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…

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

I Need to Get past My Past! – (approx. 4½ - 5½ min. read)

Thank goodness that’s over for another year!! I tell myself that I’m good and that I don’t think about my past much, but I’m such a big fat liar!! It’s impossible to go through Christmas, the one time of the year when a family is supposed to be together, without thinking about said family. Sure, I know they’re dysfunctional and I know that as soon as I leave the party, they all start talking about me and how screwed up I am, but for some reason, I still think about wanting to be a part of it!

What the heck is up with that?! I am no spring chicken, in fact, I’m over halfway through my life and up until last year, I hadn’t been invited to Christmas day dinner for close to three decades! So why the heck would I want to be around people that don’t want to be around me?! It’s ridiculous, but I have this hope that one day they will see the error of their ways and realize that I am a good person and I will get the apologies that are owed to me.

This time last year my oldest daughter and I started talking to each other for the first time in our lives. Prior to that, she was told that I had Munchausen’s syndrome; “a factitious disorder, a mental disorder in which a person repeatedly and deliberately acts as if he or she a has a physical or mental illness when he or she is not really sick,” and that nothing that came out of my mouth was the truth. My family of origin told her that I didn’t love her and that I had never wanted to have her or her younger sister.

I’m not sure what I did to deserve this kind of treatment, but I believe they told her this to discredit me and everything I said. They would wait until I had left the room and then they would all laugh and joke about how screwed up I was. Now, she tells me that she’s sorry for being a part of it, and she’s embarrassed because she laughed too, but I know how convincing they are, and they had her believing in all of their lies.

What changed it all around for her? I think part of it was me. I sent her all the correspondence that had gone back and forth between my family of origin and me since email had originated. Email after email, she got to read all of them and she started to put all the contradictions they had told her about me, together and realized that it wasn’t me that had been lying to her all these years, it was them. She was angry, and she wrote a letter to them, asking about the emails, but answers weren’t forthcoming.

I think what topped it all off and put the icing on the cake; so, to speak, was when my family of origin went to the police and told them that my oldest daughter and I were harassing them and that if we didn’t stop, they would have us both charged - charged!! All my oldest daughter did was ask a few questions about the emails that my family of origin and I had written back and forth to each other, and they deleted and blocked her on social media.  

It’s been almost a year since any of my family of origin; their grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc., has said two words to her or her younger sister, and from what I can see, she did nothing to them – neither of them did, except maybe ask a few questions about my past and what she had read in the plethora of emails I had sent her. The emails were contradictory to everything she’d been told by my family of origin over the years and she just wanted to make sense of them …only she never got any answers, only silence.

Honestly, I’ve really struggled with ALL of it. I never did anything to deserve the kind of treatment I’ve gotten from most of my family of origin. I was abused; mentally, physically and sexually and nobody wants to talk about it and when my kids started asking questions, they were treated, and are still being treated like they’ve done something wrong and it just isn’t right.

I need to get past my PAST and move on. I need to stop thinking about my family of origin and why they did what they did, or why they’re still trying to hide it! Who the heck cares?! The only reason I do, is because I believe parents are supposed to love unconditionally and I just don’t get whatever it was that I did, to deserve the life they’ve given me. Maybe I need to listen to the masses and move past it, because the masses are saying, it has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them. Let it go.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

Living with an Invisible Illness and a Very Visible Dog. (approx. 6½ - 7½ min. read)

I thought that having a service dog would give me my freedom back, but that’s not the case. Now instead of me thinking people are whispering about me and my PTSD, now I think they’re whispering about me and how they think I’m being selfish and controlling about Laddie and I’m thinking about giving him back.

I’ve been trying really hard to bond with him, but let’s face it, I’m not the easiest person to bond with. A lot of my triggers are from physical contact and there are times when I don’t want to have physical contact with anyone. Yet, here I am being forced into bonding with this beautiful dog when he clearly doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. Part of the bonding ritual is getting down on the floor and cuddling with him for an hour in the evening, but every time I reach out to touch him, he shrinks away. In fact, the only time he lets me touch him is when I have treats in my hand!

