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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

Doing Some Well Needed #selfcare...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laddie! – (approx. 2 - 3 min. read)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe, and stay strong. Thanks for following.

References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do You Stigmatize Yourself? (approx. 1½ - 2½ min. read)

I have a really important question to ask you; are you ready? You need to be, because if you’re anything like me, you’re going to take a step back when you hear it. Not because you can’t answer it, but because you might be shocked by the answer. Here it is: do you stigmatize yourself?

Just in case you aren’t completely certain what stigmatize means, it means to make something seem bad or disgraceful; to characterize or mark as disgraceful.

So, do you? Do you criticize the things about yourself that are less than perfect? More importantly, do you make sure the rest of the world knows about them?

I do, and I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t criticize myself. It started out small with things like, why can’t you do anything right, but then ended up being huge with things like you’re a big fat waste of space and I’m not sure why you don’t just “off” yourself?!

For the most part, I didn’t hear them saying it directly to me, but I heard what they were saying through other people. When I think back to my childhood, I never felt confident or proud of who I was.

At a very young age I started telling myself things like “I was too dumb to do the math,” and that “I was fat,” but I was neither of those things; I was merely a product of my environment. An environment in which the voices weren’t very friendly, or supportive.

Unfortunately, up until Gary, each one of my relationships ended up being very similiar to those environments because I continued to choose people that were narcissistic in nature. It was almost like I was trying to heal the relationships that so desperately needed healing by being with people that reiterated what the voices in my head were saying.

Was it because I was trying to convince myself that what they were saying was true? Or was I trying to convince them that they were wrong?

Whatever it is, or was, I’m not going to listen to those voices anymore. I know; with all my heart, that those voices are wrong. Those people aren’t part of my life anymore and the only person criticizing me is myself and it’s time that I stopped! It’s time that I end the self-stigma going on in my head and replace it with positive self-talk.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following!

Couch Surfing – (approx. 5 – 6 min. read)

We hit a bit of a snag last week when the sanitation guy came to pump out our grey water on Thursday. I had a feeling we had an issue when I peeked out the bedroom window that morning. It was raining and incredibly mucky where we’d cleared all the trees, but Gary told me not to worry and to go back to sleep while he headed out to get gas for the generator.

The first couple of times Stilton’s came to pump us out, we had been right up against the road, but we had moved the trailer onto the property and we were at least two hundred feet from the road now. I waited until I heard Gary turn the key in the lock and got up – I just had this feeling…

Less than twenty minutes later I heard a truck come barreling in across the mud, and when I looked out, it was backing up so fast that it knocked over one of the drums we’d been using for burning brush.

I threw on my coat and boots and headed out onto the deck that Gary had just finished putting up the day before. I waved my hands and when that didn’t work I put my fingers in my mouth and whistled; something I’d learned to do as a kid.

He stopped and turned to look at me like he’d seen a ghost or something and then threw open the door to his truck. He starts grumping at me, saying that he’s pretty sure he’s going to get stuck and that I better keep my fingers crossed. I assure him that I will… He has no idea that his aggressive nature has already struck the fear of God into me and I’ll agree to just about anything to get him the heck out of my space!

The next thing he does, is start throwing the hose, one hoop at a time onto the ground. All the while, he’s grumping at me and it makes me take a couple of steps back - literally. Luckily, I was up on our deck and I knew I could get back inside and lock the door before he could make it up the stairs, but still, he made me nervous.

He stomped around to the back of the trailer like a child that had just had his T.V. privileges taken away from him, and I heard him yank the cap off the waste water drain. I thought about going back inside and ignoring him, but decided it would be better to stay where I was, so I could find out if this was his last time pumping us out for the season.

After what seemed like an interminable time, he came walking back, dragging the hose behind him. He said something under his breath about not coming back and when I asked him what he said, he just said cross your fingers. He strung the hose back up on the side of the truck, climbed into his truck, gave me one of the dirtiest looks I’ve had in a long time and slammed his door.

I crossed my fingers and my toes, because there was no way I wanted this angry man spending any more time on my property than he had to. Then I watched in horror as he turned his front wheels on a forty-five-degree angle before he even put his foot on the gas. It was almost like he wanted to get stuck to prove a point. He accelerated like he was trying to do a burn-out and I watched as he dug six-inch trenches in the muck the two hundred plus feet in between the trailer and the road.

