Living with an Invisible Illness with a Very Visible Dog – Part Two (approx. 8 – 9 minute read)

If you’ve been following along you know that we’ve moved away from all things familiar and we’re building a house. It’s been extremely difficult because I’ve never lived more than sixty kilometers from where I grew up, but I think I’m doing pretty good.

Ever since we moved here we’ve been going into “town” to do laundry and pick up groceries once a week; mostly on Thursdays. For the first month or so, Gary, my husband would stay with Laddie, my service dog and me while we did the laundry, and then we’d all do the grocery shopping before heading back home.

As time passed, and the months rolled by, I got more comfortable with my surroundings and Gary started leaving Laddie and me to do the laundry while he did the running around. It made a lot more sense for Gary to do the running around while I was doing the laundry because it meant we were taking less time away from building the house.

Now don’t get me wrong because it was really rough at first and I had to ask Gary to come into the laundromat to check out who was there before he left me alone. If I didn’t feel comfortable, he would stay with me until I did. I started bringing my journal, so I could write about how I was feeling instead of acknowledging the people around me, and it really helped – still does. I’ve found that when my head is down, and I’m not making eye contact with anyone, people pay way less attention to Laddie and me.

Honestly, you’d think that people would get that he’s a service dog and that he’s working, but his jacket makes people curious instead of deterring them from making contact with me. It’s awful …I even had a cashier in the local hardware store walk towards us and ask us if it was okay to give Laddie a treat – with TREATS in her hand!!

Gary isn’t even allowed to give him a treat and here was this stranger approaching us and as well trained as Laddie is, he couldn’t help but be interested in the delicious smell emanating from this person walking towards us. I was absolutely mortified because Laddie started wagging his tail and turned away from me and almost immediately my anxiety started. Here was this stranger walking towards me and I had absolutely no control of the situation and neither did Laddie.

In fact, I had to scold him to get his attention back on me and you’d think that would have given her the hint that she was out of line, but no. Even after I told her no, she kept coming at me exclaiming that he was so beautiful, and she just wanted to give him a treat …she even felt the need to explain to me that they were good treats.

But I digress…

This week I decided to go into town to do laundry by myself, it wasn’t really a choice, it was more about practicality than anything else. The weather’s turning cold and we still need three to four weeks to finish the house before the city will let us live in it and I’ve come to the realization that taking Gary away to help me do laundry isn’t conducive to getting our house finished.

So, yesterday I woke up feeling pretty good; especially mentally and decided that even though it wasn’t Thursday, I was going into town to do laundry. I’ve learned over the last decade or so to push myself when I’m having a good day, and to back off when I’m not. I’ve found that it causes less stress; therefore, less physical illness, and it’s a good way to challenge myself and help me to get the best out of my life, even though I’m a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), survivor.

The drive into town went fairly well and I only gave one guy the finger for following me too closely (that’s a story for another time), but as I got closer to town my anxiety started to get the best of me. I tried to focus on my breathing, but I have a lot of trouble trying to concentrate on my breathing when I start to get anxious, so I turned on Evanescence so that I could sing. I’ve found that when I sing, breathing seems to come naturally, so I cranked the tunes and sang along with Amy Lee; the lead singer of Evanescence for the rest of the drive.

When I got to the laundromat the parking lot was full, so I knew it was packed. I thought about turning around and going back home but quickly dismissed the idea because I knew I would be disappointed with myself if I didn’t at least try to do this by myself.

I walked through the door, spotted an empty washing machine and headed towards it; I needed three machines, but one would get me started. I walked over to it and told Laddie to lie down in front of me, and he did, but he started rubbing his head against the ground as he always does when he first lies down. I know it’s because of the harness he wears when we’re out; he hates it, but he needs to wear it to prevent him from pulling. Unfortunately, a lady standing about ten feet from me noticed what Laddie was doing and she tried to spark up a conversation by asking me if his Halti/harness was new?

I didn’t think she was talking to me at first because I was lost or at least trying to get lost, in my own world, so I heard her repeat the question and that’s when I realized she was talking to me. It’s strange because Laddie was the only dog in the room and part of me knew that the question couldn’t have been for anyone else, but I have a habit of zoning out when I’m stressed. I turned to look at her and said no, he hates it, and then I went back to loading the washing machine – hoping she would get the hint and stop talking to me.

I finished loading the machine, all the while feeling extremely conscious of the people around me. I knew that once I was finished loading it, I was going to have to look for more empty machines, as well as a place for me to sit. So I dragged out the task of putting detergent and coins into the machine for as long as I could.

Once I was done, I looked around to find two more machines close to the one I’d already chosen, but like I mentioned the place was packed, and I had machines all over the place. For most people, this isn’t a big deal, but all I could think about was what if I forgot where a load was, and there were a couple of times when I panicked while I was sitting there because I honestly couldn’t remember which machines I had put my stuff in.

Once I was finished loading the last two machines, I spotted a chair that wasn’t that close to anyone else’s chair so I headed over to it and sat down. I instructed Laddie to lie at my feet, which he did and then I proceeded to pull out my journal, so I could bury my nose in it before anyone else tried to spark up a conversation.

Unfortunately, or should I say, fortunately, the guy sitting in the chair to my left asked me how long I’d had Laddie? I turned towards the voice, wondering where this conversation was going to go and saw this kind old face smiling back at me, and the answer spilled from my lips before I knew I was talking. Then he asked me why I had him and the answer to that question spilled from my lips just as quickly and it was actually the truth.

