Survivors Empowering Survivors

Is Personal Advocacy Worth Risking Professional Backlash?

“Don’t you worry an employer will see the personal stuff you have shared online?”

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When I began writing publicly about my life and experiences with depression, and as a parenting survivor of sexual abuse, my career in the mental health field was already on hold. At the time, I was a stay at home mom who needed an outlet. Now being back in the field, I sometimes get asked the question above. Truth is, yes, I do worry. But not for the reasons you may think. It has more to do with my feet, than a fear of compromising relationships and employment.

I “came out” as a sexual abuse survivor online a year before I resumed my career as a mental health care manager. I wrote about my experiences on a personal blog and for popular sites like Scary Mommy and Huffington Post. I talked to other survivors and supporters online, and face to face with people in my personal life that never knew.

I went back to work about six months before publishing a book on the topic of parenting as a survivor of abuse. I didn’t tell anyone at my new job about my blog or the book, and had no idea if anyone had Googled me before I started. I felt like I was walking around with this hidden identity tucked away. Which wasn’t much different than the way I’d always felt.

Survivors are professionals at covering up the scars that society uses to brand them broken.

The difference now was I had exposed myself online, leaving a part of my identity and reputation in a new place of employment vulnerable to judgment. I leaked a “secret” safely from the comfort of my own home, and it was only a matter of time before I had to come face to face with it in public.

There came a point when I mentioned in casual conversation at work that I enjoyed writing. I could feel my feet turn to stone, and start spinning like the roadrunner at the same time. Before the last word fell from my mouth, I was formulating a plot to run. I knew I had just opened the door for someone to ask, “What do you write about?” Inevitably, the question came up and I directed a few people towards essays I wrote about the trials and tribulations of motherhood, with only a dash of my “crazy” sprinkled in.

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Slowly but surely the word started to trickle out that I was co-publishing a book, in and outside of work. I started to talk about what the book was about – parenting as a survivor of childhood abuse – and had to answer “Yes” when asked, “Are you doing this because it happened to you?”

And again, frozen but fidgety feet.

I felt empowered by being in control of the conversation, but it stung my insides a little, as if the word sexual abuse sent a message to every nerve in my body to go electric for a split second. Before then, I had only written about my experiences. Being exposed like that, on purpose, looking someone in the eye as pieces of my story willingly poured out is something I had never experienced. It set my heart free, but imprisoned my feet in a constant state of “Freeze” and “Run!”

Even though every single person around me was supportive and championed my goal to speak about and for parenting survivors, I worried. I worried that I was breaking the unspoken code that people in the mental health field aren’t suppose to open up their own baggage and allow others to see what’s inside. We are suppose to draw firm lines in the sand, because exposing ourselves could make others uncomfortable, damaging the chance for advances in your career, and/or jeopardize relationships with clients. I kept waiting for the backlash.

Two years later, it hasn’t happened yet.

Trauma, more often than not, is at the root of the psychological and medical illnesses mental health workers help people manage. I have become someone who is recognized as having the ability to understand what that means in regards to a person’s recovery work. I am at times sought out to work with clients who have extensive trauma histories, because I am capable of acknowledging pieces of their stories that aren’t commonly recognized as important, while helping them to navigate recovery through medical, mental health and community services.

I’m able and willing to share so much about myself and my story because I recognize the reality of how prevalent my story is. I know this not only from the hundreds of charts I’ve read and the countless mental health patients I have worked with throughout the past ten years. The confirmation that my experiences are far from rare show in the lingering eye contact among those I’m speaking to – the unspoken coming out among survivors.

I’ve been contacted by college professors, stay at home moms, a neurophysicist, administrative professionals, those living in houses surrounded by a white picket fence and those that are constantly chasing a rent they can actually afford – all with stories about how being a survivor of childhood abuse has affected their ability to be a parent. I have experienced and witnessed the abuse a person experiences bleed out as mental health symptoms, ranging from full on delusional thinking, to unexpected panic attacks, to not a fuck given about living or dying.

