Thirteen Plus Years and They're Still Calling It the Elephant in the Room... (approx. 9½ - 10½min. read)

I had a huge breakthrough and I want to share it with you. It didn’t come easy, in fact, it’s been years in the working, but it was definitely worth the wait!

As you know I’m a people pleaser and I’ve always put other people’s feelings, as well as their needs before my own. I didn’t do it regrettably, I just did it because I thought it was what I was the right thing to do.

For the most part, I didn’t even realize I was doing it, even though there were people that pointed it out, but what did they know? I’m an empath and I do things for other people, that’s just who I am, or should I say was? Because I’m not that way anymore.

I wasn’t actively working on changing anything about myself or working on recovery of any kind. I figured moving away from all that I knew was enough stress to deal with, and I was concentrating on making it through the move, but who would have known what was in the wings – so to speak.

Two days after we got to our property, my husband and I were sitting having a drink and he received a text from our kids. It was national wine day and it was a picture of the three of them holding up their glasses and toasting him. I waited for my phone to go off because it was the kind of text that usually came to me, but nothing. I thought maybe I was sitting in a dead zone, so I got up and walked around the trailer looking for a signal.

When I found a signal, I stood there in anticipation …minutes went by and still nothing. I turned to Gary and told him that something’s wrong, but he shook his head and said no. Then he gently put his hand on my arm and reassuringly said that everything was okay and that I was probably reading into it.

His reaction was the gentle reminder we had agreed on when he thought that I was catastrophizing. I’ve asked him to help me to be more aware of when I’m not thinking straight, and this seems to be working. I smiled at him, reminded him that they hardly ever text him and when they do, they send me one too, but he continued to reassure me that it wasn’t intentional.

An hour went by, and then another, but still nothing and I couldn’t help but start stressing about what I’d done to upset them this time. I couldn’t concentrate, and I sat in complete silence as some movie, I can’t even remember what was playing on the T.V. screen.

After what seemed like an interminable amount of time Gary announced that he was going to bed and came over to where I was sitting. He got down on his knees, put his head in my lap and asked me if he’d told me that he loved me today, and I told him yes. I stroked his hair before I told him that I loved him back and then he got up, kissed me on my lips and went to bed. We do this every night; it’s become part of our nightly ritual and I cherish it, but that night I just wanted it to be over, so I could have some time alone with my thoughts.

I waited about ten minutes to make sure Gary had gone to sleep and then picked up my phone for what seemed like the hundredth time. I knew it was on and had a full battery, but I still checked it to see if somehow, I had missed a call or a text, and that’s when the tears started. As they spilled down my face, I wracked my brains trying to figure out what I had done this time because it wasn’t the first time they had given me the silent treatment.

I thought long and hard into the wee hours of the morning about what I might have done to upset them, but I couldn’t come up with anything. Except that they might be mad we moved away, but that doesn’t make sense because they were the first ones to move away!

I felt so hurt and confused and the hopelessness of the situation made me cry even harder and the next thing I knew Gary was walking towards me. I’m not sure I’d ever cried so hard in front of him, and it was a long time before I was able to stop, but he just held me close to him.

The next morning, I tried to call my kids, but there was no answer. I left messages, and I’m pretty sure I followed them up with a text or two, but by the end of the day I still hadn’t heard anything, and I knew something had to be wrong. In the past, they had always called me back …well except when they were ignoring me which was something they had done on two other occasions.

I started questioning myself as I always did when someone didn’t return my calls. I asked myself what I might have said or done to upset them, but I couldn’t think of anything.

Over the next week or so, I continued to reach out to them, but still nothing …I just didn’t get it. What had I done to make them ignore me this time? Every waking thought during that week, was about them and trying to figure out what I’d done to upset them. Trouble was they wouldn’t call me back, so I was left completely alone with my thoughts to try and work through it.

More time went by and each morning when I rolled out of bed, my first thought was about them. I would think to myself - is this going to be the day they’re going to forgive me and let me know what I had done to upset them? Would this be the day they decide to accept me back into their lives?

It was dreadful, and I cried every day for just over a month.

Then one night while Gary and I were sitting talking about the situation between the kids and me, he said he didn’t understand why the kids felt the way they did? He said that I was a really good mother; that I had given my kids my life, but now it was time for me to take it back.

What Gary said to me really hit home and it got me thinking about myself and what I need for a change. Throughout my life I have always done for others because I never thought I was worth it - why would I? The only real family that’s supported me throughout my life is Gary and because he’s the real family, I question his love for me and whether I’m worthy for him. Why does he love me when nobody else in my family does? Is he blind with love because he hasn’t seen the real me yet or is it because he has seen the real me and he knows how good a person I am.

Honestly? These are some of the things that keep me awake at night because I never thought I was worthy of anything, especially living. At social gatherings, I would be questioned, interrogated and then accused of lying and doing things like self-diagnosing my PTSD. And, no matter how many times I answered certain questions, they would be thrown at me again and again, almost like someone was hoping I’d slip up and give a different answer.

…but as usual, I digress so back to my breakthrough.

This past weekend after months of being ignored by my kids, I received an email asking me if I was willing to talk about the “elephant” in the room with a mediator. I’m not sure what the “elephant” is, or why they’re calling it that, but I’m pretty sure they’re talking about my PTSD. The email basically told me it was my last chance to “prove” my side of the story.

My first thought was that I’d better comply with their wishes, because I didn’t want to lose them, but then I felt this unfamiliar feeling towards them, and that was anger.  I’d been miles and miles away from everything I’ve ever known for months, being completely ignored and the first contact I have is an email telling me I need to set up a date for a mediation. It said that I would have to back up my claims even though it also said they would be mostly anecdotal based on the fact that most of my evidence spanned over multiple decades. It also said that the conversation was going to be recorded and “fishiness” wouldn’t be tolerated.

I’ve had a lot of time over the last two months to be alone with my thoughts and I know the old me would have complied, but the new me? Not likely. I’ve spent the last two months focusing on myself and what I need and I’m here to say that being interrogated by a bunch of nay-sayers isn’t going to be part of my future. It’s been THIRTEEN years and my future is all about moving forward and I can’t move forward if certain people make me keep talking about the elephant in the room. Especially when most of the talking is trying to prove that the elephant even exists!!

It’s ludicrous and as that word appeared on the page, I’m reminded just how much I’ve changed this last little while. The old me would be back peddling and begging for forgiveness, but not this time, or ever again. I’m not afraid of what people will think anymore because I don’t care what anyone else thinks. Let me say it again because it feels so darn good – I DON’T CARE WHAT ANYONE ELSE THINKS!!!!!!!!! I’m suddenly aware; completely aware of how I’ve been allowing other people to treat me, and it’s almost like a switch flipped inside my head.

The best thing about all of this, was that dying by suicide never entered my mind once, and this was one of the biggest triggers I’ve had in a long time. I’ve never been clearer and more present about what I want and how I see myself moving forward. I am so done with the nay-sayers and I hope they know that the time for trying to decide whether you’re with me, or not has passed …and if that means cutting ties with certain people, then that’s what it means.

Today marks the beginning of the next leg of my journey and the one thing I’m sure of is that I will never let anyone make me feel unworthy or inadequate again, because I deserve so much better than that. Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

I'm Going to Repeat This Until It Sinks In... (approx. 5½ - 6½min. read)

I know I’ve written about this week’s topic in the past, but I truly believe that it’s been exponential in helping me on my journey to recovery, so I'm going to say this again ...and I'm going to repeat myself until it (finally) sinks in. Not necessarily for the caretakers of loved ones that are living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but for those of you that are living with PTSD.

But wait, that doesn’t give the rest of you permission to stop reading - it just means this blog isn’t about you. It’s about the people you love and if you want to know how to be more supportive, instead of hindering the one you love, please keep reading.

Fellow survivors - this blog is for you. It’s for those of us that are living with PTSD, so I don’t need to discuss what it is, how a person gets it, or why PTSD affects some people while others get away unscathed. You; the person this blog is directed at, knows what PTSD is and what it’s like for people like us to live with, so I’m not going to cover that in this blog. *

What I am going to go over with you is how I, myself, am learning how to live with PTSD and its symptoms, in hopes that it might help you as well.

Are you ready – I mean really ready? Because what I’m about to tell you won’t be easy, but it is the most important step in learning how to live with PTSD, especially when it comes to accepting yourself.

Here it is… YOUR LIFE IS ABOUT YOU AND NOBODY ELSE – did you get that?

Just in case you didn’t I’m going to repeat it - YOUR LIFE IS ABOUT YOU AND NOBODY ELSE. It doesn’t matter whether you have PTSD or not – the decisions you make should be ones you make that help you to move forward, not decisions that pacify others.