I get it, he’s been with other handlers and he’s not sure if I’m his forever home, or if I’m just another teacher. The first home he stayed in was with a foster family and he was with them for two years. While he was there, he learned all the basic commands, then he went back to National Service Dogs (NSD); the premiere service dog provider in Canada, to learn the skills he needed in order to help me with the symptoms I get from PTSD. By the time I get him, he’s lived in at least three different homes and now he needs to know that he’s mine; that he’s supposed to bond with me, and only me.

Bonding is extremely important when it comes to a handler and their service dog because the handler is putting their life in the hands of their service dog whenever they go out in public. They are counting on their service dog to block them from people or situations they feel threatened by. They are counting on their service dog to be watching their every move, so that if their handler is about to have a seizure, or in my case a full-blown panic attack, their service dogs are aware of what is going on so that they can go into full-fledged working mode.

There can’t be any question as to who the service dog bonds to, it has to be the handler! There also can’t be any question as to who the service dog is listening to when he/she is out working because if the team is out working and you are distracting them, they can’t do their job …and what do you think happens then? The team is out, the handler (me) is just about to have an anxiety attack and the service dog isn’t responding because you’re distracting him. He doesn’t respond to the handler (me), or what he is supposed to be doing, and I’m absolutely losing my shit and here is this lifeline not doing what he’s supposed to be doing, so then I slowly lose faith in him and his ability to work for me and I stop going out …again.

So, when I say, no touching, no talking, and no eye contact with my service dog, I’m not saying it to be a bitch. National Service Dogs (NSD) has been training dogs to be service animals for over a decade, and they have found that these rules work best at helping the team form a bond and work together. When you distract a service dog, it is unable to do its job and when a service dog can’t do its job, their handler is unable to do their job or get out into the world; their invisible illness makes it almost impossible.

Like I mentioned, National Service Dogs has been training service dogs for quite awhile and they are accredited by, Assistance Dogs International, Inc.

“ADI sets standards for the worldwide assistance dog movement, with the purpose of improving the training, placement, and utilization of Assistance Dogs, as well as staff and volunteer education and management. Members of ADI meet regularly to share ideas, attend seminars, and conduct business regarding such things as educating the public about Assistance Dogs and the legal rights of individuals with disabilities partnered with them, setting standards and establishing guidelines and ethics for the training of these dogs, and improving the utilization and bonding of each team.”

As members of ADI, NSD dogs, must pass a strict, and I mean strict, Public Access Test to become certified, so the rules have to be strict, but please know that the dogs are loved, respected and well taken care of.

Trust that National Service Dogs (NSD) know what they’re doing and stop asking me stupid questions like does he get any downtime to be a dog?! Do you really think that he stays in his jacket, by my side, 24/7?! Prior to having a service dog, I’ve almost always had a dog and the main reason is I love to walk, and dogs make excellent walking companions, plus he gets off leash time outside every day, except of course, when it’s too cold. We have an hour of cuddle/play time on the floor each night and even though he is free to go anywhere in the house, he is almost always at my feet. Which brings me to the next really dumb question, do I love him? Did I mention that I love dogs, because that’s my first answer? Secondly, Laddie; my incredible service dog has gotten me out of the house more in the last month than I have been out of the house in the last decade. He follows me everywhere I go, he’s the first thing I see in the morning; standing there wagging his tail and licking my face and when I sit down during the day; no matter where it is, he lies at my feet. So, of course, I love him!! Truthfully, I would have to say more than most humans.

No, you can’t make eye contact with him, as I’ve mentioned before, eye contact is about trust and bonding so the only person he should be making eye contact with is me. He needs to know what my next move is – not yours, so he needs to be watching me.

NO, you can’t touch or pet him! Yes, I know that he’s cute, but so is your husband, would it be okay for me to touch or pet him (I wouldn’t, but I’m sure you get the point)?! Laddie is concentrating on my every move, watching and working to help me keep my shit together and if you distract him, he won’t be able to do that!

