Crown.  They must act respectful and keep their questions clean and above board.  The Defence, on the other hand, is not held to this same level.  Heck they are not held to any level.  They can make snide c0mments, yell at y0u, have temper tantrums, make up lies and no one will bat an eye, not even the Judge (well maybe some Judges do say something but they are very few and far between). The Prosecutor CANNOT warn you ab0ut this behaviour ahead of time.  They will probably tell you that the Defence Lawyer may not  be nice, but to just remember that he is representing his client and to be respectful.  In actuality they know and the Judge knows that the Defence will probably pull some bad punches but no one is allowed to prepare you for that.
  10. The Defence Lawyer will be ruthless and it will feel like you are on the one on trial not the perpetrator.  Your actions pre and post the rape will be scrutinised. What you wore, what you said and how you acted in the moments coming up to the rapes and definitely the ones after the rape will be examined.  You will need to justify everything you said and did.  Like I said you will feel like you are the one on trial.  You see, unfortunately, our Legal System has a premade image of how a rape victim is supposed to act and if you do not fall into that then you must be a liar.  It is terrible. It is wrong on so many levels and very traumatizing.  Please let me tell you that everyone acts differently after they have been raped.  No one can predict how you will react nor can they judge you on how you act.  The Defense Lawyer is doing this type of questioning to try and break you.  Be aware of that.  Answer each question honestly and do your best to not react to their games. Another game that they will do is ask you the same question three times, each time a little bit differently trying to get the answer that they want. Be aware of this and answer each question the same each time.
  11. Your rapist may not take the stand.  That is their legal rite in Canada. If they do, do not expect them to be treated like you were.  Remember the Prosecutor must act at a level of decorum and the Defence will have practised every question with your perp to make him look innocent. In my trial I was on the stand for two days.  My ex was on the stand for maybe 30 minutes.
  12. There may be back room deals. There was in my trial between the Prosecutor and the Defence and I was completely unaware of it. I watched it play out though and I saw the moment when the Prosecutor realized he had been played by the Defence. I saw him scramble when he realized their agreement was never real  and that it was highly unlikely  the Crown was going to win.
  13.  Lastly there is you.  You who has gone through unimaginable trauma.  You who has found the courage to come forward.  You who has answered personal questions that no one should have to answer publically.  Your whole life has been on display.  It hurts and you may wonder how you will survive this, but let me tell you that you WILL SURVIVE! Y0u will make it through this.  You might have a complete breakdown (I did) and that is ok.  It is ok to get all of your feelings out. Know that on the other side of the wailing and the anger you will come out of this stronger.  You will know that in the end, despite all of the games and all of the pain you did the right thing. You held him accountable for all to see and that, that is a victory all in itself.

Peace,

Janet

 

 

 

Why do Survivors of abuse revictimize themselves?

Often, in my work with Survivors of Domestic Violence, I hear  stories about how they are re-victimized or they try to be.  Sometimes I have even heard from their current partners (who are not abusive) who say, “She keeps poking at me.  Trying to start a fight and wanting me to hit her! Why? I have never hit a woman!” This got me thinking as to why some Survivors do this, more to the point why have I done it?

When you live in an abusive relationship you live in a constant world of chaos.  You “walk on egg shells” wondering when will the next explosion be? Your whole world revolves around your abuser.  You cater to his (or her) needs.  All simply because you want to keep the beast happy and not suffer more abuse.  The abuse does happen though, you never know when and over time this constant chaos attacks your self worth.  You start to believe your abuser when he (or she) says that you deserve the abuse.  That they wouldn’t have to treat you this way if you just behaved better.  You never give up trying to please them and your  internal compass is gauged by their behaviour.   You lose yourself.

At one time I lost myself. I married a man who abused me physically, sexually, financially, verbally and emotionally.  I lived in a world where I was paralyzed by fear. Every decision I made had my abuser in mind. Would this upset him? Will he yell at me (or worse)? I did not make decisions based on my own wants and needs.  They were based on what kept him happy.  That was how I survived.

After 15 years of abuse I finally broke free and separated from husband.  I was over the moon! I no longer lived with daily abuse.  I was free!  In time I started to date again and eventually became engaged to a wonderful man.  A man who would never intentionally hurt me. A man whom I felt safe with. We have a good relationship.  We are equal partners and neither of us try to have control over the other like in an abusive relationship.  So then why have I felt the need to create a situation where he might abuse me? Why would I want to go back there?  This question puzzled me for quite awhile.  Let me tell you what I realized.

I realized that I created situations with an unconscious desire to be abused.  I did this because one, deep down my low self esteem had me believing that abuse is what I deserve.  Two abuse was familiar.  I knew how to exist in the chaos of abuse.  After 15 years of abuse I no longer knew h0w to gauge my day to day life without abuse happening.  Here’s an example.