Your life is about you, and you alone, and I know that what I’m saying might be hard to digest but stick with me. You need to stop letting other people tell you how you need to live your life, or how you should deal with your PTSD. It’s your life; no one else’s and unless the person giving you advice is also a PTSD survivor – they know nothing about what it’s like to be a survivor. Moreover, they have no idea how much we; being empaths, take their criticism to heart and in order for us to move forward, we need to put an end to their criticism.

Now don’t get me wrong because I know it isn’t easy to stand up for yourself when it comes to a mental illness like PTSD. Most of us grew up around narcissists and the only thing they taught us was to pacify them and keep the peace. It didn’t matter what the cost or how detrimental it was to our well-being, it was literally all about keeping the peace, so we stayed quiet.

I myself was quiet until about three years ago, but then I started implementing the advice I’m going to give you into practice. I’m not going to lie, or candy coat it - it’s been rough. But; and it’s a big but, I don’t believe I would have come half as far with my healing and recovery if I wouldn’t have made these changes and made my life about me.

I started by distancing myself from the people, places, and things that exacerbated my PTSD symptoms, such as triggers, anxiety and/or depression. I told myself that it didn’t have to be forever, just until I felt strong enough to face these stressors without triggering myself or causing myself anxiety.

It wasn’t easy – believe me. We, as in you and me, have been people pleasing other people for the better part of our lives …for us, that’s all we’ve ever known. Disappointing certain people, while I was growing up meant that I would have to endure some kind of suffering, whether it was being ignored, being locked up, or worse… but I know that they can’t hurt me anymore.

You’re going to have many moments of doubt; I did. The uncertainty of doing something so unfamiliar is going to plague your mind like a disease with no cure. I had all kinds of conversations with myself …first I would be telling myself I was doing the right thing; that I was a good person, but in the next breath, I would hear myself repeating their words; useless; waste of space; attention seeker.

It was so difficult at first, and I spent the better part of every day – for months questioning myself and whether I was being too harsh. Like you, I live in my head; constantly questioning everything …am I safe? …did I say something wrong? …moreover, did I do something wrong?  Honestly, for me the list is endless, but I reminded myself that this wasn’t about anyone else – it was about me. My brain is injured and from now on my life is about learning how to live with that injury and either a person gets it, or they don’t; it’s that simple.

I’m done trying to defend myself to anyone – no matter who they are. I have PTSD, and this is my new normal. It shouldn’t matter that PTSD changed me and that it affects my day to day living – I’m still the same person underneath it all and I believe you should feel the same way.

Surround yourself with people that love you for who you are; flaws and all, because they will help you on this journey. They will help you to believe in yourself and that will help to give you the confidence you need in order to live your life for you, instead of continuing to live it for someone else.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

*If you need to know more about PTSD, or how it’s affected my life, please feel free to explore my website, as well as checking out these articles I wrote about PTSD:

https://www.consumerhealthdigest.com/real-stories/life-of-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-patient.html

https://healthama.amafeed.com/my-name-is-davina-lytle-and-im-a-freelance-writer-and-blogger-i-write-and-470325#c234312

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-fight-or-flight-response-2795194

...It's Time to Let It Go! (approx. 3½ - 4½ min. read) P.S. Sorry for the profanity, but I’m feeling quite rebellious.

Anyone have issues with pandemonium because I do? It fucks with my brain like it’s nobody’s business, trying to tell me that everything is completely out of control and I can’t hear myself think. My mind becomes an abyss and I do things like double-booking myself or I miss things all together. I think I’ve written things down; critical things and I even see myself doing it in my mind, but I haven’t. Worse yet, I get really irritable and do nothing but mumble grumpiness under my breath.

Why do I think this is an important topic for this week’s blog? Because I currently feel like my life is pure pandemonium and I’m not sure how I’m going to get through the next four months or so. I’m living in an area that’s approximately three hundred square feet, with the love of my life; Gary and a service dog; Laddie, that weighs eighty pounds. This means we each have about one hundred square feet to ourselves and it’s making me feel claustrophobic.

Add some “mess” to the tops of flat services, like my laptop, journal, a few dirty dishes and plans for the house and my mind starts to go squirrely. Because between the dining room table, entertainment centre and kitchen, there isn’t much more surface space than the top of a picnic table.

Then there’s the never-ending laundry hanging about while it’s drying. Gary’s and my bath towels on the backs of the dining room chairs, my lingerie in the bathroom and anything else that needs to be hand washed hanging wherever I can find a spot. It feels like pure mayhem because no matter where I look there’s clutter.

I would go outside for a reprieve, but right now it’s a construction zone and not only are there lots of things for me to trip over, there are foundation holes for me to fall into. I don’t want it to sound like I’m making excuses because I’m not, it’s part of the brain injury. For the most part, I “live” in my head instead of living in the present, if you know what I mean, and until things are safer, I’m going to stay inside.

When I spoke to Gary this morning about my concerns and how much everything was messing with my brain, he got frustrated and said he didn’t get it. He said that we were building a house; something we’ve always wanted to do, and he couldn’t understand why I wasn’t happy about that. He also couldn’t understand how I’m not able to look past the piles of dirt and see what he sees, and that is the fact we’re on our way to achieving a lifelong goal; building our dream home.

We’ve been together almost thirteen years and it’s times like these that remind me how much he doesn’t get my mental illness. Or how much it affects my thought process or where my brain goes (involuntarily, I might add), and I walked away from the conversation with Gary shaking my head and wondering how I was supposed to see what he saw?

He knows me, and he knows that when I get stressed, I clean. I started reverting to this behaviour when I was in my early teens after my parents divorced because at the time I felt invisible …and it was one of the few things I did that made my mother happy.

…but and it’s a big but, I know that my compulsion to clean isn’t normal, and instead of getting down about it, I need to look at my behaviour differently … more positively in fact. Because when I do, I see that there was a time and place for needing that kind of control over my surroundings, but that time is over. This is where my home is now, and the need to keep my living area spotless wasn’t my idea in the first place, it was merely to keep the peace, so I believe it’s time to let it go.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

 

Old Habits Die Hard. (approx. 2-3 min. read)

I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions because most people say they’re made to be broken, plus it’s a little late in the year to start working on one, but I’m going to tell you about one I made in 2017. I haven’t been able to achieve the resolution I’m speaking about because as we know, old habits die hard, but there isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not thinking about achieving this particular goal.

Have I got your attention yet? How about if I tell you that the resolution in question is really hard for someone like me because I’ve been made to believe that what I have to say isn’t important? That what I have to say is either a lie, it’s unimportant and/or unworthy of being discussed, or it’s offensive to someone.

Are you ready? My resolution is to end the conversation and by that, I mean, I want to walk away or hang up the phone after having a conversation with someone and I want it to be done - finished. I don’t want to walk away thinking about whether I said something wrong, or whether I upset someone - I want to end the conversation and not give it another thought.

Currently, I hang up the phone or walk away from sitting with someone and I go over everything I’ve said, especially if more than a week or two goes by without hearing from them; it’s awful! I play the conversation over and over in my mind trying to figure out what it was that I said, when for the most part, it’s nothing I said, it’s just that "they" got busy with life.

The trouble is I spend hours and hours stressing about this shit and it has to cease and desist because it’s taking its toll on my physical health. I need to stop worrying about whether I’ve said something to upset someone because not only is that highly unlikely that, it’s their issue, not mine.

I would never intentionally say anything to hurt someone because I lived that, and I know how traumatic it is …besides, that’s not who I am. I try to stay positive, and lift people up to help them see the positive aspects in their lives, instead of the negative, so nine times out of ten, it’s nothing I’ve said.

Which brings me back to why I want to end the conversation and walk away with a clear conscience; it’s not about me or anything I said. Let me repeat that: it’s not about me or anything I said and even if it was something I said, it’s still not about me. Going forward, I’m going to put sticky notes everywhere reminding me that it’s not about me. Furthermore, when I hang up the phone or walk away from a conversation, all I should be thinking about is the future, instead of dwelling on the past.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

I Think I May Be Finding Some Peace... (approx. 3½- 4½min. read)

I can’t believe that we’ll have been here two weeks tomorrow; the time has flown by. Gary (my husband) has been working really hard trying to get us set up, so that we can begin building our forever home. Since we got here he’s taken down at least twenty more trees, moved the shed to the other side of the property, as well as everything in it; including a fridge. He had to move the trailer, which then had to be re-blocked and re-levelled and put the deck back up.

While he’s been doing all of that, I’ve been making sure his belly is full, in addition to doing homework for the course I foolishly thought I had time for; “Writing for Publication,” working on my blog, burning the brush we couldn’t burn last year because we didn’t have a water source and any other little job my body is strong enough to tackle.

It’s been incredibly exhausting, because the days are long; most of them twelve to fourteen hours and we’re doing a lot of physical work, which is something we’re not used to. At the end of each day we drag our achy, dirty, and I mean dirty behinds inside, grab showers, eat some dinner and then crawl into bed; ready to start over the next morning.

