Domestic Violence – It Affects So Many

****Trigger Warning: This post contains depictions of violence against women.

I’m writing about a difficult and personal subject today. Domestic Violence is rampant in North America, and around the world and while I could write a full book on the subject, I want to address it in the context of my own personal story – that of a person who also lived with Chronic Pain.

The Story

I met Dallas on Christmas Day of 1979 when I was 17 and he was 34. I was instantly smitten with him and he was a charmer who got what he wanted when he wanted it. I was delighted his attentions fell on me because I was lonely and on my own – hitchhiking my way around the US and far from any family or friends.

At first, I didn’t realize that Dallas was also a pathological liar. His natural ability to talk to anyone about anything and sound so convincing, plus his good looks had instantly blinded me to anything that could knock him off the pedestal I had placed him on. Oh sure, some things didn’t really “click” with me and he often told the same stories to people that built him up, but I didn’t really think about it.

I learned very quickly that Dallas was also a jealous man and didn’t like other men paying attention to me – especially when they talked to me. We were both traveling the country now, with no set plans in place, and of course he didn’t have a job (a very common scenario as I would soon figure out), but he was good at getting things from people and so we traipsed around, talking about “settling down” and heading to whatever destination would be best for Dallas to come up with a plan. That involved talking to people – or rather, him talking and me trying to make myself invisible.

The first time he hit me was after we had been sitting in a bar on the ground floor of the truck stop we were staying at. He had gone back to our room for something and when he came back, I was chatting to a gentleman next to me, who had literally just asked: “so how are you tonight”? Dallas grabbed me by the arm, dragged me to our room and then started screaming at me about being unfaithful. He backhanded me so hard, I fell across the bed and onto the floor. He yanked me up by my hair and hit me again and I just took it, I was so shocked. It was the first time of many this happened.

But I stayed. I had been living with Chronic Pain for a couple of years at this point in my life and when he wasn’t in a jealous mood, Dallas was so loving and considerate of me. He kept promising to find us a place and get a job and every few months that would happen. We’d settle somewhere, he’d start working and then do something stupid like write some bad checks or shoplift (or outright steal things from people), and we’d have to pack up and leave town, like regular thieves in the night.

Somehow, over time, this pattern became my fault though. If I WASN’T always in pain, we could just travel around the country – that was his theory. He wanted to be a truck driver, but had lost his license so wasn’t able to drive. He resented me for “holding him back from his dreams,” though I’m not sure how he actually reconciled those thoughts. What was apparent was that everything that went wrong was somehow my fault.

One night, while he was in a rage about life not turning out to be fair, he locked me outside of the wee trailer we staying at, in the middle of the night, while I was naked. It was pouring rain, there were no neighbours nearby (we were living out of town) and it was cold. I pounded on the door, but he wouldn’t let me in, and I finally was forced to hide out in the shed on the property, wrapped in a mouldy blanket I found.

The next morning, he acted like nothing had happened. He never apologised, not in words, but sometimes, he would treat me with kid gloves. I never knew from day to day, or even hour to hour, which version of Dallas I was going to get.

I spent 3 years with this man. At one point, he left me for another woman we had met after he completed a 3-month prison stint for a Parole Violation. I returned home to Canada, worked to save up some money and went back to the US to find him. I was that in love and desperate to be with him. So sad when I think about it now. I even ended up pregnant, until a fight with him turned physical and he beat me badly enough that I lost the baby.

We made up, again…I got pregnant for the second time and ended up giving birth to a lovely little boy on Jan. 30th. This time, we were going to do things right! We found a place in Bellingham, Washington to live, and Dallas began working as a house painter. For 6 months, he actually managed to stay at the same job…I truly thought he’d turned a new leaf, with his son being the motivating factor. We still fought viciously, but he only hit me a couple of times, so I thought we could still work things out. Then I became pregnant again when our son was only 6 months old.

This time, it was different. One day, he told me he was going to Seattle for a quote on a huge painting job that could really put us in the money. He left on a Thursday, promising he’d be back on Sunday night.

He never came back.

I sat at the window of the small room we lived in, waiting all Sunday night, not wanting to admit the truth but by end of the day Monday, I had to admit he was really gone. He abandoned his son and child to be, and me, the woman who had stood by him faithfully through all the pain and beatings and lies.

