trauma

Don’t Step on My Sunshine

“That’s my gift. I let that negativity roll off me like water off a duck’s back.

If it’s not positive, I didn’t hear it.

If you can overcome that, fights are easy.”

-George Foreman

Generally speaking, positivity is my baseline state of existence (possibly related to all the exercise associated endorphins).  However, I have noticed recently that there are some people in my life who are extremely annoyed by it and working hard to drag me down.

Specifically, I believe these people are threatened and dismayed by my refusal to get sucked into their negativity and drama (or by my overwhelming awesomeness…. jury is still out j/k)  In all seriousness, I have been making a very concerted effort to avoid negative thinking or speaking because it just ends up making me feel bad; and frankly, I’m just not a gossipy, mean spirited person.  I think everyone gets fed up to the point of complaining (including me), but I really try to reel myself in and cut it off.  Having struggled so hard to gain happiness back after trauma, I’m just not willing to risk engaging in anything that’s going pull me back down to that dark place.

Of course, this has not been going over well with certain individuals, and there’s been several comments made involving how I think I’m better than them and just love everybody- including people they dislike immensely.  Realistically, there are a lot of people I can’t stand and happen to interact with on a regular basis.  However, I still treat them pleasantly because it’s a reflection of who I am -not what I think of them, and no, it’s not fake.  I don’t think not liking someone is an acceptable excuse to trash him/her and be disrespectful.  Bottom line: talking sh*t about other people and treating them like dirt (even if it seems justified) only makes you look bad and wastes a lot of energy I don’t have time for that kind of negativity.  It has nothing to do with thinking I’m better than you.  It has EVERYTHING to do with preserving my own sanity.

The thing that has really been bugging me recently, though, is the constant barrage criticism directed at me.  Most annoying are the comments involving what I eat.  Since I started training for the Hartford marathon and working out a lot harder several months ago, I have been needing to eat every 2-3 hrs or I get light headed and develop a terrible headache.  It’s not like I’m pigging out on garbage (or even eating a lot in one sitting)- however one individual in particular feels the need to point out how many calories are in everything I eat and why he has a problem with me eating it (and no, I didn’t ask for his nutrition advice). He even told me yesterday “I hate you. You eat ALL THE TIME and you’re still so skinny.” Seriously???? Would you like to come work out with me?  Maybe you should try burning 4000 calories in a single run and then come back and tell me what I should or shouldn’t be eating.  I don’t smoke, I don’t use drugs, I RARELY drink, I work out multiple times a day, and have even given up diet soda (tear… 😦) and someone has the nerve to tell me I eat too much and he hates me for not gaining weight.  Someone please pinch me because I am living in an alternate universe where people suddenly feel they have the right to monitor what I’m putting in my mouth and give me an attitude about it.  I didn’t get thin and in shape by accident or luck. I  BUST MY ASS to look like this, so until you are willing to do the same, back off!

Also, if I am eating a soup (small soup for that matter…it was brocolli in case you’re curious) from Au Bon Pain, don’t come tell me what a waste of money it was and how I should bring my food from home.  I am well aware of how much I paid for it.  I don’t bug you every time you buy a coffee.  Yes, I paid $6 for a cup of soup and piece of corn bread- now let me enjoy it in peace.  It was worth the $6 to me to get a little happiness from a cup of soup after busting my ass all day and now you’re giving me attitude about it.  Despite what you may think you are not “doing [me] a favor”, you’re actually irritating me.  I don’t keep track of what you do with your money, please grant me the same respect.

Soooooo…. as you may have guessed yesterday was a stressful day at work.  Instead of burying myself in a bottle of wine or bag of name-your-junk food when I got home, I did the first Insanity workout.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I managed to not blow up at any of the people getting on my nerves.  I did, however, point out to the food police (the soup thing was actually a different person) that if he stop drinking like a fish and worked out, he might find he’d lose the weight he wanted.  Just for the record, I actually do like the food police (he does, in fact, have many good qualities); he just has a way of taking out his own insecurities on other people.  I feel like I am much better at dealing with this behavior than I used to be, and a lot of it comes from just being more secure in myself.  That being said, he still irritated the H-E- double hockey sticks out of me yesterday.

