Archive for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die

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The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die is Linda Stewardson’s story of the unimaginable horror she suffered as a child. Her mother chose alcoholic men, the worst of whom stabbed Linda in the chest multiple times and left her for dead in a garbage bag on a remote beach. Fortunately she was found and taken to hospital. Strangely, once in the hospital, nobody questioned how she’d ended up with six knife wounds in her chest, inside a green plastic garbage bag. Instead the adults around, including the doctor and the nurses, asked her asked her why she’d tried to kill herself! Indeed, until she met Dr. Harvey Armstrong, none of the professionals she worked with asked her about child sexual abuse.

As a teenager, Linda lived on the streets, rather than face physical, emotional and sexual abuse at home. This is when she met my husband, Dr. Harvey Armstrong, psychiatrist at Youthdale Treatment Centre in Toronto. Harvey recognized the goodness and the strength in this young person. If only she had stability and safety in her life, he thought, she’d have a chance at living a decent life. This was the start of taking Linda into our own home and fostering her for periods of time.

Not only did Linda recover from trauma and addiction, she went on to marry a good man and, with her husband, adopted two little boys. In her own community, she reaches out to troubled youth assuring them that they, too, can seek help and recover. And now, with the success of her book, Linda is educating a wider circle about the prevalence of child sexual abuse, our society’s best-kept secret.

This is a heart-rending story. The book will enthrall you with Linda’s hopeless attempts to save herself in those years when adults were not to be trusted: and your heart will fill with relief and joy as she finally learns to trust and change the course of her life – from dark and scary to light and love.

Why Children Don’t Disclose Child Sexual Abuse

 

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“Why didn’t you tell somebody?” That’s the response victims of child sexual abuse often hear when they disclose their traumatic lives as children.

I’d like to offer some reasons children don’t tell:

1) Some children’s brains protect them from what’s inescapable and intolerable by forgetting (dissociating.) Since they don’t remember what happened last time they’re lured by candy or the promise of a cute puppy, again and again. Only later, when it’s safe to remember, do they piece together the underlying causes of their difficulties in life. Some people never remember. Instead their lives are shaped by emotions and fears they don’t understand. Personally, I remembered when I was in my late 40’s, a common age for surfacing lost memories.

2) Some children tell, but regret confiding in the adult they’ve trusted. In my book, Confessions of a Trauma Therapist: A Memoir of Healing and Transformation, I explain what happened when I told my mother the recreation director was sexually abusing his charges. Here’s what I said:

“When it came my turn for the honour of riding on Bert’s shoulders, I was confused and uncomfortable to realize his hand was inside my underpants rubbing my genitals….It was months later that I decided to tell my mother the truth about Bert. His assault still bothered me and I hoped that, in telling her, I would feel better. No sooner had I got the words out of my mouth that she turned on me.”

“You nasty little girl,” she almost screamed. “You must have liked it.”

“No,” I protested, “I didn’t like it.”

It was no use. I’d told her and now she looked on me as a bad girl (p. 172)

In all likelihood, I tried to tell her about something much worse – my father and grandfather. It makes sense that her response would have convinced me my intolerable situation was also inescapable. The only way to survive was to “forget.”

3)   Nancy Brown, author of Facing Life, had decent, loving parents. Her strange behavior (stealing candy and later drunkenly acting out with people her policeman father knew as criminal types) reflected her shamed view of herself. This child who was being used sexually by the man across the street, blamed herself. There was something awful about her that bad men recognized. She couldn’t bear to tell her parents what she suffered regularly in the house across the street. Her perpetrator threatened to skin her dog and harm her little brother if she told.

“I was tired of hurting down there all the time. I wanted to run away but I couldn’t leave Peter and Rusty with no one to protect them. And Mom and Dad would miss me, even though I worried them.”

Children often keep the perpetrator’s secret out of fear.

4)  There’s another reason children keep their perpetrator’s secret. These are children who believe they are involved in a love affair. In my years as a trauma therapist, I often worked with adolescents who thought they were special to the teacher who was abusing them. It was only when it came to light that their lover had a ring of young sexual partners that these young people felt betrayed and disclosed the abuse.