It took a long time for me to recover. I moved back home to Canada, gave birth to my daughter alone and became a single mom to two wonderful kids. I dreamed about Dallas all the time – what could I have done differently to make him happy? How could I have been a better person for him, so he wouldn’t beat me? What did I do that caused him to hate me so much and how could I track him down again?

I didn’t try to find him again. I did see him twice after he left – he contacted me and came to where I was, first when the kids were 1 and 2 and then again when they were 5 and 6. That was the last time I laid eyes on Dallas, and though I grieved for so many things, I had grown some self-esteem by that point and realized how much better I was on my own. I vowed I would never again be abused in any way.

Forms of Abuse

Physical

Physical abuse is probably what we think of first when we hear the word ‘abuse.’ There were always incidents of yelling and screaming at me, hitting me, pulling my hair, punching me in places that the bruises wouldn’t show and little shoves etc, in front of others to keep me under control. I learned quickly not to start conversations with people and to speak only when I was spoken to, so he didn’t get physical with me.

Mental

Mental abuse is almost harder to take than physical abuse. The bruises heal, but the words said cut deeply into the soul and you start to believe the things being said about you. I was repeatedly told I was a burden, stupid and incapable of doing the most basic things. He called me names on a constant basis, told me I was worthless and that I was lucky he let me stay with him.

Financial

Because Dallas often refused to settle down and work a steady job, money was always tight and we often didn’t know where we would eat on any given day. If we were somewhere settled, it was usually better for a bit, but when we were hitchhiking around, we were dependent on Soup Kitchens and Missions and Shelters for a meal. Sometimes I would have to prostitute myself in order for us to have money. I’m not proud of that, but I did what I needed to do in order to survive.

Security

Security abuse is rarely talked about, but it’s when you don’t have the stability of a secure place to be. We slept under overpasses and in the desert, at shelters and missions, at the homes of people Dallas would befriend in our travels…we just never knew where we would be at any given time.

It was especially difficult when I was pregnant the first two times. In addition to my Chronic Pain, I was dealing with morning sickness and cravings, and my body ached in ways it never had before. When you sleep on concrete under an overpass with just a mover’s blanket for covering, it does a number on your body.

So, what are the lessons I learned here?

The Lessons

First off, I learned that nothing I could have done would have changed Dallas. Change has to come from within and you have to want to change in order to make change happen. He didn’t see anything wrong with the way we were living except I was a constant burden to him with my chronic pain. When he wasn’t treating me with kid gloves, he was screaming and berating me.

Secondly, I learned that sometimes, people don’t show you exactly who they are right from the start. It took me a long time to accept that the real Dallas was the one who stole and lied and hit and screamed – not the one who could charm the pants off of you.

Thirdly, I learned that there are various forms of abuse and being beaten isn’t the only way that someone can hurt you. It’s especially hard to accept abuse in your life when you already live with chronic pain or illness of some type.

Fourthly, I learned that there are ways of getting out, but you have to find your own inner strength to do it. You have to stop believing the lies being told about you and realize you are worthy of better treatment. For a long time, I didn’t believe that, and I put up with the abuse because that was all I knew. When Dallas was actually loving me, he loved me so good that I could forget the nightmarish parts of our life.

It wasn’t until the next incident would happen that would put him over the edge before I’d be right back in the middle of the terror and despair and wonder why I was allowing this to happen. My self-esteem was being beaten out of me at every turn and it came to the point that I accepted I really was as stupid and worthless as he made me out to be.

Words of Advice

Does any of this sound familiar to you? You may be a victim of Domestic Violence without even realizing it, especially if your spouse isn’t physically abusing you. Financial abuse (withholding money from you), emotional abuse (berating you and calling you names) and mental abuse (separating you from family and friends, keeping you from working, etc.) are all ways that you can be abused without recognizing it at first.

If you realize that are in an abusive situation, you need a plan to get out. Don’t believe for an instant when the person says they’re going to change. They’re not and they never will. It took me 3 whole years to realize that, 3 years of being beaten and downtrodden. Even after I was finally on my own, it took time to accept that I was the innocent party in all of this.

I had a lot of guilt. You may be experiencing some guilt, as well. If only…if only I’d been a better partner. If only I’d kept my mouth shut. If only the house was cleaner or the kids were better behaved. If only I hadn’t asked for grocery money or needed tampons. The “if onlys” are so hard to deal with, but you need to accept that you are not the one who is at fault. The abuser chooses to abuse…it’s as simple as that. We all have a choice in how we handle situations and most of us choose not to hurt other people.