I think I’m at peace, but I can’t ever remember being at peace, so I’m not sure what it feels like. All I know is that my mind and body have been in some sort of protection mode for most of my life; so much so that I find myself holding my breath a lot of the time. It’s almost like I’m constantly waiting for the sky to fall, because very often, it has.

…As I sat here trying to find the right words to explain how I’m feeling, I turned my head away from the computer and glanced out the sliding glass door; the only area of glass that isn’t covered in the trailer. I could see the trees at the edge of the forest swaying in the wind which were moving in time to the song playing on the radio. I became almost mesmerized and I felt this strange sense of calm, and I say strange, because again, being at peace or feeling calm, feels completely foreign to me.

It makes me wonder if I’m beginning to come out of this fog I’ve been in for at least the last twelve or so years? Did moving away from the city put my head in a different space? As you may know, I have the radio, or some sort of music playing all the time, and, in the city, I was always plugging my ears and saying, la, la, la, la really loud when I would hear words like shooting or stabbing during the news. Being here, the worst crime I’ve heard on the radio was about a bag of tools being stolen out of a truck and it’s been so… peaceful; not just quiet, but literally a place full of peace.

Honestly, I had no idea how much hearing those words triggered me and kept me on guard, until moving up here where you don’t hear them. I’ve been sleeping better than I have in years; decades in fact, and I haven’t felt angry; which was how I used to feel every, single, day.

I’m not sure why I felt so angry all the time …was it because of all the triggers around me, or was it the stress I constantly felt while trying to be everything to everyone? All I know it that somehow, I feel different and whatever it is that’s making me feel this way, I’m going to run with it like a quarter back running for the goal line in the play-off finals. If I squint as I head down the road towards what is starting to look like my recovery, I can almost see myself crossing the goal line, throwing down the ball and doing the jig – in complete and utter happiness.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

It Feels like Someone Flipped a Switch Inside My Head. (approx. 6½ - 7½ min. read)

So … are you curious about how the first week of living in a house on wheels went? Well, I’m going to tell you and I’m going to start with the first day when I almost took out the sliding glass door with my head!

The three-and-a-half-hour drive went relatively well, but you’d have to ask Gary (my husband) to be certain. I was extremely hyper-vigilante, and I’m pretty sure I gasped and slammed my foot down on an imaginary brake close to fifty times.

When we got to the trailer I found out that Gary had already put away all the stuff he had taken up there over the previous two days, so all I had to put away was the last load that we’d brought with us. I figured it would only take a couple of hours to sort through everything and I got right to it.

I was about half the way through unpacking when the inevitable happened; I injured myself. Like I’ve mentioned before, I get lost inside my head and don’t pay enough attention to my surroundings so I’m constantly tripping over my own feet. This time, they got caught up in the straps on my backpack; which was on the floor and I knew I was going down…

I’m honestly not sure what hit the floor first; my hip, my knee or my elbow, but as I went down all I could think about was how close I was to the sliding glass door directly behind me. It’s quite a small area; about ten feet wide and in that area, there was the couch, which was about two and a half feet wide and Laddie’s bed, which is three feet around. So, that left me less than four feet of floor space in between where I went down and the glass.

Honestly, I thought I was a goner. I envisioned my head going through the door and the glass falling around me; cutting me everywhere, but the universe was on my side for a change and all I ended up with were a few bruises.

The rest of the day was uneventful, and that night I slept like a baby - for the first time in months. The next day was extremely busy as we got started clearing the property and before we knew it, it was dinner time. It was too late to make anything, so Gary said he’d head into town and pick something up, but unfortunately, he didn’t make it; he got pulled over by the Ontario Provincial Police (O.P.P.).

Gary said that the officer tailed him for about ten minutes and then just before he got to town, the flashing lights went on and the officer motioned for Gary to pull over. Gary was floored because he hadn’t been speeding or done anything illegal, but he obeyed the law; put on his signal to indicate he was pulling over and parked on the side of the road.

The officer got out of his car, walked up to Gary, motioned for him to roll down the window and asked Gary for his license, registration and proof of insurance. Gary was thinking to himself, no problem, as he reached into the glove compartment to get what the officer had asked for. He took out what he needed, turned back around to the officer and handed him his license, etc. The cop thanked him and then he turned to go back towards his car.

Less than ten minutes later the officer was back and much to Gary’s dismay he wasn’t handing him back his information and telling him to go on his way. Instead, he was asking for some other proof of insurance because he said the slip he’d taken out of the glove compartment had expired, and when Gary looked at it, he realized the officer was correct.

That was when Gary called me and asked me for an up to date insurance slip. He was calm, but as soon as I heard he’d been pulled over, I started to panic because breaking the law isn’t something we do. Immediately my hands started to shake, and I started to stumble over my words. I grabbed my wallet out of my purse and when I pulled out the insurance slip, I was shocked to see that it was also an expired slip.

I started to panic even more and questioned whether I was losing my mind as I frantically went through our insurance file to see what “I had done.” I have to admit that I just about lost it when I couldn’t find an up to date slip - I was mortified! Had I let our insurance lapse? I hung up from speaking with Gary and tried calling our insurance broker, but the wait time was forty-five minutes and I didn’t have that kind of time, so I hung up…

I looked up at the universe, screamed out a bunch of profanities and then called Gary back to let him know what was going on. Gary relayed what I said to the officer and the officer said, unfortunately, he needed proof of insurance or he was going to have to write Gary a ticket to appear in court. He also said that unless we could find two licensed/insured drivers to come and pick up our car; quickly, he was going to have our vehicle impounded; an extra cost we really can’t afford.

…I was awake all night worrying about what had happened …had I made a mistake and let the insurance lapse? As you know, I live inside my head totally oblivious to the rest of the world a lot of the time. I was afraid that Gary was in trouble because of me and I spent the night racking my brain to try and figure out how to get the charge transferred to me because this was my fault; not Gary’s.

The next morning, I crawled out of bed; exhausted, and I called the insurance company to find out what had happened. It turned out that my sleepless night was for naught because we had insurance. I’m not sure why the insurance company changed the policy number; they didn’t say. They also didn’t say why we didn’t get any notification of the new policy number and insurance slips, and I’m pretty sure we’ll never find out.

However, it doesn’t matter. What matters is sometime in between the first and fourth day of being here, something changed. It’s almost like someone flipped a switch inside my head and I began to feel more comfortable with my surroundings, as well as the decision to move out here.

I love this spot; I have ever since we came across it, and I know I’m going to love it even more once our home is finished. It’s everything we’ve always wanted - right down to the walking trail just outside the back door. The property is big enough for us to grow a full vegetable garden, and there are miles in between us and any farm fields. Which means that our garden will be protected from the chemicals farmers use, so everything can be grown organic. More importantly, we have a well; our own water source and it’s clear and without any odors, so we’ll never have to pay for water - again.

Can you hear the excitement in my voice - because it’s there! I really am beginning to see that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel I’ve been walking down. I’m finally starting to feel good about my life and where it’s going and although this next chapter has been a long time starting, I’m going to give myself permission to make it all about me …I believe it’s time.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

Moving onto the Next Chapter - (approx. 3½ - 4½ min. read)

It’s ten-thirty in the morning on May 16th; our final moving day and I can’t help but think I’m making the biggest mistake of my life. We’re moving away from family, friends and all that’s familiar, and by familiar, I mean the area where I’ve lived for most of my life. Sure, it hasn’t always been the same town, but I’ve never moved farther than sixty kilometres from where I grew up and I believe this is the scariest thing I’ve ever done.

We aren’t even moving to a house, we’re moving into a tin can parked in the middle of a field of mud; a construction zone, and we have a dog. I’m a friggin’ clean freak (not really a freak, but I’m sure you get what I mean) and I’m afraid the dirt is going to make me lose my mind! I’m not sure I can remain calm when there is much disarray and it’s scaring the crap out of me.

I’ve been crying all morning and I can’t seem to stop, even though I feel bad; really bad. Contrary to how I’m feeling, Gary is over the moon and I feel like I’m raining on his parade. What we’re doing is a dream of his; to move away from the city and build a house, and I should be over the moon too, but right now I’m powerless when it comes to getting my emotions under control.

…what exactly am I afraid of?

Am I afraid because I’m going to be hours away from my kids? They’re adults now and have families of their own; my job is over. I raised them to be loving, caring, compassionate women and that they are. In fact, I got an email from one of my youngest daughter’s Uncles the other day and in describing my daughter, his exact words were, “you raised a very kind, gentle and caring daughter.” So, like I said, my job of being a parental figure is over, and there’s no need to be afraid about my kids and how they’re going to do.

Am I afraid because I’m going to be hours away from all my friends? I know that no matter how far away I am, or how infrequently I see them, they will always be part of my chosen family? I know they love me and no matter how much time goes between visits we will always be able to pick up where we left off. Besides, Gary (my husband) says that I make friends wherever I go and he’s right so when I’m ready to head out into my new environment, it will only be a matter of time before I make friends here.

