Tag Archives: PTSD

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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Filed under abuse, abuser, anxiety, Ben, body image, bullying, culture, depression, dog training, dogs, eating disorder, eating disorders, Election 2012, election 2016, feminism, Hope, Identity, life events, Life Story, New Life, politics, PTSD, Recovery, service dog, social change, society, survivor, the past, trauma, writing/poetry

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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Filed under abuse, abuser, bullying, Hope, Life Story, PTSD, Recovery, school, survivor, the past, trauma

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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Filed under abuse, Life Story, PTSD, quotes, survivor, the past, trauma

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

the shadows of the sea

The Shadows of the Sea

Do you know what’s it like to be battered by waves so harsh you cannot feel yourself on the floor?

That your feet fly up before you? Leaving your body behind.

To navigate the uncharted waters of a dangerous sea.

Waters that have killed those before and seek to drown you.

And then to sink?….the demons of the sea pulling you into their depths to join their underwater hell.

A hell that does not burn with fire but with shadow.

Shadows that move with faces of the past, flashes of the night and silent fingers that stroke the forbidden places of memory.

A hell that has no end but instead endlessly plays in flashes and nightmares that never ends.

So do you know what it’s like to be battered by waves so harsh you cannot feel yourself on the floor?

And do you know what it is have your feet fly up before you? Leaving your body behind?

Because if you do – then you are like me and you have lived with the shadows of the sea.

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Filed under body image, depression, eating disorder, eating disorders, PTSD, trauma

i’m stable…

I had a psychiatrist appointment this past Wednesday. Since seeing this psychiatrist shortly after retuning from CFC I have seen him consistently every other week. My meds were being adjusted yes, but it was more of a “just in case Kate needs to be hospitalized” kind of thing. For the first time at the end of the appointment he announced that he didn’t think he needed to see me for a whole month.

This doesn’t seem like much I suppose to the outsider looking in but it’s huge to me. I couldn’t quite put it into words until someone in our CFC alumni group said “doesn’t it feel great to be STABLE”. And that’s what I am. I’m stable.

Whoa, I’m stable.

I’ve been medically and eating disordered stable for awhile now. In fact, since returning from CFC. But psychologically? Not so much. In the year I spent waiting for Ben I was hospitalized for sucidial ideation, self-harm thoughts/behaviors or other psychiatric problems probably around eleven times. That’s a lot of time spent in hospitals and psych. wards.

Since receiving Ben I’ve been pretty stable psychologically. I struggle with the effects of my trauma and my therapist would probably say that I’m not quite stable in that area in the terms of dissociation and related behaviors  But self-destructive behaviors and thoughts? By and large those are gone or well managed. In fact, it has confused me lately because I have been having trouble sleeping due to some trauma stuff and I haven’t felt like doing anything (meaning hurting myself). I shuffle around my apartment crafting, messing around on the internet, watching netflix, lying in bed, talking to Benny or just generally doing stuff to pass the time but self-destructing I am not. I’ve never done this. I’ve never felt the fear, experienced the trauma without everything going to hell in a handbasket.

It feels really, really, really weird to say the least. Foreign. Wrong but yet very right at the same time. Is this what living is like? Is this what moving on feels like? Is this what I have to look forward to?

I know I face struggles ahead. I know I probably still face some times when I won’t be as stable and may have a few short stays in the lovely PV resort as AL fondly (or not so much) call it but right now I am stable and I’m getting a taste of how life can be managed without self-destructing, wasting way or wondering around in a fog. And it feels pretty good.

 

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Filed under Ben, coping skills, depression, eating disorder, eating disorders, Hope, Independence, life events, New Life, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, trauma

beginning to dig through the yucky, yucky past

I’ve been thinking lately about where I am at in recovery in regards to my trauma work. For those of you who don’t know I have a pretty significant trauma history. Go here to understand psychological trauma. And because of that I have a variety of diagnoses relating to my trauma. My trauma also occurred over a number of years so it spans a vast majority of my life. One of the main reasons Ben, my service dog is in my life is to help counteract the symtoms of my trauma.

