Hard facts

This time of our life, the hot topic is what is real, what is not.  I mean, who needs soap operas right now?

Two key phrases ring loudly in what’s going on today.  Fake news, and alternative facts, which often times are heard together and contradict each other.  When a person says its fake news, well obviously we get the gist.  However, if the phrase “alternative fact” is tossed in, now there is a question if it is a different version of the truth- or, to play devil’s advocate, a deliberately sugarcoated version of fake news.  It’s juicy, it’s provocative, it’s unproven. And you will never know the truth until the evidence is indisputable and accessible.  A hard fact is the Holy Grail everyone is seeking.

It sank in deeply one evening that even though current politics and domestic violence are on opposite ends of the Richter scale, the characteristics are so similar.  Bullying, name-calling, blaming, threats, covert behavior, power, greed, gaslighting, casualties and supporters, and suppression of facts.

When you find your voice to speak out about what happened to you, arm yourself with as many truths as possible.  Brace yourself for a smear campaign.  Expect flying monkey supporters.  Use an audio recorder or keep a daily journal.  Document everything- about how you feel, what you remember, your fears, every single thing that happens.  Because everything matters and I cannot stress it enough.  You are your best advocate.


DABDA in Trauma Recovery

When I first began the journey of recovering, I mourned her… the loss of who I was.  For a long time, I felt as if my best friend had suddenly died because right before the trauma had happened to me, I had done about a year’s work of self-esteem work and I had come to love myself.  I didn’t know if she would ever be able to come back.  So yes, I mourned.

Trauma will cause abrupt emotional upheaval in a person’s mind and sense of well-being.  Trauma is not only life-altering, but is potentially mind-altering as well.

Surviving trauma is in many ways a grieving process.  The Kübler-Ross model, or the five stages of grief (DABDA), postulates a series of emotions and coping skills present in nearly any negative life-changing event and personal loss.

“It didn’t happen to me.” Denial is a natural avoidance coping skill.  We don’t want to admit the trauma happened.  We’d rather pretend it’s business as usual, average, daily living.  We can go through the motions of denial living for as little as a few days, to a lifetime of living in denial.  Denial is a truth-suppressor and a secret-keeper.

“WTF????”  Anger is one of the emotions I hold dear.  Channeled positively, anger can move mountains and change the world.  But to a trauma survivor, it doesn’t feel productive or positive.   It can feel confusing because anger is the secondary emotion.  The true root of anger in trauma, is fear of how it could possibly have happened.  When this stage happens, try to release it productively.  Write about what happened.  Talk about what happened.  Scream about what happened.  Be angry, document what you remember, and make it work for you.

“It wasn’t that bad.” Pulling the wool over your own eyes is unhealthy.  If you’ve ever seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail,  the Black Knight skit is a humorously accurate example of how someone can continuously be battered, and still say ’tis just a scratch until there’s nearly nothing left of them.  When you begin to feel complacent about what happened, it’s a good time to talk to your support system to pull you back to reality.

“I can’t live like this anymore.” It’s expected to experience sadness and cry for what happened.  We have tear ducts for a reason.  Our bodies aren’t built to bury feelings.  Crying it out is very cleansing.   However, sadness that lingers or thoughts of self-harm should always be assessed with a counselor or psychiatrist immediately.  There is no shame in therapy or medication to get through this phase.  Yes… it’s just a phase, and it will resolve much easier with help.

“I am a survivor.” Acceptance that it happened involves a lot of self-work, and how you view yourself as a whole.   It may have changed your entire life- from the way you dress, to your thought patterns, speech, and how you interact with others.  You might have a whole new set of bells n’ whistles diagnoses such as anxiety or PTSD, plus an entirely different set of friends, a different job, a whole new life.  And that is normal, because trauma changes us.  We will be different.  But we do reach that stage ultimately to embrace the new us, and love ourselves, with acceptance.


Leaving behind the Twinkie

Magic Man and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary not long ago.  Reciprocal love is hard to come by.  He is the love of my life and he has the biggest heart.  I’m so very blessed.

Many things have occurred over the last year.  Some good, some “meh”, all learning experiences in boundaries and what it means to be a survivor and not a schmuck.  One thing I’ve learned the hard way about surviving DV is this:  freedom can come at great cost.  I often compare DV to a natural disaster, both destructive and expensive.

When I say cost, I don’t necessarily mean money.  Yes.  I won’t deny it, surviving is difficult and costly.  It costs to save, it costs to plan, it costs to run.  We also lose a lot of, well… stuff and things.  We lose belongings, and memories, and friends.   But trust me when I say even though it’s crushing to humans to lose stuff and things, they could look back on the losses when the dust has settled and time has passed.  They realize, those stuff and things were as relevant as  filling in a Twinkie, and just as fake.

Belongings can be replaced- we as a species could replace a good chunk of everything we hold dear in one shopping spree to a local Goodwill.  Memories, most DV victims pray to lose anyway.  And friends?  If they disappear when the filling hits the fan, it’s a blessing in disguise they were lost.