Finally he was gone, and I knew he wasn’t coming back. That’s when I started to cry, not only because I was relieved that he was gone, but because I knew we had to pack up and leave straight away. I was so worried about where we were going to go, or who we were going to impose on because we hadn’t made any plans for accommodations until the end of November. Which was when we thought we’d need them…

When Gary got back he saw that I’d been crying and asked me if I was okay? I told him what had happened, and he hugged me, agreed that we’d have to leave, and we started packing up.

I couldn’t stop crying as I looked around at what had become familiar to me, knowing that we were moving again. Sure, we had a place to stay while we built our house, but it wasn’t ours and it would have nothing of ours in it and that thought made me feel like a fish out of water. Plus, the fact that it wasn’t available until the end of November and we were going to have to put out one of our friends until then.

We had a place in mind because it had been offered to us in the past and we’d stayed there many times before, but for some reason I felt really anxious. This time we weren’t just staying for one night. We needed a place to stay for just over three weeks and that was a lot to ask of anyone.

I had this ominous feeling deep in my gut that somehow this was crossing a friendship’s boundaries, so I cried most of the way there. I just couldn’t get over the sense of foreboding growing in my gut and I was feeling extremely anxious. I’m honestly not sure why, but I did.

When we arrived, we were greeted like we hadn’t been there in years and the sense of foreboding went away completely as hugs were shared. As usual, they made us feel like we had just come home from a long trip and told us we could stay as long as we wanted.

So here we are; couch-surfing for the next three weeks. We’re no longer in our house on wheels, but we’re living on the fly. For the most part, I’m feeling okay about it because it’s not for very long, and then we’ll be living on our own again. It won’t be in our own place yet; it’s a house-sitting gig, but I’ll have my service dog, and I know that together, he and I will help each other to remember that home truly is where the heart is.

Stay safe, and stay strong. Thanks for following.

Being Held Hostage! (approx.. 5½ - 6½ min. read)

I feel like I’m being held hostage by Canadian cell & internet providers and after doing some research, I’ve confirmed it! And I know this blog seems like it’s completely off topic, and not about mental illness, but it isn’t off topic.  Please bare with me and you’ll see what I’m talking about it …honestly, I’m willing to bet there are quite a few of you out there that feel the same way.

The first thing I found out about our network is that Canada has an oligopoly going on when it comes to the wireless service industry. For those of you that don’t know what an oligopoly is, it’s “a market structure in which a small number of firms has the large majority of market share. An oligopoly is similar to a monopoly, except that rather than one firm, two or more firms dominate the market. There is no precise upper limit to the number of firms in an oligopoly, but the number must be low enough that the actions of one firm significantly impact and influence the others.”

In Canada, the oligopoly is Rogers Communications Inc. (RCI), BCE Inc. (BCE) subsidiary Bell and Telus Corp (TU) and they control 90% of the market. You might not think they’re working together, but in 2014 the three of them raised they’re prices – in tandem – ranking Canada among the highest paying countries in the world for the wireless service industry.

The worst thing about it is one of them claims to support mental illness and makes a big deal of how much money they raise to help it, yet their wireless services are priced out of the market for most people; especially people on disability, single parents and retirees.

Back in the day, phones were free when you signed a contract and you didn’t get charged extra for the amount of local calls you made. Today, not only do we have to purchase our own phones, we also have to pay for local calls. And to make it worse, we have to purchase a new phone every two years because they’ve somehow figured out how to time our phones demise right around the two year mark! Furthermore, the cheapest plan in today’s market still doesn’t include long distance minutes – even though there are thousands of towers in Canada – and for two phones, the basic plan is going to cost one hundred and ten dollars, plus tax.

As most of you know, I’m on disability and my husband is retired and the cost of a bare minimum phone without long distance comes close to five percent of our income. Add in a hundred gigabytes for the internet, and we’re spending nine-point six percent of our income trying to stay connected!

In my opinion that’s ludicrous, but we live two hours away from family and friends and we need to stay in touch. We’ve tried to keep costs down by using skype, but apparently out here in the country, we can’t get the gigabytes because the maximum is one hundred! Really? We put a man on the moon forty-eight years ago, but we can’t provide internet to over 6.3 million people living in the rural areas of Canada.

…but I digress.

We also tried to keep our costs down by cancelling cable/satellite T.V. and getting Netflix, but with the high cost of wireless services from our provider, and the fact that we can’t get any more than one hundred gigabytes where we live, we can only afford to watch an hour of Netflix a night and there’s no YouTube!

