#BellLetsTalk #PTSD #MentalHealth #Depression #Anxiety #PPD #sexualabuserecovery #b4stage4
I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions, but I do love choosing a word for the year. I think this is my fifth year with the practice, and each year as I have looked back I have seen how that word has shaped my life, adding more intention to my days. This year my chosen word is DELIGHT, and I'm going to share why I chose that word with you today.
I'm going to take a deep breath here because I can feel the anxiety rising up in my body as I prepare to type this. I've been putting off writing this post because of that anxiety, but here it goes:
I have lived most of my life with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I only learned that I had PTSD this past year, as I was working on the #FacesOfPTSD campaign to raise awareness about how many women live with this. I knew that I have struggled throughout my life with periods of depression and anxiety, and that it had gotten especially bad during and after my pregnancy with my second child. But I hadn't realized the common link between all these episodes was that they were preceded by a PTSD trigger.
Because the trauma (childhood sexual abuse) that brought on the PTSD happened early in my life, I don't have a defined before and after to show the impact. I have never known any different, so for most of my life I figured this is just how life is for me. It was only after hearing other survivors talk about their PTSD flashbacks that I understood that I too had it.
This summer I had a series of medical procedures that I knew were going to be PTSD triggers. I put off making the initial appointment for months. I agonized over how to manage the appointments. I called ahead and asked if the medical practitioner had trauma sensitive training. She did not, but assured me she would be sensitive to my concerns. I made it through the first appointment, then the second. I can do this, I would say, although every cell in my body screamed at me not to go back. At my third appointment it all went horribly wrong. In the middle of the appointment, the practitioner started asking for details about my sexual abuse, and telling me about her own experiences of sexual abuse, all while her hand was firmly lodged up my vagina.
Cue epic depression spiral. I spent the next 5 months trying to figure out how to put myself back together. I shut down every part of my life that was not essential. I cancelled a whole lot of events I had planned, including the Love Your Body Summit, so I could focus on my healing. Eventually I found an amazing therapist who did sessions via Skype with me, and I started to feel like myself again. She helped me learn how to release the stored trauma in my body, and I continue to use what she taught me every single day. I am incredibly grateful to her, and to my friends who recommended I see her. I finally have tools to help me have less PTSD episodes, and to quickly process the emotions as they arise so that I am not sent into a depression spiral or panic attack when a trigger comes up. That is huge for me.
So back to my word for 2017. I am choosing to focus on delight because after months of intense personal healing work, I am ready to bring in more joy and play to balance out the months of depression that I have just come through. With the help of a few friends, I have compiled a list of 109 delights that I would like to experience this year, from laughter yoga to wearing a tiara while house cleaning. Delight is my weapon against the darkness, it is the shining light that I wield to reclaim my life. And with every delight I will celebrate that I am alive, that I have so much good in my life, and that once again I went to battle with PTSD and I won.
P.S. If you have a minute to sign this petition advocating for better mental health care in Canada, I would appreciate your support. The #b4stage4 campaign manifesto states: "I stand with the Canadian Mental Health Association in calling for a system of care that addresses mental health, addiction, and physical health equally."