Last, but certainly not least, NO – you can’t talk to him! He is listening to the commands I’m giving him; his handler. He is also watching my body signals to see if he needs to stand in front of me and block me because he can see how much you’ve triggered me, or if he needs to nudge me to get my attention because I’m showing all the signs of a full-blown panic attack.

I am not trying to be a bitch. I didn’t make these rules, so please stop questioning what I’ve been told by NSD; they are the professionals, so stop putting the hate on me. For the most part, I fucking hate my life and I know that from the outside everything looks pretty normal. I smile, I write, I pretend, but I’m sick of pretending. I hate that I have an illness I can’t control. I hate that… fuck, I just hate this miserable existence!

Yet, as those words appear on the page, I feel bad for my husband because he’s incredible. He’s everything anyone would want in a partner, but sometimes being so incredible is not enough. It’s not enough to get me out of my head and away from my illness because the doubt I have in my mind is endless, and it’s loud; ear-piercing, in fact, blaring at me telling me that I’m not worthy, that he deserves so much better than me because I don’t even know how to appreciate him because I don’t know how to appreciate anything…

Honestly, I’m so messed up in the head, and all this controversy over Laddie and how I’m “acting” while I’m around him, makes me just want to disappear. I really thought that Laddie would be the cure. I waited so long to get him, and I put so much onus on him solving all my problems, but right now I feel like he’s the opposite of a cure; he’s a hindrance. He’s drawing attention to me and I don’t want attention. I don’t want people looking at me, or passing judgment on what I’m doing or how I’m living my life. I’m sick of all the questions and all the attention and I’m here to tell those of you that are uneducated to do the research!

Instead of reaching out and saying what a cute little puppy, ask yourself why he’s in a grocery store or a bank? I’m pretty sure, you’ll all come up with the correct answer and that is, he’s a service dog and everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY knows that means he’s a working dog – so piss off! Do not touch him, do not talk to him, do not make eye contact with him! You are hindering my progress to make myself feel worthy and a living breathing part of the community.

Stay safe and stay strong! Thanks for following, as well as for listening to me rant about what it’s like to live with an invisible illness, with a very visible dog.

References:

http://www.nsd.on.ca/

https://www.assistancedogsinternational.org/standards/training-programs/standards-for-programs/

Doing Some Well Needed #selfcare...

Just in case you haven’t seen my posts on Twitter & Facebook, I fell down last Saturday and cracked a couple of ribs and I’m in an incredible amount of pain. Needless to say, I haven’t been on social media much and I gave myself a break & didn’t do much writing this past week.

I did however find the link to a blog I wrote just before Christmas in 2015, and it reminded me why I protect myself during the holidays:

http://www.davinalytle.com/blog/2015/12/22/being-good-to-my-inner-child-this-christmas

Stay safe and stay strong and whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, or family, have a wonderful time and I’ll see you in the New Year!

Just Clearing up a few Misconceptions – (approx. 5 – 6 min. read)

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about cannabis/marijuana and I thought it was time I cleared up a few misconceptions about this incredibly useful weed!

First of all, it’s not marijuana or marihuana – it’s Cannabis; Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. How it became marijuana, remains a bit of a mystery, but when the U.S. declared a war on cannabis it was rumoured that Harry Anslinger; a United States government official, changed the terminology from cannabis to marijuana. It seemed that he wanted to distance the plant from its medical and industrial uses, as much as possible and associate it with recreational use among poor Mexican immigrants.

Cannabis has been around for ages, in fact, they’ve been using it in China for over four thousand years! The female plant was cultivated primarily to make medicine that helped with ailments like menstruation cramps, gout, rheumatism, malaria, beri-beri (a nutritional disorder), constipation, and absentmindedness. Whereas the male plant was cultivated for hemp; an incredibly strong fiber that was used to make things like clothing, paper, and bowstrings.