…You guys know how much I need my music videos to shut my brain down before bed, but that all seems to be out now! Plus, I’m going to have to limit my time on social media!! My social media family has been my lifeline this last two years, and I have no idea what I’m going to do.

As you all know, I have a mental illness and I’m afraid to leave my house. Other than my husband, the only forms of connection with other humans that I have, are through a wireless hub; one that I might add has limited access, and I totally feel like I’m being held hostage.

Why isn’t there some kind of plan for people that are on a fixed income? And why can’t I get the gigabytes I need to stay connected with my life-lines? It honestly makes me feel like I don’t matter. How can I keep talking about it, if I can’t get a provider to keep me connected?

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

References:

http://www.investopedia.com/terms/o/oligopoly.asp

https://mobilesyrup.com/2016/08/11/crtc-releases-international-telecom-price-study-confirms-canada-pays-more-than-everyone-else/

http://www.ertyu.org/steven_nikkel/cancellsites.html

http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/as-sa/98-310-x/98-310-x2011003_2-eng.cfm

 

An Epiphany – (approx. 2½ - 3 min. read)

I’m really struggling with this week’s blog. There has been so much going on that my head is literally swimming. We’re parked out front of our property in our house on wheels and living like vagabonds; something we always thought would be exciting, but it is far from glamourous.

We were unable to get any utilities set up before we got here because we used poor judgement with the first contractor, so we’re winging it. We’re using a generator for power and if you’ve never used one, you wouldn’t be privy to the loud, raucous noise that has become part of my world these last four days. We are filling our 40-gallon reservoir with water we’re getting from the neighbours,  one five-gallon tank at a time, plus we’ve got a sewage company coming in once a week to pump out our black and grey water.

The walls are paper thin, and because the window frames are metal and sweating from the difference in temperatures, there is no way to seal them with plastic to try and keep the heat in. I could turn the heat up, but we only have two small propane tanks and we need to conserve. I’m a chicken and won’t even ride in the car when there are propane tanks in it, let alone drive it and taking Gary away from clearing the land isn’t an option. Needless to say I’m freezing and that’s not like me at all.

I’ve been having a lot of trouble sleeping because my mind is playing tricks on me. It’s been telling me that the person that said, “maybe it’s time someone just made it stop;” when it came to me telling my story, is going to find me, out here in the middle of nowhere – and make it stop. It’s been telling me that these walls are really thin and it wouldn’t be hard to just do a drive by with a machine gun, and make me “stop.”

I know, I know – I’m catastrophizing, and in case you haven’t noticed, it’s what I do. Having PTSD has made me so good at taking a good situation and turning it into a bad one; one in which I get hurt. I just couldn’t convince myself that I was safe, but all that changed around two thirty this morning.

I was pacing, and trying to talk myself down. I had to resist the urge to crank the tunes and dance, because it was late and Gary was trying to sleep, but I had to get out of my head! I tried meditating, but my mind was way too busy, so I tried out some of the Tai-Chi moves I’ve learned, and that’s when I had an epiphany!

Drum roll please… I love the drum roll!

Since I started talking about it, I’ve had over ten thousand people follow me on Twitter and Facebook and although a lot of my followers don’t know my story, a lot of them do, and I believe it would be hard for my abusers to do any (more) harm to me and get away with it. Between the plethora of threatening emails, and the derogatory comments on my website, I know that the first people the authorities would look at, would be my abusers.

And I know that doesn’t save me, but it’s important for me to know that I haven’t lived, or died in vain and I realized in that moment that “they” can no longer harm me without the world knowing and I feel incredibly empowered.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

From the Darkness, Comes a Light. – (approx.. 5 – 6 min. read)

I already wrote this week’s blog, but it was such a pity party, I decided to deep-six it into the recycle bin – lol!  It was all about the property and all the “fun” we’re having while trying to find contractors and get permits, but it’s just too darn depressing. Plus, I have some incredible news I want to share with you.

Drum roll please…

I’m finally getting my service dog and I couldn’t be more excited! Service dogs have been helpful in assisting PTSD sufferers become survivors.

They can:

“Promote Integration and Activity: Having the responsibility of another being that is a consistent caring companion helps build ties to the future. The dogs are active and force the individual to get out and exercise. The care of the dog also brings routine back into their life.

Suppress Hyper Vigilance: Hyper vigilance creates constant tension and paranoia. Individuals often require more personal space than the average individual. The dogs are trained to create a physical barrier that keeps the public at a comfortable distance.