I share my story not because it’s easier for me, but because I choose to use empathy and validation to establish connection. Experience has convinced me that connection permits scars to evolve into re-birth marks.

Setting appropriate boundaries is a priority in my line of work. I recognize that disclosing personal information to clients can be counterproductive in their recovery, but that doesn’t prevent me from allowing my own experiences to join me quietly in interactions with clients. Allowing all of me to be present enables authentic eye contact, compassionate body language and an empathetic attention span. That can speak volumes to a person sitting across from you.

I don’t worry that I am going to be fired from my job, or that I won’t be considered for a different one in the future, because my personal advocacy work exposes pieces of my life most in my position would keep hidden away. I worry about those damn feet of mine.

quote_2I worry that with even the slightest indulgence of vulnerability, I’ll feel the hangover that always follows. I’m worried that my feet will never be still and calm.

That my volume button is defective and I can’t or won’t talk loud enough or often enough to actually make a difference. I worry that my feet will give out.

I worry that the chatter in my head will convince my feet to give up on carry the weight that comes with advocacy.

You see, my brain gets it. My body doesn’t yet. I still have work to do. It’s daunting to stand at the top of one mountain you just conquered and realize there is an even bigger one in the way of where you’re going. My feet are tired. Some days, I don’t think they will ever get the message that it’s ok to stand still, tall even, when the sting of vulnerability hits.

So back to the original question – Do I get nervous about the amount of personal information I share? Yes! There is a risk involved when exposing personal aspects of my life while professionally working with the public. However, to me, it is more of a risk to not acknowledge where my empathy and knowledge comes from – especially in today’s cultural and political atmosphere.

And as far as those damn feet go, I can only hope that in time, as they carry me further and further into the public view, they will keep me grounded in spirit, and not fear.

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Faces of PTSD · The Voices Of & For Parenting Surivors

Why Aren’t Trauma Survivors Warned That Parenthood May Be a PTSD Trigger?

For many survivors of childhood abuse, symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may re-occur, or never arise, until they become a parent. A significant number of parenting survivors do not recognize the increased depression, anxiety, or onset of flashbacks as symptoms of PTSD, weaving in and out their journey to raise a family. Instead, many will internalize debilitating shame and question  their ability, and even their right to parent.

According to the National Center for Victims of Crimes, 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys will be a victim of sexual abuse. The abused children all have one thing in common – they eventually become adults. Naturally, most of these adults become parents, many whom have never spoke about what happened to them, leaving trauma symptoms to lie dormant, festering, until acts of Parenting 101 expose them to triggers which send them spiraling. Most suffer silently, alone, and confused. It doesn’t have to be that way. And in fact, it shouldn’t be.

One night, as a new mom, I walked into my daughter’s bedroom to kiss her goodnight before heading to bed myself. As I went to my daughter’s bed, I was halted by a physical reaction to what I was doing. I had this sudden, unexplainable sickness in my stomach and felt panicked. I had this thought that I was violating her personal space by being in her room while she slept. I felt repulsed by the idea of kissing her on her cheek. In that moment, I was able to recognize my thoughts and physical symptoms as irrational and was able to kiss my baby girl goodnight; however, I had yet to understand where this was all coming from.

Following that episode, I started to recognize that same mental and physical pattern while performing basic acts of care with my children. The sickness and panic was there when I changed diapers, bathed them, gave affection, when affection was requested, when I breastfed, when I disciplined either of them – it became the norm for me to feel “off” anytime I was in the role of Mom. But who do you turn to with this kind of revelation? How does one ask for help because her children are making her physically and mentally sick? I often asked myself, “What the hell is wrong with me that I feel like this?”

