Category Archives: trauma

the end of an era

In fifteen minutes it will be January 20th. In approximately eleven hours Trump will take the oath of office and Obama will say goodbye to the post he’s held for the last 8 years.
 
The last 8 years have been revolutionary for our country. Even if you aren’t a fan of Obama’s you can’t argue that this man made history. As history was made and the future shaped so was my life. And in many ways Obama’s presidency represents my recovery journey.
 
You see 8 years ago the weekend before inauguration day I broke up with my abusive boyfriend with the help of some amazing friends. As Obama was sworn into office I stood in the office of the hall of my college hiding from the man who terrified me. I had no idea what was to come and I’m sure neither did the man who I was watching with his hand on the Lincoln Bible taking an oath that would change his life, his families and many others including my own.
 
In the next 8 years that Obama watched over our country I experienced more change than I thought possible. As Obama began forming his legacy I sat in treatment centers with women who would become life long friends and others who I would mourn their deaths just a few short months or years later. I learned how to eat again. I was taught that I was enough as I was. I experienced flashback after flashback but worked my way through them to see the light that was waiting for me. I received my first service dog and then just four short years later held him as he died in my arm. I trained my second and returned to the show ring for the first time in 10 years.
 
I got the word hope tattooed on my arm. A word that Obama embraced and the thing that saved me when I was in the depths of anorexia.I celebrated five years of recovery. I gained weight instead of loosing it. I ate ice cream whenever I wanted and enjoyed every flavor of Cadbury eggs. I watched Michelle kiss the queen and ate snacks everyday.
 
As Obama negotiated international and domestic conflicts I negotiated my own conflicts of who I was as a person and how I could live this life limited by the confines of my own brain. I began to talk about my trauma in college thanks in a large part to Biden’s work on campus assault. I learned to set boundaries and became a proud feminist who admired Michelle and watched with tears in my eyes when she spoke about Trump’s actions. I watched Obama treat his daughter’s and wife with respect and the belief that they were equal. And I unknowingly absorbed the message for the first time – that perhaps being a woman didn’t make me “less than”.
 
And today as I prepare to go to bed on the last day that Obama is president I realized that this last eight years was the first time that I have lived without abuse. No bulling. No harassment. No rape. No partner abuse. In the entire time Obama has been president I have known that I have not belonged to a man who would abuse and use me.
 
And so as the Obama’s leave and this chapter of history is closed so does a chapter of my own life. Both America’s last 8 years and mine can be explained as chapters of pain, conflict, confusion, unexplainable joy, hope, despair and most importantly freedom and safety.
I’m saying goodbye to the man who has traveled a road at the same time as me. A road that was unknown and unpredictable for both of us. I also say goodbye to two men and one incredible woman that fostered an environment that gave me the courage to begin to heal.
 
Life doesn’t end here for either Obama or I (or for America). It’s just beginning. It’s time to spread our wings and experience a new adventure; one of freedom but informed by experiences of the past 8 years. And so as Obama says goodbye to the White House and the presidency I say goodbye to the 8 years of healing and recovery. It’s time to truly live.
 
 
 
 

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dear facebook friends and family

 

Dear Friends and Family who Voted for Trump,

I’ve posted political articles on and off since the political season began (whenever that was…seems like it went on forever). I supported Bernie and then happily and with no reluctance moved my support to Hillary. I was open about that.

 
I got some comments on things I shared and some discussion but for the most part it was respectful. For the most part people left things I posted alone or agreed with them or maybe liked them.
 
I deleted someone because they kept posting the “haha” reaction to articles I shared about how Trump reminds me and other victims of their abusers but that was it.
 
Since Trump won it’s been different. I’ve posted articles, memes and graphics. None of it is in anyway more polarizing than things I posted before the election. However, some of you (some who I wasn’t aware were Trump supporters – the Bradley Effect is real) are now commenting, arguing and dismissing my opinions.
 
Why? Is it because your candidate won so now you have some sort of bravery you didn’t before? Is it because the things I post hit too close to home? Why do you feel so defensive and entitled to argue with me when you ignored my posts before the election? This puzzles me. It’s Facebook. I know there will be disagreements. I just wonder why after the election people suddenly feel the urge to comment and argue when before my posts were left alone before. That’s the part that confuses me. 
 
 I’m a survivor. I make no secret of that fact. Trump reminds me of my abusers just as he reminds thousands of other people in this country of their abusers. Trump makes me feel unsafe just as he makes thousands of other people in this country feel unsafe.  As a survivor I’ve learned that I can’t keep everyone in my life. Sometimes I have to let people go entirely – other times, I have to limit how much my life intersects with theirs.