Or am I afraid because I’m terrified of what this might do to mine and my husband’s relationship? We’re out in the middle of nowhere, building our forever home and except for a few things like electrical and septic, we’ll be doing it all on our own. We have an incredibly strong relationship but when things go wrong, and they will, am I going to be able to roll with it? Or am I going to blame him for moving me a million miles away from everything, except him, that I found comfort in?

Honestly, forget the first two reasons because the last one is enough to scare anyone. There are so many things that can and will go wrong and that’s not being negative, that’s being a realist. Look at what’s happened so far, we’re already behind schedule and because I’m such a catastrophizer I’m worried that we aren’t going to get finished. That thought is looming over my head like a little black storm cloud …there’s no way I can spend another winter living on the fly like we did this past winter.

Whatever it is that’s scaring me I need to get over it. Moving into the country to build a house; our house with the person I love is everything I’ve always wanted and now I’ve got it. It’s time to stop worrying about my kids and if they’re okay and time to worry; or better still, care, about me, myself and I. I raised great children and they’re going on to raise even greater children of their own. I’ve got an incredible partner that loves and respects me as much as I love, and I respect him, and I believe it’s time to move onto the next chapter of my life.

Hope you’re doing whatever you need to do to move onto the next chapter of yours. Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

Two Hundred Eighty-Six Days and Counting... (3-4 min. read)

It was supposed to be moving day eight days ago, but it’s been delayed, and I can’t help but feel like a fish out of water. It’s been two hundred and eighty-six days since we started living out of our suitcases and the only thing that kept me sort of sane, was the fact that we’d be on our own as of May 1st, but that fell through and I’m feeling really sorry for myself.

I just want to be in my own space, so I can let my hair down, so to speak, and be myself. I’m tired of having to put on a fake face so that I don’t upset anyone, especially my grandkids. They don’t understand why their Meema seems moody or isn’t listening to them. They don’t understand that even though I’m sitting in the same room as them, sometimes I’m not aware of my surroundings, and I worry so much about offending them.

…and I know there are way bigger problems in the world, but right now I feel completely defeated.

The worst thing about it is there’s absolutely nothing we can do to change it because it’s completely out of our hands. There’s a load/weight restriction that’s in place every year, between March 1st and April 30th to protect certain roads from being damaged during the thaw and we knew that – hence the reason we planned to start May 1st.

In comes the ice storm of 2018 and we end up with close to seventy centimetres of snow and they ended up extending the road restrictions until May 15th! Which means that vehicles that weigh more than five tonnes per axle aren’t allowed on our road until after May 15th.  Plus, the fact that we were so distracted by the weather that we forgot to book an appointment to have our power hooked up by Hydro One and when we called they told us the earliest they can get there is May 25th! Twenty-four days after we were supposed to get started.

We looked into using our generator for power until we can get power hooked up, but with the price of gas we would go through our monthly budget on that alone and we just can’t afford it. Plus, the fact that it could prove difficult to power the water pump with the generator and we might not have access to water. Not exactly something I’m willing to do, especially when we’re living in a house on wheels in the middle of a construction zone.

I’ve been really struggling with trying to stay positive and I haven’t written a blog in weeks. I thought that if I couldn’t find something nice to say, it was better not to say anything, but that isn’t the point of this blog, is it?

I created my blog to be a survivor’s guide and if I candy-coat what it’s like to live with PTSD, then I’m not being honest with you, or myself. Building a house ourselves is something we’ve never done and I’m not going to lie - it’s going to be really rough over the next six months. But, and it’s a big but, it’ll be harder if I try to do it alone. So, from now on you’re going to get the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

Burning the Candle from Both Ends... (approx. 1 ½ - 2 min. read)

As you know we’ve been living out of our suitcases for close to a year now and although it may appear like I’ve been keeping my shit together, I haven’t been.

…I’m exhausted. We’re supposed to have our well, septic and temporary hydro in so we can start to build our house May 1st, but because of one thing or another, we’re going to be at least a couple of weeks late.

I just want to be alone with my man, but it feels like it’s never going to happen and although I’m trying to stay positive, I’m finding it quite difficult. I always try to tell myself that things are good and that everything will work out, and usually that works pretty well for me, but right now I can’t stop thinking that it’s all a bold-faced lie and I just don’t have the strength to put on a fake face anymore.

I’ve lost over ten pounds in the last nine months and I know some people would welcome the weight loss, but I just can’t afford to lose any more weight! I don’t know if it’s nerves, or if something is really wrong, but while I’m having it checked out, I’m going to take another much-needed break.

It’s going to be hard because as you know I feel this obligation towards you; my followers, but I’ve been burning the candle at both ends of the stick for far too long and it’s time I took care of myself. I’m completely, and utterly wiped out ….broken and in pieces.

Honestly. I don’t have anything to give myself, let alone anyone else, and it’s hard for me to admit that, but it’s true. I’ve been pushing myself and trying to be strong, but it’s time I took my own advice and did some #selfcare. We’re moving, again, in just under two weeks and I’m going to take that time, and possibly more to get right in my head, if you know what I mean? I’ll probably see you on Twitter and Facebook, but for the most part, I’m going to be MIA while I do what I need to do, to get myself, as well as my health back to where it needs to be.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

You Know Your Partner Has Your Back When… (5½ - 6½ min. read)

Do you remember when the central serous retinopathy (CSR) got really bad in my right eye? I wrote that my eyesight deteriorated to 20/60 in 2016, but it was actually 20/80 at one point and I had been told to eliminate all stress in my life.

It was the year my daughters and nephew were disowned, as I had been, by my family of origin. We had all started asking questions and instead of getting answers, we got a call from the police telling us we needed to stop. The police said that they’d read over all the emails that had gone back and forth between all of us and realized that there were always two sides to every story, but they said it was my family of origin sitting at the police station putting in the complaint, not us and wondered why I never had my abusers charged?

…I’ve read far too many cases similiar to mine where the victim is scrutinized, and their characters are torn apart in order to prove that the perpetrator is a better person than the victim. I’ve also read that they humiliate the victim, make them look like they aren’t credible, and they leave them broken and feeling more shame than their abusers ever bestowed on them, but I digress…

I was going through a really tough time with my family of origin and because the CSR was acting up, I had been told by my ophthalmologist to avoid stress of any kind; good or bad. As you know that’s pretty hard for someone living with PTSD because just about everything causes stress, but I was going to do whatever it took in order to get my sight back.

Around this time, my husband, Gary and I got invitations to a Stag and Doe, as well as a wedding; they were for his best friend’s youngest daughter and her fiancé. Gary and I discussed it and even though I hadn’t been to a gathering with more than ten people in ages, we decided to go to the Stag and Doe.

When we got there, I was mortified to see that there were hundreds of people there - literally!!! I wanted to get back in the car and head home, but this was important to Gary, so instead, I grabbed hold of Gary’s hand and we went inside. It was raucous! Everyone seemed to be talking at the same time, and they were all trying to be heard above the country music blaring out of what seemed like a hundred speakers.  A bottle smashed on the floor behind me and I heard angry words coming out of somebody’s mouth and the next thing I knew I was grabbing my purse and heading back outside. I raced out the door and found a quiet place where I could cry uninhibited and lit a joint wondering how I was going to get through the night.

Needless to say, that a week before the wedding, the only thing on my mind was the fact that I knew I couldn’t do it – that the stress would put me over the edge. Like I mentioned, I never went to celebrations, especially if they involved more than ten or so people. Yes, I’d gone to the Stag and Doe but that was enough! Gary’s best friend and his family knew that I had PTSD and how hard it was for me to be amongst a lot of people, after all, we’d talked about it on numerous occasions. They of all people should understand why I wasn’t willing to put myself under that kind of stress, particularly when I’d been told, it might make me lose the sight in my right eye.

Now, don’t get me wrong because a lot of thought went into it, trust me; I agonized over the decision for months. This was my husband’s best friend and his family and I knew that they meant a lot to him; he had known Scott since public school! Plus, I was afraid that not going to Scott’s daughter’s wedding would make Scott really angry and that it might destroy the friendship, but Gary reassured me that they would understand.

Anyway, the morning of the rehearsal dinner I was an absolute basket case. I hadn’t slept in days, I couldn’t stop crying because I felt so utterly fucked up! Here I was unable to support my husband in something incredibly important to him because of a fucking illness! I just couldn’t get my head to put myself under that kind of stress – if that makes any sense?

Gary and I talked about it; for around the hundredth time and we decided to call them and tell them we weren’t going to be able to make it. My hands shook as I dialed the phone, but I insisted that I would make the call. They were upset and told us that it would really hurt their daughter if we didn’t show, but they said it was okay and we hung up the phone, not knowing it was the last time we were going to speak to each other.

Obviously, they just didn’t get it because it’s been almost two years since we’ve heard from them …even though we’ve called and left multiple messages.

