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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace,

Janet

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Queenie and I.

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!

 

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

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

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

“What?”

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

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

Hypervigilance

Nightmares/terrors

Bedwetting (in children)

Panic attacks

Flashbacks

High Startle Response

Triggers

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

Anxiety

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

Six months later I was diagnosed with the same.

So what is it like to live with PTSD?

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

I am tired.

I have dark circles under my eyes.

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

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

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

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

We survived the trauma.

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

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Walking a tightrope; my balancing act with Mental Illness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace

Janet B

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