The majority of my posts post-election day have not been about politics as normal. They have been about how this man makes people (me) feel. When you dismiss what I post or what I write with a “sorry you feel that way but it’s not true” or long explanations as to why what I just posted is plainly just wrong when it was an opinion piece that expresses hurt and sorrow, you aren’t saying my political views are wrong, you are saying that the way I feel and am choosing to heal is wrong. And that is far more damaging and hurtful than anything you could argue with me about.

I’m not going to stop posting articles to Facebook. I’m not going to stop talking about what I am doing to heal from my trauma – on a global scale and on a personal scale – but I am going to be limiting who can see what I post. It may be a relief to you too. You probably don’t enjoy seeing what I’m posting because you disagree with it so strongly anyways. Perhaps it offends you. I’m not going to apologize for that but I am going to make it easy on both of us and limit our contact. Because you must understand, when you argue with me over articles or memes or whether something is true or not; whether I have the right to feel this hurt.; whether I have the right to feel this way about Trump; I hear that you are telling me you don’t support me. You don’t support survivors. If you met my abuser’s and they told you their version of the story you would believe them over me. Or you just wouldn’t care. That is what I am hearing. More than likely I’m wrong. But I’m not claiming to be rational. I’m simply claiming to be doing what I have to do to survive.

And so you’ll still see me post on Facebook. I would’t want to keep everyone from seeing my dog pictures now would I (maybe those annoy you lol I don’t know)? I do wish you luck. But, I can’t wish for everyone to “just get along right now” because as the movie quote says “I’m mad as Hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”.  But I do wish you health and hope.

– Still very proud to be “With Her”, 

Kate

gus-and-i-for-hillary

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psych ward reminders

Early Thursday morning my life went chaotic. Which happens sometimes when you have a mental illness/illnesses. I don’t want to go into the details but the final result was that I found myself back in the familiar lounge of the psychiatric hospital I have been in countless (literally, I can’t count them) times before. This was unexpected. There weren’t behavioral signs leading up to this and the psychological ones were a combination of factors that hit all together and all at once. The good news about this is that I think my meds were already correct and I have the therapeutic issues figured out that sent me in so I’m pretty sure this isn’t something that has the ingredients to repeat itself.

The stay itself was productive in that it gave me time to focus on some issues that I’d been avoiding and ‘chill’ out while I reevaluated where I was at. I often find being at the psych. hospital harder sometimes than being at home. Mine has groups that are fairly well ran and a great art studio but on the weekends there is only one group and a whole bunch of time to sit around and be be bored or find something, anything that is allowed to do.  I was having to use self-soothing skills that I really hadn’t been practicing for awhile and I was feeling the effects from being out of practice. That was one major thing I realized. I’ve GOT to get back to using my self-soothing skills and also integrate some healthier habits into my life.

For me self-soothing skills are essential to my life. They keep my mind regulated and at peace. I define self-soothing skills as literally what it says something that “soothes me”. This is a little different from a coping skill for me. Coping skills are used in times of distress. Self-soothing skills are used all the time to keep me going. Also known as self-care I guess. So what are some of mine? Well, it’s little things. Coloring is a big one. The repetitive motions and the ability to zone out happily gives me great relief. Crosswords are another one. And so is reading. Ah yes reading. When I’m at home I’ve been neglecting reading. I’ve been on the computer as opposed to reading a book. And the computer does NOT soothe me. It activates me. It’s time for me to take some space away from the computer. Set up some boundaries with it in my life. Not gone – just less time with it.

As for healthier habits. Any exercise has dropped off the face of the earth for me. I throw the ball for Gus to wear him out instead of walking him and that would be so easy to add back in. Or play the Wii for just a little bit of time to get up and moving. Anything, that gets me off the couch. Another is allowing myself to go to bed when I’m sleepy and if that’s at 8:30 so be it. No more sleeping on the couch and waking at 12:30 to move to my room. Others are little things such as meds on time and with food, being direct with practitioners and a few other little things.

So the stay although unexpected was productive. I’m glad to be able to go to a good hospital that allows me to bring Gus and goes out of their way to accommodate us. I feel safe there and they make it as tolerable as possible. The staff by and large is good. And this is sometimes hard to find at a psych. ward/hospital so I’m grateful. But I’m very glad to be out and plan to go back to my life now while implementing some of the things I was reminded of. It’s good to have reminders but I think I’ll take them other ways now, thanks.