When I’m feeling as anxious as I was in that particular moment, I usually tell people I’m training Laddie. I’ve found that it’s the easiest answer to give people because it usually ends the conversation, but for some reason, I told him that I had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and how I ended up with the illness.

Unbeknownst to me, the lady that had asked me about Laddie’s Halti/harness was listening in on our conversation and when the man got up to check on his laundry, she came over to me and told me that she’d recently been diagnosed with PTSD.

As she told me about her diagnosis and how relieved it was for her to finally know that there was a name for what has been ailing her for decades, she started to cry and when anyone cries around me, I cry - I just can’t help it. The next thing I knew we were standing in the laundromat, tears streaming down our faces, totally oblivious to anyone around us. We realized that we’d found a connection because of PTSD; something that usually alienates us from other people and the next thing I knew I was giving her my contact information and telling her to call me.

Who would have thought?! I challenged myself to push my limits and nothing bad happened to me, more importantly, I’m pretty sure Laddie and I ended up making a new friend. Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

Just Because We Have PTSD, Doesn't Mean We Can't Dream! (approx. 8½ - 9½ min. read)

You ever think about building a house? I did, especially when I saw a house that had some of, or all the features I thought the perfect house should have. I would turn to whoever was sitting beside me at the time and say, that’s going to be mine when I win the million. It’s not that I wasn’t grateful for what I already had but I believe that it’s always nice to dream.

Fast forward to September of 2016 and it started to look like that dream might become a reality. My husband, Gary was forced into retirement by the company he’d been with for almost thirty years and we couldn’t afford to stay where we were. Gary and I had both been married to other people before we got together, and we’d had pretty nasty divorces. Needless to say, we were both starting over from scratch and we had a pretty hefty mortgage. Add the fact that I’m on disability into the equation and we knew we had to make some serious changes.

At first, we built an apartment in the basement of our little house on Safari. We thought that the rental income would help to cover our expenses so that we could continue living there. The trouble was, we didn’t take into consideration what having a stranger living in our house would do to my mental state. Especially when I couldn’t control who they brought into the house, or the fact that they weren’t as diligent with locking the front door as me.

Leaving the door unlocked one time probably wouldn’t have been a big deal for me to get over. I probably would have gone through two, maybe three weeks of steadily checking to see if it was locked and then slowly taper off until I wasn’t checking at all. It’s how I’ve become accustomed to dealing with my triggers, but just as I was starting to get comfortable, I found the door unlocked again.

It was horrific and as the first month stretched into the second, I found myself getting less and less sleep. It was a small house and I found myself having to get up and check the door after I heard her leave because I was constantly worried about my safety.

Around the end of the second month of having a tenant, Gary’s part-time/full-time job slowed right down, and we decided it was time to stop struggling with everything and put the house up for sale. It was a difficult choice because we knew we’d have to move out of the city in order to afford another house.

Some people said we could move into an apartment but living in an apartment is not an option for us and never will be. First of all, I’m way too afraid of people to live in an apartment. I barely leave my house now and I know that the thought of not being able to get out my front door, or to my car without meeting up with at least one person would be detrimental to my mental health.

Not to mention that Gary didn’t want to live in an apartment either, especially during his retirement years. He’s a tinkerer and not having a place to tinker or grow a garden would make his retirement years miserable and that’s just not what life is about.

So, we told our family and friends what we were up against and even though they were upset about it, we set about looking for a house. In the beginning, we looked fairly close to where our kids and their families lived, but we couldn’t find what we were looking for, so we expanded our perimeter by two to three hours and went North instead of southwest.

We looked for months and couldn’t find anything we could afford, and that was when we started talking about building our own home. We knew it would be hard, especially because of our ages, but after crunching the numbers, we decided it was our best option.

The next step was to find a piece of property and we were pretty specific about what we wanted. We wanted at least five acres, with as few neighbours as possible. We also wanted enough space to have a forty by forty vegetable garden, as well as enough area to build an outbuilding for Gary to tinker and build things in.

You would think it would be difficult to find, but it wasn’t long before we found the perfect spot. It’s ten-acres; seven acres of which are protected by the conservation authority, so there’s no possibility of anyone ever building behind us. Furthermore, the property to the right of us is also protected by the conservation authority, so we’ll only have one neighbour …and because of the size of our property, there will be just over two hundred feet of bush in between us and them. It’s perfect!

Since we found our little slice of heaven, it feels like life has been a whirlwind! It’s been so busy! I’ve been in charge of all the building materials and making sure that everything is here when we need it; not a minute early or a minute late. It’s a new build so there is nowhere to store material but if we don’t have it here when the guys need it, we’re having to cut the work days short, and the warm weather isn’t here that long.

Then there’s the organizing of the cement truck for the footings and the pumper truck to pump the cement where it needs to be. Let me tell you, I almost lost it with these guys because they were absolute jerks! The driver of the pumper truck had a blowout and wasn’t able to make it to our place until 5:00 pm - on a Friday! He seemed to be okay with it, but the guy loading the cement on the conveyor belt was less than amused and kept letting the belt go dry. This, in turn, made the cement shoot out of the hose in chunks which made Gary’s job extremely hard.