I feel so bad… I feel like the loss of the friendship is completely and utterly my fault. I’ve apologized and continue to apologize to Gary but he just keeps telling me that it doesn’t matter because I’m his family now, but I still can’t stop hoping that one day Scott will put his anger aside and call what was supposed to be his best friend.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

*Names have been changed.

Stepping Way Outside my Comfort Zone! (approx. 5 – 6 min. read)

About a week and a half ago it was my birthday and in January when I was transferring everyone’s birthdates over onto the new calendar I wrote “Do something that scares you,” on mine. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do or even if I’d be able to do something, but I made it a goal. As the day got closer, the goal that I’d set for myself seemed to get heavier and heavier in my head, almost like the proverbial elephant in the room, but I refused to let it get me down and on my birthday, I challenged myself to do something my therapists had been telling me to do for over a decade.

The day before my birthday I still hadn’t figured out what I was going to do. I had thought about rock-climbing because I’m absolutely terrified of heights, but I injured my shoulder in a fall back in January, so that was out. We were moving again, and I told myself that was probably enough of a scare, but we’ve done that so many times in the last eight months, I thought my goal needed to be bigger than that.

Over the months preceding my birthday I talked to friends and told them what I was up to. I asked if they had any ideas, but we still couldn’t come up with anything. As I lay awake that night thinking about how lucky I was to be celebrating another birthday, it finally came to me; I was going to go to where I was held up. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I got there, but I finally had a plan. I mulled it over in my mind throughout the night, trying to decide if I should try and go inside when I got there, or if I should just sit in the parking lot.

The next morning, I had made my decision and that was to pick up a coffee at Tim Horton’s, and sit in the parking lot until I finished it, or at least until I wasn’t scared anymore. I knew it was a pretty intense goal, and I had no idea how I was going to react, but I knew it was time. Besides, Gary and Laddie were going to be with me, so I wasn’t going to be alone.

When Gary got up that morning I told him what I wanted to do and that made it real for me, because now it was written in stone – so to speak, and it scared me so much that I cried when I told him about how it was going to go down. He asked me if I was sure I wanted to put that much pressure on myself and I had to swallow hard before I said yes, but there it was. He came over to where I was standing, put his arms around me, kissed my forehead and told me he was so proud of me.

We packed the rest of our stuff into the car and started heading towards my last place of employment. I was incredibly nervous and felt like I was on the verge of a panic attack. As I sat in the passenger seat it felt like the car was careening forward completely out of my control and it reminded me of the last time I was on a roller coaster and I started to cry.

I thought about the decision I’d made and the more I thought about it I started to backslide. I couldn’t help thinking that there was a possibility I could trigger myself. It was my birthday and supposed to be a day of celebration and I started to doubt myself. I began thinking that doing something that scared me was a really dumb idea, but I kept my thoughts to myself and didn’t say anything to Gary. I think I was afraid that he might be disappointed in me…

We stopped at the coffee shop just around the corner to grab a couple of coffees and I had to run inside and use the washroom - those darn PTSD nerves, but then the next thing I remember is that we were pulling into the parking lot. I wanted to park somewhere that would enable me to see the reception area because that’s where it happened, and as we drove around looking for a spot to park, all the memories came flooding back.

We found a parking spot right out front and backed in, so I could look straight at it while I was trying to face my fear. I took out my cannabis tin, pulled out a joint and looked directly at the reception area. Gary reached over and squeezed my hand in such a comforting way, I almost started crying again. I reminded myself to breathe, then lit the joint and inhaled the smoke like it was the last breath I was going to take. As I exhaled, I thought to myself that it wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be because here I was sitting less than five hundred feet from where I was held up and I felt strong instead of feeling weak.

I opened my coffee, tipped it in Gary’s direction and said cheers! Then I looked towards the place that changed my life forever, worried that it would trigger me, but strangely enough I didn’t think about the terror I felt that day. Instead I thought about some of the people I worked with and how kind some of them were to me. I thought about the friends I used to have there, and I smiled to myself while remembering about some of the fun we’d had together.

I’m not sure how long we sat there, but I finally turned to Gary and said, okay, I’m good, let’s go.  He smiled at me, turned the key in the ignition and put the car in drive. We pulled out of the spot we were parked in and headed towards the exit.

As we drove back out onto the road, I let out a huge “whoop, whoop!” I was over the moon! Instead of being triggered, I felt this incredible sense of power; almost like I had just slayed a dragon and I was so darn proud of myself! I stepped way, WAY outside my comfort zone and took the first step towards reclaiming control over my life and although it took years, I did it!

Have you done something that scares you lately because you should. This was the first time I had intentionally scared myself in almost thirteen years and the empowerment I felt, and still feel, far outweighs the fear I had around it.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

A Second Chance (approx. 5 - 6 min. read)

We’ve packed up our suitcases and moved nine times since July of last year and for the most part, we’ve been alone where we stayed, but this time we’re staying with my oldest daughter and her family. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very excited to be here and build on the relationship she and I were never able to have but being out of my comfort zone for over eight months is really messing with my head.

Leading up to the move I was beside myself with worry about what she may think of me once she’d spent more than a couple hours with me. She’d always been told by my family of origin that I didn’t have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), that I had Munchausen’s Syndrome. Which is a factitious disorder; a mental disorder where a person makes up illnesses even though they aren’t actually sick and that the only thing wrong with me was that I’m a liar; a story-teller.

We had to come here a day early because my daughters youngest was sick and she didn’t have anyone to watch her while she went to work and the change in plans messed with my head so much that I really thought I was losing my mind – or what was left of it. I couldn’t stop crying – it was like someone turned on the taps! Every time I turned around there were tears streaming down my face and although I got so many reassuring hugs from Gary, I felt incredibly broken.

Usually, when I’m feeling this way, I shut down. I close all the curtains, lock the doors and try to recover myself if you know what I mean? I watch music videos, crank up the music and dance, colour or just scroll through Twitter looking for positive tweets so that I can read and share, but I couldn’t do any of these things. We were going to be staying with people instead of being alone, so instead, I had to put on a fake face and pretend that everything was rosy when that was the furthest thing from the truth!

Honestly, I was so depressed that it was hard to explain how or what I was feeling, all I knew was that I couldn’t stop crying. I felt like I was down at the bottom of a deep dark hole, trying to claw my way out, but the dirt just kept falling on top of me, burying me, suffocating me. During the drive, I thought about asking Gary to just take me to the nearest crisis centre because I felt dangerously close to losing touch with reality and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through this second last move.

When we finally got to my daughter’s place, she looked at me and said, you sure are crotchety Mom, are you mad at me? I burst into tears and said of course not, but then I told her exactly how I was feeling. I opened up completely and told her that I was afraid of what she was going to think of me after we’d lived together for a month, that if she really knew how fucked up I felt most of the time, I would lose her again.

It turns out that she’s been struggling with her own demons because last night, she had a panic attack. She was making my birthday dinner and although she wanted everything to be perfect, she was making my favourite meal and she’d never made it before. She asked Gary how to make it, but not how much of it she needed to make, and she ended up making quite a lot. To be honest, I wasn’t paying any attention to what she was doing, because we were talking about our pasts and how messed up they were but when Gary came upstairs and looked into the pot he said wow, are we feeding an army?

She immediately took what he said as criticism and I watched as she started sliding down the slippery slope of self-doubt that had been instilled in her by my family of origin. She kept saying she was sorry and asking if we were mad at her, and I told her of course not. I told her that now we wouldn’t have to make dinner the tonight because we had left-overs, but she just kept apologizing. After we had reassured her that it was an honest mistake and that of course we still loved her, she opened up and told us that there were other people from her past that would have been mad at her for something as mundane as “wasting” food.

Thinking about it now makes me feel really bad because I had no idea that all these years she had been criticized and ridiculed or that she’d been told by my family of origin that I never wanted her, or her sister. They also told her that I didn’t ‘really’ love her or her sister, and because of that, she has always doubted my love for her. Worse yet, she’s always doubted herself …how could you not doubt yourself if you didn’t think your mother loved you?! So here she was thinking she’d done something to disappoint me, after only a few days, and she had a panic attack!

It was almost like watching a video of myself and instead of feeling that this move was going to break her and I further apart, I felt like it was going to bring us closer together. Honestly, I feel kind of like I just moved in with myself because we’re so alike and I’m not worried anymore. I feel like I’ve been given a second chance and I believe that this next month is going to be great! I’m going to take full advantage of this time (all 51,660 minutes of it!!) to strengthen our relationship and show her that good mother’s really do love unconditionally.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following!

 

 

Doing Some #selfcare (approx. 1 min. read)

Today, we’re packing up and moving for the seventh time since we sold our house, and I’m stressed to the max!! I thought I was doing pretty good, but this last week or so it's been really hard and I'm struggling to put two words together without crying.

…who the heck am I kidding?!

It hasn’t been a week or so - it’s been months since I’ve been doing good; eight in fact and I just don’t have words right now.