India was the first to use cannabis for its psychoactive properties, and it became a widespread and medicinal intoxicant. According to legend, it was discovered by the God, Shiva after an altercation with his family. Shiva wandered off into the fields, tired because of the conflict, and the hot sun and fell asleep under a cannabis plant. When Shiva awoke, he looked at the leaves of the plant he’d fallen asleep under and decided to sample it and once he did, he made the plant his favourite food because he was instantly rejuvenated.

According to ancient Hindu texts; called The Vedas, cannabis was called a liberator and was given to humans as a source of happiness because it helped them to lose fear and attain joy, as well as releasing them from their anxiety.

It wasn’t until the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1911 that it arrived in the southwest United States, and in 1914, El Paso became the first city to have an ordinance against it.

Then in the 1930’s, Harry Anslinger, began the crusade against cannabis, declaring that it was used by black Americans and Mexican Americans and it led them to murder their white neighbours. Harry made up all kinds of stories about cannabis, but it was all hearsay, and not grounded in any kind of scientific evidence, but Harry Anslinger was able to criminalize possession of the plant throughout the country. First, it was outlawed in Utah in 1915 and by 1937 it was put under the regulation of the Drug Enforcement Agency. In 1970, it was registered as a schedule one narcotic, which means it has no medicinal value and a high potential for addiction and abuse.

Today, Cannabis is still classified as a Schedule one narcotic. This classification makes cannabis extremely difficult to do any studies on because you can’t get your hands on it without a DEA license, as well as having your study approved by the FDA. Furthermore, you have to go through the National Institute on Drug Abuse to obtain research-grade cannabis, to study the potential medical benefits, and some researchers are finding that quite challenging.

In my opinion, in the last decade or so, we’ve been learning a lot more about cannabis. We’re finding out that it isn’t the “devils weed,” it’s not even close. In fact, some people are calling it a miracle drug, especially when it comes to the parents of children with epilepsy. It’s being used to treat a whole host of ailments including, chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s Disease, IBS, anorexia resulting from AIDS; nausea associated with chemotherapy, PTSD and depression.

Now, you’re probably shaking your head and thinking that I’ve lost my mind because for the most part cannabis is ingested by smoking it and everybody knows that smoking causes cancer… right?

Nope, not right at all! I found quite a few articles regarding cannabis and cancer, and you’re going to be incredibly surprised by what I found out. One of the articles was written by The National Cancer Insitute (USA), and it states that cannabinoids may be able to kill cancer cells while protecting normal cells, as well as lessening the growth of cancer tumours; the number of tumours, and how they spread.

The second article was written about a study done at the David Geffen School of Medicine in UCLA in Los Angeles, by Donald Tashkin, M.D., professor of medicine. The article states that Cannabis has the potential to cause cancer because it contains fifty to seventy more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke, however, it found that Cannabis use was not linked to an increase in lung, head or neck cancers. Tashkin came to the conclusion that there’s a chemical in cannabis smoke that kills off cells before they become cancerous.

Both these articles support the fact that smoking cannabis doesn’t cause cancer and I think this is great news because it makes me feel even more confident that cannabis is the best thing for my PTSD symptoms. I’ve been trying to stick to eating cannabis to help control my anxiety, depression and nightmare interruption, but now I have another option; I can smoke it. I’ve been told that I can vape it, that vapourizing it won’t affect my lungs the same way as smoking it, but I don’t find that it gives me the same psychoactive effects as when I smoke it. Plus, I’m an ex-smoker of twenty-five years and holding a joint in between my fingers, like a cigarette, calms me. I think it’s the hand to mouth action, inhaling cannabis, exhaling anxiety, inhaling cannabis, exhaling depressive thoughts, but who knows?! All I know is that it works for me, there are no side effects, like constipation, liver damage, or weight gain, plus the fact that the studies that are coming out now are saying that it’s safe, whether I eat it, vape it, or smoke it.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

References:

https://hightimes.com/culture/marijuana-vs-cannabis-pot-related-terms-to-use-and-words-we-should-lose/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-teenage-mind/201105/history-cannabis-in-ancient-china