 

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winning the war with PTSD, facing the battle to come

I did something big today. And one reason it’s an even bigger deal is because it didn’t really occur to me just how big a deal it was until hours later. I visited the high school I attended for all four years. I went because it has been remodeled but enough of the old school remained that I defiantly saw identifying markers. Why is this a big deal? Because I bullied so badly that I developed PTSD (it began at around age 10 but continued on into high school). You name the type of abuse/bulling and I experienced it. So I went today and walked through the buildings without much thought. None of the bullying I experienced. A few random “I’m so glad I’m not in high school thoughts” and a definite “my life would have been so much better in high school if I had Gus” but PTSD thoughts? Nope. Absent.

It’s been a looonnnggg time coming to this place. Most of my trauma work in treatment was centered around the bulling. We approached what I consider the more major work but really hit this aspect of it hard. And this is the first time that I’m really seeing it pay off. I didn’t know if I believed someone could be “cured” from PTSD but it seemed at least today that my PTSD was long gone as I walked through a place that at one point would have sent me into flashback after flashback. I know there will  still be times when the memories hit me but they pain has receded some I think and that feels amazing. I never thought that would happen.

Now I have to move that hope onto the other aspect of my trauma we are just beginning to approach. This one feels insurmountable, terrifying and altogether impossible to handle. But I felt these things about the bulling at one time too. This time I have the benefit of experience on my side. The knowledge that I lived through the therapeutic process once and I give live through it once again. And this is invaluable because when you are in the thick of PTSD symptoms you think the very last thing that is going to happen is that you are going to live. But I need to remember that  I did once and I will again.

So tonight I go to bed with the knowledge that I have survived that part of my past. The rawness feels gone and I am now ready I think to close the therapeutic door. The relief is incredible. I also go to bed realizing how far I have yet to go. How many PTSD symptoms I still experience and the work ahead of me.

And finally I go to bed with a friend heavy on my heart as she fights with her own demons of PTSD tonight. I love you friend. I understand. And I am always here for you. You will survive. I did (and will continue to as I approach the next phase of my journey) and you will too.

 

 

 

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All I can write is this quote tonight:

 

One Day I will forgive you; until then there are scabs everywhere that you have touched me

– Salvador Plascencia, The People of Paper

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nightmares of treatments past

It’s not unusual for me to have nightmares. I have PTSD. Nightmares are a part of the territory. What is unusual is the what the content has been about lately. I’ve been waking up in cold sweats and shakes having dreamt about treatment and the physically sickest times of my eating disorder. It’s been almost five years since I admitted into my first treatment center. I was deathly ill. Almost dead. And honestly this fact has not truly dawned on me until recently. I knew intellectually that I was close to death but recently I have actually known I almost died.

I don’t know why it’s finally sinking in. Maybe it’s because of that short lapse awhile back or perhaps because it’s simply the amount of time gone by. I know there is a part of anorexia where sufferers simply don’t comprehend how sick they are. Maybe I’m past that. I don’t know. But regardless it’s terrifying me.

I’m remembering things I have forgotten and finally connecting the dots of what things truly mean. The fact that I couldn’t walk because my muscles atrophied. I was tube fed because I needed nutrition and I needed it faster than could be done through eating (I ate too but it was supplemented every night by tube feeds). I was sent off the hospital campus for MRIs, CAT scans and PET scans too see if my brain was functioning normal because I was falling so frequently and there was no obvious explanation. Test after test. And all the while stuck in that damn wheelchair. I slept on a mattress underneath the nurses station for a long time. Partly, because they were scared I would exercise but also because I would fall out of bed. Did I do that? I don’t remember. I don’t remember a lot of things.

I do remember how scary it was to not know why I was falling apart mentally. My PTSD was undiagnosed and I had no idea what a flashback was or what the hell was happening to me when I vividly began to remember abuse scenes. And the dissociation. Oh my God. The dissociation was so bad. And I had no words to even attempt to explain that. A friend guessed but the professionals didn’t. They missed it completely. And if I’m honest I still resent that. They believed I was making things up. Attention seeking. So did the other patients. The feeling of total loneliness and isolation still terrifies me.

I won’t go into details about particular scenes I am remembering but there are ones that are replaying over and over in my mind. I apologize for the amount of details I shared. I don’t like sharing a lot about the depths of my illness for the danger of being misread as competing with others or triggering them. But I needed to talk about this. It just seems all so….unreal but yet all too real at the same time. I needed to write it down. Somehow I needed to see it on paper. Get it out of my mind.

Has anyone else who has been in treatment experienced these kind of intrusive memories about the worst of their sickness and hospitalization. Am I unique in this? Please share if you can.

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Filed under anxiety, eating disorder, eating disorders, life events, Life Story, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, the past, trauma

survivor?