Provide Reality Affirmation and Redirection: The dogs are trained to recognize the individual’s anxious behaviour and physically redirect them to more positive activities I. e. petting the dog. In addition, for those experiencing nightmares or flashbacks, the dogs can provide vitally important reality affirmation with their persistent nudges and calm disposition. Often the fact that the dog is not reacting allows the individual to feel safe in their environment.”

I started looking for a service dog around seven years ago, but it proved to be quite difficult. There was only one facility that I trusted and I wanted to get my dog from them, but they weren’t providing service dogs for people living with PTSD unless you were a veteran or a first responder. They were hoping to extend the service to civilians because they knew that PTSD isn’t biased and can happen to anyone that suffers a severe trauma, or traumas and they told me to call back in a couple of years.

I knew that having a dog would help me to get outside and learn to live again, so I decided to start looking for my own dog; one that I could train myself. Her name was Xena and she was the reason I went out for the first walk I’d had in two years. Prior to being held up, I used to walk everyday, but I couldn’t find the courage to leave the house after that. Xena helped me to get out again and I wrote about my experience with her here: http://www.davinalytle.com/blog/2015/8/20/august-19

Unfortunately, she started going blind prematurely, and she was way too anxious to travel in the car. She would whine and pace like a caged animal, and I just couldn’t do it; she was suffering like I was and it just wasn’t fair to her. So, her companionship came to an end; not in the house - she could smell my anxiety before I even knew it was happening and would nudge or lick me, but she was no longer my travelling buddy.

Once that happened, I became a hermit again; never leaving the house unless I was with someone. It didn’t happen slowly, it was an overnight thing – Xena wouldn’t go in the car, so neither would Davina. I tried, believe me I tried, but it just caused too much stress and I became a danger on the road because I couldn’t control the panic attacks and the fear.

A couple of years went by and a friend of mine suggested that I get a service dog and it reminded me to give National Service Dogs another phone call to see if they had changed their policy regarding service dogs for PTSD. I left a couple of messages explaining who I was and shortly after got a call from them. They told me that they still hadn’t bridged that gap yet and still hadn’t given a service dog to someone like me, but if I wanted to fill out an application, they would put it to the board.

I waited and waited for what seemed like eons but it wasn’t more than a couple of months. I signed into my email account and there it was; an email from NSD. I was nervous to open it, because I knew what it meant to me. I think I deliberated for most of the day and then just threw the what-ifs out the window and opened it. To my surprise, it was an acceptance letter and all I could do was cry happy tears.

It’s been a long wait, but here we are three years later and I just received an email inviting me to my “Team Training.” It seems so surreal. I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve and I can hardly contain my excitement! I will be able to go out without Gary by my side. I will be able to go grocery shopping and clothes shopping. I will be able to go for a walk, as well as go for a drive without having a panic attack and talking myself out of it. Honestly, I’ve been missing so much and I’m so …I can’t find the words, other than - from the darkness, comes a light.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

References:

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

http://www.nsd.on.ca/programs/skilled-companion-dogs-for-veterans/

No Stigma – None at All! – (approx. 5 – 6 min. read)

I’m sitting alone in a hotel about thirty-five minutes from the property Gary and I just bought. We came up here yesterday (Monday) to continue clearing the lot, but unfortunately Gary is out there doing it on his own. I somehow managed to end up injuring myself again; this time a sprained ankle, as well as a torn ligament in my thumb – yeah, I know – who would have thought you could do that to a thumb?!

Needless to say, I’m beating myself up because Gary is out there, by himself, doing a job we should be doing together. I’m so angry at myself for injuring myself (again)! I was, and still am, embarrassed to tell anyone I was at the walk-in clinic having x-rays – again. I have at least two injuries a year and although a specialist won’t treat you unless you do have an injury, I still imagine that people think that I make them up.

..but back to what I was saying. We’re here and it’s a lovely little hotel. From what I can see, they only have eight rooms, but the rooms are more like mini apartments and they are so comfortable and welcoming.

When we first got here, we parked the car and headed for the front door – it was so welcoming. Gary opened the door and we both walked into an empty; although inviting lobby. We walked up to the front desk and waited for a few moments before looking for a bell to ring.

Had we worn, or brought the eye glasses we both needed because of age related vision changes, we would have seen the note on the door with our names on it, explaining what we were supposed to so. Instead we glanced at each other quizzically and looked around the room.