This is the PTSD I have had to learn to cope with as I raise my children, because I was sexually abused as a child. I’m now able to recognize that panicked physical reaction I experience stems from the eight years my abuser walked into my room at night, and the lack of protection I had from others in my life. I was told “I love you” by my abuser, every time he abused me. I believe that is the reason that I felt ill when I went to kiss my daughter goodnight and tell her that I love her.

Becoming a mother added a whole new, difficult layer to my recovery. I became triggered by things that I did with, around, and for my children. I was triggered by certain people around my children. I was triggered by their sheer existence, in that I now could see how innocent of a child I was, at the time my abuse began.

I have worked in the field of mental health for the past 10 years and invested a significant amount of time working through my trauma before becoming a mother. Even with professional and personal experiences in recovery work, I was unable to recognize what I was experiencing as PTSD, nor was I ever forewarned this may happen.

With research such as the Adverse Childhood Experiences study (ACEs) beginning to come to the surface, we are learning that there is science behind how survivors of childhood abuse experience adulthood and parenting. Prolonged abuse and the toxic stress that follows distorts connections in the brain that associate things correctly, like love and fear. Also, a survivor’s nervous system develops in an abnormal manner, leaving the survivor with a faulty fight/flight/freeze response.

It wasn’t until I connected with other parenting survivors of childhood abuse online that I shed the belief that I was broken and not worthy of being a parent. Through sharing my experiences, I learned how common this is for parenting survivors. Once I was able to break through the shame, I was able to re-enter therapy and talk truthfully about what I was experiencing. At that point, I began learning about PTSD and triggers. Even though the process of acknowledging my reality as a mom was brutal, it finally started to make sense.

It isn’t always a choice for an abuse survivor to associate “normal” feelings with “normal” things. For example, a parenting survivor may experience a desire to push her child away when the child asks to snuggle and watch a movie, despite wanting to participate in the loving act. Intellectually, she may understand that this is a normal way of showing affection; however, her body recognizes that kind of touching as stressful, unpleasant, or even harmful.

Bessel A. van der Kolk, in his book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, teaches us that “Trauma victims cannot recover until they become familiar with and befriend the sensations in their bodies.” He further states, “The mind needs to be reeducated to feel physical sensations, and the body needs to be helped to tolerate and enjoy the comforts of touch. Individuals who lack emotional awareness are able, with practice, to connect their physical sensations to psychological events. Then they can slowly reconnect with themselves.”

That’s what makes being a parenting survivor so difficult. Survivors do not often experience parenthood as their peers do and often feel alone because of this. This can add one more layer of fear, frustration and shame to their day to day experiences, especially when they have never heard anyone speak about parenting as they are experiencing it.

It takes an incredible amount of energy and conviction to weave through PTSD while raising children. For many, the child is the trigger, meaning you can’t avoid it.

One has to be willing and able to work through the incongruent feelings she experiences while parenting, and choose to analyze and process her reactions at a later time in order to continue healing. That is incredibly difficult to do when already experiencing sleep deprivation and other exhausting demands of parenthood.

I think most parents feel like they are winging it, but growing up in dysfunctional families often leave a person without a visual of what a “good” parent looks like. Add trying to understand PTSD symptoms to that process when no one ever talks about this and it is a recipe for the cycle of dysfunction to continue.

A parenting survivor has to commit to raising her children, while at the same time re-raising herself. Often times, this is done with little to no support.

There are so many missed opportunities for providers to prepare new parents for what may occur. First and foremost, Ask! Looking back, I was never asked by my primary care physician if my childhood abuse was affecting me as an adult or parent. The lactation specialist never asked if I had experience with childhood sexual abuse when I struggled to breastfeed my child. My previous therapist never warned me that this may be one more thing I may need to learn to navigate when we discussed my plan to start a family.

I remain shocked that with all that is written about and for survivors, and about and for parents, no one has recognized and addressed parents who are survivors. As an advocate for parenting survivors, I am continuously amazed at the response I get when I speak on the topic, by both professionals and parents in the communities. The most common responses I get is “I’ve never heard anyone talk about this before” or “I didn’t know this happens to other parents.” It’s a shame.