Are there more reasons children keep their terrible secrets? Please leave your comments if you can add to this discussion.

Neurofeedback’s Rewards

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Before I tell you about Cathy’s recent success with Neurofeedback, I want to catch you up on my personal news and explain why you haven’t heard from me for a while. As I write this, I’m sitting in my new study surrounded by piles of boxes. Stacks of books are piled on the floor beside me.

I’ve been consumed with downsizing and moving from Toronto to Kingston, to live near by son, daughter-in-law and three-year-old granddaughter. The end is in sight. Soon I’ll be able to turn my attention to this website and to my writing.

Right now, I bring you Cathy’s latest report about her Neurofeedback therapy:

Over the last 2 weeks, I’ve noticed a lot of very angry and violent thoughts arising in my mind (don’t worry I won’t act on them).

Is this something you would expect to arise from Neurofeedback?

I wonder if it’s dormant anger from the past that I’ve held inside for a long time instead of expressing?

Yesterday afternoon I had a significant session of releasing … loads of burping and not just regular, run of the mill burps either, deep, rumbling guttteral burps arising from the depths of my being. Followed by sneezing.

Today, my brain feels ‘fresh’ and ‘clean’ and clearer and lighter.

I’m aware that I still have much work to do but I’m also really enjoying noticing my progress as well.

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Have you experienced similar responses to therapy? Could you share your thoughts and reactions with Cathy and others? I urge you to comment.

Story of a Memory Making Itself Known

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Over the last week, my mouth has spontaneously fallen open and my head has begun to shake / tremour very rapidly from left to right, generating an odd noise within both of my ears.

I wonder if my recent head and jaw tremouring is helping me to finally get to the bottom of what happened to me?

I wonder if it’s possible that this happened ‘just’ once? Or more than once … ???

Hard to believe that it’s possible that my tiny, possibly toothless, gummy one year old mouth cavity may have had to deal with an adult sized penis AND possibly cum as well …

Suffocating and drowning all at once …

“Not actually sex” …

Horrid, horrid, horrid, horrid …

Vomitous …

Nauseating …

Sickening …

Disgusting …

Vile …

Evil …

Cowardly …

Weak …

Greedy …

One-sided …

So selfish …

Sick …

Overpowering …

Nullifying

How?????

Why????

I’m regularly retching now when I wake up in the morning too … coughing up flem.

I’ve felt the urge and need to cough, burp, sneeze and vomit (all means of ejection from my throat and from deep down in my innards) …

I’ve always felt a tightness in my throat too … I once described this sensation to a former therapist as like “swallowing a golf ball with several razorblades sticking out of it, burning and cutting the inner walls of my throat”.

And difficulty with getting my words out …

Possible that my authentic voice was literally physically repressed, buried, drowned, killed before it barely even had time to surface and develop …

Ingestion …

Ingression, rather than expression …

Implosion …

Internalisation …

Withdrawal …

Literally swallowing myself …

Desperately gulping for air …

Desperately gulping for life …

A series of multiple ‘mini’ deaths

Loss of self

So hard to believe.

So hard to fathom.

My body is giving me clues.

Re-enacting my infant nightmare …

Just as I have witnessed others re-enact their own past trauma experiences at trauma workshops

I hand my head over to my body …

My analytical mind bows down in reverance to my body’s superior, unshakeable knowing.

My head gives way to my body’s greater wisdom …

My head relents …

My exhausted,  over used mind gladly ‘steps’ aside …

Could this be the absolute worst that I have to learn about my past? My early childhood?

Is it possible that there are no further hidden ‘surprises’ in my past??

Is it possible that I can now cease my lengthy, comprehensive search for missing fragments of memory, for the unknown?

Is it possible that my lifelong search for answers is now over??

Is it possible that I can now finally stop wondering and looking and ‘simply’ move on to focusing exclusively on my inner healing and recovery???

Is it possible that I can finally drop my consuming compulsive need to know and need to search?

I hope so!!