There are shelters and organizations that can help you if you are in an abusive situation and need to get out. It’s true that most shelters are overcrowded, but you still owe it to yourself to try them. Talk to people who run them to find out what all your options are. Start building a plan to get out, even if it can’t happen immediately. Start by calling the crisis lines in your area or any mental health organization. Here’s a list to help you get started: List of International Domestic Violence Hotlines and Advocacy Organizations

Document everything that’s going on including injuries and outward marks on your body. If you’re able to take pictures that you can safely keep (or send to someone and then delete), do so. If you can safely keep a journal, do so. If you can safely confide in one person…do so. All of this will become helpful if you decide to prosecute your abuser.

Above all, remember that there is always hope. Do what you can to minimize the violence in your situation while looking for ways to get out safely. It may not seem possible now, but don’t give up hope. Confide in someone, and be prepared to make a clean break, without going back to the abuser. You have a beautiful future ahead of you and you deserve every good thing in your life. Remember…

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The Creative Side Of Chronic Pain

Some of the most creative people in the world live with Chronic Pain or some type of health challenge. I know, because I’ve gathered a bunch of them together to showcase their talents, right here. Read on!

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Meet Julianne Ryan

Julianne is currently working as an art mentor for an artist with disabilities whilst volunteering her time to Mixed Palette Inc. an inclusive art group in Rockingham.

Julianne uses natural substrates, wood panels and recycled papers and works mostly with watercolour, ink and pencil to create depictions of feelings and experiences. Her latest works are multilayered with overlapping images that explore her experiences of chronic illness while correspondingly relating to her connection with nature. She also produces digital drawings, illustrations of birds and poetry that link to her memories, experiences and to current wellness practices.

She is currently working towards her first solo exhibition to be held at Forest Heritage Centre Gallery, Dwellingup in July/August.

Here are four samples of her amazing art:

JulianneRyan

Art created with Inktense pencil, ink and watercolour on wood panel

Undergrowth series: Inktense pencil, ink and watercolour on wood panel

Julianne can be contacted via Instagram and through the website at Living With Functional Neurological Disorder . She is a proud supporter of this particular charity.

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Meet Christalle Bodiford

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Christalle Bodiford is an artist, advocate, writer, and adventure seeker. As an entrepreneur diagnosed with epilepsy, Christalle brings a unique perspective of empowerment that inspires others to embrace a positive mindset and live with purpose. When she’s not writing or advocating, Christalle enjoys puppy snuggles with her scruffy terrier and outdoor adventures with her husband.

Christalle was recently featured on this blog as one of my Interviewees for Interview April. Read more about her here.

Here are some examples of the work she’s done on her incredible book:

Woosah Warrior Mockup

Christalle has provided this next page as one you can print out and colour:

Woosah Warrior Cover Coloring Page-01

For more information, please visit Christalle at her website. She supports the Epilepsy Foundation which can be reached here.

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Meet deni

deni weber is a 67-year-old psychologist turned artist after major traumatic life events triggered multiple chronic illnesses.  A Christ-follower, she uses her God-given gifts of creativity to help and encourage others as well as provide healing for herself, while recovering from limbic system traumas. Formerly bed-ridden for years, she is now finding healing using neuroplasticity techniques – creativity being a major healing component.  She is an artist, singer-songwriter, and writer having several unpublished novels and screenplays hiding in a drawer. Giving credit to God, she declares her works are, “by His grace, and for His glory.”

Here are some examples of deni’s work:

“Welcome to My Garden Series – Purple Butterflies” Acrylics on Linen Canvas – 2.5” x 3.5”

 

“Forgiven” Graphite on 140# Cold Press, 12” x 12”

 

“Hidden in the Woods” PanPastel on Colourfix Board 2.5” x 3.5”

 

Please visit deni on her website to view more of her work. She’s also a huge supporter of The Flute Maker Ministries.

 

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Meet Alisha

Alisha Nurse is a trained broadcast journalist, and enjoys sharing stories. She lives with various chronic health problems including fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, complex post traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder. These often challenge her creativity but they’ve also been her greatest inspiration to tell stories that make a difference.

She is interested in stories that change the narrative about ethnic minorities, chronically unwell people and those often cast on the sidelines.