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-teenage-mind/201106/history-cannabis-in-india

https://www.livescience.com/48337-marijuana-history-how-cannabis-travelled-world.html

https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/xd7d8d/how-marijuana-came-the-united-states-456

https://www.thestranger.com/news/2016/04/13/23948555/the-word-marijuana-versus-the-word-cannabis

https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/patient/cannabis-pdq#link/_13

https://patients4medicalmarijuana.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/smoked-cannabis-effect-on-lungs-dr-tashkin/

No, Just NO! – (approx.. 2 - 2½ min. read)

As you know, I got Laddie my service dog a couple of weeks ago and for the most part getting out has been amazing, but there is a part of his going everywhere with me that’s really anxiety provoking. He’s attracting a lot, and I mean a LOT of attention!

You would think that when people see a dog in the grocery store, or somewhere else dogs aren’t permitted, that their minds would immediately figure out that it’s a service dog, but I’ve found out that isn’t the case at all! In fact, forty to fifty percent of the time people try to engage with one of us, and for the most part, it’s Laddie.

I’ll hear things like what a beautiful dog, then the next thing you know, they’re either reaching out to touch him or they’re asking him how he is?! Really? I know my illness is invisible, but that doesn’t change how you’re supposed to react to a service dog, and that is, to not react. Pretend that he is invisible, because to you, he should be. He’s my ticket to freedom, not yours and I’m getting really tired of the ignorance regarding service dogs and how the masses are currently treating them, so I’m going to share a few things.

The first thing you need to know is - NO, you can’t make eye contact with him! Eye contact is about trust and bonding so the only person he should be making eye contact with is me. He needs to know what my next move is - whether I’m going to Forget Everything And Run, or Face Everything And Rise - he needs to be watching me.

The second thing you need to know is - NO, you can’t touch or pet him! He is working to help me keep my shit together and if you distract him, he can’t do that!

Last, but certainly not least, NO – you can’t talk to him! He is listening to the commands I’m giving him; his handler. He is also watching my body signals to see if he needs to stand in front of me and block me, or nudge me to get my attention because I’m showing all the signs of a full-blown panic attack.

I have PTSD, and I need you to understand that I’m afraid of you (no offence), and his job is to protect me from you. When you try to engage him, and that’s what you’re doing, not only is it confusing for Laddie, you’re distracting him, and he can’t do his job as a service dog, and if he can’t do his job, I’m going to be forced into going back and hiding from the world.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

Love at First Sight! – (approx.. 6 – 7 min. read)

I know I said that I would give you an update on Laddie, my service dog, but I’m not sure where to start. He’s my ticket to freedom and I don’t know where to begin!

I’ve been out and about more in the last ten days than I have in the last ten months, and this week isn’t even half over yet! Yesterday I went to a Doctor’s appointment, tomorrow I have a hair appointment and on Thursday, I’m meeting up with two people from my twitter family!

When I first met Laddie, I wasn’t sure he was going to change my life so dramatically because he seemed to be more interested in his “weekend trainer” than he was in me. For me, it was love at first sight, but he kept pulling on the leash trying to get back to the trainer.

The first night the service dogs went home with their trainers, but after that they came back to the hotel with us which they would for the next five days of training. Then, if they passed their access tests after an intense week of training, they would come home with us.

When we got back to the hotel the first night, Gary and I talked about Laddie’s reaction to me and he held me as I cried. I’d put so much stock in getting a service dog and hoping it would change my life, yet the dog had completely ignored me. Yeah, yeah, I know I was expecting too much as he’d been in quite a few different homes during his two years of training and he probably just thought I was just another “trainer,” but I still felt crushed.

On the second day, we knew that we’d be getting our dogs first thing in the morning, so it made it quite difficult to sleep. Honestly, I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve I was so excited! When we got to the training center, we were handed a gift bag that contained all of the things necessary to continue training our dogs, as well as their “service” jackets, and then we got our dogs. That was when the training really began, and it would continue for the next four days; classes during the day and then back to the hotel to bond during the night.