Cathy’s Dark Night of the Soul

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Guest blogger Cathy is going through the dark night of the soul, having decided to try neurofeedback in her search for relief from the pain of childhood trauma. Here is her letter about those terrible struggles. Since receiving this message, Cathy has gone in search of a new practitioner, one who will offer her more compassion. We eagerly await her next report and send her our love and our prayers.
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Dear Mary,

The truth is that the last 4-6 weeks have been really, really, really tough for me.

The truth is that I’ve had suicidal thoughts of my own over the last 4-6 weeks.

The truth is that I haven’t wanted to die, instead I’ve felt overwhelmed by the relentless ‘invisible’, incomprehensible, unexplainable, unbelievable, apparently boundless pain that I have felt inside, so much so that I have felt utterly desperate for some relief, some peace and some calm.

I’ve felt so tired of feeling broken. I’ve felt so tired of feeling wounded beyond belief in my inner core. I’ve felt so tired of trying to heal. I’ve felt so tired of feeling as though my psyche is fragmented resulting in my inner sense that I have to expend enormous amounts of energy every moment binding my fragmented psyche / self together, to ensure that all of these vital fragments of me remain somewhere within me, together yet not bonded, somehow remaining clumped together through the sheer moment to moment, constant force of my will, to ensure that all of the pieces of my fragmented psyche stay together within me, to ensure that none, not even the teeniest, tiniest fragment of my inner core comes adrift, flying freely, drifting aimlessly away from me into nowhere (my darkest fear).

The truth is that I was unable to attend my 13 year old cousin’s funeral following her recent suicide because, for me, this would have been like ‘looking into the mirror of what could have been’ … or at times, over recent weeks … ‘what still may be for me’ … just way too close ‘to the bone’.

I couldn’t go to my 13 year old cousin’s funeral and stare into the eyes of my stunned and grieving family members knowing that I have tiptoed on the precipice of causing them a similar degree of shock, pain, grief, hurt, gutwrenching sadness, disbelief, confusion, guilt and utter bewilderment.

The truth is that I have been living in a fog of overwhelm and inner pain for the past 4-6 weeks.

The truth is that I have willed myself through many, many extremely heavy, dark, gruelling seconds, minutes, hours and moments in the days of the last 4-6 weeks.

The truth is that I have experienced almost zero joy in the past 4-6 weeks.

The truth is that I have experienced almost zero lightness, zero clarity, zero calm and zero peace during the past 4-6 weeks.

I have felt intensely agitated, overwhelmed, confused, exhausted, dejected, hopeless, helpless, battle weary and completely defeated over the last 4-6 weeks.

How is it possible that I have committed myself tenaciously and steadfastly to my healing journey for almost 20 years, only to find that I still experience such mammoth depths, widths and lengths of darkness, heaviness and despair?!!!

How can I pick myself up, yet again, from the extent and depths of my own internal darkness?

How can I keep going?

Where can I find the strength?

Where can I find the solutions?

After using a wide range of conventional and unconventional healing modalities to address my deep inner wounds, where do I go next to heal further?

Where is the next upward rung on my ladder?

Where is the next upward knot on my rope?

Where is the next upward step on my apparently never-ending ‘staircase’ of healing?

As always, the answers to all of these questions lie in imagining myself staring into the eyes of my husband and our two young daughters (aged 9 and 6). They are my three utmost reasons for continuing to fight my way through my own thick and thorny inner wilderness and my unwavering commitment to breaking the cycle of intergenerational pain and trauma in my family.

The truth is that I’ve felt that I’ve been drowning in my own internal historical lingering terror over the past 4-6 weeks.

The truth is that I’ve set my sights soley and firmly on finding ways to reduce my overwhelming, utterly consuming historical lingering inner terror.

And here I am.

Now.

Experiencing a sense of flickering hope on my horizon.

A spark.

A light.

A life raft.

A sense of relief from the drowning sense of my overwhelming, utterly consuming, paralysing, life draining, almost completely defeating inner historical lingering terror.

My eternal dream of deep and complete healing still alive somehow, somewhere within me.

Here I am now.

Experiencing the joy and lightness that comes with full disclosure in a place of utter safety, non-judgment, understanding and acceptance.

Thank you Mary for this priceless gift, this wonderful privilege.

My heartfelt gratitude to you now and always,

Cathy xx