Understanding what triggers are and why they occur has saved my life, and allowed me to parent in a break-the-cycle fashion. It has allowed me to use the triggers to assist in my recovery, and no longer hinder it.

It is my goal to increase awareness on the topic of parenting as a survivor by educating community medical, mental health and human service providers on the role childhood trauma has in becoming a parent.

The good news, as Bessel A. van der Kolk and other leading trauma and forward thinking experts like Peter Levine (Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma), Judith Herman (Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence–From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror) and Brene Brown (Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead) are proving that there is hope, if you are willing to do the work. And believe me, it is work!

With trauma-informed care becoming a buzzword of sorts, and with the ACEs study adding science-based evidence to validate the actions and reactions of abuse survivors, I can only hope that the 1 in 5 girls and the 1 in 20 boys will be more prepared for the role PTSD may have in their lives, as they become new moms and dads.

**photo credit


Join the parenting survivors community on Facebook

Get your copy of the Trigger Points Anthology and hear other child abuse survivors experiences of parenting. Available on Amazon.

Survivors Empowering Survivors

The Power of Community: 3 reasons you need a tribe, and how to get one.

I was at a neighborhood party a few weeks ago. It was a celebration of the successful completion of our annual block party. I sat down with a glass of wine to chat with one of my neighbors, and she told me during our conversation that her daughter had died under tragic circumstances at age 30.

“You probably read about it in the news” she told me.

She also told me that across the hall from her lived another woman whose daughter had died at the same age, and that when she was having a hard day she would walk across the hall and knock on the door, knowing that there was someone who would understand.

A week later I was talking to a friend of mine who confided that she was starting the process of separating from her husband. We talked about the overwhelming list of practical details she had in the weeks ahead, including finding a full time job and a new place to live. And I thought of another friend of mine, who is also going through a separation. I thought they would probably get along really well, and could both use someone to talk to. Someone who would understand. So I put them in contact and they got together over coffee.

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Human beings are a funny species. There are billions of us on the planet, and yet many of us live our lives feeling alone. We often feel that no one else could understand what we are going through, or no one else has the crazy thoughts that we have. This feeling of separation makes us sick, both emotionally and physically. We are a social species, we are meant to live in connection with others. But in order to be truly connected, we have to be vulnerable. That’s the scary part. We have to admit that we need help sometimes.

Before I became a parent, someone told me that parenting was like turning the amp up to eleven. Life is just more intense. The highs are higher and the lows are deep abysmal valleys. As a survivor of childhood abuse, my experience of becoming a parent certainly fit that description and more. I was suddenly confronted with the reality that no matter how much healing work I had done prior to having children, a whole new level of issues were arising for me. Anxiety, depression, and PTSD all reared their ugly heads. I knew it was related to my childhood trauma, but I couldn’t find any information about how other parents survived this. Until the day that I did. When I read Dawn’s article on Scary Mommy about Raising a Daughter as a Survivor, I knew I needed to talk with her. I did, and together we formed a community for other parents like us. Because when we are “in the rumble” as Brene Brown would say, with the hard things of life, we need to talk to someone who will understand.  And the ones who understand best are in the rumble with you.

Thinking about my experiences in the two years since Dawn and I started the Trigger Points community and anthology project, I realized I have learned so much about the power of community, and why we need it. Here are my top 3 benefits from forming this community:

  1. It normalized my struggles

Before I had the Trigger Points group, I didn’t have a baseline to compare against. I could talk to other moms about the developmental transitions my child was going through, but I didn’t feel like I could talk about what I was going through. And I really needed to hear that what I was experiencing was perfectly normal for someone with my history. Now when something comes up for me, I know exactly where to turn.