Her favourite things include cheese, curries, and interacting with the world around her.

She has graciously allowed me to share one of her poems here:

~~~~~~

I do not recognise myself standing in the many shadows of you.
You, towering, all-consuming, ever present but hidden away,
in plain sight.
Yet I feel you in every part of me. Trying to become me.

Not all monsters lurk like you.
Once awakened, you thrive, clamour, steal, reverberate …through the length and breath of my mortal body,
Silently leaving deadly, indelible traces of your mark, like on a cracked egg, ready to fall apart,
any, anytime now, but still holding itself together as the lines spread and spread,
Until I am finally broken.

Your crack lines emerge in places impossible.
From earthen shell to the soul and heartland of me.
Breaking, smashing, pillaging anything and everything, until I am nothing of my former self; nothing of possible Me(s).

But even broken things can be beautiful.
With floods of tears and streams of blood I shall, I shall put me back together again.
I emerge not the ‘Me’ that once was, was to be or had been imagined with dreams for the future.

I rise as someone, something else entirely–Pained but persevering. Flawed but fluid. Broken but beautiful and believing that I shall conquer.
I am and will be the ‘Me’ that never was imagined.
I am the ‘Me’ that’s emerged from the ashes of pain.
I will not fit your cardboard cutouts or your nicely stencilled stereotypes.

And I am not sorry.

To survive, I change. Constantly.
As the monster morphs so will I – imperfect still, but ready to give bloody hell in all battles to come.

~~~~~

Wow! That’s powerful. To find out more about Alisha, visit her website. She blogs about overcoming chronic illness on www.theinvisiblef.com and shares other fictional works on www.alishanurse.com

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Meet Chrissy Joy Bell

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Meet Chrissy Joy Bell. She lives in Columbus, Oh, USA. and says “I’m married to an awesome guy named Ryan. I received a fibromyalgia diagnosis in 2008 after a serious illness, and I live with chronic migraine. I own a hand made business where I create all sorts of fun and snuggly things out of yarn. I originally used creativity to handle the changes that were happening in my life. Now it gives me a serious sense of fulfillment to know “Hey, I made that!””

Most recently Chrissy self published a coloring book of hand drawn mandalas, a project she began for her own enjoyment that others are now also sharing with her. My hopes for the future are to continue making, and to help others understand their journey in life and with chronic illness.

Here are some examples of the different work that Chrissy has done: 

Can with crocheted

Can Cozy

Crocheted animal

A Favourite Friend

Black & White Mandala

Mandala designed by Chrissy

See more of Chrissy’s work at The Pink Woobie or learn more about her at Find Joy Be Well

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Meet Sergio Garcia

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Description: Sergio Garcia is a Writer at Travelevil.com , he is a music, travel and writing lover, can’t stop thinking about the new article to publish. Sergio believes that travel can heal both soul and body, this is why he joined Travelevil community where both writers and readers share their stories and exchange knowledge about the various travel experience they had in the past.
Beside Blogging and Marketing, Sergio is a certified scuba diver, another world that a lot of people need to discover and enjoy.

Here are some of his favourite photos to share:

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You can reach Sergio via email at travelevil.com@gmail.com 

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I am in serious awe of these talented people! I hope you are too! Please feel free to leave your comments about their work as each of them will be happy to answer questions as well. 

And what about you? How do you show your creativity, whether you live with Chronic Illness or not?  Share in the comments and tell us what you like to do. 

If you’d like to be considered for a future post showcasing even more talent, please fill out the contact form found here and let me know. I’ll be in touch to discuss a second post for later in the year. 

Thank you for joining me. Remember…

There is always hope

Chronic Illness and Anxiety

When you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness, you may feel as if you’ve lost control over your future. The stress of learning to deal with doctors and specialists, coping with physical changes, and managing daily life can often lead to excessive worry or stress. Researchers have found that experiencing a chronic illness puts a person at increased risk for developing anxiety or an anxiety disorder. Roughly 40% of people with cancer report experiencing psychological distress that often takes the shape of excessive worry or panic attacks.* People with ongoing, or chronic pain are three times more likely to develop symptoms of anxiety.**

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The daily demands of living with a chronic illness continues to present challenges and generate anxiety long after the diagnosis has been given. Loss of mobility or other abilities can lead to worry about employment or financial concerns. Depending on others, worrying about becoming a burden or even intimacy with your partner may also be concerns. Some people are more easily able to adapt to the changes in their lives. Others may feel overwhelmed with anxiety and struggle to cope. Still others may be in limbo, unable to make decisions about their future.