Then there were the roof trusses, which are a structural framework of timbers that are designed to bridge the space above your living space as well as provide support for your roof. We ordered them in June and we still didn’t have the trusses the beginning of September. The company we ordered them claimed they were having issues with some of their machinery, as well as some staffing issues, but we needed to have our trusses to move forward – it was imperative.

The house we’re building is built on cinder blocks and has a crawl space instead of a basement, which means the insulation has to go in the floor instead of in the walls.  Once the floor is down, it has to be covered so that it doesn’t get wet, and without roof trusses, it was going to be difficult to move forward without damaging thousands and thousands of dollars of work.

Gary and I discussed the dilemma we were having with the manufacturer of the trusses and we felt that he should step in. Luckily once Gary read him the riot act, they were able to build our trusses and get them to us the next day!

Last but not least there was the company that delivered the cinder blocks…

I don’t know if you know much about cinder blocks, but they weigh about thirty pounds each and they’re quite large. We needed just under a thousand of them; nine hundred and ninety-two of them, and Gary figured he could move three at a time in the wheelbarrow. I worked it out and he would have to make three hundred and thirty trips. Each of those trips was walking approximately one hundred feet and I’m thinking it would have taken days.

I couldn’t see Gary doing that because not only would it be exhausting, we didn’t have the time. So, I negotiated a lift truck into the quote the company gave me so that the blocks could be placed around the foundation instead of at the bottom of our driveway.

When the driver showed up with the blocks, there was no lift truck and you’re not going to believe what I did next. I called the company and told them to take their blocks back to where they came from!! Gary was standing beside the driver when the driver’s boss called him and said that the customer was on the phone demanding they take the blocks back. The driver turned to Gary with an astonished look on his face and said your wife is telling my boss you don’t want the blocks.

Gary told the guy to hang on and came to find me because the Davina he knows is non-confrontational and he just couldn’t believe that I had said that to anyone especially a stranger. When he found me, I had this cheeky grin on my face and I told him that is was all straightened out and the lift truck would be arriving to move the cinder blocks within the hour.

I still have that cheeky grin on my face lol! It’s like I’ve grown a set of gonads since we moved up here and I feel different but in a good way. I’m not sure how to explain it, but I feel stronger and a lot more confident. Sure, I’m still afraid of my own shadow, but I feel like there’s been a positive change in my life. More importantly, I’m starting to believe that I can live a fulfilling life despite the fact that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will always be waiting in the shadows to try and de-rail my dreams.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timber_roof_truss

What the Heck Was I Thinking?! (approx. 5½ - 6½ min. read)

It’s been almost four months since we moved away, and I’ve been doing really well. In fact, two of my closest friends said that I sounded good; different, but good. One of them even said that I was beginning to sound like the old Dee and because she’s known me for decades, I thought I must be doing well for her to have noticed. So, I decided it was time to push my limits and try to do something I used to do prior to being held up.  

I asked around and found a farmer’s market about 20 minutes from where we’re living and decided to ask a girlfriend if she wanted to go with me. Keep in mind that when I asked her I was having a good day; one with very little anxiety. Plus, the fact that she and I were sitting on the deck at the trailer having a few glasses of wine and I was feeling pretty brave.

We’ve always had a vegetable garden during the summer and we’ve always grown things like corn, beets, peas, swiss chard, tomatoes and lettuce. As you know we’ve been far too busy building a house, so I wanted to go to a farmer’s market. That way I could push the limits and face some fears, as well as get some grocery shopping done at the same time.

When the day came, things weren’t quite so kosher, and it was all I could do, to not make an excuse as to why I couldn’t go, but we needed vegetables, so I went.

When we got to the farmer’s market, there were cars parked everywhere and I immediately started to panic. We found a place to park about a block away from where the market was, so I parked the car and got out. I walked around to the back of my SUV and opened the hatch to let Laddie; my service dog, out of the vehicle.

Laddie was sitting there looking at me with those big hazel eyes and I reached out and put both my hands on his neck in hopes that I could ground myself and he leaned forward and licked my face. I placed Laddie’s jacket on his back so that he knew he needed to go into work mode, and as I reached around him to fasten the clips, he licked my face again.

Some of you might think that his licking my face is gross, but I love dogs and I see this as his way of putting his arms around me and giving me a reassuring hug. He’s a dog and dogs know that you’re stressed before you do, and he could smell the sweat and stress hormones emanating from my body and licking my face was his way of saying, hey, it’s okay, I’m here.

I finished putting on his jacket, gave him another pet on the side of his neck and told him to jump down out of the car. He jumped down and the next thing I knew we were walking in the direction of the market and hundreds of people.

There were people everywhere and I thought to myself that if I had come alone, or with Gary, I would have turned around and headed back the way I came – without hesitation. But I wasn’t with Gary, I was with a friend and she didn’t know the extent of my PTSD. I tried to pretend I was okay and I started to walk towards the crowd, but my heart started to race and the sweat started coming out of every pore on my body.  

I reminded myself to breathe, and then I took my eyes off the crowd and moved my attention to Laddie. I told him to watch me, which was his signal to start working and then we both started moving forward. My legs felt like they were made of rubber and I was really unsteady on my feet. I sensed the tell-tale signs of a panic attack and my head felt like it was literally going to fall off my neck and topple to the ground.