  1. It gave me a place to talk freely without censoring myself.

Have you ever had one of “those” days and then been asked “How are you?” by the grocery store clerk? And you really want to tell her “Actually I feel like total shit right now and I would like nothing more than to curl up in a ball and cry or better yet punch something, but instead I’m here buying fucking groceries.” But instead you just mumble out a “Fine”?  I hate those days. As a survivor, I learned from the reactions of people around me that my story was too much for most people. So as I grew older, I self censored. A lot. Now I have a place where I don’t have to do that, and it is such a gift.

  1. Advice & Resources

The Trigger Points community has been an amazing resource for me. Books to read, therapy modes to try, and more have been recommended. Even something simple like a playlist of songs (link to post) to listen to on hard days has made a huge difference.

Some other amazing things have happened in my life since Dawn and I started the Trigger Points Community. For instance, I shared my story in a spoken word performance at She Talks, and learned that not only could I speak publicly about being a survivor, but I would receive a standing ovation for doing so. That was so incredibly healing for me.

And one of the best things to happen after creating this anthology and community, is getting messages from other survivors that say things like “Thank you, I felt so alone and now I don’t feel alone anymore.” Knowing that Dawn and I have created this safe space for others is so incredibly rewarding.

I have always had a strong pull to create community, because I have seen the benefits of it in my own life, and in the lives of those around me. I have learned that I need different tribes for different phases and stages of my life, and that if I outgrow one tribe, I will find or build a new one. So I urge you, if you are feeling alone in any part of your life, go find your tribe.

How to find your tribe:

  1. Start with who you know and ask around. You may be surprised to find that a friend of a friend is in the exact situation you are, and is also looking to connect.
  2. Look to Facebook groups, Meetups, and libraries. Librarians are some of the best people to ask, they know everything!
  3. Start one yourself. If you can’t find what you are looking for, then the world needs you to step up and create it. You are never the only person going through anything. Never. Someone out there is wishing that they could find you, I guarantee it.

I know it can be scary to show your vulnerability and admit you need help, and often we are afraid to reach out because we don’t want to be a burden. But we need each other. There is someone out there who will hear your story and it will not be a burden at all. It will be a gift. Go find that person.

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Author: Joyelle Brandt

Joyelle Brandt is a radical self love warrior, on a mission to help women understand that their ugly is beautiful. As an artist, author and speaker, she uses the creative arts to help women heal their relationships with their bodies and recover from abuse trauma. She is the author/illustrator of the children’s book Princess Monsters from A to Z, and co-editor of the Trigger Points Anthology, a groundbreaking collection of writing by parents who are survivors of childhood abuse. Joyelle believes that her purpose in life is to be a beacon of light, and that the three most important things are love, kindness and gratitude. When she is not busy raising two rambunctious boys, she is most often found playing her guitar or covered in paint at her art desk.

Website: www.joyellebrandt.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/joyelle.brandt

Twitter: www.twitter.com/joyellebrandt

Instagram: JoyelleBrandt

 Tomorrow is the big day! For our one year anniversary we are having a Kindle giveaway of the Trigger Points Anthology!

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The Trigger Points Anthology sheds light on a topic most parenting books never address: what is it like to raise children when you were abused as a child? With contributions by 21 writers, this anthology and workbook covers the common triggers that arise as parents navigate everything from pregnancy to the teenage years, and helps to let survivors know that they are not alone. As Brene Brown says, the two most powerful words when we are in struggle are “Me too”. This book is a me-too for all the parents working to break the cycle of abuse.

Buy on Amazon US at: http://amzn.to/2fRMwGC

Buy on Amazon CA at: http://amzn.to/2eTCNLy

 

Survivors Empowering Survivors

Trigger Points Seeking Submissions for Survivors Empowering Survivors Series.