So if you’re afraid to leave, because of stuff and things, yes. Yes.  You most likely will lose the stuff, and the things.  You might feel broken, and terrible, worthless and conflicted.  Your pockets may turn inside out and grumble from emptiness.  You might want to run back to the illusion, if only to feel like you haven’t lost the stuff and things.   Illusions are just that- a hoax, a fake- Twinkie filling.  We can’t sustain or flourish off illusions.  Sooner or later if we’re lucky, we leave behind the stuff and things we don’t need in our life- those illusions that looked tempting and real, but never were.  What we do leave with are the most important things.  Life, hope, and chance to survive.



Bearing the mark

Lately a new marking has emerged with domestic violence victims whereby the victim, if still actively being abused and in danger, discreetly draws a black dot in their palm.   black dot campaignThe Black Dot Campaign has given victims hope without uttering a word, and has received mixed opinions because even something as small as a black speck could place a victim at risk if the abuser knows what it means.

I was thinking heavily about this campaign today, weighing its risks, and about the devastation of human trafficking victims being tattooed as property.

One of my close friends has a deep personal investment in spreading word about this inhumane treatment.  I truly applaud her.

Sexual abuse and mistreatment, as common as it seems to be portrayed anymore, is nonetheless difficult to talk about.  Yet she’s out there, boldly spreading the word to anyone and everyone within cyber earshot.  I wrote a book about it, she’s campaigning awareness.  We make a good survivor team and I’m glad she’s in my corner.

If you see someone bearing the mark, do the right thing.  Help.




Champ Dog Philosophy

Even though I haven’t been posting here lately, I’ve been busy elsewhere because it really helps reinforce my own recovery process.  So many changes have transpired naturally which would not have been possible without recovery writing.

Magic Man and I married on one of the worst days of my old life, in late spring of this year.   My life has become our life, and that day which used to fill me with dread has become our day to look forward to.  A free-spirited tie-dye wedding, complete with cherry blossoms chucked at us from my sweet baby, whose face nearly cracked grinning so much.  She is blossoming from his gentle nature and love for us.

I’m slowly returning to my art and enjoying simple pleasures that we take for granted, like sunsets and evening walks.  I never enjoyed either until this year because with the evening, came the fears.  Now I have my husband on one side and our energetic pup on the other.  Dogs are amazing at helping quell a PTSD trigger, and she’s taught me so much in such a short time.  What a little champ she is.

My philosophy lately has been this:

I’ve learned much about what I will endure when I’m confronted.  The line is boldly etched in boundary setting blueprints but I couldn’t see it at first.  My boundaries were so badly skewed, that just rolling over into a ball of disconnect and letting bad things happen was the safest option.  But I’ve changed.  I surprised myself the other day.  I didn’t run.

Later I had to analyze it. “…boy, that was stupid, I could’ve really gotten hurt…”  but at the same time, I felt more whole than I’d felt in a long time.  That was a glimmer of the old me, right there, in a temporary moment of champ dogness.

A Fairy Tale Year

One year ago today, Magic Man entered my little world – causing me to question my life and fear of taking risks to live.  Not just exist.. but really, truly live, and risk love in my heart.  For an abuse survivor, it’s a difficult choice sometimes between living life and safety.

I cannot say this past year has been easy.  Living a perfect fairytale life is fictitious, to say the least.  Real fairy tales have death, true love and dark magic.  We are living a Grimm’s Fairy Tale life, the deluxe edition.  It’s pushed my health and PTSD to nearly unbearable moments, for the world outside is such a scary place and the monsters lurk in the shadows.

Every day, we battle the monsters, the sadness and tragedies.   At night, we curl around each other until the sweetness of sleep slips through our veins.  We are battle-weary warriors in love.  He is my armor, I am his strength, and together, our voices the sword of truth.

Our fairy tale story might not close in the usual fictitious way.. for no one truly lives happily ever after.  It might read instead, “And they truly lived from this day forward.”

Running away, with love

Running away means survival so you don’t get hit or pushed around or subdued.  It has nothing to do with love.  It’s about fear, nursing wounds, living to fight another day.  Self-preservation.

But this year has opened my mind further than I ever thought possible.  I’ve nearly crossed the threshold from survivor to thriver.  I’m starting to fight back wisely, more clear-headed, and the happiest I’ve ever been.

As our first anniversary was approaching, Magic Man took us on a long journey across the miles, over the river and through the woods to meet our parents.  The further we drove the lighter our emotional suitcases became, until we were lighthearted with the relief.  Escaping with a purposeful goal was just what the doctor ordered.

We did not care what anyone thought.  We were all giddy children in a Caddy having the time of our lives.  Being in love is magic in itself.  Running away, with love, blew my mind.   It was such a new concept to me and took some getting used to.  But I did it, and I loved every second of it.