I knew that I had to get out of there, but how? We had just arrived and other than making up an excuse that I was sick, there was no getting out of the predicament I had gotten myself into. I thought that if I told my friend that I wanted to go back to the car and wait for her there, she would ask all kinds of questions and I didn’t want that, so I forged forward.

Later when we talked about it, she said she had no idea that I was freaking out, only that I was walking so fast, she had trouble keeping up with me.

Honestly, I don’t remember much because when I’m that freaked out, I kind of go into a… zone for lack of a better word. It was almost like I was detached from my body and watching what I was doing from a spot over my head; like I was a bystander and all I wanted to do was get the heck out of there!

The worst thing about the situation was as I was trying to work my way through the crowd, people kept mumbling under their breaths (loudly), that dogs weren’t allowed. Not only that, they either cringed as they made contact with us, or they felt it was okay to touch us.

Their ignorance made me really angry and I felt like screaming at everyone to get out of my personal space, but instead, I kept walking forward. With each step, I told myself over and over that I was okay; that the exit was getting closer and then I went into the zone.

If you don’t know what the zone is, it’s my safe place and when I’m there nothing else exists except getting myself to safety. I feel like I’m not fully aware of what I’m saying or doing when I’m in the zone, only that I need to get to safety and apparently this time what I did, was race ahead of my friend so I could get back to the car.

Once I got home, the disappointment in myself and the fact that I couldn’t do something as simple as going to the market, set in and I couldn’t stop crying. I had been in a good place and I really felt like I was ready to be “normal” and do the things that most people are able to do and the realization that I wasn’t ready yet, and might not ever be, really bummed me out.

…but (there always seems to be a but - lol) and it’s a really big but, I stepped way outside my comfort zone and I survived; I may have triggered myself, but I survived. Next time and there will be a next time, I’ll go earlier in the morning so that there aren’t so many people, and I’ll pick a much smaller venue.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

So... Let's Just Say That I Am Making It All Up (approx. 3 -4 min. read)

If you’ve read the comments left on either of these two blogs: I’m Back and Stronger Than Ever, or I Am Down, But I am NOT Out, you know there are people that think I self-diagnosed my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

So, for the purpose of this blog, I’m going to give the nay-sayers the benefit of the doubt and say that I am making all of this up. I’m going to pretend for a moment that their intentions are honest and that what I actually have is Munchausen syndrome and not post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Before we start though, I’m going to clear up the name of the illness because it isn’t called Munchausen syndrome, or Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP) anymore. It’s now called factitious disorder (FD), or factitious disorder imposed on another (FDIA) and it’s a mental disorder in which a person seeks attention by inducing or feigning illness in another person, typically a child.

The nay-sayers, pessimists, and cynics are claiming that what I have is FD. That all of the illnesses/injuries I’ve had throughout my life have been self-induced or are figments of my over-active imagination, so I’m going to focus on FD; not FDIA.

In people with FD, the presence of symptoms only occurs when the person is alone; never when they’re with a physician. In fact, most people with FD end up going to multiple physicians and or, hospitals trying to get people to believe them and their forged symptoms.

Their medical history is inconsistent, yet extensive and most people diagnosed with FD are unwilling to allow family or friends to meet with their medical professionals. The professionals believe that the reason for this reluctance is that people with FD are concerned that their deception will be uncovered and people will find out that they’re lying. Consequently, people with FD always make sure to go to their appointments alone.

People with FD are willing and eager to go to the hospital to have tests done, and they will go to multiple physicians or clinics to obtain treatment if their own physicians don’t believe them.

People with FD have identity and self-esteem issues and I believe it’s because the risk factors for FD are having a personal or family history of neglect, abuse, serious illness or other maltreatment.

The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK identified possible causes of FD to be:

· Emotional trauma or illness during childhood – this often resulted in extensive medical attention

·  A personality disorder – a mental health condition that causes patterns of abnormal thinking and behaviour

·  A grudge against authority figures of healthcare professionals.

The NHS also believe that FD may be caused by childhood trauma, such as parental neglect or abandonment and as a result, the child’s unresolved issues with their parents cause them to fake illness. The NHS isn’t really sure why a person reacts this way, but they believe that it could have to do with masochism; a compulsion to punish themselves because they feel unworthy and undeserving.

FD is a fictitious illness, and for the most part, the disorder has no physical manifestations or appearances. So, when a person is constantly saying there’s something wrong, and there’s never, ever a definitive diagnosis for their ailments, it’s pretty easy to figure out that a person has FD.

The only illness that I’ve been diagnosed with that doesn’t show itself physically is PTSD and theoretically, I could be making that up, but illnesses like shingles, Type II diabetes, Reynaud’s syndrome and torn rotator cuffs are visible and pretty hard to forge.

But and it’s a huge but, let’s just say that what I have is FD…

FD is associated with severe emotional complications and people that are diagnosed with this disorder are at risk of death or other health problems because of their purposeful actions of trying to harm themselves.

Subsequently, people that are diagnosed with FD are at a higher risk for substance abuse, as well as suicide attempts and I believe that survivors of FD don’t need ignorance or bullying, they need help and support.

In conclusion, whether I have PTSD, FD, or some other mental illness, it’s still an illness; whether I’m making it up or not. In addition, if these people really do love and care about me; like they claim, why aren’t they offering me a hand up instead of constantly kicking me while I’m down?