At times, survivors may be their own worst enemy. We riddle ourselves with doubts, constantly questioning whether or not we are good enough – as parents, partners, human beings – and determine our accomplishments to be irrelevant. Some aren’t cautious enough with the empathic residue left by their abuse, and find themselves unable to recognize when they are being used or further abused. At times we self-sabotage because there is no fear greater than the unknown, and for many of us, our wires misfired on the way to building happiness and aspirations, creating uncomfortable, sometimes unbearable feelings in the presence of simple joys and accomplishments.

Two of the most brutal side effects of childhood traumas in adulthood are self doubt and lack of self value. In order to combat the often self notion that you aren’t deserving of the recognition of what you have overcome and accomplished, Trigger Points is re-igniting the Survivors Empowering Survivors series, and are currently seeking submissions for guest posts.

Our intention with this series is to offer a platform to which survivors can proudly speak about achievements – big and small. We’re looking to inspire and educate readers by introducing them to the difference you are making in your day to day, or how you are contributing to cultural change. Especially, as it pertains to parenting as a survivor.

We want to hear about:

  • A book you’ve published, are working on, or took part in as a contributor.
  • A recovery-focused workshop, class, center, non-for-profit or conference you contributed to or helped create.
  • A service you provide specifically for parenting survivors.
  • Your experience speaking or teaching on the topic of parenting as a survivor.

Other stories we are interested in:

  • A discussion you’ve had with your child(ren) about your abuse.
  • How you’ve found a way to channel your recovery in a healthy, productive way, such as creative arts.
  • A trigger you have experienced that you are struggling with; one you may or may not have learned to manage yet.
  • Your reaction to reading the Trigger Points Anthology and the impact it left on you.
  • An essay you have written based on one of the journal prompts from the Trigger Points Anthology.

If you have an idea based on something other than what is listed here, we encourage you to reach out to us.

it's in our nature

If you want to get a better idea of what the Survivors Empowering Survivors series is all about, check out these previously included essays:

“This collision between my work as an abuse counselor and my work as a birth worker who had indirectly referred a “woman in need” to an inexperienced doula, is what changed everything for me, laying the foundation for A Safe Passage.”      ~My Worlds Collided.by Jodi Hall

“Many survivors “know” that being sexually assaulted was not their fault. Now, I’m one of them. But the question I’ve worked to answer after a decade of healing and processing what happened to me is, “Well, then why didn’t I do something?”     ~The Freeze Response: How a Warrior Handles the Trauma of Sexual Assault by Amy Oestreicher

“If I was having a hard time and needed help, it didn’t mean anything other than that. If I was soaring and taking on the world, I still had nothing to prove. I was just as worthwhile, sitting alone in yana mudra in my apartment as I was putting on a symposium.”    ~Just Breathing, I Was Enough. by Anika Tilland-Stafford

“After years of struggling and feeling no one understood us survivors, I determined that the only way to create change was to start our own organization. So, I announced at a particularly irritating health professionals meeting that I would start our own organization which would truly present the survivors view of what we need in order to heal and if anyone wanted to join me, to phone me.”    ~We Just Have To Be Asked. by Liz Mullinar

**We prefer original essays tailored to the survivor community, which includes loved ones of survivors and those that are working with survivors on their recovery journey. However, we will absolutely consider previously published work. Please let us know if what you are submitting has been previously published, so we can offer proper credit.

**Send your essay in the body of an email to triggerpointsanthology@gmail.com, with SES Submission as the subject. Don’t forget to add a short bio (3 to 5 lines), including social media profile links, and a headshot if you would like. And send along an image to go with your essay if you have one you’d like to share.

We can’t wait to hear from you guys!

♥ Dawn & Joyelle

The Voices Of & For Parenting Surivors

Trigger Season

Still awake at 2:43 a.m.

Third night in a row.

I could easily stay up all night until dawn, but I have to try and get a little rest, at least, so I can be the mom that I need to be for my children tomorrow. When I do finally fall asleep, it is restless and disturbed, full of half-lucid dreams and recurring nightmares. I get up several times to check the lock on the windows, the front and back door, as well as the porch light.

