Sometimes all it takes for a person who is suffering to reach out for help is to see the face of someone they can identify with. By doing something you already do, nearly every day, you can help make that happen. Let me explain.
Right now, if a person uses an online search engine (Google, Bing) to search “PTSD”, he or she will be directed, almost exclusively, to sites offering information on veterans of war. An image search will lead you to believe only men in uniform get Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
What’s troubling is that if that person searching is not a veteran, instead a survivor of a different kind of trauma, and is looking for information or face to identify with, she is possibly left feeling even more isolated and defeated.
If “women and PTSD” is searched, one is left believing a female with PTSD is in a constant state of falling apart.
That is another misrepresentation. Those who suffer with PTSD usually do so while raising children, working 9 to 5 and/or taking care of necessary day to day tasks.
Survivors are professionals at looking “normal” on the outside.
Anyone who goes searching for help deserves to see images that look like PTSD in the real world – faces of moms, dads, children, teachers, social workers, cashiers, nurses, etc. They need to see the real #FacesOfPTSD. Faces that look like mine.
What is the #FacesOfPTSD campaign?
#FacesOfPTSD is a social media campaign that will run May 24, 2017-May 31, 2017.
If you identify as having PTSD, share your picture on social media, along with the hashtag #FacesOfPTSD.
To alter the current landscape of social media and search engines (Google, Bing) to include all trauma survivors, particularly women who are rarely represented, in order to reflect more accurately the #FacesOfPTSD.
If only one of these images ends up on the first page of search engines, then this will have been a success!!
It’s important to accurately represent the thousands of women and men living day to day, while doing the best they can to manage flashbacks, constant triggers and the debilitating medical and mental health effects of this disorder. It’s time to recognize the many #FacesOfPTSD.
Joyelle and Dawn are survivors of childhood abuse working to break the cycle for their own families. Raising children as an abuse survivor is often a lonely and isolating experience, as the triggers and flashbacks of abuse can be hard for non-survivors to understand. When they were looking for stories of how other survivors coped, and couldn’t find any, they decided that something needed to change.
Together they started an online community specifically for parent survivors, and started collecting essays to create the Trigger Points Anthology. A book where survivors of all forms of childhood abuse could talk about what it is like to be a parent when your own childhood was so traumatic.
Parenting when you experienced childhood abuse often feels like walking back into a war zone as a soldier with PTSD. There are flashbacks and triggers everywhere, and most parents are completely blindsided by them because no…
We are kicking off the month long countdown to the release of the Trigger Points Anthology today with a cover reveal!! Isn’t it beautiful!
I was trying to visually represent how motherhood had taken my whole self apart, re-arranged all the pieces and put them back together in a completely new and un-recognizable pattern. ~Joyelle Brandt
You can read what else Joyelle has to say about her process of creating the image, and what the anthology means to her here.
With one month to go before the book release, I’m sitting here with a slight case of perma-grin, and tears filling my eyes. The irony of being able to make November 18th the release date has me feeling a bit raw, but proud. November 18th, 1995 is the day I got on a plane and the abuse was finally over for me. I was 15 years old and had endured sexual abuse for the past eight years of my life. I came to a place two years ago when I started to see how that day was a birthday of sorts for me. Happy Re-Birthday to Me: A Sexual Abuse Survivor’s Coming Out Story is an essay I wrote two years ago about learning to let go of the shame, and moving on. It was also the first time I ever publically (and by publically I mean speaking outside of like three people) spoke/wrote about the abuse.
So to now have the anthology be released on that day 20 years later…I’m convinced it’s the universe high fiving me.
For me, this is more than a brilliant collection of words. It’s a seed. It’s a very personal introduction to a parenting topic that needs compassionate attention; a resource for a parent to grab a hold of when he or she is triggered in the throws of parenthood, and feel less alone. The anthology is a collective example of what it looks like when a child who is abused grows up, becomes a parent her/himself and learns how to tune in to triggers in order to heal and break the cycle of abuse.
If you want to learn more about the anthology and the awareness Joyelle, the writer’s and I are trying to raise on the topic of parenting as a survivor, you can visit our website at TriggerPointsAnthology.com.
We also have a supportive Facebook community that has quickly taught us how not alone we really are. Like our page and/or follow our blog to keep up to date on the release of anthology, and take part in this journey right along with us.
If you are interested in providing an honest review of the book or have questions or comments for the editors, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Learning how to tune in, and not check out, is vital to healing. Whether it be a loss, trauma, a negative experience or just a bad day, your own willingness to heal, learn and evolve is the most potent drug on the market.
I still have a lot to learn on this journey of healing, but I’ve learned a lot along the way. I have to remind myself often that “Every tool is a weapon, if you hold it right”. So for my sake and for those on this journey to heal with me, I’m going to put my own arsenal on display, as a reminder to myself how far I’ve come, and in hopes of helping others on the path they too are walking.