When I started dating my now fiancé we planned a birthday party for me.  Well more like he did with my kids.  I was excited, but a little nervous.  I had not had a nice birthday celebration (without abuse) in years.  “Did I deserve one?” was my internal question.  I woke the morning of my birthday to my house decorated with balloons and streamers.  Everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to me and I even had breakfast in bed! It was a lovely morning.  Then my fiancé and I went out for lunch.  Now that was not as fun.  I basically chewed him out the whole time and every little thing that he said to calm me down made me even more angry.  After lunch we were driving to an appointment and I kept poking at him, pushing for a fight.  At one point I even jumped out of our car (at a red light) and walked to my appointment in a furry crying my eyes out.  Now you are probably wondering what my problem was. I know my fiancé was and to be honest so was I.  I did not understand what was going on inside of me.  This started to happen every holiday and birthday.  Then it started to happen on normal days. I would pick at him until we fought.  Guess what, once he yelled back I felt calm. What???? Yes I felt calm.

Chaos, fighting, abuse, whatever you want to call it is what I knew for 15 years.  It is what I thought I deserved so when he finally yelled back I felt calm because suddenly I was in a familiar world again.  I understood this world and I could function in it. Crazy uh? That is re-victimization and something so many Survivors do to themselves.  It’s not that we really want to be hurt again, but it is what we know and until we have a stronger self esteem it is what we think we are worthy of.  For me the holidays and birthdays were a huge trigger because my ex always abused me worse on those days.  So to have a birthday where balloons were hung for me and I was given breakfast in bed was, well it was completely foreign to me and it scared the hell out of me.

In time, as I healed,  I recognized the  unhealthy pattern and I started to re-victimize myself less.  It helps that my fiancé also recognizes when I am trying to re-victimize myself  and we name it.  I now know that I do not deserve to be abused.  I do deserve balloons on my birthday and so much more!! I am also learning to trust an abuse free life.

Recovery from abuse is a journey full of bumps and yes there are victories. Times where you heal and move forward.  If you recognize the re-victimization pattern in yourself or someone you love name it.  Acknowledge what is happening.  Talk it through with someone you trust. Change can happen once we see what needs to be done.

Peace,

Janet

 

 

The overwhelming effects of verbal abuse

Recently I was reminded about the lasting effects of verbal abuse. My fiancé and I were visiting friends in another city.  We have not been to their place too much and got a bit lost on our way home.  It was late, we were all tired and somehow ended up in some industrial area. Wrong turns were made and tensions rose.  No name calling happened between us but suddenly I was being verbally abused. I could hear my ex in my head telling me how stupid I was, that I was an idiot. I had flashbacks to times he would give me a map and tell me to navigate (usually in a strange city while we sped down some freeway)  and I would fail at it.  This is of course what he wanted to happen so then he could justify yelling at me for a 1/2 hour or more. It was horrible and damaging to my self worth. Last night, as I quietly cried, I  was a reminded of the damage done.

Many verbal abuse Survivors will tell you that they would take getting hit over one more minute of being verbally abused.  I remember saying to my ex more than once, “just hit me already!” My thinking was that if I was hit then the abuse was over and I could heal from a bruise whereas verbal abuse  cuts you to your soul. Verbal abuse changes how you think of yourself. Verbal abuse is crazy making.  Often the victim feels like it is all just in their head, maybe they aren’t being abused, maybe they are just going crazy. If this is how you feel after suffering verbal abuse let me tell you that you are NOT crazy. You have been abused.

So what is verbal abuse? It is just name calling? No it is not.

Verbal abuse includes the following:[4]

How do you heal from verbal abuse?

Well I am still working that, its a journey of ups and downs. If you have to remain in contact with your verbal abuser it is important to set boundaries with them. Telling them to “Stop it!” or saying, “You aren’t allowed to talk to me that way!” are two statements you can use to bring your abuser up  short. If possible cut all ties with your abuser.  I know this is not always easy to do. Some verbal abusers are family members, a boss or your spouse, but you are worth more than what they are giving you.  You cannot properly heal until there is closure.  Another important point is that most verbal abuse will escalate over time and it WILL lead to physical abuse.  No one deserves that.

It’s important to seek support as  you recover from the abuse. A counsellor can be a great confident who can give you insight as a third party. Unlike a family member or close friend they are able to give you  professional advice without the overshadowing of family dynamics or friendships. This does not mean support from family and friends is not valid, it defiantly is. You might even find yourself reconnecting with family and friends once you leave the relationship.  Abusers often isolate their victim from family and friends as it is then easier to control them. So reach out to them.  They can help you remember who you are rather than what the abuser tells you, you are.  Social support is also another support system.  There are many groups on facebook, twitter or domestic violence hotlines that can help you. It is easier to move forward when you have a positive support system around you.

As for me, well we did find our way home.  Today my fiancé and I sorted through what the effects of my verbally abusive past had on me last night.  It is a two steps forward, one step back sort of journey.  I am just glad that I keep moving forward.

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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.