The first morning, I was up at five thirty to take him out for a pee… five thirty! I hadn’t been outside first thing in the morning for ages, let alone when it was dark and in a strange place! Sure, Gary was with me, but if it weren’t for Laddie, I would have made all kinds of excuses to not put myself through that kind of stress.

Each morning as I was putting his gentle leader on, I would talk to him, softly, and get real close to his face. I’ve almost always had a dog and I knew that once he trusted me, he would give me a wet slobbery kiss, and by the fourth day, he did. That was when I knew that Laddie only had eyes for me.

During our training, we took the dogs to an off-leash park on the training grounds to get them used to being recalled. The first-day Laddie didn’t come back when I told him to, but it wasn’t long before he came to me. We also had to go on outings to prepare ourselves and our service dogs to listen to us when they were out, working for us.

These outings were to places that I’ve avoided, in the last decade or so; malls, hardware stores, and parks, and it was really anxiety provoking. The other two recipients in the class felt the same way but I think it made it a little easier knowing we weren’t alone. That there were two other people with PTSD, struggling right along-side us and we drew strength from each other.

After six days we came to the end of the course and it was time for the access test. The access test involved going to the local grocery store, having the dogs heel off leash, walk past food, service dogs, children, and other people without responding to them. This test was incredibly important and if our dogs didn’t pass it they wouldn’t be able to go out in public until their next test, which couldn’t be any earlier than thirty days after the first. Worse case scenario was that they wouldn’t go home with us and that thought was at the back of my mind the whole time.

You know how I catastrophize everything and I was catastrophizing this like you wouldn’t believe, but I didn’t need too because Laddie rocked it! He worried me when the examiner was dropping food off the table onto his feet, but he only had eyes for me and he passed with flying colours!

Needless to say, my life has changed. I’ve been out every day since I got Laddie and although I’m still anxious, he truly gives me courage. I believe that this is only the beginning and I’m so excited to have him by my side, going from place to place talking about mental illness and ending the stigma that is so rampant.

Stay safe, stay strong and stay tuned to find out what Laddie and I are doing to #KeepTalkingMH! Thanks for following.

Laddie! – (approx. 2 - 3 min. read)

I wrote this last week, knowing that I wouldn’t have time this week due to the extensive training I would be going through this week to get Laddie – my service dog.

For those of you that have been following me, you know that I get my service dog this weekend after a long three-year wait. I never thought that this day would ever come and now that it’s right around the corner, I’m feeling quite apprehensive. I wasn’t …but a couple of weeks back, when we were visiting some family someone raised a question that I hadn’t considered, and it really sent me for a loop.

I can’t remember the question word for word, but it was something along the line of “Do you really think that you’re going to get this dog, and everything will just change for you? That you’re going to be able to just get back outside like nothing happened?!

While I was picking my chin up off the floor, Gary, my husband came to my defense and said absolutely! He went on to say that when Xena was well, she and I went everywhere together, and he believed that Laddie was going to get me back out there. The rest of the visit was uneventful, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the question and if I were putting too much responsibility on Laddie; the service dog?

It’s been almost two weeks since that doubt was introduced into my mind and you’ve gotta know that I’ve done a lot of over-thinking about it and as it stands, I have a lot of doubt going on. I’m starting to wonder if I’m putting too much responsibility on Laddie and how it’s going to go? He’s over two years old because it takes that long to train him to do the job, but what if he doesn’t take to me? What if he doesn’t like me and we’re unable to bond? More importantly, what if having a service dog doesn’t help me to get my life back?! What if nothing changes for me and I’m unable to get out?

I’m in a bit of a tizzy because if he doesn’t take to me and to his job, they will take the dog back and if they take the dog back, then all my chances of ever having a semi-normal life will fly out the window and I don’t know what I’ll do if that happens. I’ve put so much onus on getting a service dog that if it fails, I will be sent into such a downward spiral, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to come out of it.