It was homey and comfortable looking. There were shelves of books and DVD’s everywhere and the main accents were figures, or paintings of elephants.

After waiting a couple of minutes, Gary went back to the car to got his glasses and that was when we found out it was self check in. I was a little un-nerved that we were on our own, and that the front door was unlocked (and not being monitored!) until the wee hours of the morning, but we were there. All the other hotels in the area were booked and it was too late to drive home.

I had reserved through a travel site instead of going through the hotels website, and would have known about their “open-door” policy ahead of time and probably not booked it, but it was what it was.

We headed up to our room, entered the code; it was key-less entry, and entered one of the most comfortable hotel rooms/suites I’d ever been in. Prior to opening the door, all I could think about was the fact that it was key-less entry and that it was the “last four digits of the phone number of the person that reserved the room.”

That meant there were only two options that the code could be – mine or Gary’s.  What if someone was following me; someone that was out to hurt me?! The instructions were right there on the front door and anyone could enter the room in the middle of the night…

I took a deep breath and tried to concentrate on my surroundings and how comfortable it felt to me. I have this weird spidey-sense …I’m not sure how to describe it? It’s like I can sense, or feel the energy in the room and I can feel that things are going to be okay (or not) and I know this all might sound weird, but it’s an instinct I’ve learned to trust over the years so I entered the room with an open mind.

Gary and I unpacked and then we sat and had a glass of wine. I could see he was exhausted and needed to crash, but he was staying up to make sure I was comfortable with my surroundings and able to get some sleep. I assured him more than once that I was okay, so he kissed me and went to bed.

…I was not okay.

All I could think about was the fact that the front door was open to the world and my code was the last four digits of the cell number that I’ve had for decades! I was way too freaked out to sleep and ended up chatting with my social media family and reading their blogs; well into the wee hours of the morning.

Around two in the morning, I decided it was time to try and get some sleep, so I ate my cannabis cupcake, took a couple puffs off a joint, then curled into bed beside my man.

The next thing I knew the sun was shining and my man was kissing me on the cheek and saying good-bye. I told him I loved him, he told me he loved me back and then he was heading out the door…

Immediately my mind started to race and all I could think about was the damn code for the door! I got up, put the coffee on and opened the curtains. For the most part, I felt comfortable with the room, so I decided to call the owners and ask them if they would change the code for me; that way I could stop stressing over it.

I dialed the number, the phone rang a couple of times and then a pleasant voice on the other end of the phone said, “hello?” I asked if it was Rob (the owner), then I introduced myself. I told him I had PTSD, shared a bit of my story, and explained that I was worried about the code being the last four digits of my phone number. Within a half hour there was a knock at my door and when I asked who it was, a voice said, “It’s Rob.”

I hesitated for a minute, then reminded myself that one of the owner’s names was Rob and that I’d called him earlier. When I opened the door, I saw this tall man with a kind face, standing there smiling. He said he was there to change the code for the key-less entry, but he wanted to introduce himself first and let me know he was there, so that he didn’t startle me when he started playing with the door handle.

Wow – someone that got me and they didn’t know me from Adam! So, I decided to get really courageous and I told Rob that I used cannabis for medical reasons and asked if there were somewhere I could smoke it? He said there were chairs and tables in the backyard, and to make myself at home.

No stigma - none at all! It seems like there really are people out there that understand about mental illness and I’ve been lucky enough to find two of them not far from where we’re building a house. Plus, we’ve found a place to stay where I feel comfortable until we get our house built, and that is extremely important to myself, as well as being important to Gary.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

Another Crisis Averted – lol! (approx. 3½ - 4 min. read)

I spent twelve hours completely alone this week while Gary went up to meet with a couple of tradespeople.  Leading up to the day I tried not to think about it, just like I do with every stressful situation, but it was extremely difficult. You see he had to meet the first trades-person at nine o’clock in the morning, which meant he had to leave no later than four o’clock – while it was still dark – need I say more?

We’d discussed me going along for the ride, but as you all know I’m a horrible passenger and I spend most of the time in the car in a state of hyper-vigilance. Plus, the fact that Gary would be in the bush for three hours and with the record high temperatures, it would be too hot to sit in the car while I waited for him.

The morning in question, I heard Gary’s alarm go off and immediately the anxiety started. My chest felt like it was going to explode and I lay there wondering if I was having a heart attack instead of a panic attack – something you know that I do on a regular basis.