As usual, I’ve been putting so much pressure on myself to work on my book, and I even tried to keep up with my blogs, but I just can’t do it right now and I’m honestly okay with that. I’ll be back - you know I will. For now, I need to take a break. Ironically, I won’t have internet for a few days, so it should be easy to take some time and do some self-care but like I said, I’ll be back.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

This Makes My Heart Ache… (approx. 6 ½ - 7 ½ min. read)

Bullying, need I say more? It’s been going on since the 18th century and continues to this very day. I was bullied in school; my kids were bullied in school and their kids are now being bullied in school so for me it doesn’t feel like much has changed. I feel like bullying is still pretty much considered “innocent misadventure’ or ‘misbehaviour,” for the person doing the bullying because when the victim seeks out help, they are basically told that they should just stay away from “that child.” That if they didn’t put themselves in harm’s way, they wouldn’t get bullied; almost like it’s the victim’s fault instead of it being the other way around.

Today there are four types of bullying; verbal, social, physical and cyber, but back in my day there were only three. Most of the bullying I’ve had to deal with has been verbal, and sometimes that’s harder because negative words can still be bouncing around in a person’s head, long after their physical scars have healed.

I started to get bullied when I was quite young, and it always seemed to be comments about my physical appearance. One of those nasty comments was about my hair and the fact that it was so blonde, it looked almost white, so I got called an Albino all the time. When it first started I didn’t quite understand what an Albino was, only that they were different but because of my home life, and the fact that I already felt like I was different, this made me feel like I didn’t fit in anywhere.

Kids would point and laugh. They would push me and say nasty, hurtful things to my face and I would cry – a lot. When I reflect back on my childhood, I feel like I spent the better part of it crying, but when I talked about it and tried to get help, I was always told that I was far too sensitive.

As I got older, the bullies stopped calling me an Albino and instead started calling me something worse; a name that was a reference to a male’s bodily fluid and that name was given to me by a boy I wouldn’t have sex with. He was a football player and had never had a girl say no to him, needless to say, that when I said no to him, he was so offended he spray-painted “Davina C. cum coloured,” all over our school!

It was mortifying! There were people at school that hadn’t called me names prior to the spray-painting incident at the school, and now they were joining in on the bullying. The worst memory I have of the incident was that nobody seemed to care that I was being bullied! In fact, the only adults interested in helping me remove the damaging graffiti from the school were the parents of one of my good friends – the Dullaerts.

Years later when my first child started school I was disappointed to find out that not much had changed when it came to bullying because it wasn’t long before she was being bullied as well.

I was working full time, so I had to put her in an after-school program. For the first couple of weeks, it was great, but then one day closer to the end of the first month, all that changed. I got to the school to pick her up and she ran towards me crying. I looked for the reason and was quick to notice that she had a huge goose egg in the center of her forehead. I turned to the program coordinator and asked her what happened, and she responded by saying that a boy in the program had pushed my daughter down the stairs. When I tried to question her about it, she told me that although it had happened in her program, I needed to speak with the principal about it because it happened on school property.

I immediately headed towards the office to speak to the principal, but he passed the responsibility back over to the after-school program. I tried to talk to him, but he basically said my daughter must have done something to provoke it. Needless to say, I was forced to withdraw her from the program and find a private babysitter to take care of her after school.

My second child was treated pretty much the same, but it wasn’t just happening on school property; her bullying escalated to the point where she was being followed home from school by her tormentors. They would say nasty things to her, all the while throwing things at her and they physically harmed her more than once – the worst thing was that they were relentless.

I spoke to the school, but they refused to do anything about it; they said the bullying wasn’t happening on school property, so it wasn’t their responsibility. I argued with them because I believed it was their responsibility. All of the abuse was happening while my daughter was walking home from school and if it wasn’t their responsibility to keep her safe until she got home, whose was it?

Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, and I watched my youngest daughter fall into a downward spiral. She became terrified to go to school and she started shutting down on a Sunday in anticipation of what she knew was facing her at school. It was so hard to watch because she was becoming depressed and it seemed like nobody cared. I spoke to the school every day, but they just kept passing the buck, so I called the police.

I thought that if I got the police involved, they would definitely get the bullying to stop but after listening to her story they told her that if they got involved, it would only make it worse and told her to just keep her head down. She agreed, what else could she do?!

Now, almost five decades later, unfortunately not much has changed. I have four grandchildren ranging in age from four years old to eight years old. They are all gingers; redheads, but the hair on my oldest grandchild is more brown than red, so it appears that hair colour doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to bullying because every one of them has either been bullied or is currently being bullied at school.

It makes my heart ache. Why is bullying still an issue amongst our kids? Statistics state that almost two hundred thousand kids stay home from school each day because they’re afraid of being bullied. Why is that and why do I feel like there aren’t enough people asking what is wrong with this picture?!

A large portion of these kids are turning to suicide because to them it doesn’t seem like anyone is listening to their fears. Suicide has become the third leading cause of death amongst our youths and the numbers are worse for bully victims because they are more likely to consider suicide as an out, than someone who isn’t being bullied.

If you aren’t sure what to look for, here are some of the warning signs of suicide:

·       Showing signs of depression, withdrawing from others, losing interest in activities they used to love, ongoing sadness, trouble going to sleep, or staying asleep and eating

·       Showing or talking about an interest in dying or death

·       Engaging in harmful activities like self injury, substance abuse or reckless behaviour

·       Saying good-bye to loved ones or giving away a person’s favourite possessions

·       Saying they can’t take it anymore, that life is too difficult for them to handle

·       Saying the world or the people around them would be better off without them

In all conscience, it’s really tough knowing that bullying is still going on, especially when two out of nine kids being bullied feel that suicide is their only option. Victims are still being made to feel like it’s their fault they’re being bullied, and that they have nowhere to turn. Honestly, I fear for my grandchildren as well as for the youths of today because it seems like things are getting worse instead of getting better, and it begs the question - when are we going to start helping the victims instead of continuing to make excuses for the bullies?!

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/bullying-and-suicide.html

https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/sites/default/files/2017-11/CSP_Fact_Sheets_bullying_eng.pdf

http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/45838.html

This Makes My Heart Ache… - (approx. 6 ½ - 7 ½ min. read)

There’s Been a Shift… (approx. 5 – 6 min. read)

I’ll bet you’re wondering how the ‘event’ I spoke of last week transpired and I’m going to tell you but I’m trying to get it all straight in my head first.

As you know, I’ve been incapacitated for the last decade or so with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and as one of my close friends reminded me the other day, I used to be unable to leave the comfort of my own home. She reminded me what I was like when we first met; that I was terrified of the outside world and I barely ever left the house. She and I were and still are, always discussing goals and at that time, one of mine was to get out of the house more.

I reinforced my goals by writing them down in my gratitude journal, and this goal started with “It would make the day better if,” and I finished the sentence with: I could sit on the front step of the house for five minutes. At first, I never thought past five minutes because I wasn’t sure I could get past one minute, let alone five. I’ve learned that it’s important to set goals that are achievable and will help me to move forward instead of setting goals that might push me over the proverbial edge and set me back.

Prior to setting this goal, weeks would go by without me opening up my front door let alone poking my head outside, so like I said I needed to keep it simple. Although, if I’m honest, I’ll admit that it wasn’t simple at all, especially in the beginning. Some days were unpretentious, but others were impossible and during the first weeks, and months it felt like I would never get through the first five minutes, let alone gain the courage to leave the front step, but things have completely changed for me.

I’m honestly not sure how long the change took or what the process was because like most other PTSD warriors, I live in my head and I lose time and lots of it! In fact, there are lots of times when I feel almost like I’m waking from a long nap and I think that’s why the changes I make in my life seem so subtle, but who knows?!

What I do know is now that I’ve awoken from this nap - the one that has felt like it’s been going on for at least a decade – the changes were anything but subtle! When I look back on the last decade I can only compare it to a competition like the Iditarod, which they call the last great race on earth! I’ve come miles and miles; circumvented enormous mountains and even larger crevices, searched almost impenetrable forests, and crossed tundra that was so bleak, I never felt like I’d ever be a part of it. But and it’s a huge but, with Laddie by my side as part of my dog team, I’m racing towards the finish line finally believing in myself and that this time I have a chance to win.

Honestly, my head is spinning, and I feel almost giddy and off-balance. I know it’s been over a decade since I’ve felt this way; the date on the calendar says so and I know there were times during the last ten years or so that I truly felt like life was just passing me by, but things have changed and I no longer feel the need to live like a tiger pacing around in a cage.

I am not that scared little girl anymore, I’m a fucking warrior! I’m sorry for the profanity, but as I wrote the last two words of that sentence, it finally hit me, and the tears started rolling down my cheeks. I truly am a fucking warrior and the realization that I’ve come so far is subsequently awe-inspiring to me and I had to sit here and cry while I let it set in.