The Most Common Anxiety Disorders are:

1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) involves excessive and uncontrollable worry about everyday things, such as health, money or work. It is accompanied by physical symptoms such as restlessness, irritability, muscle tension, fatigue and difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) entails persistent, recurring thoughts (obsessions) that reflect exaggerated anxiety or fears. Someone with OCD often will practice repetitive behaviors or rituals (compulsions). For instance, obsessing about germs may lead someone with OCD to compulsively washing hands—perhaps 50 times or more per day.
3. Panic Disorder includes severe attacks of terror or sudden rushes of intense anxiety and discomfort. Symptoms can mimic those found in heart disease, respiratory problems or thyroid problems, and individuals often fear they are dying, having a heart attack or about to faint. The symptoms experienced during a panic attack are real and overwhelming, but not life threatening.
4. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can follow exposure to a traumatic event, such as a car accident, rape, a terrorist attack or other violence. Symptoms include reliving the traumatic event, avoidance, detachment or difficulty sleeping and concentrating. Though it is commonly associated with veterans, any traumatic event can trigger PTSD.
5. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is characterized by extreme anxiety about being judged by others or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or ridicule. People who have SAD have what feels like exaggerated stage fright all the time. SAD is also called social phobia.

Specific phobias are intense fear reactions that lead a person to avoid specific objects, places or situations, such as flying, heights or highway driving. The level of fear is excessive and unreasonable. Although the person with a phobia recognizes the fear as being irrational, even simply thinking about it can cause extreme anxiety. I personally am terrified of the Dentist, even though they treat me gently and with compassion. I have to take medication to help relax me in order to go for a simple cleaning.

Fortunately, anxiety is treatable with therapy, medication and complementary and alternative treatments (i.e. acupuncture, massage therapy, ). But when the focus is on the chronic illness, anxiety is often overlooked. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor about your emotional and cognitive health, and to speak up when you experience signs of anxiety.

Emotional symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
  • Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
  • Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
  • Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed
  • Avoiding others

Physical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Low energy
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
  • Aches, pains, and tense muscles
  • Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
  • Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
  • Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
  • Clenched jaw and grinding teeth

Cognitive symptoms of stress include:

  • Constant worrying
  • Racing thoughts
  • Forgetfulness and disorganization
  • Inability to focus
  • Poor judgment
  • Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side

 

What You Can Do

Challenge negative thinking. When you’re anxious, your brain may jump to conclusions, assume the worst, or exaggerate. Catastrophizing and ignoring the positives in your life may occur when you live with the challenges of a chronic illness. One way to manage anxiety is by being aware of the negative thinking, examining it and challenge the irrational thoughts. Counselors/therapists can play an important role in teaching you this important coping skill.

Calm your mind. Relaxation techniques can be an effective way to calm anxious thinking and direct your mind to a more positive place. Consider whether mindfulness meditation, yoga, or other breathing and focusing practices can still your body. Taking  time to relax, increases your ability to think objectively and positively when it comes to making choices about your health and life.

Find a good Doctor. If you take medication for both mental and for physical health, it’s important to that your doctors are aware of all your medications. Some medications may actually escalate anxiety, so it’s essential to work with a prescriber who can make informed choices that address both conditions without worsening either.

Find a support group. Managing a chronic illness can be a lonely job as it may be difficult for loved ones to understand the unique challenges. Support groups, whether online or in person are wonderful for creating community but also for providing information that can help reduce worry. They can also connect you to valuable resources for treating your illness.

Acknowledge successes. Anxious thinking about chronic illness can keep you from feeling that you have control over anything in life. It’s important to acknowledge all successes, both big and small. Keep track of the healthy things you do for your mind and body. Exercising, going to counseling, spending time with a friend–these can all help. Keeping these successes at the front of your mind can help you combat worry. They can remind you that you do have the power to affect your present and future.

If you think that you might have anxiety in addition to chronic illness, be honest with your doctor. Ask for help. Anxiety is highly treatable, so remember…

There Is Always Hope

*https://adaa.org/serious-chronic-or-terminal-illnesses
**http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/depression_and_pain