victim

I think I have a tape worm

Beyond Violence

“Count your blessings. Once you realize how valuable you are and how much you have going for you, the smiles will return, the sun will break out, the music will play, and you will finally be able to move forward the life that God intended for you with grace, strength, courage, and confidence.”

Og Mandino

Tonight I had the very exciting  opportunity to attend my second taping of  Beyond Violence (hosted by friend Christine).   Although I have only known her a few months, Christine has made a tremendous impact on my life.  Like many amazing women, she has know idea what a positive impact she has on others.  She is incredibly modest, kind, and caring- and a terrific advocate of women and victims of abuse to boot!  The first time I was on her show, she had asked me to read a poem I had written after the My Avenging Angel Workshops.  When her second guest didn’t arrive, she inquired if I’d be willing to share my story to fill in- so I did.  I left with a migraine (it was difficult to go back to that place and talk about it), but also the determination to do more to help other women.  That is when I started this blog.

I had no idea how, so I called my sister and asked for her help.  Initially, it was difficult for me to open up and write about what I had been through, but it was so important to me to speak up and address the stigma associated with abuse.  So many people think it only happens to poor, uneducated women with low self-esteem.  That just isn’t true.  There’s a tremendous amount  the public just doesn’t comprehend about the mechanics of domestic violence and abuse.  It’s time for women to start talking about it and not be ashamed.  Domestic abuse affects 1 our of 4 women- so why aren’t we doing more about it?

This time around, Christine just wanted me to read a poem for each of her tapings (2 in this case).  Her guests included an organization titled Not for Sale, committed to ending Human Trafficking; and the uber gifted singer/songwriter Vanessa Stevens (check out her projects including her Purple Song Project and blog).   Vanessa is someone I truly admire, and I was looking forward to getting to see her again when I agreed to come back on the show.  I choose The Revolt and I cried to read.  I got a lot of positive feedback, which I appreciated (despite not really believing it was deserved).  Listening to Vanessa speak about all her projects and accomplishments made me realize that I’d like to be more like her.  She really has her you-know-what together; and, on top of it, is incredibly committed to benefiting others (I’m so lucky to have such great role models at this point in my life!).  I also  want to help other victims and survivors heal and realize their self-worth again.  I’ve moved beyond the point of focusing on the abuser and what I’ve been through.  My mindset is completely focused on creating a positive future both for myself and others.  It was time to address the victims.  Here is what I wrote:

To The Victims of Abuse,

I come to you from a happy, self-accepting place; but I know your struggle all to well.

I know how it feels to hate and blame yourself.

I know how it feels to be stripped of your identity and self-esteem.

I know how it feels to have your sanity hanging by a thread.

I know how it feels to not believe you have the strength to endure another day.

I am here to tell you that you can. 

You don’t need to believe it now, but you will.  One day you’ll realize that the pain and suffering isn’t worth it.  The house, the security, the companionship, his love- aren’t worth itHe isn’t worth it.  He doesn’t deserve you.  He doesn’t know what love is.  He isn’t capable of love- not of loving himself, and not of loving you. But, you are capable of love.  You are worth more.  Your life is worth more.  You were intended for greater things than this.  You are a beautiful, powerful, perfect child of God.  You were born unafraid and full of curiosity.  You still embody these things- they are just buried deep.  Let them loose!

Free yourself.

Love yourself.

Heal yourself.

You deserve to be happy.

You deserve to feel safe.

You deserve to love yourself and to be loved by others.

These are not things that are earned.  They are what every person is entitled to from the moment he or she is born.

Fight the negativity in your head.  That’s not how you or the rest of the world perceive you.  That is how your abuser sees you.  It is a pack of lies designed to make you feel small, to bring you down to his level.  Shut him out of your head.  You are an exquisite light in this world.  Don’t let him or anyone else put it out.  YOU DESERVE TO SHINE!

With Unconditional Love and Understanding,

Jenny

Thank you again for reading!  Feel free to share any information on this blog (just give credit back to the site please).  Comments and Feedback are always appreciated and welcome.  Questions can be directed to runningthriver@gmail.com.  If you like what you’ve been reading, please consider ssupporting my cause.

First day on new legs…

Man imposes his own limitations, don’t set any”

-Anthony Bailey

I have finally begun my (not so triumphant) return to trail running!

I may have been pushing it, but the combination of rest due to nagging IT band syndrome and my subsequent viral invasion had left me home bound and stir crazy. At the first sign of being able to stand upright and marginally breathe through my nose I was out the door.  I needed to run. 

I brought Penny along to ensure I took it easy and give her some much needed exercise and attention.  We did an easy couple miles with a few good hills.  Penny disappeared frequently into the nearby streams before finally rolling in a particularly large, muddy puddle.  She instantly turned from yellow lab to chocolate.   She was delighted with herself.  I couldn’t help but laugh.  It’s a good thing I’ve gotten past keeping my car meticulously clean! 