I, with the help of my dog team, went to a celebration this past weekend where there were at least sixty people, which in the past decade was unheard of for me. Moreover, when they called out Laddie’s and my name, I stunned them all because of instead of waiting until after the graduation ceremony to take pictures, I took in a deep breath and stood up. I looked down at Laddie, who was looking up at me attentively and I told him to stand. Then we proudly walked to the front of all those people and we stood beside our sponsors until everyone was finished taking pictures of us.

Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy, it was still extremely difficult! As I was standing there looking out at all those people I started to get that feeling I get just before a full-blown panic attack, and my head started to shake. Then I felt my skin start to flush, and I knew I had to try and make eye contact with Gary. He was sitting in the very back of the theatre, close to the door; it was where I felt the safest, but now I couldn’t see him.

I strained to see him without being noticeable to the people taking pictures, but I couldn’t see him. My head felt like it was shaking uncontrollably. It felt like it was going to shake right off my neck and roll onto the floor, the worst thing was that I felt like everyone could see what was happening to me. I felt like I was coming unravelled and I knew that if I didn’t get myself under control, I was going to end up in a corner, curled into a ball, but then Laddie nudged me and the next thing I knew was that we were walking back to our seats.

So, there it is! I’m feeling a sense of freedom I haven’t felt in a long, long time and I want you to know that I believe you will too. It may seem like healing and learning to live with PTSD isn’t happening or like it’s taking forever, but the changes are happening, and I think you need to trust in that. If you allow yourself to trust in the process you will become stronger, so strong in fact, that one day you’re going to realize that PTSD is something you live with instead of it being something that defines your life.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

Meeting Strangers That Changed My Life Unequivocally. (approx. 3 ½ - 4 min. read)

For those of you that live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) none of this post is going to come as a surprise but for those of you that aren’t a survivor of a traumatic event, it may come as a surprise to you.

I will do or say just about anything to get out of an event and an ‘event’ for me is anything outside the house; my comfort zone. Whether its a dinner, a Doctor’s appointment, coffee with a friend, or a gathering of people, and just to clarify what I mean by a gathering of people, is anything over four people.

Ever since I got held up, events have caused me all kinds of stress and all kinds of health issues, so I avoid them like the plague. In the beginning, I used to torture myself and I would medicate myself and go to whatever it was, but as the years passed, that changed. As the event got closer, I would start to stress, and I would work myself into such a frenzy that I would end up getting sick.

In the beginning, it was just things like coming down with a bad cold or the flu, but then the illnesses became more serious and I ended up with type II diabetes, shingles, and I almost lost the sight in my right eye. The stress was literally killing me, and I had to do something about it.

I decided that I had to put myself first, and I stopped going to anything that caused me stress. I wasn’t going to try and hide the anxiety that PTSD caused me when it came to stepping out of my comfort zone.

It didn’t bother me in the least because in my head all I thought about was the fact that if I stayed home I would be safe. If I stayed home, I couldn’t get into an accident and no one could threaten my life. More importantly, no one could say anything derogatory about the way I lived my life and send me into a spiral, so dark and so deep, it would take me weeks to get back on track.

…but somethings changed.

There’s an event coming up this weekend that I’m really excited about and it’s been ages since I’ve had that feeling! Honestly, I’ve been making excuses about not leaving my house for so long that my friends and family have gotten so used to me saying no, that they don’t even make me go through the arduous task of trying to justify myself anymore.

It’s better that way, at least it is for me. I have a really kind heart and saying no to anyone, or anything is really difficult for me & I’m glad people have become conditioned to how they need to treat me and my illness …but like I said, something’s changed and I truly think it’s because of Laddie. This weekend his graduating class is getting together to celebrate them (our service dogs) and how they’ve made our freedom possible. We also get to meet the puppy raisers that loved and cared for our service dogs before giving them over to us.

I can’t wait to meet these people!! I’m literally sitting here with tears of joy streaming down my face at the thought! These puppy raisers made it possible for people like me to live again! Before I got Laddie, I hardly ever left the house, in fact, there were days, weeks in fact that I never even stepped out the front door. Now I’m stepping out almost every day to go for a walk with Laddie by my side.

Not only that, I’ve been able to get together with friends, some for the first time, and actually sit in a restaurant with them – something that as you know caused me intense fear, prior to getting a service dog. The best part is that Gary and I have been able to go out on dates and be like a normal couple in love, instead of me being so hyper-vigilante, I wasn’t able to carry on a meaningful conversation unless we were in the safety of our home.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

Connecting with Someone Despite the Language Barrier. (approx. 3 - 4 min. read)

This week’s blog is written by someone I met on social media. She reached out to me as soon as I accepted her follow and we started talking about how our stories are similar.

It wasn’t long before we were sending each other emails and messages and speaking to each other like we were long lost sisters. I didn’t think about where she was from or whether she spoke English because honestly, those things don’t matter to me. Twitter has made it possible for people of all languages, and ethnicities to communicate and become friends and I think that’s amazing! We are all humans, we all bleed the same colour and we all suffer from the same illnesses; whether they are physical or mental, so why shouldn’t we become friends?

Less than a month went by and Mandy replied to a request I put out on social media asking for other survivors to write a paragraph or two on how PTSD has changed their lives. I want to share other survivor’s perspectives in my book, as well as my own. That way people can see the correlation between survivors.

Mandy told me that she’s not someone who likes to be in public, that she doesn’t want to be an author, that she writes “only” for herself, but she asked me for more time, because she was new, and I told her no pressure, but less than a day went past, and she sent me what I requested and it was perfect! It was PTSD in a nutshell and I told her that!

Three days later, I received a short story from Mandy. In it she describes what it’s like for her to live with PTSD and as I sat there and read it, the tears welled up in my eyes and spilled down my face. Mandy put the way I felt, and I’m sure how a lot of other PTSD survivors felt into a nutshell. She spoke about PTSD and its symptoms so eloquently; so articulately, that I knew I had to share it with other survivors.

I asked her if I could publish it on my website, thinking she would refuse because she had already stated how private she was, but she said, “Sure share it! You can also share it on twitter if you think it helps others, but my English is not good, I use a translator, just correct my mistakes.”

Up until that moment I had no idea that she used a translator and I know that’s awfully naive of me, but honestly, I try not to be one of those people, you know the people that judge a book by it’s cover? I believe that we all bleed the same colour; that we all suffer from the same illnesses, whether they’re physical or mental because we’re all the same inside. I also believe that if we stop being so judgemental and show more kindness to each other, the world would be a better place, but I digress…

This week I’m sharing Mandy’s story as requested, but I’m not going to change anything, I’m going to post it the way I got it because it’s perfect! These are her words; frank and honest. I didn’t find any spelling errors, but if you read it literally you’ll find some grammatical errors. Please, look past the grammatical errors. Read it with the knowledge that it was written by someone that might have a language barrier, but is no different than you or me, because they share the same illness, and they are different than you.

Make sure to click on the link below to see how Mandy ended up with Complex PTSD. Stay safe, stay strong, and as always, thanks for following my journey!

http://www.davinalytle.com/guest-posts-1/2018/2/20/my-chronic-childhood-trauma-resulted-in-complex-ptsd

Back to the Big Picture! (approx. 3½ - 4½ min. read)

Approximately three years ago, I decided that I wanted to tell my story. My oldest brother had just been found dead in a hotel in Ghana, and I thought that the truth was finally going to come out and people would finally understand why I’ve been living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for most of my life. Little did I know my family of origin had no intention of ever telling the truth. Telling the truth would rock the perfect little worlds they’d built for themselves, and there was no way they were going to let that happen.

Since that time, I’ve been trying to tell my story, but all I keep getting are threats of being taken to court if I talk about anything relating to my past.

Family members that weren’t even born into, or even a part of our family, have been and are still calling me a liar and a fake. They weren’t even around when the abuse was occurring, so they don’t know anything! They have only listened to one side of the story and they have absolutely no right, or proof, to say anything, especially whether I am to be believed.

When I started getting threats from my family of origin that they were going to sue me if I published my memoir, I figured I better speak with a lawyer. After discussing my case, he told me there was no statute of limitations on child abuse here in Canada, so I could definitely have them charged, but proving the abuse happened would be difficult. He reminded me that most of the people that would be testifying against me weren’t even living in the same country when my abuse was going on, and it would be really hard to prove that. I argued that they’d be lying if they testified against me, but he said there was no way to stop them and his advice was to shelve my memoir. Not forever, but until the people that can sue me are dead and gone.

This news devastated me. I always believed that the truth would prevail, but once again I was learning that it didn’t, and there was nothing I could do about it. It literally crushed me and made me question how I was going to proceed. I stopped writing except for my blog and although my second book is well on its way, it’s far from being finished.

I’m ashamed to say it, but I let them get to me. Again. What the heck is wrong with me?! I honestly thought I was past this shit! I thought I had been moving forward, but clearly, I haven’t because I let them shut me down, again! It was subtle, but through the nasty emails, comments, etc., I slowly lost my confidence and I stopped telling a lot of my story, not all of it, but a lot of it.