I was at a women’s health fair this past weekend and I stopped by the domestic violence/sexual assault prevention and support booth. I picked up little ribbons that signified support and somehow ended up telling the women there that I had PTSD from being abused. This was a big step for me. One to admit it out loud and two to tell someone else. What happened next though stunned me more and it’s something I have been left thinking about since then.

The woman who runs the center responded to my telling her of my history by saying – “oh you’re a survivor!”. This completely stopped me in my tracks. A survivor? Me. No certainly not. I don’t deserve to have that title. Plus to say you are a survivor means that you had to have survived something significant. Yes I was abused and yes I’m here but survived it…that makes it sound like it was important or something.

I have a hard time wrapping my head around these facts. Denial? Yes, most defiantly. I’ve been in enough therapy to know it when I see it. I don’t know if I’m ready to look at my past and see it for what it was. At times I am. I can sometimes say parts of it out loud like I did initially to the woman but then I balk and retreat away from my story.

I’m closer to accepting it and being able to process it in therapy than I ever have been before. Perhaps it’s time to start that work. I’ve done very little trauma work..  And so I leave for Wichita in a few hours (psychiatrist, dietitian and therapist) and perhaps today in my session I’ll start talking.  And if I go in with at least somewhat of the beginnings of the belief that I am a survivor it will go that much better.

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it’s time to be honest

I’ve been struggling with my eating disorder. I’m ashamed to say that but it’s time to be honest. Not to be taken care of, not to be attention seeking but because lying and hiding does me no good. Also, it’s past time to get on track and in my case transparency has been the best motivator for that.

I’ve been in recovery from my eating disorder for almost three full years. I’ve been extremely proud of that. Extremely. In fact, out of everything I’ve done in my life I can say that this was the one thing I have been proudest of because it is the thing I have had to work the hardest for. And now? Well I can see it slowly slipping through my fingers. It’s a scary feeling for me and I know it’s a scary feeling for those around me.

What happened? I don’t exactly know. I suppose it’s been a combination of factors. Med adjustments, depression which caused loss of appetite, stressors, a lingering dissatisfaction with my body which never really went away, change and the biggest one of all – a significant trauma anniversary (which at one point I plan to write about). All of that collided and I let down my guard and the disorder slipped in.

I owe some apologies. At this point in my recovery I can’t slide back into my disorder without some awareness of my actions. There was some familiarity in the behaviors and feelings. They brought relief I was seeking but even that is no excuse. I owe apologies to my friends who fight everyday for stepping away from the battle and for leaving you to fight alone. It invalidates your struggle and for that I am sorry. And it goes without saying that I owe many apologies to those who love me.

So where do  I go from here? Well, I try. I try to get back on track. I pray that I haven’t gone too far down the rabbit hole and that I can still yet pull myself out. I try with every fiber of my being even with my brain screams that this is wrong. I fight the biology of the disorder with everything I have and everything I have learned. And believe that I can regain the reground I have lost and come the end of February I can celebrate my third year in recovery.

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i am kate. i go to therapy. i am not ashamed.

I’ve gotten some questions/suggestions lately that perhaps I should pursue therapy. I’m not offended in the slightest. I think most of the comments came from a fairly good place and therapy ceased to embarrass me a long time ago. Because the truth is that I do see a therapist. Twice a week right now but this is actually the least amount of treatment I’ve had in four years.

In January 2009, after ending an abusive relationship I began seeing a therapist (a really crappy one but that’s another story). I was humiliated and embarrassed that my anxiety had become such that I couldn’t function in everyday life and that I had to seek professional help. The whole idea that I was seeing a “shrink” embarrassed me beyond belief to the point I went at great lengths to hide the fact from my college classmates that I was driving an hour once a week to seek help. I truly believed that it was “just anxiety” that was causing my obvious decline in my mental health but instead of getting better from treatment I felt downhill. Fast.

In September of 2009 I entered treatment for anorexia at Laureate’s eating disorder program. I stayed for ten months going through inpatient, residential, transitional living and back to inpatient for another short stint. I left OK (where Laureate is located). This was in July 2010. By September 2010 I was hospitalized again this time at The Center for Change in Orem Utah. This treatment stay was focused on my eating disorder and my PTSD. I left in February 2011 (after five and a half months) in a much better place, stable mentally for the first time in many years and armed with coping skills.

The next two years were rough. I was in and out of the psychiatric hospital. For a stretch of time I was in every month. In December of 2011 I went to Washington DC to The Psychiatric Institute of Washington’s Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I learned a lot here but it also opened a lot of wounds and closed memories and so my cycle in and out of the hospital continued until July of 2012. This is when my service  dog Ben entered my life.