Our minds come with dead bolts, that can only be unlocked once we feel safe. This is grace, but it doesn’t always feel that way. On a day when you feel “put together”, you can fall apart. At unexplainable times of simple happiness, darkness can flood from your pores. It’s frustrating, but no accident. It is not a sign that you are broken or weak. It’s confirmation that you are stronger than you were yesterday. Only when the mind feels you can handle what is behind the locked door, will it allow you to experience it.
Distraction from ourselves is the false art of healing. But it is what so many of us use as a defense mechanism. Whether it be with work, kids, chores, substances or taking on the responsibility of solving everyone else’s problems. We are conditioned to use any and everything to keep our inner most truths and triggers on mute. There is power and control in coasting, but there is liberation in awareness. It just hurts more. It’s hard to be quiet and sometimes impossible to be still. Many crave both, but once gifted with it, will shut down as if allergic to it. There is protection in busyness, because a quiet mind leaves one vulnerable to self reflection. By tuning out what we are really feeling, we are denying the opportunity to heal. Tune In!
Stigma is a powerful defense against self care. It’s the hand that feeds shame. No one is immune to it’s crushing depth, even those trained to combat it. The stigma (others seeing you as living in the past, wanting attention, not strong enough, etc) that keeps us from speaking up and reaching out, is one more hurdle to fight. The good news is there is a powerful tool one can use to fight this fight. It’s your voice. You may have to go searching for it, and it may shake a little (or a lot) at first. When you first begin to speak your truths, the stigma you feel will sting like dirt on an open wound. It’s worth it. The more you speak about what was done to you, empowerment will begin to override the pain. You will find strength in your vulnerability, if you work at sharpening the tool you already own.
There is a specific alley of healing that most walk down. I call it check-out alley. To some, myself included, intoxication is key to checking out. It’s a way to create a different version of yourself. A version where the “real” you leads, and the “broken” you gets to take the back seat for once. At the tale end of a buzz, greed and despair become one. Self medicating leaves one with a vacancy of pain. A temporary relief disguised as bliss. The ease of life and laughter flowing through my viens when I check out is a survivors false paradise. But false is exactly what it is. If we don’t figure out a way to get to that state of mind, without first walking through check-out alley, healing will never be an option. Knowing this is the easy part, avoiding that avenue is something I am still working on.
Triggers are the windows to the pieces of us that still need healing. A trigger can be a smell, song, touch, scene in a movie, hearing a certain name…really anything that your mind associates with personal experiences. When we are triggered, our brains go into “loop” mode. Our body re-experiences the feelings, both emotionally and physically, of a moment in our past. These are moments worth inspecting. The only way to deactivate the trigger is to ask ourselves, why did that moment make me feel like I want to cry, punch something, run away, freeze, etc? Healing begins when we are able to recognize those moments and answer they whys.
Healing is a mind and body experience. I’ve worked in the field of mental health for almost ten years. In the trenches, always hands on with the population I am serving. I read countless charts, observe a vast array of dysfunctional behaviors and thought processes, empathically experience peoples stories and see many highs and lows on the path of recovery. I have witnessed the body as the mind’s canvas. People wear their stories and traumas. I observe, both personally and in my line of work, how making the connection to patterns of behaviors and thoughts can lead to physical healing. If we don’t accept that what happened to us affects the way we act and feel, the negative energies we harvest will manifest as illness. Often times unexplainably. There are consequences when we ignore the signs. No differently than having “just one more drink”, when we are having a good time. If we ignore that little voice and our already unsteady feet, we will get sick. It’s that simple, but never easy.
Reaching out, will lift you up. As much as we want to “do it on our own”, and prove to ourselves that we are stronger than what is holding us down, we can’t. I’ve fallen face first on the pavement many times trying to convince myself that I can succeed on this journey alone. There needs to be equal parts insight and willingness to learn from others. Find your tribe and use them. The people in your life, whether it be professionals, family, friends or someone you just met, all have something unique to offer you on your journey. Connection to those that share your experience, or are vested in seeing you smile are vital pieces to getting through the maze. Use them.
We are all faced with unfortunate experiences in our lives, whether they are horrific acts against us, unfortunate events that happen to us or because of poor decisions we or someone else makes. Regardless of the root of the pain, we need to be able to use the tools we all possess to move forward. It’s not a matter of living in the past, but rather being vulnerable enough to investigate our past, to improve our future.
“Motherhood pushed open a door that I thought I had managed to close for the last time. I, like most I believe, thought that a baby would be placed in my arms and I would be filled with so much love that the pieces of my broken heart, pieces I worked so hard to glue back together, would finally solidify. I didn’t expect new cracks to form.”
This is an excerpt from a new post I have up today on the Trigger Points website. I hope you decide to head over and subscribe to follow along. Click here to read the full article.
Startled to find my daughter so upset, I walked to her bed and put her on my lap. She nuzzled her head in to the crook of my neck and cried. I pulled her away a bit so that I could see her face. There it was. Pale lips and dark circles under her eyes. She was just tired. I told her to take a few deep breathes with me, close her eyes, and I rubbed her back until I heard that familiar rhythm in her breathe. I kissed her cheek and headed downstairs.
