My parents come from completely different cultural backgrounds and they ended up divorcing in Europe. My mother ended up re-marrying a widower with four children and we moved into a home that still included a hurting, bitter mother-in-law (mother to diseased wife of my step dad). Everyday life was full of “you don’t belong here” and verbal insults, later on followed by sexual abuse and a step dad that could not cope, drowning his frustration in alcohol. Most of what I remember is trying to avoid going “home” or locking myself in my room, turning up music. Men in my life were all unhealthy examples, so I was sure I would never get married. However I felt very lonely, since I did not seem to fit in anywhere. No matter how hard I tried, it never seemed to be enough. My mother was dealing with her own pain and was never taught any different, I understand that today. So when I finally met who is now my husband, I craved that someone said they actually wanted me. We both came from broken homes with alcoholism, verbal and physical abuse. He seemed to understand and we felt drawn to each other, talking for hours.
We ended up getting married quite young and I had a son at age 20. In 1997 we moved to Canada (I was born in Edmonton and so was Canadian), starting a new life here. Things are tough when you leave everything behind and money was tight. Eventually I started breaking down, was suicidal again and went to emergency, knowing I needed professional help at this point. I was put on anti-depressants, which seemed to leave me feeling nothing anymore and this was almost worse. Finally I met my therapist at The Sexual Assault Centre and with a lot of learning and hard work, started to understand myself and was slowly getting better. I was on and off anti-depressants and later on, was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and an anxiety disorder. But what really started to impact daily life, was turning and surrendering my pain to God. It was what started a transformation on how I feel about myself.
As I got stronger on the inside, I could face that our marriage was also not healthy. I was still in denial at the beginning and did not want to deal with facing this reality. When things got too much out of control, I had to stay away from home and I reached out for help and turned again to more prayer. What followed was a long and hard time, living by myself in the city and learning what it means to get out of an abusive marriage. It does not always mean divorce. We were blessed, since my husband also turned to God and also went for counselling. The Edmonton Family Violence Centre was one of the biggest turning points and strong influences for both of us. We continue our healing journey together now. But understand that it takes daily surrender and the willingness of letting go of pain, focusing on what is positive, versus the negative in our life`s.
I still remember the pain I walked through, feeling vulnerable, unlovable and undeserving. Today I understand my value and enjoy every day I am given. I am no longer taking anti-depressants. We try now to turn around what we lived through and use it to help others still on this journey. All I can say, never give up, look at all the things you have and use help available to change who you are and your situation. By no means am I trying to force my belief in Christ, but it is who I am and what worked for me. There are great organizations out there and more people than you think, dealing with similar issues. There is hope for overcoming what was done in the past and I now know enough, to stay away from people that consciously or not, try to gain control over me again. I love them from a distance. But if they are toxic to my well-being, by their actions they have made the choice to be no longer in my life. It is ok to say “No” to others and “Yes” to yourself.
Today I feel strong enough to talk about my past and even have published a book on the process of living through trauma and still live a happy, productive life. I know this does not always happen, but in my situation it is the belief in Christ that brought transformation.
I am sharing this, hoping that someone will be motivated by this, to help themselves and to understand they are not alone!
A WONDERING SOUL
Thanks very much Reehana for this guest blog on your recovery from PTSD. One of the biggest things I take in when reading this is that each person has the ability to find a source of support or strength that is going to help them recover or deal with their mental health. In your case, it was God. For some people this can be a very powerful tool to find meaning in difficult situation that essentially have no meaning, i.e. something bad happening to us may be best understood or re-conceptualized from a spiritual perspective or belief in a higher power.
Mental health is becoming less stigmatize but there is still a lot of speaking up about it that needs to be done. I encourage anyone who has had troubles or who is having trouble with PTSD, depression, anxiety or anything else to reach out and speak up.
Reehana is looking into starting an ongoing Trauma Support Group that I think would be such a valuable resource for people here in Edmonton. Here is a link to her website. http://www.celebrate-hope.net/