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/conditions/factitious-disorder-munchausen-syndrome

https://www.medicinenet.com/munchausen_syndrome/article.htm

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-munchausen-s-syndrome-4139959

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/munchausens-syndrome/

https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/hw180537

Are You a Victim of Gaslighting? (approx. 5 - 6 min. read)

The first time I heard the term gaslighting was about three years ago and I didn’t think it had anything to do with me or the abuse I’ve endured. I used terms like manipulation or brainwashing to describe my reality, but let’s look at the word and where it originated. Maybe it is a better term for describing what happens to someone that is raised around a narcissist, or narcissists.

It’s an odd word and I wanted to know why we’re using the word ‘gaslighting?’ Like I said, to me it was brainwashing, not gaslighting, but then I did some more research and it makes total sense to me why they use this particular term.

First of all, I found out that a gas light was a form of artificial lighting, that was used prior to the invention of electricity. Gas lighting had quite a few flaws like leaky pipes, low gas pressure, fires, and suffocations, but it was a popular method of illumination for centuries.

Now I’m sure you’re wondering what this light has to do with psychological manipulation, and I’m going to start with the Encyclopedia Brittanica. The Brittanica defines gaslighting as an ‘elaborate and insidious technique of deception and psychological manipulation, usually practiced by a single deceiver, or “gaslighter,” on a single victim over an extended period. Its effect is to gradually undermine the victim’s confidence in his own ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or reality from appearance, thereby rendering him pathologically dependent on the gaslighter in his thinking or feelings.’

The definition goes back to the late 1930’s where a British playwright, named Patrick Hamilton created a play called “Gas Light.” His play was about a form of psychological abuse where false information was presented to the victim, with the sole purpose of making the victim doubt their own perception or memories.

Then in 1944, Arthur Hornblow Jr. produced a film adaptation of the play called, “Gaslight,” where Gregory, the husband, manipulates Paula, his wife, into thinking that she’s going insane. Gregory leads Paula to believe that she’s seeing and hearing things that aren’t really there. Gregory kept switching the lights on and off in the attic which made the gaslights dim and brighten to create the lights to flicker. When Paula expressed her concern about the lights, Gregory would tell her it was all inside her head, which made her believe she was losing touch with reality. Rendering her pathologically dependent on Gregory in his thinking or feelings.

Gaslighters tell blatant lies and you know that they’re lying, but they’re trying to set up a precedent to keep you tottering on the edge of their reality and yours, so that you don’t know what to believe.

Gaslighters deny that they’ve said certain things, even though you know the truth, they deny it - outright. They want you to question your reality and at the same time brainwash you into accepting theirs.

Gaslighters use the people and things that are close to your heart as bullets, that rip through you causing mass destruction of your life and the relationships in it.

My gaslighters attacked the very foundation of my being by telling my kids that I never wanted them. They told them I had Munchausen’s syndrome and I was incapable of taking care of anyone but myself and they used things like my moving away as proof that I never loved them.

Gaslighters wear people down, but they do it slowly and deliberately so that you aren’t even aware that it’s happening to you.

Gaslighters say one thing and then do another.

Gaslighters try to confuse you by praising you for something they previously criticized you for. They want you to question everything that you do in order to keep you tottering on the edge of your reality.

Gaslighters accuse you of being a gaslighter to discredit your character and to distract you from seeing them for who they are.

Gaslighters are masters at what they do, and they know exactly who they can manipulate into joining their army. As you know, my gaslighters have convinced all of my biological family that I’m not right in the head, that nothing I say is the truth. In fact, I just turned down another mediation to prove myself and the things that have happened to me because I know my reality and they can no longer manipulate me.

For decades, I let gaslighters manipulate my every move. I was terrified to make a decision on my own and I had to bounce ideas off everybody, before making a choice. I was so afraid to make a mistake that would shame my biological family that I found myself unable to make a move without asking someone what they thought I should do.

In fact, when I discovered that my second husband (he’s now an ex), was cheating on me, I found myself standing in a phone booth trying to figure out who to call?

I had undeniable proof that my ex-husband was cheating, yet I had to bounce that proof off someone before I made the decision to leave him. Worse yet were the people I chose to bounce the idea off of because I knew they would turn it around on me, but I decided to reach out anyway.

It was decades ago, but I still remember taking in a deep breath before putting a quarter in the slot. I dialed the number and waited for someone to pick up, hoping it wouldn’t be the step-parent, but it was. I briefly described what was going on and told the step-parent that I was standing in a phone booth, but all I got was, you’re thirty-five years old, it’s high time that you figured out this shit on your own, and then the line went dead.

I remember crying and feeling completely lost, but I got through it, just like I’ve made it through so many other troubled times. I believe that phone call, so many years ago was the start of my breaking free of the gaslighters that were destroying my life.

Since then I’ve distanced myself from the gaslighters and nay-sayers, as well as their version of the Stepford wives. I’m done being subservient to anyone or being so perfect and obedient that outsiders think I’m a robot spewing other people’s truths instead of my own.  

