PTSD, You and Me

Post traumatic stress disorder

P      T      S      D

Tightening every muscle

A giant fist of anxiety

Unkind, abusive people are not safe

Safety is on much higher ground

Pay no mind to the nasty folk

They will only bring us down

There is no known cure for this

It’s just the way the brain is wired

Stress and cruelty can wear you down

Leaving you emptied out and tired

Some days are better than others

There is no telling how they might be

You just wake up and try your best

Hoping things work out peacefully

The world is rife with assaulting sounds

People ready to argue on a dime

Guard your heart, your mind and ears

With soothing sights and music sublime

On the days when nothing will work

Take heart in how well you have done

You may have been through wars of many

Yet you are here, living and moving on

PTSD may never be completely gone

It may always be lingering inside

Make friends with your worst fears

Let your “safe people” be your guide

We may never win the war on PTSD

The grueling challenges may never end

Take heart, know you are not alone

In me you have a PTSD friend

(c)  Janni Styles

Here is my latest PTSD poster, number 7 in the series:

Love Enough or Love Undone?

When people say “this”

and then “that” they go do

how do we know if they

really mean “I love you?”

 

Will one morn the words become

“I didn’t really mean that either?”

and wobble you to the core

do you stay for more “word skiver?”

 

Do you run for the hills

or stay for more?

Do you chance taking a chance on

making your own heart more sore?

 

Unwelcome jolts or unkind events

people no longer who you would often defend

do you start again, how do you mend the rents?

or do you sit contemplating on the fence?

 

If word is so easily broken

it could happen to me too

nothing is certain, everything can upend

in just a second or two.

 

One foot ahead of the other I go

trying to find balance in undeserved change

walking ’til I find my peaceful heart again

Now that my love has been rearranged.

(C) Janni Styles

PTSD: Is it possible to Forgive and Forget?

There is a lot of media out there from both organizations and individuals who claim that forgiving is our only way forward once we have endured trauma. The problem I have with this is that I believe you can forgive alright. But forget? Never. If you dare for one minute to let your guard down around certain people who were harmful to you in your past, you leave yourself vulnerable for more hurting. This is always a conflicting statement to me whenever I hear it because forgiving and forgetting aren’t even in the same category  in my world.

Forgiving means you have grown past the pain or abuses well enough to let go of them and stop the daily torment of “why why why” but I personally believe it is completely impossible to forget what happened to us. In forgiving I find nothing more than a sensation of not being angry any more. I no longer question “why why why” because I have realized I was not being dealt with by people who were mentally and emotionally intact human beings. If they were, they could never have dealt me the blows they exacted on my psyche and on my person.

A niece who knew I had worked with victims of domestic violence in the justice system phoned to say her common-law husband and father of their three children was bashing her head into the wall. Call the police I said, I am on my way.  Her mother (my sister) and I worked tirelessly for days to get their home in order because the police officer who took the children’s father away said he was calling the Ministry of Children and Families. The Ministry visited and the children were deemed safe in the care of their mother but he was not to move back in. Just two months later, my niece let the kid’s father move back in with his skull and crossbones posters and all. I cried when I heard this news.

In trauma counselling for PTSD myself, I was emotionally torn. Should I leave it or should I let the Ministry know of the potential danger the children and their mother were in? In the end, the trauma counselor helped me a great deal by asking me questions that gave me the answer and I used her phone to call the Ministry. I could not take the idea that three little pairs of eyes might haunt me if I didn’t do the right thing by them. If their mother wasn’t strong enough, somebody had to be for the sake of the children and that just happened to be me. He is now fully out of the picture so as far as I know, the children are safe. But again family members, including the niece who called me for help in the first place, blamed and ostracized me for doing this instead of seeing there really is no choice when it comes to the safety and protection of children. They still cannot see it, or rather, refuse to.  But I am no longer angry about that either so I guess that means I have also forgiven all their misplaced ire. And all that in the midst of having PTSD. So, as I have said many times and I will likely have to say it again: when you have PTSD you do not lose your intelligence, you just lose your “coping skills.” What you once bounced back from pretty fast just takes a lot longer when you have PTSD.

Not only did I survive a physical assault that could have killed me with one kick to my bladder, I was haunted online even as I struggled massively to cope with the loss of my mother, my job, my decades long marriage, my financial stability, a new relationship of a year that ended due to his cheating which was what ended his own decades long marriage before meeting me and yes, in a nod to a country song, I also lost my dog at the same time all of this was going on. Those nasty minded people had no compassion, no humanity and no regard for anything but their own selfish angers at the misguided conclusions they drew. They dogged me for about a year until I threatened legal intervention. I am sure, unless they did some radical self educating, they are still angry at somebody somewhere and spew their vitriol daily. I am so far removed from that now, I look back and ask myself, “Why wasn’t I able to see how truly broken all those abusers are, what took me so long to see it?”