Before I can go back to bed, I have to make sure that the curtains are drawn, the kids are okay, and the phone is within arms’ reach. It is a task.

A cool draught blows through the room.

I am reminded that summer is nearly over and start to cry in the dark. I wake up on the wrong side of the bed. On the wrong side of myself. I feel ugly, exhausted, out of sorts, on the outside of everything.

I bumble through my morning routine in a fog. Easily exasperated, far too impatient, I sigh and mumble under my breath as I rush the kids to get ready for daycare, my words stumbling over themselves in an effort to appear normal, whatever the hell that is. It is bad enough that I had to leave the sanctuary of my bedroom today at all, really, but is it truly necessary for me to be normal, too?

If so, I think, epic fail.

I smile harder, because I do not know what else to do, and keep going.

I take my meds. Remind myself that a bad day is just a bad day and not the end of the world. Keep going. Keep going, yes, but with a belly full of fanged butterflies determined to escape. Usually, the medication settles the rush of wings, but today—these days—it barely takes the edge off. On the balcony, catching the last rays of the summer sunshine, I try to figure out why.

 

Then it occurs to me. Fall is on the way.

It’s in the air, at night, I can smell it. Trigger season.

fall time

After a number of incidences in my childhood involving various forms of sexual abuse, I was raped at the age of seventeen, in autumn, by a boy I had previously dated. Every year since then, without fail, as soon as the first leaves begin to fall, the first chill touches my nose, the first hint of pumpkin spice arrives, I start to feel it, all of it, again, in my throat, my chest, my breasts, my guts… all over. Anxiety, panic, fear, depression, sorrow, angst, a sense of impending disaster, an urge to run, hide, avoid, disappear.

One by one, they arrive, like uninvited guests to the worst party ever.

And I’m the unwilling host, shackled to the floor and gagged, unable to get rid of them.

Oh, they will leave when they are ready, I know. By December, the dreaded gang will have gone, for the most part, leaving only a few stragglers behind—nothing I cannot manage with help from the Christmas Spirit—but for now, oh, for now, as my PTSD symptoms start to slowly worsen day by day, I find myself holding my breath, waiting.

Maybe it won’t be as bad this year, I tell myself noncommittally.

Guess we’ll see, I reply.

Since opening up about my experiences and sharing my own story, I have come to know countless other survivors, many of whom also experience a Trigger Season, a particular time of year, associated in the recesses of the mind with a past traumatic event (or events), which leaves them feeling unusually vulnerable and susceptible to flashbacks and triggers. For some, it is the high heat of summer; others find discomfort during the colder days of winter.

I feel paper thin from late-August through to late-November.

If you know someone who suffers from PTSD, please be aware that certain times of the year may be more challenging than others, and while we may not be able to express what we need, you can still ask.

Understand, we may be utilizing every ounce of available energy just to get through a day. We do not mean to be short, snippy, cranky, or rude, so if it happens, we probably feel worse about it than you do. Forgive easily. Since we are used to feeling less than and not enough, remind us to be gentle with ourselves, and be gentle with us. Show your love and support by checking in.

PTSD can be very isolating and lonely, and it helps to know that, even on the days when we do not want to face the world, we are not alone and we are loved.


This post originally appeared on Lilacs in October.

Bio: arwen park

Arwen Faulkner currently resides in Canada with her husband, their four children, and a few family pets… but she still hasn’t given up on the idea of moving the whole family to a deserted tropical island one day.

A survivor of childhood sexual abuse, adolescent date rape, and intimate partner violence, Arwen has begun to overcome the legacy of fear and shame left behind by her abusers, and to share what she has learned along the journey from victim to survivor. An emerging writer and dedicated warrior in the fight to end violence against women and children, Arwen is hard at work on a biography of the late Canadian poet and social activist, Bronwen Wallace.