Stay safe and stay strong, and for goodness sake, get yourself far, far away from the gaslighters in your life.

http://www.historyoflamps.com/lamp-history/history-of-gas-lamps/

https://www.britannica.com/topic/gaslighting

https://www.pri.org/stories/2016-10-14/heres-where-gaslighting-got-its-name

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/here-there-and-everywhere/201701/11-warning-signs-gaslighting

https://www.nytimes.com/1976/07/18/archives/arthur-hornblow-jr-producer-on-broadway-and-moviemaker-a-homosexual.html

 

 

"911 Operator, What's Your Emergency?" (Approx. 10 - 11 min. read)

Not sure where to start…

Last Friday shortly after my husband, Gary, went to bed he came limping out of the bedroom with a look of excruciating pain on his face. I immediately got up, went over to him and asked if there was anything I could do? He said, cramp, oh god, cramp, went into the bathroom and shut the door behind him.

I waited a couple of seconds, then went back and sat down. Gary had been complaining quite frequently over the last couple of weeks about cramps in his legs and his one arm, so I didn’t think much of it. I figured it had something to do with the fact that he was working so hard physically, and it had been really hot.

A couple of minutes went by and I heard this really loud thump and I knew in my heart that it was the sound of his body hitting the floor. I called out to him expecting him to say, it’s okay babe, I slipped, but nothing came back, except this deafening silence.

I think I was on my feet and racing toward the bathroom before he had a chance to respond, so when I got there I knocked uncertainly and called out to him again. I don’t usually call him Gary, I call him babe or lover and I heard myself say, babe, again, before pulling open the door.

The bathroom in our trailer is just under twenty-five square feet. The toilet is on the right of the door, the sink is on the left and the shower runs along the back wall with a floor to ceiling sized linen cupboard to the right of it. The shower stall is raised about six inches off the floor and has a track that holds three glass doors that retract into themselves, and there is a small bench, and I mean small, on the right side of the stall.

There lying half in and half out of the shower was Gary; my rock. His feet and legs were outside of the shower, and his upper body was slouched against the bench, with his head cocked to the side in an awkward position.

As I leaned over his lifeless body, I remember saying babe, oh my god babe, babe, over and over again, trying to get some sort of response from him. I put my hand on his shoulder and shook him gently, but he didn’t even groan. I remember thinking to myself that I must be dreaming, that there was no way that this could be happening, and then I slapped him on the side of his face (gently) like I’d seen so many other traumatized people do on T.V. and begged him to wake up.

I’m not sure how much time lapsed but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t more than a couple of seconds and I raced to where I’d left my phone. I picked it up and dialed 911 as I headed back towards the bathroom, all the while talking to Gary, so he could hear my voice. I’m not sure when I’d started crying, but the tears were spilling down my face and onto the screen of my phone and it was hard to focus on the numbers. I remember thinking that I needed my glasses, but I told myself there was no time, that I had to get back to my husband.

When I got back to the washroom, I tucked the phone in between my chin and shoulder so I could hear when the operator picked up. Then I put all my effort into lifting my husband out of the shower. I wasn’t really sure why I needed to get him out of the shower, because he looked pretty comfortable, but there was something telling me to get him out of the shower.

I knew I should be making sure Gary had a pulse, but instead, I was hellbent on getting him up. My thoughts went to all the times I’d been watching a movie where the actors weren’t quick enough to start cardiopulmonary resuscitation CPR, and I’d yell at them to hurry up! And it made me realize that I’d been way too hard on them.

When you’re seeing a situation like this one, as a bystander, it’s easy to stay calm and know what to do because you’re completely detached from the situation, but when you’re in it? When you can literally feel the adrenaline coursing through your veins, like lava streaming down the side of a volcano? It’s dreadful! I couldn’t seem to think rationally, I was pacing like a caged animal and I just couldn’t stay focused long enough to figure out what I was supposed to be doing.Holy

 

Then somewhere out of the abyss, I heard a voice say, 911 operator, what’s your emergency and I started rambling about a million miles an hour, telling this woman that I couldn’t get my husband to wake up.

Again, I felt like I was in a dream, that it was all so surreal; this man is all I have in the world. He’s my friend, my confidante, my rock, and here he was lying in a pile, completely void of all colour and not moving or showing any signs of life.

I’m not sure how much more time elapsed, because I was in such a state of panic, but Gary lifted his head and looked up at me. I couldn’t have been more elated, and I smiled at him, but the look he gave me, stopped me in my tracks because he was angry. He heard that I was speaking to someone and when he realized who I was talking to he told me vehemently that he didn’t need an ambulance.

He told me later that he had absolutely no idea that he’d blacked out, and he was sorry, but at the time it almost made me lose my mind and I told him he was going to the hospital whether he liked it or not.

I heard the operator ask me if that was him, was it my husband that was speaking and if he was conscious. I told her he was, and she said to keep him comfortable, but not to give him anything to eat or drink. She went on to say that the ambulance was on its way and then hung up, but not before telling me to call back if anything changed.

I reluctantly put down the phone because now I was alone, and I was so afraid that something bad was going to happen to my man before the paramedics got here. I turned to Gary and asked him to wrap his arms around my neck, and then I gently lifted him out of the shower and onto the toilet. He sat there for a few minutes to make sure he wasn’t going to pass out again, and then I helped him stand up.

I wanted to just hold him at this point, but I knew that I needed to get him onto the bed, just in case he lost consciousness again. So, I put my arm around his waist and guided him towards the bedroom and onto our bed.

I covered him with a blanket, gave him some ice chips because he said he was thirsty, and then went to look out the window to see if the paramedics had arrived yet.