So here I sit, with only four sleeps in between me and fate. Deep down inside, I believe, in my heart of hearts, that getting a service dog is going to help me to live my life and I’m going to stay positive and quiet the negative voices that are trying to catastrophize one of the most important meetings of my life.

Stay safe, stay strong and stay tuned to find out how great Laddie's and my first week actually turned out. Thanks for following!

Should We Make Mental Health Mandatory in Our Educational Curriculum? - (approx. 4 -5 min. read)

This past week a petition came across my newsfeed regarding a mental health course that should be mandatory for our youth. The petition states that “we need to start mental health infusion in the elementary grades when many challenges with mental ill health become evident.” It went on to say that “the education system has a crucial role to play in child and youth mental health awareness, suicide intervention and prevention, resource awareness and skill development.” Honestly, I couldn’t agree more!

We teach things like math, English, and history, yet we don’t teach very much about life skills or mental well-being. With suicide being the second leading cause of death in Canadians between the ages fifteen to twenty-four, I think we need to start!

Statistics Canada published an article by age group, covering a ten-year period between the years 2000 to 2009. The article stated that “suicide is one of the leading causes of death for people of all ages,” and in 2009, it ranked suicide as the ninth leading cause of death in Canada. Worse yet, suicide was the second leading cause of death among people between the ages of fifteen to twenty-four – SECOND!

Honestly, I’m lucky that I didn’t become part of those statistics, incredibly lucky, and I want to do whatever I can to change those statistics!

Some other statistics that you might find staggering have to do with child abuse, be it physical abuse, sexual abuse or neglect. Worldwide, forty million children are subjected to abuse each year, and in the U.S. six children will die by suicide, each day, due to some form of child abuse.

These are horrific numbers and it’s time we did something to help our children, and I think it has to start in our schools. For the most part, ninety percent of children are abused by people that they know, love or trust and needless to say, between sixty-six to ninety percent of abuse victims never tell anyone about their abuse. I didn’t, not until decades later, and I was warned that if I said too much I would be taken to court and shut down unless of course, I could prove it in a court of law …and we all know how hard it would be to prove my allegations. First of all, it happened decades ago and most people think that I should have gotten over it by now. Second of all, there were no Aunts or Uncles living in Canada until I was grown up and had children of my own, yet they claim to have been around and are siding with my abusers.

Anyway, I’ve gotten a little off topic… children like I was, need to know that they can get help and the only way they’re going to get it is by being taught it in school. It needs to be a mandatory class and it needs to be taught no later than middle school (grades six-eight) because, for a lot of kids, this is up to five years after their first encounter with abuse.

As part of the course, our children will be taught about things like mental disorders, suicide, child abuse, and bullying. They will learn that if they’re a victim of abuse or if they know anyone that’s a victim of abuse, that they can get help. More importantly, they will be kept safe throughout the process. They need to know that if they’re struggling with anything, no matter what it is, that they can reach out and talk about it without being put down or stigmatized.

I believe that if our children are taught about the challenges life may throw at them and how to protect themselves, as well as others, they will have a much better chance of succeeding in life. I also believe that they need to be taught adversity and how common it is for adversity to touch them, or one of their friends. That way, they will be better able to cope with the trials and tribulations that make some youths believe that dying by suicide is their only solution when faced with extremely harsh conditions.

What do you think? Should we make mental health and well-being mandatory in our educational curriculum, or should we keep believing that somehow these kids are going to find their own way?

Stay safe, and stay strong. Thanks for following.

References:

https://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-624-x/2012001/article/11696-eng.htm

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide/index.shtml

https://cmha.ca/media/fast-facts-about-mental-illness/

http://arkofhopeforchildren.org/child-abuse/child-abuse-statistics-info

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/becoming-adult/201101/suicide-age-27-death-due-child-abuse

http://www.naasca.org/2012-Resources/010812-StaisticsOfChildAbuse.htm

http://www.victimsofviolence.on.ca/research-library/child-sexual-abuse/