I’ve been telling myself that between my blog and my platform I didn’t have the time to finish a book but that isn’t true. I’ve been making excuses because up until recently I’ve been afraid to move forward, but not anymore.

Back to the big picture; I’m going to finish this book if it’s the last thing I do and in order to do that, I need to take a break from my blog for at least a few weeks. I know it will be difficult for some of you because you start checking my website hours before I usually post my weekly blog, but I want you to know I’ll be back before you know it. In the meantime, if you’re looking for information on PTSD, cannabis or service dogs, check out the hundred or so blogs I’ve already written about those topics!

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

Enough Already! (approx.. 4 ½ - 5 ½ min. read)

If you’ve been following along, you know we moved again a couple of weeks back and the stress has brought another symptom to the surface. It showed up for the first time in January of last year (2017) when my family of origin deleted and blocked three of their grandchildren for asking questions about their mother and Aunt, but then it didn’t show it’s self again until just before Christmas. Since then it seems to be a regular occurrence and the other day it lasted so long I knew I better ask the Doctor what it was, and it turns out it’s called Raynaud’s syndrome.

Raynaud’s syndrome is different from Raynaud’s phenomenon in that it doesn’t have any underlying health issues or rheumatic diseases like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, and they aren’t quite sure where it originates from. They believe that stress can make it worse because the adrenaline your body releases during strong emotions can cause your blood vessels to constrict and become too narrow, which triggers your digits. When they spasm, the digits  turn white because of the lack of blood flow, then turn blue because of the lack of oxygen and then when the vessels reopen, they turn red before returning to their normal colour.

I must tell you the first time it happened, it scared the crap out of me! It started with this really strange feeling in my left hand and then it started to tingle. I had just finished a pretty intense workout and numbness in my left hand immediately made me think I was having a heart attack! While I was trying to figure out whether I was having a heart attack, or whether it was just another panic attack, the first two fingers of my left hand turned white, like they were dead. I freaked and went and found Gary and he said we’re going to the hospital and grabbed the car keys.

I’ve spent a lot of time in emergency departments and the voices in my head were trying to convince me that I was making this shit up as they always did! Honestly, I’ve had more injuries and illnesses than most people and for the most part, I was convinced that what was going on, was “all in my head.”

Gary persuaded me to get in the car and we headed in the direction of the nearest hospital, with both of us wondering if it really was a heart attack and if it would have been smarter to call an ambulance?

It turned out that it wasn’t a heart attack, that it was Raynaud’s syndrome and I never gave it another thought until it showed up again, and again, and like I mentioned, one of the last times it happened, it lasted almost six hours and I was terrified it was going to turn gangrenous and need to be amputated. Sure, you might think I’m being dramatic, but with the number of ailments and injuries I’ve had in my life and the rarity of some of them, like central serous retinopathy, nothing would surprise me.

So here I am with another stress-related illness and I’m reminded of the less than desirable childhood I had and how it is still affecting me. I’ve done the research and I know that when a child grows up under extreme or constant stress, their immune system and stress response systems may not develop the way they should. Furthermore, if a child grows up afraid or feeling like they’re in constant danger, later in their lives when they are exposed to levels of stress that most people perceive as normal, their systems may respond as if the person is under extreme stress, automatically. This is me.

How am I going to fix it? I’m not sure. I turn everything into a catastrophe inside my head and although I’m working on fixing that, I still haven’t figured out how to keep my head out of where I don’t want it to go, especially when I’m in the middle of a trigger.

I think that when I get back to my normal routine things are going to change. I haven’t been doing any self-care, like exercising, or meditation but I started back at it yesterday. I’m going to take it slow and try not to beat myself up too much because I’ve been trying to heal from cracked ribs, but honestly, the voices aren’t being kind. They’re saying I’m lazy and that I’m not good for anything, but I’m doing my best to quiet them. We found out recently that where we just moved to has unlimited data, so I can get back to doing Hasfit videos for my cardio and strength-training, Tai Chi videos for meditation and music videos to calm my brain before I go to bed! I’ve missed having all these aids to help me with my stress and I’m hoping that once I get back to my routine, I will be able to get these stupid stress-related illnesses under control.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following!

References:

https://www.raynauds.org/frequently-asked-questions/#FAQ19

http://www.nctsn.org/trauma-types/complex-trauma/effects-of-complex-trauma

I Was Born for This! (approx. 5 - 6 min. read)

It’s been seven weeks, three days, and 23 hours since I got my wee Laddie and my life has completely changed. Not just because I have a fur baby again, but because not only am I a huge advocate for mental illness and injury, now I’ve become a huge advocate for service dogs!

All of this started five months ago when I got the email telling me that the three-year wait was over, and I was finally getting a service dog. A couple of days after I got the email, the executive director at National Service Dogs (NSD) called to make sure I had received everything regarding the training course; and if you’ve been following along, you know the training was for just under a week. She also wanted to know a little about me, so that she could make sure Laddie was getting all the proper training to disrupt some of my PTSD symptoms, like nightmare interruptions, and anxiety attacks.

During the conversation, we talked about the fact that I was an advocate for mental illness and that I wrote a weekly blog. I told her that I wanted to eventually get out there and do presentations about living with PTSD and mental illness, and that I felt that Laddie would enable me to do that.  I also mentioned that I was a huge advocate for cannabis use, and that was when she suggested I speak to Adam Saperia; the vice chair of the board. Adam works for Emblem Cannabis; a producer of medicinal marijuana and they have been trying to figure out how to get involved in raising money for NSD & just weren’t sure how to go about it without appearing unprofessional because there’s still so much controversy around cannabis and its medical uses.

In comes me; Davina Lytle, PTSD survivor, professional, and advocate. I offer to help National Service Dogs (NSD) and Emblem Cannabis raise awareness regarding PTSD and medical marijuana. They ask me how I think I’m going to do that and I tell them that I write a weekly blog discussing PTSD and what I’ve been doing to treat it, that I believe I can help them to educate the masses when it comes to PTSD and cannabis, especially when I know it’s becoming the number one treatment for PTSD. I believe very strongly that Cannabis needs to be treated as a medicine, not a street drug and I suggest that I help people to understand that the bond between NSD’s (PTSD) clients and Emblem Cannabis is a responsible one. Both are trying to help PTSD survivors and they believe that if they work together they would be able to raise more awareness, as well as more money in order to provide more service dogs for their clients.

Anyway, what has happened since that conversation has been incredible! NSD taped my first video advocating for service dogs and it went public just over a week ago! If you know me, you must know that this is impressive because after being held up, I never thought I would ever put myself out there. I had been hiding inside for just over twelve years, but ever since I got Laddie everything has changed for me. It’s like I was born for it, that this is all part of my destiny and I believe that for some reason I chose this life; that during this reincarnate my purpose is to learn about things like compassion, and kindness. Whatever the reason, I chose this path and to me, that means that everything that has happened to me during this life was/is to teach me something that I can give back to society. This is what I believe.

What other reason would I have gone through such torment, and now living with this invisible illness and this very visible dog and all the attention around it! As you know, it’s made me question whether I wanted to keep Laddie, or give him back? Giving him back would mean I would probably resume the life of a hermit, but keeping him would mean that I would have to step up to the plate and start giving back by helping to teach the masses how they need to act around a service dog.

My fellow NSD/PTSD teams are struggling each and every time they leave the house with a service dog because they don’t want to be seen. I’m already “out there” educating people about mental illness and injury, and how cannabis helps, so why not add service dogs to the mix?! Service dogs can’t help the fact that people are curious about them, so I’ve decided that I’m not going to let curiosity get in the way of Laddie’s and my relationship. I’m keeping him and I’m going to do whatever I can to educate the masses when it comes to service dogs and how the public needs to treat them, as well as continuing to help other survivors change the way people look at us, because we might be injured, but we are far from being weak.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

 

Author’s Notes: I’ve been researching medical marijuana (cannabis) for over a decade now and cannabis comes out on top when it comes to treating PTSD. There are a lot of studies done on vets that have shown anti-depressants don’t work when it comes to PTSD. Post-traumatic stress is caused by a brain injury, it is not a chemical imbalance like most other mental illnesses and it responds better to cannabis than it does anti-depressants. Like a lot of vets, my body responded to it immediately, and I got my first full night’s sleep – ever – with my first dose. Even if a PTSD survivor can get anti-depressants to work, it can take months to find a dose that works for them and PTSD survivors don’t have months when they’re symptomatic. I know I didn’t.

References:

http://www.davinalytle.com/blog/2016/3/15/mqkv8vub7jfmhljlixq3uzchbid7ts

http://www.newsweek.com/pot-and-ptsd-358139

http://veteransformedicalmarijuana.org/content/general-use-cannabis-ptsd-symptoms