Once I realized that I was alone with my thoughts I really started to cry. I was so afraid that I was going to lose my soulmate and I needed to talk to someone, but I was all by myself. I picked up my phone and dialed my oldest daughter, but before it rang, I hung up. We hadn’t talked for months and I was pretty sure she wouldn’t answer, and in my present state, I knew I couldn’t handle the rejection.

Here I was, once again, completely alone with my thoughts; wracking my brains out, trying to figure out what I had done to end up where I was in my life? I just didn’t get it …even if I didn’t have PTSD and it was Munchausen’s syndrome like my biological family keeps saying it is, what family would abandon their own because of a mental illness?

…I took another look outside and then headed back to check on Gary. He had absolutely no colour in his face or his body and I was so worried. The thought that something was seriously wrong with my husband entered my head for what seemed like the hundredth time since I heard him go down less than ten minutes earlier. I had never seen him look so deathly pale and I mumbled something about checking to see if the ambulance was here yet and left the room again to go and check.

I was beside myself. I kept pacing back and forth, I couldn’t stop crying and poor Laddie was following me so that he could do his job, but I was too worked up to do anything other than pet him and tell him to go and lie down.

I realized at some point that I’d need a ride back from the hospital, so I called a friend who ironically moved up here from the city, last year; just before we purchased our property. She was still awake, even though it was after midnight and she reassured me that they would be right over. She was true to her word and within five minutes, she was here with her husband and youngest daughter to offer their help and support.

I checked on Gary again, then went to see if the ambulance had gotten there yet, but it hadn’t, so I went and sat on the bed beside my man. He said something to me, but I had to ask him to repeat himself because I couldn’t understand him. He was slurring his words and it sounded like he was wasted but I knew that he wasn’t. I reassured him that he was okay; more for me than for him, and then went and checked to see if the paramedics had arrived yet.

It took a total of twenty minutes for the paramedics and the fire department to arrive and by the time we got Gary to the hospital, I was fully triggered and in fight or flight mode. It turned out to be heat exhaustion and after giving him two bags of I.V. fluids, an Ativan to stop the incessant cramping that taken over his body once he got to the hospital, some potassium, and some calcium, they sent him home.

He’s been doing amazing since he got home and he’s making sure that he’s drinking the home-made electrolyte juice I’ve been making for him. He’s also promised to stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day and is back working on building our house, but I’m fucked.

All I keep seeing in my head is my man lying unconscious, pale as a ghost and not responding to the sound of my voice. I keep feeling the fear around the fact that he could’ve died and I’m having trouble functioning. I’m terrified to go to sleep at night for fear something might happen, and I’m afraid to nap just in case he forgets to drink and take care of himself and the heat kills him this time.

Yeah, yeah, I know that he didn’t die …clearly, I can see that! Trouble is I’m having a huge issue trying to get my brain on the same page. It keeps showing me what went down, like clips from a movie and I’m having a really hard time trying to convince myself that he’s okay and that this won’t happen again. Worse yet, my brain is trying to convince me that the outcome will be so much worse next time.

…but, and as always, it’s a big but, I will get through this. I know I will because I have always gotten through it in the past. I just need to stop listening to the nay-sayers and cut myself some slack. This is just my PTSD taking over and I need to keep telling myself that I’m having a normal reaction to an abnormal situation and keep moving forward.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

P.S. Thanks to the local paramedics, volunteer fire-fighters and 911 operators – you guys rock! You helped us through a traumatic time, traversed our construction site like you’d done it a dozen times and you were so kind and compassionate. I know its part of your job, but I want you to know how much we appreciate how well you took care of my man and me!

P.S.S. Thanks to my friend and her family for her kindness and compassion as well. I’m not sure I will ever be able to repay her for treating Gary and I like part of her family in our time of need, but I will definitely try.

I Finally Found My Group! (approx. 8½ - 9½min. read)

Almost thirteen years ago I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After my diagnosis, I spent the next three to four years going from one mental health provider to the next; I was trying to figure out how I was going to get my life back. I listened to therapists tell me that if I did the work, I would get better and the work they were talking about was cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

During my first year of therapy, I went to a Cognitive Behavioural Centre in Oakville, Ontario, twice a week. In between my appointments I was supposed to do homework that the therapist assigned to me and that was to drive to a place that terrified me and sit there until I felt no fear.

I had been held up at my place of employment and I was terrified to go outside my front door, let alone go and sit somewhere amongst the public, but I tried. It was horrific, and I truly believe that my PTSD got worse instead of better during that first year.

After spending what seemed like an interminable amount of time going to this particular therapist, I asked to see someone else. I believed that if I could get into group therapy along with other survivors, I would find out what helped them get through the triggers, etc. and I would start to heal and be able to move forward.

Trouble was, there were no groups and the reason I was given was that “they,” being the mental health industry didn’t think PTSD group therapy would be helpful. They said that they didn’t think a group of survivors would get any benefit from group therapy because we would probably just sit around feeling sorry for ourselves, instead of exchanging helpful ideas.

At this point, it had been just over two years since I’d started therapy and instead of getting better, I had gotten so much worse. In fact, I was so terrified of the outside world that the only time I left my house was to go to therapy appointments and I didn’t understand their reasoning behind group therapy, at all.

So, I searched for a PTSD survivor group myself, but couldn’t find anything. My husband suggested that I start one, but I just wasn’t in the right headspace to put myself out there and instead kept going to CBT therapy.

Fast forward to August 8, 2015, when I created www.davinalytle.com and started writing about what it was like to live with PTSD.