Normally, I try to keep my posts pretty positive- but I’m human, and this was something that really bugged me.  Being an individual who tends to mind my own business, I can’t comprehend how a person can get so up in other peoples’ business and feel like they have the authority to tell them how they should be living their  lives.

I’m sorry to disappoint everyone who has an opinion about how much I work out, my eating habits, my relationship with Adam, or anything else going on in my life; but I am going to continue following my own heart and doing what’s best for me.  If I screw up, then it’s my lesson to learn.  If I get hurt, I’ll deal with the consequences.  From now on, if you truly want to be a part of my life, try keeping your negative comments to yourself- as frequently your “constructive critism” is really just critism and not constructive at all.  I’m a good person, I treat other people with respect, I take care or my body, I’m responsible, I volunteer, and I’m happy with my life.  I think I’ve been managing okay on my own.  I’m not going to stop being who I am because it threatens or offends you.  Let me be me.

And don’t step on my sunshine…

Running for the Color Purple

“Being good is commendable, but only when it is combined with doing good is it useful.”

– Unknown

Hello Everyone!

I am officially launching my Running for the Color Purple Campaign.  I will be running in the upcoming Half Diva Marathon in Long Island Oct. 2, followed by the Hartford Marathon Oct. 15 in an effort to raise money for CT-ALIVE (CT Alliance of Victims of Violence and their Families).  October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so the timing could not be better for both raising funds and awareness.

Some startling statistics:

  • One in four women in this country has or will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime.
  • Approximately 1.3 million women are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the US
  • Approximately one in five female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.
  • On average, more than three women are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day.
  • Only one third of injured female rape and physical assault victims recieve medical treatment
  • Women of all races are about equally vulnerable to violence by an intimate partner.
  • Intimate partner violence affects people regardless of income.
  • Nearly three out of four (74%) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.
  • Forty percent of girls age 14 to 17 report knowing someone their age who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend.
  • Studies suggest that between 3.3 – 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually.

As a survivor of domestic violence, this cause is very important to me.  Domestic Violence affects not just the individual, but also the family and community of the victims.  It’s time to let go of the stigma associated with abuse and start talking about it.  Education and awareness are crucial.  Please show your support and DONATE!

Be the Change you want to See…

“Be the change that you want to see in the
world.”
Mohandas Gandhi

Reclaiming my life after abuse has been both the most difficult and rewarding experience of my life.  Last night I took a huge step toward becoming the positive change I want to see in the world.  I was officially voted onto the board for CT-ALIVE, and even graduating with a degree from Yale does not compare in the sense of accomplishment.  I have come such a long way on this journey!

From the time I first left my abusive relationship, I have wanted to get involved and give back to other women.  Participating in Susan Omilian’sMy Avenging Angels Workshops” has only served to intensify this desire.  The women in her follow up group are all amazing, strong, and beautiful people (both inside and out).  They have so much to offer, and I wanted to be like them.  So many of them had gone on to obtain degrees in social work and counseling in order to help other victims.  Several work in healing and advocating for victims of violence.  There is an amazing energy in the room whenever they are together.  It’s palpable.

It was at one of the follow sessions that I got the idea to use my passion for running to help raise money and awareness for victims of violence.  I told Susan how I could use the races I was running to raise money for her scholarship fund and sent an email to CT-ALIVE to ask for their blessing (without realizing that I already knew many of the members of the board).  Susan replied back on both accounts with great enthusiasm and even extended an invitation to join the board.  I was honored.  Then she asked me for my résumé, and my heart sank a little.  I had never volunteered on a board, or even for any organization focused on domestic abuse.  My entire resume had to do with medical work.  I sent it to her and attached the following cover letter:

Dear Members of the Board:

My name is Jenny W; and as you can see from my résumé, I am currently employed as a physician assistant in general surgery.