Next every pore in my body opened up and I started to sweat buckets – literally! Usually I get up and walk around so I don’t soak the sheets, but I didn’t want Gary to know I was stressing, because then he would worry about leaving me. Instead I lay there and pretended to be asleep while he made breakfast and got dressed, and when he came to kiss me good-bye, I told him I loved him and managed to hold back to the tears.

…but when he went out the door, and I saw the car lights backing up and out of the driveway, they started to flow. I mustered up all the strength I had, got up and checked to make sure everything was locked up and then climbed into bed to try and go back to sleep, but it reminded me of the last time I had been left alone and that made me cry harder.

The last time I had been alone in the middle of the night was years ago and I had a dog, as well as an alarm. This time however there were neither, and I was terrified and suddenly missing Xena who died not too long ago. I got up again, went to the washroom and grabbed some tissues to dry my eyes and blow my nose before climbing back into bed again.

Once I was back in bed, I rolled over onto my back and listened intently to see if anyone was lurking around outside. I heard a dog barking off in the distance, and a loud bang; almost like a car back-firing and my mind started to race.

I turned onto my side and tried to concentrate on my breathing …breathe in, belly out, exhale out, belly in …breathe in, belly out, exhale out, belly in. I started to sweat again and within minutes I was absolutely soaked. I got out of bed and went back into the bathroom. I looked at myself in the mirror and gave a little sigh as I stared at the disheveled face staring back at me thinking that the person in the mirror looked like she’d just seen a ghost.

I reached down and grabbed the joint that I had left in the ashtray before bed, lit it, and then inhaled deeply. As I exhaled I tried to release all the negative thoughts that were in my head and replace them with positive thoughts. I spoke out loud and recited what day it was, where I was, and that I as safe – over and over – just like a mantra. I took a couple more hits off the joint, put it out and then climbed back to bed.

As usual the cannabis calmed my mind and the next thing I remember was waking up to the sound of birds and the sun streaming through the windows. I rolled onto my back, looked up at the ceiling and smiled to myself because I had done it. As scary as it was – I had done it - and I hadn’t called Gary for moral support! I made it through another stressful situation without anything bad happening. Plus, that unnerving feeling I get when the sun goes down, and the world falls into darkness, had disappeared and I was feeling quite empowered.

Stay safe, and stay strong. Thanks for following.

A Little Information on Child Sexual Abuse - (approx. 4 – 5 min. read)

Surviving with a mental illness is one of the hardest things a person will do, especially when they’ve grown up with sexual abuse. Being abused - in any way changes a person’s view of people, as well as changing the way they look at the world we live in.

A person that has grown up being abused has very little confidence in themselves and their ability to function in the outside world because they have been made to believe they are unworthy.

The figures related to childhood abuse are absolutely astonishing and of epidemic, if not pandemic, proportions.” In fact, the chances of a child being sexually abused or raped is one in five and I believe it was the same when I was young, except it was talked about even less than it is now.

Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is a worldwide problem, but unfortunately, it’s a topic that most people don’t want to discuss, especially amongst members of a CSA survivor’s family. In fact, families will do almost anything to stop the truth from coming out; sometimes going as far as disowning the victim. This makes it very hard for a person who has been abused to find the attention and help that they need to survive and thrive.

CSA can happen to anyone and for the most part (about sixty percent of the time), it’s a family member, or a close friend of the family that is the perpetrator of such an immoral deed. Thirty percent of the time, it’s a caregiver (teacher, babysitter, minister, or coach), and about seven percent are considered “stranger danger.”

Although most of the studies on long term consequences of CSA focus on women, it doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re female or male. In fact, the statistics for CSA is one in four for girls and one in six for boys.

What’s shameful is that even though these statistics are so high, there is very little help for CSA survivors (I tried to find statistics, but it was difficult. I will update this as soon as I can find accurate numbers). Female CSA survivors have it a little easier than their male counterpart because they can confide in a girlfriend, or girlfriends, but male survivors tend to keep their abuse to themselves; hoping that somehow, they can fix themselves.