Past trauma affects many of my recovery sisters (including myself) on a day to day basis. It’s hard to describe to someone without a trauma history how hard it is to function when you live part of your life in fear of the past or spend the days avoiding triggers that could take you back to a memory that feels as though it is happening again. The worst symtoms of my trauma appeared while I was at Laureate and capitalized at CFC. I will go into details about those at some point because I think it is important to realize just how much the brain can affect the body and the past can affect the present but for now all I will say is I relived nightmare after nightmare for months

And so now I’ve been asking myself exactly where I am at in my trauma recovery. Some significant things in my life have settled down, I have been stable from self-harming behaviors for six months now (the longest since 2009), I am learning how to cope with one of my newest diagnoses, Ben and I are beginning to work out just how we can help each other the best, my support system is growing, I have goals and dreams and therefore a purpose for life, I’ve had some huge triggers thrown my way but worked through them with lots of tears and grief but no harm to myself. In short, it looks like it might be time to begin to work on things.

When I left CFC all of my trauma work got put on hold. I couldn’t be stable and do the work. I wasn’t stable at CFC when we did it but my therapist and I did it anyways. They had the means to keep me safe (albiet uncomfortable ones – hellloooo caution and blue scrubs) and we got a heck of a lot done. Yesterday in therapy for the first time since leaving CFC I pulled out my HUGE binder and started reading through the work we did. The recounting of my trauma, the shame, the guilt, the grief, the anger, the details – the nasty, gory, horrible, disgusting, gut wrenching, details. I wasn’t okay when I left. Benny and I sat in the waiting room for a long time cuddling (he managed to fit his entire body onto my lap – how is that possible?) with his head on my shoulder while I breathed slowly and willed the world to come back but then I got up, called a friend and drove home. I had nightmares last night. And the intrusive memories are there but the difference is that I’m determined. I’m determined to work on this yucky, yucky stuff. I have a purpose and a plan, one which I can’t share yet. But there is a reason to dig through this horrible reality of my past. And now I think just maybe I can do it. With the help of Benny and my support system, I’m going to be able to look back into my past and dig through it and finally come through to the other side and be able to say “I Made It”. That is what I want.

 

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Filed under Ben, bullying, depression, eating disorder, eating disorders, family, friends, Hope, life events, New Life, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, the past, trauma

What No Longer Defines Me: 

My eating disorder

Hospitalizations/treatment

This mythical idea of the ‘perfect’ job

This locked in view of who God is

The image of the ‘sheltered one’

Being a ‘drummer’

My school status

Choosing to be “the quiet one”

The victim role

What Still Defines Me But I am Working to Let Go Off

My PTSD

Memories

My fear

That illness

The option of self-destruction

Self-Blame

Shame

The hold they have over me

The attachment to the past

What Does Define Me

My relationship with Ben

The idea that my spirituality and faith can be fluid and changing. I don’t have it all figured out and I don’t have to fit into a mold and that’s okay.

My friendships. The true meaningful ones.

Giving back. Loving more.

Family, friends

Self-respect

Self-esteem

Recovery

Writing

Finding my passions and pursuing them

Dreaming and following those dreams

Allowing myself to Live. Truly live.

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Filed under Ben, depression, dogs, eating disorder, eating disorders, faith, family, friends, Hope, Identity, New Life, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, the past, trauma

“No” is a complete sentence. – Oprah

“Just say no!” That was the chant we learned in D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education). In high school a bored health teacher told a group of us equally bored sophomores that in a relationship no means no. In reality, no means different things. No, means keep convincing your parents until they say yes. It means nagging your friend until they are peer pressured into doing the dumb thing you want them to do with them. We are a society where no means – “convince me” or “it’s not over yet”.

However, there should be no more powerful word than the word no. It should be the end all be all. It should stop a child pleas for a toy, a friends pressure, a bullies taunts and a man’s hands. The reality? It doesn’t. I know from experience. For many years I have lived with the assumption and the belief that my voice has no value. That it is not heard. That because my “no’s” went unheeded time and time again the world remains an unsafe place that will continue to hurt me. The world will never change. It will always be a place of abuse, neglect and terror. A place where no matter what I say – I cannot stop the things that happen to me.

In therapy, we have recently begun to discuss how unless I begin to let myself believe that perhaps the world is safe and I can exist in it without being hurt I can never truly heal. I’m not sure I agree and I’m really not sure I can do this. To let go of my many, many layers of protection, to work through the fear in therapy would require a vulnerability that terrifies me to no end.