I have never functioned as part of a board, and have limited experience working with victims of violence.  However, I do have experience at being a victim of violence and speaking out against it.  I have always been a compassionate person, but surviving abuse and living with the daily struggles of PTSD has given me the ability to empathize with other victims.  It is important to me to let them know they are not alone and there is no reason to be ashamed.

I have recently started a blog titled “The Running Thriver” to raise awareness about domestic violence and provide resources and hope to other victims.  I am also planning to use my passion for running to raise money and awareness for victims of domestic abuse.

What I lack in experience I can more than make up for in sheer drive, determination, passion, and enthusiasm.  As someone with the strength and resources to speak out and advocate for others, I feel it is my duty to do so to the best of my ability.  Violence and abuse destroy lives.  I want to be a force in this world against them.

Sincerely,

Jenny W. PA-C, MMs

As I typed the letter, I had a slight sense of dread that I would show up at the board meeting and not be voted in.  I was unsure of how they would react to my lack of experience.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I should have know better.

Stepping into the meeting was like walking into a bubble of positive energy.  In addition to the many delicious snacks, the room was filled with enthusiasm and ideas.  They were eager to hear what I had to say, which I found very humbling.  It was like being in a room full of giants.  They have all accomplished such great things, and here I was just starting out. (Check out my Blog Roll for further info on their individual projects)  However,  everyone was extremely gracious and made me feel completely welcome  as part of their group.  I felt like I was part of a terrific think tank with a single mission to reach victims of domestic violence and improve their lives.  It was completing energizing, a feeling that I typically only associate with working out.

As horrible a situation as going through the abuse was, it would be difficult for me to say that no good has come from it.  After all, it’s given me a tremendous opportunity to meet some incredibly amazing women and find volunteer work that I am truly passionate about.  I also have a new found appreciation for exactly how much inner strength I possess. People who are never challenged in life miss out on ever realizing their full potential.  I, on-the-other-hand, have had the privilege of finding out exactly what I am made of; and that is something I don’t regret at all.  It has made me a stronger, more self-aware person, and (among other things) a better runner.

I would encourage everyone to visit the new and improved website for CT-ALIVE and read more about the work they do.  They are making a terrific impact on women’s lives and provide their services free of charge.  Please consider donating to help support their ongoing work.  If you know anyone who you think may benefit from reading this blog, feel free to share.  Also if you have any questions or comments you can either leave them here or email me at runningthriver@gmail.com.

Denial…

“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”
       – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Sometimes I try to convince myself that I am not suffering from PTSD because I have never officially been labeled.  In fact, every therapist, counselor, and psychiatrist I’ve seen has told me that I was experiencing “a completely normal response to a traumatic event” and insisted the anxiety and difficulty sleeping would improve with time.  No one ever uttered the term PTSD.  They looked at me as functioning normally and assumed I was ok despite the fact that I told them otherwise.  The truth is, there is a huge grey area between being functional and well.  People can function without sleep, when they are sick, or even when they are suffering, and it doesn’t mean they are at their baseline.  It wasn’t until I spent time around other individuals suffering with PSTD that anyone pointed out the name for my symptoms.

Then the more I read about other people’s struggles with PTSD, the more I realized I could identify.  I felt guilty because it seemed like my “trauma” was so trivial compared to others.  There are people who have seen loved ones murdered, been to war, and been in terrible, horrific accidents; and all I went through was 5 years of ridicule.  Doesn’t quite seem to measure up.

Here are the DSM IV criteria used to diagnose PTSD.  I have highlighted the ones that apply to me:

Diagnostic criteria for PTSD include a history of exposure to  a traumatic event meeting two criteria and symptoms from each of  three symptom clusters: intrusive recollections, avoidant/numbing  symptoms, and hyper-arousal symptoms. A fifth criterion concerns  duration of symptoms and a sixth assesses functioning.