…it was hard – in fact, it was terrifying! I had been the victim of death threats for decades, so I’d always tried to keep my identity and whereabouts hidden. Yet here I was being told that the only way I would be able to gain interest in PTSD and have a book published on that topic was to have a platform. I started a page on Facebook called I'm Still Here - A Survivor's Guide to Living with PTSD and then I signed up on Twitter.

I’m not sure how long it took for the first person to follow me, or for me to follow back, but it wasn’t long before I had that support group I’d been searching for. Most of the people I made contact with were also living with mental illness, and the rest were advocates, so there was no need for us to explain ourselves or our symptoms to each another. Which is something we have to do to almost every other person we know or meet and it’s incredibly frustrating.

It’s been three years and I’m happy to say that I’ve developed close friendships with quite a few of these people even though up until last Saturday, I had only met a few of them face to face. I’ve been able to draw on their strength through their tweets and they’ve been able to draw on mine. In the beginning, we’d write a post and add a smiley face, then it would be an animal or a flower and then as we became closer to someone, we’d add hearts and emojis blowing kisses, but we were still just acquaintances.

Over time, I got closer and closer to these people. I shared my thoughts and feelings with them and they shared their thoughts and feelings with me as we tweeted about the types of days we were having, as well as the challenges we were facing. It was incredibly comforting because instead of getting sarcasm and insults, we got love and support. Which brings me to the reason I’m writing this week’s blog.

Back in March of this year when Gary (my husband) and I were staying at his parent’s place, I sent a request to some of my twitter family to see if anyone wanted to get together and meet face to face; a meet and greet so to speak.

The response I got was amazing and before I knew it there were almost thirty people and their partners interested in coming. I set out to find a spot for us to meet and then I threw a couple of dates at everyone to see when the best date would be to meet. After only a couple of days we’d decided to meet at Bronte Creek Provincial Park on July 28th; which was this past Saturday, and then we figured out how to set up a Facebook page so that we could open the meet and greet up to anyone else that wanted to come, that lived locally.

As the day got closer people started to cancel left, right and center and the night before the meet and greet, I had only heard from three of them to let me know they were coming. Honestly, I was okay with barely anyone coming because I was extremely anxious about driving two and a half hours to meet up with a bunch of people I’d never met before.

To be frank, if I wouldn’t have organized it, I wouldn’t have gone. I hate (I know it’s a strong word, but it’s the only one that fits here) being around other people, especially crowds and I told everyone a long time ago not to invite me to anything unless it’s a small gathering – really small. In fact, me myself and I are all I’m good with a lot of the time, but I was hoping this was going to be different.

The night before the meet and greet I was so anxious that I barely slept, and I was looking for any excuse not to go, but Gary and I had offered to pick up two of the people in our group, so we had to go.

The drive was pretty uneventful and even though I took a change of clothes, there was no stress sweat, which amazed me!! Our first stop was the Oakville train station to pick up warrior #1, and then West Oakville to pick up warrior #2 and then we headed towards the park, chatting about how excited we were to finally meet each other. There was a little confusion over which parking lot we were supposed to meet at when we got there because there were three parking lots, so my phone went off quite a few times. One of the women, that had been invited by another warrior posted on Facebook that she was already there, and she’d found a bunch of tables under a grove of really large trees, so we would have lots of shade.

When we got to the correct parking lot, I saw a woman sitting on a table in the centre of about six or seven more tables, and I was pretty sure she was one of our group. I don’t know where I got the courage, but I just walked over to her and said are you so and so and she said yes, so I waved the rest of our group over.

It was incredible because I felt absolutely no fear.

We all found a spot to sit and if I remember correctly we all sat down at our own table, as there were six of them …well except for me because I brought a lawn chair.

In the beginning, we kind of sat around making small talk while we were waiting to see if anyone else would show up, but after about twenty minutes, we figured it was just going to be us. The woman that had saved the tables; we’ll call her Rose, introduced herself to the rest of the group and asked if she could make a suggestion. Rose thought it would be a good idea to go around the circle and introduce ourselves one at a time, saying as much, or as little, as we wanted, and to make it easier for us, volunteered to go first.

I was sitting to the left of Rose and there was only one person in between us so that meant I was going to be the third person to speak. As I sat there listening to the first two warriors I realized that I was actually listening, instead of panicking about the fact that it was going to be my turn soon.

Usually, I would be on the brink of a panic attack; shaking so hard that my head felt like it was literally going to become unattached and fall off, but here I was listening.

This was huge for me!!! I wasn’t worried about what I was going to say or how I was going to say it because as I looked around the circle, I saw that I was amongst friends. Everyone was listening intently and nodding their heads in agreement and it felt like I was home – like I was finally amongst family.

All in all, there were seven of us warriors, nine if you included Gary and we sat there for four hours talking about the one thing we all had in common and that was mental illness and there was absolutely no judgement from anyone.

… as I’m sitting here typing out the words that have been bouncing around inside my head since Saturday, and reminiscing about how I felt during the meet and greet with some of my tweethearts, the tears are streaming down my face. Not because I’m sad, but because I’m so bloody happy; not just for me, but for all of us. I believe that we’ve all found a place where we belong. A place where we can be our authentic selves and work on our journeys to recovery and self-love.

Thanks for following. Stay safe and stay strong.

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 (years in fact) 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 seven 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.