Two things spring to mind: hope and PTSD. Just as I had held out hope in my marriage every time he promised to drop his multiple addictions and seek help, I held out hope that these cruel minded adults would realize the error of their ways and come to their senses. Add to this the fact that I was taken down by PTSD and it actually felt like my brain was “banging” on the inside of my head in what I now call a “repetitive brain stutter.” I just couldn’t get past the brain stuttering and get the clarity I needed to see that there is no fixing some people no matter the lies they tell themselves and others. Even though I have PTSD, I could finally see they are “broken” and may never come right again. Thanks to three years of trauma counselling and learning coping techniques, my brain does not “bang” inside my head anymore. It hasn’t for almost two years. Still, there are moments when I am still “triggered” and start trembling and stuttering my words. It’s not so much that we have to wrap ourselves in cotton swabs and avoid the world so much as it is to remember your coping techniques. And realize that some people are just not going to ever be good for us no matter what they say or promise.

This is where I will go back to “forgiveness” because I believe I have reached forgiveness. Against the eight family members who sided with my ex and the woman who kicked me, a former bestie of near 20 years, I no longer carry anger or even question why. This is how I know I have reached forgiveness. But I will not give any of them, my ex, the abusive relatives or the physical assaulter a second chance to hurt me. Unless and until a massive public apology occurs from all parties. We all know that can’t happen until they actually deal with the truth and facts of the situation and that is, clearly, not even likely for any of them or they would not have behaved so terribly in the first place. Thankful is my walk forward that I can now recognize abusers on a dime and steer totally clear of them. The last four years have been some of the most peaceful of my life and I am so looking forward to more of the same. This is due, in large part, both because of my own continued healing work and because I now surround myself with people who are “safe.” If you are not “safe,” you don’t “get in” is my new philosophy for living life as peacefully as possible.

I will leave you with my latest PTSD poster and as always, your comments and questions are welcome here. I know this can be tough reading for some and I apologize if you have a hard time reading. Actually going through it is much worse than reading about it as you know. Please know also I am able to write about it with a healthy distance because I am in a much better place now. Well, that’s it for me this week, love, peace and hope to all who read this.

ptsd-poster-3

WRITING BETTER IN YOUR OWN VOICE

Writing well is something to eternally aspire to because the truth is, no matter how well we write, there is always room for growth and improvement.

Well, almost always. Not for some literary greats, obviously, but then I consider myself an average person with an overwhelmingly powerful desire to be the best writer I can possibly be. Continually learning is one of the methods I use to advance my writing abilities and develop my own “voice.”

Mordecai Richler said the following (noted from an article/interview with him):
“As a society, we are irony deficient.” 
Richler carries on writing regardless of what he thinks the masses want.  He said he may not be writing for people who know about Greek mythology, the Bible or who Dr. Johnson is but he writes about them anyway if he wants to.
“Novelists only have a couple of tunes to play and they play variations on that tune throughout their careers.”
Richler also said until he wrote “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” he hadn’t found his own voice.
 

This was comforting to know. As a writer, I found it reassuring that I did not have to know exactly what my voice was so much as simply keep on writing until I find it.  Some days I think I have found it. Other days I feel I have no voice at all.

Thanks to Mordecai Richler’s words of wisdom, as well as many others including Carol Shields and Margaret Laurence, personal instruction or training from Ed Griffin, Andreas Schroeder and Bill Burns, I’ve been fortunate in my journey to continue “growing” my own unique writing voice.

I’m not saying I’ve found it yet. But I am definitely still working on it.

For all the professional training we may have, there is often no other remedy than to simply keep on writing. But what can one do on those days when pulling a decent sentence out of the mind feels akin to trying to extract your own wisdom teeth? Apart from a good long walk, I keep several prized books around me.

A few of the favorites in my personal library that help me kick-start myself on those days when I am hitting “the wall” are :

Ralph Keyes – The Courage to Write
Natalie Goldberg – Writing Down the Bones
Christopher Vogler – The Writer’s Journey
Brenda Ueland – If You Want to Write
Peter Rubie – The Elements of Story Telling
Anne Lamott – Bird by Bird
Laurence Block – Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print
Gabriele Lusser Rico – Writing the Natural Way
Linda Seger – Creating Unforgettable Characters
Jesse Lee Kercheval – Building Fiction
 

What do you read for inspiration? Even if it’s not about writing, what written works inspire you to carry on and keep on fighting the good fight of the creative life?

SPIRIT OF THE SEASON

A little fearlessness...can carry one a very long way.

 
Neither the white
blonde hair
Nor the
Zebra-striped
sweater
Over a mini
Mini-skirt
Distinguish
her
From the others.
Nor is it
her walk –
A stride so springy
Thin legs threaten to run
Nor is it her eyes –
Eyes sparkling so
you feel the energy
in passing
So much that it
steals your breath
for a heart beat.
And you marvel
at a woman of
sixty-something
To find
yourself
Longing
for just a little of
Her
Fearlessness.
(c) 1997