Since Ben arrived I have been stable. I have not had to be hospitalized for my eating disorder, self-harm, depression, anxiety or PTSD. I receive the least treatment I have in four years, simply seeing my wonderful therapist twice a week.

I tell you all of this because like I mentioned at one time I was so filled with shame that I was in therapy. I saw it as a weakness, an embarrassment, a sign of failure and something that made me somehow “less than” everyone else in my life. I went so far as to tell professors when leaving college to go to treatment that it was due to heart problems (not a lie at that point my heart was severely compromised due to my eating disorder) instead of due to my anorexia (however they probably guessed anyways).

Therapy is so stigmatized. Especially by young people. I believe that this is due to a number of factors but a primarily one being the lack of information regarding mental health. This not only harms those who struggle with diagnosed mental illnesses but also those who need help but refuse to seek it out of shame. The media does not help. Crimes (such as the recent Naval Yard shooting) are blamed on mental illness. Yes, this may be the cause however the media fails to mention that the majority of people who suffer from mental illness are in no ways violent or dangerous. How can someone feel unashamed of their mental struggles when they unintentionally compare themselves to a deranged man who killed many people?

The reality is that seeking help is a sign of strength. I never would have believed this four years ago but working through treatment and recovery has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Much harder than making straight A’s in high-school, much harder than transitioning to college and much much harder than staying stuck in my illnesses.

So yes, I see a therapist and no I am not ashamed. Not anymore and I can say this:

I am Kate. I have PTSD, depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. I see a therapist. I have been hospitalized for my mental illness. I have a psychiatric service dog who without I would not be able to function. But I am no less a person because of these things.

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2009 – 2013 – happier and healthier thanks to therapy and treatment

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Filed under coping skills, culture, depression, eating disorder, eating disorders, Hope, Identity, Life Story, New Life, psychiatric service dog, PTSD, Recovery, service dog, society, survivor, trauma

feminism helps not harms men

Warning: This blog is going to discuss rape and sexual assault. If this could trigger you please do not read further. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want to address something that has come up in the comment section of my last blog. There has been a discussion about how rape is defined. Yes rape is defined as penetration. However these discussions have left out sexual assault which can be just as serious, just as scaring and just as illegal and wrong as rape. Sexual assault according to The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network “is unwanted sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape. This includes sexual touching and fondling. I don’t care if you are a man or a woman – anyone can be raped or sexually assaulted. And it is very,very, very wrong regardless of your gender, your sexual orientation, your religion, your beliefs, your anything. Nothing justifies it.

I’ve also discovered in my comments a new world that I did not know existed. This is the belief that the statistics about harm against women are grossly exaggerated or are simply untrue and that women are simply “out to get men”. The sad reality is that  1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape). I don’t understand how you can argue with these statistics. The claim is also that men are more often victimized than women. I think it is a sad reality that men are often more stigmatized if they are raped or sexually assaulted. However, statistics don’t lie. Only 3% of rape victims are men. These men need resources, they need help and they need recognition however the argument that feminism and the work to change our culture to protect women is unneeded is not true. 

I suppose however if you have not seen what I have seen. Have not heard what I have heard. It is a lot easier for you to argue that there is no change needed, that women are simply “out to get you” and that men are the victims of a feminist agenda. After all, I don’t imagine you’ve sat in a room with other trauma survivors and listened to their stories of how men gained their trust and then used it to assault and rape them. I don’t think you’ve heard first hand how their family members have abused them or how strangers on the street held them down while they took turns raping them. You haven’t seen women experience terrifying flashbacks, girls no more than thirteen hide in the couches at night because the night reminded them of the abuse they had finally escaped. You haven’t heard the guilt they felt that they escaped assault but that the perpetrator also escaped capture so he can assault someone else later. And you sure as hell haven’t experienced any of this at the hands of a teenage boy who thought all of it was okay because “his friends were doing it”.

Yes, men who were raped and assaulted need help. They need hope. They need advocacy. But advocating to change our culture, to eliminate songs and movies that encourage rape and to teach young boys to respect women as people instead of viewing them as object does not attack men. On the contrary I believe it helps them. It encourages men to be more than the macho image society has constructed. It encourages teens and boys to reach down into themselves and connect emotionally. It creates males who are compassionate individuals who respect themselves and others.

So, if you truly believe that by supporting advocacy I am degrading men I encourage you to rethink your position. I also encourage you to listen and read about female rape and sexual assault victims and how these attacks were influenced by our society. And if you continue to disagree with me I encourage you to take your views elsewhere. Yes, this is a public blog but I won’t stand for degrading women on my page. I listened to men in my life degrade myself and all women for years and I don’t stand for that anymore.

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