While browsing tumblr the other day I came across the quote:

“No” is a complete sentence. – Oprah

I stopped. Scrolled past it and then scrolled up again. And something inside me shifted it. Never in my young adult and adult life had my no’s been treated as complete sentences. They were invitations for manipulation, convincing, cunning, threats and force. Yet here was a woman who is known all over American for being wise saying that the word “no” is a complete sentence. This had never occured to me. Perhaps, I had done what I was supposed to have done. Perhaps my no should have been enough and it was the other people who were wrong. Not me. But them because they listen to my no. They didn’t hear it as a complete sentence even though it was.

So then maybe my work not only lies in not only in seeing this world differently but seeing myself and my past differently. That a no is a no and a no is a complete sentence. It wasn’t me that had it wrong but the other people in my life. And perhaps that should terrify me more. Knowing that I had no control over how someone reacted to something I said even though it was the right thing but for some reason it doesn’t. It makes me sit back and look at my past and think how messed up the people were who hurt me were. How messed up they were that they didn’t know that no was a complete sentence. And how if they haven’t learned that by now they are going to get in trouble in someway in the future.

So, I’m still terrified of giving up the belief that the world is an unsafe place. I’m not ready to do that yet but this does reframe things for me a little bit. It allows me to see that I did try to use my voice. It wasn’t heard but I did try to use it. And I did the right thing. And knowing I did the right thing  is a step towards lifting s a large amount of guilt and shame off of my shoulders

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Filed under bullying, Hope, PTSD, quotes, Recovery, survivor, the past, trauma, Tumblr

i am NOT a victim – four years was long enough

I wrote a post the other day. If you read my blog regularly I’m sure you read it. I’m not going to link to it because quite honestly I don’t like the post. I talk about how I am a survivor but also a victim. I could take down the post but that would be dishonoring how I felt in that moment and still do at times. This blog chronicles my journey and I made a pledge this year to tell my life story and part of my life-story is very much wrapped up around what prompted me to write that blog the other night. So hear is the back story that I left out.

 

There are people in my life who I hope and pray I never see again. I’m sure there are those people in everyone’s life like that. The list I have includes the usual – the classmates who were there when I went through my most awkward stages of development, those that betrayed confidences, the kid who shoes I passed out on while waiting in line in the college cafeteria (ok maybe that one isn’t that normal) who also happened to be the radio DJ who then talked about it on the college radio station, the professor whose class I had to take an incomplete in and then turn in a horrible paper that my starved brain somehow managed to produce, the music judge where I horribly messed up my piece and on goes the list.

However, then there is this other list. The list that includes the people who hurt me. I don’t want to see people on this list because of so many reasons. The memories that the encounter would produce. The possible flashbacks. The danger (yes danger). The vivid reminders of those times of my life. The absolute fear that these people still produce in me and the horrible reversal from survivor to victim.

The other night when I wrote that post. I was in a more victim stance. And why was I that way? It was because I had seen one of those people who had hurt me. Not in person. No thank God. However, as I waited for the elevator in my apartment complex I happened to glance at a photograph that hung on the wall that had previously been covered up by holiday decorations. My apartment decorates with pictures from all over my city. I like it. It’s unique and special. However, something about this picture was wrong. Immediantly, those little things that go off in my brain when faced with trauma triggers erupted because in the middle of the picture of our local swimming pool stood one of my tormentors. He was lifeguarding.

It was just a picture. I know this. However, to my brain in that moment (and actually still to some extent) this person and everyone who I associate with had suddenly invaded my apartment. My safe space. The space that I have created. The place I call my own. The place where I try to live without fear. Suddenly, my apartment was dirty. Unsafe. Invaded.

It was a rough night and next day. And in that mindset I wrote that blog. This picture is still up. I’d like to rip it from the wall or scribble over his face or draw a pig over it or do any of the other things my recovery sisters have suggested however this would be a bad idea considering there are cameras and I’m pretty sure not only would I get kicked out of my apartment but also get arrested. So my focus is going to have to be on how I’m going to handle this. I’m not sure right now. Beth is going to have to help me with this one. She’s going to have to help me figure out a way to make my safe place safe again. And she’s going to have to help me move out of the victim role into the survivor role again. Because I don’t want to stay in this fearful, scary place.

I don’t want this person or any or the other people who are associated with him to have any control of my life. They did for four long years. I think that’s long enough don’t you?

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Filed under bullying, coping skills, eating disorder, eating disorders, Hope, Identity, Independence, life events, Life Story, New Life, Recovery, survivor, the past, trauma