Tag Archives: survivor

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

i am a survivor but i was first a victim

In this blog I talk a bit about trama and victimization. It may be triggering to those who have experienced trauma. 

According to the American Psychological Association trauma is defined as follows:

an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. While these feelings are normal, some people have difficulty moving on with their lives.

Okay, so I’m one of those people who have “difficulty moving on with their lives”. And I’m one of those people who have those longer term reactions  All of those mentioned plus a whole host of others. Yay.

Ever since I’m learned and acknowledged (learned and acknowledged are two vastly different things – trust me) that I’ve experienced trauma, therapists have been trying to convince me and teach me how to be a survivor and not a victim. How to let my experiences be a part of life story but not define my life. Not let trauma run my life but instead let my actions be that of a person who is fighting for her life back instead of living trapped inside of the limitations placed upon it by herself or her abusers.

So the question is; am I a survivor or a victim?

In the treatment world being accused of being a victim is a terribly bad thing to be called. At least in my experience that is. It implies that you are not taking responsibility for your recovery. As a survivor you are fighting for your recovery tooth and nail and doing everything you can to move on and towards a new world.

But my question is can you be both?

I think the answer is yes. Sort of. I am a survivor. I work everyday to move past the affects of what happened to me but am I am victim of horrible people’s actions? Yes. But perhaps a better way to describe what happened to me is that I was victimized. However, that’s just playing with semantics. The reason why I can’t totally let go of the word victim is because I believe it let’s my abuser’s off the hook. It implies that I’ve forgiven them. That as a SURVIVOR I have taken all responsibility for the events that happened. Yes, I have to take responsibility for my healing. The people who harmed me cannot do that. But to loose the word victim entirely I think lessens the blame that should be laid at the abusers door.

But do I want to be referred to as a victim? NO. Please do not call me one. Call me a survivor because that is what I am. However, I am a survivor because I was first a victim.

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Filed under bullying, Identity, life events, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, trauma

mandalay’s past

This video shows me trying to get Mandalay our dog inside. Mandalay was abused before coming to us. We don’t know exactly how or by whom but at times the dog becomes absolutely terrified. This especially happens when we try to get her to come inside. She wants to so badly but she just can’t seem to trust me enough to follow me in. I feel so much compassion for her and sadness when she becomes so terrified. Her past still dictates her present. And no wonder! To feel that much terror her life must have been one horror after another. I often berate myself for how my past affects my present. I beat myself up because I expect myself to be “normal”, to forget what I have experienced, to be able to just jump feet first back into life as if nothing had happened.  But what happens if I like Mandalay am only reacting naturally  to what happened to me? Mandalay is a dog. She can only react insticulally. Perhaps my reaction is instictiual to. Perhaps I’m reacting like anyone would if they had lived in my shoes. And if that true I need to show myself the same compassion and understanding that I show Mandalay.

It isn’t often that I talk about my PTSD on here. It seems to be a little understood illness and I do judge myself for having the diagnosis and the symptoms that come with it. But I don’t judge Mandalay and essentially she shows many of the same signs of PTSD that I do (hypersensitivity, fear without apparent reason, past memories dictating current actions, inability to trust etc. etc.). Perhaps it’s time for me to watch this video of Mandalay and picture myself in her place. How does my therapist see me? My parents? My friends? My family? As a crazy person or someone who’s present is currently shaped by their past? Perhaps it is time for me to see myself as a person who is healing from the horrors of their past and begin to accept that my past is not my fault. It is time for me to begin to heal.

And I am blessed that I have Mandalay to journey down this road with me.


Filed under dogs, Identity, PTSD, survivor, trauma

my dog the bully

Tonight I took Shona to the dog park. She interacts really well with the other dogs and is usually the favorite amongst them. However, the last several times we have gone she has not tolerated puppies well at all. She has tackled them for no apartent reason and then there is lots of growling and snarling from Shona and the other adult dogs and yipping and yelping from the puppies. I’ve come to the conclusion that my dog is a bully.

Bullies are all too familiar to me. I was bullied elementary school through high school. Like the puppies, I didn’t do anything that I could see (ask me then though and I could list dozens of reasons I did. As an adult I can see differently) to deserve the bullying but for some reason it kept happening. Sometimes they would tell me it was because my clothes were wrong, other times it was because I was a teacher’s pet but most of the time there was no reason for it. I was simply picked on. I was at the bottom of the social food chain just like those puppies that my dog picked on today.

I can’t tell you why. Adults looking in couldn’t tell you why. Perhaps this is what made it so easy for teachers observing the dynamic to dismiss it. After all they probably thought “how could I stop it? Kate’s sensitive and kids are mean. It doesn’t really hurt. They kids are just joking. She just happens to be on the receiving end. It will cause no lasting damage”. They were wrong. Everyone who told me to ignore the bullying, all those teachers who assumed it was ‘no big deal’, my friends who told me I shouldn’t be so sensitive – they were all wrong. Bullying did cause me lasting damage. The effects still haunt me today. In fact looking back with Beth I can already see the beginning signs of PTSD caused by the bullies.

Bullying shouldn’t be taken lightly. Kids shouldn’t be dismissed. Teachers shouldn’t ignore the bullies and tell their students to ignore what is happening. It causes damage. Real lasting damage.  Jodee Blanco, the author of Please Stop Laughing at Us, is an activist who visits schools and talks to parents, teachers and students about bullying. She makes it exceedingly clear that bullying is dangerous and isn’t just a normal phase of growing up.  It damages people. It damages students. It damaged me.

Blanco has lots of stories about how kids affected her and other suriviors of what she refers to as peer abuse but I can really only tell you what happpened to me. Being bullied led to my low self-esteem then to self-hatred. It led to dreading school to fearing it. Bullying destroyed my voice and ability to speak for myself. And that is just a few things. I dont’ wish to go into how it led to the next chapter of my life but I can tell you that the abuse I experienced for those twelve years shaped my future.

I wish the schools here that I attended knew the hell I went through at their schools. Not one of my teachers allowed me to be hurt intentionally but it happened anyways. And I can guarantee that if it happened to me then it is happening to other students right now. I don’t want other students to face the challenges I faced. I don’t want a ten year old spending the next eight years of her life loosing herself as her peers taut and abuse her. I’m not sure how I can help but this summer I am going to think about possibly asking to speak at those same schools where years ago I feared walking through their doors. I wish someone would have spoken up for me. Perhaps, I can be that person for someone else.

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Filed under survivor, the past