Posttraumatic stress disorder

On Being Blessed

“Live your truth. Express your love. Share your enthusiasm. Take action towards your dreams. Walk your talk. Dance and sing to your music. Embrace your blessings. Make today worth remembering.” 
― Steve Maraboli

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There are not too many people who can say they have been blessed with a second chance at life, but that is exactly what I have had.  I don’t just mean with my marriage either.

The funny thing about being in an abusive relationship is that you never realize just how bad the situation is while you are in it.  If you are a naturally upbeat person like I tend to be, then you focus on the positives and try blesseddifficultiesto rationalize or ignore the bad stuff.  Even when I was with my abuser, I still believed I was a lucky person.  I thought my abuser and his family loved me.  It was what I wanted to believe, so I did wholeheartedly.  It wasn’t until the day of the wedding when he and his family so blatantly disregarded my feelings that I could no longer make excuses or ignore the truth.  That awakening is what escalated the abuse. (If there’s one thing an abuser can’t handle it’s getting called out on his bad behavior… even when done in the meekest fashion possible!)

Had the abuse never progressed to being physical, I’m not sure that I would have gotten out as quickly as I did… or at all.  My abuser had done such a great job of manipulating the truth that it was hard to believe even what in my heart I knew was wrong.  From the second he put his hands on me, though, it was black and white.  He was the one with issues who couldn’t control his temper.  Up until that point, he had found a way to blame EVERYTHING on me.  He would twist the situation until he suited him; however, despite his best efforts- there was no turning this situation around.  When he did try to rationalize it (and make it my fault), he claimed he was being mentally abused by me and I drove him to it.  That was when I realized he was completely NUTS.  All this time he had me convinced that I was the crazy one, and now here he was grasping at straws letting his true colors show.  That is when I closed the door to us and started putting my life back together.  The fact that it was such a difficult lesson to learn does not make it any less valuable.  I didn’t stand up for myself.  I let someone walk into my life and tell me what I was worth and how to live it.  No one has that right. It’s not a mistake I’ll make twice.  

My point is if my abuser had never beat me up, I might have never realized how awful my life had become.  I had been essentially pigeonholed by my abuser for years, but because he did it so slowly over time, I never realized how much ground he took from me.  I gave up my power, my identity, and I let him control my life. I was watching everything I said and did to avoid settling him off or being criticized.

Once I was out from under his thumb, it was as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders- a weight I blessed-life1previously never realized had existed.  I was on cloud nine for about three months before the PTSD symptoms kicked in and put my life in upheaval for months on end.

While I may never be rid of my PTSD symptoms, I have gotten a lot better at recognizing and dealing with them.  They still rear their ugly head at the most inconvenient times… like when I trying to go for a relaxing run on vacation and end up panicking about being abducted or attacked by bears… Yeah that’s a good time.  I used to resent having to deal with them, but now I feel like they are a small price to pay for everything I have gained from the experience.

Despite any lingering effects, I still feel incredibly blessed to have gone through the whole ordeal and come out of it a better person.  A person deprived of sunlight will appreciate it like no other- the same applies to someone deprived of the freedom to be herself.

The fact that I have a husband now who loves me unconditionally for who I am, and not who he wants me to be is just icing on the cake.   My life is no longer filled with people who knock me down and disregard my feelings.  Instead, I choose to surround myself with positive people who are more interested in encouraging and uplifting blessed-quotes-13others than tearing them down.

I am beyond fortunate to live the life I have now- on my own terms without apologizing.  I have to say it feels pretty darn good.  I am lucky to have the ability to finance my goals because running marathons isn’t cheap and triathlons are going to be even more costly.  I am also blessed with an incredibly thoughtful and supportive husband who not only made sure I got the bike I fell in love with, but also made sure I had a road kit to change a flat AND a flashing back reflector so I’m visible to traffic.   He’s the kind of guy that doesn’t cheer from the sidelines; he runs along side me… even when it’s clear that the pace is painfully slow for him.