Criterion A: stressor

The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both  of the following have been present:

  1. The person has experienced, witnessed, or been confronted with an event or events that involve actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others.
  2. The person’s response involved intense fear,helplessness, or horror. Note: in children, it may be expressed instead by disorganized or agitated behavior.

Criterion B: intrusive recollection

The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in at least one of the following ways:

  1. Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions. Note: in young children, repetitive play may occur in which themes or aspects of the trauma are expressed.
  2. Recurrent distressing dreams of the event. Note: in children, there may be frightening dreams without recognizable content
  3. Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes,including those that occur upon awakening or when intoxicated). Note: in children, trauma-specific reenactment may occur.
  4. Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
  5. Physiologic reactivity upon exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event

Criterion C: avoidant/numbing

Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and  numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the  trauma), as indicated by at least   three of the following:

  1. Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma
  2. Efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma
  3. Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
  4. Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
  5. Feeling of detachment or estrangement from others
  6. Restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings)
  7. Sense of foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span)

Criterion D: hyper-arousal

Persistent symptoms of increasing arousal (not present before the trauma), indicated by at least two of the following:

  1. Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  2. Irritability or outbursts of anger
  3. Difficulty concentrating
  4. Hyper-vigilance
  5. Exaggerated startle response

Criterion E: duration

Duration of the disturbance (symptoms in B, C, and D) is more  than one month.

Criterion F: functional significance

The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or  impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of  functioning.

Specify if:

Acute: if duration of symptoms is less than three months

Chronic: if duration of symptoms is three months or more

Specify if:

With or Without delay onset: Onset of symptoms at least six months  after the stressor

While many of these symptoms have improved or are improving, everyone that is in bold I have had (and many still have) during the past 2 years.  It is plain as day, and yet denial is a powerful thing.  I can attest, though, that knowing the name and reason for the way I react to stress (or perceived stress) has made it tremendously easier to deal with.  In  a sense, the therapists were right, my symptoms did improve a lot with time (something I am incredibly grateful for!); but I continue struggle with nightmares and hyper-vigilance.  I am sharing this post because I know that there are other victims of violence and abuse who discount the trauma they experienced and are not getting help when they need it.  Everyone is entitled to a happy, productive life- acknowledging the problem is part of the path of getting there.

Resources (just a few of the many) for PTSD:

Department of Veterans Affairs

National Institute of Mental Health

National Alliance on Mental Illness

International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

Anxiety Disorders of America

To Be a Woman

To Be a Woman

 

 

How great it is to celebrate being a woman!

 

Strong, courageous, and powerful

 

No creature is more mysterious,

 

No man more capable.

 

She is resourceful and determined,

 

A steadfast, caring friend

 

And loyal confidant.

 

A nurturer, teacher, and enforcer,

 

She balances many hats,

 

And transitions between them with grace and ease.

 

Is there really any nobler thing to be?

The Revolt

A day finally came

When something changed in me,

My cup was overflowing

And there was no going back.

I could not sit silent any longer

While great injuries were hurled upon me.

So I stood up,

And refused to be knocked down.

The response was swift and violent,

But I was free-

Free to do as I pleased,

Free from guilt and ridicule,

Free to pursue my dreams,

Free to love myself.

Potholes

Potholes

 

Life after trauma is like navigating a long, winding road

With your vision obscured by a blindfold

 

After spring melts the winter’s snow

And reveals the damage to the streets below.

 

People zip past on their way here and there

While you crawl at a grinding pace, paralyzed with fear.

 

Unable to foresee what dangers lie ahead,

You view the world with trepidation and dread.

 

Even when familiar streets become easier to navigate,

The thought of new routes and challenges keeps you awake.

 

Every pothole that sets you back

Makes you feel your life will never be on track.

 

You’re moving nowhere in a hurry,

And it makes you want to scream in fury.

 

All the while people passing by

Without the slightest comprehension why

 

You’re having such a difficult time

When everything to them seems just fine.

 

How could they possibly comprehend

When nothing like that ever happened to them?

 

They could never understand the constant dread

Of wondering what hazard could lie ahead.