There are a lot of indicators that a child is being abused and the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (NAASCA) compiled a list I thought I would share:

Indicators of sexual abuse in young children include: 

» Sleep disturbances

» Bed wetting and/or loss of fecal control

» Regressive behavior

» Self-destructive or risk-taking behavior

» Impulsivity, distractibility, difficulty concentrating

» Refusal to be left alone

» Fear of an individual, such as an alleged offender

» Fear of people of a specific type or gender

» Fire setting

» Cruelty to animals

» Problems relating to peers

» Sudden changes in behavior

» Difficulties in school

» Inappropriate interest (for the age) in things sexual

Indicators of sexual abuse in older children include: 

» Eating disturbances (overeating, bulimia and anorexia) 

» Running away

» Substance abuse

» Self-destructive behavior, suicide attempts, self-mutilation

» Incorrigibility

» Criminal activity

» Depression and social withdrawal

» Problems relating to peers

» Sudden changes in behavior

» Anger issues

» Difficulties in school

I found NAASCA one day when I was doing research and they have a lot of knowledgeable information on CSA, as well as an extensive list of help (http://www.naasca.org/Groups-Services/_Groups-Services.htm) that is being offered in English speaking countries throughout the world. They are dedicated to addressing the issues related to trauma and child abuse, which includes things like sexual assault, physical or violent abuse, neglect and emotional traumas. They do this from two different perspectives:

“1) educating the public, especially as related to getting society over the taboo of discussing childhood sexual abuse, presenting the facts that show child abuse to be a pandemic, worldwide problem that affects everyone

2) offering hope for healing through numerous paths, providing many services to adult survivors of child abuse and information for anyone interested in the many issues involving prevention, intervention and recovery.”

When I found the NAASCA I cried happy tears because they made me feel less alone in dealing with the abuse I suffered as a child. I know (now) that I’m not alone and with people like the NAASCA, I believe we’ll be able to educate the ignorant and end the stigma around CSA.

Learn the signs. Watch for things like unexplained injuries, changes in sleep habits; such as nightmares, inappropriate sexual behaviour, or changes in school attendance or performance. If you suspect CSA, don’t speak with the child in question. Immediately contact your family physician and they will put you in touch with a professional that knows how to get the truth out of that child, as well as make sure that they are safe.

Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.

References:

http://naasca.org/

http://www.naasca.org/Groups-Services/_Groups-Services.htm

https://www.childwelfare.gov/

And the Journey Begins! – (approx... 2½ - 3 min. read)

A lot has been going on so I thought I would give you some updates!

First off, some incredible news! I had my follow up with the eye specialist and I can read one more line since the last time I saw him, so the central serous retinopathy has gotten a little better. I have glasses to drive and to read, so life is pretty much back to normal when it comes to my ability to see.

Secondly, I’m off the anti-viral meds for shingles that I have on the left side of my brow/face and for the most part, they have cleared up but the next month or so is going to be stressful, so I’m going to hold out on that for now. Most of the pain has subsided, so other than the marks on my face, it’s not affecting my life.

Third and this is the biggest news! Drum roll please….

WE FOUND A PIECE OF PROPERTY!

It’s farther away than I would like to be but it is what it is. There is nothing close to our kids that we can afford, and honestly, it’s time we started taking care of ourselves anyway. Our kids are married, have children and have beautiful homes of their own, so other than not having their Mom close to them, they are set …at least that’s what I’m telling myself.

So, now the adventure starts! Yesterday, we drove up to the municipal offices for the town we’re moving to and got all the information we need to get started. The first thing we have to do is stake where we want the driveway to go and then apply for a civic number, but we must wait for the lawyers to complete their jobs first.

Once the lawyers have done their due diligence and confirmed title, etc., we wait for our civic number, as well as the approval to put our driveway where we want on the lot. Once these are done, we can put in the septic system, which is the next step and then our well.

We’ve done quite a bit of research over the last couple of weeks to find out who would be the best person to put the septic in, and decided to go with someone that was referred by a friend and, I might add, is highly recommended in the area.

While the septic is being put in, we’ll also have the well drilled so that we can start thinking about having the foundation poured. We have no idea how late in the year we can do these things because the ground freezes, but we’re going to get as far as we can, so that we can start building first thing in the Spring.

Most of the work is going to be done by my husband, with labourers of course, but building a dream home is on his bucket list and this is something he really wants to do. Over the years, he has done a lot of building/renovating; a lot of it to our last house, and he spent the last three years doing commercial framing, so I have every faith in him. Plus the fact that I have always wanted to live in my “dream home,” so I’m also incredibly excited …and scared shitless …but nobody likes moving or change, so I’m going to cut myself a little slack.

Stay safe, stay strong and stay tuned to hear about the next step in our adventure as vagabonds.