As awful as my life was back then, that’s exactly how wonderful it is now.  I appreciate my life now in a way I never could have before.  Furthermore, I appreciate my husband and marriage  more because of everything I’ve been through.

I only wish I could let every person in an abusive situation know how much better life can be- richer, fuller, happier, fulfilling.  People going through abuse are made to believe that they are weak and helpless, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Before I was in an abusive relationship, I always thought that abusers were aware of what they were doing.  However, having spent years with my abuser, I can honestly say that he didn’t believe he was abusive.  Instead he blamed EVERYTHING in his life on EVERYONE ELSE.  I just got the brunt of it because I was closest to him.  He truly believed that I was everything wrong with his life because he was too weak to accept responsibility in his own life.  Abusers are weak individuals who need to blame their problems on other people.  They are the ones who can’t handle life, not their victims. Anyone who is able to endure abuse day in and out is stronger than any abuser out there.  The problem is, they aren’t aware of it.

My goal is to make victims and survivors aware of just how strong they are… and how much better life can be.

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Posttraumatic Growth

“What we choose changes us.
Who we love transforms us.
How we create reshapes us.
What we do remakes us.”
— Dr. Eugene Callender

It's not always about getting just your body healthy!

I hate the “word” PTSD.  I hate the whole concept.  I don’t like feeling labeled.  I have a hard time accepting that it now part of my life and an even harder time accepting that it is part of who I am.  It makes me feel damaged- like there’s something wrong with me that can’t be fixed.  I can’t stand how my mood fluctuates when I’m tired (like instant PMS!); and as much as I love working out- I sometimes resent the fact that I have to in order to just feel normal instead of an anxious, moody mess.  Not that I come off that way to other people.  It’s funny how incongruent your thoughts and feelings can be with your actions at times.

Yesterday I watched a documentary called “Beyond Belief” which followed the story of two 9/11 widows who decided to turn their grief into productivity and created a charity to raise money for Afghan widows.  (Part of their fundraising included a biking from ground zero back to their homes in Boston- a 3 day and well over 200 mile trip) Their goal was to help foster healing and understanding, as they truly felt connected to these women despite the cultural differences and different sides in the war.  The statistics mentioned in the film about the number of widows in Afghanistan is beyond shocking, it’s downright tragic.  The circumstances these women live in are so dire.  They have no money, no education or way to create a source of income, and are unable to feed themselves or their children.  Yet, (much like the 9/11 widows) they are incredibly strong and grateful for what little they do have.  In the film, they discuss the concept of posttraumatic growth while describing these women- which, unbeknownst to me, is actually a real, studied phenomenon (If it’s on Wikipedia, so it must be real- right?)

Wikipedia defines it as follows:

Posttraumatic growth refers to positive psychological change experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances [1]. These sets of circumstances represent significant challenges to the adaptive resources of the individual, and pose significant challenges to individuals’ way of understanding the world and their place in it [1]. Posttraumatic growth is not simply a return to baseline from a period of suffering; instead it is an experience of improvement that for some persons is deeply profound.

I have to confess, I like the concept of posttraumatic growth FAR better than PTSD 😉  I would MUCH rather focus on growth (who wouldn’t?).  I mean, let’s be realistic here.  What are the real odds that I ever would have started this blog, set up a charity campaign, run a whole marathon, joined a board of a nonprofit, and become an advocate for other women and victims of abuse- if it had not been for the phenomenal growth I experienced as a direct result of  trauma?  I am a better person now than I was before the abuse- annoying PTSD symptoms or not.  I know the depth of my strength.  I know who am I, what I want, and where I am going. I know my resolve and determination are stronger than any doubt that I or anyone else could muster.  Most importantly, I am putting my energy into helping other people heal and creating a positive impact in the world.  Not to say that I would not have strived to make the world a better place without the “postraumatic growth”, but I don’t think it would be with the same level of passion, committment, unflinching determination.

All that being said, I’ve decided it’s time to pull out my running shoes for some actual racing and fundraising, so I’ve signed up for the Colchester Half Marathon at the end of February.  🙂