My daughter is so much like me. An old soul full of heart and fury. She digs deep to find the funny in life, but easily trips over frustration. I watch her get stuck on sad and overwhelmed when she’s angry. She loves deeply. She is persistently after a purpose. She is all or nothing. A trait that I know first hand can break you, if you never learn how to bend.
I walked from room to room, picking up toys and clothes and dishes. I couldn’t stop thinking about the very real possibility that my children will be at battle with their emotions and thoughts the way I have always been. Mental illness and trauma run rampant through my blood line. I am a product of generational dysfunctions, mental illness and addictive personalities. Raised on a foundation like that, how can I not fear that my children will feel a ripple effect.
Truth is, I’m scared as hell. Of myself. That I am only going to encourage the ripple, simply by being me. That my faulted inner dialogue will start to become theirs. I am damaged goods, and it’s only a matter of time before I wear off on them.
The weight of thinking this way pushes the air right out of me. It’s so familiar. A usual game-over for me, to which I fall defeated in to a funk. However, there is something different about this moment. I’m am less accepting of this way of thinking. This scenario that has played out in my head over and over seems to have lost some of its power.
Maybe it is because of my inherent broken pieces, my sorrow, my personal fight, that I am the mother that they need. If and/or when that ripple reaches them, I’ll notice. They won’t get lost in a wave of unbalanced chemicals like I did. I see invisible red flags everywhere I go, because I’ve been the one waving them. I know how to keep my children from being vulnerable to the real predators. I know the importance of trusting my gut and can teach my children to do the same.
I understand the value of validating a child’s words and actions, because mine never were. I know how dangerous it is to neglect a child’s mental health. I have the scars to prove it. It’s because of those invisible scars that I can love, nurture and protect my children with empathy. I have to remember that although wounded, I have succeeded at breaking a cycle. I did that. That holds more power than any cracks in my or my children’s foundation.
Embracing our imperfections for what they are and what they are not is the only way to ease this kind of fear. We can’t change the building blocks our children have been given, but we can accept them with grace. We don’t have all the answers but what we do know, they will be better off for it. We need to stop tearing ourselves apart and harboring so much unnecessary guilt. Most of us would never advise a friend the way we advise ourselves. So why do we value others self worth more than our own?
Isn’t this true for most parents? That we all have these self doubts and moments of “not good enough”. The reasons are different but I truly believe it is because we just want to get this one job, raising our children, right.
Perhaps these imperfections are my tools, gifts really, that allow me to raise, protect and love in a way that fits my children’s mold. We all want the next generation to do a little better than we did. We have to be in tuned with our own glitches in order to make that happen. If we never accept and examine the glitches, we may never see them for what they really are–advantages.
My children may turn out like me, but they are not me. I can only hope that it is the best parts of me that they absorb. They will benefit from what I’ve been through, hopefully without ever having to experience it. But if in fact they do grow to have demons that knock on their own door, they will be equipped with the most perfect, imperfect tools I can give them…and they will thrive.
As I sat down to write today, I could think of nothing other than how excited I am about the submissions for the Trigger Points anthology now starting to trickle in. This is really happening!
Since Joyelle and I began this project, I have continued to research on this topic. I can with confidence say, there is nothing like this out there. I know this will be a resource that could possibly change lives. That’s what happens when you learn you are not alone in experiencing something to this magnitude. It changes you. I know this because that is exactly what happened to me, when I received the outpouring of support from the initial article I wrote on the topic, and from the several I have written since then.
Joyelle and I are determined to put this book, this lifeline, at arms length for anyone who may benefit from it. I know that isn’t just parenting survivors but also those that love them. Throughout my years working in the field of mental health, I have made strong connections with therapists, educators, community resources, etc. It is my goal to make each and everyone of them aware of this anthology, so that they have something to offer a mother or father who needs this type of support. I will make sure that the heart and soul that is being poured in to this project is worth it.
The deadline for submissions is fast approaching. One of my personal concerns is that we have yet to receive any submissions from fathers. More than anything I want this project to portray perspectives from mothers and fathers. I’m working hard to reach out to both, but we could most definitely use some help.
Please continue to help us spread the word. If you haven’t already, like and share our Facebook page. Follow our WordPress site. Reach out to those you believe can help us make this dream a reality.
Thank you to all that have supported us thus far. I’m not sure that I have the right words to encompass how grateful I am. If you are considering submitting an essay but are struggling, reach out to us on the Facebook page with a post or private message. Also, I’m including links to the essays I have written in hopes that one may spark ideas for your own submission.
“A discussion on the effects of the abuse that resurface, or suddenly arise, when we become mothers is something we need to talk about. I feel like it’s vital to our ability to raise healthy children ourselves.”
I am thrilled that Huffington Post chose to feature this article. Mothers and fathers who are survivors need to hear that they are not alone in the struggles they may face as parents. Even if you have never experienced abuse yourself, you know someone who has. I hope you will help me in starting a discussion on the topic of parenting as a survivor. Share, share, share my friends. You never know whose life could positively be affected when you do. Much love ~Dawn