The trails were particularly wet and buggy from all the rain earlier in the week.  There was evidence of recent flooding with fine silt covering the leaves of the low lying shrubs.  The pavement and large concrete blocks had been upheaved and oddly twisted out of place.  There were branches and leaves scattered that had fallen prematurely, likely from some violent wind storm.  The whole scene had changed dramatically from my previous run there just a few weeks earlier, a reminder that nature is always changing and evolving.  The bugs, however, were the same- a reliable drawback of trail running.  They swarm so closely that I have frequently inhaled and swallowed them accidentally.  I wonder if it is still bad karma to kill bugs even if it isn’t on purpose… 

Overall, my trail performance was not stellar.  However, I made it out and I enjoyed it.  More importantly, I didn’t aggravate my IT bands- a promising sign.  🙂 

 

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

“I am woman! I am invincible! I am pooped!”


“I am woman!  I am invincible!  I am pooped!”

  ~Author Unknown

The amazing view on my run today.

Today I continued my quest toward running a full marathon!  I figured it would be a good day for a long run because I have not run much this week and will be working the next two days without a lot of other opportunity to get mileage in.  Earlier this week I had attempted a light, fast paced run; but my body was not cooperating, and I ended up at the gym instead.  I was a little disappointed, but got some solace in the fact that I survived 15-whole-minutes on the stair climber- which I hate more even more than push ups (and that is saying a lot!).

None-the-less, I wanted to make up for my less than par workout and gain some ground.  I got up early and straightened up the house a little before setting out.  It was still cool and looked like it was shaping up to be a beautiful day.  I headed over to the Bridle Trail, a relatively flat, gravel path not far from my house.  I had not been there in several months, and thought it would be a nice change in scenery.  The trail runs through the woods, so it stays well shaded and keeps the temperature significantly cooler than running on the road.  I was actually a little chilly when I started, but quickly warmed up as I settled into my pace.  I chose my beat up asics over my vibrams because I don’t like running over gravel (or pavement) in toe shoes.

Not long into my run, I was greeted by another runner with a happily meandering chocolate lab in toe.  His companion lagged behind him enough to keep me company for a while before he wandered off again with his owner.  I made a mental note to start bringing my lab, Penny, out on more of my short runs.  (I used to run with her regularly; however, now that she is getting older, her endurance is not what it used to be. )

I had set the timer on my phone (which I use as an ipod) to alarm after an hour and forty-five minutes figuring I would just turn around and run back.  I hoped to be able to cover at least 15 miles in that amount of time.  For most of the way out I felt terrific.  I soaked in the beautiful views and wondered why anyone would run on the road when they could have a much more peaceful and splendid backdrop.  I was so absorbed in my surroundings that it felt like no effort at all, and I started to think that running a marathon would not be that difficult.  I frequently joke to Adam that “running on a flat surface is easy. I could run forever it’s flat.”

I was just beginning to believe my jest was true when I brushed my hand across my leg and realized I couldn’t feel it.  In fact, I could not feel anything from the small of my back down.  I wondered if this was what an epidural felt like.  Like any other endurance athlete (and I use that term loosely), I figured that if I ignored it long enough, it would just go away.  Besides, I wasn’t having any pain.  I tuned it out and kept going, but it didn’t go away.  Instead, it got worse.  Then my back and legs started to hurt.  I looked at the time.  I had only been running an hour!  This was disheartening.  I wondered if my asics were a bad choice.  Yet, I kept running because it was not just about the mileage- it was about training my body to keep going when it didn’t want to.  I knew I would have to get used to this feeling if I was going to get through over 26 miles.

By the time I was ready to turn around and head back, it was becoming increasingly more difficult to move my legs.  I was afraid to stop and walk, convinced that I would not be able to get my body to run again.  I began to doubt my ability to complete this task, and kicked myself for adding an additional 15 minutes each way.  At times, I was distracted by butterflies and bright yellow birds who seemed to follow me along with curiosity.  There were also a wide variety of wild flowers in white, purple, and yellows abutting the tree line.  I tried to concentrate on the scenery: a lovely pond, tall fields, small cottages.  However, my legs were aching and numb.  I didn’t think it was right that they could be both at the same time.  I kept plodding and hoping the time would go by quickly.

When I finally reached a stretch of the trail I remembered from early in my run I was elated- only to be crushed again by the long stretch before the next familiar site.  I thought it was funny how quickly I went from feeling like I could run forever to feeling like I had been running forever.  I dreaded the idea of doing this for over 5 hours and began to question why I ever thought it would be a good idea.  Maybe I was capable of running 10 or 15 K thanks to my vibrams, but this was starting to seem insane.

Then, before I knew it, I was back at the 2 mile mark.  I remembered how I used to struggle to run from my car to this spot and back when I was first breaking in my toe shoes.  Now it seemed like such a small distance!  Over and over in my head I chanted “TWO MORE MILES, JUST TWO MORE MILES!!!!”  I kept pushing; my body kept trying to quit.  I wanted to finish running, not walking.  I continued to drag myself until the sites became more familiar; and, finally,  I knew I was almost there.  I dragged myself all the way back to the car, and a funny thing happened.  I didn’t die.  I didn’t fall over.  I didn’t even throw up!  Instead I drove myself home and tried to stretch- until my lap was filled with a very happy lab and bulldog.

it got a little muddy

another view from the trail